Saturday, December 20, 2014

US ‘Group Think’ on Russia "Crazy"

The Crazy US ‘Group Think’ on Russia

by Robert Parry - Consortium News

Has anyone in Official Washington thought through the latest foreign policy “group think,” the plan to destabilize nuclear-armed Russia? All the “smart” people, including the New York Times editors, are rubbing their hands with glee over the financial crisis being imposed on Russia because of the Ukraine crisis, but no one, it seems, is looking down the road.

This reckless strategy appears to be another neocon-driven “regime change” scheme, this time focused on Moscow with the goal to take down Russian President Vladimir Putin and presumably replace him with some U.S. puppet, a Russian-speaking Ahmed Chalabi perhaps. Since the neocons have never faced accountability for the Iraq disaster – when the conniving Chalabi was their man – they are still free to dream about a replay in Russia.

However, as catastrophic as the Iraq War was especially for Iraqis, the new neocon goal of Russian “regime change” is far more dangerous. If one looks at the chaos that has followed neocon (and “liberal interventionist”) schemes to overthrow governments in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Ukraine and elsewhere, what might the risks be if such political disorder was created in Russia?

Since the neocon plans don’t always work out precisely as they dream them up at Washington think tanks or at the Washington Post’s editorial board, what are the chances that some radical Russian nationalist might emerge from the chaos and take command of the nuclear launch codes? As much fun as the Washington tough guys and gals are having today, the prospects for thermo-nuclear war might not be as pleasing.

And, does anyone really think that cooler heads in Official Washington would prevail in such a crisis? From what we have seen over the past year regarding Ukraine – not to mention other international hot spots – it seems that the only game in town is to swagger around, as pumped up as Hans and Franz, just not as amusing.

You see, the Russians have already experienced what it is like to comply with U.S. economic edicts. That was tried during the 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union when experts from Harvard University descended on Moscow with “shock therapy” for the post-communist society. What happened was that a handful of well-connected thieves plundered the nation’s resources, making themselves into billionaire oligarchs while President Boris Yeltsin stayed drunk much of the time and many average Russians faced starvation.

A key reason why Putin and his autocratic style have such a strong political base is that he took on some of the oligarchs and restructured the economy to improve the lives of many Russians. The neocons may think that they can oust Putin through a combination of economic pain and information warfare but there is a deep understanding among many Russians what a repeat of the Yeltsin years would mean.

So, even a “successful regime change” could end up with a more radical figure in charge of Russia and its nuclear arsenal than Putin. But that is the course that Official Washington has chosen to take, with Congress almost unanimously approving a package of harsher sanctions and $350 million in arms and military equipment for Ukraine to wage its “anti-terrorism operation” against ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine.

Cuba Example

There is some irony here in that just as President Barack Obama finally begins to lift the ineffective, half-century-old U.S. embargo against Cuba, the U.S. Congress and the entire mainstream U.S. news media have jumped on another high horse to charge off against Russia, imposing new economic sanctions and dreaming of another “regime change.”

The promiscuous use of sanctions – as part of “regime change” strategies – has become almost an addiction in Washington. One can envision some tough-talking U.S. diplomat confronting the leaders of a troublesome nation by going around the room and saying, “we sanction you, we sanction you, we sanction you.”

Beyond the trouble that this pathology creates for American businesses, not sure whether they’re stumbling over one of these sanctions, there is the backlash among countries increasingly trying to circumvent the United States in order to deny Washington that leverage over them. The long-run effect is surely to be a weakening of the U.S. dollar and the U.S. economy.

However, in the meantime, U.S. politicians can’t seem to get enough of this feel-good approach to foreign disputes. They can act like they’re “doing something” by punishing the people of some wayward country, but sanctions are still short of outright war, so the politicians don’t have to attend funerals and face distraught mothers and fathers, at least not the mothers and fathers of American soldiers.

In the past, sanctions, such as those imposed on Iraq in the 1990s, took a fearsome toll, killing some half million Iraqi children, according to United Nations estimates.

Another example of how the sanctioning impulse can run amok has been U.S. policy toward Sudan, where leaders were sanctioned over the violence in Darfur. The United States also supported the secession of oil-rich South Sudan as a further penalty to Sudan.

But the U.S. sanctions on Sudan prevented South Sudan from shipping its oil through pipelines that ran through Sudan, creating a political crisis in South Sudan, which led to tribal violence. The U.S. government responded with, you guessed it, sanctions against leaders of South Sudan.

So, now, the U.S. government is back on that high horse and charging off to sanction Russia and its leaders over Ukraine, a crisis that has been thoroughly misrepresented in the mainstream U.S. news media and in the halls of government.

A False Narrative

Official Washington’s “group think” on the crisis has been driven by a completely phony narrative of what has happened in Ukraine over the past year. It has become the near-monolithic view of insiders that the crisis was instigated by Putin as part of some diabolical scheme to recreate the Russian Empire by seizing Ukraine, the Baltic states and maybe Poland.

But the reality is that the crisis was initiated by the West, particularly by Official Washington’s neocons, to pry Ukraine away from the Russian sphere of influence and into Europe’s, a ploy that was outlined by a leading neocon paymaster, Carl Gershman, the longtime president of the U.S.-funded National Endowment for Democracy.

On Sept. 26, 2013, Gershman took to the op-ed page of the Washington Post and pronounced Ukraine “the biggest prize” and an important interim step toward toppling Putin and putting down the resurgent and willful Russia that he represents.

Gershman, whose NED is financed by the U.S. Congress to the tune of about $100 million a year, wrote: “Ukraine’s choice to join Europe will accelerate the demise of the ideology of Russian imperialism that Putin represents. … Russians, too, face a choice, and Putin may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.”

In other words, from the start, Putin was the target of the Ukraine initiative, not the instigator. Beyond Gershman’s rhetoric was the fact that NED was funding scores of projects inside Ukraine, training activists, supporting “journalists,” funding business groups.

Then, in November 2013, Ukraine’s elected President Viktor Yanukovych balked at an association agreement with the European Union after learning that it would cost Ukraine some $160 billion to separate from Russia. Plus, the International Monetary Fund was demanding economic “reforms” that would hurt average Ukrainians.

Yanukovych’s decision touched off mass demonstrations from western Ukrainians who favored closer ties to Europe. That, in turn, opened the way for the machinations by neocons inside the U.S. government, particularly the scheming of Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, the wife of arch-neocon Robert Kagan.

Before long, Nuland was handpicking the new leadership for Ukraine that would be in charge once Yanukovych was out of the way, a process that was ultimately executed by tightly organized 100-man units of neo-Nazi storm troopers bused in from the western city of Lviv. [See’s “NYT Discovers Ukraine’s Neo-Nazis at War.”]

Worsening Crisis

The violent overthrow of President Yanukovych led to resistance from south and east Ukraine where Yanukovych got most of his votes. Crimea, a largely ethnic Russian province, voted overwhelmingly to secede from the failed Ukrainian state and rejoin Russia, which had been Crimea’s home since the 1700s.

When Putin accepted Crimea back into Russia – recognizing its historical connections and its strategic importance – he was excoriated by Western leaders and the mainstream U.S. media. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton likened him to Hitler, as the narrative took shape that Putin was on a premeditated mission to conquer states of the former Soviet Union.

That narrative was always fake but it became Official Washington’s conventional wisdom, much like the existence of Iraq’s WMD became what “everyone knew to be true.” The “group think” was again so strong that not even someone as important to the establishment as former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger could shake it.

In an interview last month with Der Spiegel magazine, Kissinger said that “The annexation of Crimea was not a move toward global conquest. It was not Hitler moving into Czechoslovakia.”

The 91-year-old Kissinger added that President Putin had no intention of instigating a crisis in Ukraine: “Putin spent tens of billions of dollars on the Winter Olympics in Sochi. The theme of the Olympics was that Russia is a progressive state tied to the West through its culture and, therefore, it presumably wants to be part of it. So it doesn’t make any sense that a week after the close of the Olympics, Putin would take Crimea and start a war over Ukraine.”

Instead Kissinger argued that the West – with its strategy of pulling Ukraine into the orbit of the European Union – was responsible for the crisis by failing to understand Russian sensitivity over Ukraine and making the grave mistake of quickly pushing the confrontation beyond dialogue.

Kissinger’s remarks – though undeniably true – were largely ignored by the mainstream U.S. media and had little or no impact on the U.S. Congress which pressed ahead with its legislation to expand the anti-Russia sanctions, which – along with declining energy prices – were contributing to a severe economic downturn in Russia.

The New York Times’ editors spoke for many in their celebration over the pain being inflicted on Russia. In an editorial entitled “The Ruble’s Fall and Mr. Putin’s Reckoning,” the Times wrote:

“The blame for this [economic calamity] rests largely with the disastrous policies of President Vladimir Putin, who has consistently put his ego, his territorial ambitions and the financial interests of his cronies ahead of the needs of his country. The ruble fell as much as 19 percent on Monday after the Central Bank of Russia sharply raised its benchmark interest rate to 17 percent in the middle of the night in a desperate attempt to keep capital from fleeing the country.

“Since June, the Russian currency has fallen about 50 percent against the dollar. Because Russia relies heavily on imported food and other goods, the decline in its currency is fueling inflation. Consumer prices jumped 9.1 percent last month compared with a year earlier and also increased 8.3 percent in October.

“Russia’s immediate problems were caused by the recent collapse of global crude oil prices and the financial sanctions imposed by the United States and Europe in an effort to get Mr. Putin to stop stirring conflict in Ukraine. But the rot goes far deeper. …

“Mr. Putin has taken great relish in poking the West. Now that he is in trouble, the rest of the world is unlikely to rush to his aid. On Tuesday, a White House spokesman said that President Obama intends to sign a bill that would authorize additional sanctions on Russia’s energy and defense industries. That bill would also authorize the administration to supply arms to Ukraine’s government.

“The sensible thing for Mr. Putin to do would be to withdraw from Ukraine. This would bring immediate relief from sanctions, and that would ease the current crisis and give officials room to start fixing the country’s economic problems. The question is whether this reckless leader has been sufficiently chastened to change course.”

But the reality has been that Putin has tried to keep his distance from the ethnic Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, even urging them to postpone a referendum that revealed strong support for the region’s secession from Ukraine. But he has faced a hard choice because the Kiev regime launched an “anti-terrorist operation” against the eastern region, an offensive that took on the look of ethnic cleansing.

The Ukrainian government’s strategy was to pound eastern cities and towns with artillery fire and then dispatch neo-Nazi and other extremist “volunteer battalions” to do the dirty work of street-to-street fighting. Amnesty International and other human rights groups took note of the brutality inflicted by these anti-Russian extremists. [See’s “Seeing No Neo-Nazi Militias in Ukraine.”]

Faced with thousands of ethnic Russians being killed and hundreds of thousands fleeing into Russia, Putin had little political choice but to provide help to the embattled people of Donetsk and Luhansk. But Official Washington’s narrative holds that all the trouble in Ukraine is simply the result of Putin’s “aggression” and that everything would be just peachy if Putin let the Kiev regime and its neo-Nazi affiliates do whatever they wanted to the ethnic Russians.

But that’s not something Putin can really do politically. So, what we’re seeing here is the usual step-by-step progress toward a neocon “regime change” scenario, as the targeted foreign demon fails to take the “reasonable” steps dictated by Washington and thus must be confronted with endless escalations, all the more severe to force the demon to submit or until ultimately the suffering of his people creates openings for “regime change.”

We have seen this pattern with Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, for instance, and even with Ukraine’s Yanukovych, but the risks in this new neocon game are much greater – the future of the planet is being put into play.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

Bailing In: How the Banksters will Take Your Savings Too

Russian Roulette: Taxpayers Could Be on the Hook for Trillions in Oil Derivatives

by Ellen Brown - ICH

The sudden dramatic collapse in the price of oil appears to be an act of geopolitical warfare against Russia. The result could be trillions of dollars in oil derivative losses; and the FDIC could be liable, following repeal of key portions of the Dodd-Frank Act last weekend.

Senator Elizabeth Warren charged Citigroup last week with “holding government funding hostage to ram through its government bailout provision.” At issue was a section in the omnibus budget bill repealing the Lincoln Amendment to the Dodd-Frank Act, which protected depositor funds by requiring the largest banks to push out a portion of their derivatives business into non-FDIC-insured subsidiaries.

Warren and Representative Maxine Waters came close to killing the spending bill because of this provision. But the tide turned, according to Waters, when not only Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, but President Obama himself lobbied lawmakers to vote for the bill.

It was not only a notable about-face for the president but represented an apparent shift in position for the banks. Before Jamie Dimon intervened, it had been reported that the bailout provision was not a big deal for the banks and that they were not lobbying heavily for it, because it covered only a small portion of their derivatives. As explained in Time:

The best argument for not freaking out about the repeal of the Lincoln Amendment is that it wasn’t nearly as strong as its drafters intended it to be. . . . [W]hile the Lincoln Amendment was intended to lasso all risky instruments, by the time all was said and done, it really only applied to about 5% of the derivatives activity of banks like Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo, according to a 2012 Fitch report.

Quibbling over a mere 5% of the derivatives business sounds like much ado about nothing, but Jamie Dimon and the president evidently didn’t think so. Why?

A Closer Look at the Lincoln Amendment

The preamble to the Dodd-Frank Act claims “to protect the American taxpayer by ending bailouts.” But it does this through “bail-in”: authorizing “systemically important” too-big-to-fail banks to expropriate the assets of their creditors, including depositors. Under the Lincoln Amendment, however, FDIC-insured banks were not allowed to put depositor funds at risk for their bets on derivatives, with certain broad exceptions.

In an article posted on December 10th titled “Banks Get To Use Taxpayer Money For Derivative Speculation,” Chriss W. Street explained the amendment like this:

Starting in 2013, federally insured banks would be prohibited from directly engaging in derivative transactions not specifically hedging (1) lending risks, (2) interest rate volatility, and (3) cushion against credit defaults. The “push-out rule” sought to force banks to move their speculative trading into non-federally insured subsidiaries.
The Federal Reserve and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency in 2013 allowed a two-year delay on the condition that banks take steps to move swaps to subsidiaries that don’t benefit from federal deposit insurance or borrowing directly from the Fed.

The rule would have impacted the $280 trillion in derivatives primarily held by the “too-big-to-fail (TBTF) banks that include JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, and Wells Fargo. Although 95% of TBTF derivative holdings are exempt as legitimate lending hedges, leveraging cheap money from the U.S. Federal Reserve into $10 trillion of derivative speculation is one of the TBTF banks’ most profitable business activities.

What was and was not included in the exemption was explained by Steve Shaefer in a June 2012 article in Forbes. According to Fitch Ratings, interest rate, currency, gold/silver, credit derivatives referencing investment-grade securities, and hedges were permissible activities within an insured depositary institution. Those not permitted included “equity, some credit and most commodity derivatives.” Schaefer wrote:

For Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, the rule is almost a non-event, as they already conduct derivatives activity outside of their bank subsidiaries. (Which makes sense, since neither actually had commercial banking operations of any significant substance until converting into bank holding companies during the 2008 crisis).
The impact on Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, and to a lesser extent, Wells Fargo, would be greater, but still rather middling, as the size and scope of the restricted activities is but a fraction of these firms’ overall derivative operations.

A fraction, but a critical fraction, as it included the banks’ bets on commodities. Five percent of $280 trillion is $14 trillion in derivatives exposure – close to the size of the existing federal debt. And as financial blogger Michael Snyder points out, $3.9 trillion of this speculation is on the price of commodities.

Among the banks’ most important commodities bets are oil derivatives. An oil derivative typically involves an oil producer who wants to lock in the price at a future date, and a counterparty – typically a bank – willing to pay that price in exchange for the opportunity to earn additional profits if the price goes above the contract rate. The downside is that the bank has to make up the loss if the price drops.

As Snyder observes, the recent drop in the price of oil by over $50 a barrel – a drop of nearly 50% since June – was completely unanticipated and outside the predictions covered by the banks’ computer models. The drop could cost the big banks trillions of dollars in losses. And with the repeal of the Lincoln Amendment, taxpayers could be picking up the bill.

When Markets Cannot Be Manipulated

Interest rate swaps compose 82% of the derivatives market. Interest rates are predictable and can be controlled, since the Federal Reserve sets the prime rate. The Fed’s mandate includes maintaining the stability of the banking system, which means protecting the interests of the largest banks. The Fed obliged after the 2008 credit crisis by dropping the prime rate nearly to zero, a major windfall for the derivatives banks – and a major loss for their counterparties, including state and local governments.

Manipulating markets anywhere is illegal – unless you are a central bank or a federal government, in which case you can apparently do it with impunity.

In this case, the shocking $50 drop in the price of oil was not due merely to the forces of supply and demand, which are predictable and can be hedged against. According to an article by Larry Elliott in the UK Guardian titled “Stakes Are High as US Plays the Oil Card Against Iran and Russia,” the unanticipated drop was an act of geopolitical warfare administered by the Saudis. History, he says, is repeating itself:

The fourfold increase in oil prices triggered by the embargo on exports organised by Saudi Arabia in response to the Yom Kippur war in 1973 showed how crude could be used as a diplomatic and economic weapon.

Now, says Elliott, the oil card is being played to force prices lower:

John Kerry, the US secretary of state, allegedly struck a deal with King Abdullah in September under which the Saudis would sell crude at below the prevailing market price. That would help explain why the price has been falling at a time when, given the turmoil in Iraq and Syria caused by Islamic State, it would normally have been rising.

. . . [A]ccording to Middle East specialists, the Saudis want to put pressure on Iran and to force Moscow to weaken its support for the Assad regime in Syria.

War on the Ruble

If the plan was to break the ruble, it worked. The ruble has dropped by more than 60% against the dollar since January.

On December 16th, the Russian central bank counterattacked by raising interest rates to 17% in order to stem “capital flight” – the dumping of rubles on the currency markets. Deposits are less likely to be withdrawn and exchanged for dollars if they are earning a high rate of return.

The move was also a short squeeze on the short sellers attempting to crash the ruble. Short sellers sell currency they don’t have, forcing down the price; then cover by buying at the lower price, pocketing the difference. But the short squeeze worked only briefly, as trading in the ruble was quickly suspended, allowing short sellers to cover their bets. Who has the power to shut down a currency exchange? One suspects that more than mere speculation was at work.

Protecting Our Money from Wall Street Gambling

The short sellers were saved, but the derivatives banks will still get killed if oil prices don’t go back up soon. At least they would have been killed before the bailout ban was lifted. Now, it seems, that burden could fall on depositors and taxpayers. Did the Obama administration make a deal with the big derivatives banks to save them from Kerry’s clandestine economic warfare at taxpayer expense?

Whatever happened behind closed doors, we the people could again be stuck with the tab. We will continue to be at the mercy of the biggest banks until depository banking is separated from speculative investment banking. Reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act is supported not only by Elizabeth Warren and others on the left but by prominent voices such as David Stockman’s on the right.

Another alternative for protecting our funds from Wall Street gambling can be done at the local level. Our state and local governments can establish publicly-owned banks; and our monies, public and private, can be moved into them.

Ellen Brown is an attorney, founder of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books including the best-selling Web of Debt. Her latest book, The Public Bank Solution, explores successful public banking models historically and globally. Her 200+ blog articles are at

Friday, December 19, 2014

How Vulnerable is Putin?

Ruble Takedown Exposes Cracks in Putin’s Defense

by Mike Whitney - CounterPunch

Russian President Vladimir Putin suffered a stunning defeat on Tuesday when a US-backed plan to push down oil prices sent the ruble into freefall. Russia’s currency plunged 10 percent on Monday followed by an 11 percent drop on Tuesday reducing the ruble’s value by more than half in less than a year.

The jarring slide was assisted by western sympathizers at Russia’s Central Bank who, earlier in the day, boosted interest rates from 10.5 percent to 17 percent to slow the decline.

But the higher rates only intensified the outflow of capital which put the ruble into a tailspin forcing international banks to remove pricing and liquidity from the currency leading to the suspension of trade.

“The plunge of the Russian currency this week is the drastic outcome of policies implemented by the major imperialist powers to force Russia to submit to American and European imperialism’s neo-colonial restructuring of Eurasia. Punishing the Putin regime’s interference with their plans for regime change in countries such as Ukraine and Syria, the NATO powers are financially strangling Russia.” Alex Lantier, Imperialism and the ruble crisis, World Socialist Web Site

“The struggle for world domination has assumed titanic proportions. The phases of this struggle are played out upon the bones of the weak and backward nations.” Leon Trotsky, 1929 

According to Russia Today:

“Russian Federation Council Chair Valentina Matviyenko has ordered a vote on a parliamentary investigation into the recent activities of the Central Bank and its alleged role in the worst-ever plunge of the ruble rate…

“I suggest to start a parliamentary investigation into activities of the Central Bank that has allowed violations of the citizens’ Constitutional rights, including the right for property,” the RIA Novosti quoted Tarlo as saying on Wednesday.

The senator added that according to the law, protecting financial stability in the country is the main task of the Central Bank and its senior management. However, the bank’s actions, in particular the recent raising of the key interest rate to 17 percent, have so far yielded the opposite results.” (Upper House plans probe into Central Bank role in ruble crash, RT)

The prospect that there may be collaborators and fifth columnists at Russia’s Central Bank should surprise no one. The RCB is an independent organization that serves the interests of global capital and regional oligarchs the same as central banks everywhere. This is a group that believes that humanity’s greatest achievement is the free flow of privately-owned capital to markets around the world where it can extract maximum value off the sweat of working people. Why would Russia be any different in that regard?

It isn’t. The actions of the Central Bank have cost the Russian people dearly, and yet, even now the main concern of RCB elites is their own survival and the preservation of the banking system. An article that appeared at Zero Hedge on Wednesday illustrates this point. After ruble trading was suspended, the RCB released a document with “7 new measures” all of which were aimed at protecting the banking system via moratoria on securities losses, breaks on interest rates, additional liquidity provisioning, easier credit and accounting standards, and this gem at the end:

“In order to maintain the stability of the banking sector in the face of increased interest rate and credit risks of a slowdown of the Russian economy the Bank of Russia and the Government of the Russian Federation prepare measures to recapitalize credit institutions in 2015.” (Russian Central Bank Releases 7 Measures It Will Take To Stabilize The Financial Sector, Zero Hedge)

Sound familiar? It should. You see, the Russian Central Bank works a lot like the Fed. At the first sign of trouble they build a nice, big rowboat for themselves and their dodgy bank buddies and leave everyone else to drown. That’s what these bullet points are all about. Save the banks, and to hell the people who suffer from their exploitative policies.

Here’s more from RT:

“Earlier this week a group of State Duma MPs from the Communist Party sent an official address to Putin asking him to sack (Central Bank head, Elvira) Nabiullina, and all senior managers of the Central Bank as their current policies are causing the rapid devaluation of ruble and impoverishment of the majority of the Russian population.

In their letter, the Communists also recalled Putin’s address to the Federal Assembly in which he said that control over inflation must not be in the way of the steady economic growth.

“They listen to your orders and then do the opposite,” the lawmakers complained.” (RT)

In other words, the RCB enforces its own “austerity” policy in Russia just as central bankers do everywhere. There’s nothing conspiratorial about this. CBs are owned and controlled by the big money guys which is why their policies invariably serve the interests of the rich. They might not call it “trickle down” or “structural adjustment” (as they do in the US), but it amounts to the same thing, the inexorable shifting of wealth from working class people to the parasitic plutocrats who control the system and its political agents. Same old, same old.

Even so, the media has pinned the blame for Tuesday’s ruble fiasco on Putin who, of course, has nothing to do with monetary policy. That said, the ruble rout helps to draw attention to the fact that Moscow is clearly losing its war with the US and needs to radically adjust its approach if it hopes to succeed. First of all, Putin might be a great chess player, but he’s got a lot to learn about finance. He also needs a crash-course in asymmetrical warfare if he wants to defend the country from more of Washington’s stealth attacks.

In the last 10 months, the United States has executed a near-perfect takedown of the Russian economy. Following a sloppy State Department-backed coup in Kiev, Washington has consolidated its power in the Capital, removed dissident elements in the government, deployed the CIA to oversee operations, launched a number of attacks on rebel forces in the east, transferred ownership of Ukraine’s vital pipeline system to US puppets and foreign corporations, created a tollbooth separating Moscow from the lucrative EU market, foiled a Russian plan to build an alternate pipeline to southern Europe (South Stream), built up its military assets in the Balkans and Black Sea and, finally–the cherry on the cake–initiated a daring sneak attack on Russia’s currency by employing its Saudi-proxy to flood the market with oil, push prices off a cliff, and trigger a run on the ruble which slashed its value by more than half forcing retail currency platforms to stop trading the battered ruble until prices stabilized.

Like we said, Putin might be a great chess player, but in his battle with the US, he’s getting his clock cleaned. So far, he’s been no match for the maniacal focus and relentless savagery of the Washington powerbrokers. Yes, he’s formed critical alliances across Asia and the world. He’s also created competing institutions (like the BRICS bank) that could break the imperial grip on global finance. And, he’s also expounded a vision of a new world in which “one center of power” does not dictate the rules to everyone else. That’s all great, but he’s losing the war, and that’s what counts. Washington doesn’t care about peoples’ dreams or aspirations. What they care about is ruling the world with an iron fist, which is precisely what they intend to do for the next century or so unless someone stops them. Putin’s actions, however admirable, have not yet changed that basic dynamic. In fact, this latest debacle (authored by the RCB) is a severe setback for the country and could impact Russia’s ability to defend itself against US-NATO aggression.

So what does Putin need to do to reverse the current trend?

The first order of business should be a fundamental change in approach followed by a quick switch from defense to offense. There should be no doubt by now, that Washington is going for the jugular. The attack on the ruble provides clear evidence that the US will not be satisfied until Russia has been decimated and reduced to “a permanent state of colonial dependency.” (Chomsky) The United States has launched a full-blown economic war on Russia and yet the Kremlin is still acting like Washington’s punching bag. You can’t win a war like that. You have to take the initiative; take chances, be bold, think outside the box. That’s what Washington is doing. The rout of the ruble is perhaps the most astonishingly-successful asymmetrical attack in recent memory. It involved tremendous risks and costs on the part of the perpetrators. For example, the lower oil prices have ravaged important domestic industries, created widespread financial instability, and sent markets across the planet into a nosedive. Even so, Washington persevered with its audacious strategy, undeterred by the vast collateral damage, never losing sight of its ultimate objective; to deprive Moscow of crucial oil revenues, to crash the ruble, and to open up Central Asia for imperial expansion and US military bases. (The pivot to Asia)

This is how the US plays the game, by keeping its “eyes on the prize” at all times, and by rolling roughshod over anyone or anything that gets in its way. That is why the US is the world’s only superpower, because the voracious oligarchs who run the country will stop at nothing to get what they want.

Does Putin have the grit to match that kind of venomous determination? Has he even adjusted to the fact that WW3 will be unlike any conflict in the past, that jihadi-proxies and Neo Nazi-proxies will be employed as shock troops for the empire clearing the way for US special forces and foot soldiers who will hold ground and establish the new order? Does he even realize that Barbarossa 2 is already underway, but that the Panzer divisions and 2 million German regulars have been replaced with high-powered computers, covert ops, color-coded revolutions, currency crises, capital flight, cyber attacks and relentless propaganda. That’s 4th Generation (4-G) warfare in a nutshell. And, guess what? The US attack on the ruble has shown that it is the undisputed master of this new kind of warfare. More important, Washington has just prevailed in a battle that could prove to be a critical turning point if Putin doesn’t get his act together and retaliate.


You mean nukes?

Heck no. But, by the same token, you can’t expect to win a confrontation with the US by rerouting gas pipelines to Turkey or by forming stronger coalitions with other BRICS countries or by ditching the dollar. Because none of that stuff makes a damn bit of difference when your currency is in the toilet and the US is making every effort to grind your face into the pavement.


There’s an expression is football that goes something like this: The best defense is a good offense. You can’t win by sitting on the sidelines and hoping your team doesn’t lose. You must engage your adversary at every opportunity never giving ground without a fight. And when an opening appears where you can take the advantage, you must act promptly and decisively never looking back and never checking your motives. That’s how you win.

Washington only thinks in terms winning. It expects to win, and will do whatever is necessary to win. In fact, the whole system has been re-geared for one, sole purpose; to beat the holy hell out of anyone who gets out of line. That’s what we do, and we’ve gotten pretty good at it. So, if you want to compete at that level, you’ve got to have “game”. You’re going to have to step up and prove that you can run with the big kids.

And that’s what makes Putin’s next move so important, crucial really. Because whatever he does will send a message to Washington that he’s either up to the challenge or he’s not. Which is why he needs to come out swinging and do something completely unexpected. The element of surprise, that’s the ticket. And we’re not talking about military action either. That just plays to Uncle Sam’s strong hand. Putin doesn’t need another Vietnam. He needs a coherent gameplan. He needs a winning strategy. He needs to takes risks, put it all on the line and roll the freaking dice. You can’t lock horns with the US and play it safe. That’s a losing strategy. This is smash-mouth, steelcage smackdown, a scorched-earth event where winner takes all. You have to be ready to rumble.

Putin needs to think asymmetrically. What would Obama do if he was in Putin’s shoes?

You know what he’d do: He’d send military support to Assad. He’d arm rebel factions in Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Nigeria and elsewhere. He’d strengthen ties with Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador providing them with military, intelligence and logistical support. He’d deploy his NGOs and Think Tank cronies to foment revolution wherever leaders refused to follow Moscow’s directives. He would work tirelessly to build the economic, political, media, and military institutions he needed to impose his own self-serving version of snatch-and-grab capitalism on every nation on every continent in the world. That’s what Obama would do, because that’s what his puppetmasters would demand of him.

But Putin must be more discreet, because his resources are more limited. But he still has options, like the markets, for example. Let’s say Putin announces that creditors in the EU (particularly banks) won’t be paid until the ruble recovers. How does that sound?

Putin: “We’re really sorry about the inconvenience, but we won’t be able to make those onerous principle payments for a while. Please accept our humble apologies.” End of statement.

Moments later: Global stocks plunge 350 points on the prospect of a Russian default and its impact on the woefully-undercapitalized EU banking system.

Get the picture? That’s what you call an asymmetrical attack. The idea was even hinted at in a piece on Bloomberg News. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“Sergei Markov, a pro-Putin academic, wrote in a column on “Since the reasons for the ruble’s fall are political, the response should be political, too. For example, a law that would ban Russian companies from repaying debts to Western counterparties if the ruble has dropped more than 50 percent in the last year. That will immediately lower the pressure on the ruble, many countries have done this, Malaysia is one example. It’s in great economic shape now.” (Is Russia ready to impose capital controls? Chicago Tribune)

Here’s more background from RT:

“Major banks across Europe, as well as the UK, US, and Japan, are at major risk should the Russian economy default, according to a new study by Capital Economics. The ING Group in the Netherlands, Raiffeisen Bank in Austria, Societe General in France, UniCredit in Italy, and Commerzbank in Germany, have all faced significant losses in the wake of the ruble crisis…

Overall Societe General, known as Rosbank in the Russian market, has the most exposure at US$31 billion, or €25 billion, according to Citigroup Inc. analysts. This is equivalent to 62 percent of the Paris-based bank’s tangible equity, Bloomberg News reported.

Following the drop, Raiffeisen, which has €15 billion at risk in Russia, saw its stocks plummeted more than 10 percent. Raiffeisen also has significant exposure in Ukraine, which is facing a similar currency sell-off as Russia.” (Russia crisis leaves banks around the world exposed by the billions, RT)

So Putin defaults which nudges the EU banking system down the stairwell. So what? What does that prove?

It proves that Russia has the tools to defend itself. It proves that Putin can disrupt the status quo and spread the pain a bit more equitably. “Spreading the pain” is a tool the US uses quite frequently in its dealings with other countries. Maybe Putin should take a bite of that same apple, eh?

Another option would be to implement capital controls to avoid ruble-dollar conversion and further capital flight. The beauty of capital controls is that they take power away from the big money guys who run the world and hand it back to elected officials. Leaders like Putin are then in a position to say, “Hey, we’re going to take a little break from the dollar system for while until we get caught up. I hope you’ll understand our situation.”

Capital controls are an extremely effective of avoiding capital flight and minimizing the impact of a currency crisis. Here’s a short summary of how these measures helped Malaysia muddle through in 1998:

“When the Asian financial crisis hit, Malaysia’s position looked a lot like Russia’s today: It had big foreign reserves and a low short-term debt level, but relatively high general indebtedness if households and corporations were factored in. At first, to bolster the ringgit, Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim pushed through a market-based policy with a flexible exchange rate, rising interest rates and cuts in government spending. It didn’t work: Consumption and investment went down, and pessimism prevailed, exerting downward pressure on the exchange rate.
So, in June 1998, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad… appointed a different economic point man, Daim Zainuddin. In September, on Daim’s urging, Malaysia introduced capital controls. It banned offshore operations in ringgit and forbade foreign investors to repatriate profits for a year. Analysts at the time were sharply critical of the measures, and Malaysia’s reputation in the global financial markets inevitably suffered.

According to Kaplan and Rodrik, however, the capital controls were ultimately effective. The government was able to lower interest rates, the economy recovered, the controls were relaxed ahead of time, and by May 1999 Malaysia was back on the international capital markets with a $1 billion bond issue.”
(Is Russia ready to impose capital controls, Chicago Tribune)

Sure they were effective, but they piss off the slacker class of oligarchs who think the whole system should be centered on their “inalienable right” to move capital from one spot to another so they can rake-off hefty profits at everyone else’s expense. Capital controls push those creeps to the back of the line so the state can do what it needs to do to preserve the failing economy from the attack of speculators. Here’s a clip from a speech Joseph Stiglitz gave in 2014 at the Atlanta Fed’s 2014 Financial Markets Conference.

He said:

“When countries do not impose capital controls and allow exchange rates to vary freely, this can give rise to high levels of exchange rate volatility. The consequence can be high levels of economic volatility, imposing great costs on workers and firms throughout the economy. Even if they can lay off some of the risk, there is a cost to doing so. The very existence of this volatility affects the structure of the economy and overall economic performance.”

That sums it up pretty well. Without capital controls, the deep-pocket Wall Street banks and speculators can simply vacuum the money out of an economy leaving the country broken and penniless. This nihilistic decimation of emerging markets via capital flight is what the kleptocracy breezily refers to as “free markets”, the unwavering plundering of civilization to fatten the coffers of the swinish few at the top of the foodchain. That’s got to stop.

Putin needs to put his foot down now; stop the outflow of cash, stop the conversion of rubles to dollars, force investors to recycle their money into the domestic economy, indict the central bank governors and trundle them off to the hoosegow, and reassert the power of the people over the markets. If he doesn’t, then the speculators will continue to peck away until Russia’s reserves are drained-dry and the country is pushed back into another long-term slump. Who wants that?

And don’t think that Putin’s only problem is Washington either, because it isn’t. He’s got an even bigger headache in his own country with the morons who still buy the hogwash that “the market knows best.” These are the fantasists, the corporate toadies, and the fifth columnists, some of whom hold very high office. Here’s a clip I picked up at the Vineyard of the Saker under the heading “Medvedev declares: more of the same”:

(Russian Prime Minister) “Medvedev has just called a government meeting with most of the directors of top Russian corporations and the director of the Russian Central Bank. He immediately announced that he will not introduce any harsh regulatory measures and that he will let the market forces correct the situation. As for the former Minister of Finance, the one so much beloved in the West, Alexei Kudrin, he expressed his full support for the latest increase in interest rates.”

This is lunacy. The US has just turned Russia’s currency into worthless fishwrap, and bonehead Medvedev wants to play nice and return to “business as usual”??

No thanks. Maybe Medvedev wants to be a slave to the market, but I’ll bet Putin is smarter than that.

Putin’s not going to roll over and play dead for these vipers. He’s got to much on the ball for that. He’s going to beat them at their own game, fair and square. He’s going to implement capital controls, restructure the economy away from the west, and aggressively look for ways to deter Washington from spreading its heinous resource war to Central Asia and beyond.

He’s not going to give an inch. You’ll see.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at

How the Good Guys Torture

American Exceptionalism and American Torture

by William Blum - The Anti-Empire Report #135

In 1964, the Brazilian military, in a US-designed coup, overthrew a liberal (not more to the left than that) government and proceeded to rule with an iron fist for the next 21 years. In 1979 the military regime passed an amnesty law blocking the prosecution of its members for torture and other crimes. The amnesty still holds.

That’s how they handle such matters in what used to be called The Third World. In the First World, however, they have no need for such legal niceties. In the United States, military torturers and their political godfathers are granted amnesty automatically, simply for being American, solely for belonging to the “Good Guys Club”.

So now, with the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture, we have further depressing revelations about US foreign policy. But do Americans and the world need yet another reminder that the United States is a leading practitioner of torture? Yes. The message can not be broadcast too often because the indoctrination of the American people and Americophiles all around the world is so deeply embedded that it takes repeated shocks to the system to dislodge it. No one does brainwashing like the good ol’ Yankee inventors of advertising and public relations. And there is always a new generation just coming of age with stars (and stripes) in their eyes.

The public also has to be reminded yet again that – contrary to what most of the media and Mr. Obama would have us all believe – the president has never actually banned torture per se, despite saying recently that he had “unequivocally banned torture” after taking office.

Shortly after Obama’s first inauguration, both he and Leon Panetta, the new Director of the CIA, explicitly stated that “rendition” was not being ended. As the Los Angeles Times reported at the time: “Under executive orders issued by Obama recently, the CIA still has authority to carry out what are known as renditions, secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to countries that cooperate with the United States.”

The English translation of “cooperate” is “torture”. Rendition is simply outsourcing torture. There was no other reason to take prisoners to Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Egypt, Jordan, Kenya, Somalia, Kosovo, or the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, amongst other torture centers employed by the United States. Kosovo and Diego Garcia – both of which house large and very secretive American military bases – if not some of the other locations, may well still be open for torture business, as is the Guantánamo Base in Cuba.

Moreover, the key Executive Order referred to, number 13491, issued January 22, 2009, “Ensuring Lawful Interrogations”, leaves a major loophole. It states repeatedly that humane treatment, including the absence of torture, is applicable only to prisoners detained in an “armed conflict”. Thus, torture by Americans outside an environment of “armed conflict” is not explicitly prohibited. But what about torture within an environment of “counter-terrorism”?

The Executive Order required the CIA to use only the interrogation methods outlined in a revised Army Field Manual. However, using the Army Field Manual as a guide to prisoner treatment and interrogation still allows solitary confinement, perceptual or sensory deprivation, sensory overload, sleep deprivation, the induction of fear and hopelessness, mind-altering drugs, environmental manipulation such as temperature and noise, and stress positions, amongst other charming examples of American Exceptionalism.

After Panetta was questioned by a Senate panel, the New York Times wrote that he had “left open the possibility that the agency could seek permission to use interrogation methods more aggressive than the limited menu that President Obama authorized under new rules … Mr. Panetta also said the agency would continue the Bush administration practice of ‘rendition’ … But he said the agency would refuse to deliver a suspect into the hands of a country known for torture or other actions ‘that violate our human values’.”

The last sentence is of course childishly absurd. The countries chosen to receive rendition prisoners were chosen precisely and solely because they were willing and able to torture them.

Four months after Obama and Panetta took office, the New York Times could report that renditions had reached new heights.

The present news reports indicate that Washington’s obsession with torture stems from 9/11, to prevent a repetition. The president speaks of “the fearful excesses of the post-9/11 era”. There’s something to that idea, but not a great deal. Torture in America is actually as old as the country. What government has been intimately involved with that horror more than the United States? Teaching it, supplying the manuals, supplying the equipment, creation of international torture centers, kidnaping people to these places, solitary confinement, forced feeding, Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Chicago … Lord forgive us!

In 2011, Brazil instituted a National Truth Commission to officially investigate the crimes of the military government, which came to an end in 1985. But Mr. Obama has in fact rejected calls for a truth commission concerning CIA torture. On June 17 of this year, however, when Vice President Joseph Biden was in Brazil, he gave the Truth Commission 43 State Department cables and reports concerning the Brazilian military regime, including one entitled “Widespread Arrests and Psychophysical Interrogation of Suspected Subversives.”

Thus it is that once again the United States of America will not be subjected to any accountability for having broken US laws, international laws, and the fundamental laws of human decency. Obama can expect the same kindness from his successor as he has extended to George W.

“One of the strengths that makes America exceptional is our willingness to openly confront our past, face our imperfections, make changes and do better.” – Barack Obama, written statement issued moments after the Senate report was made public.

And if that pile of hypocrisy is not big enough or smelly enough, try adding to it Bidens’ remark re his visit to Brazil: “I hope that in taking steps to come to grips with our past we can find a way to focus on the immense promise of the future.”

If the torturers of the Bush and Obama administrations are not held accountable in the United States they must be pursued internationally under the principles of universal jurisdiction.

In 1984, an historic step was taken by the United Nations with the drafting of the “Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment” (came into force in 1987, ratified by the United States in 1994). Article 2, section 2 of the Convention states: “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”

Such marvelously clear, unequivocal, and principled language, to set a single standard for a world that makes it increasingly difficult for one to feel proud of humanity. We cannot slide back. If today it’s deemed acceptable to torture the person who supposedly has the vital “ticking-bomb” information needed to save lives, tomorrow it will be acceptable to torture him to learn the identities of his alleged co-conspirators. Would we allow slavery to resume for just a short while to serve some “national emergency” or some other “higher purpose”?

If you open the window of torture, even just a crack, the cold air of the Dark Ages will fill the whole room.
Cuba … at long, long last … maybe …

Hopefully, it’s what it appears to be. Cuba will now be treated by the United States as a country worthy of at least as much respect as Washington offers to its highly oppressive, murdering, torturing allies in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Honduras, Israel, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.

It’s a tough decision to normalize relations with a country whose police force murders its own innocent civilians on almost a daily basis, and even more abroad, but Cuba needs to do it. Maybe the Cubans can civilize the Americans a bit.

Let’s hope that America’s terrible economic embargo against the island will go the way of the dinosaurs, and Cuba will be able to demonstrate more than ever what a rational, democratic, socialist society can create. But they must not open the economy for the Yankee blood-suckers to play with as they have all over the world.

And I’ll be able to go to Cuba not as a thief in the night covering my tracks and risking a huge fine.

But with the Republicans taking over Congress next month, all of this may be just a pipe dream.

Barack Obama could have done this six years ago when he took office; or five years ago when American Alan Gross was first arrested and imprisoned in Cuba. It would have been even easier back then, with Obama’s popularity at its height and Congress not as captured by the Know-Nothings as now.

So, Cuba outlasted all the punishment, all the lies, all the insults, all the deprivations, all the murderous sabotage, all the assassination attempts against Fidel, all the policies to isolate the country. But for many years now, it’s the United States that has been isolated in the Western Hemisphere.
Reason Number 13,336 why capitalism will be the death of us.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria – the “superbugs” – if left unchecked, could result in 10 million deaths a year by 2050. New drugs to fight the superbugs are desperately needed. But a panel advising President Obama warned in September that “there isn’t a sufficiently robust pipeline of new drugs to replace the ones rendered ineffective by antibiotic resistance.”

The problem, it appears, is that “Antibiotics generally provide low returns on investment, so they are not a highly attractive area for research and development.”

Aha! “Low returns on investment”! What could be simpler to understand? Is it not a concept worth killing and dying for? Just as millions of Americans died in the 20th century so corporations could optimize profits by not protecting the public from tobacco, lead, and asbestos.

Corporations are programmed to optimize profits without regard for the society in which they operate, in much the same way that cancer cells are programmed to proliferate without regard for the health of their host.

Happy New Year. Here’s what you have to look forward to in 2015.

January 25: 467 people reported missing from a university in Mexico. US State Department blames Russia.

February 1: Military junta overthrows President Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela. Washington decries the loss of democracy.

February 2: US recognizes the new Venezuelan military junta, offers it 50 jet fighters and tanks.

February 3: Revolution breaks out in Venezuela endangering the military junta; 40,000 American marines land in Caracas to quell the uprising.

February 16: White police officer in Chicago fatally shoots a 6-year old black boy holding a toy gun.

March 6: Congress passes a new law which states that to become president of the United States a person must have the surname Bush or Clinton.

April 30: The Department of Homeland Security announces plan to record the DNA at birth of every child born in the United States.

May 19: The Supreme Court rules that police may search anyone if they have reasonable grounds for believing that the person has pockets.

May 27: The Transportation Security Administration declares that all airline passengers must strip completely nude at check-in and remain thus until arriving at their destination.

June 6: White police officer in Oklahoma City tasers a 7-month-old black child, claiming the child was holding a gun; the gun turns out to be a rattle.

July 19: Two subway trains collide in Manhattan. The United States demands that Moscow explain why there was a Russian citizen in each of the trains.

September 5: The Democratic Party changes its name to the Republican Lite Party, and announces the opening of a joint bank account with the Republican Party so that corporate lobbyists need make out only one check.

September 12: White police officer in Alabama shoots black newborn, confusing the umbilical cord for a noose.

November 16: President Obama announces that Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, North Korea, Sudan, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Bolivia and Cuba all possess weapons of mass destruction; have close ties to the Islamic State, al Qaeda, and the Taliban; are aiding pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine; were involved in 9-11; played a role in the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the attack on Pearl Harbor; are an imminent threat to the United States and all that is decent and holy; and are all “really bad guys”, who even (choke, gasp) use torture!

November 21: The United States invades Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, North Korea, Sudan, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Bolivia and Cuba.

December 10: Barack Obama is awarded his second Nobel Peace Prize

December 11: To celebrate his new peace prize, Obama sends out drones to assassinate wrong-thinking individuals in Somalia, Afghanistan and Yemen.

December 13: Members of Ukraine’s neo-Nazi parties, which hold several high positions in the US-supported government, goose-step through the center of Kiev in full German Storm Trooper uniforms, carrying giant swastika flags, shouting “Heil Hitler”, and singing the Horst Wessel song. Not a word of this appears in any American mainstream media.

December 15: US Secretary of State warns Russia to stop meddling in Ukraine, accusing Moscow of wanting to re-create the Soviet Union.

December 16: White police officer shoots a black 98-year-old man sitting in a wheel chair, claiming the man pointed a rifle at him. The rifle turns out to be a cane.

December 28: The Washington Redskins football team finish their season in last place. The White House blames Vladimir Putin.

Associated Press, December 11, 2014
New York Times, December 11, 2014
Los Angeles Times, February 1, 2009
New York Times, February 6, 2009
New York Times, May 24, 2009
Washington Post, December 11, 2014
National Security Archive’s Brazil Documentation Project
Washington Post, December 10, 2014
See note 7
Washington Post, December 13, 2014

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.

← Issue #134

A Decade of Subversion

: Celebrates with DVD Release A Decade of Subversion


by Stimulator

A decade of flaming subversion available now! Buy the DVD and sponsor the next ten years of anarchist film. Or download it for free starting Decemeber 19th at


A Decade of Subversion is a loving collection of foul-mouthed anarchy from, creators of It's the End of the World As We Know It and I Feel Fine, END:CIV, and Join the Resistance: Fall in Love!

Buy or download your copy now and own a full decade of history written in fire! Featuring two hours of's best videos and a fold-out printable booklet, the DVD includes subtitles in Spanish, Portuguese, German, Czech, Dutch, Romanian, Slovene and Arabic.

“It's more than just riot porn.” Franklin Lopez explains.

A Decade of Subversion collection also includes films about indigenous struggles, films about the Olympics, films about environmental issues and even films about stealing.

The story of is about turning the old-school media model inside out. 

“Capitalist media is fucked. says fuck capitalism,” Lopez says. “We proved we could make really radical films and not get censored. We can play as much riot porn as we want, we can curse as much as we want, and at the end of the day, what you get is uncensored raw anarchist cinema.”

“We showed you can make films without being beholden to careerism or studio bosses, without being slaves to film festivals or threatre circuits,” Lopez says. has been crowdfunded for over a decade now, and does not accept money from governments or corporations.

Lopez says that's work is an homage to people everywhere resisting oppression and capitalism.

He adds: “Mainstream media already denigrates us on a daily basis. We wanna make films that lift the spirits of the people fighting, that celebrate our culture of resistance and show us that we can win.”

Proceeds from A Decade of Subversion go to fund's upcoming projects, including a series called What Are We Fighting For about anarchists and other freedom fighters telling the stories of their struggles, and a feature film about the story of Anarchy with the working title of ¡Libertad!'s anarchist cinema output began in 2004 with the short Join the Resistance: Fall in Love! Inspired by CrimethInc's Days of War, Nights of Love book. In 2005, the post-Hurricane Katrina video remix George Bush Don't Like Black People reached over a million viewers and was featured in the New York Times. Wired Magazine picked subMedia.TV for its list of top ten online video sites in 2006. That same year, unleashed its comedy news vlog It's the End of the World as We Know It and I Feel Fine, watched by thousands of faithful fanatics.

In 2011 released END:CIV, its first feature film. The film toured the world with screenings in over 150 locations around the globe. In 2015, will release To Change Everything, a multi-language video collaboration with CrimethInc that will introduce Anarchy to a wide audience.

Stay tuned in 2015 as the fires get higher.

Download A Decade of Subversion or buy the DVD and support the next decade of subversion 

Cuba Recognition Does Not Mean End to US Subversion

US Recognition of Cuba after 54 Years of Hostility and War Does not Mean an End to US Subversion

by Dave Lindorff  - This Can't Be Happening

There is a lot of congratulating of President Obama going on among people on the left in the US over the announced agreement reached between the White House and Raul Castro to end America’s half-century isolation of the only Communist nation in the Americas.

But the congratulations are premature and naive.

Whatever the reasons for the announcement that the US and Cuba are swapping some long-held prisoners and are going to exchange embassies (The US closed its embassy in Havana in 1962), the reality is that this will not end Washington’s obsession with overthrowing the socialist government installed in 1959 by Fidel Castro’s successful anti-imperialist armed rebellion.

Not only does having an American embassy in your country not mean your country will be left alone by the imperialist Washington -- it means that in the heart of your national capital, you will have a diplomatically protected headquarters for agents working for the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency and a host of other Washington three-letter spy outfits.

Look at Venezuela, where the US has an embassy out of which it has run operations ever since the initial election of the late Hugo Chavez seeking to topple the elected leadership of that oil-rich nation. Look at Honduras, where the US has long had an embassy which only recently played a key role in the overthrow and exile of that country’s progressive elected president. Look at Ukraine, where the US had an embassy that was the command center for a CIA-led program that ultimately orchestrated the overthrow of the elected government of President Viktor Yanukovich. And look at Pakistan, where a few years ago, with the arrest of a CIA contractor working undercover in the US consulate in Lahore for the brazen day-light cold-blooded murder of two young Pakistani intelligence agents, and the outing, over a short period, of three CIA station chiefs, all working under diplomatic cover, we learned that the US embassy was running a program of civilian bombings designed to foment fratricidal religious conflict in that country.

The US Embassy in Havana in 1961, when it was 
shut down by the Eisenhower administration

That of course is only a partial list of US diplomatic perfidy, but it should be noted that all of it refers to activities that were conducted during the Obama administration, which has enthusiastically carried on the long tradition of using embassies as cover not just for spies, but as headquarters for subversive operations against governments the US would prefer to undermine or overthrow.

Cuba should -- and certainly after experiencing 50-plus years of furious efforts by the US to overthrow its government and kill its leaders -- will be on its guard against such a use, or rather misuse of America’s embassy and seeming willingness to call off its state of war against the Cuban nation and Cuban people.

The Obama decision, reportedly aided by the intercession of Pope Francis, to end the US policy of overt hostility towards Cuba, should not be seen as some uncharacteristic act of rational, humanitarian policy by this war-mongering president who has proven to be so good at saying one thing and doing another.

Both Cuba and the US have been forced into this public rapprochement. Cuba, for its part, has been crippled for decades by the US embargo -- the longest continuous embargo of a nation in history, and one which by some accounts has cost the tiny island nation of 11.3 million people, with a 2014 Gross Domestic Product of less than $70 billion, about $1 trillion in lost economic activity -- a human tragedy of unimaginable proportions.

Since the 1989 collapse of the Soviet Union, which had been a primary supporter of Cuba during much of the embargo, Cuba, frozen out of the world banking system by the US embargo, and barred from trading with many nations by the bullying of the US, has had to rely on the aid of Venezuela and other progressive nations, but now with oil prices slumping, Venezuela, itself a target of US hostility, is in no position to aid Cuba. The country needed to do something to break out of its enforced isolation.

But the US, too, has been feeling the heat. Across South America, democratic nations have thrown off repressive and subservient conservative regimes and installed progressive governments that have begun to work together to resist US imperial edicts. From Uruguay to Venezuela, from Chile to Bolivia, and even in Argentina, where the government, while not particularly leftist, has stood against the pressures of the US-led international banking industry, the US has found itself increasingly isolated. And a particular sore point across the entire Spanish and Portuguese-speaking Americas has long been American hostility towards Cuba.

Cuba is a nation highly regarded by the peoples of Latin America, not just for its heroic resistance to Tio Sam, but because of the good work it has done there, in running literacy campaigns and especially providing doctors and other medical workers, not just during emergencies, but on a routine basis.

With China making huge inroads into the economies of Latin America, and with Brazil lining up with both China and Russia in increasingly successful efforts to break away from the dollar-dominated global economy, the US has to be worried about its increasing isolation in what it used to obscenely refer to as America’s “back yard.”

But anyone who thinks that this is the end of decades of US intrigue and subversion aimed at Cuba, or that this president who has so embraced a militarist policy of might makes right has suddenly “seen the light” and is trying to bring the rogue US back into the community of law-abiding nations, should note that even as he announced the agreement to clear away the cobwebs and remove the dust-laden sheets from the furniture in the American Embassy in Havana the president supported new sanctions against Russia, arms for the fascist government in Ukraine, and new sanctions against Venezuela.

This agreement with Cuba is a small step forward, and a necessary one for both the US and for Cuba, but it is, for the Cuban people, and the people of the world, a gift horse that needs its festering mouth closely inspected. To switch metaphors, it is also a Trojan horse whose insides need to be carefully probed before the gates in Havana are thrown open.

Jamaica Caught in The Debt Trap

Jamaica and the Politics of Debt Trap

by Jeb Sprague - TeleSur

Debt is a drain on Jamaica, and also functions to block any potential efforts to structurally transform the nation or to ramp up social investment.

With a population of just under three million, the nation of Jamaica remains ensnared in debt. The debt trap is most apparent when looked at from the state’s interest payments as a percentage of the government’s non-grant revenue, which currently amounts to 40%. Jamaica’s continual caving in to the IMF has meant severe austerity measures, freezing of wages, cutting of spending, and it has left the country with the highest debt interest burden worldwide.

A drain on the country, it also functions to block any potential efforts to structurally transform the nation or to ramp up social investment.

Politics & Cynicism

Speaking with Jamaicans from a wide variety of backgrounds during a recent bout of research in and around Kingston, it became clear that there is widespread cynicism about the country’s political system. Many are critical of the rapacious global financial structure that they find themselves in and the rising levels of inequality that surround—a heavily present tension. This is reflected in the class consciousness of local reggae and dancehall music with lyrics about poor urban youth, the sufferer’s, the haves and the have nots, and politicians taking advantage. New more progressive reggae groups are even replacing homophobic "battyman" disses with "capitalist" as the target of derision.

With 1.2 million people living below the poverty line, rising inequality, and officially 13.8 percent unemployment (with many more in precarious work or forced to hustle to make ends meet), the country also faces declining medical and educational systems in drastic need of assistance. So why aren’t popular mobilizations occurring to shift priorities and to default on the debt or at the very least disengage from the most onerous policies of the IMF (as the country's late Prime Minister Michael Manley once advocated)? Can Jamaica’s political establishment even consider such possibilities?

While Argentina's historic and successful defaulting on $100 billion of debt at the end of 2001 was followed by years of economic growth and a massive decrease in poverty, such defaults have had more mixed results in small Caribbean states, such as with the defaults of Belize and Grenada followed by state officials agreeing to stringent IMF austerity measures. More radical adjustments could be possible, especially as creditors would rather get something over nothing and as the IFIs (international financial institutions) own large parts of Jamaica's debt and could be pressured by global campaigners to go along with a default. Groups such as Jubilee USA are campaigning to rid economically fragile nations, such as those in the Caribbean, of crushing debt.

After the completion of Jamaica’s recent IMF (International Monetary Fund) agreement and debt exchange, only domestically held debt was reduced, while the principal was not reduced. This means that institutions, such as the World Bank, IDB (Inter American Development Bank), and IMF, that offer Jamaica new loans are the same institutions that Jamaica continues to owe huge sums to. With record low growth over the last twenty years, continued engagement with the IFIs is squeezing the government during a time of recession, committing it to slashing spending even more, such as on public sector workers.

Committed to debt payment and austerity, Jamaica’s two main political parties are largely concerned with remaking Jamaica into a more globally competitive platform for transnational capital. The two parties are heavily reliant on funding from the top tiers of Jamaican society. Most from the upper echelons of Jamaican society as well as the outward looking middle strata are opposed to empowering the poor. The state increasingly is becoming run like a business enterprise geared toward top local and foreign investors, with some unwanted domestic necessities (or baggage) it must nonetheless attend to.

Policy and ideological differences have diminished over the years between the two major parties – the JLP (Jamaican Labor Party) and the PNP (People’s National Party). While the PNP has been in office for the majority of time over the past two decades (maintaining support among some in lower income neighborhoods, its "garrison" constituencies, and among important groups such as with many school teachers), its policies over the past three decades have shifted from its redistributionist and social democracy policies of the 1970’s toward a neoliberal position. It’s rival, the JLP, with a more knee-jerk pro-business line, maintains a somewhat more sizable following among local elites and sectors of the middle class but also has backers within certain “garrison” neighborhoods where it has pumped out patronage over the years. The PNP has remained more popular among the popular classes, with Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller, also known as “Sista P” or “Mama P”, considered to have a deep connection with many poor Jamaicans.

People's political passions (and anger) are thus channeled through a two party system, a situation made all the more difficult to change as rampant out-migration and brain drain lead many to understandably see leaving as the alternative rather than challenging the status quo. Cynicism over political motives is high, intensified by corruption scandals within the government.

Internationally, the PNP maintains some of its sovereign streak: supporting deepening ties with Cuba, opposing the war in Iraq, sheltering Haiti’s democratically elected President following his illegal 2004 ouster by the U.S. Bush regime, taking part in CARICOM’s reparations commission, and joining Venezuela's PetroCaribe Alliance to Washington’s chagrin. Yet the Jamaican state's foreign policies rarely challenge major economic interests, especially as the country's state technocrats and political leaders orientate more and more toward the global economy.

Without the funds gained through PetroCaribe in recent years, Jamaica might have taken an even more painful plan from the IMF. So it is worrisome then that with a tightening global oil market, PetroCaribe looks less cost-effective, with the Venezuelan state recently offloading some of its PetroCaribe debt to Goldman Sachs so as to obtain more rapidly part of the value.

A collection of problems face Jamaica: from the large informal economy, to a low-level of tax collection, and massive annual debt payments. The state has sought to avoid the tough decisions that need to be made, such as patrolling local tax dodging companies and seeking out an alternative to the continued IMF deals. Instead informal and unregulated capital is rampant, and politicians don’t dare consider a break with the IFIs. Many I spoke with in Kingston seem to have shrinking expectations of government, part of a broader de-radicalization trend in parts of the Caribbean where the left has little infrastructure and less of an organized or mobilized base.

Global Capitalism

Jamaica’s deepened integration with the global economy is clear: from the spread of transnational finance capital, to the growing array of global fast food chains, to mini-malls, and the expansion of gated middle class neighborhoods.

Along with the underdevelopment brought on through today’s global system and earlier historical eras of colonialism and slavery, we can recognize in the objective social and class conditions major shifts occurring through the economic restructuring of Jamaican society through globalization. Leading local groups of capital are profiting through the service sector, finance, tourism, and through the stores integrated into the global import system (with the country heavily reliant on foreign imports). The onetime international division of labor has given way to a global division of labor, where capitalist production has become flexibilized and segmented through chains of production that functionally integrate across borders. Specialists move more frequently to temporary jobs abroad, such as with the use of Chinese engineers in a major ongoing road construction project in the country.

Production in Jamaica has grown slowly, especially in comparison to nearby Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic. The country’s half a dozen free trade zones (FTZs) are undergoing a transformation to special economic zones (SEZs), the difference being that the new SEZ’s eliminate the 15% cap on how much of the production within the zone can be sold within the country. I visited one such EPZ along Kingston’s wharf. The goal, state officials explain, is to stimulate more global investment in production, so that large companies can setup in Jamaica and cluster with local companies: a reverse enclave development model meant to foster development locally that is integrated with the global economy.

Meanwhile, transnational cruise ship companies and the global mining industry maintain major operations in the country but in recent times contribute little in taxes. Labor inputs into the mining sector have declined over recent decades, and in line with global trends the state gain's less and less from the industry. With regard to the highly profitable cruise ship industry; Caribbean states failed in earlier attempts to jointly negotiate higher levies on what states’ receive per visiting cruise passenger, a campaign that should be revitalized.

Bending over backwards to compete for foreign investment, one of the country’s most ecologically sensitive bays may soon be developed into a deep-water port hub for a China based transnational conglomerate. This comes at a time when scientific data on global warming suggests dangerous consequences for the region, in addition to other harmful factors, that have already resulted in a 50% decline of the region’s corral reefs since the 1970s.

From the Past, to the Future

The undermining of Jamaica’s popular movement’s has been a long and painful process, from the crushing of militant labor in the 1930s, to the destabilization of the PNP’s “third way” project (during the first administration of Manley) in the 1970’s, to the post-cold war collapse of the Marxist WPJ (Worker's Party of Jamaica). Prior to his passing, the leftwing Jamaican journalist John Maxwell observed how many of the country’s former radicals have since become “intellectual leaders of free market theology”. Calling to mind Margaret Thatcher’s infamous line: “There is no alternative”.

It’s difficult to guess where the left could resurge in Jamaica. A diverse array of community groups exist in the lower income neighborhoods, but the focus on NGO work has steadily marginalized radical alternatives. Activists I spoke to argued that popular education and organizing against police brutality were among the most pressing concerns.

Grassroots organizers for example working with families from Tivoli Gardens (one of the country’s lowest income neighborhoods and with an estimated 40-60% unemployment), have pushed the state into carrying out an enquiry into the heavy handed police and army raid under a previous administration (headed by then JLP Prime Minister Bruce Golding) that targeted a narco boss but cost the lives (officially) of 73 people (or possibly up to 200, as locals claim). At the time of the attack the U.S. embassy in Kingston was heavily pressuring Jamaica’s government to take action, with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security providing a surveillance aircraft for the operation.

The government of Jamaica has yet to provide a commitment to compensate the victims of the violent 2010 Tivoli Gardens “incursion” (what residents of the poor neighborhood describe as a massacre). Now is the time to make it crystal clear that the Jamaican and U.S. governments have a legal, moral, and political duty to deal with the suffering.

In fact it was first through the facilitation of JLP leaders and U.S. intelligence services in the 1970s and early 1980s that paramilitary groups formed in Kingston (meant at first to violently target popular neighborhoods supportive of the PNP). Overtime the paramilitary gunmen evolved into a narco-trafficking ring heavily active in extortion and well known in the crime world; echoes of the cold-war drug-war nexus.

Of course many other specific conditions exist within Jamaican society. It has for instance a large diaspora population living abroad producing a reverse flow of remittances that has grown massively over recent decades. Another unique dynamic is that Jamaica has more churches per capita than any other country. Amidst economic hard times, scapegoating sexual minorities has become more commonplace, such as with the evangelical protestant “anti-buggery” campaigners that have launched in Kingston some of the largest demonstrations and marches in recent memory. Meanwhile, an estimated 3-5% of the population identify as Rastafarians--a decentralized segment of the population with pan-Africanist politics, yet (similar to the large evangelical community) many hold deeply homophobic views.

Moving forward, it will be grassroots organizing, the youth, and lower income communities pressing for a unified and emancipatory (not sectarian or chauvinist) alternative that might best aim to shift the structural conditions toward empowering the poor majority. At the very least, movements from below can put pressure on the two party system currently in power. Vital for this struggle is to grow local organizing and create tighter transnational bonds with grassroots groups and popular movements abroad and work to strengthen new regional alternatives such as ALBA. For emancipatory politics to reemerge in Jamaica its core energy will need to emanate from the poor and grassroots, from the communities that are most dispossessed and marginalized by the rightward drift of the nation’s domestic politics and the country’s heightening integration with global capitalism. Faced with understandable cynicism and intensely negative structural conditions the future at times appears bleak and unmovable, but human society and its future is what we make of it--a reality we need not abandon.