Saturday, January 14, 2017

Friday, January 13, 2017

Meet Mr. Mercer, Trump's Shadow Saviour

The Bizarre Far-Right Billionaire Behind Trump's Presidency


January 13, 2017

When all seemed to be falling apart for Trump this summer, one shadowy billionaire offered up his own massive political infrastructure, which included Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway, and saved Trump’s campaign from demise.

Fed Moves to Gag Mining Watchdog in Mt. Polley Disaster Case

Mount Polley Disaster Stunner: Federal Government Moves To Stop MiningWatch Presenting Evidence To Court

by MiningWatch Canada

January 13, 2017

Williams Lake, B.C.The federal Crown announced this morning that it is moving to stay MiningWatch’s charges against the B.C. government and Mount Polley Mining Corporation (MPMC)—owned by Imperial Metals—over the largest mine waste disaster in Canadian history.

If successful, the Crown action would prevent MiningWatch from presenting evidence to the Court about the 2014 spill’s damages to downstream waters and fish habitat, in violations of the Fisheries Act (see backgrounder below).

“We were stunned that the federal Crown does not even want us show the Court that there was enough evidence to justify proceeding with a prosecution against both the B.C. government & MPMC for the worst mining spill in Canadian history,” says Ugo Lapointe, Canada Program Coordinator for MiningWatch.

The Court will decide in the next few weeks if the Crown is allowed to enter a stay of charges so early in the process, without even first hearing the evidence from the private prosecutor (MiningWatch).

MiningWatch is concerned that by staying these proceedings without clear justifications, the Crown is sending the wrong signal to industry across Canada and further undermines public confidence in the ability of our regulatory system to effectively protect our environment.

Says Lapointe,

“We initiated this private prosecution out of concern that it has now been over two and a half years since the Mount Polley disaster happened and yet, despite clear evidence of violations of Canadian laws, no charges have been brought forward by any level of government.”

The Public Prosecution Service of Canada Deskbook describes private prosecutions as “a valuable constitutional safeguard against inertia or partiality on the part of authorities.” MiningWatch’s lawyer, Lilina Lysenko, says, “Staying the charges prior to having the opportunity to determine whether or not there is enough evidence to proceed could undermine this constitutional safeguard if it is done without good reason.”

This decision also raises serious questions about the federal Crown’s real intention to lay, or not, its own charges against B.C. government and MPMC. Lapointe explains,

“Soon to be three years after the fact, they still haven't filed their own charges. What confidence can the public have that if they can't even say when, or if, they will file their own charges? They're welcome to take over the case, but to prosecute it, not to stay, dismiss or stall the proceedings.”

Call to action

MiningWatch is calling on the public to seek answers and clear commitment from the federal government to enforce its own environmental laws when they are violated. Please take the time to write to both Hon. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ( and Hon. Dominic Leblanc, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans ( Let them know you want the Canadian Fisheries Act to be enforced promptly in the case of the Mount Polley Mine disaster in British-Columbia. More actions will follow.

MiningWatch's legal action is supported by multiple local, provincial, and national organizations, including West Coast Environmental Law-Environmental Dispute Resolution Fund (main funder), Amnesty International Canada, Sierra Club BC, Wilderness Committee, First Nations Women Advocating for Responsible Mining, Concerned Citizens of Quesnel Lake, Quesnel River Watershed Alliance, Fair Mining Collaborative, Rivers Without Borders, British Columbia Environmental Network, Clayoquot Action, Forest Protection Allies, Kamloops Area Preservation Association, Kamloops Physicians for the Environment Society, Alaska Clean Water Advocacy.


With the support of multiple organizations, MiningWatch filed a private prosecution in October 2016 claiming that the massive 2014 spill destroyed or altered large swaths of fish habitat, in clear violations of sections 35(1) and 36(3) of the federal Fisheries Act (see also backgrounder online).

On August 4 2014, Mount Polley Mine’s tailings dam collapsed and sent up to 25 million cubic metres (10,000 Olympic-size pools) of wastewater and mine waste solids into downstream waters, destroying or affecting over 2,612,470 m2 of aquatic and riparian habitats—equivalent to about 500 football fields or 1500 ice hockey rinks.

Impact assessment reports of the spill commissioned by BC’s Ministry of Environment and MPMC indicate strong evidence of an impact to sediments, both physically and chemically, within Hazeltine Creek, Polley Lake, and Quesnel Lake.

Chemical impacts are most evident in elevated copper, but also in concentrations of iron, selenium, arsenic, vanadium, manganese, and other contaminants. In some instances, concentrations consistently exceeded provincial Sediment Quality Guidelines (and above background levels).

The National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) reports that the Mount Polley Mine represented the largest emitter of copper, arsenic and manganese in Canadian waters in 2014 due to the tailings spill.

Studies also indicated effects to benthic invertebrates, which are also protected under the Fisheries Act. Effects are ranging from an absence of organisms, lower density and taxon richness, and limited differences in community composition.

MiningWatch is taking action now because it is concerned that, almost two and a half years after the disaster, governments have failed to lay charges and enforce the law, despite clear and ample evidence to justify proceeding. MiningWatch fears that this sends the wrong signal to the industry across the country and undermines public confidence in the capacity of our regulatory system to work effectively to protect our environment.

Under specific provisions of the Canadian Criminal Code and the Fisheries Act, any citizen can initiate a private prosecution if he or she believes, on reasonable grounds, that a person has committed an indictable offence. In order words, the legislation specifically provides an incentive for private persons to enforce federal laws like the Fisheries Act in order to ensure the protection of public resources, such fish and fish habitat, even if against the Federal or Provincial Crown. As stated in the Public Prosecution Service of Canada Deskbook, private prosecutions are “a valuable constitutional safeguard against inertia or partiality on the part of authorities.”

While MiningWatch is prepared to carry the case to full trial if necessary, it also recognizes that the cost and expense associated with prosecuting a case against a mining corporation and the Provincial Government can be immense. For this reason, it will be asking for the Federal Crown to carry the prosecution forward. If Canada’s unique environmental values and waters are to be fully protected, it can only occur if the government stands against violations of its own laws and uses all the means and resources it has at its disposal to do so.

Ironically Numb: La La Land's Past and Present America

Nostalgia Numbs: The Ironies of “La La Land”

by David Yearsley - CounterPunch

January 13, 2017    

Irony is the not-so-new normal.

Somewhere back in the swirling dry-ice mists of history, round about the time of the one-and-only Clinton Administration, this venerable figure-of-speech stretched its wings and its brand and became a full-fledged lifestyle choice providing post-moderns with essential protection for life, liberty, and pursuit of nostalgia.


Still from “La La Land.” 

Aided by irony, you could wear suede shoes and wide-wale bell bottoms, mix old-fashioned cocktails from overpriced mason jars, enjoying it all while meaning none of it. The performance was the key: cloaked in paradox, these linoleum counter-revolutionaries were safe—they’d say “empowered”—to mock their own poses.

There was an unacknowledged anti-political dimension to this: how to make sense of poor boy from Hope, Arkansas claiming to be a young and groovy populist but then going on to make war on black America, firing off missiles in the Middle East, expanding NATO in search of a new Cold War, and jumping into bed and into closets with corporations and interns? The answer to all this was ironic: buy a camo flak jacket or make kindred gestures more defeatist than defiant.

Next thing you know it’s 2017. Donald Trump is about to be president and has taken irony to a whole new realm called by some “post-truth”. American leaders have long been contemptuous of honesty, especially about themselves and their country, but Trump enjoys flaunting his scorn for reality: he’s lived so long in his own irony bubble that he no longer knows or cares what the difference between disdain and belief might be. That’s what makes him the hippest man in America.

Like the fabricated images we see riffling in the breeze on a vintage Hollywood back lot that is a favorite location of the film, this is the backdrop for La La Land, the movie musical that took home a magnificent seven Golden Globes last weekend and is poised to rake in still more pseudo-honors at the upcoming Academy Awards.

This cinemascope entertainment makes for a fun two-hours, but it must be enjoyed with a big tub of buttered irony if the kernels and condiments of its nostalgia are to go down the gullet without provoking a spluttered cough or requiring a life-saving Heimlich maneuver from the usherette.

The genre of La La Land is inherently backward-looking, the film soaked with references to the movie industry’s past and the musical’s marquee moments. There are the obligatory riffs on Singin’ in the Rain, An American in Paris, Top Hat and probably dozens of other bits of more recent, but no less nostalgic cast. These are fetchingly embroidered into the love story of the main characters, the doctrinaire old-school jazz-pianist, Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and the aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone): even their romance is overtaken by retrospect as the movie gives in to the seductions of its own reverie.

Lit by the afterglow of the Golden Age past and the glimmer of a what-might-be future, La La Land celebrates its own self-regard by gently mocking the here-and-now of its Los Angeles. When in this lightly ironic mode the film is at its best.

At an overlook in Hollywood Hills where the couple breaks into their first duet and soft-shoe number, the would-be lovers comment disdainfully on the sprawling city of lights below. The movie loops back on itself for a later return to the location, during the day rather than in romantic twilight: the pair scoffs at the city once again, as if to say “Who would live—and love—in such a place?” Nostalgia numbs the senses, and is therefore the drug that allows the pursuit of celebrity. Accordingly, the movie’s centerpiece song, “City of Stars” is a wistfully circling minor key melody above a repetitive piano figure that is jaunty and sentimental: it doesn’t think, it dreams.

The film’s most impressive cinematic feat comes right at the opening with “Another Day in the Sun.” Motorists stuck in a teeth-grinding L. A. traffic jam escape their cars for a high-energy production number that weaves between vehicles and courses up and down the on-ramp—all in a single take with the camera itself joining the ecstatic choreography. Making fun of the perfect Californian weather and the relentless freeway stasis that defines the city derided by Mia and Sebastian from the Hollywood Hills, this tableau gives new meaning to the phrase show-stopper. Gridlock spawns blastoff before the film has even properly begun. This wholesome escapist fantasy also laughs at the chases and crashes in which Hollywood automobiles usually star: the only time there is traffic in La La Land is when it helps the story.

These petty ironies orbit around a much weightier one. The appealing chemistry between the leads is at its best when Stone and Gosling are verbally sparring, on a date at a classic movie, flirting, or arguing—not when they are dancing or singing. That the movie more-or-less overcomes this dilemma is a tribute to the generally snappy script and the verve of the direction. While one can admire the effort and native talent of both stars in their homages to Ginger Rogers, Gene Kelly and many others, they are not equipped for their roles: the crescendo never comes; no one is swept off her feet; gestures are made but not followed through on. Stone is a real star even when not fully in her element, but when doing their songs and dances she and Gosling seem more to be hitting their marks in a meta-musical. In this sense the musical’s main song rightly judges the movie around it: the leads are stars, not singers and dancers.

There are still more massive ironies, none more debilitating than the fact that it’s a strident—not stride—white pianist who anoints himself the apostle of jazz who will save it from the menace of pop culture. This Sebastian loves bebop not Bach. He worships Miles, Coltrane and other icons of what he calls “pure jazz.” Yet Sebastian’s own waltz—the one that first draws Mia to him in a restaurant where he is shackled in seasonal servitude to the Christmas Carols and that he plays again at the crux of the film—is sickly saccharine stuff, the work of the musical’s composer, Justin Hurwitz. As supposed savior of what some have called America’s Classical Music, Sebastian is stuck in a movie musical that, in contrast to the so many Broadway shows, will never birth a jazz standard. Real jazz musicians are occasionally wheeled into frame like stage sets in order to add a whiff of authenticity, but there no attempt is made to marry the art form with the real musical content of the movie. The film seems to confirm what its lead character fears: Americans don’t like jazz.

Writer-director Damien Chazelle is to be applauded for his virtuosically impressive direction and the cleverness of his script, but his attitude towards jazz appears as white as Fred Astaire’s waistcoat—perfect for Hollywood. In Chazelle’s Whiplash (2014) it was the malign and musically tiresome Buddy Rich who was the idol of the young, beset drummer. In La La Land Gosling’s Sebastian professes to love Monk, and tries to figure out one of his piano licks by constantly rewinding the cassette player in his 1970s convertible while stuck in that opening traffic jam. But what Sebastian sings and plays himself is pure schlock.

The filmmakers are clearly aware that they are on dangerous ground when it comes to race, especially in Los Angeles. When Seb first breaks into “City of Stars” he is shuffling down Santa Monica pier trying some Astaire tricks with a fedora that apparently fell like manna from the heaven. On his stroll he encounters a black couple and dances cheek to cheek with the woman for a few bars, before the man takes muted umbrage.

The role of Sebastian’s music-school comrade and former bandmate Keith is taken by that anodyne avenger, John Legend. He is made to espouse a supposedly progressive view of jazz that claims it must either evolve or die. Soon enough the unbending musical moralist, Sebastian is buying dark suits and touring with Keith’s band ironically called the Messengers— the “Jazz” of Art Blakey’s seminal ensembles having been lopped off. Still more ironical is the fact that Legend’s production number Start a Fire (co-written by Legend and Hurwitz) makes for the film’s best, most energetic music—all nostalgic funk and fusion, big haired back-up singers and Solid Gold-style dancers.

Soon after this ironic high, Sebastian plays the piano at Keith’s wedding to a white woman, the interracial marriage is a pretty transparent ploy to soften the racial dissonance at the heart of the film. At the backyard ceremony, Sebastian doesn’t seize the opportunity to break into Monk’s Ruby, My Dear but claws at his signature waltz, as sickly sweet as bad wedding cake. Irony makes even this palatable.
DAVID YEARSLEY is a long-time contributor to CounterPunch and the Anderson Valley Advertiser. His recording of J. S. Bach’s organ trio sonatas is available from Musica Omnia. He can be reached at
More articles by:David Yearsley

A Story Left Untold: Canada's Absent Maritime Workers and the Wreck of the Nathan E. Stewart

CBC Daybreak North and a Neglected Issue of Vital Northern Concern

by Ingmar Lee - 10,000 Ton Tanker

January 13, 2017

Photo April Bencze Heiltsuk Nation
Andrew Kurjata, the writer of this piece works for CBC "Daybreak North." Over the past 4 years have repeatedly appealed to Daybreak North to cover the issue of the "Nathan E Stewart" and the implications of the American Alaska-bound tanker traffic that exploits the BC Inside Passage as a private petroleum conduit. 
Over the past 4 years I have repeatedly appealed to CBC "Daybreak North" to cover the issue of the "Nathan E Stewart" and the implications of the American Alaska-bound tanker traffic that exploits the BC Inside Passage as its petroleum conduit.

It was only after the wreck of the Nathan E Stewart that CBC Daybreak North began covering the issue, - albeit with a blatant, sanitized slant focused on talking points provided by the Texas-based Kirby Corporation that owned the tug, the Kinder Morgan- owned "clean-up" service, WCMRC which provided a chimera of "cleanup" operations in progress around the wreck, and by Big Oil government lackies, all of which was designed to sanitize and minimize the implications of the disaster.

CBC and Daybreak North never once sought to examine the outrageous Alaska-bound tanker business that conducts as many as 50 round trips up and down the BC Inside Passage annually. It did not notice the political wrench that the wreck of the Nathan E Stewart presented to Justin Trudeau's tightly-scheduled roll-out of pipeline/tanker announcements. Neither did CBC or Daybreak North examine the farcical, utterly hopeless, ineffectual, and impotent "clean-up" of the disgusting, poisonous, devastating, yet comparatively minuscule slick that spewed out of the wreck.

Initially, I approached CBC with polite, concise, factual reports about the tanker traffic, and how it operated, providing not a single Canadian job, -not even to Canadian pilots- paid no tarriff or fee, offered no stops in Canada, and carried on average, one quarter of the petroleum spill volume that was released into the sea by the Exxon Valdes, - on every trip! But they were not interested at all.

Daybreak North has consistently, unfailingly refused to give me any airtime on this issue. They have never returned my calls, or ever showed the slightest interest in this most serious clear and present danger that threatens the natural splendours of this coast. I challenge anyone to name a bigger threat.

CBC Daybreak North purports to cover "northern" issues, and although it runs a branch in Prince Rupert which purports to cover coastal issues, the station is based, managed and tightly controlled from Prince George, -which of course, is amongst the very few BC communities which remains transfixed in the thrall of Big Oil.

If I am being muzzled and blacklisted by Prince George CBC message-management, then I expect that they are also muzzling others amongst the vast majority of British Columbians who oppose, or are concerned about the Big Oil Assault on this province.

I believe that CBC Prince George harbours entrenched remnants of obsequious status-quo, business-as-usual conservative-slanted stenographer lackies that survived the Stephen Harper eviscerations of the CBC.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Dirty, Dirty Tricks: Getting All J. Edgar on Trump's Ass

Pulling a J. Edgar Hoover on Trump

by Robert Parry  - Consortium News

January 12, 2017  

The decision by the U.S. intelligence community to include in an official report some unverified and salacious accusations against President-elect Donald Trump resembles a tactic out of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s playbook on government-style blackmail: I have some very derogatory information about you that I’d sure hate to see end up in the press. 
Legendary FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover

In this case, as leaders of the U.S. intelligence community were pressing Trump to accept their assessment that the Russian government had tried to bolster Trump’s campaign by stealing and leaking actual emails harmful to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, Trump was confronted with this classified “appendix” describing claims about him cavorting with prostitutes in a Moscow hotel room.

Supposedly, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and CIA Director John Brennan included the unproven allegations in the report under the rationale that the Russian government might have videotaped Trump’s misbehavior and thus could use it to blackmail him. But the U.S. intelligence community also had reasons to want to threaten Trump who has been critical of its performance and who has expressed doubts about its analysis of the Russian “hacking.”

After the briefing last Friday, Trump and his incoming administration did shift their position, accepting the intelligence community’s assessment that the Russian government hacked the emails of the Democratic National Committee and Clinton’s campaign chief John Podesta. But I’m told Trump saw no evidence that Russia then leaked the material to WikiLeaks and has avoided making that concession.

Still, Trump’s change in tone was noted by the mainstream media and was treated as an admission that he was abandoning his earlier skepticism. In other words, he was finally getting onboard the intelligence community’s Russia-did-it bandwagon. Now, however, we know that Trump simultaneously had been confronted with the possibility that the unproven stories about him engaging in unorthodox sex acts with prostitutes could be released, embarrassing him barely a week before his inauguration.

The classified report, with the explosive appendix, was also given to President Obama and the so-called “Gang of Eight,” bipartisan senior members of Congress responsible for oversight of the intelligence community, which increased chances that the Trump accusations would be leaked to the press, which indeed did happen.

Circulating Rumors

The stories about Russian intelligence supposedly filming Trump in a high-end Moscow hotel with prostitutes have been circulating around Washington for months. I was briefed about them by a Hillary Clinton associate who was clearly hopeful that the accusations would be released before the election and thus further damage Trump’s chances. But the alleged video never seemed to surface and the claims had all the earmarks of a campaign dirty trick.

However, now the tales of illicit frolic have been elevated to another level. They have been inserted into an official U.S. intelligence report, the details of which were leaked first to CNN and then to other mainstream U.S. news media outlets.

Trump has denounced the story as “fake news” and it is certainly true that the juicy details – reportedly assembled by a former British MI-6 spy named Christopher Steele – have yet to check out. But the placement of the rumors in a U.S. government document gave the mainstream media an excuse to publicize the material.

It’s also allowed the media to again trot out the Russian word “compromat” as if the Russians invented the game of assembling derogatory information about someone and then using it to discredit or blackmail the person.

In American history, legendary FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was infamous for using his agency to develop negative information on a political figure and then letting the person know that the FBI had the dirt and certainly would not want it to become public – if only the person would do what the FBI wanted, whether that was to reappoint Hoover to another term or to boost the FBI’s budget or – in the infamous case of civil rights leader Martin Luther King – perhaps to commit suicide.

However, in this case, it is not even known whether the Russians have any dirt on Trump. It could just be rumors concocted in the middle of a hard-fought campaign, first among Republicans battling Trump for the nomination (this opposition research was reportedly initiated by backers of Sen. Marco Rubio in the GOP race) before being picked up by Clinton supporters for use in the general election.

Still, perhaps the more troubling issue is whether the U.S. intelligence community has entered a new phase of politicization in which its leadership feels that it has the responsibility to weed out “unfit” contenders for the presidency. During the general election campaign, a well-placed intelligence source told me that the intelligence community disdained both Clinton and Trump and hoped to discredit both of them with the hope that a more “acceptable” person could move into the White House for the next four years.

Hurting Both Candidates

Though I was skeptical of that information, it did turn out that FBI Director James Comey, one of the top officials in the intelligence community, badly damaged Clinton’s campaign by deeming her handling of her emails as Secretary of State “extremely careless” but deciding not to prosecute her – and then in the last week of the campaign briefly reopening and then re-closing the investigation.

Then, after the election, President Obama’s CIA began leaking allegations that Russian President Vladimir Putin had orchestrated the hacking of Democratic emails and provided them to WikiLeaks to reveal how the DNC undermined Sen. Bernie Sanders’s campaign and what Clinton had told Wall Street bigwigs in paid speeches that she had sought to keep secret from the American people.

The intelligence community’s assessment set the stage for what could have been a revolt by the Electoral College in which enough Trump delegates could have refused to vote for him to send the election into the House of Representatives, where the states would choose the President from one of the top three vote-getters in the Electoral College. The third-place finisher turned out to be former Secretary of State Colin Powell who got four votes from Clinton delegates in Washington State. But the Electoral College ploy failed when Trump’s delegates proved overwhelmingly faithful to the GOP candidate.

Now, we are seeing what looks like a new phase in this “stop (or damage) Trump” strategy, the inclusion of anti-Trump dirt in an official intelligence report that was then leaked to the major media.

Whether this move was meant to soften up Trump or whether the intelligence community genuinely thought that the accusations might be true and deserved inclusion in a report on alleged Russian interference in U.S. politics or whether it was some combination of the two, we are witnessing a historic moment when the U.S. intelligence community has deployed its extraordinary powers within the domain of U.S. politics. J. Edgar Hoover would be proud.

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

Can Democrats Transition to Trump?

Democratic Hysteria: Liberal Dems Claiming a Russian Election Hack and Putin Control Over Trump are the New ‘Birthers’

by Dave Lindorff  - This Can't Be Happening

January 10, 2017  

It felt like I had stumbled into some weird kind of time warp yesterday morning as I was making coffee and listening to NPR’s “Morning Edition.”

There was Cokie Roberts being interviewed about the current mass media obsession -- the alleged hacking of the Democratic National Committee server by Russia, and President-elect Donald Trump’s refusal to accept the evidence-free claims of the Democratic political appointees heading the nation’s intel agencies that the the hack “definitely” happened.

The widespread belief among liberal Dems that Trump is a Putin puppet resembles the Republican's 'birther' mania about Obama

Cokie bemoaned Trump’s dissing of the intel agencies and also his stated desire to develop friendly relations with Russia, saying,

“This country has had a consistent policy for 70 years towards the Soviet Union and Russia, and Trump is trying to undo that.”

Think about that for a moment. On one level, the long-time NPR commentator is right: US policy towards the government in Moscow has been remarkably consistent -- and hostile -- for 70 years, albeit with a few brief periods of at least relative friendliness, as during the early and mid 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union. But that gets to the other point: There was, recall, a fundamental change that happened in 1989-90, when the Communist state founded in the Russian Revolution of 1917 collapsed, and the Soviet Union splintered into Russia and a bunch of smaller countries -- former Soviets in the old empire -- including Byelorussia, Ukraine, Georgia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and a bunch of stans in Central Asia.

The real question is, once the USSR ceased to exist and Russia, a rump country that, while geographically the largest in the world, is less than half the size of the US in population, found itself struggling to restructure it’s centralized state-owned economy into a modern capitalist one, shouldn’t the US have changed it’s “consistent policy” of hostility towards what remained of the old Soviet Union -- particularly as Russia was no longer communist?

Instead of actively helping Russia recover, the US urged on President Boris Yeltsin a destructive “economic shock therapy” program of balanced budgets, open borders for imports and investment and, most importantly, a sell-off of state assets that quickly enabled corrupt former commissars to transform themselves into insanely wealthy new capitalist oligarchs.

While Russians struggled to survive through a period of rampant inflation, economic collapse and epic corruption, the US, instead of lending a helping hand as it had to the collapsed countries of Europe and after World War II (including our former bitter enemies, Germany and also Japan in Asia,), Washington under the Clinton administration began a program of aggressively and threateningly expanding the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (a Cold War relic of an outdated containment policy which should have, like the Warsaw Pact, been mercifully disbanded), forcing an economically strapped Russia to respond by still spending precious resources on restoring its hollowed out military.

Yes, there has been a 70-year consistent policy of hostility towards Russia, not to mention unremitting anti-Russian propaganda in the US, as Roberts says, but that’s because foreign policy in the US has been in the grip of a Republican-Democrat bi-partisan consensus that argues that the US must work to maintain absolute military superiority over all real and potential rivals, forever. And that consensus views Russia as a major potential threat to that superiority.

That’s why we have a military budget of $600 billion, nearly three times as much China ($215 billion, much of that for domestic control purposes), another country that poses no threat to the US, and as all the rest of the world spends, while Russia’s budget is just 11 percent of that amount at $66 billion, ranking it behind third-ranked Saudi Arabia ($87 billion).

While Obama Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and others in the Washington elite maintain that Russia poses an “existential threat” to the US, presumably because of the number of nuclear missiles it maintains, it’s important to note that Russia has those missiles because the US has a similar number, most of them pointed at Russia--the main difference being that the US has many of its nuclear-tipped missiles located just minutes away from Russia at sites in Eastern Europe, while Russia’s nukes are all on its own territory, thousands of miles and at least a half-hour’s flight away from the US mainland -- a difference that means one country, the US, has the ability to launch a first strike and take out the other country’s ability to respond to an attack, while the other has no ability to make such a first-strike threat.

This is all by way of getting to a larger point. The hysteria about Russian hacking of the US election -- an action which while it might have happened, is by no means proven -- is a meaningless diversion, because there is no evidence at all that Russia is an aggressive nation. While the US is moving Abrams battle tanks and nuclear-capable mobil artillery up close to the Russian border in the waning days of the Obama administration, forcing Russia to respond by beefing up its own national border defenses, no one could argue seriously that Russia and its leader Vladimir Putin, have any interest whatsoever in invading any country of Europe, however small and weak.

What possible advantage could come to Russia from such an action? Even if Russia could succeed in invading Poland and grabbing a piece of that country, or invading one of the Baltic countries that were former Soviets, such an action would make developing trade relations with the rest of Europe impossible, and would force Russia to engage in a costly occupation which it can ill afford.

Why, one has to ask, would Russia be building, with up to $100 billion in Chinese financing, a bunch of super high-speed rail lines from eastern China and eastern Siberia all the way to rail hubs in Germany and other European countries [1], to facilitate vastly expanded trade overland, if it were also secretly planning to conquer and occupy parts of Europe again, as it did in the pre-1990 era?

A cynic -- or realist -- might suspect that it is precisely this goal of economic integration of Europe and Asia, with Russia at the center, which lies at the root of US antipathy and hostility towards both Russia and China. If the US continues to cling to the insane, megalomaniacal idea of maintaining strategic dominance -- military and economic -- at all costs over all current and potential rivals around the globe, there is a certain logic to trying to ruin this grand plan for economic convergence on the Eurasian continent.

But let’s at least demand honesty about it.

Donald Trump has said, famously, that people who say the US should not be trying to develop friendly relations with Russia are “stupid.” He might not be eloquent, but he is absolutely correct.

Some of my liberal friends, who have drunk the Kool-Aid of anti-Russia hysteria, argue that the US should not even contemplate acting friendly towards Russia and its leader President Putin. As one put it, “We certainly at least must be in agreement that Putin’s cruel kelpto-capitalist-KGB rule has harmed tens of millions of innocents in the former USSR, no?”

Well, actually, no, we are not in agreement. Where do otherwise intelligent liberal-minded people get these tales of Putin evil? Nobody’s saying that he is a Jeffersonian democrat, but let’s at least get the history right. The “harm to tens of millions in the former USSR” and in Russia proper was done not during Putin’s tenure but during the first decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union, between 1989 and 1999. That was when the entire Soviet Union was strip-mined by former Communist apparatchiks who enriched themselves by cutting deals to take over former state assets at fire-sale prices, or for nothing, robbing the Russian people, and the workers in those former state enterprises blind. The US encouraged this process, and Boris Yeltsin, a notorious drunk, oversaw it for two terms as Russia’s president. Vladimir Putin began his rise to power in 1999 when Yeltsin made him prime minister before suddenly resigning the presidency on New Year’s Day 1999.

GDP during Boris Yeltsin’s catastrophic first term as head of the new post Soviet Russian state collapsed by 40% between 1991 and 1996 -- a worse disaster than the US Great Depression. By 1997, Russia, a huge agricultural producer, was importing one-third of its food. Nothing improved during Yeltsin’s second term, with GDP remaining flat through 1999. Remember, most of the ‘90s was a period of economic boom throughout the rest of the world, meaning that Russia, even standing still, was losing ground to everyone else.

As the British newspaper the Guardian, points out [2], in a way that you will be hard-pressed to find reported honestly in the US corporate media, Putin, during his decade and a half of running Russia, rebuilt the Russian economy, improved the lives of average Russians immensely, and equally importantly, restored a once great nation from the status of global basket case to a major international power again. Not surprisingly, he is now one of the world’s most popular leaders [3].

While wild swings in the exchange value of the Russian ruble vs. the US dollar make the figures a little squishy, Russian GDP in 1999, when Putin took over the government, was $196 billion, and rose to over $2 trillion in 2011, hitting a record $2.2 trillion in 2013. With oil and gas exports central to Russian international trade, the crash in oil prices in 2015 knocked Russia’s GDP back down to $1.3 billion, but it needs to be pointed out that for most Russians, who primarily buy goods from food to clothing to housing on the domestic market, unaffected by exchange rates, this has had little impact on their standard of living, only raising the cost of imported goods. Without question, in the view of most Russians, Putin has done a good job of managing the Russian economy.

That’s not to say he isn’t an autocrat. He is, and he’s got a nasty record on freedom of the press and on gay rights, but that begs the question: when has a country’s being headed by an autocratic leader or even a tyrant deterred the US from having friendly relations with it? There’s no room in this article to run a list, but let’s just mention the Shah of Iran, the Chilean military-dictator Augusto Pinochet, the Brazilian and Argentine juntas in 1964 and 1976, Salazar and Franco in Portugal and Spain, and then the dictatorships in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and other countries of the Middle East. In comparison to these disturbing examples of American “friends,” Putin seems absolutely a paragon of democratic values.

In any event, let’s hope that the mostly liberal Democrats who are being taken in by the media-induced hysteria over an imagined Russian plot to destroy American democracy and to ensconce a Manchurian-candidate Donald Trump in the White House, will come to their senses soon. There are myriad reasons to organize resistance to Donald Trump as we head into a very challenging four years of reactionary Republican control of all the levers of power in Washington, but fear of Russian control over our next president isn’t one of them. In fact, let’s hope that he at least makes good on that one campaign promise to improve US relations with Russia!

Honestly, we just went through eight years of insane non-stop Republican paranoia claiming the Barack Obama was a secret Muslim plant in the White House, or a secret Communist, or, incredibly, both. Some even thought that he was a secret fascist too! We on the left, including liberal Dems, used to laugh at the naive inanity of it all. Yet now, how different are the liberal Democrats who are breathlessly claiming that this new president is a puppet, wittingly or unwittingly, of the evil Russian puppetmaster Vladimir Putin?


Running on Fumes? Oil Prices Finding Reasons to Rally Vaporous

Oil Prices Running Out Of Reasons To Rally 

by Nick Cunningham -

January 09, 2017

Oil prices faltered at the start of the second week of the year, as fears set in about a rapid rebound in U.S. shale production.

For the better part of two months, optimism surrounding the OPEC deal has buoyed oil prices, but bullish sentiment from speculators are showing early signs of abating, raising the possibility that the oil rally is running out of steam.

WTI and Brent sank more than 2.5 percent in intraday trading on Monday, after a report at the end of last week showed another solid build in the U.S. rig count, the tenth consecutive week that the oil industry added rigs back into the field. Aside from a single week in October, the U.S. oil industry has deployed more rigs in every week dating back to June, a remarkable run that has resulted in more than 200 fresh rigs drilling for oil. The gains in the rig count come even as oil prices have held steady in the mid- to low-$50s per barrel.

At the start of 2017, there are two major dynamics at play occurring at the same time, each pushing in opposite directions on the market. The OPEC deal is slated to take oil off the market, while U.S. drilling is expected to add new supply. The pace and magnitude of each trend will ultimately drive oil prices one way or the other.

On the positive side of the ledger, there are early signs that OPEC members are meeting their commitments. Saudi Arabia said last week that it is lowering its production in January by 486,000 barrels per day, a volume that it promised to cut as part of the November deal. That will take output down to 10.058 million barrels per day, a level that Riyadh was only required to meet as an average over the January to June time period. Cutting to that level ahead of time is a sign of good faith from Saudi Arabia, and increases the chances that OPEC will stay true to its promises.

On top of that, Kuwait’s envoy to OPEC said that Qatar, Kuwait and Oman were also complying with the cuts. In an interview with Bloomberg, Kuwait’s Nawal Al-Fezaia said that those countries already told customers that cuts were imminent. “It’s a good time to do maintenance on oil fields during production cuts,” Al-Fezaia said, noting that Kuwait will lower output from 2.89 mb/d in December to 2.7 mb/d by the end of January.

Market analysts paused a bit on news that Iraq’s oil exports from its southern ports on the Persian Gulf hit a record high in December, but the data has no bearing on whether or not Iraq will comply with the agreed upon cuts. “Achieving this record average will not affect Iraq’s decision to cut output from the beginning of 2017,” Oil Minister Jabbar Al-Luaibi told Bloomberg in an emailed statement.

“Iraq is committed to achieving producers’ joint goals to control the oil glut in world markets.”

It is still early but all signs point to a stronger commitment from OPEC to adhere to the specifics of the cuts than market analysts might have given them credit for. That bodes well for a narrowing supply surplus – and ultimately a deficit – as well as falling inventories. In other words, OPEC is succeeding in putting upward pressure on prices.

However, the flip side of the equation is faster drilling from the U.S., where rig counts continue to climb. Oil output, according to EIA weekly surveys, is up roughly 300,000 bpd from summer lows, with more supply expected to come online in the months ahead as drilling picks up pace.

This small exploration company has just signed a deal that could turn it into a major player in the coming EV boom as vital commodity supplies run low.

It is unclear, at this point, how rising U.S. supply and falling OPEC output will ultimately balance out. For now, the consensus seems to be tightening conditions in the first half of 2017, with much greater uncertainty in the second half, but that remains to be seen.

What is clear is that oil speculators have built up such a large bullish bet on oil that they have opened up crude to near-term downside risk. According to Reuters, hedge funds and other money managers amassed net-long positions in WTI and Brent equivalent to 796 million barrels in the last week of December, which was nearly double the amount from mid-November. The OPEC deal clearly fueled a huge speculative rush in rising oil prices, which, not coincidentally, corresponded with real gains in crude prices.

But at this point, there are very few short positions left in oil, while a massive volume of long bets have built up. That suggests two things, both of which are bearish for oil: there is not a lot of money left to go long, lowering the chances of further prices gains; and the potential for a correction in prices is very high at this point. Indeed, in the most recent week for which data is available, net-long positions declined a bit, raising the possibility that bullish bets have peaked. All it will take is a bit of bearish news to spark a downturn in prices.

There are a few minor worrying signs for oil prices that could crop up as additional bearish forces in the next few weeks. The U.S. DOE announced on January 9 a “notice of sale” from its strategic petroleum reserve, with plans to sell 8 million barrels for delivery over the course of February, March and April. Meanwhile, Libya is seeing rapid gains in oil exports after the reopening of a key export terminal, with output jumping to 700,000 bpd, according to the latest data, up sharply from the 580,000 it produced in November and the 300,000 bpd it exported before it started restoring output last summer. Moreover, Nigeria – which, like Libya, is exempt from the OPEC deal – is intent on restoring production. It may struggle to do that with the recent shuttering of the Trans Niger Pipeline, potential strikes from oil workers unions and the announcement from the Niger Delta Avengers that attacks will resume this year. In fact, production appears to have declined in December, falling 200,000 bpd to 1.45 mb/d, because of some of these issues. But if those problems can be overcome, Nigeria has latent production capacity that could come back online at some point.

And in a sign that there is not a lot of room on the upside, a kerfuffle in the Persian Gulf over the weekend did nothing to affect oil prices. A U.S. Navy destroyer fired three warning shots towards Iranian ships, an incident that in the past would have led to a sharp, even if brief, rally in crude prices. Instead, the markets shrugged off the incident – WTI and Brent sank on the first trading day after the event, on unrelated news.

"The market is overbought and under a lot of downward pressure," Bob Yawger, director of the futures division at Mizuho Securities USA Inc., told Bloomberg.

"The shots fired at the Iranian boats in the Strait of Hormuz didn’t do anything to the market. A few years ago that would have added a couple dollars to the price."

What Hope of Change for America's Generational Political Prisoners?

Political Prisoners Remain Behind Bars as Obama's Term Nears End

by Matt Peppe - Just the Facts

January 12, 2017

In the last full week of Barack Obama’s eight year tenure as President of the United States of America, dozens of political prisoners still sit in cages across the nation’s prisons, rotting away as Obama consciously chooses not to exercise the power to simply free them with the stroke of a pen. Many activists for Puerto Rican independence, Native American and African American rights, and other causes were targeted by the political police’s illegal COINTELPRO program and convicted in sham trials.
Protesters call for the liberation of 
Oscar López River in Washington D.C.
 in October 2016. (Photo by Matt Peppe)

Now elderly, some in poor health, they may effectively be facing death sentences unless Obama’s decides within the next two weeks to grant their appeals for clemency.

 Among the most well known political prisoners are Oscar López Rivera, Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal, who have all been locked up for at least three and a half decades. Many others including The Move 9 and The Holy Land Five have spent years or decades in jail for their political action and views. Many, like Chelsea Manning and Jeffrey Sterling, have been denied their freedom for exposing government crimes and misdeeds.

But you won’t ever hear this in the mainstream media. The corporate media hypocrisy is best demonstrated by the debate regarding political prisoners during Obama’s trip to Cuba in March 2016.

The U.S. government pretends that it always promotes human rights around the world and opposes human rights violations by other countries it considers adversaries. Hence, part of the propaganda narrative on Cuba is that it unjustly holds political prisoners as part of its campaign to repress the Cuban people - something that would never occur in the United States itself.

During a joint press conference with Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro, CNN’s Jim Acosta asked Castro why the Cuban government held political prisoners and whether he would release them. Castro responded by asking for the names of people Acosta was referring to, and said that if he was given a list, they would be free by that evening. Acosta did not name anyone. CNN declared that Castro “skirts question on political prisoners.” The press coverage treated it as self-evident that only the Cuban government should have to defend itself against allegations of human rights abuses. It was taken for granted that the U.S. President would not have to answer the same question.

By the time the meeting between Obama and Castro took place, all detainees in Cuba considered by Amnesty International prisoners of conscience had already been released. Meanwhile, Amnesty has directly called on Obama to free Leonard Peltier. They have produced multiple reports on his case. However, no news organization questioned why an American reporter who covers the U.S. President every day had never bothered asking Obama - before or during the press conference in Cuba - about U.S. political prisoners.

When I asked Acosta via Twitter why he was silent about U.S. political prisoners and whether he would call on Obama to free Peltier, he did not respond. In the following months, he has not responded to multiple inquiries about his refusal to ask the same questions of his own President that he does of leaders of foreign countries.

Many journalists working in the American mainstream media see themselves as being on the same team as their own government, safely staying on the side of U.S. power by acting as a mouthpiece to promote the government’s own narrative and only opposing those countries and leaders that the U.S. government declares adversaries.

As the corporate press refuses to acknowledge that the U.S. has political prisoners, it is left to grassroots groups to demand justice. Recently, separate petitions calling for clemency for López Rivera and Peltier were created through the White House’s We the People web site, where citizen petitions that receive 100,000 signatures receive a response from the White House.

Both petitions exceeded the threshold and received the same dismissive response, which passed the buck to the Department of Justice’s Pardon Attorney and refused to comment on the individual cases:

“The President takes his constitutional power to grant clemency very seriously, and recommendations from the Department of Justice are carefully considered before decisions are made. The White House does not comment, however, on individual pardon applications. In accordance with this policy and the We the People Terms of Participation - which explain that the White House may sometimes choose not to respond to petitions addressing certain matters - the White House declines to comment on the specific case addressed in this petition.” 

Translation: The President doesn’t actually respect citizens’ right to participate in decision making, and feels free to ignore them whenever he chooses. The We the People web site is merely a propaganda tool to give the illusion that the president is accountable to the citizens he purportedly serves.

Indeed, Obama has closed his eyes and ears and shut out the voices of millions of people who have spent his entire presidency calling on him to show basic human decency and stop the perpetration of historic injustices against López, Peltier, Abu-Jamal and many other political prisoners.

Throughout his term, Obama has been called on by fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureates, foreign leaders, Puerto Rican politicians and others to free López Rivera. The case has become perhaps the most important political issue on the island, as well as among Puerto Ricans and allies in the diaspora.

Former President Jimmy Carter, who commuted the prison sentences of four Puerto Rican nationalists, including Lolita Lebron and Rafael Cancel Miranda, who participated in attacks on the Blair House and the U.S. House of Representatives in the early 1950s, recently asked Obama to free López Rivera, as he himself had done for Puerto Rican prisoners convicted of more serious charges. (Carter’s Dec. 13 letter to Obama was not reported in any American mainstream outlet, only in Puerto Rican press such as El Nuevo Dia.)

Puerto Ricans who are denied their right to self-determination and relegated to second-class citizenship have been unrelenting in continuing to demand that Obama grant López Rivera his freedom, despite years of being ignored by Washington.

Massive rallies have been held annually in San Juan and across the island on the anniversary of López Rivera’s incarceration each May. The group 35 Mujeres por Oscar (35 Women for Oscar) holds regular gatherings, the most recent on Jan. 6 for López’s birthday. A branch of the group in New York City does the same.

A demonstration in October in front of the White House was attended by nearly 1,000 people - many who took buses from Philadelphia and New York City - who rallied for López Rivera. Puerto Rican recording artist René Pérez (AKA Residente of the band Calle 13), said that the government of the United States should be seeking forgiveness from Oscar López Rivera and the people of Puerto Rico, rather than the other way around. His speech is worth quoting at length:

“We’re here in the United States of America, in front of the government that has enslaved us for more than 100 years. The government that in exchange for a passport took our families to its wars. The government that experimented with our people, since they came implanting its language by force. The government that performed medical experiments on our grandparents injecting them with cancerous cells. The government that experimented with anticonceptive pills on our island. We, who understand [López Rivera’s] fight, are here to tell this government - the only government in the history of humanity to fire atomic bombs - that they have in prison a hero much braver than Washington. That this hero has been imprisoned longer than Mandela. That this hero became a hero without hoping for anything in return. We, who understand the fight of Oscar López are in front of the White House to tell this government that every additional second Oscar López spends in prison converts him in a hero much bigger than any of the heroes the United States has had. We are here to tell this government that even though the history books don’t tell us the real history that includes heroes like Oscar López, we will take charge of telling it. We, who understand the fight of Oscar López, are here to tell this government that we will never ask forgiveness for defending our right to be free. So we don’t ask them to forgive Oscar, but that they recognize the true history of the world, that they recognize the history of Puerto Rico, and maybe some day, after they free Oscar, we will forgive them."

Obama has chosen to ignore the massive injustice committed against political prisoners in American gulags while lecturing others that people shouldn’t be imprisoned for their political beliefs. He either refuses to acknowledge or refuses to care that the government he leads can - and often does - use the legal system punitively to silence those whose political views and actions threaten its perpetuation of the status quo, and to intimidate others into abandoning resistance. As Pérez said, perhaps someday people will forgive him.

This article originally appeared at American Herald Tribune.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Is The Company's Strategy a Russia War?

US Intel Agencies Try to Strong-Arm Trump into War With Russia

by Mike Whitney - CounterPunch

January 10, 2017

Powerful elites are using the credibility of the US Intelligence agencies to demonize Russia and prepare the country for war. This is the real meaning of the “Russia hacking” story which, as yet, has not produced any hard evidence of Russian complicity. Last week’s 25-page report, that was released by the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, illustrates to what extent intelligence is being “fixed around the policy”. 
Photo by Toxic5 | DeviantArt 

Just as the CIA generated false information related to Weapons of Mass Destruction to soften public resistance to war with Iraq, so too, the spurious allegations in the DNI’s politically-motivated report are designed to depict Russia as a growing threat to US national security. The timing of the report has less to do with the election of Donald Trump as President than it does with critical developments in Syria where the Russian military has defeated US-proxies in Syria’s industrial hub, Aleppo, rolling back Washington’s 15-year War of Terror and derailing the imperialist plan to control vital resources and pipeline corridors across the Middle East and Central Asia. Russia has become the main obstacle to Washington achieving its strategic vision of pivoting to Asia and maintaining its dominant role into the next century. The Intelligence Community has been coerced into compromising its credibility to incite fear of Russia and to advance the geopolitical ambitions of deep state powerbrokers.

The “Russia hacking” flap shows how far the Intel agencies have veered from their original mandate, which is to impartially gather and analyze information that may be vital to US national security. As we have seen in the last two weeks, the leaders of these organizations feel free to offer opinions on issues that clearly conflict with those of the new President-elect. Trump has stated repeatedly that he wants to reduce tensions and reset relations with Russia, but that policy is being sabotaged by members of the intelligence community, particularly CIA Director John Brennan who appeared just last week on PBS Newshour with Judy Woodruff. Here’s an excerpt from the interview:

“We see that there are still a lot of actions that Russia is undertaking that undermine the principles of democracy in so many countries. What has happened in our recent election is not new. The Russians have engaged in trying to manipulate elections in Europe for a number of years…

the Russians tried to interfere in our electoral process recently, and were actively involved in that. And that is something that we can’t countenance.” (“Interview with CIA Director John Brennan”, PBS Newshour)

Brennan, of course, provided no evidence for his claims nor did he mention the hundreds of CIA interventions around the world. But Brennan’s accusations are less important than the fact that his appearance on a nationwide broadcast identifies him as a political advocate for policies that conflict with those of the new president. Do we really want unelected intelligence officials — whose job it is to provide the president with sensitive information related to national security– to assume a partisan role in shaping policy? And why would Brennan –whose is supposed to “serve at the pleasure of the president”– accept an invitation to offer his views on Russia when he knew they would be damaging to the new administration?

Powerful people behind the scenes are obviously pushing the heads of these intelligence agencies to stick to their ‘anti-Moscow’ narrative to force Trump to abandon his plan for peaceful relations with Moscow. Brennan isn’t calling the shots and neither are Clapper or Comey. They’re all merely agents serving the interests of establishment plutocrats whose geopolitical agenda doesn’t jibe with that of the incoming administration. If that wasn’t the case, then why would the Intelligence Community stake its reputation on such thin gruel as this Russian hacking gibberish? It doesn’t make any sense. The people who launched this campaign are either supremely arrogant or extremely desperate. Which is it? Here’s an excerpt from an article by veteran journalist Robert Parry sums it up like this in an article at Consortium News:

“The DNI report amounted to a compendium of reasons to suspect that Russia was the source of the information – built largely on the argument that Russia had a motive for doing so because of its disdain for Democratic nominee Clinton and the potential for friendlier relations with Republican nominee Trump.

But the case, as presented, is one-sided and lacks any actual proof. Further, the continued use of the word “assesses” – as in the U.S. intelligence community “assesses” that Russia is guilty – suggests that the underlying classified information also may be less than conclusive because, in intelligence-world-speak, “assesses” often means “guesses.” (“US Report Still Lacks Proof on Russia ‘Hack’”, Robert Parry, Consortium News)

Bottom line: Brennan and his fellow spooks have nothing. The report is little more than a catalogue of unfounded assumptions, baseless speculation and uncorroborated conjecture. In colloquial parlance, it’s bullshit, 100 percent, unalloyed Russophobic horse-manure. In fact, the authors admit as much in the transcript itself when they say:

“Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact. Assessments are based on collected information, which is often incomplete or fragmentary, as well as logic, argumentation, and precedents.”

What kind of kooky admission is that? So the entire report could be BS but we’re supposed to believe that Putin flipped the election? Is that it???

What’s really going on here? Why have the Intelligence agencies savaged their credibility just to convince people that Russia is up to no good?

The Russia hacking story has more to do with recent developments in Syria than it does with delegitimizing Donald Trump. Aleppo was a real wake up call for the US foreign policy establishment which is beginning to realize that their plans for the next century have been gravely undermined by Russia’s military involvement in Syria. Aleppo represents the first time that an armed coalition of allied states (Russia, Iran, Syria, Hezbollah) have actively engaged US jihadist-proxies and soundly beat them to a pulp. The stunning triumph in Aleppo has spurred hope among the vassal states that Washington’s bloody military juggernaut can be repelled, rolled back and defeated. And if Washington’s CIA-armed, trained and funded jihadists can be repelled, then the elitist plan to project US power into Central Asia to dominate the world’s most populous and prosperous region, will probably fail. In other words, the outcome in Aleppo has cast doubts on Uncle Sam’s ability to successfully execute its pivot to Asia.

That’s why the Intel agencies have been employed to shape public perceptions on Russia. Their job is to prepare the American people for an escalation of hostilities between the two nuclear-armed superpowers. US powerbrokers are determined to intensify the conflict and reverse facts on the ground. (Recent articles by elites at the Council on Foreign Relations and the Brookings Institute reveal that they are as committed to partitioning Syria as ever.) Washington wants to reassert its exceptional role as the uncontested steward of global security and the lone ‘unipolar’ world power.

That’s what this whole “hacking” fiasco is about. The big shots who run the country are trying to strong-arm ‘the Donald’ into carrying their water so the depredations can continue and Central Asia can be transformed into a gigantic Washington-dominated corporate free trade zone where the Big Money calls the shots and Capital reigns supreme. That’s their dreamstate, Capitalist Valhalla.

They just need Trump to get-with-the-program so the bloodletting can continue apace. 

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
More articles by:Mike Whitney

A Message to Incoming Trudeau Immigration and Employment Ministers

Immigrant Rights Groups Lay Out Agenda for Incoming Ministers


January 11, 2017

Immigrant rights groups across Canada are laying out a pressing agenda for incoming Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen and Employment Minister Patty Hajdu, calling for a transformative turn towards ensuring permanency and mobility for all immigrants.

Over 1.2 million people in Canada, the vast majority of immigrants, are on precarious and temporary immigration permits.

Many are restricted to a single workplace, and therefore unable to assert their rights. Tapping into this under-utilized economic potential and ensuring that Canada meets its human rights obligations requires opening up work permits, and granting permanent residence both on arrival to incoming migrant workers and to undocumented immigrants and other precarious status migrants already in the country.

“The largest part of the immigration system is undocumented and temporary status migrants, and their precarious status directly impacts employment and the economy. That’s where the Ministers must turn their attention,” says Syed Hussan of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change in Ontario.

“We need an overhaul of the system, and not tinkering, and that begins with immediate steps to ensure permanent status for undocumented families and migrant workers in the country.”

Due to ineffective immigration and employment law, all low-wage Temporary Foreign Workers in Canada are stuck working for a single employer. It is difficult, if not impossible, for workers to change jobs even if the job is dangerous, making them sick, or if they are facing abuse.

“Creating an open work permit program for temporary foreign workers should be the first order of business for the incoming Ministers,” says Anna Malla of Caregivers’ Action Centre.

“Doing so will ensure that all immigrants in Canada have the same basic mobility rights, and would be a major step in the right direction towards real change.”

Undocumented and temporary status immigrants in Canada who have proven work experiences and community ties in the country, many of whom do not have access to permanent residency, will be forced to eventually leave Canada. This is a massive drain on Canada’s economy as trained and experienced immigrants are pushed out in a revolving door immigration system.

“Permanent status for immigrants already in the country would immediately boost the economy, integrating skilled and established individuals and families who already work to take care of our communities,” added Josie Baker from Cooper Institute in Prince Edward Island.

“Permanent status for undocumented and temporary status immigrants is the smart and effective move.”

The Coalition for Migrant Workers Rights Canada (CMWRC) is the representative body of migrant workers in Canada, with membership is six provinces.

Temporary and undocumented immigrants in Canada

Category Numbers^

Undocumented immigrants 500,000

Temporary Foreign Workers* 73,069

International Mobility Program Permit Holders in 2015 176,502

International Students in 2015 353,262

Work permits for humanitarian purposes in 2015* 16,672

Work permit holders who are PR applicants in 2015* 41,813

Work permit holders for study related purposes in 2015* 56,391

In-country refugee claimants in 2015* 16,109

TOTAL 1,233,818 

* These numbers are just for entries in 2015. However, many individuals are in the country for multiple more years at a time. So the total number of people present could be much higher. Data for 2016 has not been updated. 

^ All numbers, except those on undocumented residents compiled from Immigration Refugee and Citizenship Data:

Undocumented immigrants in Canada were estimated to be 500,000 by the RCMP in its 2007 environmental scan:

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, Anthony DiMaggio, David Fairey, Janine Bandcroft Jan. 11, 2017

This Week on GR

by C. L. Cook -

January 11, 2017

It's often said there are two sides to every story, but two sides doesn't cover the many facets of the near six years-long war in Syria. Whether at the front lines or on the virtual battlefield everyone, from the Assad government and its Russian and Iranian allies, to America and its friends in the Gulf Cooperation Council, and the myriad extra-state actors arrayed on either side, has a point of interest to defend and an enemy's position to attack.

One certain thing though is, the people of Syria have been terrorized by all sides and it's their best interests being sacrificed every time a bomb is dropped, a sniper shoots, or a media propagandist pulls the camera trigger.

Listen. Hear.

Anthony DiMaggio is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Lehigh University, holds a PhD in political communication, and is the author of the newly released, 'Selling War, Selling Hope: Presidential Rhetoric, the News Media, and U.S. Foreign Policy After 9/11.'

His recent article, 'The Pathologies of War: Dual Propaganda Campaigns in Reporting on Syria,' appearing at the news website,, takes a hard look at the righteous claims on all sides of the Syria conflict.

Anthony DiMaggio in the first half.

And; are you suffering for your paycheque, or is someone you know being brutalized by workplace tyranny? The BC Employment Standard Coalition, a group "bring[ing] together organizations, advocates and workers to campaign for decent wages, working conditions, respect and dignity in the workplace" is in Victoria and they want to hear your story.

David Fairey is Co-Chair of the BC Employment Standards Coalition and Research Associate with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. He's past Director of the Trade Union Research Bureau, and has worked over the course of a long career on "a wide variety of labour and employment law issues such as labour standards, labour relations, pay equity, construction safety, and migrant labour." David and the BC Employment Standards folks are down at the Victoria Events Centre at 1415 Broad Street all day today and this evening lending an ear, and offering workers help with employer challenges.

David Fairey and slaying the workplace ogre in the second half.

And; Victoria Street Newz publisher emeritus and CFUV Radio broadcaster, Janine Bandcroft will join us at the bottom of the hour to bring us up to speed with some of the good things scheduled for the streets of our town and beyond in the coming week. But first, Anthony DiMaggio and the pathologies of the Syria war.

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, airing live every Wednesday, 1-2pm Pacific Time. In Victoria at 101.9FM, and on the internet at:  He also serves as a contributing editor to the web news site, Check out the GR blog at:

Fools and Their Errands: Reheating the Cold War

The Utter Stupidity of the New Cold War

by Gary Leupp - CounterPunch

January 10, 2017   

It seems so strange, twenty-seven years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, to be living through a new Cold War with (as it happens, capitalist) Russia.

The Russian president is attacked by the U.S. political class and media as they never attacked Soviet leaders; he is personally vilified as a corrupt, venal dictator, who arrests or assassinates political opponents and dissident journalists, and is hell-bent on the restoration of the USSR. (The latter claim rests largely on Vladimir Putin’s comment that the dissolution of the Soviet Union was a “catastrophe” and “tragedy”—which in many respects it was.
Photo Jedimentat44 | CC BY 2.0 

 The press chooses to ignore his comment that “Anyone who does not miss the Soviet Union has no heart, while anyone who wants to restore it has no brain.” It conflicts with the simple talking-point that Putin misses the imperial Russia of the tsars if not the commissars and, burning with resentment over the west’s triumph in the Cold War, plans to exact revenge through wars of aggression and territorial expansion.)

The U.S. media following its State Department script depicts Russia as an expansionist power. That it can do so, so successfully, such that even rather progressive people—such as those appalled by Trump’s victory who feel inclined to blame it on an external force—believe it, is testimony to the lingering power and utility of the Cold War mindset.

The military brass keep reminding us: We are up against an existential threat! One wants to say that this—obviously—makes no sense! Russia is twice the size of the U.S. with half its population. Its foreign bases can be counted on two hands. The U.S. has 800 or so bases abroad.

Russia’s military budget is 14% of the U.S. figure. It does not claim to be the exceptional nation appointed by God to preserve “security” on its terms anywhere on the globe. Since the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, the U.S. has waged war (sometimes creating new client-states) in Bosnia (1994-5), Serbia (1999), Afghanistan (2001- ), Iraq (2003- ), Libya (2011), and Syria (2014- ), while raining down drone strikes from Pakistan to Yemen to North Africa. These wars-based-on-lies have produced hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths, millions of refugees, and general ongoing catastrophe throughout the “Greater Middle East.” There is no understating their evil.

The U.S. heads an expanding military alliance formed in 1949 to confront the Soviet Union and global communism in general. Its raison d’être has been dead for many years. Yet it has expanded from 16 to 28 members since 1999, and new members Estonia and Latvia share borders with Russia.

(Imagine the Warsaw Pact expanding to include Mexico. But no, the Warsaw Pact of the USSR and six European allies was dissolved 26 years ago in the idealistic expectation that NATO would follow in a new era of cooperation and peace.)

And this NATO alliance, in theory designed to defend the North Atlantic, was only first deployed after the long (and peaceful) first Cold War, in what had been neutral Yugoslavia (never a member of either the Warsaw Pact nor NATO), Afghanistan (over 3000 miles from the North Atlantic), and the North African country of Libya. Last summer NATO held its most massive military drills since the collapse of the Soviet Union, involving 31,000 troops in Poland, rehearsing war with Russia. (The German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier actually criticized this exercise as “warmongering.”)

Alliance officials expressed outrage when Russia responded to the warmongering by placing a new S-400 surface-to-air missiles and nuclear-capable Iskander systems on its territory of Kaliningrad between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic coast. But Russia has in fact been comparatively passive in a military sense during this period.

In 1999, as NATO was about to occupy the Serbian province of Kosovo (soon to be proclaimed an independent country, in violation of international law), nearby Russian peacekeepers raced to the airport in Pristina, Kosovo, to secure it an ensure a Russian role in the Serbiam province’s future. It was a bold move that could have provoked a NATO-Russian clash. But the British officer on the ground wisely refused an order from Gen. Wesley Clark to block the Russian move, declaring he would not start World War III for Gen. Clark.

This, recall, was after Bill Clinton’s secretary of state, Madeleine Albright (remember, the Hillary shill who said there’s a special place in hell reserved for women who don’t vote for women) presented to the Russian and Serbian negotiators at Rambouillet a plan for NATO occupation of not just Kosovo but all Serbia. It was a ridiculous demand, rejected by the Serbs and Russians, but depicted by unofficial State Department spokesperson and warmonger Christiane Amanpour as the “will of the international community.” As though Russia was not a member of the international community!

This Pristina airport operation was largely a symbolic challenge to U.S. hegemony over the former Yugoslavia, a statement of protest that should have been taken seriously at the time.

In any case, the new Russian leader Putin was gracious after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, even offering NATO a military transport corridor through Russia to Afghanistan (closed in 2015). He was thanked by George W. Bush with the expansion of NATO by seven more members in 2004. (The U.S. press made light of this extraordinary geopolitical development; it saw and continues to see the expansion of NATO as no more problematic than the expansion of the UN or the European Union.) Then in April 2008 NATO announced that Georgia would be among the next members accepted into the alliance.

Soon the crazy Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili, emboldened by the promise of near-term membership, provoked a war with the breakaway republic of South Ossetia, which had never accepted inclusion of the new Georgian state established upon the dissolution of the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1991. The Ossetians, fearing resurgent Georgian nationalism, had sought union with the Russian Federation. So had the people of Abkhazia.

The two “frozen conflicts,” between the Georgian state and these peoples, had been frozen due to the deployment of Russian and Georgian peacekeepers. Russia had not recognized these regions as independent states nor agreed to their inclusion in the Russian Federation. But when Russian soldiers died in the Georgian attack ion August, Russia responded with a brief punishing invasion. It then recognized of the two new states (six months after the U.S. recognized Kosovo).

(Saakashvili, in case you’re interested, was voted out of power, disgraced, accused of economic crimes, and deprived of his Georgian citizenship. After a brief stint at the Fletcher School of International Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University—of which I as a Tufts faculty member feel deeply ashamed—he was appointed as governor of Odessa in Ukraine by the pro-NATO regime empowered by the U.S.-backed coup of February 22, 2014.)

Sen. John McCain proclaimed in 2008: “We are all Georgians now,” and advocated U.S. military aid to the Georgian regime. An advocate of war as a rule, McCain then became a big proponent of regime change in Ukraine to allow for that country’s entry into NATO. Neocons in the State Department including most importantly McCain buddy Victoria Nuland, boasted of spending $ 5 billion in support of “the Ukrainian people’s European aspirations” (meaning: the desire of many Ukrainians in the western part of the country to join the European Union—risking, although they perhaps do not realize it, a reduction in their standard of living under a Greek-style austerity program—to be followed by NATO membership, tightening the military noose around Russia).

The Ukrainian president opted out in favor of a generous Russian aid package. That decision—to deny these “European aspirations”—was used to justify the coup.

But look at it from a Russian point of view. Just look at this map, of the expanding NATO alliance, and imagine it spreading to include that vast country (the largest in Europe, actually) between Russia to the east and Poland to the west, bordering the Black Sea to the south. The NATO countries at present are shown in dark blue, Ukraine and Georgia in green. Imagine those countries’ inclusion.

And imagine NATO demanding that Russia vacate its Sevastopol naval facilities, which have been Russian since 1783, turning them over to the (to repeat: anti-Russian) alliance. How can anyone understand the situation in Ukraine without grasping this basic history?

The Russians denounced the coup against President Viktor Yanukovych (democratically elected—if it matters—in 2010), which was abetted by neo-fascists and marked from the outset by an ugly Russophobic character encouraged by the U.S. State Department. The majority population in the east of the country, inhabited by Russian-speaking ethnic Russians and not even part of Ukraine until 1917, also denounced the coup and refused to accept the unconstitutional regime that assumed power after Feb. 22.

When such people rejected the new government, and declared their autonomy, the Ukrainian army was sent in to repress them but failed, embarrassingly, when the troops confronted by angry babushkas turned back. The regime since has relied on the neo-fascist Azov Battalion to harass secessionists in what has become a new “frozen conflict.”

Russia has no doubt assisted the secessionists while refusing to annex Ukrainian territory, urging a federal system for the country to be negotiated by the parties. Russian families straddle the Russian-Ukrainian border. There are many Afghan War veterans in both countries. The Soviet munitions industry integrated Russian and Ukrainian elements. One must assume there are more than enough Russians angry about such atrocities as the May 2014 killing of 42 ethnic Russian government opponents in Odessa to bolster the Donbas volunteers.

But there is little evidence (apart from a handful of reports about convoys of dozens of “unmarked military vehicles” from Russia in late 2014) for a Russian “invasion” of Ukraine. And the annexation of Crimea (meaning, its restoration to its 1954 status as Russian territory) following a credible referendum did not require any “invasion” since there were already 38,000 Russian troops stationed there. All they had to do was to secure government buildings, and give Ukrainian soldiers the option of leaving or joining the Russian military. (A lot of Ukrainian soldiers opted to stay and accept Russian citizenship.)

Still, these two incidents—the brief 2008 war in Georgia, and Moscow’s (measured) response to the Ukrainian coup since 2014—have been presented as evidence of a general project to disrupt the world order by military expansion, requiring a firm U.S. response. The entirety of the cable news anchor class embraces this narrative.

But they are blind fools. Who has in this young century disrupted world order more than the U.S., wrecking whole countries, slaughtering hundreds of thousands of innocents, provoking more outrage through grotesquely documented torture, generating new terror groups, and flooding Europe with refugees who include some determined to sow chaos and terror in European cities? How can any rational person with any awareness of history since 1991 conclude that Russia is the aggressive party?

And yet, this is the conventional wisdom. I doubt you can get a TV anchor job if you question it. The teleprompter will refer routinely to Putin’s aggression and Russian expansion and the need for any mature presidential candidate to respect the time-honored tradition of supporting NATO no matter what. And now the anchor is expected to repeat that all 17 U.S. intelligence services have concluded that Vladimir Putin interfered in the U.S. presidential election.

Since there is zero evidence for this, one must conclude that the Democratic losers dipped into the reliable grab bag of scapegoats and posited that Russia and Putin in particular must have hacked the DNC in order to—through the revelation of primary sources of unquestionable validity, revealing the DNC’s determination to make Clinton president, while sabotaging Sanders and promoting (through their media surrogates) Donald Trump as the Republican candidate—undermine Clinton’s legitimacy.

All kinds of liberals, including Sanders’ best surrogates like Nina Turner, are totally on board the Putin vilification campaign. It is sad and disturbing that so many progressive people are so willing to jump on the new Cold War bandwagon. It is as though they have learned nothing from history but are positively eager, in their fear and rage, to relive the McCarthy era.

But the bottom line is: U.S. Russophobia does not rest on reason, judgment, knowledge of recent history and the ability to make rational comparisons. It rests on religious-like assumptions of “American exceptionalism” and in particular the right of the U.S. to expand militarily at Russia’s expense—-as an obvious good in itself, rather than a distinct, obvious evil threatening World War III.

The hawks in Congress—bipartisan, amoral, ignorant, knee-jerk Israel apologists, opportunist scum—are determined to dissuade the president-elect (bile rises in my throat as I use that term, but it’s true that he’s that, technically) from any significant rapprochement with Russia. (Heavens, they must be horrified at the possibility that Trump follows Kissinger’s reported advice and recognizes the Russian annexation of Crimea!) They want to so embarrass him with the charge of being (as Hillary accused him of being during the campaign) Putin’s “puppet” that he backs of from his vague promise to “get along” with Russia.

They don’t want to get along with Russia. They want more NATO expansion, more confrontation. They are furious with Russian-Syrian victories over U.S-backed, al-Qaeda-led forces in Syria, especially the liberation of Aleppo that the U.S. media (1) does not cover having no reporters on the ground, and little interest since events in Syria so powerfully challenge the State Department’s talking points that shape U.S. reporting, (2) misreports systematically, as the tragic triumph of the evil, Assad’s victory over an imaginary heroic opposition, and (3) sees the strengthening of the position of the Syrian stats as an indication of Russia’s reemergence as a superpower. (This they they cannot accept, as virtually a matter of religious conviction; the U.S. in official doctrine must maintain “full spectrum dominance” over the world and prohibit the emergence of any possible competitor, forever.)


The first Cold War was based on the western capitalists’ fear of socialist expansion. It was based on the understanding that the USSR had defeated the Nazis, had extraordinary prestige in the world, and was the center for a time of the expanding global communist movement. It was based on the fear that more and more countries would achieve independence from western imperialism, denying investors their rights to dominate world markets. It had an ideological content. This one does not. Russia and the U.S. are equally committed to capitalism and neoliberal ideology. Their conflict is of the same nature as the U.S. conflict with Germany in the early 20th century. The Kaiser’s Germany was at least as “democratic” as the U.S.; the system was not the issue. It was just jockeying for power, and as it happened, the U.S. intervening in World War I belatedly, after everybody else was exhausted, cleaned up. In World War II in Europe, the U.S. having hesitated to invade the continent despite repeated Soviet appeals to do so, responded to the fall of Berlin to Soviet forces by rushing token forces to the city to claim joint credit.

And then it wound up, after the war, establishing its hegemony over most of Europe—much, much more of Europe than became the Soviet-dominated zone, which has since with the Warsaw Pact evaporated. Russia is a truncated, weakened version of its former self. It is not threatening the U.S. in any of the ways the U.S. is threatening itself. It is not expanding a military alliance. It is not holding huge military exercises on the U.S. border. It is not destroying the Middle East through regime-change efforts justified to the American people by sheer misinformation. In September 2015 Putin asked the U.S., at the United Nations: “Do you realize what you’ve done?”

Unfortunately the people of this country are not educated, by their schools, press or even their favorite websites to realize what has been done, how truly horrible it is, and how based it all is on lies. Fake news is the order of the day.

Up is down, black is white, Russia is the aggressor, the U.S. is the victim. The new president must be a team-player, and for God’s sake, understand that Putin is today’s Hitler, and if Trump wants to get along with him, he will have to become a team-player embracing this most basic of political truths in this particular imperialist country: Russia (with its nukes, which are equally matched with the U.S. stockpile) is the enemy, whose every action must be skewed to inflame anti-Russian feeling, as the normative default sentiment towards this NATO-encircled, sanction-ridden, non-threatening nation, under what seems by comparison a cautious, rational leadership?


CNN’s horrible “chief national correspondent” John King (former husband of equally horrid Dana Bash, CNN’s “chief political correspondent”) just posed the question, with an air of aggressive irritation: “Who does Donald Trump respect more, the U.S. intelligence agencies, or the guy who started Wikileaks [Assange]?”

It’s a demand for the Trump camp to buy the Russian blame game, or get smeared as a fellow-traveler with international whistle-blowers keen on exposing the multiple crimes of U.S. imperialism.

So the real question is: Will Trump play ball, and credit the “intelligence community” that generates “intelligence products” on demand, or brush aside the war hawks’ drive for a showdown with Putin’s Russia? Will the second Cold War peter out coolly, or culminate in the conflagration that “Mutually Assured Destruction” (MAD) was supposed to render impossible?

The latter would be utterly stupid. But stupid people—or wise people, cynically exploiting others’ stupidity— are shaping opinion every day, and have been since the first Cold War, based like this one on innumerable lies.
Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa Japan; Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at:
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