Saturday, November 08, 2014

Great News for Wall Street: "American Democracy Dead!"

Election Night not a GOP Victory but a Democratic Rout

by Dave Lindorff  - This Can't Be Happening

The sclerotic Democratic Party was trounced yet again yesterday, as Republicans outdid projections and appear to have taken at least seven Senate seats away from the Democrats, giving them control of the both houses of Congress.

The blame is being placed on President Obama for this drubbing, and he richly deserves it. Basically, his presidency has been one long string of disappointments to and outright betrayal of those who voted for him “hoping for change,” as Obama has caved on or compromised away virtually every progressive promise he made during his two campaigns.

As a constitutional scholar, he had promised to restore respect for the law to the presidency, and instead has made end runs around every law imaginable, refusing to prosecute the war criminals of the Bush/Cheney presidency, the CIA, and the military, refusing to prosecute the FBI for violating the Patriot Act, refusing to prosecute the bankers whose crimes brought the US and the global economy to a grinding halt and left the US crippled going on six years now.

He has run the most secretive administration in history, even employing the 1917 Espionage Act against leakers and whistleblowers, and threatening journalists with jail for publishing those leaks. Under his watch, too, the Homeland Security Department secretly orchestrated the nationwide crushing of the Occupy movement by local police departments, while the White House, all the while, offered homilies about the sanctity of the right to protest. (His HSD's Office of Threat Assessment actually labelled this publication a "threat" for publishing an article exposing that role -- a discovery which we now proudly display on our masthead above.)

Claiming to have been a “community organizer,” Obama hung the labor movement that had backed his campaign for president out to dry, declining to push for a promised and desperately needed reform of the National Labor Relations Act that would have ended the interminable and easily delayed process of requiring a secret ballot election to form a union, by reverting to the old system of obtaining a majority of signed cards from workers.

On climate change, which he had once called the issue of our time, his administration actually actively worked behind the scenes, with the help of the National Security Agency, to subvert efforts by international leaders to reach an international consensus on action in 2009 in Denmark. This Obama treachery allowed the world to lurch on towards a climate-change armageddon.

Two Losers: President Barack Obama, a Democrat, and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, a Republican

After promising to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama first drew out the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq, leading to further chaos there and ultimately to the current disaster where the country is being torn apart by an invasion by the former Baathist military leaders who were earlier turned out by the Bush/Cheney invasion and occupation. Then he expanded the war in Afghanistan, dragging out that conflict to make it, at 13 years and running, the longest war in US history. And after spending hundreds of billions of dollars on pointless war and killing thousands of more Afghans and American soldiers too, he has left a nation in tatters which will revert to Taliban control again probably within months of the last US soldier leaving on the last troop transport.

No wonder the public was pissed this Election Day.

Meanwhile, the Democrats in Congress have been no better. A party as in hock to corporate interests as are the Republicans, elected Democrats no more represent the people who vote them into office than do the members of the Chinese National People’s Congress.

Congress is a millionaires’ club, and its members are both Republican and Democrat.

The election rout of Democrats was not a mandate for Republican ideology. Far from it. It was a repudiation of Democrats.

I was sitting in a hot tub at the Y last night at the end of a terrible couple of days, during which I had to bury a friend who died after a short brutal case of mesothelioma (a disease that is purely the result of decades of greed and criminal malfeasance on the part of the American asbestos industry). I said to the other guy sitting there in the bubbling water that it was a good night to celebrate. He looked at me and said, “Oh, are you a Republican too?”

“Oh no!” I said. “But I’m celebrating the ousting of Tom Corbett.” Corbett is the arch-conservative Republican governor of Pennsylvania, who in his four years in office managed to outrage most people in the state, including Republicans, by slashing education spending, pouring money into the state’s already lucratively funded and bulging prison system, and gutting any regulation of the state’s free-wheeling fracking industry, while also attacking teachers, most recently by orchestrating a move by the so-called School Reform Commission that has been running Philadelphia’s bankrupt school system to renege on the contract for 15,000 teachers, taking away their health plan and their tenure. He was just defeated by a margin of 12% by a novice Democrat, Tom Wolf, becoming the first Pennsylvania governor since 1968 not to serve two terms.

The guy looked at me, glumly shaking his head, and said, “Well, I just don’t want to see my taxes go up anymore.”

I said, “I don’t want my taxes to go up either, but you know, I don’t mind paying taxes for schools and roads, which is most of what our state and local taxes go for. I do mind paying $1 trillion every year for the US military, which is simply ridiculous and a complete waste of money.”

He thought about that a minute, and said, ”Well I agree with you on that.”

I mean Christ! The guy calls himself a Republican, and he surely voted for the Republican running in his Congressional district, but nobody--including the Democrats and certainly the Democrat running in his district--was saying that the US needs to stop spending so much on wars and preparing for wars.

If they had said that, they might have won this guy’s vote -- and mine too.

I said, “The problem with this country is that the political system is completely corrupt. We don’t have a democracy. We have a Potemkin democracy, a fraud where all the power resides with the people who have the money -- the bankers, the big corporate executives.

Again he said, “Well, you’re right about that.”

If Democrats would say these things on the campaign, and if they’d actually act on them when elected to Congress, Tuesday would have gone differently. But let’s face it: the Democratic Party is so far removed from the days when it was calling for regulating the banks, and for shrinking the military, it will never happen.

Oh wait. The Democratic Party hasn’t wanted to shrink the military since the end of World War II.

No wonder Tuesday was a disaster for Democrats. They deserved the trashing they got.

Will Americans wake up from their torpor and throw the whole lot of them -- Republicans and Democrats -- out of Washington and out of the 50 state capitols?

It’s hard to imagine it happening.

The real losers: the American people, who keep voting for change and getting the same corporate sock puppets

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), probably the most progressive member of the US Senate, and possibly in the entire Congress, said on Democracy Now! that the US is close to becoming an oligarchy, like Russia or Ukraine. I think he’s wrong. We’re already there.

All you need to do is look at the stock market, which leapt half a percent today on the news of the election results.

Is Any Sacrifice (of other's lives) Acceptable in Targeting Iran?

"Death to Iran" Over Airline Passenger Safety

by Franklin Lamb - MWC News

International air travelers in flights over Asia could well be in danger from a recent policy change enacted by the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), this as the latter puts Israel’s “death to Iran” policy seemingly ahead of even airline passenger safety.

The OFAC is the enforcement arm of US sanctions policies. When American leaders take a notion to target this or that country for sanctions, it is OFAC that determines which banks, businesses or individuals within that country will be targeted, as well as what penalties are to be imposed upon those who violate the sanctions. Not only are American-owned businesses subject to these penalties, but such is the economic clout of the US that even foreign-owned firms, including air carriers, can be made to pay a price as well. And the price now being demanded could perhaps best be described as “reckless.”

For years Israel has been pressuring the White House to ‘get serious’ about sanctions against Iran, and now, in the run-up to the Nov. 24 “deadline” for an agreement with the Islamic Republic (which in reality may end up being just another extension), AIPAC/OFAC has won another victory for its handlers in Occupied Palestine.

    “It may seem just another modest tightening of the screws on the Mullahs, but its part of a pattern, and you can expect to see more of this,” says a former pro-AIPAC Congressional staffer who has undergone a change of views and split from the staunchly pro-Israel crowd.

  “The AIPAC/OFAC Gemini (twins) are a, if not the, main potent force in dreaming up yet more US sanctions targeting Iran.”

Professing skepticism about Iran’s intentions, Republicans are not only refusing to lift existing sanctions but are proposing the introduction of even more measures, according to congressional sources at the House Republican Caucus. It is a campaign being organized by Netanyahu’s many supporters in Congress from both sides of the aisle.

While the Israeli prime minister’s relations with Obama are fractious, this is most assuredly not the case with Congress, and the same sources doubt that the president will act unilaterally to lift Iranian sanctions by issuing presidential waivers. The reason is the White House fears the loss of what is left of his good will on the Hill since he solely needs it to salvage something of Obamacare, arguably Obama’s only major domestic accomplishment over the past six years. Just this week Obama repeated his druthers that he would “rather have no deal than a bad deal.”

And naturally, the more lunatic fringe of the neocon alliance has seemingly had new life breathed into it as a result of this week’s elections.

    “These Iran mullahs are barbarian. They are stoning women, hanging women, torturing women, jailing and murdering innocents. Now the BBC reports they want to give women or anyone 74 lashes for walking a dog because it may be an insult to Islam. Well, I relieve Iran’s mullahs may be an insult to Islam.” says one ardent young Tea Party organizer named “Wendy,” a former college homecoming queen from New Orleans, who voiced her views in an email that ended up being passed along to this observer.

     “There will be no nuclear deal with Iran until there is a revolution in Iran and the homophobic crazies are sent to their waiting, certain to be disappointed, 72 virgins.”

She went on to write: “John McCain is going to be chairman of the Senate Armed Forces Committee and Bob Corker will chair the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee. They will see to that and have our backing!” Both gentlemen are eager interventionists; both are hawks.

The Tea Party lady’s prognosis may be on the money, so to speak, since it appears unlikely the new Congress will suddenly adopt a more bipartisan approach. According to a former AIPAC intern, a ‘legal memorandum’ (which the intern had a role in researching) was sent out from AIPAC’s offices last month, across the Capitol Mall—just below and in front of the Capitol building—to the office of David Cohen at OFAC. The close proximity of the two offices makes this a well-worn path, one used in both directions, but at any rate as a result of this mail delivery, AIPAC once again achieved its goal of “strengthening robust sanctions against a terrorist state.”

The contents of the memorandum may at first glance seem picayune, but the initiative could end up proving dangerous for passengers on international flights in the Middle East or Eastern Europe. Moreover, it appears unlikely, for reasons outlined below, that the new Congress will back off this latest effort by OFAC/AIPAC at tightening the noose around the Iranian civilian population.

Any realistic prospect for a settlement on the Iran nuclear issue by November 24 may well have been scuttled by the latest elections—much to the relief, of course, of the US Zionist lobby. What is likely at this point is another extension of the deadline, which would give the P5+1 more time to consider Russia’s last minute initiative to broker an “Assad chemical weapons deal”—thereby allowing concerned parties to “take custody” of Iran’s uranium stockpile for peaceful processing under UN inspections.

Both sides are preparing for the crucial session, with the Iranians claiming a deal is all but done. “We have reached consensus on generalities and there are only the fine details to be worked out,” said President Rouhani on Iranian TV last week. Almost as an afterthought, he added: “Of course details are important too, but what’s important is that the nuclear issue is irreversible. I think a final settlement can be achieved in these remaining 40 days. We will not return to the situation a year ago. The world is tired and wants it to end, resolved through negotiations…A nuclear settlement is certain.”

Well nice words, and maybe they were intended mainly for domestic consumption. But the facts are that profound differences still exist between the two sides, and this has been apparent for months. Four remaining issues are: a) Iran’s uranium enrichment capacity (which determines how soon the country could achieve “breakout” by producing enough fissile material for a bomb); b) much more transparency on Iran’s past nuclear research; c) how soon sanctions would be lifted; and, d) how long Iran would be subjected to nuclear constraints before earning the right to be treated, in the words of the UK Economist, as a “normal” signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Iran, for its own part, insists it will not dismantle any of its existing centrifuges, and that it must be allowed to increase them to a level sufficient to fuel Bushehr—a tenfold increase in its current installed capacity. So against this backdrop, what did OFAC/AIPAC do to torque up the coercion factor? It takes a certain mindset (perhaps the word “diabolical” might be applicable) to have dreamt up their scheme, but simply put it’s as follows:

AIPAC and the Israeli embassy legal team found in OFAC’s website, specifically in the FAQ section, a passage pertaining to Iranian civil aviation authorities. Frankly only some in the business community, or more precisely their lawyers (who else really counts these days?), could possibly muster the motivation to read through OFAC’s unimaginably arcane regulations. Yet David Cohen, OFAC’s director and a regular fixture at AIPAC legislative conferences, hit upon the FAQ section of the agency’s website as the venue for announcing to the world a brand new Iran-targeting measure, one that could prove exceedingly dangerous to air travelers.

Specifically the FAQ in question is FAQ #417, which reads:

    “Are payments or the facilitation of payments to Iranian civil aviation authorities for overflights of Iran or emergency landing in Iran by aircraft that are owned by a non-U.S. person and registered outside the United States sanctionable under U.S. law?”

What the OFAC team did was to cryptically, and without opportunity for public input, change the policy on this—in a manner that increases the possibility that someone on an international flight might suddenly find their plane falling out of the sky.

The old FAQ explained to the airline industry that if your plane developed mechanical problems, say, it was okay to make an unscheduled landing in Iran. The Iranians have not minded, and only charged a very modest $50 to $ 2000 fee to the affected airline, US carriers included. The OFAC FAQ previously had specified that non-U.S. airlines (under 31 C.F.R. § 560.522) were permitted to overfly Iran and make emergency landings there as long as no payments were made to, or through, any of the specifically designated banks in Iran (like Bank Melli), or any entities on the Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list.

However, the new rule, in the revised FAQ 417, states that the payments now cannot involve the U.S. financial system if a foreign carrier is concerned; the U.S. financial system may only be used for U.S. carriers, which, under 31 C.F.R. § 560.522, are permitted to overfly and make emergency landings in Iran.

In other words AIPAC-OFAC is refusing to allow any payments made to Iran, even to insure the safety of the internationally flying public who would prefer, quite naturally, not to get shot down over Iraq or Ukraine. For a while now, and especially since the ISIS takeover of portions of Iraq and Syria, a number of airlines, including Air France and Virgin Atlantic, have for safety reasons re-routed their flights through Iranian airspace. But AIPAC says these airlines, from now on, will only be able to pay Iran’s “blood money” (their word choice) through non-US banks.

The catch-22, however, is that they—AIPAC and OFAC both— know full well that given the recent huge OFAC fines on foreign banks for the slightest sanctions transgression, most of these banks are not likely to take that risk, given the small payment fee they would receive. So what are the airlines to do? Presumably their lawyers have instructed them to assume the risk without upsetting their passengers, and just keep silent.

And it’s probably unlikely that the new war-hungry Congressional leadership will challenge this latest policy change putting air travelers at peril. Flyers are forewarned—and would be well advised to check their flight paths so long as this latest sanctions measure remains in effect.

And Americans could contact their new Congress members, who probably are clueless as to this life-endangering issue.

President O'Flim Flam and the Death by Disinterest of the Democratic Party

President Flim-Flam Leads Dems to Midterm Massacre

by MIKE WHITNEY - CounterPunch

“The Republican victory does not represent a shift by the American population to the right, but demonstrates the bankrupt and reactionary character of the Democratic Party and the mass disillusionment with the Obama administration. In the absence of any progressive alternative to the two right-wing, corporate-controlled parties, the majority of potential voters stayed home. Voter turnout hit another record low, with only 38 percent going to the polls….Voter participation by young people fell particularly sharply. Barely one-third of eligible voters went to the polls in California, the most populous state.”  –Patrick Martin, Republicans win control of Senate in US congressional elections, World Socialist Web Site
“You don’t stick a knife in a man’s back nine inches, and then pull it out six inches, and say you’re making progress.”  –Malcolm X

The White House has denied claims that the midterm elections were a referendum on Barack Obama, but the polling data shows that they were. According to a CBS News exit poll:

“Fifty-four percent of those surveyed said their opinion of the president influenced their vote… 34 percent said they wanted to make a statement in opposition to Mr. Obama, while 20 percent said they voted in support of him.”

Those differences were more stark among Republican voters “61 percent (of whom) said they cast ballots to take a stand against the current administration. (Only) Thirty-five percent of those who voted for GOP candidates said Mr. Obama didn’t play a role in their decisions at the polling places.” (2014 midterm elections look like a referendum on Obama, CBS News)

There’s no doubt that antipathy towards Obama played a significant role in Tuesday night’s bloodbath. Even so, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest insists that, “Most voters are deciding who to vote for based on the name that’s on the ballot, not the name that’s not….It’s up to those individual candidates, those Democratic candidates, to make decisions for themselves about how best the president and his support can be used to their benefit in the elections.”

In other words, the Democratic candidates that went down in flames on Tuesday, can only blame themselves. While that might be a good way to deflect responsibility, it certainly doesn’t square with the facts. Just get a load of these exit poll results from Forbes:

“45% of voters said the economy was the most important issue facing the country. It was the top issue of four listed on the exit poll ballot. Voters were generally pessimistic about it. Only 1% checked the box that said the economy’s condition was “excellent.” 70% said it was not so good or poor. 78% were worried about its direction in the next year. In another question, voters split pretty evenly: around a third of voters said it was getting better, getting worse, and staying about the same.
More voters expected the life for the next generation of Americans to be worse rather than better, 48 to 22%.” (Election Results From A To Z: An Exit Poll Report, Forbes)

What a damning survey. What a damning indictment of Obama. The vast majority of the people think the economy still stinks and that living standards for their kids are going to get a whole lot worse. And you wonder why the Dems got their heads handed to them on Tuesday? It’s because they failed on the number one issue, that’s why.

But the implosion of the Democratic party pales in comparison to the bigger issue, that is, that more and more people are dropping off the radar and out of the system. THAT is significant. Take a look at this from NPR’s All Things Considered on Wednesday:

Robert Siegel: “…as of today, according to numbers from the Associated Press, a bit over 83 million people voted. As a share of the voting-eligible population, that is 36.6 percent … if the national turnout rate doesn’t reach 38.1 percent, it would be the lowest turnout since the midterm elections of 1942. And as Michael McDonald points out, that was in the middle of the Second World War.” (Midterm Elections May Have Had Record Low Turnout NPR All Things Considered)

Now you might think that the bigshots in Washington don’t care if you vote or not, but you’re wrong. They do care. You see, they put together this shiny-new system called “democracy” that conceals their looting operations behind a masque of “public approval”. That approval comes in the form of balloting which they see as a necessary component for keeping the serf-sheeple in line and for shifting ever-larger amounts of the nation’s wealth to their criminal friends on Wall Street. Only now, it looks like the curtain has slipped a bit, and more people are opting out of this Potemkin-charade of “representative government”.

Check this out from the World Socialist Web Site:

“Voter turnout was at record lows, with two-thirds of those eligible to vote staying away from the polls. This mass abstention was particularly pronounced among the poorest and most oppressed sections of the working class—those most disillusioned by the empty promises of Obama’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns.
In Michigan, for example, voter turnout in Detroit was only 31 percent, well below the 40 percent level predicted by city officials. This shortfall accounts for the entire margin of defeat for the Democratic candidate for governor, Mark Schauer, running against Republican incumbent Rick Snyder…
Perhaps the most revealing finding in the exit polls was that two-thirds of those who cast ballots Tuesday viewed the US economic system as deeply unfair and rigged in favor of the wealthy. There was evidence in the exit polls that millions are losing faith in the capitalist system altogether, and not merely expressing discontent with the conditions of economic slump that have prevailed since the financial crash of 2008.” (Republicans, Obama prepare post-election escalation of war, social attacks, Patrick Martin, World Socialist Web Site

People are throwing in the towel, they’ve had it up to here with this crummy system that only delivers for the 1 percent. Everyone knows that the country is ruled by an oligarchy of racketeers who don’t give a rip about anything except pumping up the bottom line and stiff-arming working people. Why participate in a system like that?

And don’t give me that hogwash about the “differences between the two parties”.

What a laugh. Did you notice how Obama snuggled up to Mitch McConnell just hours after the Dems took their biggest shellacking in history?

It’s all a show. These guys are all in bed together. They don’t care about you and me. It’s a joke.

Just look at the cynical game the Dems are playing to convince their constituency that they actually have “heartfelt convictions” and that they’re true liberals. They’re always blabbering about same sex marriage and “a woman’s right to choose”. Why do you figure that is?

It’s because their corporate Sugar daddies tell them to steer-clear of any issue that might cost them some of their precious money, like higher wages, better benefits, job security, health care, pensions, unions etc; all the things the Dems say they care about, but never lift a finger to support.

Remember how President Dipstick flew over Wisconsin blowing kisses to the people below while Scott Walker was busy dismantling collective bargaining rights for public workers?

That’s the Dems attitude towards working people in a nutshell. That’s why they’re all about gay rights and abortion. It’s because they threw working people under the bus 30 fu**ing years ago. Abortion is the last thing they can hang their hat on. It’s pathetic.

Here’s how Joseph Kishore sums it up over at the WSWS:

“The Democratic strategy of appealing to affluent layers of the middle class on the basis of identity politics while working with the Republicans to step up attacks on workers’ jobs, wages and living standards produced an electoral disaster. In a contradictory way, reflecting a system monopolized by two right-wing parties of big business, the election showed that appeals on the basis of race, gender and sexuality move only a small fraction of the population, while the broad masses of people are driven by more fundamental class issues—issues on which the Democrats have nothing to offer…

“Underlying these processes is a profound crisis—not only of the Democratic Party, but of the entire political system. Both parties represent the interests of a tiny layer of the corporate and financial elite in alliance with the military-intelligence apparatus. Beyond the confines of the top 5 or 10 percent of the population, the state confronts a working class that is angry, dissatisfied and increasingly hostile.”
(The Democratic Party implosion, Joseph Kishore, World Socialist Web Site)

The system is in crisis, and the reason should be obvious to anyone willing to pull his head out of the sand long enough to see what’s really going on. It’s because capitalism doesn’t deliver the goods. It’s that simple. Everything is stacked in favor of the moneybags bloodsuckers on top. They don’t even try to hide it anymore. Have you noticed how Maserati sales are threw the roof?

It’s true. America’s a great place if you got dough. And if you don’t, well, then you might want to get yourself a nice, comfy cardboard box and a dry-spot by the river.

Is it any wonder why people under 30 have checked out entirely? They’re not buying this “capitalism is wonderful” horsecrap. They feel the sting of this system every damn day. Do you really think that a college grad with an MBA in engineering who’s living in his parent’s crawlspace, who’s wracked up a heaping $65,000 in student loans, and who has over 200 job rejections stacked a mile-high on his desk, gets up every morning thinking, “God I’m glad I live in America. Isn’t it swell to live in a country where everyone has a chance to get ahead?”

Right. These people have already quit the system and they’re not coming back. Among young voters (aged 18-29) only 13 percent cast ballots on Tuesday. There’s your ringing endorsement of capitalism in one dazzling data-point: 13 freaking percent. That’s a system that has out-lived its shelf-life if you ask me.

One last thing: We should give a hat tip to some of the people who figured out what Obama was all about from the get go, like the editors of Counterpunch, Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair. Counterpunch has been skewering President Flim Flam for more 8 years now, even when the liberal “thought police” blasted anyone who as much as uttered a cross word about him. (I wonder how many of those die-hard Ombamabots have the stones to admit now that they were wrong? Not many, I’ll bet.)

Anyway, take a look at this Cockburn article I dug up from the CP archives. It pretty well sums up the editorial position of the magazine… And it was written back in November, 2003:

“In these last days I’ve been scraping around, trying to muster a single positive reason to encourage a vote for… Obama-Biden, as opposed to the McCain-Palin ticket?…
In substantive terms Obama’s run has been the negation of almost every decent progressive principle, a negation achieved with scarcely a bleat of protest from the progressives seeking to hold him to account. The Michael Moores stay silent. Abroad, Obama stands for imperial renaissance. He has groveled before the Israel lobby and pandered to the sourest reflexes of the cold war era. At home he has crooked the knee to bankers and Wall Street, to the oil companies, the coal companies, the nuclear lobby, the big agricultural combines. He is even more popular with Pentagon contractors than McCain, and has been the most popular of the candidates with K Street lobbyists. He has been fearless in offending progressives, constant in appeasing the powerful.”…

“Obama invokes change. Yet never has the dead hand of the past had a “reform” candidate so firmly by the windpipe.” (Change You Can See, Alexander Cockburn, CounterPunch)

Cockburn knew that Obama was a fake and that the Democratic leadership had no intention of changing anything. The plan was to crank the Bush agenda up to full-throttle; expand the wars, increase the surveillance, eviscerate civil liberties, and shift more of the nation’s wealth to their feral-tycoon bosses on Wall Street. That was the plan and that’s what they did.

Tuesday’s electoral meltdown was just blowback from the many rank and file Dems who were either too mad to vote the party ticket or too distraught to even drag themselves to the polling booths. And therein lies the silver lining to this mess, which is that people are disillusioned, frightened and angry. They hate Wall Street, the media, the do-nothing Congress, and the sell-out-loser Democrats. They want change and they’re willing to move further to the right or left to get it.

That should be fertile ground for even the most fainthearted revolutionary. There’s no reason why the public’s frustration and can’t be channeled into more productive activity, like a general strike, a mass exodus from the two-party duopoly, or a thundering march on the Capital.

Why waste all that rage on whining and handwringing? The system is broken. Deal with it.

Organize. Grab a pitchfork. Do something!

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

Senkakus: Obama's Other Created Sovereignty Crisis

How Long Can the U.S. Exploit the Senkakus Sovereignty Crisis It Created?

by Peter Lee - China Matters

The United States does not acknowledge Japan's claim to sovereignty over the Senkakus. If this fact is allowed to seep into the consciousness of journos, pundits, and newly minted Asia experts, perhaps a lot of stuff that has happened, is happening,and will happen in the East China Sea will appear somewhat more explicable.

But I'm not optimistic. I was rather dismayed to learn that An Important Journalistic Figure subscribes to the myth that Japan's claims to Senkaku sovereignty are incontestable, and PRC shenanigans around the islands are simply another indication of unprovoked Chinese aggression and cupidity. Regrettably, this misunderstanding shows signs of getting baked into PRC coverage, and will serve as the departure point for years of China-bashing by a legion of journalistic, analytic, and political hacks.

The truth is, as they say, out there, and as usual it's much more interesting than the myth.

Point of departure should be the magisterial essay at  Asia-Pacific Journal, The Origins of the Senkaku/Daioyu Dispute between China,Taiwan, and Japan, by Yabuki Susume with an introduction by Mark Selden.

Long story short, the Nixon administration withheld an affirmation of Japan’s sovereignty over the Senkakus when the whole Ryukyushebang was transferred from U.S. to Japanese administration with the reversion treaty of 1972.

Nixon and Kissinger were doing a favor to Taiwan, which had to cope with the political fallout from U.S. normalization of relations with the PRC and looked for help from the United States in avoiding another piece of humiliation by losing the islands to Japan.

It should be noted that the islands are clearly in Taiwan’s bailiwick, as a cursory look at a map reveals. Sorry Japan, the Senkakus are comfortably on the Asian continental shelf, a mere 170 kilometers from Taipei, and on the wrong side of the Ryukyu Trench from the Ryukyu Kingdom i.e. Okinawa and the other islands Japan seized,together with the Senkakus when it was the region’s preeminent imperial bully.

Japan’s legal claim to the Senkakus rests on the rather contestable assertion that the islands were “vacant territory”and Japan could just take ‘em.

Those who suspect or ignore academic journals with an allegedly lefty bent can turn to the Congressional Research Service's September2012 Senkaku (Diaoyu/Dioayutai) Islands Dispute: U.S. Treaty Obligations, by Mark Manyin, for confirmation of the U.S. decision to withhold recognition of Japanese sovereignty over the Senkakus.

In the section U.S. Position on Competing Claims, Manyin covers Susume’s points on the return of the islands to Japanese administration but without confirmation of sovereignty, and quotes the relevant legal opinion:

In his letter of October 20, 1971, Acting Assistant Legal Adviser Robert Starr stated:

The Governments of the Republic of China and Japan are in disagreement as to sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands. You should know as well that the People’s Republic of China has also claimed sovereignty over the islands. The United States believes that a return of administrative rights over those islands to Japan, from which the rights were received, can in no way prejudice any underlying claims.

The United States cannot add to the legal rights Japan possessed before it transferred administration of the islands to us, nor can the United States, by giving back what it received, diminish the rights of other claimants. The United States has made no claim to the Senkaku Islands and considers that any conflicting claims to the islands are a matter for resolution by the parties concerned.

Manyin adds:

Successive U.S. administrations have restated this position of neutrality regarding the claims, particularly during periods when tensions over the islands have flared, as in 1996, 2010, and 2012.

Japan has done its level best to ignore this state of affairs with, I might add, a certain amount of help from the journalistic community.

But understanding this backgrounds is important to an understanding of recent tensions in the US-Japan-China triangle.

On August 17, 2010, in a news item little noted, apparently, except by me, Japan Times reported:
The Obama administration has decided not to state explicitly that the Senkaku Islands, which are under Japan's control but claimed by China, are subject to the Japan-US security treaty, in a shift from the position of George W Bush, sources said Monday.

The administration of Barack Obama has already notified Japan of the change in policy, but Tokyo may have to take counter-measures in light of China's increasing activities in the East China Sea, according to the sources.

Although the defense treaty apparently doesn’t require this kind of public affirmation (it covers areas under the administration of Japan,not just sovereign territory), apparently the Obama administration’s backpedaling was taken in Tokyo as a worrisome sign that it might be giving aid and comfort to the PRC.

As to the “counter measures”, I believe that they involved the deliberate provocation of detaining the hapless Captain Zhan and his fishing boat off the Senkakus a few weeks later, declaring the intention of trying him in Japanese courts, and achieving a crisis in Japan-China relations (rare earths!) in which Hillary Clinton, perhaps by pre-arrangement, plunked the U.S.firmly on Japan’s side—and issued the explicit statement covering the Senkakus under the treaty. But let’s set that aside for another discussion.

In 2012, the Japanese government, rather ignobly stampeded by Shintaro Ishihara’s threat that his Tokyo Governate would acquire some of the Senkakus from their private Japanese owner, nationalized three of the eight islands by purchase.

Now, looking at the background, was this act of outrage directed at the People’s Republic of China…or the United States, whose position is that the fate of the islands should be negotiated?

I suspect one big reason that the PRC insistently yanks Japan’s chain on the Senkaku matter is because it’s a point of friction in US-Japan relations, and serves to remind the United States of its “honest broker” responsibilities in East Asia. And the United States, in order to show it's not entirely in the China-containment bag, makes conciliatory noises about the Senkakus to Beijing.

It appears that the United States is unwilling to let the Senkaku matter rest, and put pressure on Japan last week to acknowledge that issues existed in order to smooth the way for Japan-PRC rapprochement. At a recent meeting in Beijing, the PRC and Japan grunted out this formulation:

The two sides have acknowledged that different positions exist between them regarding the tensions which have emerged in recent years over the Diaoyu Islands and some waters in the East China Sea, and agreed to prevent the situation from aggravating through dialogue and consultation and establish crisis management mechanisms to avoid contingencies.

Per the New York Times China Diplomatic Correspondent Jane Perlez, the United States promptly spun this as “agreeing to disagree” i.e. a welcome admission that differences existed.

Judging by an article in the National Review, Japan let it be known through its channels equally promptly that the “different positions” referred to “tensions” over the islands, not the sovereignty of the islands themselves.
So “agree to disagree” about nada. Basically, a face-saving exercise enabling resumed diplomatic contacts between Japan and China.

And, of course, no mention of the U.S. non-position on Senkaku sovereignty.

One can assume the back story is that the United States finds its geopolitical plate unpleasantly heaped with ordure in the Middle East and Ukraine, is unwilling to add to its problems by continuing to mix things up with China in the East and South China Seas for the time being and,furthermore, doesn’t want to see the PRC turn its back on the West in order to make sticky, slobbering authoritarian love with its fellow pariah, Russia, in Central Asia.

Time, therefore, for a charm offensive and a call for comity,perhaps seasoned with the quiet threat that, once again, the PRC’s banks might otherwise find themselves as risk of getting embroiled in the U.S. Treasury Department’s sanctions jihad against Russia (a ploy that has been trotted out over North Korea and Russia and is feared and resented by the PRC).

And that, I think, illustrates the reason why the U.S.allows this bizarre state of affairs over Senkaku sovereignty to persist.

It gives the United States leverage in East Asia against the PRC and, perhaps more importantly, against its rather headstrong ally in Japan.

In terms of under-reported stories, the Abe administration’s arms-length relationship with the Obama administration is also a worthy contender. Strategically and emotionally, Abe is more at home with the Dick Cheney/neo-con group in the United States. Abe was an enthusiastic participant in Cheney’s envisioned China containment "Asia Security Democratic Diamond" (US, Australia,India, and Japan) during his first term and, when he and his representatives come to the United States, it’s conservative outfits like the American Enterprise Institute and the Hudson Institute that do the hosting and arranging.

Abe wants to ally with the US government, and he determinedly cultivates the United States. At the same time, he wants to exploit the support of the U.S. government to increase Japan’s diplomatic and economic clout in East Asia, in part by encouraging polarization between the PRC and its smaller democratic neighbors. The United States has gone along, because it sees itself and the pivot profiting from a dynamic that focuses on U.S. military power more than Chinese economic muscle.

But in an era of heightened confrontation with China and shoulder-to-shoulder rhetoric, the U.S. does not have a huge number of tools with which it can pressure Japan. Any doubters might look at the rather fraught progress of the TPP trade pact negotiations between Tokyo and Washington.

But America does have the Senkakus. In particular, I believe it can deploy the threat that it will openly repudiate Japan’s claim to sovereignty over the islands, and call for negotiations between the PRC and Japan. And disputing sovereignty over the worthless rocks would also involve some slicing and dicing of the Exclusive Economic Zone and the reputedly worthwhile energy resources beneath the disputed waters.

I believe the U.S. would be rather loath to surrender that leverage. So it’s not particularly interested in seeing the Senkaku issue go away.

My personal opinion is that the Senkakus are, for the United States, a wasting asset. If the anti-mainland DPP, which continually plays footsie with Japanese ultra-nationalists thanks to the colonial heritage (little known fact: ex-president and independence stalwart Lee Tenghui’s brother is enshrined at Yasukuni), wins the presidency in the upcoming elections on Taiwan, one rumored piece of policy involves ceding Taiwan’s claims to the Senkakus to Japan.

If that happens, much of the U.S. moral and diplomatic standing on negotiation of the Senkaku sovereignty issue would be swept away.

So, I think, for the Senkakus, the message to the U.S. is “make hay while the sun shines”. This productive and useful conflict might not be around forever.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Making a Broader War in Iraq/Syria

Washington moving towards wider war in Iraq and Syria

by Bill Van Auken - WSWS

6 November 2014

here are new indications that Washington is moving toward a wider and protracted military intervention in the Middle East in the name of combating the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

In the wake of last weekend’s collapse of US-backed Syrian “rebels” in the face of an offensive by Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, the Al Nusra Front, plans are being prepared to extend the three-month-old US-led bombing campaign deeper into Syria. The ostensible purpose of these air strikes would be to provide air support for the Western-backed militias formed to prosecute the war for regime change against the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

The concern within US military and intelligence circles is that the Nusra Front fighters appear poised to seize control of the strategic Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey, which has served as a key conduit for funneling arms and other aid to the Syrian “rebels.”

A substantial portion of that aid, including heavy weapons such as TOW anti-tank missiles and GRAD rockets, fell into the hands of the Nusra Front last weekend as the American-backed groups—the Syrian Revolutionary Front and Harakat Hazm (Steadfastness Movement)—surrendered without a shot being fired. Many of the members of these groups then joined the Nusra Front.

“The recent fighting in northwestern Syria has been taking place a long way from areas farther east where US and Arab warplanes have been pounding Islamic State positions,” the Washington Post reported Wednesday. 
 “But US concern has grown rapidly in recent days amid fears about the [Bab al-Hawa] border crossing, according to senior administration officials who spoke about internal discussions on the condition of anonymity.”

The report cited discussions about likely “complications” arising from air strikes in the area, in particular whether the Syrian government would “tolerate an expansion” of the war beyond Iraq and areas of Syria near the Iraqi border, which have fallen under ISIS control.

There are, however, multiple demands that Washington carry out such an expansion with the aim of directing the US-led war precisely at toppling the Assad regime.

This is the position being advanced by the governments of both France and Turkey. French foreign minister Laurent Fabius wrote an opinion column published by several media organizations earlier this week calling on the US and its allies to shift the military intervention away from the Kurdish border town of Kobane, where there have been regular US bombings, to the city of Aleppo. Previously Syria’s industrial capital, Aleppo has been the scene of stepped up fighting as the Syrian government seeks to consolidate its control by defeating the so-called rebels.

“France cannot resign itself to the breakup of Syria or to the abandonment of the Aleppans to this fate,” Fabius wrote.

“That is why—together with our coalition partners—we must focus our efforts on Aleppo, with two clear objectives: strengthening our support for the moderate Syrian opposition, and protecting the civilian population from the twin crimes of the regime and Daesh [ISIS]. After Kobane, we must save Aleppo.”

Just two days later, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu warned that if Aleppo were to fall to the government forces, Turkey could face a major new refugee crisis. “This is why we called for a safe zone as well as taking measures against not only the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant [ISIS] but also the Assad regime,” he said. Turkey has called for the creation of a “buffer zone” inside Syria along the Turkish border. Such a “buffer” would serve the dual purpose of providing a safe haven for the Western-backed “rebels” and breaking up the autonomous zones created in the border area by Syrian Kurds, which Ankara sees as a threat in terms of its own conflict with the country’s Kurdish population.

Turkey has also advocated the imposition of a “no fly zone,” which would entail a massive bombing campaign against Syria’s air force and air defenses.

These same positions find support within Washington from, among others, Arizona Republican Senator John McCain, who, after Tuesday’s midterm election, will become chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, giving him access to a significant lever for shifting the US toward a more aggressive policy.

On the eve of the election, McCain charged that the collapse of the American-backed “rebels” to the Nusra Front constituted proof that “the administration’s current strategy in Syria is a disaster.” He demanded a greater military intervention to “protect the Syrian people.”

An escalation of the war is a virtual certainty now the US midterm elections are over. As Foreign Policy commented Wednesday: “When it comes to foreign policy, a GOP win could make it easier for Obama … if the president decided to shift his strategy against the Islamic State, [to] win Congressional backing for sending ground troops to Iraq or Syria.”

A revealing indication of the intense and protracted character of the war that US imperialism is preparing in the Middle East was provided by the Washington Post ’s well-connected national security correspondent, Walter Pincus.

“The Defense Department is certainly preparing for a long fight,” Pincus wrote, citing a recent notice to military contractors of department plans for an eight-year contract for the Air Combat Command of the US Air Force, set to begin in October 2016. The contract is for operating and supporting the command’s “major war reserve materiel facilities in Oman, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.”

Among the items to be pre-positioned at these sites are mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles (MRAPs), massive amounts of ammunition and “medical contingency hospitals for expeditionary medical support.” The plan also calls for creating “facilities and equipment that could house 3,300 airmen and 72 fighter aircraft at expeditionary locations.”

In the meantime, the Pentagon’s Central Command announced Wednesday it had carried out four air strikes in Syria and 10 in Iraq since Monday. A CENTCOM spokesman said the strikes had hit various ISIS vehicles, bunkers and small units.

From Iraq itself, however, came a different account of the US bombing runs. In al-Qaim, in western Anbar province near the Syrian border, security officials told the National Iraqi News Agency that a US warplane fired two missiles into a popular market in the center of the city. The explosions ripped through the crowded market, leaving at least seven Iraqi civilians dead and 27 others wounded, many of them critically.

Remembering War's Beginning: Creating the Sunni/Shi'ite Schism

The Vicious Politico-Religious Sunni-Shi’ite Civil War Ignited by the US in Iraq and Syria

by Rodrigue Tremblay - Dissident Voice

[There] is a memo [at the Pentagon] that describes how we’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.
— General Wesley Clark, former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO (1997-2000), (March 2, 2007)

I don’t want to just end the [Iraq] war, but I want to end the mind-set that got us into war in the first place.
— Presidential candidate Barack Obama, (January 31, 2008)

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.
— Abraham Lincoln (1809—1865), 16th President of the United States (1861-65)

When the U.S. government of George W. Bush (2001-2009) decided to illegally invade militarily the country of Iraq and overthrow the Sunni government of Saddam Hussein, against the advice of many thinking persons, it opened a “Pandora Box” of woes that is still spewing out its calamities today, and probably will for many years to come. This is the first and foremost cause of the current quagmire prevailing in Iraq and in Syria today.

In 2009, the Barack Obama administration thought that it could wash its hands and walk away from the “biggest mistake in American military history” and let local Iraqi politicians sort things out and form an “inclusive” government in Baghdad.

Here is what President Obama said on February 27, 2009:

Let me say this as plainly as I can: by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end… Through this period of transition, we will carry out further redeployments. And under the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government [negotiated by the previous Bush administration], I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.

Well, as it should have been expected by anybody who has any knowledge of history in that part of the world, Iraq was far from being a stable “democracy”. Instead, the Shi’ite-led and paranoid Malaki government was everything but “inclusive” of the Sunni minority. Indeed, the Shi’ite-controlled Iraqi government was bent on taking revenge on the Sunnis for the suffering Shi’ites endured under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. Using the sophisticated military gear supplied by the U.S., it tracked down Sunni opposition and dissenters to the regime, many were killed, and it excluded prominent Sunni politicians from the government.

There lies the second cause of the Sunni revolt that has helped create the terrorist organization known as the Islamic State militia (IS), [also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)], whose fighters are often foreign volunteers, at least in Syria. Some are ethnic Chechens, and many come from western countries such as the U.K. —When one sows terrorism, one should expect to reap terrorism. And that’s what the U.S. government and some other western countries have got in Iraq and Syria. In the U.S. case, it is for invading the former militarily and for reneging on its obligations to behave as a responsible occupying power under international law.

Added to that ill-thought and improvised U.S. policy in Iraq was the incoherent and misguided American policy of destabilizing the neighboring Syria by supporting and arming Islamist rebels against the established Assad government, in association with the Sunni governments of Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. These three countries had political and economic reasons of their own to oppose the Syrian Assad government, but not the United States. Many of these American-supported “moderate” Islamist terrorist organizations have since been absorbed by the rabidly terrorist ISIL organization. One can hardly think of a more flawed policy.

Last year, while the religious totalitarian terrorist IS organization was gaining strength both in Iraq and in Syria, and U.S. ambassadors in those countries were sounding the alarm, the Obama administration’s attention was concentrated on overthrowing the elected government of Ukraine and on overthrowing the Assad regime in Syria. Now, the IS militia are well entrenched in many cities and well armed with sophisticated American-supplied weapons that they have used to terrorize, torture and slaughter thousands of people who oppose their lunatic views, both in Iraq and Syria. That’s a total mess.

But what does the Obama administration do? Faced with a most serious humanitarian and military crisis in Iraq and in Syria that the United States itself has ignited with its policies, President Obama, surrounded by his neocon advisers (whose real allegiance is most dubious), has appeared hesitant, confused, overwhelmed, clueless, incoherent, passive and reactive. The old saying “A stitch in time saves nine”would seem to apply here. Indeed, problems tend to pile up when solutions are postponed and delayed. The brutal monster of IS in Iraq and in Syria has been allowed to develop and grow because of the U.S. government’s wishful indifference in Iraq and of its misplaced policies in Ukraine and in Syria. The result has been a Washington D.C.-made quagmire in those countries. It is not exaggerated to say that the U.S. government has blood on its hands for the savage carnage taking place in these countries.

How could the world stand still when fanatical and delusional seventh century barbaric butchers slaughter people right and left, for their ethnicity, their religion or their ideas? There is a word for that savage behavior, and that is “ethnic cleansing”. It is genocide.

The sad truth is that for the last twenty some years, there has been very weak intellectual leadership in Washington D.C., and this at the highest echelons. Ruinous wars and costly financial crises have resulted.

In the future, the Clinton-Bush-Obama years will probably be known as the “Vacuum years”, because the U.S. government of the day would have abused and de facto destroyed the international law system created after WWII, while being incapable of providing an efficient and socially and politically responsible alternative. In fact, the U.S. neocon-inspired U.S government of the last twenty years has been unable to match its world empire ambitions with concrete solutions and workable institutions. This is not a good record, far from it.

On Tuesday, November 4, American voters had their say about the U.S. elected officials who have been behind the mayhem and destruction brought to Iraq and Syria, and also Libya, by their failed policies. Indeed, the November 2014 mid-term election was dubbed a “referendum on President Barack Obama“, focusing on his competency, coherence and relevancy, but also on the weak state of the U.S. economy. The electoral results have not been very good for democratic candidates who paid a heavy price for their president’s failures.

With both the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate now under firm Republican control, it is obvious that the last two years of the Obama presidency will be difficult for the embattled “lame-duck” president.

Rodrigue Tremblay is professor emeritus of economics at the University of Montreal and author of the book The New American Empire. He can be reached at:
 Read other articles by Rodrigue, or visit Rodrigue's website.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Obama Getting Played: Saudi Oil Dump Strategy Against Russia Backfires

Has Washington Just Shot Itself in the Oily Foot?

by F. William Engdahl - NEO

By now even the New York Times is openly talking about the secret Obama Administration strategy of trying to bankrupt Russia by using its oil-bloated Bedouin bosom buddy, Saudi Arabia, to collapse the world price of oil. However, it’s beginning to look like the neo-conservative Russia-haters and Cold war wanna-be hawks around Barack Obama may have just shot themselves in their oily foot.

As I referred to it in an earlier article, their oil price strategy is basically stupid. Stupid, as all consequences have not been taken into account. Take now the impact on US oil production as prices plummet.

The collapse in US oil prices since September may very soon collapse the US shale oil bubble and tear away the illusion that the United States will surpass Saudi Arabia and Russia as the world’s largest oil producer. That illusion, fostered by faked resource estimates issued by the US Department of Energy, has been a lynchpin of Obama geopolitical strategy.

Now the financial Ponzi scheme behind the increase of US domestic oil output the past several years is about to evaporate in a cloud of fictitious smoke. The basic economics of shale oil production are being ravaged by the 23% oil price drop since John Kerry and Saudi King Abdullah had their secret meeting near the Red Sea in early September to agree on the Saudi oil price war against Russia.

Wall Street bank analysts at Goldman Sachs just issued a 2015 forecast that US oil prices, measured by a benchmark called WTI (West Texas Intermediate) will fall to $70 a barrel. In September 2013, WTI was more than $106 a barrel. That translates into a sharp 34% price collapse in just a few months. Why is that critical to the US shale production? Because, unlike conventional crude oil deposits, shale oil or tight oil as industry calls it, depleted dramatically faster.

A comprehensive new analysis just issued by David Hughes, a Canadian oil geo-scientist with thirty years’ experience with the Geological Survey of Canada, using data from existing US shale oil production that has now become public for the first time (the shale oil story is very recent), shows dramatic rates of oil volume decline from US shale oil wells:

The three year average well decline rates for the seven shale oil basins measured for the report range from an astounding 60-percent to 91-percent. That means over those three years, the amount of oil coming out of the wells decreases by that percentage. This translates to 43-percent to 64-percent of their estimated ultimate recovery dug out during the first three years of the well’s existence. Four of the seven shale gas basins are already in terminal decline in terms of their well productivity: the Haynesville Shale, Fayetteville Shale, Woodford Shale and Barnett Shale.

A decrease in oil daily of between 60% and 91% for these best possible shale oil regions means the oil companies must drill deeper to even stay still with oil production, let alone increase total oil volume. That means the drillers must spend more money to drill deeper, a lot more. According to Hughes, the Obama administration Department of Energy has uncritically taken rosy forecast numbers given them by the companies that boost the US shale oil myth. His calculations show future US shale oil output only 10% that estimated for 2040 by the Energy Department.

Hughes describes the current deadly dilemma of the shale oil companies as a “drilling treadmill.” They must drill more and more wells just to keep production levels flat. The oil companies have already gone after the most promising shale oil areas, so-called “sweet spots,” to maximize their production. Now as production begins to decline terminally, they must start drilling in spaces with less rich oil and gas returns. He adds, “if the future of U.S. oil and natural gas production depends on resources in the country’s deep shale deposits…we are in for a big disappointment.”

Oil price collapse

What Hughes describes was the state of shale oil before the start of the Kerry-Abdullah Saudi oil price war. Now US WTI oil prices have dropped a catastrophic 25% in six weeks, and still falling. Other large oil producers like Russia and Iran are in turn flooding the world market with their oil to increase revenue for their state budgets, adding to a global oil supply glut. That in turn pressures prices more.

The shale oil and gas bonanza of the past five years in the USA has been built on a foundation of zero Federal Reserve interest rates and huge speculative investment by hungry Wall Street firms and funds. Because of the ultra-rapid oil well depletion, when market oil prices collapse, the entire economics of lending to the shale oil drillers collapses as well. Money suddenly vanishes and debt-strapped oil companies begin real problems.

According to Philip Verleger, former head of President Carter’s Office of Energy Policy and now an energy consultant, in North Dakota’s Bakken shale, one of the most important new shale oil regions, oil at $70 a barrel could cut production 28 percent to 800,000 barrels a day by February from 1.1 million barrels a day in July. “The cash flow will go down as the prices go down, the amount of money advanced to these people to continue the drilling will dry up entirely, so you’ll see a marked slowdown in drilling,” said Verleger.

Myths, Lies and Oil Wars

The end of the shale oil bubble would deal a devastating blow to the US oil geopolitics. Today an estimated 55% of US oil production and all the production increase of the past several years comes from fracking for shale oil. With financing cut off because of economic risk amid falling oil prices, shale oil drillers will be forced to halt new drilling that is needed merely to maintain a steady oil output.

The aggressive US foreign policy in the Middle East—its war against Syria’s al-Assad regime, its hardball oil sanctions against Iran, its sanctions against Russian oil projects, its cynical toleration of ISIS in Iraqi oil regions, its refusal to intervene to stabilize the Libyan oil economy but instead to tolerate dis-order are all premised on a cocky view in Washington that the USA is once again the King of Oil in the world and can afford to play high-risk oil geopolitics. The official government agency responsible for advising the CIA, Department of Defense, State Department and White House on energy, the US Department of Energy, has issued projections of US shale oil growth based on myths and lies. That has led the Obama White House to launch oil wars based on those same myths and lies about the rosy prospects of shale oil.

This oily arrogance was epitomized in a speech by then Obama National Security Adviser Tom Donilon. In an April 2013 speech at Columbia University, Donilon, then Obama’s national security adviser, publicly expressed this: “America’s new energy posture allows us to engage from a position of greater strength. Increasing US energy supplies acts as a cushion that helps reduce our vulnerability to global supply disruptions and price shocks. It also affords us a stronger hand in pursuing and implementing our international security goals.”

The next three or so months in the US shale oil domain will be strategic.

F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”
First appeared:

Tanzanian Villagers Take Barrick Gold to the Bailey, Again

Barrick Gold Faces Court in London 

by MiningWatch Canada

Ottawa - London-based African Barrick Gold is being sued in the United Kingdom by Tanzanian villagers for deaths and injuries allegedly caused by security and police guarding the company’s North Mara mine.

Leigh Day partner Shanta Martin, who is representing the Tanzanian claimants, is in Ottawa calling on the company and its majority shareholder, Barrick Gold Corporation, to live up to their corporate responsibility and human rights commitments.

“Impoverished people from remote rural villages who sue multinational companies often face incredible obstacles to having their claims heard by an independent arbiter,” said Martin.

Barrick Gold Corporation says it respects human rights wherever it does business and recognises the dignity of the people they interact with every day.

At the North Mara operations of Barrick’s majority-owned subsidiary, African Barrick Gold, impoverished villagers tempted onto the mine to scratch out rocks for tiny amounts of gold are regularly being shot at with live ammunition.

“Our clients naturally expect companies that say they are transparent and supportive of human rights to live up to those claims,” said Martin.

Nine local villagers are pursuing claims against African Barrick Gold and its Tanzanian subsidiary in the High Court of England and Wales for deaths and injuries they claim were a result of the excessive use of force by mine security and police, including the frequent use of live ammunition.

Six of the claims relate to deaths by gunshot, while three claims are brought by injured young men, including one man made paraplegic by a gunshot wound through his spine. His health is precarious.

On 19 November 2014, the Claimants in the proceedings against African Barrick Gold will seek orders from the English court requiring the company to hand over its internal documents and take other steps to get the case to trial.

“We know African Barrick Gold have these documents and have reviewed them; they have referred to the documents in correspondence since at least 2012,” said Leigh Day partner, Shanta Martin.
“We will be asking the court to require the company to hand them over promptly, as we say they should have two years ago.”

It is not the first time the Tanzanian villagers have challenged African Barrick Gold’s approach to the litigation. In August 2013, the Claimants successfully obtained an injunction to stop African Barrick Gold’s subsidiary from suing them in Tanzania, where they had no legal representation. African Barrick Gold’s subsidiary applied to have a local Tanzanian court declare that they could not be responsible for the conduct of police who provide security at the mine under an agreement with the companies. The English courts blocked the tactic after Leigh Day obtained an injunction to stop African Barrick Gold and its subsidiary from proceeding.

Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada emphasises that access to information is essential for those trying to assert their rights against multinational corporations, as is the opportunity to bring their claims before a competent court.

Coumans recently returned from a human rights assessment at the North Mara mine during which MiningWatch and UK-based Rights and Accountability in Development (RAID) documented continuing incidents of lethal force used by police securing the mine. Health staff in local medical facilities told MiningWatch and RAID that at least ten victims had allegedly died from gunshot wounds received at the mine in a two-month period in 2014. In the past week, Leigh Day informed African Barrick Gold of a further nine legal claims against the company relating to incidents in 2013 and 2014.

MiningWatch and RAID also found that a grievance mechanism put in place by Barrick’s North Mara subsidiary was “seriously flawed.” Coumans stated;

“It is not transparent, it is administered by mine staff in a seemingly ad hoc fashion, and the compensation being offered is neither appropriate nor reflective of the deaths and serious harm that victims have suffered and is not what the victims themselves told us they need to overcome the harm.”

Additionally, Barrick’s grievance mechanism is making provision of these inadequate remedies conditional on the victims signing away their right to sue Barrick in court for the violence they have endured. In this way the company’s mechanism is directly posing a barrier to access to justice.

“This flawed mechanism should not be used by the company to prevent people from accessing the courts and having their claims independently assessed, but that is what African Barrick Gold is trying to do,” says Coumans.

Leigh Day confirms that many of their clients stated they had been specifically targeted to forgo their legal claims and sign up to the Mine’s grievance mechanism.


African Barrick’s North Mara gold mine in Tanzania has long experienced violence allegedly involving both mine security and local police who are paid under an agreement to provide security at the Mine.

For more information contact:

Catherine Coumans, MiningWatch Canada

Barrick devant le tribunal à Londres

(Ottawa, le 6 novembre 2014) African Barrick Gold, dont le siège est situé à Londres, fait l’objet d’une poursuite au Royaume-Uni par des villageois tanzaniens. Les forces de sécurité et de police, qui gardent la mine North Mara de la société, auraient causé des blessures et des morts chez les villageois.

Shanta Martin, associée chez Leigh Day, qui représente les demandeurs tanzaniens, est de passage à Ottawa pour faire appel à la société et à son actionnaire majoritaire, la Barrick Gold Corporation, de remplir ses engagements vis-à-vis de la responsabilité sociétale des entreprises et des droits de la personne.

« Les personnes pauvres qui habitent des villages éloignés en milieu rural et qui poursuivent des multinationales doivent souvent surmonter d’incroyables obstacles pour porter leurs revendications devant un arbitre indépendant », dit Shanta Martin.

La Barrick Gold Corporation déclare qu’elle respecte les droits de la personne partout où elle fait des affaires et qu’elle reconnait la dignité des personnes avec qui elle interagit tous les jours.

A la base d’operations North Mara d’African Barrick Gold, la filiale dont la Barrick Gold Corporation détend la majorité des actions, des villageois pauvres, qui sont tentés à la mine d’or pour trouver des petits grains d’or parmi les rochers, font l’objet des coups de feu à munitions réelles.

« Nos clients s’attendent naturellement à ce que les sociétés qui affirment être transparentes et défendre les droits de la personne respectent leur parole » dit Shanta Martin.

Neuf villageois locaux poursuivent African Barrick Gold et sa filiale tanzanienne devant la Haute cour d’Angleterre et du Pays de Galles pour les morts et les blessures qu’ils prétendent être le résultat d’une utilisation excessive de la force par les forces de sécurité de la mine et la police, y compris l’utilisation fréquente de munitions réelles.

Six réclamations ont trait à des décès par balle tandis que trois recours ont été intentés par des jeunes hommes, y compris un homme qui est devenu paraplégique à la suite d’une blessure par balle à la colonne vertébrale. Sa santé est précaire.

Le 19 novembre 2014, les demandeurs dans la poursuite contre African Barrick Gold tenteront d’obtenir une ordonnance de la cour anglaise obligeant la société à remettre ses documents internes et à prendre d’autres mesures pour en venir au procès.

« Nous savons qu’African Barrick Gold possède ces documents et qu’elle les a examinés; elle renvoie à ces documents dans sa correspondance depuis au moins 2012 », a dit Shanta Martin, associée chez Leigh Day. « Nous demanderons à la cour anglaise d’obliger la société à nous les rendre promptement, comme ils auraient dû faire, à notre avis, il y a deux ans ».

Ce n’est pas la première fois que les villageois tanzaniens contestent l’attitude adoptée par African Barrick Gold à l’égard de ce litige. En août 2013, les requérants ont réussi à obtenir une injonction pour interdire à la filiale d’African Barrick Gold de les poursuivre en Tanzanie, où ils n’avaient aucune représentation juridique. La filiale d’African Barrick Gold a demandé que le tribunal local en Tanzanie déclare qu’ils ne pouvaient être responsables de la conduite de la police qui assure la sécurité à la mine en vertu d’un accord avec les sociétés. Les tribunaux anglais ont bloqué la tactique après que Leigh Day eut obtenu une injonction pour interdire à African Barrick Gold et sa filiale d’aller de l’avant.

Catherine Coumans, de Mines Alerte Canada, souligne que l’accès à l’information est essentiel pour ceux qui cherchent à faire valoir leurs droits contre des sociétés multinationales, tout comme la possibilité de porter leurs réclamations devant un tribunal compétent.

Catherine Coumans est rentrée récemment après avoir procédé à une évaluation du respect des droits de la personne à la mine North Mara, durant laquelle Mines Alerte et l’organisme Rights and Accountability in Development (RAID), du Royaume-Uni, on documenté les incidents incessants de force létale utilisée par les policiers chargés de garder la mine. Le personnel des services de santé des installations médicales locales a dit à Mines Alerte et à RAID qu’au moins 10 victimes seraient mortes de blessures d’armes à feu subies à la mine au cours d’une période de deux mois en 2014. Au cours de la semaine dernière, Leigh Day a signalé à African Barrick Gold neuf autres réclamations juridiques contre la société ayant trait à des incidents survenus en 2013 et 2014.

Mines Alerte et RAID ont aussi constaté que le mécanisme de grief mis en place par la filiale North Mara était « sérieusement déficient ». Selon Catherine Coumans : « Il n’est pas transparent; il est administré par le personnel de la mine de façon apparemment ponctuelle; l’indemnité offerte n’est ni pertinente ni conforme aux morts et aux graves torts qu’ont subis les victimes; il ne correspond pas à ce dont les victimes elles-mêmes nous ont dit avoir besoin pour redresser ces torts. »

De plus, le mécanisme de griefs de Barrick prévoit que les victimes ne peuvent profiter de ces réparations insuffisantes que si elles renoncent par écrit à leur droit de poursuivre Barrick devant les tribunaux pour la violence qu’elles ont subies. Ainsi, le mécanisme de la société entrave directement l’accès à la justice. « La société ne devrait pas utiliser ce mécanisme déficient pour empêcher les gens d’avoir accès aux tribunaux et de faire évaluer leurs réclamations de façon indépendante, mais c’est ce qu’essaie de faire African Barrick Gold », dit Mme Coumans.

Leigh Day confirme que beaucoup de leurs clients ont affirmé avoir été particulièrement ciblés afin qu’ils renoncent à leur poursuite et qu’ils adhèrent au mécanisme de règlement des griefs de la mine.


La mine d’or North Mara d’African Barrick, en Tanzanie, connaît depuis longtemps des épisodes de violence impliquant prétendument les services de sécurité de la mine et la police locale, qui sont rémunérés aux termes d’un accord pour assurer la sécurité à la mine.

Pour plus de renseignements :

Catherine Coumans, Mines Alerte Canada,
courriel :

What's Driving US Oil Production

The Driving Force Behind the US Oil Boom

by James Stafford -

The shale revolution’s sweet spot is oilfield services, the lower-risk backbone of the American oil and gas boom that pays off regardless of a play’s economics.

Behind the stardom of the explorers and producers who have put themselves on the revolutionary shale map and absorb most of the risk—are the service providers who make up a highly lucrative market segment.

The US land-based rig count rose 3% over the last quarter, reaching a two-year high of 1,870 active rigs. A major factor in this growth has been an uptick in horizontal drilling in the Permian Basin, Texas’ revived giant, where the rig count was up 21% year-on-year.

And while oil prices slumped in October, drilling activity continues to rise according to Baker Hughes, the third-largest oil services company. Baker Hughes’ rig count is up 3.8% in the fourth quarter of this year, compared to the third quarter.

RBC Capital Markets estimates that 20,061 horizontal wells will be drilled in the United States alone this year, with that number increasing by well over 1,000 in 2015. Overall, analysts are projecting a 5% increase in the US land rig count next year, with horizontal drilling rigs—already up 24% over last year--being the real movers here.

Oil prices are “no longer the only driver of that bus because continued efficiencies from pad drilling, hydraulic fracturing and increased stages per well continue to increase recoveries and lower costs per unit of oil and gas produced”, Natural Gas Intel quoted analysts as saying.

All the drilling poises the oil and gas services industry for big gains. For potential investors, it’s a good time, too, because the past couple of weeks have seen oil services oversold after West Texas Intermediate and Brent crude prices took a dive coming off their summer highs.

The Q3 conference calls from industry giants Baker Hughes Inc. and Schlumberger Ltd. were very positive—they see no changes in overall spending outlook from their customers.

Baker Hughes’ third-quarter profit rose 10% on higher revenue across all segments.

And even though oil services giants such as Halliburton are low risk and aren’t experiencing any downturn whatsoever as a result of the oil price slump, their stocks have been crushed.

Small cap services stocks have fared even worse. But business continues to boom for these operators as well.

Dave Werklund is Chairman of Calgary-based Aveda Transportation and Energy Services —whose stock has gone from $5.85-$4 in the last two months, despite no downturn in business.

At over $100 million revenue, Aveda is the largest pure-play drill rig mover in the United States. Today its footprint covers over 80% of the rig-moving market, from Alberta all the way down to Texas.

“With over 2,000 active rigs operating across North America today, and an average rig being moved approximately 17 times per year, the rig-moving industry is set for phenomenal gains,” Dave Werklund, Executive Chairman of Calgary-based Aveda Transportation and Energy Services told

This little known segment is actually a $2-billion niche in the services sector.

Once horizontal wells are drilled from a pad, the fully constructed rig has to be dismantled, moved to the next location using hydraulic walking or skidding systems, and then put back together.

Producers are demanding this work be done faster and safer than ever before. It’s a service that continues to be in high demand.

The advent of pad drilling, which allows the drilling of multiple wells from a single pad, is also transforming the services industry from equipment design and leasing to the task of moving the larger loads from pad to pad.

“With the conversion to pad drilling in the US, the size and weight of the rigs have increased exponentially,” says Werklund. That was a lucky break for Aveda, as they already had much bigger trucks in their fleet because of the bigger rigs their original Canadian customers used. As soon as they came down to the US, producers began using their services.

The general consensus is that American producers will not stop drilling even with an oil price of $80 per barrel. Instead, they’re digging in.

The lesson for investors? While energy service stocks have seen a crushing six weeks—in tandem with oil prices—activity levels have not slowed.

BREAKING: Nothing Indeed New Under Sun - Proofs of Aphorism in Found Basement Papers

Children of Lies: Fragments From the Long and Wasted Years

by Chris Floyd - Empire Burlesque

In the course of a massive clean-out the other day, I came upon a box of overstuffed folders and musty papers — copies of some of the first pieces I’d ever had published, going back 35 years. For almost two decades they’d lain unseen in the bottom of an old trunk in my parents’ basement, stored there during one of the several peripatetic upheavals that punctuated my early adulthood. Then a freak flood hit the town, and most of the papers were damaged beyond rescue, fused into bundles that couldn’t be prised apart without crumbling into pieces.

Only one small box made it through; it had been sitting on top of a cache of love letters and other tender memorabilia destroyed by the water. This survivor I duly carted back across the ocean, to my home in England, where my peripateticism had come to an end. There it was promptly relegated to a new dark corner, to molder and yellow for several years more — until last week’s day of cleaning.

Naturally, I took the opportunity to let nostalgia draw me away from my chores, and spent an hour or so leafing through the articles. But beyond the bemusement at my early style (an odd mix of hellfire preacher and Gore Vidal manqué), I was most struck by the grim continuity between then and now. The same themes, and in many cases virtually the same content, sounded over and over, like “an echo from the future,” as Pasternak put it. With only a slight shifting of names, those yellowed pieces of political commentary could have been written in our era.

It’s all there: illegal wars based on lies; escalating inequality and militarization; the growing lawlessness of the elite; the radicalization of the Right by theocrats and corporate Birchers; the anemia of a "Left" sinking into accommodation and careerism; the manufactured hysteria over "terrorism" to justify the unchecked expansion of state power; the ineradicable racism; and the sinister embrace of "American exceptionalism" to hide the hollowness of a society in deep moral and physical decay, rotting under the sway of neoliberal extremism, letting its communities and infrastructure collapse, scorning the very idea of a “common good.”

Even some of the names were the same. In the clips there were rants against a feckless warmonger named Bush, against sell-outs to empire and Big Money by Democratic pols named Clinton and Kerry. There were howls of disbelief as the nation was hustled into a baseless war in, yes, Iraq, attacking an “evil power” which had once been used as a convenient tool to advance Washington’s agenda but had gone off the reservation and was suddenly transformed into an existential threat to civilization, its long-ignored and oft-excused atrocities brandished like a bloody shirt to justify war (and war profiteering). This was in 1991; we saw the same scenario played out in 2003 — and once again this year, in the new war against the new “existential threat” of ISIS.

In fact, perhaps the best, most succinct piece of political writing I’ve ever done concerned that 1991 war crime, the invasion of Iraq on behalf of the Bush Senior’s old business partners, the Kuwaiti royals. Oddly enough, it was not a column in this case but a letter to the editor, published in that well-known bastion of radicalism — Knoxville, Tennessee. It read, in its entirety:

“Concerning the war, and all the noble-sounding reasons adduced for it, and brutal sentimentality of the propaganda and ‘reportage’ surrounding it, I can say only this: I think we are living in a world of lies — lies that don’t even know they are lies, because they are the children and grandchildren of lies.”

In some ways, that is the sum total of what I’ve been writing all these years, not just about war but other issues as well. There is a despair in it; a despair of ever being able to speak a simple word of truth and make it heard through the lies that have been heaped on our heads — and bred into our bones — since the day we were born. Especially if, as in my case, you were not preaching to the choir but writing for a general audience, hoping to make a difference, hoping to – in the now-discarded and derided parlance of old – raise consciousness. It was almost impossible to speak of the reality of any given situation without having to fill in whole volumes of history which our masters and their media scribes had rigorously suppressed. Most readers literally had no idea what you were talking about, they had no context for processing the information.

Things are worse today, of course. The rise of Fox News, Bush Junior’s war crimes, Barack Obama’s disastrous entrenchment and expansion of the Permanent War State, the now-total takeover of society by the 1-Percenter Kleptocracy, the utter degradation of the national ‘debate’ and democracy itself: the past's rough beasts have grown gargantuan, the lies are higher and wider, the rot is deeper. But in another sense, nothing had changed; and certainly, despite expending millions of furious words, I had changed nothing, nothing at all.

I sat there with the yellowed papers, my meager share of the “fragments shored against our ruins,” all that was left after the love letters were gone. And I thought of a song I heard an old man sing on a London stage last winter: "So much for tears -- so much for those long and wasted years."

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Red Cross to Investigate Canada's Immigration Jails

Ontario finally allows Red Cross investigation of immigration jails, but deaths and indefinite imprisonment continues


Toronto End Immigration Detention Network (EIDN), Canada’s leading detention watch group, welcomes the decision to allow Red Cross access to Ontario’s provincial prisons for the first time since 2008. However, the lack of any real oversight of prison conditions of immigration detainees adds to the dire need to end maximum-security imprisonment of immigrants without trial or charges. A GlobalNews report today documented 11 deaths in immigration detention custody since 2000.

Since September 2013, over 100 migrants held in a maximum-security prison in Lindsay, ON have been on a protest strike against endless detentions, sham judicial review processes, and imprisonment in maximum-security jails. EIDN is coordinating the strike, and in June 2014 released an expose on immigration detention showing signs of political interference in detention release processes. In July 2014, the United Nations condemned Canadian immigration detention practices in response to an application EIDN filed.

“Endless, cruel and illegal imprisonment is part of Stephen Harper’s lock ‘em up agenda, but why are provincial governments, particularly Ontario where most detainees are jailed, co-operating with this injustice? Wynne and other Premiers need to stop upholding Harpers’ anti-immigrant platform,” says Tings Chak, an organizer with EIDN.

Chak adds, “Minister Yasir Naqvi signed an agreement on October 20th, but we don’t know when the probe will actually take place. The Red Cross must immediately be given access to all prisons, and their findings should be made public as soon as possible. The Red Cross report will show what we already know about the dismal conditions, maximum security restrictions, and lack of access to legal rights in provincial jails. We know that prisons should never be used to enforce immigration laws.”

Last year, 7,373 immigration detainees spent 183,928 days in prison, equivalent to about 504 years according to government data obtained by EIDN. In 2012, the year of the Red Cross report, of the 8,973 immigration detainees in Canada, 63% were in Ontario. A third of all detainees are held in provincial prisons, and designated immigration holding centres only exist in Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia.

“Immigration detention is a violent, brutal system that separates families, jails children and has drastic effects on mental health. As a result, Jan Szamko and Lucia Vega Jimenez have died in immigration detention and countless others are traumatized,” says Mina Ramos from EIDN.
“The Feds and Provinces are covering up this inhumane treatment by shutting out oversight.”

Ramos insists that a wholesale shift is needed, “Immigration detainees in Canada can be jailed indefinitely without trial or charge. The entire judicial review process that is meant to uphold the integrity of immigration detention is broken, a fact that has been confirmed by the UN. This system does not need tweaking in the form of GPS units or more minimum security jails, it needs a total transformation that prioritizes community support and immigration status regularization.”

Media Contacts:
End Immigration Detention Network Organizers

Tings Chak
Mina Ramos

Also, please see:
- United Nations opinion on Canadian immigration detention:

- Groundbreaking study of immigration detention in Canada:

- Backgrounder on 1-year long, and ongoing immigrant protest-strike:

- Global News: ‘Canada’s Unwanted: Non-citizens paid to leave, jailed without charge, die in secret.’