Saturday, November 26, 2016

Castro: In Goodness and Bad, A Full Man of the Enlightenment

Fidel Castro 1926 - 2016: The Cuban Revolutionary Almost Outlasted 11 US Presidents

by Greg Grandin - The Nation

November 26, 2016

Fidel Castro is dead at 90. He took power in 1959, at the head of the joyful, raucous, and brash Cuban Revolution, which was immediately placed under siege by Washington.

Castro almost outlasted 11 US presidents—Eisenhower, Kennedy, LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, and passing in the waning days of Obama’s last term. Perhaps he just couldn’t bear the thought of President Donald Trump.

Having been sanctimoniously lectured by all 11 US presidents on what constitutes proper democratic procedure, he might have thought Trump, about to take office with a minority of the vote and with significant voter suppression, a vindication.

I doubt it. In recent years, since he gave up power to his brother Raúl, Castro has dedicated himself to writing lengthy thought pieces, many of them on global warming, war, the fascism of neoliberalism, poverty, and other threats to humanity. Castro was a famous optimist and an irrepressible strategist, finding ways out of the grimmest situations (such as helping to nurture the coming to power of an electoral left in Latin America, which ended Cuba’s post-Cold War geopolitical isolation). His good friend, Gabriel García Márquez, once said Castro was a “sore loser” who would not rest until he was able to “invert the terms of the situation and convert defeat into a victory.” But, after having dodged by some counts 639 assassination attempts by Washington, Castro is finally at rest. The nightmare of Trump might have been a US president too far.

There’s going to be a lot said about him in the coming days, and hopefully the recent thaw between Obama and Raul will permit a more generous assessment than what otherwise would have been on offer. A good starting place, for those wanting to go beyond the obits, would be the closest thing we have from Castro to an autobiography. About a decade ago, Castro did over a hundred hours of interviews with Ignacio Ramonet, published in English in 2008 as My Life. In it, Castro relates a story that captures his incongruities nicely: One of his earliest political memories, he tells Ramonet, is of the Spanish Civil War. His Galician father was a franquista, as were his Jesuit teachers, who prayed for Spain’s martyred priests. But he also learned of the Civil War, and what was being fought over, from Spanish nationalists. When asked by his family’s illiterate cook, a “fire-breathing Republican,” for news of the war, the 9-year old read him stories that played up loyalist success because he wanted to make him “feel better.” Thus Castro’s very first act of censorship was done in kindness.

Another story has Castro, in 1939, writing FDR to practice his English, requesting “a ten dollars green bill.” Roosevelt replied, but didn’t include the ten bucks, giving Castro a joke he’d use throughout his life: if FDR had paid up, then perhaps he wouldn’t have led a nationalist, anti-interventionist revolution. Nationalist resentment is sometimes built from fabricated grievances. Not in Cuba. In the late 19th century, rebels against Spanish rule forged an antiracist and democratic nationalism, only to be preempted by the United States’s 1898 invasion. Over the subsequent years, the US regularly intervened on the island—the Marines occupied it in 1906-09, 1912, and 1917-22—and just at the moment when FDR proclaimed his Good Neighbor Policy, his ambassador in Havana was openly working to oust a reformist president. Castro incarnated his generation’s finely tuned sense of anticipated betrayal and disappointment, animated by the spirit of New Left volunteerism, in a belief that the course of history could be bent to his will.

For decades now, celebrants and critics of the Cuban Revolution have played a mugs game of trying to pinpoint the moment when Castro turned to Marxism. Castro himself has long hedged on this question, downplaying his populist roots in order to claim a purer socialist pedigree, though in My Life he acknowledges equally the influence of José Martí’s “ethics,” which for Castro meant national dignity, and Marxism-Leninism’s historical “compass.” He admitted favoring the moralizing Marx, whom Castro, a Jesuit-educated lawyer, admired, for his “austerity” and “self-sacrifice.” “If Ulysses was captivated by the songs of the sirens,” Castro said, then he “was captivated by the irrefutable truths of the Marxist denunciations.”

It’s a tempting analogy; after all, it is only by closing his eyes and willfully blinding himself to the ugliness of the singers that Ulysses could be seduced by their song. But explaining the Cuban Revolution’s tilt toward the Soviet Union by pinpointing when its captain broke free from the course of moderation misses the obvious: if Castro had been a Cuban Communist he probably would have been more willing to accommodate himself to the realities of Washington’s power in the hemisphere; the Partido Socialista Popular—as the Cuban Communist Party was called—had carved out a space in national politics by entering into successive backroom deals with corrupt regimes. It was Cuban populist-nationalism that was unyielding. “We are proud of the history of our country; we learned it in school and have grown up hearing of freedom, justice and human rights,” he said in a lengthy defense at his 1953 trial for his first failed attempt to overthrow Batista, “and the Island will first sink into the sea before we consent to be the slaves of anyone.”

There are many other arguments to be had about Castro and the Cuban Revolution, about the relationship of political to social rights, about whether, considering the fate of other social democratic experiments in Latin America—in Guatemala, for example, or Chile—the Cuban Revolution would have survived had Castro not shut down civil society, and if that survival was worth it. In My Life, Castro lists his country’s accomplishments in education and healthcare, advances in science and medicine, contribution to decolonization and defeating back white supremacy in Africa, ongoing humanitarian internationalism and the audacity of having survived “thousands of acts of sabotage and terrorists attacks organized by the government of the United States.” “What,” he asks, “is Cuba blamed for?”

The list is long, and over the decades the defense of the Cuban state has been, for many, deeply dehumanizing. And since Castro himself has repeatedly emphasized the importance of the individual in history—a “man’s personality can become an objective factor,” he once said—he will be held to account for the high cost involved in the revolution’s survival. And the most damning criticism leveled at the Cuban Revolution is not that it is repressive but that its repression was for naught, with all the old problems that plagued Cuba prior to the revolution having returned, including sex tourism, race-based economic inequality, and corruption—problems that will worsen if rapprochement is allowed to proceed.

In all his goodness and badness, Castro was a full man of the Enlightenment. It’s fitting, though depressing, that he’s left us on the cusp of a new darkness. But as he once said, the ideals of “Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality,” though routinely trampled, “will always sprout anew, everywhere.”

Greg Grandin teaches history at New York University and is the author, most recently, of Kissinger’s Shadow.

All Hail the New Republic: Stripping Voters, Flipping Off Democracy

Did Trump Win Through Vote Flipping and Vote Stripping? 


November 26, 2016

Robert Fitrakis, election lawyer and international election observer, says had the outcome on November 8 occurred in another country the State Department would have questioned the integrity of the vote

Fidel Presente!

Passing: Fidel Castro

by Victoria Friends for Cuba

November 26, 2016

Friends; the news that our beloved friend Fidel Castro at 90 years of age passed away at 10:29 on Friday, Nov. 26 leaves us and so many others around the globe with great sorrow and sadness.

Although his physical presence may not be among us any longer his teachings with his examples of building a better life on our planet for everyone everywhere will remain with humanity for a long time to come. His love for building a world without hunger, wars, injustice, sickness, ignorance or any kind of oppression and dedicating his whole life to it has really been incredible to witness.

Such a great leader, a great revolutionary, a great teacher, a great man humanity will always look up to.

In the coming days many tears will fall from everywhere for such a man who did so much with so little for the Cuban people and for so many others in poorer countries around the globe. His determination to achieve the impossible will in no doubt keep giving strength and direction to so many of us in the struggle to build a better world for years to come.

In honour of such a great man this is definitively a time for all of us to renew our commitment to defend what he stood for and the legacy that Fidel leaves to all mankind.

Viva Fidel! Viva Cuba! Ever Onward to Victory!


 Official Statement from the Council of State of the Republic of Cuba

On the occasion of the demise of the Commander in Chief of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz, the Council of State of the Republic of Cuba declares nine days of National Mourning, as from the 06:00 hrs. of November 26th, until the 12:00 hrs. of December 4th, 2016.

For as long as the National Mourning is in place, public activities and shows shall not be held, the national flag shall be flown at half-staff in public buildings and military facilities. The radio and television shall broadcast informative, patriotic and historic programs.
 Council of State of the Republic of Cuba

Press release by the Organizing Commission

The Organizing Commission of the Central Committee of the Party, the State and the Government for the funeral honors of Commander in Chief Fidel Castro Ruz, informs the population that as from November 28th, from 09:00 until the 22:00 hrs., in the Jose Marti Memorial, the population of the capital city will be able to pay a befitting tribute to their leader, which will extend until November 29th, from 09:00 until 12:00 hrs.

On November 28th and 29th, from 09:00 until 22:00 hrs., in the locations that will be timely informed in each locality, including the capital city, all Cubans will have the possibility to pay tribute and sign a solemn oath to fulfill the concept of Revolution, expressed by our historic leader on May 1st, 2000, as an expression of the resolve to continue his ideas and our socialism.

On November 29th, at 19:00 hrs., a mass rally will take place at Jose Marti Revolution Square in the capital city.

On the next day, his ashes will be carried following the same itinerary that remembers the Caravan of Freedom of January 1959, until the province of Santiago de Cuba, ending on December 3rd.
On this same day, at the 19:00 hrs., a mass rally will take place in Antonio Maceo square.
The inhumation ceremony will take place at the 07:00 hrs. on December 4th, at Santa Ifigenia Cemetery.
 Likewise, our people is advised that the Military Review and march of the combatant people for the 60th Anniversary of the landing of the members of the Granma Yacht expedition, the day of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, is postponed and will be held on January 2nd, 2017.
Organizing Commission

Friday, November 25, 2016

Fake News! A Mea Culpa for the Age of McCarthyism 2.0

Smear-Mongering: A Mea Culpa for the Age of McCarthyism 2.0

by Chris Floyd  - Empire Burlesque

25 November 2016

OK, I guess I’d better come clean. It seems that I must be a paid agent of the Kremlin. After all, I write for CounterPunch Magazine — for money! I used to write regularly for — for money! I’ve contributed articles to the Baltimore Gazette. I’ve often quoted and linked to stories from the Black Agenda Report. I’ve regularly quoted and linked to articles by prize-winning AP/Newsweek reporter Robert Parry for years.

According to the Washington Post, all of this makes me either a paid Kremlin propagandist or a Kremlin dupe. There is no other alternative.

A most UnAmerican Senator, Joe McCarthy

And who says this? A collection of completely anonymous “experts” from a group no one has ever heard of until it materialized for the Post article.

The group, PropOrNot, put out a list of publications and websites that are “outlets for Russian propaganda,” a list that included all the venues named above, as well as several others which have been long-time critics of various aspects of American foreign policy. These were all mixed in with obvious propaganda mills and clickbait factories (of whatever provenance).

The story is a smear piece just like Tailgunner Joe and Roy Cohn used to make. It makes a direct equation between dissent and treason, using the crudest, stupidest kind of cod-reasoning: if you have criticized a policy or action that Vladimir Putin has also criticized at some point (even if the reasons for your critique might differ wildly from his), then you are automatically a Russian agent or a “useful idiot.” That’s it. That’s the sole binary in our political world, according to new McCarthyism: either you must accept everything the US government says and does at face value, believe it implicitly and support it whole-heartedly, or else you’re a traitor acting on behalf of the Russkies — or you might as well be.

I remember this asinine stance from the old days, when anyone who opposed the Vietnam War was a commie, when Martin Luther King was obviously motivated solely by Kremlin gold to get the darkies all stirred up. You’d think that our modern progressives would be ashamed to push this ugly line — yet they seem to be its greatest enthusiasts. And so here we are again, in the 21st century — after COINTELPRO, the Church Commission, Iran-Contra, the Iraq War lies, etc. etc., etc.: if you dare question Washington’s line, you must be a traitor, or a fool who cannot possibly think for himself or herself without being spoon-fed by Moscow.

Oddly enough, there is only one kind of critic of US foreign policy that is not regarded as a Kremlin agent: those who criticize Washington for not being even more bloodthirsty and aggressive in its foreign policy. Those kind of outlets never land on our new McCarthyite lists. And here’s another odd fact: PropORNot’s list of those who peddle “fake news” doesn't include, which is one of the master bullshit purveyors of the age.

Oh well, I’m just glad the Washington Post was a bit more skeptical toward state power during the Watergate era. (Today it would be: “Where did you get this fake news crap about the President and a ‘cover-up,’ Bernstein? Russian agents? What are you, some kind of commie?”) And I guess we can take comfort in the fact that in just a few weeks, it’ll be OK for progressives to be critical of American policy again, once it’s in the hands of Donald Trump.

But what’s going to happen to commie traitor pinko nogoodniks like me? If I write just as scathingly of Trump’s drone wars, deaths squads, covert ops, subversions and White House death squads as I have of Obama’s (and Bush’s), will my flow of Kremlin gold be cut off? I mean, it’s not like ANYONE can ever have a consistent, considered opposition to certain policies and actions no matter who commits them, right? And OMG — what if Putin finds about my critiques of his own brutal policies and actions? Whose list will I end up on then? It's all so confusing! But fortunately, we have the Washington Post and its anonymous experts to guide us through the modern McCarthyite morass.

Celebrating Native American Month with Russell

Native American month? A Dakota pipe-dream?

by Russell Brand - The Trews (E375)

25 Nov 2016

Part 2 of our Thanksgiving Trews focuses on the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline and protests of the Standing Rock Sioux.

Footage courtesy of PBS News Hour, featuring William Brangham.
Original report here

Subscribe Here Now:
Produced & edited by Gareth Roy
Trews Theme by The Rubberbandits

Thursday, November 24, 2016

IRS Cracks Down on Cryptocurrency

American Tax Office (IRS) Goes After American Cryptocurrency Traders at Coinbase

by Richard Kastelein - Blockchain News

November 24, 2016

Motherboard is reporting that the US Internal Revenue Service is seeking the personal data of all U.S. Coinbase users who transacted between 2013 and 2015 that a Coinbase spokesman said the exchange site was “very concerned with the indiscriminate breadth of the government’s request.”

Coinbase, which is headquartered in San Francisco, California, is a company which facilitates transactions of digital currencies like bitcoin and Ethereum.

Two and a half weeks ago, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed paperwork in federal court (California Northern District Court, Case No. 3:16-cv-06658-JSC) requesting John Does, United States persons who, at any time during the period January 1, 2013, through December 31, 2015, conducted transactions in a convertible virtual currency as defined in IRS Notice 2014-21.

Here, based on the IRS’s experience, U.S. taxpayers have made use of virtual currencies to evade the reporting and payment of taxes. See Utzke Decl. at 30, 34. As described above, Senior Revenue Agent Utzke is aware of three instances of U.S. taxpayers using virtual currency transactions to conceal income, two involve Coinbase.

The summons comes shortly after the Treasury Department’s inspector general issued a report chastising the tax agency for not taking more aggressive action to curb “unlawful activities by those who use virtual currencies.”

“None of the I.R.S. operating divisions have developed any type of compliance initiatives or guidelines for conducting examinations or investigations specific to tax noncompliance related to virtual currencies,” the report, delivered in September, said.

Coinbase is one of the largest exchangers globally of bitcoin into U.S. dollars and the largest exchanger in the U.S. of bitcoin into U.S. dollars and Coinbase claims that it has 4.8 million users trading over $5 billion in virtual currencies making it “the world’s most popular way to buy and sell bitcoin and Ethereum.

Coinbase stated on their website:

Our customers may be aware that the U.S. government filed a civil petition yesterday in federal court seeking disclosure of all Coinbase U.S. customers’ records over a three year period. The government has not alleged any wrongdoing on the part of Coinbase and its petition is predicated on sweeping statements that taxpayers may use virtual currency to evade taxes.

Although Coinbase’s general practice is to cooperate with properly targeted law enforcement inquiries, we are extremely concerned with the indiscriminate breadth of the government’s request. Our customers’ privacy rights are important to us and our legal team is in the process of examining the government’s petition. In its current form, we will oppose the government’s petition in court. We will continue to keep our customers informed on developments in this matter.

The IRS is asking Coinbase to turn over records for users who show:

“…any U.S. address, U.S. telephone number, U.S. e-mail domain, or U.S. bank account.”

Requested records include but are not limited to user profiles, user preferences, user security settings and history, user payment methods, and other information related to the funding sources for the account/wallet/vault. And that’s just for starters. IRS is also seeking all records of account/wallet/vault activity including but not limited to records identifying the date, amount, and type of transaction, names or other identifiers of parties to the transaction; requests or instructions to send or receive bitcoin; and all correspondence.

NoDAPL: Cowboy Cop Cavalry and the New Wounded Knee

Wounded Knee III in the making? It’s Cowboy Cops Cavalry against Peaceful Indians and their Anglo Supporters at Standing Rock

by Dave Lindorff - This Can't Be Happening

November 22, 2016

The struggle at Standing Rock, North Dakota, between the Sioux people and their supporters and the oil corporations and banks trying to run a dangerous pipeline for filthy Bakkan crude oil through their sacred lands and underneath the Missouri River was cranked up to a new level of violence Sunday and in ensuing days as National Guard troops and the Morton County Sheriff’s Department, bolstered by volunteers from various other police departments conducted an all-night attack using maximum violence, including flash-bang concussion grenades, rubber bullets, mace, teargas and three water cannons -- this at a time the temperature on the prairie had fallen to a low of 22 degrees fahrenheit.

The grenade wound suffered by Sophia Wolansky
blew away the muscle, exposing bone, looking like a
war injury, not the typical police-abuse type of injury.

The casualties of this one-sided battle against peaceful protesters on a bridge were enormous, with some 300 of the estimated 400 protesting water protectors, both native people and non-native supporters, injured, 26 of them seriously.

There was evidence that police were aiming rubber bullets at protesters’ heads and groins to inflict maximum pain and damage, with eight of the injured hospitalized, including a 13-year-old girl shot in the face, whose eye was reportedly damaged.

The gravest injuries were a tribal elder who suffered a cardiac arrest, and Sophia Wolansky, a 21-year-old New York City resident who had come to back the Standing Rock Sioux in their struggle to halt construction of the pipeline. She was hit in the arm by a flash-bang grenade thrown at her by a Morton County Sheriff’s deputy, which blew up on impact, blowing away the flesh and muscle and reportedly some of the nerves and bone of the elbow joint. She has been evacuated to a hospital in Chicago where physicians and nurses are fighting to save her arm and hand from an amputation.

Wolansky’s father Wayne, a 61-year old lawyer in New York, angrily called on President to put a halt to the violent repression at Standing Rock. He said of his daughter’s injury, which was the result of a flash-bang concussion grenade being thrown directly at her, “This is the wound of someone who's a warrior, who was sent to fight in a war," Wayne said.

"It's not supposed to be a war. She's peacefully trying to get people to not destroy the water supply. And they're trying to kill her." 

Concussion grenades are not supposed to be used to target people.

The attack on Sunday night, which has been rightly condemned by UN human rights observers as an atrocity, harks back to the simultaneous country-wide crushing of the Occupy movement occupations in cities across the US during early November, 2011, when local police aided in some cases by armed federal parks police, assaulted occupiers with maximum violence, almost always at night, barring the media from witnessing their deliberate and coordinated over-the-top violence.

In that case, an aggressive campaign of legal discovery by the Partnership for Civil Justice using the Freedom of Information Act, resulted in the unearthing of documents from both the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI proving there had been a concerted campaign by those federal agencies to coordinate the crushing of the Occupy Movement. That campaign urged police to use maximum violence, to operate at night, and to share the results of their attacks with other city police departments so that tactics of repression that “worked,” could be replicated.

It would appear that the repressive lessons learned by police agencies in 2011 are now being used as a kind of repression handbook by Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier and his deputies against the protesting Sioux water protectors and their Anglo supporters.

There is no indication that such vicious repression is working though. Even as the brutal assault last Sunday night and Monday morning sent dozens of people to area hospitals, more brave people continued to pour into Standing Rock to support the struggle of the Standing Rock Sioux and the many representatives of some 300 US tribes around the country, and the representatives of indigenous peoples from around the world fighting this battle.

The decision to run the so-called Dakota Access Pipeline through Sioux sacred lands, some of it formerly awarded to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe by US treaty, but later stolen from them, stands in stark contrast to an earlier decision to reroute it from a planned Missouri River crossing point near North Dakota’s capital city of Bismarck. There, protests by the local (white, middle-class) public forced a rethink by the companies behind the pipeline, and the US Army Corps of Engineers. They decided to alter the planned route to run it through Indian territory instead.

The Standing Rock Tribal Council has called on President Obama to put a halt to this dangerous and obscene project, suggesting that as president he has the power to declare the crossing site a National Historic Site, thus protecting it from such defilement. The president, of course, could also look at the local Sheriff’s repressive and and violent tactics against an Indian people, and simply federalize local National Guard troops, ordering them to force local police to stand down instead of follow the Republican governor’s orders to participate in the repression.

That he hasn’t already done so speaks volumes about this president’s lack of courage and of principle. In 2014, President Obama visited the Standing Rock Sioux, and acknowledged their centuries of abuse by the US government. Now, however, that abuse is occurring on this president’s watch, and incredibly, despite the extent of the violence, he has done nothing to stop it.

It’s time for all decent Americans to take a stand in support of the Sioux People of Standing Rock. Contact the White House at 202-456-1414 and demand that the president send troops to stand between Sioux water protectors and their local law-enforcement assailants, and to have Federal Marshals arrest those who commit acts of brutality.

The militarized response to peaceful protest at Standing Rock should stand as a warning to all who would protest America’s slide into totalitarianism. What the government will do to Native Americans and their Anglo supporters today is what we can probably expect them to do to any of us who protest in this new Trumpian America.

The corporate media meanwhile, have been for the most part shameless and useless in this enormous conflict between native people and the state. Even as local sheriff’s deputies launched what appears to be building into a third Wounded Knee-style massacre at Standing Rock, the press keeps referring to a “confrontation” between protesters and law-enforcement, as though it is a battle being fought between equals. NPR yesterday ran with a story that referred to the Standing Rock challenge to the pipeline as “a magnet for activists.”

The NPR reporter might more honestly have called it a “magnet for police” since many of the “law enforcement” thugs attacking the peaceful water protectors are volunteers from neighboring states’ police departments -- people anxious for a chance to play “cavalry” in this latest iteration of America’s murderous history of Indian Wars.

A Determinedly Dangerous and Shortsighted Push to ‘Contain Iran’

The Dangerous and Shortsighted Push to ‘Contain Iran’ 

by James Carden - The Nation

November 19, 2016  

Once again, war clouds are gathering over the Middle East. This week, the House of Representatives passed H.R.5732, also known as the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2016. Sponsored by Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY), the bill was lobbied for in Washington by members of the so-called Syrian moderate opposition as well as by representatives of the White Helmets.

According to a statement issued in July by Engel and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA), (above) the bill would “impose new sanctions on supporters of Syria’s Assad Regime, encourage negotiations to end the crisis, and kick off investigations into the eventual prosecution of war criminals.”

Nor is that all. The bill also sets the stage for the implementation of so-called safe zones and a no-fly zone over Syria. It requires the administration to “submit to the appropriate congressional committee” a report that “assesses the potential effectiveness, risks and operational requirements of the establishment and maintenance of a no-fly zone over part of all of Syria.” Further, the bill calls for the administration to detail the “operational and legal requirements for US and coalition air power to establish a no-fly zone in Syria.”

The bill, if passed, would set the stage for the United States to conduct a wider war against the Assad regime, pulling resources away from the fight against ISIS and directing US military force to further the agenda of Islamists who seek the overthrow of the secular Baathist regime in Damascus. Further, the bill’s sponsors seem willfully oblivious to the dangerous course the bill would set the US military on given the fact that Russian and Iranian troops are on the ground in Syria. Russia has also moved its aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, into the Mediterranean and has S300 and S400 missile-defense batteries in Syria, which it has pledged to use in defense of its client Assad.

The timing of the bill’s passage in the House should not been seen as coincidental. Ominously, the push to pass the Caesar Bill comes at the same time outside groups are hoping to capitalize on President-elect Donald Trump’s pledge to kill the Iran nuclear deal. What little is known about Trump’s burgeoning national-security team indicates that the incoming administration will be focused on the alleged threat Iran poses to US interests in the region. In this, the administration can be confident that they will have the support not just of reflexive Republican hardliners who control both houses of Congress, but of incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, himself a prominent opponent of the Iran deal.

A shadowy advocacy group called the 45 Committee has begun running television ads hyping the Iran threat as well, urging viewers to call President Obama to support the Iran Sanctions Act Extension, which was also passed in the House this week. That bill, sponsored by Rep. Ed Royce, would extend US sanctions on Iran for another 10 years.

The passage of the Caesar Syrian Civilian Protection Act, then, should be seen as part and parcel of a broader attempt by congressional and incoming administration hardliners (encouraged by the Likud and Sunni Gulf state lobbies inside the Beltway) to contain what they perceive as Iranian expansionist designs in the Middle East.

A Pernicious Appeals to Progressive Nationalist “Values”

Hercules and the Goose: The Pernicious Progressive Appeals to National “Values”  

by Chris Floyd - Empire Burlesque

24 November 2016

This article has been making the rounds in UK political circles. It’s a piece from by Chaminda Jayanetti: “Britain will betray itself for Trump’s coins of silver. British values are being forgotten in the hunt for trade deals.”

I must say, when I read such formulations, my guard goes up immediately.

“British values are being forgotten?” Um, which British values are being forgotten, even “betrayed”? The values displayed in Iraq? The values displayed in Yemen? The values displayed in years of austerity budgets, endorsed by the electorate in 2015? The values displayed in Brexit? The values displayed in decades of arms deals and war profiteering? The values displayed in the revolving door between corporate power and government service, year after year after year, guaranteeing contracts and sweetheart deals for some of the most avaricious, amoral firms on the planet? Which "values," precisely, will be "betrayed" when UK elites cozy up to Trump?

When can we do away with these childish categories at last – "British values," "American values," etc.? In every case, “American values” or “British values” are those values that WE value; any manifestation of other values are dismissed as “un-British” or “un-American” — even if those other values are pervasive and ascendant in our societies for decades at a time. Are some things wrong, or not? Is Trump-style corruption, moral and ethical, wrong, or not? Is toadying up to such degradation wrong, or not? Is aggressive war, as in Iraq, wrong or not? If something is wrong, in itself, what does it matter if it “betrays” someone’s selective idea of what a nation’s “values” might be?

I understand the use of such language as a propaganda tool. I used it myself back in the Bush years — “Aggressive war violates American values; true patriots would oppose this outrage” — as a way to get “ordinary people” to listen to anti-war arguments they might otherwise dismiss. But I’ve come to see over the years that such approaches are useless. These appeals to “patriotism” and “British or American values” are meaningless, because everyone defines these values for themselves. They also bolster the whole idea of “exceptionalism” and moral exclusiveness inherent in the concept of patriotism: “Don’t support the Iraq war (or X or Y); that’s not our values, we’re better than that, we have an inherent goodness that is being ‘betrayed’ by this action.” Thus we whitewash a multitude of other sins committed by our governments — or embedded in our society. “Oh, it’s only this that ‘betrays’ our inherent goodness, is it?” In response, a good liberal will say, “oh no, we have many other problems — racism, sexism, oppression, economic injustice, supporting tyrants, etc. But deep down we are a good people, with inherent national values that our leaders are betraying by doing X or Y.”

But even more important is the indisputable fact that in the realm of politics and power, ideas of what constitutes a nation’s “values” can change — reversing polarity almost immediately — once “our” party gets into power. The Obama years provide a stark and painful example of this. Drones, renditions, assassinations (state murder), covert ops, subversion of other nations, supporting coups, mass surveillance, mass deportations, coddling Big Business, off-shore oil drilling, support for Israeli assaults on Gaza, militarizing the police, etc. — so many actions that so many good liberals considered immoral, un-American outrages when Bush was doing them — suddenly became entirely defensible, even noble, when Obama did them. And guess what? Those same liberals will suddenly find these things outrageous once again after January 20, when Trump starts doing them.

You can take other tacks, of course: you can try to convince people that this or that action is wrong or evil or counterproductive on all kinds of grounds. You can appeal to universal, higher-order concepts (morality, decency, etc.) or to realpolitik concerns (this policy is politically unsustainable or will cost more than it's worth, etc.) or even naked self-interest (“if we keep doing X, you’ll end up out of a job/getting killed/poorer/less free,” etc). But the appeal to a nation’s “values” is pointless and even pernicious, I’ve come to think. We create our values by our actions — by what we do, what we countenance, what we resist or protest against. And at any given time, millions of people in a nation will be creating and manifesting a myriad of values — many of them conflicting, some of them overlapping, some of them contradicting, going back and forth in an endless, mixing flow. This is true of us as individuals — and even more true when considering the vast collections of individuals we call nations.

So what is the basis of these “British values” Jayanetti talks of? He writes: “Like the pathetic servile courtiers of a naked king, we prostrate ourselves in the hope of a decimal point of GDP's worth of patronage while ignoring the monstrosities that lie in full sight.” When have UK elites not ignored “monstrosities that lie in full sight” in pursuit of profit and power for themselves? Has he not heard of the slave trade? The whole history of British imperialism? (He could read Late Victorian Holocausts by Mike Davis if he'd like more information on this score.) The Iraq War? The US-UK Iraq sanctions that even the US admits killed at least 500,000 children?

One reads such articles and thinks: What are you talking about? What sandbox are you playing in? (And yes, I'm speaking to my younger self as well.) Who in hell are the “former prime ministers” who must be “spinning in their graves” at the idea of Britain cozying up to Trump for a trade deal? The same ones who, throughout Britain’s history, have “ignored monstrosities that lie in full sight” in order to fill the elite’s coffers? And one wonders, in despair: how on god’s earth can we ever hope to move this world to a better place, to at least loosen if not completely remove the elite’s death grip on power, with such childish notions and historical amnesia? How does it help to make these specious appeals to mythological national “values”? It’s like fighting Hercules with a goose feather.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Worse for Trump? Palestine and President Mr. T.'s A-Team

What Should Palestinians Expect – Can Trump Be Any Worse?

by Ramzy Baroud

November 23, 2016

Fear and trepidation are slowly building up, as US President-elect, Donald Trump, is fortifying his transitional team with people capable of bringing about a nightmare scenario, not only for Americans but for the rest of the world, as well.

For Palestinians, however, the signs are even more ominous. From former New York mayor, Rudy Giuliani, to Republican leader Newt Gingrich, the Trump team is filling up with dishonorable men who have made careers out of pandering to Israeli interests and unabashedly discounting Palestinian rights.

Trump Israel point person,
Jason Greenblatt 

While Gingrich had claimed in 2011 that Palestinians are ‘invented’ people, Giuliani, according to Jewish News Service “is fondly remembered in the Jewish community for expelling Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) chief, Yasser Arafat, from a United Nations concert at Lincoln Center in 1995.”

Considering earlier statements made by Trump himself last May - that the expansion of illegal Jewish settlements in the Occupied West Bank 'should keep moving forward' - to more recent comments by Trump’s point person in Israel, Jason Greenblatt, that the illegal colonies are 'not an obstacle to peace', it is fairly certain that the Trump administration is decidedly anti-peace and anti-Palestinians.

Israeli officials are, of course, rejoicing at the opportunity of working with such an administration, with Education Minister Naftali Bennet celebrating the ‘end of a Palestinian state’ era and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman inviting Trump to 'coordinate the development’ of the illegal settlements.

But the media forecast for the next four years in US foreign policy towards Palestine and Israel is also prejudiced. It is true that Trump’s prospective line-up of old politicians is not conducive to the achievement of a just peace in Palestine by any stretch of the imagination, but presenting the news as if the prospects of a thriving just peace had existed under the administration of Barack Obama is simply laughable.

The Obama administration, despite the uneasy relationship between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has been one of the friendliest and most generous towards Israel. Obama has remained steadfast on Israel’s side as they both fought against Palestinian political aspirations in international institutions.

Only recently, Obama signed a ‘landmark agreement’ by giving Israel $38 billion in military funding, the largest aid package in US history.

So those worried about things getting worse for Palestinians under a Trump presidency can take comfort in the fact that they already have.

But will this impact the American position towards a Palestinian state?  

Not in the least because, again, Obama, like his predecessors fought tirelessly to prevent a Palestinian state from ever taking form. If a distinction is to emerge between the Obama and Trump administrations, it is likely to be manifested in rhetoric, not in action: the former refined and articulate, the latter belligerent and demagogic. Either way, Palestinians lose.

In his last speech before the United Nations, Obama dedicated a single sentence to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict - a sentence that accurately reflected his failure to positively affect the outcomes of the Middle East’s most protracting, destabilizing conflict.

Both sides would "be better off if Palestinians reject incitement and recognize the legitimacy of Israel, but Israel recognizes that it cannot permanently occupy and settle Palestinian land," he said. Nothing more.

While his previous speeches dedicated much rhetoric to the conflict in Palestine and Israel, the last UN speech - and that sentence alone - was a more honest indication of eight years that lacked vision, or even a sincere attempt at finding one. 

Over that eight-year period, during which time thousands of innocent people - the vast majority of whom were Palestinians - were killed, Obama purportedly labored to achieve the proverbial, although misleading, 'middle ground'. The outcome of his policies were quite devastating: whereas he sold Palestinians false hope, he granted Israel most of its needs of military funding and technology, shielding it from international censure, too.

Moreover, during the last Israeli war on Gaza in 2014 which killed and wounded thousands, Obama ensured the Israeli army's storage of ammunitions and military hardware remained at full capacity.

On the political front, he ensured Palestinian efforts aimed at obtaining recognition for their future state were soundly defeated. He went as far as denying the UN cultural organization, UNESCO, from nearly a quarter of its funding simply for admitting 'Palestine' as a new member.

Yet, some are, naively, hoping that Obama will seek recognition for the State of Palestine at the UN Security Council in his remaining weeks in the Oval Office. These hopes have been buoyed by media reports that Obama had instructed the State Department to develop an ‘option menu' regarding his vision for a resolution to the conflict.

While Palestinians and their supporters are optimistic that Obama will redeem himself, even if symbolically, and support the Palestinian push for statehood, Obama is unlikely to carry out any such steps, especially since Trump is bound to defeat such initiatives once he moves into the White House.

Additionally, the soon-to-depart president has had eight full years to show real grit and to take advantage of his first-term popularity to challenge the pro-Israel lobby and present his country as a truly ‘honest broker’ in an unequal conflict. He could have, at least, sided with the majority of humanity by adding his country’s voice to those that recognize a Palestinian state at the United Nations.

As of September of last year, 139 of the UN's member states (and two non-member states) have recognized Palestine. But those recognitions remain largely symbolic as long as the US is unyielding in its rejection of Palestinian aspirations. An unwavering supporter of Israel, the US is not only blocking  full Palestinian membership at the UN, but is doing its utmost to prevent 'Palestine' from gaining access to international institutions.

Regardless of what position is to be recommended by the State Department to Obama in his final days in the White House, the misfortunes of the Palestinians are unlikely to be reversed overnight, or in the foreseeable future. Judging from Trump’s friendly overtures towards Israel -for example, inviting Netanyahu and his wife to visit Washington shortly after winning the elections - the immediate future does not look promising.

History has taught us that, when it comes to US foreign policy towards Palestine and Israel, things are likely to get worse, not better. Despite the current chasm within American society, among the media and political elites, the American love affair with Israel will continue. The ongoing war on Palestinian rights and aspirations will also linger.

The Palestinian leadership seems unable to understand such an obvious reality. The Palestinian Authority in Ramallah is either unaware or, perhaps, oblivious to the fact that its salvation will not arrive from Washington, but from its ability to navigate the US-Israeli alliance in a resolved and united manner.

Indeed, regardless of what position Obama - or even Trump - may or may not take, it will have little bearing on the outcome if Palestinians remain divided. Far more significant than the inflammatory drivel of Gingrich and Giuliani, Palestinian division and their inability to confront the Israeli Occupation with one unified and daring strategy is Palestine’s greatest, and most pressing challenge.

- Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of His books include “Searching Jenin”, “The Second Palestinian Intifada” and his latest “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story”. His website is 

Backing Trump Into the War Corner: "Suspended" House Moves Syria 'No-Fly Zone' Motion

US House Seeks Syria-War Escalation

by Rick Sterling  - Consortium News

November 22, 2016

Late in the day, on Nov. 15, one week after the U.S. elections, the lame-duck Congress convened in special session with normal rules suspended so the House could pass House Resolution 5732, the “Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act” calling for intensifying the already harsh sanctions on Syria, assessing the imposition of a “no fly zone” inside Syria (to prevent the Syrian government from flying) and escalating efforts to press criminal charges against Syrian officials.

HR5732 claims to promote a negotiated settlement in Syria but, as analyzed by Friends Committee for National Legislation, it imposes preconditions which would actually make a peace agreement more difficult.

There was 40 minutes of “debate” with six representatives (Ed Royce, R-California (left); Eliot Engel, D-New York; Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Florida; Dan Kildee, D-Michigan; Chris Smith, R-New Jersey; and Carlos Curbelo, R-Florida) all speaking in favor of the resolution. There were few other representatives present, but the House Foreign Affairs Committee stated that the resolution was passed “unanimously” without mentioning these special conditions.

According to Wikipedia, “Suspension of the rules is a procedure generally used to quickly pass non-controversial bills in the United States House of Representatives … such as naming Post Offices…” In this case, however, the resolution could lead to a wider war in the Middle East and potentially World War III with nuclear-armed Russia.

Most strikingly, the resolution calls for evaluating and developing plans for the United States to impose a “no fly zone” inside Syria, a sovereign nation, an act of war that also would violate international law as an act of aggression. It also could put the U.S. military in the position of shooting down Russian aircraft.

To call this proposal “non-controversial” is absurd, although it may say a great deal about the “group think” of the U.S. Congress that an act of war would be so casually considered. Clearly, this resolution should have been debated under normal rules with a reasonable amount of Congressional presence and debate.

The motivation for bypassing normal rules and rushing the bill through without meaningful debate was articulated by the bill’s sponsor, Democrat Eliot Engel: “We cannot delay action on Syria any further. … If we don’t get this legislation across the finish line in the next few weeks, we are back to square one.”

The current urgency may be related to the election results since President-elect Donald Trump has spoken out against “regime change” foreign policy. As much as neoconservatives and their liberal-interventionist allies are critical of President Obama for not doing more in Syria, these Congressional hawks are even more concerned about the prospect of a President who might move toward peace and away from war.

The Caesar Fraud

HR5732 is titled the “Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act,” which House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Royce explained was named after “the brave Syrian defector known to the world as Caesar, who testified to us the shocking scale of torture being carried out within the prisons of Syria.”

U.S.-backed Syrian “moderate” rebels smile as they prepare to behead a 12-year-old boy (left), whose severed head is held aloft triumphantly in a later part of the video. [Screenshot from the YouTube video]In reality, the Caesar story was a grand deception involving the CIA with funding from Qatar to sabotage the 2014 Geneva peace negotiations.

The 55,000 photos which were said to show 11,000 torture victims have never been publicly revealed. Only a tiny number of photos have been publicized.

However, in 2015, Human Rights Watch was granted access to view the entire set. They revealed that almost one half the photos show the opposite of what was claimed: instead of victims tortured by the Syrian government, they actually show dead Syrian soldiers and civilian victims of car bombs and other terror attacks. The “Caesar” story, replete with a masked “defector,” was one of the early propaganda hoaxes regarding Syria.

One of the other big lies regarding Syria is that the U.S. has been doing nothing. Royce said, “The administration has decided not to decide. And that itself, unfortunately, has set a course where here we sit and watch and the violence only worsens. Mr. Speaker, America has been sitting back and watching these atrocities for far too long. Vital U.S. national security interests are at stake.”

Rep. Engel said, “Four years ago I thought we should have aided the Free Syrian Army. They came to us in Washington and begged us for help. … They were simply looking for weaponry. I really believe if we had given it to them, the situation in Syria would have been different today.”

That narrative is nonsense. By late 2011, the U.S. was actively coordinating, training and supplying armed opposition groups. When Muammar Gaddafi’s Libyan government was toppled in fall 2011, the CIA oversaw the diversion of Libyan weapons to the Syrian armed opposition, as documented in the Defense Intelligence Agency report of October 2012.

These weapons transfers were secret. For the public record, it was acknowledged that the U.S. was supplying communications equipment to the armed opposition while U.S. “allies” — Saudi Arabia and Qatar — were supplying the weaponry. This is one reason that Saudi purchases of weapons skyrocketed during this time period; they were buying weapons to replace those being shipped to the armed opposition in Syria. It was very profitable for U.S. arms manufacturers.

Huge weapons transfers to the armed opposition in Syria have continued to the present, with the U.S. government even more directly involved. This past spring, Janes Defense reported the details of a U.S. delivery of 2.2 million pounds of ammunition, rocket launchers and other weaponry to the armed opposition.

So, the political claims that the U.S. has been inactive are baseless. In reality, the U.S. has done everything short of a direct attack on Syria. And the U.S. military is starting to cross that line. On Sept. 17, the U.S. air coalition conducted a series of airstrikes on the Syrian Army in Deir Ezzor, killing 80 Syrian soldiers and enabling ISIS to launch an attack on the position. Claims that it was a “mistake” are highly dubious.

The assertions by Congressional hawks that the U.S. has been “inactive” in the Syrian conflict are part of the false narrative suggesting the U.S. must “do something” which leads to a “no fly zone” and full-scale war. Ironically, these calls for war are masked as “humanitarian” though even proponents, such as Hillary Clinton, privately have acknowledged that large numbers of Syrians, including civilians, would be killed in the U.S. attacks needed to establish the “no fly zone.”

And, never do the proponents bring up the case of Libya where the U.S. and NATO “did something”: destroyed the government and created chaos.

Fact-Free House of Propaganda

With only a handful of representatives present and no dissent, the six Congressional members engaged in unrestrained propaganda and misinformation.

Samantha Power, Permanent Representative of the United States 
to the UN, addresses the Security Council meeting on Syria, 
Sept. 25, 2016. Power has been an advocate for escalating 
U.S. military involvement in Syria. (UN Photo)

Engel, said “We’re going into the New Year 2017, Assad still clings to power, at the expense of killing millions of his citizens.” Even if all the deaths, including Syrian soldiers and civilians killed by anti-government jihadists, were blamed on Assad, this number is way off anyone’s charts.

Rep. Kildee said “The world has witnessed this terrible tragedy unfold before our eyes. Nearly half a million Syrians killed. Not soldiers – men, women, children killed.”

The official text of the resolution says, “It is the sense of Congress that– (1) Bashar al-Assad’s murderous actions against the people of Syria have caused the deaths of more than 400,000 civilians…”

The above accusations – from “millions of citizens” to “half a million” to “400,000 civilians” – are all preposterous lies. Credible estimates of casualties in the Syrian conflict range from 300,000 to 420,000. The opposition-supporting Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates the documented 2011-2016 death toll as follows: killed pro-Syrian forces – 108,000; killed anti-government forces – 105,000; killed civilians – 89,000

In contrast with Congressional and media claims, civilians comprise a minority of the total death count and the heaviest casualties are among those fighting in defense of the Syrian state. In the U.S. political world and the mainstream media, these facts are ignored and never mentioned because they point to the reality versus the propaganda narrative which has allowed the U.S. and its allies to continue funding terrorism and a war of aggression against Syria.

The Congressional speakers were in full self-righteous mode as they accused the Syrian government of “committing crimes against humanity and war crimes against civilians including murder, torture and rape. No one has been spared from this targeting, even children.” A naive listener would never know that the Syrian government is primarily fighting the Syrian branch of Al Qaeda including thousands of foreign fighters supplied and paid by foreign governments.

The speakers went on to accuse the Syrian military of “targeting” hospitals, schools and markets. A critical listener might ask why they would do that instead of targeting Al Qaeda terrorists and their allies who launch dozens and sometimes hundreds of hell-cannon missiles into the government-held sections of Aleppo every day.

The Congressional propaganda fest would not be complete without mention of the “White Helmets.” Royce said “We (previously) heard the testimony of Raed Saleh of the Syrian White Helmets. These are the doctors, nurses and volunteers who actually, when the bombs come, run towards the areas that have been hit in order to try to get the injured civilians medical treatment. … They have lost over 600 doctors and nurses.”

This is more Congressional nonsense. There are no nurses or doctors associated with the White Helmets. The organization was created by the U.S. and U.K. and heavily promoted by a “shady PR firm.” The White Helmets operate solely in areas controlled by Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front (recently renamed Syria Conquest Front) and associated terrorist groups. The White Helmets do some rescue work in the conflict zone but their main role is in the information war manipulating public opinion.

The White Helmets actively promote U.S./NATO intervention through a “no fly zone.” Recently, the White Helmets became a major source of claims about innocent civilian victims in east Aleppo.

Given the clear propagandistic history of the White Helmets, these claims should be treated with skepticism. We need to ask exactly what is the evidence?

The same skepticism needs to be applied to video and other reports from the Aleppo Media Center. AMC is a creation of the Syrian Expatriates Organization whose address on K Street in Washington, D.C., indicates it is a U.S. marketing operation.

What’s Going On?

The campaign to overthrow the Syrian government is failing and there is possibility of a victory for the Syrian government and its allies.

A heart-rending propaganda image designed to justify a major U.S. military operation inside Syria against the Syrian military.

The earlier flood of international jihadi recruits is drying up. The Syrian Army and allies are gaining ground militarily and negotiating settlements or re-locations with “rebels” who previously terrorized Homs, Darraya (outer Damascus) and elsewhere. In Aleppo, the Syrian army and allies are tightening the noose around the armed opposition in east Aleppo.

This has caused alarm among neoconservative lawmakers devoted to Israel, Saudi Arabia and U.S. empire. They are desperate to prevent the Syrian government from finally eliminating the terrorist groups which the West and its allies have promoted for the past five-plus years.

“Pro Israel” groups have been major campaigners for passage of HR5732. The name of Simon Wiesenthal is even invoked in the resolution. Rabbi Lee Bycel wrote, “Where is the Conscience of the World?” as he questioned why the “humanitarian” HR5732 was not passed earlier.

Israeli interests are one of the primary forces sustaining and promoting the conflict. Syria is officially at war with Israel which continues to occupy the Syrian Golan Heights; Syria has been a key ally of the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance; and Syria has maintained its alliance with Iran. In 2010, Secretary of State Clinton urged Syria to break relations with Hezbollah, reduce relations with Iran and come to settlement with Israel. The Syrian refusal to comply with these Washington demands was instrumental in solidifying Washington’s hostility.

Congressional proponents of HR5732 make clear the international dimension of the conflict. Royce explains,

“It is Russia, it is Hezbollah, that are the primary movers of death and destruction. … It is the IRGC [Revolutionary Guard] fighters from Iran.”

Engel echoes the same message:

“Yes, we want to go after Assad’s partners in violence … Iranian and Hezbollah forces.”

In words and deeds Israel has made its position on Syria crystal clear. Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren explained in an interview: “we always wanted [President] Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran … the greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc.”

These statements have been fully backed up by Israeli actions bombing Syrian positions in southern Syria and providing medical treatment for Nusra/Al Qaeda and other armed opposition fighters.

What Will Happen Now?

If the Syrian government and its allies continue to advance in Aleppo, Deir Ezzor, outer Damascus and the south, the situation will come to a head. The enemies of Syria – predominately the U.S., Gulf Countries, NATO and Israel – will come to a decision point. Do they intervene directly or do they allow their “regime change” project to collapse? HR5732 is an effort to prepare for direct intervention and aggression.

One thing is clear from the experience of Libya: Neoconservatives do not care if they leave a country in chaos. The main objective is to destabilize and overthrow a government which is too independent. If the U.S. and its allies cannot dominate the country, then at least they can destroy the contrary authority and leave chaos.

What is at stake in Syria is whether the U.S. and allies, including Israel and Saudi Arabia, are able to destroy the last secular and independent Arab country in the region and whether the U.S. goal of being the sole superpower in the world prevails. The rushed passage of HR5732 without any meaningful debate is indicative of that.

Despite Trump’s election and his stated priority of taking on Islamic terrorism – not overthrowing Assad – the “regime change” proponents have not given up their war on Syria. They still seek to escalate U.S. aggression there and hope to box President Trump in.

It’s also clear that the U.S. Congress has become a venue where blatant lies can be stated with impunity and where violent actions are advanced behind a cynical and amoral veneer of “humanitarianism.”

Rick Sterling is an investigative journalist and member of Syria Solidarity Movement.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

DAPL: It's Army vs The Unarmed

Police State Tactics Against DAPL Protesters

by Stephen Lendman - Information Clearing House

November 22, 2016

Democracy in America serves its privileged few alone, public needs and welfare largely ignored, entirely when conflicting with powerful monied interests.

They win every time at the expense of peace, equity and justice - imperial wars, corporate favoritism and police state viciousness assuring it.

Oil pipelines notoriously leak, polluting the landscape and drinking water, harming public health and well-being.

Just societies would prohibit them, renouncing fossil fuels and hugely dangerous nuclear power altogether, substituting clean, green, renewable energy.

Last spring, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe members and supporters heroically began protesting against Energy Transfer Partners’ Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), endangering sacred ancestral land, water, and wildlife habitat, along with communities, farmland and other sensitive areas.

Challenging the power of politically connected Big Money assures a hugely unfair fight.

On Sunday, militarized police attacked peaceful DAPL protesters violently, using water cannons in sub-freezing weather, tear gas, concussion grenades, rubber-coated steel bullets, mace, and sonic weapons blasting deafening sounds - vicious tactics like Israel uses against Palestinians. Confrontation lasted around six hours.

Indigenous Rising calls itself a grassroots “environmental network project committed to “protect(ing) the sanctity and integrity of Mother Earth…”

Late Sunday evening, it tweeted “167 Water Protectors have been injured. 3 of those people are elders. 7 people have been hospitalized for severe head injuries. The police are target(ing) the heads and legs of Water Protectors.”

“There are no fatalities. Standing Rock EMT is still on site.” One protester called police action “very scary…feel(ing) like a warzone…(not) like we’re in America in 2016.”

Other reported injuries so far include lung and eye irritations, at least two cases cardiac arrest, multiple cases of hypothermia, a young teenager shot in the face by rubber bullets, and a woman struck with a concussion grenade or other projectile.

Indian Country Today highlighted: “Water cannons. Rubber bullets. Mace. Flash grenades. It's an army vs. unarmed people who only want to protect their water and graves.”

According to Standing Rock Sioux Tribe chairman Dave Archambault II, “(w)e have a very harsh day coming up now. In my family we never celebrated Thanksgiving. It was always a day of mourning for the day that genocide began on this continent. This all just goes to prove what we're talking about.”

A live Oceti Sakowin Standing Rock Facebook feed ( )from Kevin Gilbertt asked readers for donations to build winterized structures in a part of America experiencing severe winter cold.

Overnight temperatures already are sub-freezing. Courageous protesters need all the support they can get. Kevin can be reached at 402-690-6178 for information on how to help. He thanked individuals donating so far.

Days earlier, Greenpeace spokeswoman Mary Sweeters urged Obama to intervene responsibly. Stop the environmentally destructive pipeline.

Safeguard the land and water. Stop police violence. Support the rights of indigenous Standing Rock Sioux Tribe members courageously protecting their sacred ancestral property.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III." - Visit his blog site at Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, Ted Rall, Robert Hunziker, Janine Bandcroft November 23, 2016

This Week on GR

by C. L. Cook -

November 23, 2016

In Dostoevsky's The Devils, his doomed characters, Kirillov and Shatov escape to America and are at first rejoicing in "the spiritualism, the lynch mobs, the guns, and the tramps" they find there. Soon however, they come to realize the inbred Russian morality inhibiting their ability to join fully the carnival of violence and depravity the New World offers and lament,

"[O]ne has to be born in America, or at least to live among them for many years, to reach their level." 

That was in 1872, but could well have been written as Donald Trump seized the sceptre of American power two weeks ago; and, as University of Kansas Slavic studies scholar Ani Kokobobo says,

"I’ve come to realize that it’s never a good sign when real life resembles a Fyodor Dostoevsky novel."

Listen. Hear.

Ted Rall is a Pulitzer Prize-finalist, journalist, prolific graphic artist and author whose books include: ‘After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan,’ ‘To Afghanistan and Back: A Graphic Travelogue,’ ‘The Book of Obama: From Hope and Change to the Age of Revolt,’ ‘Snowden,’ and his latest is, 'Trump: A Graphic Biography.'

Ted Rall in the first half.

And; in the aftermath of the Mr. T.'s astounding electoral victory a veritable "S" storm of recrimination and finger pointing has ensued. You may have experienced some of that, if having the temerity to voice the woeful moral short-comings of the democrat opposite as an enabling factor in bringing about his imminent, and unholy inauguration. You may even have said, "How much worse could he be?" Well for all her faults on the war and Wall Street, when it comes to global climate change, Trump seems determined to emphasis the "mental" in his environmental approach.

Robert Hunziker is an environmental journalist whose climate clarion calls appear in numerous journals and multiple languages around the World and across the internet. He's also appeared in a variety of media to talk about global climate change, written extensively about the ongoing aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, and his latest article, 'The Arctic Warms Up For Trump' provides a chilling preview of the end of days to come.

Robert Hunziker and warming up to Trump 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 newz of some of the good goings on going in the coming week. But first, Ted Rall and Trump, fascism, and picking up where Obama leaves off.

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:

Monday, November 21, 2016

Consumer Group Challenges Federal Fisheries Minister's Approval of Site C Authorization

BC Hydro Ratepayers Challenge Federal Fisheries Minister's Approval of Site C Authorization

by BC Hydro Ratepayers Association

November 21, 2016

The Site C mystery - No need, no market, no meaningful review and many alternatives that save fish, honour Treaty 8 rights, keep hydro rates from skyrocketing.

“Hydro’s demand forecasts are persistently and systematically wrong. There is no reason to believe that much new power, if any, will be required in the next 20 to 30 years [in BC]. But if there is, there are several alternatives available which are markedly less expensive and less damaging to Aboriginal interests, fisheries and the environment generally, than Site C,” says Dr. Harry Swain, former chair of the Joint Review Panel in an affidavit filed in Federal Court.

A group of concerned BC residents—the BC Hydro Ratepayers Association (RPA)—is challenging the decision of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to issue a permit authorizing destruction of fish, fish habitat and fisheries for the construction and operation of the massive and ill-conceived and unnecessary damning of the Peace River by the Site C project.

The RPA (incorporated as the Pacific Electricity Ratepayers Association) contends that the Minister, though required to do so, neglected to properly consider and assess the absence of justification for the project, the social, economic and environmental costs and alternative means of energy production that would serve the public interest by avoiding harm to fish, fish habitat and fisheries, violation of the rights of Treaty 8 Nations and associated cumulative consequential damage.

The Fisheries Act requires the Minister to consider a number of important factors prior to authorizing such damage, including: the contribution of the impacted fish to Aboriginal fisheries; fisheries management objectives; alternatives that would avoid harm; and the public interest. The Joint Review Panel concluded that.

“justification must rest on an unambiguous need for the power, and analyses showing its financial costs being sufficiently attractive as to make tolerable the bearing of substantial environmental, social, and other costs.” 

The Panel was prevented by its terms of reference from assessing key factors like Treaty 8 rights, public interest and less harmful alternatives to Site C. Dr. Swain states,

“The Panel’s Terms of Reference and subsequent Ministerial directives required the acceptance of all formally stated public policy … and restricted the JRP from considering issues of … relevance to assessing the public interest.” 

According to Dr. Swain, neither the federal nor the provincial government contacted the panel for clarifications.

Issuance of the Fisheries Act permit to allow Site C construction ignores the findings of the Joint Review Panel and critical information available since May 2014, and violates environmental and indigenous rights guaranteed by Canadian law.

Dr. Swain, noted that falling market prices since the Joint Review Panel’s 2014 report, have significantly reduced the business case for Site C, stating,

“BC Hydro can be expected to lose vast sums of money on the project for many years.” 

The cost of Site C power is estimated at $63 to $100 per MWh but California currently pays only $22.26 per MWh and domestic demand has not increased since 2005. The financial burden risks being increased even further by liability for the destruction of an irreplaceable fisheries resource.

The court action was made necessary because building and operating the proposed dam does not serve the public interest, violates Treaty rights and will cause direct and indirect fish mortality, greatly reducing fish populations in the Peace River and other affected waterways. Arctic grayling, mountain whitefish and bull (Dolly Varden) trout— all preferred food species of the local indigenous communities, will be lost.

The application for Judicial Review is of interest to all B.C. Hydro customers who care about the environment, honouring Treaty rights, increases in their bills and the future.

For more information, please contact Dr. Eoin Finn, RPA Director.

Warming Up to Trump: Polar Thaw Undeniable

The Arctic Warms Up For Trump

by Robert Hunziker

November 21, 2016 

A little over one week following the presidential election, The Washington Post carried this headline: “The North Pole is an Insane 36 Degrees Warmer Than Normal as Winter Descends,” d/d November 17th, 2016. That headline is not tomfoolery; it is an actual, real temperature reading.

According to NovaNext, PBS, d/d Nov. 18th, 2016:

“As the Arctic settles into polar night, scientists are noticing that something has gone horribly wrong. Sea ice levels at the North Pole are at a record low- but even more startlingly, air temperatures are 36° F (20° C) higher than normal across the region.”

By any standard, the North Pole commands an all-hands-on-deck emergency alert - a climate catastrophe may be on the way. It’s bloody hot in the Arctic (in wintertime), and the repercussions are outright deadly for humanity, but Trump hasn’t even taken office yet!

Predictably, when America elects a monomaniac to run the country, the Armageddon Clock leaps forward several decades. As it’s happening, the Trump administration has moved the Doomsday Clock to 3 minutes before midnight. It’s no joke; this is deadly serious stuff happening right before everybody’s eyes; it’s as if a strange blinding light has bleached out all color. Only a haze remains.

The oft-maligned, seldom-used phrase: “Where will you be when the world ends?” has never before been so relevant, making a big splashy come back, in bright neon lights, especially amongst thinkers.

Sorrowfully, when nature’s pay back takes place, especially with Trump et al flipping the switch to “let’s play hard ball and see what happens,” probability of major climatic disaster during current lifetimes is higher than Trump’s percentage chance of winning on the day before the election.

Already pre-Trump, the ecosystem is under dire stress from ocean to mountaintop, the ecosystem, the biosphere, registering enormous stress and abnormally anomalous behavior. And, it’s scary because climate change is turning into a lethal weapon; it’s happening so much faster than scientists predict.

For real time proof of rapid-fire climate change, just go to the Arctic. But whatever you do, stay away from Antarctica or risk suffering dismay, horror, and outright panic (irreversible melting/cascading glaciers on the frontline of 200 feet of potential sea level rise).

The Arctic is like the thermostat of a house. It regulates weather for the Northern Hemisphere, and when it loses its icy cover, it goes haywire as the jet streams go bonkers. All hell breaks lose; witness the current summertime heat during early winter months. That’s really out there, weird, unnatural, chilling to the bone!

In that regard, here’s what one of America’s leading scientists Jennifer Francis of Rutgers says:

“The Arctic warmth is the result of a combination of record-low-sea-ice extent for this time of year, probably very thin ice, and plenty of warm/moist air from the lower latitudes being driven northward by a very wavy jet stream” (Source: Chris Mooney and Jason Samenow, The North Pole is an Insane 36 Degrees Warmer Than Normal as Winter Descends, The Washington Post, November 17, 2016).

The anomalous jet streams lead to zany weather patterns throughout the Northern Hemisphere like out of control flooding (the UK), scorching heat (India), severe droughts (Syria), and a long list of anomalous weather all of which people adapt to and move on with life. That’s kinda okay; people can live with those changes even though inconvenienced at times.

However, the devil in the gruesome detail is not zany weather; it’s cutthroat runaway global warming and massive coastal flooding. COP21, the Paris Climate Agreement last year, is all about “great hope and prayer” that somehow, some way, but not yet fully understood, humanity can prevent planetary temperature rise over 2°C pre-industrial temperature. Sounds simple enough and kinda like no big deal; after all 2°C isn't so much. Or is it?

Yes, it is.

For beginners, over the past 10,000 years Earth has been the Goldilocks planet, not too hot, not too cold, as temperature has been steady, fluctuating by only about 1°C. So, everything the human species has done has been within a very narrow, and almost perfect temperature range (Source: Richard Alley, professor of geosciences, Penn State University, PBS Interview). In other words, civilization is like a spoiled child that has been protected and shielded from the reality of a rough and tumble world.

Remarkably, calculating the absolute change in temperature value, whilst ignoring the relative, a rise from 1°C to 2°C above pre-industrial is a 100% increase over the current 1°C overshoot. A 100% change of anything is huge; it’s like two Empire State Buildings stacked one atop another.

Scientists are in agreement, heaven forbid, 2°C will flood coastal cities like Miami, but wait a minute, Miami Beach is already raising streets by 2 feet because of tidal surges way above normal. Yet, the planet hasn’t even hit the deadly 2°C yet… Oops! Somebody must be miscalculating.

Surprise, surprise, there’s already evidence of anomalous flooding in America, e.g. check out North Carolina’s Outer Bank, down to 25% of original width in some areas (Source: Rising Seas: Will the Outer Banks Survive? National Geographic, July 24th, 2014- See photos of houses moving inland).

Pre-Trump, the Great Flood is already happening with temperatures still below the dreaded 2°C:

“Over the last decade, flooding during high tide in this and other neighborhoods along Miami Beach's western edge has become a regular occurrence. The University of Miami study confirms that the main reason for the increased flood events is sea-level rise” (Source: Greg Allen, As Waters Rise, Miami Beach Builds Higher Streets and Political Willpower, NPR, May 10, 2016).

For a photo of Miami Beach’s raised streets, has a photo showing a raised street (by two feet) in the City of Miami Beach… interesting. A rising sea begets raising streets, or looked at another way, why raise streets if the water is not rising?

Meanwhile, and forgetting about rising sea levels and raised streets for a moment, a much bigger conundrum is right around the corner: A climate monster lurks in the Far North. It’s called runaway global warming. It is the pathway to Armageddon, closing the 3-minute gap on the Doomsday Clock much faster than ever thought possible.

Trump’s presidency to Armageddon is like milk to a baby. It nourishes. He’s bringing in a cast of climate hit men, and maybe a woman or two like Sarah Palin, to run the EPA and energy departments and interior department, and frankly all departments… sorry, at a complete loss for words!

Up North, the climate monster, Runawayglobalwarming, licks its feverish lips, salivating over the opportunity to finally stretch its grisly, scaly, massively destructive running legs once again, since the last Ice Age.

Here’s the rub: When Arctic ice, which normally reflects 90% of solar radiation back out into outer space, goes away, then more sun power hits dark waters and absorbs, warming up the ole climate monster, awakening it, and it morphs into runaway global warming, which will fry the planet and kill people… period!

Here’s what too much CO2 looks like: Venus’s atmosphere is 96% CO2 with temperatures at 462 °C. Meanwhile, back on Earth fossil fuels relentlessly emit CO2, which stays in the atmosphere for centuries. Venus is an old hand at this.

The aforementioned climate monster is massive quantities (gigatons) of methane frozen underneath the ice for millennia, lurking under the firm Arctic ice, but the firm Arctic ice is mostly gone. All of the new ice is thin. The Artic is finally in a weakened stage enough so to cause humankind’s worst nightmare. Regrettably, that nightmare is already warming up to the destructive task at hand, and Trump is not even in the White House yet!

Large scale release of Arctic methane (CH4), which exceeds 20 times the atmospheric warming power per molecule of CO2, has the distinct signature of runaway global warming, and it can happen fast, within decades as a worse case scenario (as happened in the past, registered in the paleoclimate record, e.g., 55 million years ago “global temperatures ramped up to that 5 °C figure in just 13 years,” When Global Warming Made our World Super-Hot, BBC, Sept. 14, 2015). That disastrous impending potential threat is enough to cause a sane person to wake up in the middle of the night, screaming!

After all, the Runawayglobalwarming monster has already come back to life. Here’s proof: Igor Semiletov of the International Arctic Research Centre at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, who led the 8th joint US-Russia expedition of the East Siberian Arctic Seas said he had never before witnessed the scale and force of methane being released:

“Earlier we found torch-like structures like this but they were only tens of metres in diameter. This is the first time that we’ve found continuous, powerful and impressive seeping structures more than 1,000 metres in diameter. It’s amazing… Over a relatively small area we found more than 100 but over a wider area there should be thousands… We carried out checks at about 115 stationary points and discovered methane fields of a fantastic scale – I think on a scale not seen before. Some of the plumes were a kilometer or more wide and the emissions went directly into the atmosphere – the concentration was a hundred times higher than normal,” (Source: Vast Methane ‘Plumes’ Seen in Arctic Ocean as Sea Ice Retreats, Independent, Dec. 13, 2011). 

And, that was 5-6 years ago! Now, Trump is president, umm.

Lamentably, on Election Day, the creepy Doomsday Clock got an enormous shot in the arm and now absorbs powerful testosterones, suggesting that the big ole clarion bells on ye olde public square should be ringing as loud as possible, alerting the townspeople to an impending storm!

Come to think of it, maybe Miami Beach should raise street levels by 5-7 feet, not by a measly 2 feet. But then again, runaway global warming will knock out agriculture anyways, so, at the end of the day, raising street levels is a trivial affair.

Robert Hunziker
Los Angeles