Saturday, December 17, 2016

Killing Brazil: Temer Signs Generational Austerity Death Sentence

Brazilian President Temer Signs Constitutional Amendment Imposing 20 Years of Austerity


December 15, 2016

Rousseff was ousted to shift economic policy towards neoliberalism, and now Temer is rewarding the banks and financial investors for backing the legislative coup, says SOAS Professor Alfredo Saad-Filho.

Alfredo Saad-Filho is Professor of Political Economy at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, and was a senior economic affairs officer at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. He has degrees in Economics from the Universities of Brasilia (Brazil) and London (SOAS), and has taught in universities and research institutions in Brazil, Canada, Japan, Mozambique, Switzerland and the UK. His research interests include the political economy of development, industrial policy, neoliberalism, democracy, alternative economic policies, Latin American political and economic development, and inflation and stabilisation. 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Relative Remembering: Reconstructing Nixon

Nixon’s Final Defeat

by Robert Hunziker - Pacific Free Press

December 15, 2016 

Nixon’s final defeat, now underway, can only be understood in the context of a future that is currently manifest, as prognosticated by our greatest writers.

Today’s circumstances are just as overpowering as “The World State” of Aldous Huxley’s The Brave New World (1932) with its hypnopaedic education of children and discouragement of critical thinking whilst the people bathed in an abundance of material goodies.

A quickie comparison of Orwell to Huxley explains the compelling relevance of Huxley to today:

“What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egotism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance” (Source: Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death, Penguin Books, 1985).

As it goes, the future as it currently happens is immensely, greatly in harmony with Huxley’s boldest dreams with so little pushback or objection that Richard Nixon must be turning over in his grave. But, why Nixon and why final defeat?

Nixon was the last president (1968-74) who truly and overwhelmingly embraced the welfare of American citizens in harmony with their environment, a staunch stand on behalf of the people against rampant eco destruction. He saw it happening; he acted.

“A liberal is a man who wants to build bridges over the chasms that separate humanity from a better life,” said Richard Nixon, and according to Noam Chomsky: “Richard Nixon was our last liberal president,” (Source: If Nixon Were Alive Today, He Would Be Far Too Liberal to Get Even the Democratic Nomination, AlterNet, July 29, 2011).

Nixon promoted legislation that formed the basic foundation of America’s environmental policies, creating (1) the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), (2) Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), (3) the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), (4) The Clean Air Act, (5) the Marine Mammal Protection Act, (6) the Ocean Dumping Act, (7) the Water Quality Improvement Act, (8) the Endangered Species Act, (9) the Office of Minority Business Enterprise, (10) a halt to all dumping in the Great Lakes, (11) creation of cabinet level Council on Environmental Quality, and (12) promotion of the Legacy of Parks program.

Jumping ahead in time to today, based upon statements by and including personalities in the upcoming Trump administration, Nixon’s domestic policy legacy is targeted for final defeat after 40+ years of protecting the welfare of the people and with deep respect for the ecosystem. This will likely be Nixon’s final defeat.

By now, it is blatantly obvious to any and all, except for cave dwellers, the Trump administration is dead set on final defeat of Nixon’s legacy. “Forty Years Smoked in Four” may very well be the legacy of tomorrow, as an already cascading biosphere, from mountaintops to ocean depths, loses a good friend and strong dedicated ally in President Richard Nixon. No president since has set in place so much good for so many. Yet, he died in infamy after resigning in the face of almost certain impeachment (Watergate) on August 9, 1974.

Remarkably, and easily overlooked by many, Nixon was “the last liberal president,” as stated by Noam Chomsky, who himself is the incarnation of American liberalism. Whether Nixon’s final defeat signals the death of liberalism as a means to progress is now horribly festered with risks like never before in modern history.

The bedrock of Nixon’s environmental legacy, the EPA, will be led by E. Scott Pruitt one of the country’s fiercest critics of the agency with a long history of suing the EPA to prevent rules safeguarding air and water pollution from taking effect. His own website labels him as “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.”

Pruitt has sued the EPA time and again to block well-established rules over the years, like the rule restricting how much mercury coal plants can emit. He now has his sights set on overturning Obama’s Clean Power Plan meant to reduce GHG emissions to adhere to the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015, the coming together of 195 nations.

Overall, Trump’s pit bulls will likely reshape askew Nixon’s achievements meant for the genuine betterment of society so much so that revival of Sixties in the Streets is almost guaranteed. Regrettably, the streets of America have seldom been so perilously filled with stench of abject fatality.

Carmichael Coal, Australia's Own Standing Rock

Honest Government Advert – Carmichael Coal Mine

by The Juice Media 

December 9, 2016

Here’s a new Honest Government Ad – about the proposed reef-killing, climate-changing, water-draining Carmichael Coal Mine (aka CCRAP). This is Australia’s own Standing Rock fight and part of the global struggle top end humanity’s dependence on fossil fuels, so get amongst it (links below).


1. Tell PM Malcolm Turnbull you don’t want your tax dollars to be used to subsidise CCRAP
2. Join GetUp!’s Fight for the Reef
3. Donate to the Wangan & Jagalingou defense fund
4. Follow the Wangan & Jagalingou on Facebook to keep up to date with the campaign to stop CCRAP on their lands:
5. Find out more about the Wangain & Jagalingou traditional owners
6. Share this video.


– Written and created by Giordano. Performed by Matylda. Voice by Lucy. Thanks to Adso, Kajute, Miriam, Anthony, Adam, Benna, Damian, Dave and Dbot for helping out! Photos and Footage of Wangan and Jagalingou people used with permission from Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Family Council.

Please SUPPORT the Juice Media to help us make more videos!

– Great stats overview for the CCRAP project:
– ABC News:
– Environmental Law Australia:
– Latest news:

#WaterIsLife #StandWithWanganJagalingou #NoCCRAP

Don't Mention the Other War: Decrying Syria While Flattening Iraq

While decrying “massacre” in Aleppo, US steps up bloodshed in Mosul

by Bill Van Auken - WSWS

16 December 2016

Even as columns of green buses were ferrying the last of the Western-backed Islamist “rebels” out of eastern Aleppo Thursday, Secretary of State John Kerry took the podium at a State Department press conference to describe the situation in the northern Syrian city as “unconscionable” and to denounce the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad for carrying out “nothing short of a massacre.”

Secretary of State Kerry (left) vows, 
“The fall of Aleppo, should it happen, 
does not end the war. It will continue.” 

Kerry’s denunciations, which extended to Syria’s allies, Russia and Iran, expressed the growing anger and desperation within US ruling circles and Washington’s military and intelligence apparatus over the debacle of the five-year-old regime change operation in Syria. With the driving out of Aleppo of the Al Qaeda-linked militias that have been armed and funded by the CIA, the so-called “rebels” have lost their last foothold in a major urban area, and the prospects of these proxy forces toppling Assad have largely evaporated.

Kerry was reduced to demanding a “cessation of hostilities” in Aleppo under conditions in which a cease-fire brokered between Russia and Turkey—with no apparent prior notification of, much less participation by, Washington—appeared to be holding on Thursday as the orderly evacuation of both “rebels” and civilians proceeded.

Kerry vowed, “The fall of Aleppo, should it happen, does not end the war. It will continue.” The statement amounted to a threat, under conditions in which the Obama administration recently issued a waiver of the US Arms Export Control Act to allow the CIA to funnel in more weapons to “irregular forces” in Syria. Even with these arms, however, it is difficult to see how the “rebels” can regain the offensive.

The hypocrisy of the US denunciations of the brutal methods employed by the Syrian government and its allies in eastern Aleppo has been underscored by the unfolding of a similarly savage siege being directed by the Pentagon against the far larger urban population of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. As many as 1.5 million people still live in that metropolitan area, which the Iraqi army surrendered to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in June 2014.

With the US-backed offensive against Mosul now nearly two months old, conditions for the city’s residents are growing increasingly desperate, while the number of civilians killed continues to mount.

Scattered reports from media in the region provide a glimpse of the carnage unfolding in Mosul. Turkey’s Anadolu news agency reported that an entire family of nine was wiped out on Tuesday in a US drone missile strike against a house in Mosul’s al-Falah district. “Nine family members were killed in the attack,” an Iraqi police officer told the agency.

And The New Arab (Al-Araby Al-Jadeed) reported Thursday:

“At least 40 civilians have been killed including women and children and dozens of others injured in air raids and artillery fire in the east of the Islamic State group [IS] bastion of Mosul, local and medical sources have said. The civilians were killed early on Wednesday with many of the injured still trapped under rubble...”

While similar accounts of human suffering in Aleppo have received non-stop coverage in the Western media amid official denunciations of Syria and Russia, reports of the slaughter in Mosul have been effectively blacked out.

Instead, what reports there are concentrate on the terrorization of the local population by ISIS, which is described as preventing civilians from leaving besieged districts so as to use them as “human shields,” employing identically brutal tactics as those used by the Western-backed “rebels” against the civilian population in Aleppo, whose plight was blamed entirely upon the Syrian government.

Appearing at a joint news conference with US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter at the Qayara air base earlier this week, Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the top US commander in Iraq, estimated that the US-backed forces had “killed or badly wounded over 2,000” ISIS fighters since the launching of the offensive on October 17.

No such estimates have been offered as to the number of civilians who have been killed, but given the tactics that are being employed, using special forces units to call in airstrikes and artillery and tank fire against houses in urban neighborhoods believed to be occupied by ISIS fighters, it is inevitable that more civilians are dying than combatants.

The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that in the week ending on December 11 alone, 685 civilians were wounded by the fighting. This figure is only a fraction of the real toll, given that victims inside areas still under ISIS control are not recorded by the agency.

Doctors and nurses in the city are working under impossible conditions, without access to medicine, clean bandages and even water and electricity, which have been cut off to most of the city as a result of airstrikes.

The government has reported that 100,000 people have been displaced by the siege, including at least 35,000 children. Preparations are reportedly being made for 500,000 civilians to be ultimately driven out of the city.

With winter weather having set in, temperatures are falling below freezing under conditions in which the population is left without the ability to heat or light their homes, and those who have fled are living in tents. Food supplies, meanwhile, are running low, with prices soaring. In the end, the assault on Mosul may claim more victims through exposure, starvation and disease than by means of bombs and bullets.

Despite the barbaric conditions that have been inflicted by this siege, which is backed by US and allied airpower as well as an army of 10,000 US and NATO troops and military contractors, no one in the West is talking about “war crimes,” much less advocating a ceasefire in Mosul, as they are in Aleppo.

In their brutal siege against the Iraqi city, the US and allied imperialists are asserting their interests and hegemony, while in Aleppo, they confront a stunning setback in their attempt to pursue the same interests by other means, using CIA-armed and Al Qaeda-affiliated proxy forces. That is what determines the stark contrast in the media’s reaction to these two human catastrophes unfolding barely 300 miles apart.

Meanwhile, the London-based monitoring group Airwars estimates the minimum number of civilians killed by US-led airstrikes since Washington launched its intervention in Iraq and Syria in the summer of 2014 at 2,013, with the real number thought to be considerably higher. Thus far, the Pentagon has acknowledged killing only 173 civilians in the campaign, which has involved over 16,500 airstrikes.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Scoundreldom: A Master's Class on Patriotism and Journalism

Scoundrel Time: Lessons in Patriotism and Journalism From a Master

by Chris Floyd - CounterPunch

December 15, 2016

I had a short exchange on Twitter last night with a national journalist of some note: Kurt Eichenwald of Newsweek. In this brief encounter, I learned a remarkable fact: no one can criticize the CIA in any way — unless you actually work for the CIA! And here I thought the purpose of journalism was to, you know, serve as watchdog on government, “speak truth to power,” question, probe, dig for facts and that kind of thing.

But nope, that’s not it at all.

It turns out only those in power have the right to question, uh, those in power. Everyone else should “go crawl off and watch cartoons” and let the “adults” in power do their work. I have been in journalism, directly and tangentially, for 39 years, but I must admit that I never learned this secret until now. No wonder I never made it to Newsweek!

It began when I replied to a tweet by Eichenwald, questioning his use of the word “misinformation” for information that was actually true, whatever the source of the information might be. I also sought to ascertain the degree of credence he will give to the CIA in the interesting new political arrangement we are about to experience after Jan. 20.

I thought I spoke — as is always my wont — with sweet reason. But Mr. Eichenwald seemed to suffer some sort of deep emotional wound from my comments and responded accordingly. Here is the exchange:

Kurt Eichenwald ‏@kurteichenwald

As a reporter, I say this: If reporters say they were not responsible for aiding a Russian disinformation campaign, they are ignorant fools.

Chris Floyd ‏@empireburlesque

@kurteichenwald Whatever their provenance, the emails revealed actual facts. They weren’t ‘misinformation.’

Chris Floyd ‏@empireburlesque

@kurteichenwald And if the emails had revealed a straightforward campaign working honestly for its candidate? No scandal, no story.

Chris Floyd ‏@empireburlesque

@kurteichenwald Instead they revealed collusion between ‘Brooklyn’ and the DNC to skew the nominating process. That was the story.

Chris Floyd ‏@empireburlesque

@kurteichenwald By the way; when the CIA comes to terms w/Trump, which will certainly happen, will you still take their word as gospel?

Cameth swiftly the reply — or replies — from the man his own self:

Kurt Eichenwald ‏@kurteichenwald

@empireburlesque CIA analysts? Yes. Politicians who present the analysis, including those at top? No.

Kurt Eichenwald ‏@kurteichenwald

@empireburlesque Analysts could get a lot more money and a lot more freedom elsewhere. They sacrifice it for belief in duty. And then …

Kurt Eichenwald ‏@kurteichenwald

@empireburlesque …ppl like u who have never met one sneers in contempt at people who have more patriotism in their pinky than u do in body

Kurt Eichenwald ‏@kurteichenwald

@empireburlesque …so when u work in a building that has scores of stars in the front for all of the ppl who anonymously lost their lives..

Kurt Eichenwald ‏@kurteichenwald

@empireburlesque …in service of this countr
y, u can come back & talk. Until then, go crawl off to watch cartoons. Adults have work to do

To which I replied:

Chris Floyd ‏@empireburlesque

@kurteichenwald You are a funny little fellow. I make a point on the authenticity of the emails & their contents, not their provenance, and

Chris Floyd ‏@empireburlesque

@kurteichenwald you respond with a raging twittersputter full of personal insults and chest-beating holier-than-thou ‘patriotism.’ That’s

Chris Floyd ‏@empireburlesque

@kurteichenwald not a reply, that’s a hissy fit. And I’m the one who’s supposed to grow up. Again: a fact that’s true isn’t “misinformation”

Chris Floyd ‏@empireburlesque

@kurteichenwald however dodgy its provenance might be. I’m sorry if pointing this out makes me unworthy of the protection of the CIA.

Chris Floyd ‏@empireburlesque

@kurteichenwald But then, facts are stupid things, as another great super-duper patriot once said. Personal insults are always better.

I decided to end the conversation at that point. I suppose I could have made more hay of his astonishing view that the CIA cannot be criticized by any outsider, because we are all pathetic, worthless, cartoon-watching children compared to the heroes of Langley.

I could have queried his bold riposte that while he would never question the work of CIA analysts, he would always suspect the politicians who present the analysis. Does this include, er, the politicians who are at this moment presenting the CIA analysis?

I might also have recalled Samuel Johnson’s old saw about patriotism being the last refuge of a scoundrel. But I figured the reply, if any, would have been along the same bellicose, belittling, non-responsive lines.

But the important thing is that I learned a lesson in the art of Higher Journalism from one of its noted practitioners. I also learned the true meaning of patriotism: keep your stupid mouth shut and swallow whatever you’re told by your betters. And that’s a lesson for us all, isn’t it? Something we can pass on to our children and grandchildren. Thanks, Kurt!  

Chris Floyd is a columnist for CounterPunch Magazine. His blog, Empire Burlesque, can be found at
More articles by:Chris Floyd

Trudeau Government Same As the Old One on Honduras

Canada’s Hollow Human Rights Commitment on Honduras and Human Rights Defenders

by MiningWatch Canada

December 15, 2016

The Liberal government is much more, well, liberal with their use of the words “human rights” than the previous Conservative government. In practice, however, this means little more than business as usual, particularly where big business is involved.

This was evident in the Minister of Foreign Affairs’ recent response to our e-petition concerning the murder of world-renowned Honduran Indigenous activist Berta Cáceres and the attempted murder of Mexican activist Gustavo Castro nine months ago.

The petition, in concert with the persistent demands for an independent and impartial investigation into this crime from Berta’s family, her organization – the Council of Indigenous and Popular Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) – and Gustavo, called on the Government of Canada to urge Honduran authorities to agree to such an investigation under the auspices of the regional human rights body – Inter-American Commission on Human Rights – and to fully implement the Commission’s orders to the Honduran government to protect Cáceres’ family and members of COPINH. Notably, repression, criminalization and violence against the organization have stepped up since Berta’s murder on March 2nd.

It is easy to get distracted reading through Minister Stéphane Dion’s effusive text about human rights as “an integral part of Canadian foreign policy”, including how much it spends in bilateral aid to Honduras and the number of times that Canadian representatives have talked to Honduran authorities about human rights since Berta’s murder. Cutting to the chase, however, Canada is clearly not advocating for an for an independent, impartial investigation into this crime. Rather, the Canadian government is “urging Honduran authorities to investigate” and providing material support toward this end.

“The agency leading the investigation into the murder of Berta Cáceres, the Technical Agency of Criminal Investigation (ATIC by its Spanish acronym), has benefitted from Canadian assistance through capacity-building led by the Vancouver-based Justice Education Society,” reads Dion’s response.

Notably, as Gustavo Castro – the only witness to the crime – has testified in a recent interview with Al Jazeera, it was ATIC that botched the early days of the investigation, and originally attempted to pin the murder on Berta’s own organization, COPINH.

It is precisely this sort of support from Canada, political and material, that led the Honduran General Attorney’s office to confidently state to the Al Jazeera reporter that the Honduran authorities feel no need to allow an independent, impartial investigation into the murder of Berta Cáceres and attempted murder of Gustavo Castro because governments like Canada’s “trust us”.

But few others do. While several people have been detained as part of the current investigation, faith in the investigation has been undermined by serious irregularities from the start, the stealing of the investigation files, and high level connections between the company promoting the hydroelectric dam that Berta and COPINH were opposing at the time of her murder and high level officials in the Attorney General’s office. These include an official who worked with DESA’s attorney in the past, as well as the former Minister of the Environment when the permit for the dam was granted.

The response to the e-petition doesn’t even clarify the basic point of whether or not Canada is calling for Honduran authorities to fully implement precautionary measures ordered by the Inter American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) for the protection of Cáceres’ family and members of COPINH.

Minister Dion writes that Canadian authorities have called for “protection to human rights defenders” and advocated for “the safety of human rights defenders”. But his reference to IACHR is evasive: “Canada supports the central role played by the IACHR in the protection and promotion of human rights and human rights defenders in the hemisphere.”

That’s nice, but why not say that Canada urges Honduran authorities to fully implement IACHR measures for the protection of Berta’s family and COPINH? Is it because the Canadian government is not doing that?

While Dion’s response clarifies where Canada stands on the investigation into this crime, it remains absolutely silent on the underlying issues about which the e-petition also asked for a response. Namely, that Canada would urge Honduran authorities to demilitarize Lenca Indigenous territory and cancel the Energy Development Company’s (DESA) Agua Zarca hydroelectric project, granted without the Lenca people’s free, prior and informed consent.

On these points, unfortunately, the Canadian government would likely be straying to far from its own comfort zone domestically, as it recently demonstrated with the approval of the Site C hydroelectric dam, as well as the Kinder Morgan and Trans Mountain pipelines without the free, prior and informed consent of many First Nations. It is plausible that the Canadian government might be in agreement with the use military force to impose unwanted projects, judging by the Minister of Natural Resources’ recent slip that they could use “defense forces” against pipeline protests.

Unless efforts to stand up for human rights defenders address underlying questions regarding how mega-projects are being imposed on (and harming) communities, then the demonization, the threats, the criminalization, the repression, and the violence against people who are standing up to protect their territory, their land, their water, the health of their communities, and their visions of development, will continue.

Finally, and notably, the Minister’s response did not entirely shy away from the final point in the e-petition, which urged the Canadian government “to order an investigation into the Canadian government’s role in Honduras during and since the 2009 coup,” given how “[d]espite the climate of violence and impunity [in Honduras], the Canadian government entered into a free trade agreement with Honduras, while lobbying for a mining code that favours companies and puts people and the environment at risk.”

In its written response, the Liberal government not only takes credit for their recent engagement with Honduras, but also for Canadian foreign policy toward Honduras over the years. There is not even a glimpse of daylight between the Trudeau Liberals and the previous Harper Conservative government. Minister Dion’s response states: “The promotion and protection of human rights is (…) a long-standing priority in our relationship with Honduras.”

In classic doublespeak, this line is a reaffirmation of business as usual in Canada’s bilateral relationship with Honduras, including since the military-backed coup of June 2009. Throughout this time Canada has played – and continues to play – a leading role in Honduras to legitimize and prop up corrupt and repressive regimes that have sanctioned and perpetuated the policies and projects that killed Berta Cáceres and many many others.

If Canada cannot get its policy right on the highest profile killing of a land defender and water protector in Honduras and all of Latin America in recent years, where the company was not even Canadian, this is a poor sign of Canadian foreign policy toward the many other defenders in the region facing threats, criminalization, repression, and violence in connection with large-scale energy and mineral extraction projects. Behind all the rights-laden language, little has changed.

In the meantime, the international community has responded to calls from Berta’s family, COPINH and Gustavo Castro and created an Independent Group of Experts that is now undertaking its own assessment of the investigation in an attempt to clarify the facts. In Canada, for the hundreds of people who signed this e-petition and who continue to be deeply concerned about the lack of justice for Berta, Gustavo and many others under the gun in Honduras, keep an eye out for forthcoming plans for demonstrations across the country on March 2nd, 2017 in time for the first anniversary of Berta’s murder.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, Robert Jensen, Robert Parry, Janine Bandcroft December 14, 2016

This Week on GR

by C. L. Cook -

December 14, 2016

In case you're forgetting what to think America, there's a new nanny in town with her sights firmly set on high falutin' higher edjumacators trying to worm their way between the tender ears of the nation's youth. Professor Watchlist is a wannabe thought-police outfit determined to, "fight for free speech and the right for professors to say whatever they wish" provided they keep well away from that there "radical agenda."

Sarcasm yes, but accurate. This newly formed Group-Think tank actually hopes by "watching" professors it can wrest control of America's post-secondary curriculum away from its centuries-old, well-worn course of unbiased, sober, and scientific investigation of knowledge and the nature of the universe - or at least deflect it in the right direction.

Listen. Hear.

Robert Jensen is an author, essayist, social commentator, activist, and professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin. His articles are found across the internet, and at his website, His latest book is, 'The End of Patriarchy: Radical Feminism for Men,' set for publication in the New Year.

Robert Jensen in the first half.

And; though the US election is all but over, the "fake news" scandal marking its last days lives on. You remember? Vladimir Putin ginned the system, while fifth newspaper columnists and "useful idiots" on the internet carried water for the Ruskies. At its outset, the allegations were ludicrous, so much so, few serious commenters paid much mind to it; but from tiny acorns mighty oaks grow, and this little media brush fire, assiduously fanned by America's Number Two newspaper, the Washington Post, has the potential to create a firestorm the ends of which are terrible to consider.

Robert Parry is an author, journalist, and founding editor of the pioneering online news site, Consortium News, recently named by anonymous web troll outfit, PropOrNot as a Russia stooge. Parry is an old-school investigative reporter, who broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for the Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. His latest book is, 'America’s Stolen Narrative,' and is available either in print or as an e-book.

Robert Parry and the 'Hypocrisy Behind the Russian-Election Frenzy' 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 news of some of what's good going on on our streets and beyond in the coming week. But first, Robert Jensen and professors watching the professor watchers.

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:

Phony Press Frenzy Targets Russia, Putin

Hypocrisy Behind the Russian-Election Frenzy

by Robert Parry  - Consortium News

December 13, 2016

As Democrats, the Obama administration and some neocon Republicans slide deeper into conspiracy theories about how Russia somehow handed the presidency to Donald Trump, they are behaving as they accused Trump of planning to behave if he had lost, questioning the legitimacy of the electoral process and sowing doubts about American democracy.
Russian President Vladimir Putin answering questions from
Russian citizens at his annual Q and A event April 14, 2016.
(Russian government photo)

The thinking then was that if Trump had lost, he would have cited suspicions of voter fraud – possibly claiming that illegal Mexican immigrants had snuck into the polls to tip the election to Hillary Clinton – and Trump was widely condemned for even discussing the possibility of challenging the election’s outcome.

His refusal to commit to accepting the results was front-page news for days with leading editorialists declaring that his failure to announce that he would abide by the outcome disqualified him from the presidency.

But now the defeated Democrats and some anti-Trump neoconservatives in the Republican Party are jumping up and down about how Russia supposedly tainted the election by revealing information about the Democrats and the Clinton campaign.

Though there appears to be no hard evidence that the Russians did any such thing, the Obama administration’s CIA has thrown its weight behind the suspicions, basing its conclusions on “circumstantial evidence,” according to a report in The New York Times.

The Times reported: “The C.I.A.’s conclusion does not appear to be the product of specific new intelligence obtained since the election, several American officials, including some who had read the agency’s briefing, said on Sunday. Rather, it was an analysis of what many believe is overwhelming circumstantial evidence — evidence that others feel does not support firm judgments — that the Russians put a thumb on the scale for Mr. Trump, and got their desired outcome.”

In other words, the CIA apparently lacks direct reporting from a source inside the Kremlin or an electronic intercept in which Russian President Vladimir Putin or another senior official orders Russian operatives to tilt the U.S. election in favor of Trump.

More ‘Group Thinking’?

The absence of such hard evidence opens the door to what is called “confirmation bias” or analytical “group think” in which the CIA’s institutional animosity toward Russia and Trump could influence how analysts read otherwise innocent developments.

For instance, Russian news agencies RT or Sputnik reported critically at times about Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, a complaint that has been raised repeatedly in U.S. press accounts arguing that Russia interfered in the U.S. election. But that charge assumes two things: that Clinton did not deserve critical coverage and that Americans – in any significant numbers – watch Russian networks.

Similarly, the yet-unproven charge that Russia organized the hacking of Democratic National Committee emails and the private email account of Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta assumes that the Russian government was responsible and that it then selectively leaked the material to WikiLeaks while withholding damaging information from hacked Republican accounts.

Here the suspicions also seem to extend far beyond what the CIA actually knows. First, the Republican National Committee denies that its email accounts were hacked, and even if they were hacked, there’s no evidence that they contained any information that was particularly newsworthy. Nor is there any evidence that – if the GOP accounts were hacked – they were hacked by the same group that hacked the Democratic Party emails, i.e., that the two hacks were part of the same operation.

That suspicion assumes a tightly controlled operation at the highest levels of the Russian government, but the CIA – with its intensive electronic surveillance of the Russian government and human sources inside the Kremlin – appears to lack any evidence of such a top-down operation.

Second, WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange directly denies that he received the Democratic leaked emails from the Russian government and one of his associates, former British Ambassador Craig Murray, told the U.K. Guardian that he knows who “leaked” the Democratic emails and that there never was a “hack,” i.e. an outside electronic penetration of an email account.

Murray said,

“I’ve met the person who leaked them, and they are certainly not Russian and it’s an insider. It’s a leak, not a hack; the two are different things.”

‘Real News’

But even if Assange did get the data from the Russians, it’s important to remember that nothing in the material has been identified as false. It all appears to be truthful and none of it represented an egregious violation of privacy with some salacious or sensational angle.

The only reason the emails were newsworthy at all was that the documents revealed information that the DNC and the Clinton campaign were trying to keep secret from the American voters.

For instance, some emails confirmed Sen. Bernie Sanders’s suspicions that the DNC was improperly tilting the nomination race in favor of Clinton. The DNC was lying when it denied having an institutional thumb on the scales for Clinton. Thus, even if the Russians did uncover this evidence and did leak it to WikiLeaks, they would only have been informing the American people about the DNC’s abuse of the democratic process, something Democratic voters in particular had a right to know.

And, regarding Podesta’s emails, their most important revelation related to the partial transcripts of Clinton’s paid speeches to Wall Street banks, the contents of which Clinton had chosen to hide from the American people. So, again, if the Russians were involved in the leak, they would only have been giving to the voters information that Clinton should have released on her own. In other words, these disclosures are clearly not “fake news” – the other hysteria now sweeping Official Washington.

In the mainstream news media, there has been a clumsy effort to conflate these parallel frenzies, the leak of “real news” and the invention of “fake news.” But investigations of so-called “fake news” have revealed that these operations were run mostly by young entrepreneurs in places like Macedonia or Georgia who realized they could make advertising dollars by creating outlandish “click bait” stories that Trump partisans were particularly eager to read.

According to a New York Times investigation into one of the “fake news” sites, a college student in Tbilisi, Georgia, first tried to create a pro-Clinton “click bait” Web site but found that a pro-Trump operation was vastly more lucrative. This and other investigations did not trace the “fake news” sites back to Russia or any other government.

So, what’s perhaps most telling about the information that the CIA has accused Russia of sharing with the American people is that it was all “real news” about newsworthy topics.

What Threat to Democracy?

So, how does giving the American people truthful and relevant information undermine American democracy, which is the claim that is reverberating throughout the mainstream media and across Official Washington?

Presumably, the thinking is that it would have been better for the American people to have been kept in the dark about these secret maneuverings by the DNC and the Clinton campaign and, by keeping the public ignorant, that would have ensured Clinton’s election, the preferred outcome of the major U.S. news media.

There’s another double standard here. For instance, when a hack of — or a leak from — a Panamanian law firm exposed the personal finances of thousands of clients, including political figures in Iceland, Ukraine, Russia and other nations, there was widespread applause across the Western media for this example of journalism at its best.

The applause was deafening despite the fact that at least one of the principal “news agencies” involved was partly funded by the U.S. government. The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), a USAID-backed non-governmental organization, also was earlier involved in efforts to destabilize and delegitimize the elected Ukrainian government of President Viktor Yanukovych.

“Corruption” allegations against Yanukovych – pushed by OCCRP – were integral to the U.S.-supported effort to organize a violent putsch that drove Yanukovych from office on Feb. 22, 2014, touching off the Ukrainian civil war and – on a global scale – the New Cold War with Russia.

Yet, in the case of the “Panama Papers” or other leaks about “corruption” in governments targeted by U.S. officials for “regime change,” there are no frenzied investigations into where the information originated. Regarding the “Panama Papers,” there was simply back-slapping for the organizations that invested time and money in analyzing the volumes of material. And there were cheers when implicated officials were punished or forced to step down.

So, why are some leaks “good” and others “bad”? Why do we hail the “Panama Papers” or OCCRP’s “corruption evidence” that damaged Yanukovych – and ask no questions about where the material came from and how it was selectively used – yet we condemn the Democratic email leaks and undertake investigations into the source of the information?

In both the “Panama Papers” case and the “Democratic Party leaks,” the material appeared to be real. There was no evidence of disinformation or “black propaganda.” But, apparently, it’s okay to disrupt the politics of Iceland, Ukraine, Russia and other countries, but it is called a potential “act of war” – by neocon Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona – to reveal evidence of wrongdoing or excessive secrecy on the part of the Democratic Party in the United States.

Shoe on the Other Foot

Russian President Putin, while denying any Russian government attempt to tilt the election to Trump, recently commented on the American hypocrisy about interfering in other nations’ elections while complaining about alleged interference in its own or those of its allies. He described a conversation with an unnamed Western “colleague.”

Putin said, “I recently had a conversation with one of my colleagues. We touched upon our [Russian] alleged influence on some political processes abroad. I told him: ‘And what are you doing? You have been constantly interfering in our political life.’ And he replied: ‘It’s not us, it’s the NGOs’. I said: ‘Oh? But you pay them and write instructions for them.’ He said: ‘What kind of instructions?’ I said: ‘I have been reading them.’”

Whatever one thinks of Putin, he is not wrong in describing how various U.S.-funded NGOs, in the name of “democracy promotion,” seek to undermine governments that have ended up on Official Washington’s target list.

And another aspect of the hypocrisy permeating Official Washington’s belligerent rhetoric directed toward Russia: Aren’t the Democrats doing exactly what they accused Trump of planning to do if he had lost the Nov. 8 election, i.e., question the legitimacy of the results and thus undermine the faith of the American people in their democratic system?

For days, Trump’s unwillingness to accept, presumptively, the results of the election earned him front-page denunciations from many of the same mainstream newspapers and TV networks that are now trumpeting the unproven claims by the CIA that the Russians somehow influenced the election’s outcome by presenting some Democratic hidden facts to the American people.

Yet, this anti-Russian accusation not only undermines the American people’s faith in the election’s outcome but also represents a reckless last-ditch gamble to block Trump’s inauguration – or at least discredit him before he takes office – while using belligerent rhetoric that could push Russia and the United States closer to nuclear war.

Wouldn’t it be a good idea for the CIA to at least have hard evidence before the spy agency precipitated such a crisis?

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and

Watching the Watchers: Why 'Professor Watchlist' Wants to Nanny Curriculum

Why Professor Watchlist gets my teaching values completely wrong

by Robert Jensen - Waging Nonviolence

November 29, 2016

From a “critique” of my work on the recently launched website Professor Watchlist, I learned that I’m a threat to my students for contending that we won’t end men’s violence against women “if we do not address the toxic notions about masculinity in patriarchy … rooted in control, conquest, aggression.”

That quote is supposedly “evidence” for why I am one of those college professors who, according to the watchlist’s mission statement, “discriminate against conservative students, promote anti-American values and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.” Perhaps I could take such a claim more seriously were it not coming from a project of conservative nonprofit Turning Point USA, which has its own political agenda — namely educating students “about the importance of fiscal responsibility, free markets and limited government.”

This rather thin accusation appears to flow from my published work instead of an evaluation of my teaching, which confuses a teacher’s role in public with the classroom. So, I’ll help out the watchlist and describe how I address these issues at the University of Texas at Austin, where I’m finishing my 25th year of teaching. Readers can judge the threat level for themselves.

I just completed a unit on the feminist critique of the contemporary pornography industry in my course Freedom: Philosophy, History, Law. We began the semester with “On Liberty” by John Stuart Mill (I’ll assume the Professor Watchlist approves of that classic book), examining how various philosophers have conceptualized freedom. We then studied how the term has been defined and deployed politically throughout U.S. history, ending with questions about how living in a society saturated with sexually explicit material affects our understanding of freedom. I provided context about feminist intellectual and political projects of the past half-century, including the feminist critique of men’s violence and of mass media’s role in the sexual abuse and exploitation of women in a society based on institutionalized male dominance (that is, patriarchy).

The revelations about Donald Trump’s sexual behavior during the campaign provided a “teachable moment” that I didn’t think should be ignored. I began that particular lecture, a week after the election, by emphasizing that my job was not to tell students how to act in the world, but to help them understand the world in which they make choices.

Toward that goal, I pointed out that we have a president-elect who has bragged about being sexually aggressive and treating women like sexual objects, and that several women have testified about behavior that — depending on one’s evaluation of the evidence — could constitute sexual assault. “Does it seem fair,” I asked the class, “to describe him as a sexual predator?” No one disagreed.

Trump sometimes responded by contending that President Bill Clinton was even worse. Citing someone else’s bad behavior to avoid accountability is a weak defense (most people learn that as children), and of course Trump wasn’t running against Bill, but we can learn from examining the claim.

As president, Bill Clinton abused his authority by having sex with a younger woman who was first an intern and then a junior employee. He settled a sexual harassment lawsuit out of court, and he has been accused of rape. Does it seem fair to describe Bill Clinton as a sexual predator? No one disagreed.

So, we live in a world in which a former president, a Democrat, has been a sexual predator, yet he continues to be treated as a respected statesman and philanthropist. Our next president, a Republican, was elected with the nearly universal understanding that he has been a sexual predator. How can we make sense of this? A feminist critique of toxic conceptions of masculinity and men’s sexual exploitation of women in patriarchy seems like a good place to start.

In that class, I spent considerable time reminding students that I didn’t expect them all to come to the same conclusions, but that they all should consider relevant arguments in forming judgments. I repeated often my favorite phrase in teaching: “Reasonable people can disagree.” Student reactions to this unit of the class varied, but no one suggested that the feminist critique offered nothing of value in understanding our society.

Is presenting a feminist framework to analyze a violent and pornographic culture politicizing the classroom, as the watchlist implies? If that’s the case, then the decision not to present a feminist framework also politicizes the classroom, in a different direction. The question isn’t whether professors will make such choices — that’s inevitable, given the nature of university teaching — but how we defend our intellectual work (with evidence and reasoned argument, I hope) and how we present the material to students (encouraging critical reflection).

It would be easier to dismiss this rather silly project if the United States had not just elected a president who shouts over attempts at rational discourse and reactionary majorities in both houses of Congress. I’m a tenured full professor (and white, male and a U.S. citizen by birth) and am not worried. Yet, even though the group behind the watchlist has no formal power over me or my university, the attempt at bullying professors — no matter how weakly supported — may well inhibit professors without my security and privilege.

If the folks who compiled the watchlist had presented any evidence that I was teaching irresponsibly, I would take the challenge seriously. At least in my case, the watchlist didn’t. But rather than assign a failing grade, I’ll be charitable and give the project an incomplete, with an opportunity to turn in better work in the future.

Robert Jensen is a professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin, and author of The End of Patriarchy: Radical Feminism for Men, to be published in January by Spinifex Press. Other articles are online at
He can be reached at 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Where All Are Your Bombs Are Falling, America?

It's 2016. Do You Know Where Your Bombs Are Falling? The Forgotten War in Yemen and the Unchecked War Powers of the Presidency in the Age of Trump

by Rebecca Gordon - TomDispatch

December 11, 2016   

The long national nightmare that was the 2016 presidential election is finally over. Now, we’re facing a worse terror: the reality of a Trump presidency.

Donald Trump has already promised to nominate a segregationist attorney general, a national security adviser who is a raging Islamophobe, a secretary of education who doesn’t believe in public schools, and a secretary of defense whose sobriquet is “Mad Dog.”

How worried should we be that General James "Mad Dog" Mattis may well be the soberest among them?

Along with a deeply divided country, the worst income inequality since at least the 1920s, and a crumbling infrastructure, Trump will inherit a 15-year-old, apparently never-ending worldwide war. While the named enemy may be a mere emotion (“terror”) or an incendiary strategy (“terrorism”), the victims couldn’t be more real, and as in all modern wars, the majority of them are civilians.

On how many countries is U.S. ordnance falling at the moment? Some put the total at six; others, seven. For the record, those seven would be Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, and, oh yes, Yemen. 

Tomgram: Rebecca Gordon, Yet Another Undeclared U.S. War

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Many thanks to all of you who took up our special offer at our donation page and sent us contributions of $100 or more ($125 if you live outside the USA) for signed, personalized copies of John Feffer’s remarkable new dystopian novel, Splinterlands, which Dispatch Books has just published. Thanks as well to all of you who bought copies of the book, helping ensure that our growing TomDispatch publishing program will be a success. I can’t tell you how appreciative I am. For any of you who meant to donate to receive a personalized copy of the Feffer but just haven’t gotten around to it yet, the offer remains alive and well at our website, so go for it! And keep buying copies of the book. Think of all those gifts for friends in this particularly grim holiday season! Tom]

What is it about America and its twenty-first-century wars? They spread continually -- there are now seven of them; they never end; and yet, if you happen to live in the United States, most of the time it would be easy enough to believe that, except for the struggle against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, there were no conflicts underway. Take the Afghan War, for an example. Now 15 years old and heating up again as the Taliban takes more territory and U.S. operations there grow, it was missing in action in the 2016 election campaign. Neither presidential candidate debated or discussed that war, despite the close to 10,000 U.S. troops (and more private contractors) still based there, the fact that U.S. air power has again been unleashed in that country, and the way those in the Pentagon are talking about it as a conflict that will extend well into the 2020s. It makes no difference. Here, it’s simply the war that time forgot. Similar things might be said, even if on a lesser scale, about expanding American operations in Somalia and ongoing ones in Libya. Nor is the intensity of the air war in Syria or Iraq much emphasized or grasped by the American public.

And then, as TomDispatch regular Rebecca Gordon, author of American Nuremberg, makes clear today, there’s the war that couldn’t be forgotten because, in essence, just about no one here noticed it in the first place. I’m speaking of the U.S.-backed Saudi war aimed significantly at the civilian population of desperately impoverished Yemen. It’s a conflict in which the actual American stake couldn’t be foggier and yet the Obama administration has supported it in just about every way imaginable, and it will soon be inherited by Trump and his national security crew. It could hardly be grimmer, more devastating, or more gruesome, and yet most of the time, from an American point of view, it might as well not be happening. There is evidently no good moment to bring up the subject of where American bombs are falling on our planet, so why not now? Tom

It's 2016. Do You Know Where Your Bombs Are Falling?  

The Forgotten War in Yemen and the Unchecked War Powers of the Presidency in the Age of Trump

by Rebecca Gordon

The United States has been directing drone strikes against what it calls al-Qaeda targets in Yemen since 2002, but our military involvement in that country increased dramatically in 2015 when U.S. ally Saudi Arabia inserted itself into a civil war there. Since then, the United States has been supplying intelligence and mid-air refueling for Saudi bombers (many of them American-made F-15s sold to that country). The State Department has also approved sales to the Saudis of $1.29 billion worth of bombs -- “smart” and otherwise -- together with $1.15 billion worth of tanks, and half a billion dollars of ammunition. And that, in total, is only a small part of the $115 billion total in military sales the United States has offered Saudi Arabia since President Obama took power in 2009.

Why are American bombs being dropped on Yemen by American-trained pilots from American-made planes? I’ll get to that in a moment. But first, a glimpse of the results.

“On the Brink of Abyss”

The photographs are devastating: tiny, large-eyed children with sticks for limbs stare out at the viewer. In some, their mothers touch them gently, tentatively, as if a stronger embrace would snap their bones. These are just a few victims of the famine that war has brought to Yemen, which was already the poorest country in the Arab world before the present civil war and Saudi bombing campaign even began. UNICEF spokesman Mohammed Al-Asaadi told al-Jazeera that, by August 2016, the agency had counted 370,000 children “suffering from severe acute malnutrition,” and the U.N. World Food Program (WFP) says 14.4 million people in Yemen are “food insecure,” seven million of them -- one fifth of the country’s population -- “in desperate need of food assistance.” Before the war began, Yemen imported 90% of its food. Since April 2015, however, Saudi Arabia has blockaded the country’s ports. Today, 80% of Yemenis depend on some kind of U.N. food aid for survival, and the war has made the situation immeasurably worse.

As the WFP reports:

“The nutrition situation continues to deteriorate. According to WFP market analysis, prices of food items spiked in September as a result of the escalation of the conflict. The national average price of wheat flour last month was 55 percent higher compared to the pre-crisis period.”

The rising price of wheat matters, because in many famines, the problem isn’t that there’s no food, it’s that what food there is people can’t afford to buy.

And that was before the cholera outbreak. In October, medical workers began to see cases of that water-borne diarrheal disease, which is easily transmitted and kills quickly, especially when people are malnourished. By the end of the month, according to the World Health Organization, there were 1,410 confirmed cases of cholera, and 45 known deaths from it in the country. (Other estimates put the number of cases at more than 2,200.)

Both these health emergencies have been exacerbated by the ongoing Saudi air war, which has destroyed or otherwise forced the closure of more than 600 healthcare centers, including four hospitals operated by Doctors Without Borders, along with 1,400 schools. More than half of all health facilities in the country have either closed or are only partially functional.

The day before the U.S. election, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the U.N.’s envoy on Yemen, described the situation this way: “People are dying... the infrastructure is falling apart... and the economy is on the brink of abyss.” Every time it seems the crisis can’t get any worse, it does. A recent Washington Post story describes such “wrenching” choices now commonly faced by Yemeni families as whether to spend the little money they have to take one dying child to a hospital or to buy food for the rest of the family.

The Saudi-led coalition includes Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, and Bahrain. Between March 2015 and the end of August 2016, according to the Yemen Data Project, an independent, nonpartisan group of academics and human rights organizations, the coalition launched more than 8,600 air strikes. At least a third of them struck civilian targets, including, the Guardian reports, “school buildings, hospitals, markets, mosques and economic infrastructure.” Gatherings like weddings and funerals have come under attack, too. To get a sense of the scale and focus of the air war, consider that one market in the town of Sirwah about 50 miles east of the capital, Sana’a, has already been hit 24 separate times.

Casualty estimates vary, but the World Health Organization says that, as of October 25th, “more than 7,070 people have been killed and over 36,818 injured.” As early as last January, the U.N. High Commission for Refugees reported that 2.4 million people (nearly one-tenth of the population) were already internally displaced -- that is, uprooted from their homes by the war. Another 170,000 have fled the country, including Somali and Ethiopian refugees, who had sought asylum from their own countries in Yemen, mistakenly believing that the war there had died down. Leaving Yemen has, however, gotten harder for the desperate and uprooted since the Saudis and Egypt began blockading the country’s ports. Yemen shares land borders with Saudi Arabia to the north and Oman -- the only Arab monarchy that is not part of the Saudi-led coalition -- to the east.

In early October, Saudi planes attacked a funeral hall in Sana’a where the father of the country’s interior minister was being memorialized, killing at least 135 people and wounding more than 500. Gathered at the funeral, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW), were a wide range of Yemenis, including journalists, government officials, and some military men. HRW’s on-the-ground report on the incident claims that the attack, which intentionally targeted civilians and involved an initial air strike followed by a second one after rescuers had begun to arrive 30 minutes later, constitutes a war crime. The Saudi-led coalition acknowledged responsibility for the bombing, blaming the attack on “wrong information.”

U.N. General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon was horrified and called for a full investigation. “Aerial attacks by the Saudi-led coalition,” he said, “have already caused immense carnage, and destroyed much of the country’s medical facilities and other vital civilian infrastructure.”

For once in this forgotten war, the international outcry was sufficient to force the Obama administration to say something vaguely negative about its ally. “U.S. security cooperation with Saudi Arabia,” commented National Security Council Spokesman Ned Price, “is not a blank check.” He added:

“In light of this and other recent incidents, we have initiated an immediate review of our already significantly reduced support to the Saudi-led coalition and are prepared to adjust our support so as to better align with U.S. principles, values, and interests, including achieving an immediate and durable end to Yemen's tragic conflict."

That "check" from Washington did at least include the bombs used in the funeral attack. According to HRW’s on-the-ground reporters, U.S.-manufactured, air-dropped GBU-12 Paveway II 500-pound laser-guided bombs were used.

What’s It All About?

Why is Saudi Arabia, along with its allies, aided by the United States and, to a lesser extent, the United Kingdom, fighting in Yemen? That country has little oil, although petroleum products are its largest export, followed by among other things “non-fillet fresh fish.” It does lie along one of the world’s main oil trading routes on the Bab el-Mandeb strait between the Suez Canal at the north end of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden in the south. But neither Saudi nor U.S. access to the canal is threatened by the forces Saudi Arabia is fighting in Yemen.

The Saudis have specifically targeted the Houthis, a political movement named for its founder Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, a Zaidi Shi’a Muslim religious and political leader who died in 2004. The Zaidis are an ancient branch of Shi’a Islam, most of whose adherents live in Yemen.

Officially known as Ansar Allah (Partisans of God), the Houthi movement began in the 1990s as a religious revival among young people, who described it as a vehicle for their commitment to peace and justice. Ansar Allah soon adopted a series of slogans opposing the United States and Israel, along with any Arab countries collaborating with them, presumably including Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states. As Zaidi Muslims, the movement also opposed any significant role for Salafists (fundamentalist Sunnis) in Yemeni life and held demonstrations at mosques, including in the capital, Sana’a.

In 2004, this led to armed confrontations when Yemeni security forces, commanded by then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh, attacked the demonstrators. Badreddin al-Houthi, the movement’s founder, was killed in the intermittent civil war that followed and officially ended in 2010. Al-Jazeera, the Qatar government’s news agency, has suggested that President Saleh may have used his war with the Houthis unsuccessfully to get at his real rival, a cousin and general in the Yemeni army named Ali Mohsen.

During the Arab Spring in 2011, the Houthis supported a successful effort to oust President Saleh, and as a reward, according to al-Jazeera, that same General Mohsen gave them control of the state of Saadra, an area where many Houthi tribespeople live. Having helped unseat Saleh, the Houthis -- and much of the rest of Yemen -- soon fell out with his Saudi-supported replacement, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. In January 2015, the Houthis took over Sana’a and placed Hadi under effective house arrest. He later fled to Saudi Arabia and is believed to be living in the Saudi capital Riyadh. The Houthis for their part have now allied with their old enemy Saleh.

So, once again, why do the Saudis (and their Sunni Gulf State allies) care so much about the roiling internal politics and conflicts of their desperately poor neighbor to the south? It’s true that the Houthis have managed to lob some rockets into Saudi Arabia and conduct a few cross-border raids, but they hardly represent an existential threat to that country.

The Saudis firmly believe, however, that Iran represents such a threat. As Saudi diplomatic documents described in the New York Times suggest, that country has “a near obsession with Iran.” They see the hand of that Shi’a nation everywhere, and certainly everywhere that Shi’a minorities have challenged Sunni or secular rulers, including Iraq.

There seems to be little evidence that Iran supported the Houthis (who represent a minority variant of Shi’a Islam) in any serious way -- at least until the Saudis got into the act. Even now, according to a report in the Washington Post, the Houthis “are not Iranian puppets.” Their fight is local and the support they get from Iran remains “limited and far from sufficient to make more than a marginal difference to the balance of forces in Yemen, a country awash with weapons. There is therefore no supporting evidence to the claim that Iran has bought itself any significant measure of influence over Houthi decision-making.”

So to return to where we began: why exactly has Washington supported the Saudi war in Yemen so fully and with such clout? The best guess is that it’s a make-up present to Saudi Arabia, a gesture to help heal the rift that opened when the Obama administration concluded its July 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran. Under that agreement’s terms, Iran vowed “that it will under no circumstances ever seek, develop, or acquire any nuclear weapons” in return for the United States lifting years of economic sanctions.

U.S. Boots on the Ground

The munitions the United States has supplied to the Saudis for their war in Yemen include cluster bombs, which sprinkle hundreds of miniature bomblets around an area as big as several football fields. Unexploded bomblets can go off years later, one reason why their use is now generally considered to violate the laws of war. In fact, 119 countries have signed a treaty to outlaw cluster bombs, although not the United States. (As it happens, Saudi Arabia isn't the only U.S. ally to favor cluster bombs. Israel has also used them, for instance deploying “more than a million” bomblets in its 2006 war against Lebanon, according to an Israel Defense Forces commander.)

We know that U.S.-made cluster bombs have already killed civilians in Yemen, and in June 2016, many Democratic members of Congress tried to outlaw their sale to Saudi Arabia. They lost in a close 216-204 vote. Only 16 Democrats backed President Obama’s request to continue supplying cluster bombs to the Saudis. Congressional Republicans and the Defense Department, however, fought back fiercely, as the Intercept has reported:

“‘The Department of Defense strongly opposes this amendment,’ said Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., chairman of the House Committee on Defense Appropriations, during floor debate. ‘They advise us that it would stigmatize cluster munitions, which are legitimate weapons with clear military utility.’”

Perhaps some weapons deserve to be stigmatized.

These days it’s not just American bombs that are landing in Yemen. U.S. Special Operations forces have landed there, too, ostensibly to fight al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, the local terror outfit that has been expanding its operations amid the chaos of the war in that country. If anything, the air war has actually strengthened AQAP’s position, allowing it to seize more territory in the chaos of the ongoing conflict. In the ever-shifting set of alliances that is Yemeni reality, those U.S. special ops troops find themselves allied with the United Arab Emirates against AQAP and the local branch of the Islamic State, or ISIS, and also, at least temporarily, with a thriving movement of southern Yemeni separatists, who would like to see a return to the pre-1990 moment when there were two Yemens, north and south.

In the beginning, the White House claimed that the special ops deployment was temporary. But by June 2016, the Washington Post was reporting that “the U.S. military now plans to keep a small force of Special Operations advisers in Yemen... for the foreseeable future.” And that has yet to change, so consider us now directly involved in an undeclared land war in that country.

Compared to the horrors of Iraq and Syria, the slaughter, displacement, and starvation in Yemen may seem like small potatoes -- except, of course, to the people living and dying there. But precisely because there are no U.S. economic or military interests in Yemen, perhaps it could be the first arena in Washington’s endless war on terror to be abandoned.

Missing (Reward Offered for Sighting It): Congressional Backbone

I vividly recall a political cartoon of the 1980s that appeared at a moment when Congress was once again voting to send U.S. aid to the Contra forces fighting the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. Having witnessed firsthand the effects of the Contra war there, with its intentional military strategy of attacking civilians and public services as well as its use of torture, kidnapping, and mutilation, I found those Congressional debates on sending money, weapons, and CIA trainers to the Contras frustrating. The cartoon’s single panel caught my mood exactly. It was set in the cloakroom of the House of Representatives. Suspended from each hanger was a backbone. A blob-like creature in a suit could just be seen slithering out of the frame. The point was clear: Congress had checked its spine at the door.

In fact, in every war the United States has fought since World War II, Congress has effectively abdicated its constitutional right to declare war, repeatedly rolling over and playing dead for the executive branch. During the last 50 years, from the Reagan administration’s illegal Contra war to the “war on terror,” this version of a presidential power grab has only accelerated. By now, we’ve become so used to all of this that the term “commander-in-chief” has become synonymous with “president” -- even in domestic contexts. With a Trump administration on the horizon, it should be easier to see just what an irresponsible folly it’s been to allow the power of the presidency and the national security state to balloon in such an uncontrolled, unchecked way.

I wish I had the slightest hope that our newly elected Republican Congress would find its long-lost spine in the age of Donald Trump and reassert its right and duty to decide whether to commit the country to war, starting in Yemen. Today, more than ever, the world needs our system of checks and balances to work again. The alternative, unthinkable as it might be, is looming.

It’s 2016. We know where our bombs are. Isn’t it time to bring them home?

Rebecca Gordon, a TomDispatch regular, teaches in the philosophy department at the University of San Francisco. She is the author of American Nuremberg: The U.S. Officials Who Should Stand Trial for Post-9/11 War Crimes. Her previous books include Mainstreaming Torture: Ethical Approaches in the Post-9/11 United States and Letters from Nicaragua.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt's latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2016 Rebecca Gordon

Hearing Trees and Understanding

The Intelligence of Trees – Part 2 of 4

by Ray Grigg - Shades of Green

December  5, 2016

A different scale of time accounts for one of the reasons we have difficulty understanding the intelligence of trees. We interpret events with reference to our human sense of normal. Comparatively, trees seem to respond slowly, their life cycles sometimes approaching millennia — in the words of the German forester, Peter Wholleben, they “exceed the human attention span.” They feed on the raw material we call dirt and produce their energy by the perplexing process of photosynthesis. As very different creatures, it’s not surprising we haven’t been able to understand them.

Because trees are “rooted” in one place, they have devised and used their own ways to relate and communicate with their surroundings —ways that happen to be outside the range of our usual perception. And why should they behave as we do? This expectation is one of our major shortcomings. Children, with their special innocent wisdom, recognize and accept trees as living beings with purposeful and deliberate behaviour, and so do Peter Wholleben and Suzanne Simard.

In the beech forests of Germany, Wholleben documents parent trees “nursing” their offspring. The young saplings, attempting to grow beneath the shadowed canopy with 97% of the sunlight already consumed, are kept alive and healthy with sugars and nutrients provided by their parents through interconnecting root structures — “nursing their babies,” is Wholleben’s expression. When the parents eventually die, the saplings are ready to succeed them as strong and able inheritors of the available space in the forest.

One tree “caring” for another makes scientists feel uncomfortable, particularly when the paradigm of competitiveness is the one we have been using to explain how trees and forests grow. But Wholleben has evidence of trees sharing space and nutrition, of neighbours feeding sugars to nearby stumps to keep them alive. In a beech forest he has examined the living stump of a tree that fell about 400 years ago, still alive from the sustenance provided from nearby trees. And it’s possible to find occasional fir stumps, fed for so long by neighbouring trees, that the bark has grown up over the severed wood to heal the wound — the base of the amputated tree is still alive without a functioning trunk, branches or needles.

Science, of course, as part of its effort to be objective, is averse to using words that have an emotional connotation. The behaviour in one category of living beings, particularly anthropomorphizing, is not to be confused with the behaviour in another. So our sensitive response to touch, sunlight, heat and water becomes, for trees, the technical terms of thigmotropism, heliotropism, thermotropism and hydrotropism. But a response is a response. And behind the different words is the implication that trees have some kind of sentience or awareness. This, of course, is the point being made by Wholleben and Simard.

Of significance, Wholleben is not some unrealistic dreamer. He conducted about 25 years of scientific research in Canada’s West Coast rainforests, confirming the claims in his book, The Hidden Life of Trees. And Suzanne Simard, the eminent forest ecologist from UBC, has created her own stir in academic circles. Part 3 of 4 next week.