Saturday, February 03, 2018

Passing: Dave Barrett - Democratic Socialist, BC Premier

Passing: Dave Barrett - Democratic Socialist, BC Premier

by Wikipedia

February 2, 2018

David Barrett, OC OBC (October 2, 1930 – February 2, 2018), commonly known as Dave Barrett, was a politician and social worker in British Columbia, Canada. He was the 26th Premier of British Columbia for three years between 1972 and 1975.

Barrett was first elected to British Columbia's legislature in the 1960 election as a Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (soon to become the New Democratic Party of British Columbia) member for the electoral district of Dewdney.

He had been fired from his job by the provincial government in 1959 after it became known that he was running for a CCF nomination and had to fight for reinstatement as at the time civil servants were barred from running for office.[4]

He became known for his public speaking ability and held his seat through four elections. He ran for the provincial leadership of the NDP, but lost to Tom Berger. However, Berger lost the 1969 election, a contest that the NDP had been expected to win. He resigned, and there was a quick campaign to draft Barrett as party leader.



Barrett led the NDP to its first provincial victory against the stagnating Social Credit government of W. A. C. Bennett in the 1972 election. He became Premier on September 15, 1972.

The Barrett government substantially reformed the welfare system, initiated a number of reforms such as establishing the province's Labour Relations Board, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) in order to provide public auto insurance and the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) to protect the small supply of farm land in BC, all of which were retained by subsequent Social Credit and Liberal governments.[5] The NDP also introduced more democracy into the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia through the introduction of question period and full Hansard transcripts of legislative proceedings in the province.[6]

On social policy, in 1973, B.C. banned corporal punishment in all schools. It also banned pay toilets, launched Pharmacare, lowered the drinking age to 19, increased the minimum wage, preserved Cypress Bowl for recreation and established the air ambulance service, passed the British Columbia Human Rights Code, consumer protection laws, and introduced French immersion in schools.[5][7]

Barrett's government also introduced a mineral royalties tax which inflamed the mining industry and helped mobilize it into organizing to defeat the NDP electorally.[5]

The NDP passed 367 bills, a new law on average every three days, while in power.[5]

Friday, February 02, 2018

Just How Did Trump Win? Money, Dark Money

How Did Trump Win? Follow the Dark Money 


February 1, 2018

A major new study says a last-minute infusion of "dark money," coupled with declining unionization rates, were among the key factors that handed Donald Trump the biggest upset in US political history. We speak to co-author Thomas Ferguson of the University of Massachusetts.

Thomas Ferguson is a political scientist and author who studies and writes on politics and economics, often within an historical perspective. He is a Political Science professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston. He is also a a contributing editor of The Nation. He is also the author of several books, the recent of which is Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Party Competition and the Logic of Money-Driven Political System

A Massive Fail for BC Governments on Mount Polley Mining Disaster

BC Crown decision to quash Mount Polley private prosecution makes no sense

by FNWARM  MiningWatch Canada 

Feb. 1, 2018

B.C.'s Recent Crown Decision: How Can The Worst Mining Waste Disaster in Canadian History Not Have Legal Consequences?

The BC Prosecution Service announced Tuesday, January 30th, 2018 that they were taking over and quashing the private prosecution of Mount Polley Mining Corporation over its August 4, 2014 tailings dam disaster.

The charges were laid by Bev Sellars, Grandmother, former Chief of Xat’sull First Nation (Soda Creek), author, and indigenous advocate.

“It is my duty as a Grandmother to protect the environment for future generations. Indigenous people's law stresses that you have to take care of the land for generations ahead. I pushed the pause button by pressing charges against Mount Polley before BC’s statute of limitations ran out,” said Sellars.

“Instead of the Crown taking over and holding Imperial Metals to account and bringing justice for this disaster, they have failed to act. They have failed First Nations, failed the people of BC, and failed future generations.”

Sellars laid private charges against the company on Aug. 4, 2017 – which was the deadline for provincial charges to be laid. This kept the door open for the Province to take over the prosecution, although Sellars was prepared to proceed on her own if necessary.

On the same day Sellars laid private charges, August 4th, 2017, BC Premier John Horgan said "[t]o have three years pass without any consequences is disturbing to me personally and, I think, disturbing for all British Columbians.”

The Crown’s press release on their decision to dismiss the case said "[a]fter conducting its review, the BCPS concluded that the material provided does not meet the charge assessment standard for approval of charges.”

However, in deciding to prosecute, or not, Crown would have had access to public reports regarding the spill, plus all the evidence supplied by Ms. Sellars and her legal team, and all the evidence gathered by the BC Conservation Officer Service over the last three years.

“It’s ridiculous to say there wasn’t enough evidence, there was a mountain of evidence,” said Sellars, “and if prosecuting this case isn’t in the public interest I don’t know what is.”

“Apparently that wasn’t enough to prove what we could all see with our eyes,” said Jeh Custerra, campaigner for the Friends of Clayoquot Sound, one of many public groups supporting Sellar’s quest for justice. One of Sellars’ 15 charges was simply that there was a spill, and anyone can watch the video of it online.

Sellars and MiningWatch, which assisted in the laying of the private charges last year, say they are now reviewing their options to see if they can challenge Crown’s decision to quash the case.

They also said they are hoping the federal government will show more vigour in pursuing its case than did the BC Crown prosecutors. Charges under the Fisheries Act can still be made until Aug. 4, 2019.

Patrick Canning, counsel for Bev Sellars, said, “This is a very disappointing decision that does not reflect a commitment to the environment, or reconciliation with First Nations. The province had the ability to let Ms. Sellars conduct the prosecution, and that is what should have happened.”

“It is so frustrating that there have still been no fines, penalties or charges against the company responsible for this disaster that impacted our community,” said Sellars,

“We will decide soon our next steps. But if our current BC laws do not provide for a prosecution for the biggest mining spill then they are grossly inadequate. John Horgan and the BC NDP have the power to change them, and I hope they do. No one else should have to go through this.”

Bev Sellars, FNWARM (First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining)
Ugo Lapointe, MiningWatch Canada
Patrick Canning, lawyer

Further background:

Fines under applicable BC legislation go up to 1 million dollars per count for some of the charges that were laid. In addition the Environmental Management Act make allowance for orders to recover funds spent by the Province on remedial or preventive action taken as a result of the commission of the offence.

Federal Fisheries Act charges can get as high as $6 million for a first offence, and $12 for second or more.

Charges could have been prosecuted under both federal and provincial legislation at the same time, as has been done in other cases, like R. v Syncrude, in Alberta in 2010.

Death from Above: Trump the Drone King

Trump’s Drone Kill Rate 80 Times Greater than Under Bush

by Whitney Webb - MintPress News

Feb. 2, 2018

It took Trump only seven months to surpass the number of civilian deaths in foreign nations that occurred during Obama’s entire eight-year presidency, according to non-profit monitoring group Airwars.

During the 2016 election, Donald Trump – quite successfully – managed to convince a sizable portion of the electorate that he would take a much more anti-interventionist stance, in terms of U.S. military entanglements abroad, than would his contender Hillary Clinton.

Yet, throughout his first year as president, such differences have been few and far between.

In particular, it has been Trump’s dangerous expansion of the drone war that has authoritatively destroyed any illusion that Trump would genuinely put “America first” — and put an end to dangerous military operations abroad that only serve to exacerbate the horrendously bungled War on Terror.

For instance, after gutting the already lax regulations on drone strikes and giving the CIA free rein to kill whomever they choose, it took Trump only seven months to surpass the number of civilian deaths that occurred during Obama’s entire eight-year presidency, according to non-profit monitoring group Airwars.

The covert drone war program, first created under George W. Bush, was a key part of the War on Terror whereby terror suspects could be targeted and killed covertly. However, under his presidency, only 57 strikes were conducted in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, with between 384 and 807 civilians killed. The program was greatly expanded during the Obama administration, which conducted 563 strikes in those same countries. Now, under Trump, drone strikes targeting these countries have skyrocketed.

In 2017, the U.S. bombed Yemen 127 times alone, compared to 32 strikes conducted in 2016. In Pakistan and Somalia, the number of strikes have also increased under Trump. In Somalia, for instance, 34 drone strikes were conducted last year, the same number as all U.S. drone strikes conducted in Somalia from 2001 to 2016.

As the number of drone strikes has grown, so too has the number of civilian casualties. Trump’s drone assassination rate is now eight times that of Obama. Obama’s, in turn, was 10 times that of Bush, making Trump’s drone kill rate a whopping 80 times higher than that of Bush. In other words, Trump is on track to be a record-breaking war criminal.

However, the problem is bigger than just the innocent lives claimed as a result of the “covert” drone war. Civilian deaths resulting from U.S. airstrikes in Iraq, Libya and Syria reached between 3,923 to 6,102 last year under Trump. This startling figure marks a massive increase from civilian deaths reported during the Obama administration, which was responsible for between 2,298 to 3,398 civilian deaths during Obama’s eight years in office.

Ninety-eight percent collateral damage

More troubling than the sheer number of strikes conducted is the fact that U.S. drone strikes kill far more civilians than supposed militants. Indeed, militant leaders on the controversial U.S. “kill list” account for a mere 2 percent of drone-related deaths, with strikes confirmed to kill civilians 90 percent of the time. Shockingly, more than 80 percent of those killed have never even been identified and the CIA’s own documents have shown that they are not even aware of who they are killing — avoiding the issue of reporting civilian deaths simply by naming all those in the strike zone as enemy combatants.

The jump in the number of drone strikes and civilian deaths is largely owing to Trump’s decision last March that allowed the CIA to conduct strikes without White House approval. This policy change overhauled the Obama administration requirement that the military would carry out strikes the CIA had identified. Not only has this led to an increase in reported drone strikes, it has also made reporting drone strikes – and their casualties – more difficult, as the CIA, unlike the Pentagon, is not required to disclose the strikes it conducts. Thus, the harrowing figures of civilian deaths incurred under the Trump-led drone war are likely a fraction of the actual total.

Trump’s dramatic reversal, played out over the first year of his presidency, is not very surprising given that his “anti-war” credentials touted on the campaign trail were falsified. For instance, Trump claimed to have opposed both the invasion of Iraq – resulting in over a million dead – and the invasion of Libya, which has resulted in a failed state now plagued by slavery and terrorism. In fact, however, he supported both of these disastrous invasions, even supporting the deployment of U.S. ground troops in Libya to remove Muammar Gaddafi from power.

The ruse of Trump’s anti-interventionism was painted in disappearing ink along his campaign trail, giving way to a presidency that has no qualms about leaving thousands of innocent civilians dead in its wake.

Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News who has written for several news organizations in both English and Spanish; her stories have been featured on ZeroHedge, the Anti-Media, and 21st Century Wire among others. She currently lives in Southern Chile.

Republish our stories! MintPress News is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 International License. 

A Horrorful Evening: SOTU a Sad and Morbid Affair

Tales From the Crypt

by Jeffrey St. Clair - CounterPunch

February 2, 2018

With his customary bravado Donald Trump boasted that the TV audience for his first State of the Union address was the largest in history. This extravagant assertion was soon swatted down by none other than Fox News, which cited at least five other SOTUs speeches with bigger ratings since 1992, including Obama’s final bland monologue in 2016.

Even so, Trump drew a respectable viewership, many of whom, no doubt, were hoping to watch a live train wreck in the well of the House. They were a little premature.

The live train wreck would take place the following day in Crozet, Virginia, when an Amtrak metroliner carrying the Republican leadership rammed a stalled truck.
Photo by Tyler Merbler | CC BY 2.0

But don’t change that channel, the injured politicians will likely get a guest-starring role in next year’s State of the Union address.

By most accounts, Trump’s big speech fell flat. There’s nothing more deflating than tuning in expecting a Trump spectacle and hearing a meandering stream of florid platitudes that could have been written by Peggy Noonan. Most of the fun from watching Trump speak comes from his brusque improvisations. Like many a pitchman, Trump relies punchy one-liners, pungent putdowns and inscrutable maledictions. Yet, he gets lost reading compound sentences on a teleprompter, skidding to a halt at commas and running over periods.

Still Trump has already learned one of the cardinal rules of executive politics: the easiest path to being lauded as presidential is to promise to bomb some peasants and kowtow to global bankers. Hence, the Noonanesque rhetorical flourishes on Tuesday night, threatening to blitz North Korea and unchain Wall Street from even the most gossamer-like regulatory restraints. The president was clapping so fervently at his own best lines all night that he almost blew out the microphone, even if someone else wrote them. Of course, Trump should beware. What appeals to the pundit class alienates the electorate.

If Trump’s audience wasn’t the largest on record, those who stuck around to the end could claim credit for having endured a speech of almost Castrovian length. Trump rambled on for more than 90 minutes, in a speech which rivaled in time and tedium those given by the president that Trump most tends to emulate in terms of political bombast and moral refinement, Bill Clinton.

At one point, Trump pledged his “unwavering” support for law enforcement, even as details of systemic corruption in the Baltimore Police Department burned across the headlines in the nation’s capital. The FBI, of course, was exempted from this oath of presidential loyalty. Perhaps next year, TSA and ATF will also fall from Trumpian favor. Yes, I still naively cling to the audacity of hope.

Trump’s lone surprise announcement earned robust cheers from the Republican torture caucus. Before stepping into his limo, Trump signed an executive order keeping open the Guantanamo Prison that Obama promised to close but didn’t. Thanks, Barack. Of course, there hasn’t been a new detainee interned in Gitmo since 2008, but much of Trump’s base long to see those cells ringing once again with the screams of hooded prisoners.

Meanwhile, the Democratic power trio of Pelosi, Hoyer, and Clyburn squirmed impassively in their seats throughout Trump’s speech, as if they were getting spinal fluid transfusions through slow-drip IVs.

Of course, all eyes eventually focused on the First Lady’s box. She had broken with tradition by refusing to ride down Pennsylvania Avenue to Capitol Hill with her husband, who she has kept at an icy distance since word of his affair with the voluptuous porn queen, Stormy Daniels. What would Melania be wearing? Would she be escorted by the same strapping Marine, who she fondly remembered on the anniversary of her husband’s inauguration?

Melania descended to her seat adorned with an enigmatic smile and an angelic white pantsuit, which was a more stylish version of the one Hillary Clinton often wore during the 2016 campaign. In what was perhaps yet another subliminal couture message, it should be recalled that last year many women members of congress wore white in solidarity with victims of sexual assault. Melania played the part of the Madonna of the Victimized, surrounding herself with featured players in her husband’s catalogue of American carnage.

Trump did an excellent job of using his invited guests as human shields for odious policies. Viewers who stumbled across the speech during one of these maudlin interludes might be forgiven for thinking they were watching an episode of Tales From the Crypt. There was the cop from Albuquerque, who heard God tell him to adopt the baby of a heroin addict. What happened to the mother, we weren’t told, probably jailed, which seems to be the thrust of Trump’s plan to combat the opioid crisis. There were the weeping black parents of a teenage girl killed by an alleged member of the MS-13 gang, who became something of stand-in for the potential criminality of all young immigrants. There was the young boy from Washington state, whose campaign to place American flags on the graves of veterans was twisted into an attack on black athletes protesting police brutality.

Then there was Ji Seong-ho, North Korea’s version of Tiny Tim who, in keeping with the evening’s DIY theme, brought his own crutches to wave as Trump edged closer to ordering a preemptive strike against the Kim regime.

All of this theater recalls the similar cast of victims dressed up by the PR hacks at Hill & Knowlton and paraded as presidential props to justify two wars against Iraq. So, it looks like there will be blood on the Korean peninsula and a veritable wasteland of crutches.

Trump deftly avoided the fraught issue of the day: Russia. The morning’s papers were frantic over the fact that Trump had judiciously declined to impose a new round of sanctions on Russia, recently mandated by Congress. MSDNC and other Russia-crazed outlets had seized on the fact that the Trump administration surreptitiously replaced the Treasury Department list of “evil Russians” with a Forbes magazine list of the richest Russian oligarchs. I don’t know why this is a surprise. Didn’t Stormy Daniels tell us that Trump preferred to be spanked with a rolled-up copy of Forbes?

One of the few “must-see-TV” moments from the SOTU came as Trump took a triumphant stroll down the aisle after his speech, glad-handing GOP politicians and scrawling his signature on books, though presumably not copies of Fire and Fury. South Carolina congressman Jeff Duncan pumped Trump’s hand and implored the president to “Just release the memo!” The memo in question was prepared by staffers of the flighty Devin Nunes and apparently lays out how the FBI abused a FISA warrant to snoop on Trump campaign aide Carter Page. Trump flicked his hand at Duncan and said reassuringly, “Oh, yeah, well, 100 percent.”

The hysteria of the Democrats over the Nunes Memo is almost certainly proportional its ultimate banality. (It turned out to be pretty much of a dud.) History tells us that they only get really upset over inconsequential matters. Of course, the Republicans were really serious about exposing domestic spying abuses by the FBI, they would have released the Nunes Memo before voting to expand warrantless spying under FISA.

The memo itself is a useful distraction for both parties from the real issue: the abuse of FISA warrants. Trump has it in his power to declassify and release the Page warrant and expose just how thoroughly the surveillance apparatus has intruded on civil liberties. He should but he won’t, because such an act of real transparency would represent a fatal transgression of the boundaries of the Deep State. The issue isn’t whether FISA warrants were abused in the case of Carter Page. But that FISA is itself an abuse of Constitutional rights. There are no “good” FISA warrants.

How surreal is the Nunes Affair? One of the FBI agents targeted by Trump and the Republican ultras as a covert Clintonoid is Peter Strzok, who sent his lover, a former FBI lawyer, the following text:

“FBI agent Strzok said he might vote for Trump because Trump was “calling for death for @Snowden …I’m a single-issue voter…. Espionage Machine Party.”

What about the opposition? Those political insomniacs who stayed up late were treated to Joe Kennedy the Third’s spasmodic sermon from the Diman Vocational School in Fall River, Massachusetts. Kennedy literally seemed to be foaming at the mouth, in an inverted reprise of the 1960 Kennedy/Nixon debate with the young Kennedy now transformed into the role of the soggy Nixon. Kennedy’s hyper-active presentation lacked any real substance or plan for action. What would you expect from a Big Pharma loyalist in the House, who opposes single-payer and medical marijuana, while stuffing his coffers with political gratuities from Goldman Sachs? Trump didn’t mention climate change, liberals cried. Well, neither did Joe V. 3.

So it came down to Bernie, who is reportedly already putting together a team for his 2020 run for the White House. Followers of Sanders’ Twitter feed found the socialist Senator from Vermont in full Cold Warrior mode, bravely tweeting: “How can Trump not talk about the reality that Russia, through cyberwarfare, interfered in our election in 2016, is interfering in democratic elections all over the world, and according to his own CIA director will likely interfere in the 2018 midterm elections?” So much for Our Revolution™, campesinos.

It turns out that much of Trump’s speech was drafted by former investment banker Gary Cohn, now Director of Trump’s National Economic Council. So, Hillary gave speeches to Goldman Sachs and Goldman Sachs gave speeches to Trump to read. Plus ça change.

Welcome to America, Dreamers!

Do You Believe in What You See? 


Booked Up

What I’m reading this week…

Rise and Kill First: the Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations by Ronen Bergman

Captives of War: British Prisoners of War in Europe During WW II by Clare Makepeace

The Juniper Tree by Barbara Comyns

Sound Grammar

What I’m listening to this week…

Rifles and Rosary Beads by Mary Gauthier

The Thread That Keeps Us by Calexico

Vessel of Love by Hollie Cook

All for One by Jamison Ross

Blues and Beyond (Live) by Gary Moore

The Great Escape

Alain Badiou: “If there exists one unique great imperial power which is always convinced that its most brutal interests coincide with the Good; if it is true that every year the USA spends more on their military budget than Russia, China, France, England and Germany put together; and if that Nation-State, devoted to military excess, has no public idol other than wealth, no allies other than servants, and no view of other peoples apart from an indifferent, commercial and cynical one; then the basic freedom of States, peoples and individuals consists in doing everything and thinking everything in order to escape, as much as possible, from the commandments, interventions and interference of that imperial power.”

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His new book is Bernie and the Sandernistas: Field Notes From a Failed Revolution. He can be reached at: or on Twitter @JSCCounterPunch
More articles by:Jeffrey St. Clair

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Questions of Reality: Is This All Really Happening?


by John Steppling - CounterPunch

Feb. 1, 2018

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. — Edward Bernays

For the first time in human history, there is a concerted strategy to manipulate global perception. And the mass media are operating as its compliant assistants, failing both to resist it and to expose it.The sheer ease with which this machinery has been able to do its work reflects a creeping structural weakness which now afflicts the production of our news. — Nick Davis

There is a strange uncanny quality to a number of recent stories. In fact an uncanny quality to nearly everything recently. And it is a quality that includes paranoia, but also the sense of living within some increasingly malevolent psy ops experiment.

Now everyone runs for cover when this idea of psy ops is introduced. The conspiracy theorist label is the most feared appellation in contemporary culture. But the truth is that I cannot recall a time when there was so much psychological disquiet running through the populace of North America and Europe.

But especially, unsurprisingly, in the U.S. Edward Snowden released information last week that set the CIA black budget at 52 billion (and change) for 2013. Of course, there is some reason to suspect Snowden himself is part of this budget (see how this goes?).

One writer noted

In comparison, the Department of Homeland Security was allocated $55.4 billion in 2013. The black budget comes in at a figure larger than the sums received by the Department of the Interior, the Department of Commerce and NASA this year combined.

A few years ago the late Daniel Inouye wrote “there exists a shadowy government with its own Air Force, its own Navy, its own fundraising mechanism and the ability to pursue its own ideas of the national interest, free from all checks and balances, and free from the law itself”.

Today, it is estimated (!) that there are close to 200 special access secret intelligence programs in the U.S. government. Nobody has any idea how many are employed in these programs or, obviously, what they do. Nor does anyone have any clear idea how much money there is to which they have access. Now the recent Snowden leak prompted a number of online publications, many of them ostensively liberal (Wired, The Verge) to declaim the obvious — thats a lot of money — near more than most small countries spend on everything in a year. But see, anyone paying any kind of attention knew all this. And when James Clapper notes that much of the secret budget is targeting North Korea, you know that such leaks are part of the psy ops themselves. For you know Clapper is lying because his mouth is moving. Nobody in the intelligence community really thinks the Pentagon fears North Korea. Lots more discussion makes mention of Pakistan, Hezbollah, and Syria. The usual targets the CIA and Pentagon want America to fear. Not a word about false flag ops or domestic propaganda. Are we to believe the black budget is not spent on propagandizing the U.S. public? Are we to believe the CIA covert program does not engage in false flag operations?

Take this notification about armageddon that occurred in Hawaii recently. I mean seriously, think about what happened. Bill Van Auken wrote..“The “false alarm” delivered to a population of 1.5 million in the US Pacific island state of Hawaii on Saturday morning has laid bare the clear and present danger of a nuclear war. Cell phones lit up with the text message “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” Television and radio broadcasts were interrupted with the chilling announcement that “A missile may impact on sea or land within minutes. This is not a drill.” For 38 minutes, residents of and visitors to Hawaii were confronted face to face with nuclear Armageddon. Parents frantically sought to find and protect their children, families said last goodbyes and people desperately sought largely nonexistent shelter in anticipation of a nuclear blast.”

Thirty eight minutes, huh. Ok. Van Auken adds…“There is no reason that anyone should blindly accept this official story as true. Given the record of the US government in staging provocations and launching wars based upon lies, not only severe skepticism, but outright suspicion is called for.” Of course. The problem though runs even deeper than just the idea that somehow this intentional false alarm was meant to frighten the public about Nuclear War. It may be that, too, although while I don’t think the U.S. will attack the DPRK (They are too useful as the regional villain.), its certainly useful to normalize the very idea of nuclear war. But this false alarm does something else. It is part of the manufacturing of existential terror. And certainly it fits in seamlessly with the spike in internet censorship (see Diane Feinstein and Adam Schiff letter to Mark Zukerberg…I mean you cant make this shit up). Or listen to Monika Bikert, the Facebook rep as she talks of the doubling of facebook personnel devoted to weeding out subversives, or what she called *counterspeech* (sic). Fear fear fear everywhere. Even fear of your neighbours. Most everyone is aware of Google and YouTube and Facebook now deleting voices they don’t like, and effectively disappearing web sites that are anti capitalist and anti imperialist. For your own good, of course. Normal.

Or think about the Robert Mueller investigation and the massive propaganda campaign against Russia that has taken place the last year. The entire “Russia-gate” narrative is a fiction. But much of the educated white populace are now literally frothing at the mouth in outrage (for what is often unclear, actually, but Trump inspires a new level of hatred and contempt in many) and falling over themselves to laud praise on Mueller and the FBI. Ponder that a moment or two.

Clint Watts, jar head ex Army, and ex FBI, and now head of some creepy organization that works on censorship (Alliance for Securing Democracy) , spoke to a judiciary hearing last year and said “Civil wars don’t start with gunshots, they start with words. America’s war with itself has already begun. We all must act now on the social media battlefield to quell information rebellions that can quickly lead to violent confrontations and easily transform us into the Divided States of America.” This in an article by Andre Damon. So fear *words* too.

The public faces of repression. A populace now saturated with online psychological manipulation. Now most of us have noticed, for years, really, the Israeli hasbara trolls on social media. They pop up at odd times to attack any critical discourse on Israeli crimes. The U.S. government does much the same thing for a variety of topics. And it should be noted that there is a precipitous spike in antisemitism on the left. Some of it almost just structural in nature, but much of it blatant. But this is the top text, so to speak. It is never that simple. For the deeper psy op activities are housed directly in the voices of dissent. Others, all those voices that pop up to attack, with faint praise sometimes, socialist countries; Cuba or the DPRK or Venezuela, are achieving something opposite of what they appear to be claiming. There is always this not quite radical criticism of, say, Hillary and Bill Clinton. But if one just asks…just asks, what about that trail of dead bodies going back decades that seem to follow in the wake of Bill and Hill. Ask that and you are slandered. Ask, say, about any left or even liberal journalist…why is this guy saying this stuff. Ive asked about Chris Hedges unwavering attacks on Slobodan Milosevic. I mean Hedges claims he was there. He should know better. Right? But maybe its just a blind spot. I find that hard to understand, but maybe. I mean maybe its all in my head, too. Could be. But if one has any illusions about the CIA and media, here is a useful quick primer.

Conspiracy exists. That’s just a fact. COINTELPRO, Iran/Contra, the ‘babies torn from incubators’ meme, or those mythical rape camps in Serbia, or Operation Northwoods, or Operation Gladio for that matter. Yet, there is an enormous resistance to even suggesting any suspicion about certain things. And that is understandable. After all, there are countless crazy conspiracy stuff one can find. And there are certainly tons of people propagating these crazy theories. And it is tiresome. And the complexity of the experience of dealing with crazy theories is often also just enervating and depressing. Lodged within much of it are various layers of antisemitism, xenophobia, and racism. For the people who embrace the worst and most unrealistic conspiracy theories are also, usually, just not very smart. Uneducated, and their embrace is part of a character structure built on resentment and anger. From the crude Trumpian build-a-wall-to-keep-out-those-foreigners-who-are-taking-your-jobs, to the latest incarnations of the Protocalls of the Elders of Zion (just the word *Rothschild* is enough for me to stop reading) the sheer volume of this stuff is mind numbing. But then there is the possibility that the most outlandish stuff, that which attracts the nativist racists or antisemites might itself fall under the umbrella of that black budget. See how this goes? I mean I often worry everything too outrageous just might be part of some massive psy ops.

The latest UFO video has garnered a lot of attention. I’d love to believe it, I really would. And it’s compelling, actually. But those drawings of the flying saucers. Why do they resemble Buck Rodgers serials? Why is the alien aesthetic, as it were, so retro? All these retired military guys, isn’t that a red flag? I don’t know. Or the moon landing didn’t happen meme. It was done on a sound stage in London and directed by Stanley Kubrick. I love that one, I admit. Why? Because those photos, the colour ones, DO in fact look like something Kubrick would have done. Do I actually believe it? No. But I get the appeal. I get the appeal for all of it. And I get the appeal because the actual world itself is so, well, unreal. Edward Said, not long before his death, did a BBC interview in which he was asked the single thing he felt most about the world at that moment. And he said, ‘the unreality’.

Did private security teams shoot people after Hurricane Katrina? Yes. So did a lot of cops. Did land get stolen from the poor? Of course it did. The ruling class is highly opportunistic. Disaster capitalism and all that. But nobody manufactured a hurricane in some lab at DARPA.

But this unreality is not a hallucination. And the denial of it increasingly feels like its own neurosis. It also strikes me, the denial of all conspiracy theory, as a masculine affliction. It is the residual Puritanism or Calvinism of the stoic nose to the grindstone American male. Take Michael Hastings or Seth Rich, and ask yourself if one can with any equanimity accept the official story. Once upon a time people laughed at the idea that the U.S. government trained death squads at a place called School of the Americas. Unreal. But, of course, it was factual. Air America or CIA cocaine importation and the Gary Webb story. Unreal? Yeah. Sure it was.

The shocking fact, Cockburn and St Clair assert, is the utterly quotidian nature of CIA operations. This is a healthy bureaucracy in which organizing drug transshipments, reportfiling, business lunches and clocking-out ofthe office are the workaday routines of well-educated, well-spoken men in suits. In contrast to the glamorous Hollywood depiction of espionage culture, this is the sphere of public servants, who are bid to dothe job of achieving American geopolitical aspirations as best they can: “it should again be emphasized,” write Cockburn and St Clair, that the ClA works not as a “‘rogue’ Agency but always as the expression of US government policy” dictated from the Oval Office. All this might be dismissed as conspiracy theory were it not for the impressive research and documentation in Whiteout. — Brian Musgrove, review of Whiteout

Catch that? Might be dismissed as conspiracy theory. Would have been. Almost was. For many still is. And yet there are decades of evidence that the U.S.does in fact engage in routine clandestine operations on foreign soil (and probably, this same evidence suggests, domestically), up to and including murder. There a million Hollywood movies with this story line. But if one suggests that something not officially recognised might have been a black op — you are just a conspiracy theorist. Or in another register; look at the remarkable work of the Innocence Project. Look at the number of men acquitted of murder, rape, assault, and kidnapping. These men were set up. Those men were not convicted because of accidents or just bad legal representation (though they often had that, too). No, they were set up by venal dishonorable racists, white supremacists, men in positions to take away your freedom. If you are poor, especially poor and black or brown or Native American, then your life is always going to be precarious.

And yet, much of America still needs convincing that the death penalty is wrong. People laugh about how everyone in jail claims innocence. Yet we know many ARE innocent.

Or Chelsea Manning’s campaign for congress. The former Bradley Manning launched her campaign with an Orwellian video in which she is dressed in black, wearing a designer hoodie and which suggests nothing so much as some V for Vendetta outtake, by way of Oswald Mosley. But, but she is running as a … Democrat. What does one make of this, exactly? Unreality. Color me suspicious.

But I want to return to the current wave of antisemitism I see in the West. Much of it on the self identified left. For this represents something symptomatic of the dissipation of critical thinking that is helping foster this climate of unreality. An unreality that aligns psychologically with fascism.

The British ruling class, which was rabidly anti-Semitic, had its own reasons for this support. Out of the First World War, Arab nationalism had emerged as a major threat to domination of the Middle East and Britain hoped that Zionists could be a useful force for policing the Arabs. But Winston Churchill gave another reason for supporting Zionism–defeat of the left wing “International Jews.” In an astoundingly anti-Semitic article titled “Zionism versus Bolshevism,” Churchill wrote, ‘First there are the Jews who, dwelling in every country throughout the world, identify themselves with that country, enter into its national life and, while adhering faithfully to their own religion, regard themselves as citizens in the fullest sense of the State which has received them…( )

It becomes, therefore, specially important to foster and develop any strongly-marked Jewish movement which leads directly away from these fatal associations. And it is here that Zionism has such a deep significance for the whole world at the present time.… [S]hould there be created in our own lifetime by the banks of the Jordan a Jewish State under the protection of the British Crown, which might comprise three or four millions of Jews, an event would have occurred in the history of the world which would, from every point of view, be beneficial, and would be especially in harmony with the truest interests of the British Empire. — Anne Levin (International Socialist Review, 2002)

As John Rose wrote…

The shadow of anti-semitism as a partner of Zionism rather than its polar opposite, as the Zionists would claim it to be, hung over the Balfour Declaration. Lord Balfour, the British minister in whose name the declaration was signed, had enthusiastically campaigned for the introduction of the British Aliens Act in 1905 – which aimed deliberately at stemming further Jewish immigration into Britain.

The antisemitism of the educated left today, just as much as the rabid Jew hating of the David Duke variety, both serve to absolve the ruling class of its crimes, to absolve the bourgeois plutocrats and even Capitalism itself. It’s all the fault of the Jews!

The Zionist project has always employed antisemites and Imperialists. The Arab revolt of 1936 was brutally squashed by the British (something at which they were to become very adept) but with massive Zionist assistance in the form of the Haganah paramilitary. Once the Arab populace was soundly defeated and demoralized the Zionists turned on their Imperial guardians.

Anne Levin again…

In 1945, they declared war on the British and drove them out. In 1947, the United Nations imposed its criminal partition of Palestine, which granted the majority of the land to the minority of Jewish settlers. For the Zionists, this was a green light to begin a terrible war of ethnic cleansing. In 1948, through systematic terror and murder, they drove 800,000 Palestinians off their land and founded the state of Israel on the ruins of destroyed Arab Palestine.

The legacy of the Protocalls of the Elders of Zion is still palpable. Remember too that Vladimir Jabotinsky , the right wing *revisionist* of early Zionism, was much enamored by fascism. The Revisionist newspaper of the time even wrote sympathetically of Hitler, who they believed would discard his antisemitism but trusted he would not discard his more important animus toward Marxism and Bolshiviks. The Israeli massacre of the British at Dir Yassin in 1948 marked the final act for the British mandate of Palestine. The point here is that antisemitism is a hugely useful tool for the current Israeli state. Netanyahu beats the drum constantly. Nothing is more pleasing to Israeli officials than to watch the rise of far right parties today in Europe (all of which echo the language of the Protocals). The destruction of the revolutionary left in Europe by Nazi fascism allowed the Zionist propagandists to manufacture a narrative of Jewish ideological support for Israel. The socialists who fought and died in resistance to fascism have been essentially erased from History…at least Israeli history. The socialist anti Zionism among huge numbers of European Jews has been relegated to Western and Israeli rabbit holes of amnesia. (never mind the Bolshiviks put an end to all racist laws and all anti Jewish legal restrictions in 1917).

The anti-communism of Churchill and the instrumentalization of political Zionism in order to weaken the socialist appeal to Jews were not endeavors free of contradictions. On the Jewish question, Bolshevism at that time had been opposed to Zionism on the ideological front and to anti-Semitism on the political level. British imperialism, in contrast, was promoting Zionism to counter Bolshevism while supporting the elements of the White Guards in the Russian civil war who had a long tradition of anti-Semitism and pogroms. During the civil war, anti-Bolshevik forces killed at least 60,000 Jews. — Jacques Hersh

Socialist and Marxist opposition to Zionism has existed ever since the modern political movement was launched by Theodor Herzl in 1897. Before World War I, Jewish nationalism was, if anything, more vigorously criticized by Jews than by non-Jews, at least outside Palestine. Jewish adversaries of Zionism at that time included much of the liberal communal establishment in Western countries, “assimilationist” Jews, religious reformers, and most of the preeminent “Orthodox” and ultra-Orthodox rabbis in Russia and Eastern Europe. On the secular Left, the Bund (the leading Jewish workers’ organization in Tsarist Russia), and later the Communists, vehemently opposed Zionism as a utopian, reactionary, “petty-bourgeois” movement. — Robert Wistrich

Wistrich, himself a defender of the Israeli state, was also a perceptive analyst of contemporary antisemitism. And he recognized the dynamics of prejudice…

On the far Left as well as the far Right, anti-Zionism uses a type of discourse and stereotypes concerning the “Jewish/Zionist lobby,” Israeli/Jewish “criminality,” and Sharonist “warmongering” that is fundamentally manipulative and anti-Semitic. This has penetrated the mainstream debate to the point where 60 percent of all Europeans regard tiny Israel as the greatest threat to world peace; where over a third of those surveyed in Europe and America regularly attribute to Jews excessive power and influence; where Jews are suspected of dual loyalties by ever greater numbers of non-Jews; and where “anti-Zionist” attacks on Jewish institutions and targets show that we are talking about a distinction without a difference. Anti-Zionism is not only the historic heir of earlier forms of anti-Semitism. Today, it is also the lowest common denominator and the bridge between the Left, the Right…

And this is all exactly true. The problem for Wistrich and those critics like him is that Israel IS a criminal state and one that is engaged in something exterminationist regarding Palestinian Arabs. On social media of late I find a nearly never ending discourse on Jewish power, the New Jew World Order, and evil Jewish bankers. And most recently the *Jews were behind 9 11*. So, to return to my sense of unreality and psy ops. One does wonder exactly why this striking revanchist antisemitism? The current sort of stealth fascism of much trendy or branded left discourse fits into this, too. One sees it in the romanticizing of the Kurds (the YPG) and some vague nostalgic and sentimental image of Kurdish nationalism. The Kurds who fight alongside the Imperialist U.S. in Syria, and are armed and trained by the U.S. and UK (long friendly with the Tories). But liberals seem to only care about the perception of Kurdish victimhood. One sees it in the closeted Islamaphobia in much of the left, too. One that often cross pollinates with western bourgeois feminism. Discussions of head scarves or veils often feel like delivery systems for latent xenophobia.

Holocaust survivor Jacques Hersh wrote at Monthly Review…

This notwithstanding, some survivors found it difficult to comprehend why, after the industrialized and scientific massacre of millions of Jews, as well as that of other ethnic groups and nationalities, together with the persistent anti-Semitism in both postwar Europe and America, the big powers were now willing to accede to the project of a Jewish homeland. Was this change of heart purely a function of guilt over the treatment of European Jews or was there some “intelligent design” involving the mapping of a future international political architecture which the new state formation would help bring about?

Anti-Semitism, the German socialist leader Bebel therefore felt, was ‘the socialism of idiots.’ Yet what strikes us about the rise of political anti-Semitism at the end of the century is not so much the equation ‘Jew ≈ capitalist,’ which was not implausible in large parts of east/central Europe, but its association with right-wing nationalism.
— Eric Hobsbawm

Gianfranco Fini of the Italian National Alliance and Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch Party for Freedom, have also professed their admiration of Zionism and the ‘white’ ethnocracy of the state of Israel, while on other occasions making their anti-Semitic views plain. Three things that draw these anti-Semites towards Israel are, first, the state’s ethnocratic character; second, an Islamophobia they assume Israel shares with them; and, third, Israel’s unapologetically harsh policies towards black migrants from Africa… — Neve Gordon

Kim Domenico (here at Counterpunch) had a perceptive piece on the *Me Too* movement. And it touches on this increasing friendliness toward the fascist sensibility in liberals as well as the far right.

But reading story after story in the news, hearing the salacious details discussed at parties, one can begin to feel the taking down of successful men of business and the arts as being tinged with that McCarthyist kind of sadism, of puritanical vindictiveness. Like all stories coming from Identitiarianism, it blots out the Much Bigger problems of free market capitalism and imperialist wars, of rule by oligarchy and plutocracy, of which dirty “old satyrs” are but one symptom and not the worst, while forefronting victimhood.

And in another piece she writes…

Eyes are off the fascism discernible in this mood of furious vengeance that casts the offender as a special category of monster, tosses aside due process, innocence until proven guilty, and ruins the alleged offender’s reputation for life.

The crimes of the ruling class are absolved. Institutional violence against women is mystified.

I have read, a number of times in fact, Aziz Ansari described as a *pig*. Sometimes by people I know and like. The Ansari narrative, driven by an online tabloid site that solicited such gossip for months, is a sterling example of unreality (I have noted, however, a certain backlash to that particular story…however small). The United States is, today, a crumbling empire where the white bourgeoisie clings ever more deliriously and desperately to their privilege…even if sometimes only illusory. A privilege that includes the right to be victims. A nation of bruised feelings. Victim’s rights is partly an outgrowth of a new sub phylum of narcissism.

The prison system is cutting out visits by family and friends. Only a pay for Skype call is allowed. Prison libraries are being shut down, too. This is gratuitous sadism. Or, maybe a sort of surplus sadism. For the society is one run on resentment and disappointment. The average American is consumed by both. No prison visits. Unreality.

The current under the radar rise of fascist thinking in the liberal West is both disturbing, for obvious reasons, but also haunting. It feels unreal. I see or hear people I know saying things that I find shocking. Racist and xenophobic and mostly just vindictive and vengeful even. The tolerance for American wars speaks to this, I think. Yemen is being reduced to rubble but America simply doesn’t care. The erosion of public education and its effects are partly masked by the addiction to technology. Smart phones, I suppose, in particular. But I say that sincerely. The weird masturbatory text compulsion eats up hours of everyone’s day. People no longer even look at each other. Where Walter Benjamin once marked the shock of late 19th century urban life with the rapid passing of faces in a crowd, today the shock is of the passing faces not seen. Life takes place on screens. A life increasingly unreal.

And yet, one will be called a conspiracy theorist for just asking questions. Just that. And right now it seems to me EVERYTHING should be questioned. There are literally a dozen books now, by serious journalists, outlining the media manipulation and covert activities of the intelligence services here and in the UK. The CIA has manufactured fake news stories since Allen Dulles. And they even admit to manipulating polls, creating or destroying website popularity (and pageview counts), and hiring trolls or shills to highjack social media discussions. But it is hard to imagine the intelligence community does not engage in far more concrete activities. Of course, the flip side is that such speculation (a side bar benefit) encourages paranoia. It is natural to feel this way given that nothing can be trusted. Nobody and no institution.

German journalist Udo Ulfkotte recently said (reported by Eric Zuesse)….“Most of the journalists you see in foreign countries … European or American journalists …, like me in the past, are so-called non-official cover. … Non-official cover means what? You do work for an intelligence agency…”

And Hollywood is, again, a means to normalizing such activities. It offers mild rebuke, but mostly it just valorizes the duplicity of the government. Of all western governments. And the consequences for such normalization, and the discouragement of skepticism, is the growing expression of this latent xenophobia, racism and antisemitism. The ruling class and its stenographers, the ownership class and its affluent flatterers, have colonized the western imagination. And it is leading to this sense of pervasive unreality. And this unreality seems designed to promote a new fascism. One that makes use of all the old tropes and symbolism, only retrofitted to appear new. And it is growing.  

John Steppling is an original founding member of the Padua Hills Playwrights Festival, a two-time NEA recipient, Rockefeller Fellow in theatre, and PEN-West winner for playwriting. Plays produced in LA, NYC, SF, Louisville, and at universities across the US, as well in Warsaw, Lodz, Paris, London and Krakow. Taught screenwriting and curated the cinematheque for five years at the Polish National Film School in Lodz, Poland. A collection of plays, Sea of Cortez & Other Plays was published in 1999, and his book on aesthetics, Aesthetic Resistance and Dis-Interest was published this year by Mimesis International.
More articles by:John Steppling

With Friends Like This: Washington's Expanding Middle East Alienation

Washington Widens the War in Syria by Provoking Turkey

by Mike Whitney - CounterPunch

January 29, 2018

The Trump administration has drawn Turkey deeper into the Syrian conflict by announcing a policy that threatens Turkey’s national security.

Washington’s gaffe has pitted one NATO ally against the other while undermining hopes for a speedy end to the seven year-long war.


Here’s what’s going on: 

On January 18, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced the creation of a 30,000-man Border Security Force (BSF) to occupy East Syria. Two days later, January 20, the Turkish Army launched a ground and air offensive against Kurdish troops in the Afrin canton in Northwest Syria.

The media has tried to downplay the connection between the two events, but the cause-and-effect relationship is pretty clear. Tillerson’s provocation triggered the Turkish invasion and another bloody phase to the needlessly-protracted conflict. Washington’s screwup has made a bad situation even worse.

A five-year-old child could have figured out that Turkey wasn’t going to sit-back and let the US establish a Kurdish state on its border without putting up a fight. Keep in mind, the US plans to defend this new protectorate with a 30,000-man proxy-army comprised of mostly Kurdish fighters from the People’s Protection Units or YPG. The Turks, however, believe the YPG is connected to the terror-listed PKK which has prosecuted a scorched earth campaign against the Turkish state for decades.

That’s why Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will not allow these groups to dig in along Turkey’s southern border, they constitute a serious threat to Turkey’s security. Just imagine if Hezbollah decided to set up military encampments along the Mexican border. How long do you think it would take before Trump blew those camps to kingdom come? Not long, I’d wager.

So why did Tillerson think Erdogan would respond differently?

There’s only one explanation: Tillerson must be so blinded by hubris that he couldn’t figure out what Erdogan’s reaction would be. He must have thought that, “Whatever Uncle Sam says, goes.” Only it doesn’t work like that anymore. The US has lost its ability to shape events in the Middle East, particularly in Syria where its jihadist proxies have been rolled back on nearly every front. The US simply doesn’t have sufficient forces on the ground to determine the outcome, nor is it respected as an honest broker, a dependable ally or a reliable steward of regional security. The US is just one of many armed-factions struggling to gain the upper hand in an increasingly fractious and combustible battlespace.

Simply put, Washington is losing the war quite dramatically due in large part to the emergence of a new coalition (Russia-Syria-Iran-Hezbollah) that has made great strides in Syria and that is committed to preserve the Old World Order, a system that is built on the principles of national sovereignty, self determination and non intervention. Washington opposes this system and is doing everything in its power dismantle it by redrawing borders, toppling elected leaders, and installing its own stooges to execute its diktats. Tillerson’s blunder will only make Washington’s task all the more difficult by drawing Turkey into the fray in an effort to quash Uncle Sam’s Kurdish proxies.

In an effort to add insult to injury, Tillerson didn’t even have the decency to discuss the matter with Erdogan– his NATO ally– before making the announcement! Can you imagine how furious Erdogan must have been? Shouldn’t the president of Turkey expect better treatment from his so-called friends in Washington who use Turkish air fields to supply their ground troops and to carry out their bombing raids in Syria? But instead of gratitude, he gets a big kick in the teeth with the announcement that the US is hopping into bed with his mortal enemies, the Kurds. Check out this excerpt from Wednesday’s Turkish daily, The Hurriyet ,which provides a bit of background on the story:

“It is beyond any doubt that the U.S. military and administration knew that the People’s Protection Units (YPG)…had organic ties with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Washington officially recognizes as a terrorist group….The YPG is the armed wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is the political wing of the PKK in Syria. They share the same leadership…the same budget, the same arsenal, the same chain of command from the Kandil Mountains in Iraq, and the same pool of militants. So the PYD/YPG is actually not a “PKK-affiliated” group, it is a sub-geographical unit of the same organization….

Knowing that the YPG and the PKK are effectively equal, and legally not wanting to appear to be giving arms to a terrorist organization, the U.S. military already asked the YPG to “change the brand” back in 2015. U.S.

Special Forces Commander General Raymond Thomas said during an Aspen Security Forum presentation on July 22, 2017 that he had personally proposed the name change to the YPG.

“With about a day’s notice [the YPG] declared that it was now the Syrian Democratic Forces [SDF],” Thomas said to laughter from the audience. “I thought it was a stroke of brilliance to put ‘democracy’ in there somewhere. It gave them a little bit of credibility.” (Hurriyet)

Ha, ha, ha. Isn’t that funny? One day you’re a terrorist, and the next day you’re not depending on whether Washington can use you or not. Is it any wonder why Erdogan is so pissed off?

So now a messy situation gets even messier. Now the US has to choose between its own proxy army (The Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces) and a NATO ally that occupies the critical crossroads between Asia and Europe. Washington’s plan to pivot to Asia by controlling vital resources and capital flowing between the continents depends largely on its ability to keep regional leaders within its orbit. That means Washington needs Erdogan in their camp which, for the time being, he is not.

Apparently, there have been phone calls between Presidents Trump and Erdogan, but early accounts saying that Trump scolded Erdogan have already been disproven. In fact, Trump and his fellows have been bending-over-backwards to make amends for Tillerson’s foolish slip-up. According to the Hurriyet:

“The readout issued by the White House does not accurately reflect the content of President [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan’s phone call with President [Donald] Trump,”…“President Trump did not share any ‘concerns [about] escalating violence’ with regard to the ongoing military operation in Afrin.”…The Turkish sources also stressed that Trump did not use the words “destructive and false rhetoric coming from Turkey.”…

Erdoğan reiterated that the People’s Protection Units (YPG) must withdraw to the East of the Euphrates River and pledged the protection of Manbij by the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA)…

“In response to President Erdoğan’s call on the United States to end the delivery of weapons to the [Democratic Union Party] PYD-YPG, President Trump said that his country no longer supplied the group with weapons and pledged not to resume the weapons delivery in the future,” the sources added.” (Hurriyet)

If this report can be trusted, (Turkish media is no more reliable than US media) then it is Erdogan who is issuing the demands not Trump. Erdogan insists that all YPG units be redeployed east of the Euphrates and that all US weapons shipments to Washington’s Kurdish proxies stop immediately. We should know soon enough whether Washington is following Erdogan’s orders or not.

So far, the only clear winner in this latest conflagration has been Vladimir Putin, the levelheaded pragmatist who hews to Napoleon’s directive to “Never interfere with an enemy while he’s in the process of destroying himself.”

Putin gave Erdogan the green light to conduct “Operation Olive Branch” in order to pave the way for an eventual Syrian takeover of the Northwestern portion of the country up to the Turkish border. Moscow removed its troops from the Afrin quarter (where the current fighting is taking place) but not before it presented the Kurds with the option of conceding control of the area to the central government in Damascus. The Kurds rejected that offer and elected to fight instead. Here’s an account of what happened:

Nearly a week ago, [a] meeting between Russian officials and Kurdish leaders took place. Moscow suggested Syrian State becomes only entity in charge of the northern border. The Kurds refused. It was immediately after that that the Turkish Generals were invited to Moscow. Having the Syrian State in control of its Northern Border wasn’t the only Russian demand. The other was that the Kurds hand back the oil fields in Deir al Zor. The Kurds refused suggesting that the US won’t allow that anyway.

Putin has repeatedly expressed concern about US supplies of advanced weapons that had been given to the Kurdish SDF. According to the military website South Front:

“Uncontrolled deliveries of modern weapons, including reportedly the deliveries of the man-portable air defense systems, by the Pentagon to the pro-US forces in northern Syria, have contributed to the rapid escalation of tensions in the region and resulted in the launch of a special operation by the Turkish troops.” (SouthFront)

Erdogan’s demand that Trump stop the flow of weapons to the SDF will benefit Russia and its allies on the ground even more than they will benefit Turkey. It’s another win-win situation for Putin.

The split between the NATO allies seems to work in Putin’s favor as well, although, to his credit, he has not tried to exploit the situation. Putin ascribes to the notion that relations between nations are not that different than relations between people, they must be built on a solid foundation of trust which gradually grows as each party proves they are steady, reliable partners who can be counted on to honor their commitments and keep their word. Putin’s honesty, even-handedness and reliability have greatly enhanced Russia’s power in the region and his influence in settling global disputes. That is particularly evident in Syria where Moscow is at the center of all decision-making.

As we noted earlier, Washington has made every effort to patch up relations with Turkey and put the current foofaraw behind them. The White House has issued a number of servile statements acknowledging Turkey’s “legitimate security concerns” and their “commitment to work with Turkey as a NATO ally.” And there’s no doubt that the administration’s charm offensive will probably succeed in bringing the narcissistic and mercurial Erdogan back into the fold. But for how long?

At present, Erdogan is still entertains illusions of cobbling together a second Ottoman empire overseen by the Grand Sultan Tayyip himself, but when he finally comes to his senses and realizes the threat that Washington poses to Turkish independence and sovereignty, he may reconsider and throw his lot with Putin.

In any event, Washington has clearly tipped its hand revealing its amended strategy for Syria, a plan that abandons the pretext of a “war on terror” and focuses almost-exclusively on military remedies to the “great power” confrontation outlined in Trump’s new National Defense Strategy. Washington is fully committed to building an opposition proxy-army in its east Syria enclave that can fend off loyalist troops, launch destabilizing attacks on the regime, and eventually, effect the political changes that help to achieve its imperial ambitions.

Tillerson’s announcement may have prompted some unexpected apologies and back-tracking, but the policy remains the same. Washington will persist in its effort to divide the country and remove Assad until an opposing force prevents it from doing so. And, that day could be sooner than many people imagine.

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

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Losing Our Grip: Earth's Magnetic Flux

The Magnetic Field Is Shifting. The Poles May Flip. This Could Get Bad.

by Alanna Mitchell - Undark

January 26, 2018 

The shield that protects the Earth from solar radiation is under attack from within. We can’t prevent it, but we ought to prepare.

One day in 1905, the French geophysicist Bernard Brunhes brought back to his lab some rocks he’d unearthed from a freshly cut road near the village of Pont Farin. When he analyzed their magnetic properties, he was astonished at what they showed: Millions of years ago, the Earth’s magnetic poles had been on the opposite sides of the planet.

North was south and south was north. The discovery spoke of planetary anarchy. Scientists had no way to explain it.

Today, we know that the poles have changed places hundreds of times, most recently 780,000 years ago. (Sometimes, the poles try to reverse positions but then snap back into place, in what is called an excursion.The last time was about 40,000 years ago.)

We also know that when they flip next time, the consequences for the electrical and electronic infrastructure that runs modern civilization will be dire. The question is when that will happen.

In the past few decades, geophysicists have tried to answer that question through satellite imagery and math. They have figured out how to peer deep inside the Earth, to the edge of the molten, metallic core where the magnetic field is continually being generated. It turns out that the dipole — the orderly two-pole magnetic field our compasses respond to — is under attack from within.

The latest satellite data, from the European Space Agency’s Swarm trio, which began reporting in 2014, show that a battle is raging at the edge of the core. Like factions planning a coup, swirling clusters of molten iron and nickel are gathering strength and draining energy from the dipole. The north magnetic pole is on the run, a sign of enhanced turbulence and unpredictability. A cabal in the Southern Hemisphere has already gained the upper hand over about a fifth of the Earth’s surface. A revolution is shaping up.

If these magnetic blocs gain enough strength and weaken the dipole even more, they will force the north and south poles to switch places as they strive to regain supremacy. Scientists can’t say for sure that is happening now — the dipole could beat back the interlopers. But they can say that the phenomenon is intensifying and that they can’t rule out the possibility that a reversal is beginning.

It’s time to wake up to the dangers and start preparing. 

This animation shows the movement of the north magnetic pole at 10-year intervals from 1970 to 2020. The red and blue lines indicate “declination,” the difference between magnetic north and true north depending on where one is standing; on the green line, a compass would point to true north.

The Earth’s magnetic field protects our planet from dangerous solar and cosmic rays, like a giant shield. As the poles switch places (or try to), that shield is weakened; scientists estimate that it could waste away to as little as a tenth of its usual force. The shield could be compromised for centuries while the poles move, allowing malevolent radiation closer to the surface of the planet for that whole time. Already, changes within the Earth have weakened the field over the South Atlantic so much that satellites exposed to the resulting radiation have experienced memory failure.

That radiation isn’t hitting the surface yet. But at some point, when the magnetic field has dwindled enough, it could be a different story. Daniel Baker, director of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado, Boulder, one of the world’s experts on how cosmic radiation affects the Earth, fears that parts of the planet will become uninhabitable during a reversal. The dangers: devastating streams of particles from the sun, galactic cosmic rays, and enhanced ultraviolet B rays from a radiation-damaged ozone layer, to name just a few of the invisible forces that could harm or kill living creatures.

How bad could it be? Scientists have never established a link between previous pole reversals and catastrophes like mass extinctions. But the world of today is not the world of 780,000 years ago, when the poles last reversed, or even 40,000 years ago, when they tried to. Today, there are nearly 7.6 billion people on Earth, twice as many as in 1970. We have drastically changed the chemistry of the atmosphere and the ocean with our activities, impairing the life support system of the planet. Humans have built huge cities, industries and networks of roads, slicing up access to safer living spaces for many other creatures. We have pushed perhaps a third of all known species toward extinction and have imperiled the habitats of many more. Add cosmic and ultraviolet radiation to this mix, and the consequences for life on Earth could be ruinous.

And the perils are not just biological. The vast cyber-electric cocoon that has become the central processing system of modern civilization is in grave danger. Solar energetic particles can rip through the sensitive miniature electronics of the growing number of satellites circling the Earth, badly damaging them. The satellite timing systems that govern electric grids would be likely to fail. The grid’s transformers could be torched en masse. Because grids are so tightly coupled with each other, failure would race across the globe, causing a domino run of blackouts that could last for decades.

In this animation, the blue lines indicate a weaker magnetic field, the red lines a stronger one, and the green line the boundary between them, at 10-year intervals from 1910 to 2020. The field is weakening over South America, and the red area over North America is losing strength.

But these dangers are rarely considered by those whose job it is to protect the electronic pulse of civilization. More satellites are being put into orbit with more highly miniaturized (and therefore more vulnerable) electronics. The electrical grid becomes more interconnected every day, despite the greater risks from solar storms.

No lights. No computers. No cellphones. Even flushing a toilet or filling a car’s gas tank would be impossible. And that’s just for starters.

One of the best ways of protecting satellites and grids from space weather is to predict precisely where the most damaging force will hit. Operators could temporarily shut down a satellite or disconnect part of the grid. But progress on learning how to track damaging space weather has not kept pace with the exponential increase in technologies that could be damaged by it. And private satellite operators aren’t collating and sharing information about how their electronics are withstanding space radiation, a practice that could help everyone protect their gear.

We have blithely built our civilization’s critical infrastructure during a time when the planet’s magnetic field was relatively strong, not accounting for the field’s bent for anarchy. Not only is the field turbulent and ungovernable, but, at this point, it is unpredictable. It will have its way with us, no matter what we do. Our task is to figure out how to make it hurt as little as possible.

Alanna Mitchell is an award-winning science journalist and author. She is also a playwright who performs her one-woman play, “Sea Sick,” based on her book of the same name, around the world.

Treasury's "Insane" List: Kremlin Report Designed Provocation and Distraction

Washington Reaches New Heights of Insanity with the “Kremlin Report”

by Paul Craig Roberts

January 30, 2018

In an act of insane escalation of provocations against Russia, Washington has produced a list of 210 top Russian government officials and important business executives who are “gangsters,” “members of Putin’s gang,” “threats,” “people deserving to be sanctioned,” or however the Western presstitutes care to explain the list.

The absurd list includes the Prime Minister of Russia, the Foreign Minister, the Defense Minister, and executives of Gazprom, Rosneft, and Bank Rossiya. In other words, the suggestion is that the entirety of Russian political and business leadership is corrupt.

The Russians do not seem to understand the purpose of the list.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov appears
on Kremlin Report "enemies list"

Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the government sees the list as an attempt to interfere in the Russian presidential election. There is no doubt that Washington would like to reduce Putin’s public support so that Washington can use the Western-funded NGOs operating in Russia to present American stooges as Russia’s true voices. However, it is unlikely that the Russian people are stupid enough to fall for such a trick.

Washington’s list has three purposes:

1) To undercut Russian diplomacy by presenting the top echelons of Russia as gangsters.
2) To present Russia as a military threat as per the ridiculous announcement by British defense minister Gavin Williamson on January 26 that Russia intends to rip British “infrastructure apart, actually cause thousands and thousands and thousands of deaths,” and create “total chaos within the country.”
3) To shift American and European attention away from the coming release of the House Intelligence Committee’s report that proves Russiagate is a conspiracy between the FBI, the Obama Department of Justice and the Democratic National Committee against President Trump. Washington’s Russian list will give the presstitutes something else to talk about instead of the act of treason committed against the President of the United States. Expect to hear nothing from the presstitutes except that the House Intelligence Committee report is only a political effort to shield Trump from accountability.

There is likely a fourth reason for the list. Israel wants Washington’s pressure on Russia, because Russia has so far prevented Israel’s use of the US military to create the same chaos in Syria and Iran as has been created in Iraq and Libya. Israel wants Syria and Iran destabilized because they support Hezbollah, which prevents Israel from occupying the water resources of southern Lebanon. The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which requires the list, passed the House and Senate by a vote of 517-5. Normally, such unanimous foreign policy votes are associated with demands from the Israel Lobby.

The Russian government and the Russian people need to understand that Washington considers Russia to be a threat because Russia is not under Washington’s thumb. The Zionist neoconservatives control US foreign policy. Their ideology is world hegemony. They do not use diplomacy. They rely on disinformation, threats, and violence. Therefore, there is no American diplomacy with which Putin and Lavrov can engage.

Putin, being a responsible political leader of a great power, does not respond to provocation with provocation. He ignores the insults and continues to wait for the West to come to its senses. But what if the West does not come to its senses?

For the West to come to its senses requires the complete overthrow of the Zionist neoconservatives and/or the breakup of NATO. The overthrow of the neoconservatives would require a rival foreign policy voice, and that voice is very weak as it is shut off from the media, the think tanks, and the universities. The breakup of NATO would require European political figures to give up their Washington subsidies and the career advancement that Washington provides.

As I write the Atlantic Council is holding a members and press call in for a discussion with Atlantic Council members Amb. Daniel Fried and Anders Aslund. The Atlantic Council is a neoconservative propaganda agency. The purpose of the “discussion” is to further undermine US-Russian relations.

The Russian government faces a difficult situation. The foreign policy of the US, and thereby of the Western world, is controlled by neoconservatives who are determined to present Russia in the most threatening light. Russian diplomacy can do nothing to change this. The non-provocative and responsible Russian response has the effect of encouraging more provocations from Washington. At some point Russian passivity might convince the neoconservatives that they can successfully attack Russia. Alternatively, the continual provocations might convince Russia that the country is targeted for attack, thereby causing a Russian pre-emptive action.

Everyone in the world should realize the threat of nuclear war that is inherrent in Washington’s policy toward Russia, and everyone in the world should understand that the only threat that Russia poses is to Washington’s unilateralism.