Saturday, March 03, 2018

The Two Koreas - Real and Imagined

Empire Files: War With North Korea - Propaganda vs. Reality 


March 2, 2018

On top of overtly genocidal threats, the Trump Administration has announced new terms: that they "will never accept a nuclear North Korea." But, the Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea already has nuclear weapons. Does that mean a war is imminent?

Abby Martin is the creator and director of "The Empire Files" on teleSUR English. Previously she hosted "Breaking the Set" on Russia Today. She founded the independent media site Media Roots and is a board member of Project Censored.

Follow her on Twitter @AbbyMartin.

From Kabul to Parkland: Teen to Teen 'Peace Zones'

Teen Solidarity Against the Merchants of Death

by Kathy Kelly - VCNV

March 1, 2018

Here in Kabul, as the rising sun begins to warm our chilly rooms, I hear excited laughter from downstairs.

Rosemary Morrow, a renowned Australian permaculture expert, has begun teaching thirty-five young students in a month-long course on low-resource farming.

In war-torn Afghanistan, there's a desperate need to rebuild agricultural infrastructure and help people grow their own food. People verging on despair feel encouraged by possibilities of replenishing and repairing their soil.

The night before, over dinner, one of the students discussed news from his home town in Afghanistan's Wardak province about U.S. aerial attacks.

"The blasts have become so frequent," he said,
"that people can't find spaces to bury their dead."

During breaks in the class, I tell some of the Afghan Peace Volunteer students about the school shootings in the United States, and the remarkable determination of teenagers from Florida to demand that lawmakers take action on gun control.

These Afghan students have also heard about Black Lives Matter activists who have been tear gassed and beaten when they've demonstrated against police brutality. The Afghan teens identify with the activists facing danger, but still standing up to insist on change.

I asked if they thought that the U.S. media and government would heed Afghan young people raising their voices asserting their anguish and fear regarding U.S. aerial attacks and drone assassinations.

"You're dreaming," said Hamid. He flashed me a warm smile and shook his head, saying,
"no one will ever listen to us."

The outrage now directed toward the National Rifle Association should also challenge all assaults made by the U.S. military.

Nasir, a third-year university student who majors in mapping technology, tells me he thinks teens in the United States have a chance to be heard. Like Habib, he doubts that the same is true for Afghan voices seeking to end the sixteen-year-old war.

But Zainab, a high schooler in the permaculture class, added that she thinks it would be great to record a vigil of teenagers in Kabul sending their support for U.S. teenagers who've survived school shootings in the U.S. and who've begun shaming the adult world into action on the issue of gun violence.

The outrage now directed toward the National Rifle Association should also challenge all assaults made by the U.S. military.

People often tell me they believe the U.S. military remains in Afghanistan because it wants to eventually control mineral wealth and other resources. But right now, weapon manufacturers like General Atomics and Boeing -- which supply the U.S. base in Kandahar with drones, missiles and bombs -- are profiting from the perpetuation of war. This profit gives them common cause with arms manufacturers like Sturm Ruger and Sig Sauer earning millions from equipping U.S. police forces as well as deranged killers in U.S. classrooms.

Yesterday, I read about U.S. aviation brigades training in Colorado's Fort Carson for possible Afghan deployment: 2,000 troops, part of an exercise called "Eagle Strike," are preparing for attacks with ground-pounding weapons.

The Kandahar base in Afghanistan now has three squadron's worth of MQ-9 Reaper drones. Costing $65 million each, these drones are outfitted to carry 560-pound GPS laser-guided bombs as well as Hellfire missiles.

Why fill the landscape of any country with craters and graves? What could we possibly hope to harvest?

Zainab tells me she thinks the teenage generation is changing and that more young people believe in training individuals and nations to avoid killing.

"Why can't we devise sustainable ways to bring about peace?" she asks.

I consider the idea that international teen solidarity could challenge both the U.S. military and the National Rifle Association to end assaults on human life.

"Our goal must be to demand that every person around the world agree to stop producing and using weapons," says Nasir.

I sit with them, and reflect on these courageous, clear-eyed Afghan and U.S. youth working in both countries to sow seeds that bear needed fruit, hoping they can change the adults as well.

Kathy Kelly ( co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence ( While in Kabul, she is a guest of the Afghan Peace Volunteers (

This article first appeared in The Progressive magazine.

Canada's Liberal Military Spending Budget

An Austerity and Militaristic Government Budget in Canada

by Roger Annis - A Socialist In Canada

March 2, 2018

Two years and four months ago, the Liberal Party was elected to national government in Canada on a platform of increasing government spending and tackling some of the country’s most glaring social injustices. On February 27, 2018, the government presented a national budget to Parliament. The budget provides a useful measure of the 2015 election promises, which, it turns out, very much resemble mirages. It also provides a forward look of the rhetorical themes which the Liberals will bring to the next national election, 20 months away.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and
Finance Minister Bill Morneau present a national
budget on Feb 27, 2018 (photo by CBC)

An austerity budget by any other name

The budget continues some 25 years of economic austerity waged by successive Liberal and Conservative party governments. The federal government’s budgetary balance as a percentage of GDP is projected to decline significantly from 2018 to 2023 (see the accompanying chart). The two large social program promises made by the Liberals during the 2015 election—a national pharmacare program (covering the cost of prescription drugs) and a national child care program have been left high and dry.

A writer in the Globe and Mail daily described the budget as, “social justice spending on a Liberal shoestring”.

In the October 2015 national election, the Liberals cleverly outmaneuvered the social democratic New Democratic Party by trumpeting child care and prescription drug coverage (‘pharmacare’), promising more spending to improve the status of Canada’s First Nations, and sweeping away the economic dogma saying government budget deficits are very bad.

Concerning pharmacare, the budget committed to ‘do something’ about it. The government has appointed an Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare, the operative word being ‘implementation’. But Finance Minister Bill Morneau told a business crowd in Ottawa one day after his budget speech that he opposes universal prescription drug coverage. “We need a strategy to deal with the fact not everyone has access, and we need to do it in a way that’s responsible, that deals with the gaps, but doesn’t throw out the system that we currently have,” he said.

Morneau is playing with words, saying he favours a “national pharmacare strategy” but not a “national pharmacare plan”.

The cost of medications while in hospital is covered by Canada’s public hospital system. But once an individual leaves the hospital, he or she becomes responsible. The patchwork of provincial medical services covers most costs for poor people and for retirees, though not for many catastrophic drug treatments. Drug costs are escalating fast in Canada’s mixed for-profit/for-salaries health care system. In 2016, they accounted for 16.5 per cent of all medical expenses (hospitals ate up 28 per cent).

Work-based medical plans only cover some 36 per cent of drug costs, according to the Canadian Medical Association. The CMA reports on February 26 that a national pharmacare plan would significantly reduce overall spending on prescription drugs.

Way back in 2002, former NDP premier of Saskatchewan Roy Romanow issued a landmark study on health care in Canada. The report was commissioned by the Liberal Party government of Prime Minister Jean Chretien. Romanow’s report also declined to recommend a full pharmacare program. It made suggestions similar to Morneau’s musings 17 years later.

The Canadian Federation of Nurses, Canadian Doctors for Medicare and the Canadian Labour Congress have issued an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calling for Morneau to be kept away from the deliberations of the pharmacare advisory council.

Concerning child care, Globe and Mail columnist Gloria Galloway explained on February 27,

“The Liberal government’s new economic plan extols the need to create more space for women in the Canadian work force but offers little financial assistance to make that happen…

“The biggest incentive the government could have offered to help women enter and stay in the work force – increased availability to affordable child care – was not in this budget.”

The glitter

Budget glitter consists of two sets of modest increases in social spending.

One set aims to facilitate women entering the work force (though not including a national daycare program). The government proudly calls its budget a ‘feminist’ document. But a writer on the state-run broadcaster the CBC writes,

“As per usual with this government, what we get is a lot of showy prayer, but no piety. It all sounds lovely, and focus grouped to appeal to the targeted voting demographic.

“But if anyone suffered the illusion that the Liberals were here to provide some kind of transformative government — one that will substantially improve the lives of women between the ages of 18-45 who are voting decision-makers in key suburban ridings — well, at least this budget will make us feel better, right?”

The other set is spending to alleviate some of the harsh social conditions in which most of Canada’s estimated population of 1.5 million Indigenous people live. The spending is supposed to improve access to clean drinking water, fund housing construction, and provide improved child welfare.

In June 2017, some 153 First Nations communities in Canada, out of the total of more than 600, were obliged to boil water before drinking it. According to Canada’s national census in 2016, 19.4 per cent of Aboriginal people lived in a dwelling that was in need of major repairs while 18.3 per cent of Aboriginal people lived in housing deemed overcrowded. (See the appendix of this article for further social indicators of Canada’s First Nations people.

Another ignored social right: housing

A vital area of social rights that was entirely absent from the budget was provision of housing.

Canada is undergoing a severe house price escalation, caused by capitalist market speculation and the abandonment decades ago by federal and provincial governments of the responsibility to build and manage quality social housing. Under pressure, a few provincial governments, notably British Columbia, have begun to tinker with taxation measures in order to bring down the price of some houses for home buyers. But there is nothing on the horizon that would see either level of government undertake the most meaningful measures by far to alleviate the country’s housing crisis and its poverty-level wages for millions of minimum wage or low wage earners—build and manage quality social housing.

In October 2017, the Liberal government announced a ‘national housing strategy’ that would see it spend $40 billion over the next ten years. Two housing rights activists in Vancouver–Jean Swanson and Sara Sagaii—released a six-point critique of that strategy, writing, 

“To get us out of the housing crisis and to implement a ‘housing as a right’ policy, we should be using government money to get land and housing out of the private market where it is a commodity, not help developers get control of more land and market housing.” (Read the two-page statement here: Six points on Canadian gov’t housing strategy, by Swanson and Sigalii, Nov 25, 2017.)

Military? What military?

Disturbingly, there is nary a word of reporting or commentary across the media spectrum–including in left wing media–on Canadian government plans to massively increase military spending.

Those plans were announced in June 2017. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said military spending would jump by 73 per cent in the coming ten years, from C$18.9 billion in 2016 to C$32.7 billion by 2027.

The new Liberal budget adds to those figures by projecting spending in the coming years of hundreds of millions of dollars, maybe billions, on what is called ‘cybersecurity’. That’s the new buzzword to describe domestic and international spying and disruption. And incredibly, the government says it plans to spend $600 million (!) to host a summit meeting of the G7 group of imperialist countries in Ottawa in June of this year.

Such are the times and such is the decline of antiwar protest in Canada that military spending is going largely unchallenged. It seems it is not even up for discussion any longer.

The reasons for the antiwar decline are complex. Trade unions have bought into the military-industrial-fossil fuel complex in the name of ‘jobs’ (see Arms sales to Saudi Arabia: The blood on Canada’s hands, news compilation by New Cold, Jan 3, 2016). The mainstream media’s pro-war barrage concerning the points of conflict in Ukraine, Syria and Korea confuses and disorients many.

Much of the decline is due to the political left’s reluctance to face up to the new cold war being waged by imperialism against Russia and increasingly against China. Leftists succumb to superficial theories holding that Russia and China are ‘imperialist’; there no good side to choose when it comes to NATO’s military threats and arms escalation.[1]

Canadian military and political interventions abroad go unchallenged for these reasons. And while President Obama and now Donald Trump are escalating nuclear war threats with massive increases in nuclear spending, action in favour of nuclear disarmament is at a low ebb.

Canada and most other developed capitalist countries abstained in the historic vote of the UN General Assembly on July 7, 2017 in favour of the abolition of nuclear weapons. The shameful vote by Canada’s self-declared ‘feminist’ government was barely reported and not at all protested.

It’s difficult to pinpoint which of the many transgressions of the Liberal Party government of Canada ranks highest on the scale of danger and folly. Perhaps top prize goes to its continued commitment to policies that are warming the planet and threatening a sixth mass extinction of species (including the humans). Canada possesses the third-largest proven reserves of fossil fuels in the form of the tar sands of Alberta. The Liberal government in Ottawa and its best-of-friends NDP government ally in Alberta all hell bent to tear up and sell those reserves to the highest bidder.

Last year, in a groundbreaking study, Oil Change International estimated that Canada provides some $3 billion in annual tax breaks and other subsidies to keep the tar sands extraction machine running. For its part, the Alberta government has just announced $1 billion in loans and grants to the industry as part of the government’s stated intent to foster a 50 per cent expansion in tar sands production in the coming years.

New left-wing ideas and strategies needed

Canada desperately needs genuine parties of the political left which can offer alternatives to the country’s downward spiral. But for a host of reasons, the left refuses to embark on that path. Much of it is hoping against hope that the moribund NDP will somehow spring to life.

But nothing in the party’s history or present-day actions suggests this will happen. The recent national party convention which took place in Ottawa from February 16 to 18 saw the party’s conservative establishment firmly retain control and push back against any and all left-wing challenges.

Notwithstanding, left-wing writer Nora Loreto wrote hopefully in the February 23 Globe and Mail daily,

“The [NDP] establishment has to figure out how to decentralize their operations and strategy to make space for them [young, left-wing activists joining the NDP], too. Critically, to make space for dissent and to do things a different way.” columnist Karl Nerenburg described the convention in these words:

“Delegates listened to NDP leader Jagmeet Singh’s speech at the party’s biannual convention on Saturday [February 17] and felt inspired in a way they haven’t in a long time.” 

But then he contradicted that claim with,
“… By contrast, on other matters such as climate change, the NDP leader seemed almost deliberately non-specific. On global warming, he promised only to do better than the Liberals, without telling us what he would do. The word pipeline did not pass his lips.

“Similarly, the NDP leader evoked the situation of Indigenous Canadians, anti-Black racism, equal pay for equal work, universal internet connectivity and the need to make the wealthiest pay their fair share without enunciating any specific policy proposals.

“The speech represents more of a shift in tone and rhetoric for New Democrats than a lurch leftward in political ideology…”

In other words, the NDP remains mired in the same conservative and right-wing polices (on the social-democratic spectrum) which lost it the 2015 election. Meanwhile, and since that time, the pro-fossil fuel and timid social policy records of two provincial NDP governments–in Alberta and British Columbia–underline the point.

What is needed in Canada is much more than ‘dissent’. A new vision of a society founded on social and environmental justice is needed. Forms of political organization are needed to achieve a government that can lead societal transformation. How much longer can we afford not to act?

Roger Annis publishes his writings on his website ‘A Socialist In Canada’, along with selections of writings by others. The website also contains daily news notifications in three subject pages: World news, Canada newsroll, and Ecology newsroll. He can be reached at


[1] Western media is expressing dismay at Vladimir Putin’s announcement on March 1, 2018 that Russia is successfully keeping pace with the new generations of weapons that the U.S. has been researching and developing, including ‘hyper-sonic’ missiles and drone submarines. See: In interview with NBC, Vladimir Putin says new arms race began in 2002 when U.S. pulled out of 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty,, March 2, 2018. For background on the U.S.-driven nuclear arms race, see: The new nuclear race: Why North Korea isn’t the real story, by Debora MacKenzie, New Scientist, Sept 20, 2017, plus related materials, published on New Cold, September 2017.

Appendix: Grim social indicators for First Nations people in Canada

From a report in the Globe and Mail on Jan 24, 2018 (additional sources indicated)

  • Forty four per cent of children from First Nations reserves graduate from high school, compared with 88 per cent of other young Canadians
  • Life expectancy of Indigenous people is 15 years shorter than the Canadian average
  • Inuit people [in Canada’s far north] are 270 times as likely to have tuberculosis
  • About seven per cent of Canadian children under 14 are Indigenous, but about 52 per cent of those in foster care are Indigenous.
  • In June 2017, there were some 153 First Nations communities with boil water advisories [there are more than 600 First Nations communities in Canada]. Some of those advisories were several decades old. The Liberal Party government in Ottawa has lifted 40 boil-water advisories since it was elected in October 2015, but 26 more have been added.
  • Suicide rates are six-to-seven times the rates of non-Indigenous people (see chart, source CTV News, April 2016)
  • Indigenous people make up approximately five per cent of the population of Canada. Indigenous men comprise 25.2 per cent of all in-custody males in prison, while Indigenous women comprise 36.1 per cent of all females behind bars (source: CBC News, Sept 15, 2017). The Indigenous incarceration rate is ten times higher than the non-Indigenous population. In the U.S. Black people are six times more likely to be imprisoned compared to those of Caucasians decent (source: Canada’s prisons are the ‘new residential schools’ for First Nations people, by Nancy Macdonald, MacLean’s Magazine, Feb 18, 2016).

Friday, March 02, 2018

Coming Soon: Battle Plan Lebanon

Israel Seeks US Ammunition, Support for Planned Attack on Lebanese Civilian Targets

by Whitney Webb - MintPress News

March 2, 2018

 Sen. Graham stated that the Israeli government was requesting “ammunition, ammunition, ammunition” from the U.S., as well as U.S. diplomatic support for when Israel strikes civilian targets — such as apartment buildings, hospitals, and schools — because Hezbollah has become “integrated” into these structures.

BEIRUT Just a few weeks ago, it seemed that Israel was on the brink of starting a war with Syria. However, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), known for his neo-conservative tendencies, is now warning that it is Israel’s other northern neighbor, Lebanon, that is in the crosshairs.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Graham – who visited the Middle East with Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) – told reporters that “Southern Lebanon is where the next war is coming.”

Even though he has regularly supported Israeli military aggression and has long championed tearing up the Iran nuclear accord (JCPOA), Graham struck a grim tone, calling the trip “unnerving” and warning that the war for which the Israelis are planning is “going to be really bloody.”

According to Graham, who has received more than $380,000 from the Israel lobby over the past two election cycles, the Israeli government is preparing for war owing to the alleged presence of a rocket factory in Lebanon.

The factory is said to be connected to Hezbollah, a Lebanese political party originally formed to counter Israel’s illegal occupation of Lebanon in the 1980s. It is also a major military power in the country and has helped the Lebanese Army – a beneficiary of U.S. military aid – defend the country in past wars with Israel in 2000 and 2006. It has also spent the last several years successfully fighting terrorist groups like Daesh (ISIS) in Syria.

In addition, Marwa Osman, a political analyst and commentator living in Beirut, asserts that Israel’s claim that Hezbollah has a rocket factory in South Lebanon would be “laughable” if the threats built around this assertion didn’t threaten so many civilian lives. In an interview with MintPress News, Osman noted that Hezbollah’s armaments come from abroad, making the Israeli government’s claims unreasonable:

"Why would the Islamic resistance Hezbollah need a ‘factory’ when all the missiles and weapons they need are delivered as needed by the Islamic Republic of Iran? … Any sane person with just a map of Lebanon can see that it is practically impossible to have any sort of ammunition or weapons factory in the areas that Israel has as targets, namely the suburbs of Beirut known as Dahye."

Despite no concrete evidence showing the existence of the rocket factory, Israeli officials told the U.S. senators that, if the factory continues to operate, “they are going to have to go in,” as Graham put it. Stated differently, Israel is planning to invade Lebanon because Hezbollah – a major player in the Lebanese government – is allegedly making armaments that could be used against Israel at some point in the future. In other words, Israel is planning for a “preventative” war based on scant evidence.

To Osman, Israel’s lack of evidence did not come as a surprise:

Israel has never needed an excuse to invade or bomb any place. It has always situated itself at an offensive position with the same old excuse that it is defending its existence. What defense strategy are they talking about when they own the war planes and they invade the Lebanese and Syrian airspaces?”

Looking for ammo and diplomatic cover

According to other recent reports, Israel has no intention of losing against Hezbollah, as it did in 2006, and is instead aiming for a “decisive victory.” When asked what constituted a “decisive victory,” Maj. Gen. Yaakov Barak of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) responded,

"If we manage to kill [Hezbollah leader] Nasrallah in the next war, I would see that as reaching a decisive victory."

Lebanese President Michel Aoun, a Christian and a supporter of Hezbollah, condemned the threats of war — stating, during a meeting with the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, that,

"Lebanon is keen on maintaining stability and calm in South Lebanon, but it is also ready to defend itself [should] Israel carry out an assault."

However, Graham’s own statements cast doubt on the official narrative for the impending war. Graham stated that the Israeli government was requesting “ammunition, ammunition, ammunition” from the U.S. government, as well as diplomatic support for when Israel strikes civilian targets — such as “civilian apartment buildings, hospitals, and schools”– because Hezbollah has become “integrated” into these structures.

This request from the Israeli government builds on past statements from Israeli officials, such as those made by Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett. Bennett told Israeli newspaper Haaretz last year that civilians “must” be targeted the next time Israel and Lebanon go to war:

"The Lebanese institutions, its infrastructure, airport, power stations, traffic junctions, Lebanese Army bases – they should all be legitimate targets if a war breaks out. … This will mean sending Lebanon back to the Middle Ages."

As Osman noted, Israel has frequently targeted civilian targets in its military incursions into Lebanon:

"Isn’t bombing hospitals and schools and apartment buildings the same exact strategy that Israel uses each time it bombards Lebanese targets?"

Given these requests, Israel is not planning to just bomb the rocket factory it claims to be existentially threatened by. Instead, it is actively preparing to bomb “civilian” targets because the supporters and members of a Lebanese political party live there. Making preparations for a war that will intentionally target civilians can hardly be called a war of “self-defense,” especially given that Israel receives over $10 million in military aid from the United States every single day. Instead, this has all the markings of a war of aggression targeting innocent people.

Self-defense or another resource war?

While Israel is framing this impending war as defensive, recent evidence suggests that defeating Hezbollah is likely a war intended to claim critical resources and secure geopolitical dominance in the Middle East. For example, Israel and Lebanon have recently taken part in heated exchanges regarding control over the natural gas fields in the Levant basin, which, in total, are estimated to contain 1.7 billion barrels of recoverable oil and 122 trillion cubic feet of gas.

Two of the blocks assigned to Lebanon soon after the discovery of gas in the area in 2009 were recently auctioned off in late January to a consortium of European and Russian energy companies. However, one of those blocks is disputed by Israel, leading Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman to call the move “very, very challenging and provocative conduct,” fueling speculation that Israeli military action is not far behind.

In addition, Israel – currently in the midst of a historic drought – has a renewed interest in the rich freshwater resources in Southern Lebanon. Even prior to Israel’s official founding, Zionist strategic planners had originally sought to incorporate the Litani river, Lebanon’s largest, as its northern border, but met resistance from the French who, at the time, were the colonial power in control of Lebanese territory. However, Israel never gave up on its ambitions.

For instance, several experts have asserted that Israel’s occupations of Lebanese territory in 1978 and 1982 were a direct result of Israel’s desire to obtain the water resources of southern Lebanon. In 1982, Israeli plans to siphon off as much as 60 percent of the Litani’s flow into Israel were made public. Since Hezbollah expelled Israel from South Lebanon in 2000, water has also been a major factor in subsequent conflicts.

While resources are a contributing factor, Osman asserts that the main factor driving Israel’s aggression is “the readiness and power of the resistance [Hezbollah].”

Osman continued:

"The Lebanese Resistance Hezbollah has gained a lot of new experiences and enhanced its missile capabilities to a point where they might even have their hands on an air-defense system. This means that now Israel is at risk of even flying into Lebanese airspace."

These “new experiences” have come courtesy of Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria — where it has successfully assisted the Syrian government in the fight against terrorist groups supported by Western governments, the Gulf monarchies, and Israel — which has strengthened Hezbollah’s military component.

According to Osman, Hezbollah’s increased capabilities resulting from its involvement in Syria have caused great concern within the Israeli government:

"The fact that for the past three years the joint and coordinated efforts between the SAA [Syrian Arab Army] and Hezbollah have resulted in the liberation of approximately 70 percent of the Syrian territory from Western backed takfiris (keeping in mind that the amount of land liberated equals three to four times the size of Palestinian occupied territories) puts Israel in a very paranoid position."

Israel had supported the Syrian opposition forces with the hopes of not only toppling the Syrian government but also weakening Hezbollah. Having failed to weaken Hezbollah through a proxy conflict in Syria, Israel is now making a desperate bid to do so by funding seven different rebel factions in southern Syria while also threatening the civilian population in southern Lebanon. Not wanting to be outmatched by its resilient and resourceful enemy again, the threat of war that Israeli officials are making appears to be a plan to go straight at the source — i.e., Hezbollah’s civilian supporters — in a desperate bid to counter Hezbollah.

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. 

Kushner's Insecurity: Who Does Jared Work For - Really?

Kushner, Israel and Palestine

by Robert Fantina - CounterPunch

March 2, 2018  

The circus that came to town on January 20, 2017, continues to run amok. The starring buffoon, Donald Trump, garners most of the attention, and anything directed at any of the other acts reflects on him.

Ringmaster John Kelly threw a hissy fit, and told high-wire acrobat Jared Kushner, balancing between Mexico, Israel, China and United Arab Emirates, that he must now only use the less-prestigious high wire, the lower one with the safety net.

His wife, Ivanka, balancing on a giant ball while juggling both North and South Korea, seems to be teetering towards disaster. And, for added fun, the clown Trump, in his most comical way, is telling the audience that witches are out to get him!

Photo: Chairman of the Joint Chief | CC BY 2.0 

So much information to comment on; so little time! For the sake of brevity, we will focus on just one of the current miseries self-inflicted on the Trump administration. We will look at Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

It is hardly worth mentioning that, by appointing Kushner and his annoying wife (Ivanka still addresses her father, publicly, as ‘Daddy’), Trump violated government –issued nepotism rules, but he is, after all, ‘The Donald’. His hotel in Florida is also benefitting greatly by his very frequent weekends there with the entourage that accompanies any president, so the rules apparently don’t apply to him. But that is a topic for a different time. Kushner is our focus today.

It was bad enough that Trump appointed as one of his chief advisors, and by all accounts one that he trusts above most of the others, a man with no government or diplomatic experience. It’s worse yet that Kushner was tasked with making peace between occupied Palestine and apartheid Israel, since he is a close, personal friend of Israeli Prime Murderer Benjamin Netanyahu, and has donated substantial amounts of money to support illegal settlements. An honest, unbiased broker, he’s not. (At the risk of boring the reader, we will only mention briefly the fact that negotiations between Israel and Palestine are both unnecessary and impossible. Unnecessary, because all that is required is adherence to international law. Impossible, because the field on which the two countries play is not level).

To make matters even worse, the Washington Post has now reported that four nations discussed using Kushner’s lack of experience and troubled company for their own benefit. Among the countries whose governments discussed exploiting the naïve and incompetent Kushner was -surprise! surprise! – Israel.

What can one conclude from this? Let us summarize:

+ Kushner is a fawning supporter of Israel.

+ He counts among is very closest friends the soon-to-be-indicted Netanyahu (Kushner will be able to assist him, at least providing the same kind of moral support he no doubt provided his own father during his indictment and incarceration).

+ The presidential adviser and son-in-law was tasked with bringing peace to Palestine and Israel.

+ He supports the settlements, which are illegal under international law and are condemned by every nation on the planet (including, usually, the U.S.), except Israel. Does the fox ever consider himself guilty of raiding the henhouse?

+ He has no experience in international affairs.

+ He never worked in government before being tapped for his current role by the overgrown man-child currently living in the White House, who happens to be his father-in-law.

+ Evidence has now surfaced that Israel saw his many vulnerabilities, and at least discussed exploiting them for its benefit. Is it possible that it was those vulnerabilities that enabled Trump to name Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, despite almost universal worldwide condemnation?

We will now consider for a moment the major thrust of the nepotism law, passed in 1967, possibly in response to President John F. Kennedy’s appointment of his brother, Robert Kennedy, as Attorney General (at least Robert Kennedy had a law degree, making him more qualified to be Attorney General than Kushner is to be a top presidential advisor). The law states: “A public official may not appoint, employ, promote, advance, or advocate for appointment, employment, promotion, or advancement, in or to a civilian position in the agency in which he is serving or over which he exercises jurisdiction or control any individual who is a relative of the public official.” The law includes sons-in-law as ‘relatives’.

So, just what are we left with? We have someone illegally appointed to a top role in the government, who has no discernible qualities for the role to which he now attempts to fulfill.

His professional background is so spotty as to put him at risk of being used by foreign governments for their own purposes, which probably don’t have a whole lot to do with U.S. ‘national security. He's despised by the chief of staff, but supported by another top advisor, his wife, daughter of the president.

He is tasked with resolving a decades-old problem that the U.S. hardly even sees as a problem, and one on which he sides with the aggressor. That side is one nation whose government discussed ways of taking advantage of Kushner’s naiveté and complex business problems.

To hear some politicians, from both sides of the littered aisle, tell it, the U.S. is a model of democracy for the world to emulate. Nepotism, incompetence, foreign abuse of ignorant officials – hardly a model of progress and enlightenment.

And can any of us forget Trump’s statement about bringing the best people to his administration? Jared Kushner? Really? Among the 320 million people living in the U.S., can he possibly, by any imaginable measure, be considered one of the ‘best people’ to help run the government? He has no experience, no skills, and no discernable aptitude for the role.

This is the U.S. in 2018. These are members of an administration that is going to ‘make America great again’ (as if it ever was). These are the people who have made the U.S. an international laughingstock as it goes from one mishap to another, indicating appalling incompetence, demonstrating unbridled greed, and making decisions condemned by the international community.

No one need look to the 2018 mid-terms, or even the 2020 presidential election, for any major change. As long as the Republicans and the Democrats, different wings on the same ugly bird, have a stranglehold on elections, no real change can be expected.

Robert Fantina’s latest book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: a History of US Foreign Policy (Red Pill Press).
More articles by: Robert Fantina

With Little Else to Worry About, West Gets Exercised About End of Chinese Communist Party Term Limits

Hey! What About Term Limits for the Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jinping??

by Peter Lee - China Matters

February 28, 2018

In my most recent China Watch video for Newsbud, I have some fun with the ostentatious hand-wringing and concern trolling the West concerning the CCP proposal to abolish term limits for the presidency of the PRC.

Here’s the trailer! 


The video offers my unique take on U.S. presidential term limits, one that I think is surprising and revealing. That’s a teaser, folks. Go to to subscribe and take a look.

In interest of time and in consideration of the general-interest audience, Newsbud edited out the inside-baseball slice of my video that discussed the real issue behind the presidency dustup: Xi Jinping’s move to affirm a succession protocol for party General Secretary that could give him three or more terms, instead of the two terms that have been customary for the last couple decades.

Here’s the script for the bit that pretty much got dropped:

Long story short, the primary significance of the proposed abolition of term limits for presidency of the PRC is that it essentially confirms that Xi Jinping is going to go for at least one additional term as general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party.

And where it counts, inside the Chinese Communist Party, there are no term limits. Not really.

The reported rule of thumb for membership in the Politburo Standing Committee, the apex of collective leadership in the Party and the pool from which party general secretaries are selected, was “seven up/eight down.” It meant that cadres 67 years and under could advance to the Standing Committee and have a shot at becoming general secretary; those 68 and older should retire. This rule was supposedly instituted by party secretary Jiang Zemin in 2002.

Actually, the rule was a rather special interpretation of the principle of generational renewal of the CCP leadership cadre ever ten years instituted by Deng Xiaoping because, to put it bluntly, Jiang Zemin wanted to screw a political rival, Li Ruihuan, who happened to be 68 years old.

Xi Jinping will turn 68 on June 15, 2021—a year before his second term as party secretary ends—so it’s understandable his people have been debunking the seven up/eight down rule to the press for some time.

Retirement rule for CCP leaders “pure folklore”

Folklore, I tell you!

More to the point, perhaps, for China every CCP general secretary before Xi Jinping had been selected or prepositioned by Deng Xiaoping. That includes Hu Jintao, Xi Jinping’s predecessor, who finished up as general secretary in 2012—fifteen years after Deng Xiaoping died.

Given the historical context of CCP succession strategies and China’s new situation in the world, I would guess that Xi Jinping has had some success in selling the idea inside the Party that he’s tweaking the system to reflect current realities, not overturning an iron-clad norm.

The flurry of leaks and criticism of the PRC presidential term limits move is, I expect, a surrogate for dismay that Xi Jinping views his tenure as General Secretary as open-ended and that his view is apparently prevailing inside the CCP.

Carping about presidential term limits in the public sphere might reflect more of a “go for broke” attitude by opponents who feel that the intra-Party debate isn’t going their way. What the heck? If Xi is going to lock in the job Party Secretary for the next decade, there’s nothing to be gained by staying silent and little lost by speaking up now.

So anti-Xi Jinping voices are now more willing to blab and turn Western journos largely shut out of news about CCP internal matters into instant experts on the precariousness of Xi’s rule.

If the domestic and international hubbub forces Xi to climb down on term limits revision, he will have certainly suffered a major setback.

But I think the odds are against it.

For what it’s worth, I regard critics of Xi Jinping’s ambitions for prolonging his stint as Party Secretary fall into a few categories:

People inside and outside the party who don’t like Xi’s plan to manage the PRC through an increasingly activist, pro-active, and intrusive CCP;

People inside the party who prefer the collectivist leadership model (and the ability of cadres to make political and financial hay by leveraging their loyalties without worrying overmuch about threats to their political power and economic interests) to a powerful, if not Mao-like General Secretary;

People who have no big problem with big-leader rule but prefer it wouldn’t be implemented by Xi Jinping. I guess there are some dead enders who hope that Bo Xilai will get sprung from prison and lead the CCP to glory, but don’t know if there’s anybody else out there.

My thesis is that Xi Jinping’s case for a powerful CCP bossman unhampered by term limits may be self-serving but it also has enough merit for the party as a whole to acquiesce.

There’s a miasma of crisis, corruption, and drift surrounding the PRC and the CCP, and Xi Jinping’s long war to renovate the CCP as an instrument of effective technocratic rule in an era of significant national challenge might be seen to deserve another decade to succeed (or fail so utterly that the approach will be discredited).

Putin's Nuclear Gambit

Putin Unveils New Russian Nuclear Missile, Says It Renders Defenses 'Useless' 

by RT

March 01, 2018

"I want to tell all those who have fueled the arms race over the last 15 years, sought to win unilateral advantages over Russia, introduced unlawful sanctions aimed to contain our country's development ... you have failed to contain Russia," he said.

He accused the West of "ignoring us. Nobody listened to us. Well listen to us now."

Other new weapons include the Avangard — an intercontinental hypersonic missile that would fly to targets at a speed 20 times the speed of sound — and a weapons system called Kinzhal, already deployed in southern Russia, that uses hypersonic missiles that can strike targets 1,250 miles away.

Putin insisted Russia had "no plans to be an aggressor."

"We are not going to take anything away from anybody. We have everything we need," he said.
"Russia’s strong military is a guarantor of peace on our planet." 

Will Colombia's Fragile Peace Accord Become an Election Casualty?

As Colombia's Presidential Campaign Heats Up, Peace Accord Frays 


March 1, 2018

Colombia's former rebel group FARC suspended its presidential campaign because political violence in Colombia continues unabated. Meanwhile, leftist candidate Gustavo Petro is pulling ahead in the crowded presidential race, explains Prof. Mario Murillo.

Mario A. Murillo is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Radio, Television, Film department at Hofstra University. He is also co-director of Hofstra's Center for Civic Engagement. 

Thursday, March 01, 2018

A Murder in Malaysia: Death by Logging

Southeast Asia Getting Killed by Logging and Mining

by Andre Vltchek - NEO

March 1, 2018  

When an airplane is approaching Singapore Changi Airport, it makes the final approach either from the direction of Peninsular Malaysia, or from the Indonesian island of Batam.

Either way, the scope for natural disaster under the wings is of monumental proportions.

All the primary forest of the Malaysian state bordering Singapore – Johor – is now gone and the tremendous sprawl of scarred land, mostly covered by palm oil plantations, is expanding far towards the horizon.

The predictable plantation grid pattern is only interrupted by motorways, contained human settlements, and by few, mostly palm oil-related industrial structures.

On the Indonesian side, the Island of Batam resembles a horror apocalyptic movie: there is always some thick smoke rising towards the sky, and there are clearly visible, badly planned and terribly constructed towns and villages. Water around the island is of a dubious, frightening color. The environmental destruction is absolute. Batam was supposed to be the Indonesian answer to Singapore. Indonesia was dreaming about a modern mega city with a super airport and port, dotted with factories, research centers and shopping facilities. But the turbo-capitalist country hoped that all this would be created by the private sector. That was of course, unrealistic. What followed was an absolute disaster.

As it is now, Batam is nothing more than a series of ‘Potemkin Villages’, complete with several potholed four-lane roads that lead nowhere. As for the research: there is hardly any science even in Jakarta or Bandung, let alone here. After several attempts to ‘save face’ and to cover up this massive failure, the island has been allowed to ‘sink’ back to where it had already been for several decades: a huge whorehouse for predominantly Singaporean and Malaysian sex tourists; a cheap shopping district selling mainly counterfeit goods, a place notorious for lacking even the most basic public services.

No heads were made to roll for this monumental and thoroughly stupid set of failures. The obedient business-owned media is hardly ever critical of the Indonesian regime and its business ‘elites’. But the impact of the ‘Batam experiment’ is enormous – there is no intact nature left on the entire island.


What goes on in the Southern Part of Southeast Asia?

Is nature of absolutely no concern to the Malaysian and especially Indonesian governments, business conglomerates and society?

The problem here is that everything above and below the ground has been, for years and decades, viewed as a source of potential profit. It is only valued if it can be exploited, if there can be a price tag attached to it. No sentimentality, no thoughts about beauty! Here, greed has already reached insane proportions.

Like in the West, big companies in several Southeast Asian countries are now running and selecting the governments. They are also controlling the mass media, infiltrating social networks. To criticize great logging and palm oil companies in Malaysia is lethal, literally suicidal, and almost no one dares to do it. In the past, some did, and died. The same can be said about ‘illegal’ gold mining, logging and other extraction ventures in Indonesia, where much of the unsavory mining and logging enterprises are in the hands of the police, military or of government officials (the interests of all three branches are also often intertwined).

Places like Borneo and Sumatra are finished; almost all of their legendary wildlife habitats are devastated. Hundreds of species are gone or almost extinct. The once mighty, primary forests are squeezed into a few national parks, and even those are often being used for commercial farming, and also for palm oil plantations.

It is not just an issue of ‘disappearing beauty’ and biodiversity. Borneo (known as Kalimantan in Indonesia) used to be on par with Amazonia, functioning as the lungs of the Earth. It is the third largest island on our planet (and the largest one in Asia), and it is fully and some would now say irreversibly plundered. In Indonesia, deadly chemicals used on the palm oil plantations are killing tens of thousands of people with cancer, although you’d have to work deep in the villages to figure out the truth, as no reliable statistics exist and the issue is highly ‘sensitive’, as is everything that is horrible and sinister in this part of the world. Many rivers, including Kapuas, contain ridiculously high levels of mercury, the result of illegal but openly practiced gold mining.

To see some parts of Borneo from the air is like observing an enormous, nightmarish and rotting wreck of a ship: black scars, brown scars, and dark zigzagging open veins of what used to be, a long time ago, tremendous and proud, as well as pristine, waterways.

What has been done to Indonesian-controlled Papua by Indonesian companies and by Western multi-national mining conglomerates is indescribable. Apart from committing genocide against the local population, the entire half of this tremendous island, which used to be inhabited by hundreds of local tribes, is now being ‘exposed’, forced open, and literally raped. Of course, as an anti-Communist warrior and obedient pro-business client state, Indonesia is almost never criticized by the West. The genocides it has been committing since 1965 are either sponsored or at least supported from Washington, London and Canberra.

Malaysian and Indonesian logging and mining companies do not stop at committing crimes at home – they go far, to other Asian countries, but also deep into Oceania, places like the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea (PNG), where I witnessed on several occasions the full destruction of both nature and human cultures; a nightmare which I described in detail in my book Oceania.


I am relentlessly documenting what is happening to Southeast Asia in the books that I am writing (alone and with local authors), as well as in my upcoming films. I’m in the middle of producing a film about the fate of Borneo island, a place which is becoming dearer and dearer to me, the more devastated it gets.

The more I witness and the more I document, the more hopeless I often feel. It is because there seems to be almost no place which is capable of resisting the onslaught.

I am writing this essay on board Malaysian Airlines flights. The first one took me from the city of Miri (a state of Sarawak in Borneo, Malaysia) to Kuala Lumpur, the second from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok.

After filming on several occasions in the totally violated Indonesian Kalimantan, I hoped to see something optimistic in Malaysian Sarawak; something that could be used as an inspiration for the future of the incomparably poorer and much more corrupt Indonesian part of the island. This time I drove all around the city of Miri, and then I crossed the border and drove further into Brunei. I flew inside tiny propeller planes over the jungle, or what is still left of it. I took a narrow motorized makeshift canoe.

Yes, I saw few beautiful national parks and traditional longhouses. And I was surprised to find out that the filthy rich but politically and religiously oppressive sultanate of Brunei Darussalam, with its brutal and extreme implementation of Sharia Law, unbridled consumerism and worshipped oil industry, is actually doing incomparably better job than Indonesia and even Malaysia, at least environmentally. It is at least protecting its nature, including the rainforest. Brunei’s untouched, pristine native forest begins just a few miles from the coast, from its oil wells and refineries.

But when I rented a narrow shabby longboat, deep in the interior of Sarawak, I encountered total misery and devastation. The road was great, most likely constructed precisely for moving quickly and efficiently, both timber and palm oil fruit. Several schools and medical facilities looked modern. But most of the locals do not live near the roads – they dwell, traditionally, along the rivers. And there, the situation is totally different: people residing in poor, primitive shacks, children and adults swimming in desperately polluted waterways, while stumps of trees ‘decorating’ stinking, muddy shores.


Some would say that Southeast Asia is not alone. In many ways, the West already ‘rearranged’ its nature decades and centuries ago. In densely populated countries like Italy or Netherlands, very little of the original nature is left today. In the United States, the original meadows and pristine grasslands gave way to commercial fields; to agricultural mass production.

What shocks in Southeast Asia is not the fact that people want to make a living out of their land. It is the brutality of the systematic destruction of majestic mountains and hills, of mighty rivers, lakes, shores as well as the irreversibility of the changes that come with cutting down almost all native rainforest, replacing it with chemically-boosted palm oil and rubber plantations.

Most of those who would be allowed to see those monstrous coal mines dotting Indonesian Borneo would be terrified. Endless sprawls of palm oil (and literally imprisoned villages, squeezed by it as in a straightjacket) could perhaps outrage even the most hardened pro-market fundamentalists, who would bother to visit from other parts of the world.

Or maybe not… The multi-national ‘mining horrors’ that are being described to me by my friends and colleagues, who are presently working in Peru, are somehow comparable. What I saw in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) shows the same spite that many Western companies and governments have for the local people.

What I find truly ‘unique’ in Southeast Asia, is the totality of destruction. The number of animal and bird species that are already gone, or are disappearing or have been simply hunted down, or the number of hopelessly polluted rivers; the forests and jungles that are stolen from the native inhabitants.

The speed is yet another shocking factor. It is all happening extremely fast. No wonder that Green Peace put Indonesia on the list of the Guinness Book of Records as the fastest destroyer of the tropical forests on Earth.

What is left of the Indonesian forests is being either logged out or is systematically burning. Thick smog travels, periodically, from Sumatra to Singapore and peninsula Malaysia, creating a health hazard, shutting down schools and tormenting people suffering from asthma and other respiratory problems.

But Indonesia is big, the fourth most populous country on Earth. It does what it wants, and it appears that it cannot be stopped. Or more precisely, its rulers and business elites are doing what they want. And, as long as it fits into the agenda of their Western handlers (and it usually does), the country is enjoying almost total impunity.

Of course, those who are suffering the most are the local people themselves, as well as countless defenseless species, be they animals, birds, fish, trees, or plants.

Soon, nothing original will be left here. Billions of dollars will be made by those very few rich, and the poor majority will be stuck with the coolie’s jobs. The plundering of the environment is creating dependency syndrome and very little advancement for the society. The money flows, but not where it is supposed to flow.

Like in the Gulf, almost nothing or very little is being invested into science, technology, the arts and creative sectors.

Ruined islands and peninsulas will keep producing ‘blood fruits’. Land owners, corrupt politicians, middlemen and traders will keep getting outrageously rich. But the great majority of people will have to get used to living with a polluted and totally unnatural environment. They’d be stuck, in fact most of them are already stuck, in some sort of depressing concentration camps surrounded by unnatural, hostile crops, and by the chemically-contaminated land.

All this will continue until who knows what terrifying and bitter end, unless, of course, the people of Southeast Asia will finally wake up, and instead of accepting this present turbo-capitalist model, begin to think and dream about the “Ecological Civilization” and other marvelous cutting-edge philosophies that are flowing out from China and other non-conformist parts of the world.

Andre Vltchek is philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He’s a creator of Vltchek’s World in Word and Images, a writer of revolutionary novel Aurora and several other books. He writes especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”

America's Foundational Election Skullduggers

Elite Anxiety: The True Foreign Skullduggery Behind Election 2016

by Chris Floyd - CounterPunch

February 27, 2018  

There was indeed a foreigner responsible for the election of Donald J. Trump in 2016. This is not an “allegation” or a supposition or any kind of “conspiracy theory;” it is a confirmed fact, backed up by reams and reams of documented evidence. The culpable foreigner was not named Vladimir Putin, however; he was called James Wilson, and he was born in Scotland. (Just like Trump’s mother!)

James Wilson is one of the more unsung of the Founding Fathers, but he played a key role in the Constitutional Convention that formed the current political system of the United States.

Photo by US Government | CC BY 2.0

 Having emigrated to the American colonies at the age of 24, he became a prominent lawyer and (like Trump) a major real estate tycoon. He was also a strong and eloquent force behind the drive for independence, due to his anger at the British government’s refusal to grant parliamentary representation for the Colonials.

However, Wilson was also very firmly on the ‘conservative’ side of the Revolutionary camp. He fought hard – even violently – against the “rabble” who attempted to seize the wealth of aristocratic Loyalists to the British crown after they fled from Philadelphia. And he continued to defend Loyalists in court cases following the Revolution.

Shay’s Rebellion in 1786-87 put the fear of God into the aristocratic elite who controlled the newly formed United States, then loosely governed under the Articles of Confederation. The Rebellion, led by Daniel Shay and other Revolutionary War veterans, was comprised of thousands of poor farmers who’d been left destitute by the “austerity measures” imposed in the turbulent post-war economy. Many of the veterans, like Shay, had been forced into penury when they didn’t receive the promised pay they’d earned fighting for independence. As Gore Vidal puts it:

“The veterans thought that they had been fighting a war for true independence … They did want an abolition of debts and a division of property. Their rebellion was promptly put down. [By a militia raised by the financial contributions of the nation’s richest men.] But so shaken was the elite by the experience that their most important and wealthiest figure grimly emerged from private life with a letter to Henry Lee.
“You talk of employing influence,” wrote George Washington, “to appease the present tumults … Influence is no government. Let us have one by which our lives, liberties and properties will be secured, or let us know the worst at once.”

Thus a Constitutional Convention was called to create a strong government that would preserve the privileges and properties of the elite against the ravages of grubby Demos. And it was here James Wilson proved his mettle.

One of the most vexed matters of the Constitutional Convention was how the president of the new centralized government should be chosen. Some wanted the post to be chosen by a vote of Congress; others by a vote of state legislators or state governors; a few radicals offered the hopeless idea of letting actual citizens elect their leader directly. (But of course, even these “radicals” meant to restrict this direct vote to white men.)

In the end, the question was referred to The Committee of Eleven on Postponed Matters. The Committee was chaired by David Beardsley and counted the “Father of the Constitution,” future president James Madison, among its members. Wilson, a close ally of Madison, was on the Committee of Detail, charged with actually drawing up the draft of the Constitution. As the National Constitution Center notes,

“it was James Wilson who had promoted the idea [of the Electoral College] before the committee [on Postponed Matters] met in secret.”

And in secret, the Committee adopted Wilson’s Electoral College compromise, which greatly diminished any Congressional role in picking the president, while artfully preventing the detested rabble from electing their own leader. As a further sop to elites, the Electoral College scheme allowed each state to pick its own method of choosing its Electors.

Let’s turn again to Vidal for an apt description of the proceedings:

“The American Constitution was carefully rigged by the noteholders, land speculators, rum runners and slaveholders who were the Founding Fathers so that it would be next to impossible for upstart dirt farmers and indebted masses to challenge the various forms of private property held by these well-read robber barons.”

And thus it has ever been. Oh, by the way, Wilson was also the “father” of one of the other most troublesome elements of the Constitution. It was he who proposed the “Three-Fifths Compromise,” whereby the human beings held in bondage in the Southern slave states would be counted as only three-fifths of a person for determining levels of representation in the House – and in the Electoral College. (Oddly enough, although only white men of property were allowed to actually vote, representation was based on the population of a state as a whole.) The compromise allowed Northern elites – afraid of being swamped, legislatively, by the slave-swollen population of the South – to accept the new Constitution, while Southern elites were happy to adopt a measure that preserved their right to own human beings as profitable livestock. It also gave the slaveowners (like Washington and Jefferson) greater say in the selection of the president, because at that time a direct vote – even if restricted solely to white men of property – would have favored the North.

And now we come to 2016. As we all know, Hillary Clinton outpolled Donald Trump by almost 3 million votes. In any “free country” worthy of the name – especially one which had, after much blood and toil, finally extended the franchise to adults of all races and genders – this would mean that she would have been the elected leader of the nation. But thanks to Scottish-born James Wilson (and native-born elites like Washington, Madison and Jefferson), she was denied her rightful victory. It passed instead to the Wilson-like – and Washington-like – tycoon and speculator, Donald Trump: the second dimbulb elitist to take power in the 21st century due to the oligarchic machinations of James Wilson.

Today, there are some – nay, many – who are laying the victory of Donald Trump at the feet of a “far-reaching social media intervention” by Kremlin-led apparatchiks, who cleverly gamed the system, largely through Facebook. These would be the same operatives who, as Jeffery St. Clair notes, spent $100,000 on Facebook ads during the election – as opposed to the $81 million in FB ads bought by Clinton and Trump. In the three key states that cost Clinton the Electoral College victory, here, as St. Clair notes, are the total Russian Facebook buys: Pennsylvania, $300; Michigan, $832; and Wisconsin, $1,979 – with $1,925 of that spent before the Republican primary in the state.

So yes, let us reason together and reach a consensus across all party and intra-party lines: there was indeed an odious, elitist, illegitimate, undemocratic intervention in the 2016 election that cost the rightful winner the presidency that she should have won. But this intervention occurred in 1787 not 2016. And it was largely the handiwork of the Scotland-born James Wilson, not the botoxed bully from Leningrad.

Now, at any time in its 200-year+ existence, the Democratic Party – ostensibly the party of Demos – could have sought to do away with the undemocratic, elitist, aristocratic, oligarchical Electoral College, which renders the votes of untold millions of Americans absolutely meaningless. (To take myself as an example: as an expat, I vote through my home state of Tennessee, which in 2016 was solidly for Trump, which meant my non-Trump vote had no bearing whatsoever on the final outcome. But if US citizens voted directly for their leaders, then every single vote in every single state would count vitally toward the ultimate decision.)

But to revert to Vidal again, because the United States has only one party – the Property Party – the Democratic faction of this single conglomeration of wealth and power has never, ever made any concerted effort to eliminate the overtly undemocratic boondoggle of the Electoral College, in order to allow the citizens of the United States to directly choose their own leader.

And that is why the disastrous dullard Donald Trump is President of the United States today. Not because “Russian bots” bought $300 worth of Facebook ads in Michigan, but because James Wilson, James Madison, George Washington and the other “Founding Fathers” had no intention whatsoever of letting genuine democracy take root in American soil.

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

How 'Western' Media Is Lying Us into a Greater Syria War

Western Media Distorts Escalating Syrian War


February 28, 2018

Intense bombing by the Syrian government, in alliance with Russia, has killed large numbers of civilians in Eastern Ghouta, which the Syrian government has besieged for years. But differing media accounts make it hard to decipher what's really happening, says Col. Larry Wilkerson.

Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Government and Public Policy Lawrence Wilkerson's last positions in government were as Secretary of State Colin Powell's Chief of Staff (2002-05), Associate Director of the State Department's Policy Planning staff under the directorship of Ambassador Richard N. Haass, and member of that staff responsible for East Asia and the Pacific, political-military and legislative affairs (2001-02). 

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

NDP Convention Fail on Palestine Beggars Party's Progressive Credibility

Canada’s Social Democrats Suppress “Palestine Resolution”

by Yves Engler - Dissident Voice

February 28th, 2018

They came, mostly young people, to fight for justice. They came to support the rule of international law, to help solve a longstanding injustice through non- violent means; they came to tell an oppressed people you have not been forgotten; they came to do what is right for a left wing political party; they came to speak truth to power.

And how did the left wing party respond? By using the “machine” — orders from on high, backroom arm-twisting, opaque block voting and procedural manoeuvring — to prevent debate. Silence in class!

While NDP insiders probably feel they dodged the “Palestine Resolution” bullet at their recent convention, many party apparatchiks may come to regret their undemocratic moves. Their naked suppression of debate might stir rage against the machine they’ve proved to be. At a minimum it has provoked many to ask why.

NDP MP Nathan Cullen, sings from
Israel-no-matter-what-it-does hymn book

Why, when the Palestine Resolution was endorsed unanimously by the NDP youth convention and by over 25 riding associations, did the powers that be not want it even discussed?

Given the resolution mostly restated official Canadian policy, except that it called for “banning settlement products from Canadian markets, and using other forms of diplomatic and economic pressure to end the occupation” one can only assume that the party machine either supports the indefinite Israeli occupation of Palestinian land or has some sort of problem with boycotts and economic sanctions.

Clearly the NDP is not against boycotts and economic sanctions in principle since they’ve recently supported these measures against Russia, Venezuela and elsewhere.

If, after a half-century of illegal occupation, one can’t call for boycotting Israeli settlement goods, then when? After a century? Two?

Or is the problem the particular country to be boycotted? Does the NDP hierarchy believe that anti-Semitism can be the only possible motivation for putting economic pressure on Israel to accept a Palestinian state? Or perhaps it is simply a worry that the dominant media would attack the party?

Whatever the ideological reason the bottom line is the Palestine Resolution was buried to ensure it wouldn’t be discussed. When its proponents sought to push it up the priority list at an early morning session before the main plenary, the party hierarchy blocked it.

In a poorly publicized side room meeting they succeeded 200 to 189. NDP House Leader Guy Caron mobilized an unprecedented number of current and former MPs, including Murray Rankin, Randall Garrison, Craig Scott, Tracey Ramsey, Alexandre Boulerice, Hélène Laverdière, Nathan Cullen and others, to vote against debating the most widely endorsed foreign policy resolution at the convention, (Niki Ashton was the only MP to support re-prioritizing the Palestine Resolution).

Apparently, the party leadership discussed how to counter the resolution at two meetings before the convention. In a comment on a Guardian story about the need for the NDP to move left, Tom Allen, a staffer for Windsor Tecumseth NDP MP Cheryl Hardcastle, describes “panicked” planning to defeat the resolution.

As for the part about the ‘party establishment [being] easily able to deflect challenges from the left.’ I would respectfully submit that this is wrong. As an NDP staffer I can tell you that it wasn’t easy at all this time and, especially with regards to the ‘Palestinian Resolution,’ which required a great deal of panicked last minute organizing to defeat [and only then by a close margin].”

Why would the party establishment risk turning off so many young activists, exactly the sort of member new leader Jagmeet Singh claims he wants to attract?

A quick look at some of the more prominent supporters of shutting down debate suggests an answer.

Victoria area MPs (defence critic) Randall Garrison and (justice critic) Murray Rankin who voted against debating the Palestine Resolution are members of the Canada Israel Inter-Parliamentary Group and took a Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs paid trip to Israel in 2016. After the IDF slaughtered 2,200 Palestinians in Gaza in the summer of 2014, Rankin offered words of encouragement to an emergency fundraiser for Israel.

Party foreign critic Hélène Laverdière, who voted to suppress the Palestine Resolution, took a paid trip to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s conference in Washington in 2016 and participated in a Jewish National Fund event in Israel.

British Columbia liaison and critic for democratic institutions, Nathan Cullen also voted against debating the Palestine Resolution.

I am strongly in support of Israel”, Cullen bellowed in a 2016 statement about how people should be allowed to criticize that country. 

In 2014-15 Cullen’s office took in Daniel Gans through CIJA’s Parliamentary Internship Program, which pays pro-Israel university students $10,000 to work for parliamentarians (Gans then worked as parliamentary assistant to NDP MP Finn Donnelly). In 2014 Cullen met representatives of CIJA Pacific Region to talk about Israel, Iran and other subjects. According to CIJA’s summary of the meeting,

Mr. Cullen understood the importance of a close Canada-Israel relationship.”

Maybe the loudest anti-Palestinian at the convention was former president of the Ontario NDP and federal council member Janet Solberg. Unsatisfied as a settler in Toronto, Solberg pursued a more aggressive colonial experience when she moved to historic Palestine as a young adult.

Just before the convention the President of the Windsor-Tecumseh Federal NDP, Noah Tepperman sent out an email to all riding associations calling on them to oppose Palestine resolutions. In it he claimed,

“boycotts based on religion, nationality or place of origin directly contravene the spirit of inclusiveness to which we in the NDP are committed.” 

He further alluded to an anti-Jewish agenda by connecting the different solidarity resolutions to “a backdrop of already-high-and-rising antisemitism here in Canada as well as abroad.” But, Tepperman sits on the board of the Windsor Jewish National Fund, which is an openly racist organization.

The truth is pro-Israel-no-matter-what-it-does NDP members in positions of power within the party won a narrow battle. How the war goes will depend on the lessons learned by those seeking a party that’s an instrument of real change, that fights against all forms of racism and oppression.

Yves Engler is the author of A Propaganda System: How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Canada in Africa: 300 years of aid and exploitation. Read other articles by Yves.