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Cozumel, Cancun: The Rights of Nature Plowed Over, Sewage Saturated, Cruise-ship Imploded

Sat, 2017-08-19 16:50

With the power of the telecom thieves and my cellular phone, and, viola, I am conversing via text and downloaded images with my 21 year old daughter on the Island of Cozumel, with her mother, stuck in the maelstrom of tourists and a denuded ecosystem. Yes, I admit, I loved that island, 1979, 1983, 1987 (1989 was the last time I was there), but I knew my very presence, my ecological footprint, the baggage of being an American, a scuba enthusiast, journalist, too, and dive bum, all were part of what was starting to become very out of whack in the world of those who have and those who do not have. Cultural genocide, the toxicity of Western things, Western mores, Western values, Western consumption and economy, well, it was easy back then for me to notice all of that. Of course, being a communist young allowed my Marxist view of things, but still, I knew my very presence there was part of the upsetting of the natural order of things.

I resisted being a typical American, and was working for international rights and universal human and environmental rights, young, 16, and yes, the power of human population and marketing and markets and consumerism to flip societies into poverty hell, I got at a young age, 16 or so. The beauty of a place is the palm tree frond cabanas, dirt roads, no air strips, no docks for Disney people, none of that, and yet, without all of that shit, American trappings, some of us especially sought it out, Cozumel, and lowered our destructive footprints, and our minds were deeply flooded with where we were and who was there – Mexico and its people and tribes and history.

It was clear that a true revolutionary lives with people, is a traveler, sometimes is not a resident or citizen tied to flag or stamp on passport, and the possibility of living that in 1975 when I first headed to Mexico as a diver in the Sea of Cortes, and, well, for forty-two years, I am still in the struggle to define myself as human, humane, a giver, and someone who knows the sham of capitalism, even in today’s marketplace of ideas that are swollen with idiocy.

Things have changed a lot, of course, since then – all of Mexico, 1975, hell, before Diego and Frida, under a volcano or inside the crucible.

This country has been defined for me by artists, like Graciela Iturbide and Octavio Paz,

Literature is the expression of a feeling of deprivation, a recourse against a sense of something missing. But the contrary is also true: language is what makes us human. It is a recourse against the meaningless noise and silence of nature and history.

and, Carlos Fuentes:

The United States has written the white history of the United States. It now needs to write the black, Latino, Indian, Asian and Caribbean history of the United States.

and all the exiled ones living in Mexico a hundred years ago:

I’m thinking here of the work by Helen Delpar on the U.S. artists and intellectuals who were attracted by The Enormous Vogue of Things Mexican (the title of her splendid book). More recently, the University of Chicago historian, Mauricio Tenorio has been exploring this phenomenon, employing the term “Brown Atlantis” to describe the appeal of Mexico City to these U.S. cultural and academic constituencies. In using the term “Brown Atlantis,” and the same is true of Helen Delpar’s work, the emphasis has been very firmly on Mexico as the center of indigenous politics, art and philosophy. I have suggested to Mauricio, somewhat cheekily, that Havana played a similar role, albeit rather less substantial than Mexico City, and that the label in this case might be “The Black Atlantis” — given the passion shown by U.S. and European intellectuals, musicians and artists for things African or African-descended in Cuba in the 1920s and 1930s.


But, Cozumel, back to that incredible stopping place for my journey throughout Mexico and Central America, and here, in a piece — short story I wrote, titled “Bird Stamp” – you can see the youthful vigor and romance of the place . . . .

ABOUT THE FICTION

Usually people wait until after the holidays to start voicing their frustration with Inland Northwest winters, but sooner or later the familiar lament begins: “I can’t stand another [foggy/rainy/snowy/ cold/dreary] day. Next year, I’m flying to Mexico.”

But what do you do when, as so happens in Paul Haeder’s “Bird Stamp,” the Inland Northwest follows you there?

Haeder’s story suggests that not only is Spokane a place, it’s a state of mind. And as such, it’s a potent literary device conveying undercurrents of hope and despair, possibility and dead ends. We’re proud to name Paul K. Haeder’s “Bird Stamp” the winner of The Inlander’s ninth annual Short Fiction Contest, and to announce that he’ll be reading from this and other works on Tuesday, Feb. 15, at Auntie’s Bookstore. In addition to offering some well-deserved kudos to Mr. Haeder, we’d also like to congratulate our second- and third-place winners, “Metaphorica” by Robert Salsbury and “Washtucna’ed” by J.A. Satori. Both stories will be available on our Web site, www.inlander.com. Congratulations, Paul, and our thanks to everyone who entered this year’s contest.

About the Author: Paul K. Haeder

Wouldn’t it be great if we all had English teachers who would do the same assignments they give their classes? Climb down into the writing trenches and get grubby with grammar like the rest of us? Well, that’s exactly the kind of teacher this year’s winner, Paul K. Haeder is. As a professor at SCC, SFCC, the Continuing Education Program, and previously at Gonzaga, it’s not uncommon for Haeder to do his assignments right along with his students.

“I threw out some ideas to the class and went home and wrote some of [‘Bird Stamp’],” he says. “I brought a page of this into class the next day and said, ‘This is what I came up with.” It was primarily just supposed to be an example, but I kept tweaking it and reworking it and thought, ‘What the hell, I’ll send it in.’ I never expected it would win.”

Haeder has only lived in Spokane for three years. Previously he worked in El Paso and has degrees from the University of Texas and the University of Arizona (where, as city editor of the daily college paper, he had the opportunity to go out drinking — on separate occasions — with Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Tess Gallagher, W.S. Merwin and Octavio Paz). He’s worked as a journalist for everything from the Miami Herald to E-Magazine and says that in his younger days he used to “hitchhike, pick up writing jobs for small newspapers and teach diving,” which is how he was able to infuse the Cozumel scenes of “Bird Stamp” with so much authenticity. “The diving-off-Cozumel parts weren’t just fantasy,” he jokes.

Haeder is married to writer and teacher Connie Wasem and has an 8-year-old child. He’s also a strong advocate for environmental issues. And it’s not surprising to find that, after hearing that he’d won The Inlander short fiction contest, he went right back to his writing desk to start a few new projects.

“I’ve got writing in my blood,” he says. “I think the real pivotal event for me was 9/11. After that happened, I had a lot of my students asking me, ‘Why do you care about literature and poetry?’ And I told them, ‘Now is the time to care. That’s where we can retreat and rediscover ourselves in times of trouble — in writing.'”

About the Artist: Amy Sinisterra

If the name of the artist for this year’s fiction contest sounds familiar, it might be because you’re used to seeing her photo credit throughout many pages of The Inlander. Amy worked as our editorial art coordinator for four years before launching her own photography business, Amy Sinisterra Photography. During that time, we were often astonished at what Miss Sinisterra could accomplish with only a basic, no-frills digital camera and her own imagination. It’s largely due to her intuitive and wide-ranging images of nightlife, downtown, local artists and food and drink that we’ve been able to present a vision of Spokane as a unique, edgy, attractive place to be.

A graduate of the University of Washington in Fine Art and English, Sinisterra is also an accomplished writer. Her ability to envision scenes served her well as the illustrator of this year’s fiction contest — the photo illustrations accompanying the story came to her while reading and re-reading Haeder’s evocative “Bird Stamp.” Sinisterra continues to take pictures for The Inlander on a freelance basis. To see more of her work, visit her website.

About the Judge: Beth Cooley

We were delighted to have Beth Cooley as the judge for this year’s fiction contest. Cooley’s recently published young-adult novel, Ostrich Eye, is a nuanced, suspenseful and ultimately satisfying novel that garnered her a Delacorte Prize (for first novels in the YA genre). In addition to teaching writing and literature at Gonzaga University (where she is also chair of the English Department), Cooley is a regular participant in EWU’s “Writers in the Rural Schools” program, an outreach effort in which published regional authors visit elementary, middle and high schools in outlying areas. She is at work on a second novel, tentatively titled Shelter, which will be published by Random House sometime around 2006. Cooley, who has been published in Mid-American Review, Roanoke Review, Poet Lore and other journals, shares her home with “my husband, Dan Butterworth, two daughters and a house rabbit named Scout.”

Of this year’s winner, she says: “‘Bird Stamp’ initially stood out among the stories submitted because of its vivid imagery and original language. The poetry of the story kept me involved almost as much as the protagonist, who is realistic and believable. Structurally, I found the interwoven plots of disease, love, infidelity, risk, life and death intriguing. The stories within the story, such as the lost Japanese divers and the marines, were fascinating. Paul Haeder makes us believe in his rough and colorful Mexico and his troubled, complex characters.”

The place — Brand Cozumel, 2017 — is home to 100,000 permanent residents. Once home to the moon goddess (Ix Chel) where women went on pilgrimages for fertility 2,000 years before present time, I knew then, working around environmentalists and cultural protectors, that the Island was up shit creek without a paddle. Rare species decimated, like a fox and coatimundi, and birds and alligators. The place once had 10,000 Mayans living here, and thanks to the Spanish conquest, the conquistadors brought smallpox, and in the ensuing 50 years after that first infected contact with the white race, only 186 men and 172 women of the Mayan culture were left. The island was refuge for people fleeing the Caste War of the Yucatan, and even old Dishonest Abe Lincoln was set on purchasing the island in 1861 for freed slaves.

The Island is mangroves and cenotes, underground freshwater holes and wet caves from thousands of years of percolated rain purifying underground. There are still Maya ruins on the island, and the west coast faces the mainland a few miles away, and the east side is currents and winds from the Caribbean stretch, with thus far, little development, but there are developer sharks out there looking for huge resorts and wind farms and anything else that moves capital along while killing culture, peace, peace of mind, ecosystems.

Now, tourist submarines, 300 restaurants, resorts, bars, para-sailing, kite surfing, dolphinariums, and the crud that is tourism on steroids run what once was a sacred place of communing with dimensions lost on the white zombie race and those co-opted by the race’s shekel-love.

Imagine, dolphins penned up, queued up, performing on cue, held in prison to perform for the sick race of people who can afford to fly to Cozumel and sit on their asses or snorkel into the dolphins’ prison.

The very notion of shifting baseline syndrome (generational amnesia) is what this Western Culture brings with it everywhere, destroying everything in its path, because of that great six percent of the global population’s – USA’s — attitude: “What I see now, what I do now, what I know now, what I experience now, what I touch, taste, hear, taste smell now, what I perceive now, what I want now, what I dream now, what I take now, that’s my baseline.”

Now my daughter is not one of those myopic ones, now five days in Cozumel, texting me how lucky she knows she is to be here where all the service workers plod through their lives cleaning up the shit of the tourists – cruise ships by the hundreds yearly (3 million people drop in, in a year), divers by the hundreds of thousands a year, and resort-goers by the same amount per annum. She has difficulty squaring the raw beauty of the sun and sky and azure water with her own status of being privileged enough to spend a week away from Spokane to be with her mother in a bonding ritual of mother-being-with-daughter. We talk a lot about shifting baseline syndrome, and generational amnesia, and how hard it is for scientists now, starting out, to realize they are working with a short deck of cards and a stacked deck, to boot. This is evidenced in so-called marine stewardship, or management. The oceans’ harvest and disgusting by-catch waste is evidence of shifting baseline syndrome getting it wrong and killing the planet. There are four times the number of fishing vessels in the ocean compared to the oceans’ capacity to regenerate.

The same holds true for Cozumel – 100,000 homo sapiens, 2017, and 20,000 in 1984. The bloody stupidity of developers and merchants and people wanting a piece of the ever-shrinking slice of the commons pie is that population density of humans is exponentially destructive to the commons, the ecosystem, the culture, the animal and plant life.

The irony is her own father, me, was a bum on Cozumel in the 1980s, writing newspaper stories, diving a lot, and finishing up a novel that ended up raked over the coals in New York City’s perverted publishing world (rich summer interns from Vassar or Smith College acting as first readers of manuscripts, both unsolicited and those, like mine, through an agent). I was there taking out tourists for dives, and then, back at the shop at night, smoking joints, drinking rum, and talking communism with a couple of dive shop managers from mainland Mexico (read my story “Bird Stamp” for some of that narrative). Fun deep dives 210 feet (7 atmospheres was my max with two scuba tanks strapped on) under that line of surface and air, with one big inhale of sativa right before descent, and imaginary worlds, but real eight foot black coral formations, hundreds of barracuda gazing at us, eagle rays, lemon sharks, blue sharks and a carnival of fish and corals and sponges not seen anywhere along the island’s shallower dive spots. The black-blue trench west was pretty darned deep – 3,000 feet.

How do we tell our children “there are no more sleepy fishing villages,” and how do we square the fact some of us, like myself, were able to hitchhike from Nogales to Panama, hit all the spots along the Yucatan-Quintana Roo coast, into Belize, into Honduras, for a pittance. Dirt roads, indigenous villages thriving, animals and ecosystems at least somewhat intact and in places vibrant?

How can we tell our daughters that while the old man was, in his own consciousness/mind, someone special and not some cruise-ship loving, monolingual tourist with red-white-and-blue coursing in his veins, I/we still have helped set the world on fire now, with Western culture and USA/USIsrael the demon of the world, with our NAFTA, our ripping off of everything, the nano second by nano second of extreme exploitation?

I remember in the 1980s how the island was still moderately wild, tame, but still, not overrun as it is now. I remember a modicum of discussion by locals and even the expats and tourists about keeping the place as pristine as possible. Oh where oh where does the smart growth go, planned growth thinking disappear, limited growth thinking vanish, small is better mentality dissipate to, when, in the end, the cancer is Capitalism, and Capital, and the developers are like incinerators, burning land, men, women, crustacean, mammal, reptile, fish, bird, what have you?

You will not find much on the internet or in the hearts and souls of people today, or much power of people and environmentalism and cultural survival for-about-because of Cozumel these days. Once you build it and keep building it, they will come and never stop coming. Cozumel is a tourist trap, and almost anyone dives, but few are true spiritual kin to the marine world. Even (or especially) Trump had his feces-covered hands on the island, along with his daughter’s and son’s mitts. All wanting this huge north island crap trap built that would be a winter playground for the rich and the others, with insanity and hedonism the number one operating currency in an unholy project to kill the island off permanently.

Ideas for wind farms on Cozumel – ugly, ecology killing, and why these for the island? What is it with the white race and the developers wanting every stitch of sacred land for more artery-fouling feeding resorts and golf courses and pathetic suites of balcony-ed luxury. But, thankfully, the wind farm has been somewhat halted — by the Mexican Center for Environmental Law (CEMDA). The group argues, “Among other things – that the wind farm would threaten endangered species in Cozumel, destroy precious mangrove and jungle, damage underground water supplies and cause years of disruption to the local community.”

Think of the power of Mayans 1,800 years ago, starting with pilgrimages from the mainland for fertility rites and medicine, eventually making Cozumel into a sacred destination for women from the mainland. Ruins in San Gervasio, about 6 miles down a dirt road from Carretera Transversal, the only main east-west route across the island, I have visited. The place had been populated for 1,350 years, until 1650. A religious center for the island, the three groups of temples, platforms, shrines and plazas are connected by sacbeoob, the “white roads” common to another place I spent a lot of time at, Chichén Itzá.

So, my daughter is there, where her father dove and learned the power of Mexicans from other places, leaving villages behind to serve the Americanos and diving lust. Cozumel was a side-trip, and while I knew all 31 Mexican states, and attempted a few of the hundreds of states of mind the Mexican possesses, I knew deep down that the shit of the world, America and then transnational corporations, would pollute more than just the minds of the Mexicans thinking somehow a Trump Golf Resort would move them any closer to the dung heap that is capitalism eating its own young.

I give my daughter hope in words and artists, and the legends of goddesses:

The Maya words Ix Chel have many interpretations. Ix means woman, Goddess, divine feminine; Chel means rainbow or translucent light. Her name is Lady Rainbow or Goddess of Divine Translucent Light. Ix Chel was always associated with bodies of water like lakes, rivers, creeks, streams and oceans where it is more likely to see rainbows and her beautiful sparkling light. Even in modern times, women sleep at watersides and pray to her for guidance in a dream – myself included. Just as in ancient days, many Maya women still relate that their weaving patterns were divined in dreams.

Like many other Goddesses of the world, Ix Chel depicts the three stages of a woman’s life – Maiden, Mother and Grandmother. The first image is of young Ix Chel the maiden, Goddess of weaving. She wears a snake on her forehead to signify that she is the Goddess of medicine and to symbolize intuitive knowledge as well as great control over earthly forces. Maya midwives placed her wooden image under the birthing bed.

The second image is Ix Chel, the Mother Goddess of fertility, the moon and motherhood. As Mother Creator of all Maya people and consort of the Creator God, Itzamna, she decided the face and sex of every person in utero. She and Itzamna (Lizard House or House of Sastuns) lived at the crown of the ceiba tree where they invented sexual intercourse to create the world and its people. She sits elegantly poised on a crescent moon to signify the moon’s effect on menstrual changes in women. She holds a rabbit in her arms, another fertility symbol. The Maya saw the shadows in the moon as the outline of a rabbit. The Maya discovered that one moon cycle and one menstrual cycle are 29.5 days. The calendar priests determined their famous 260 day Tzolkin calendar based on women’s menstrual cycles and the duration of pregnancy.

The third image is the Grandmother Earth Goddess of the moon, rain, medicine and death. She receives the bodies of her deceased children into her physical body, the earth. Revered for her wisdom and knowledge, her glyph demonstrated the vital importance of elders. Again, we see Ix Chel with the snake on her head, signifying medicine, healing and intuitive wisdom. Only the maiden and grandmother have a snake (to symbolize medicine) on the forehead because (as Maya women have told me) the Mother Goddess is too busy raising and caring for her own brood. Grandmother Ix Chel’s clay pot, shaped like a uterus, pours down rain to fertilize the earth. Often glyphs show a rainbow pouring out of her clay pot. Ix Chel was also consort and wife to the rain god, Chac and one of the Nine Benevolent Spirits that guide the Maya people to this day. Interestingly, this Goddess had at least three husbands – Itzamna, Chac and Ah Puuc.

NOTE: Black and White photos, Graciela Iturbide.

The World Remembers 64th Anniversary of the West-Sponsored Coup in Iran

Sat, 2017-08-19 16:11

After WWII, the West had one huge ‘problem’ on its hands: all three most populous Muslim countries on Earth – Egypt, Iran and Indonesia – were clearly moving in one similar direction, joining a group of patriotic, peaceful and tolerant nations. They were deeply concerned about the welfare of their citizens, and by no means were they willing to allow foreign colonialist powers to plunder their resources, or enslave their people.

In the 1950’s, the world was rapidly changing, and there was suddenly hope that the countries which were oppressed and pillaged for decades and centuries by first the European and then North American geopolitical and business interests, would finally break their shackles and stand proudly on their own feet.

Several Communist countries in Eastern Europe, but also newly liberated China, were actively helping with a rapid de-colonizing process in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and other parts of the world.

Those developments were exactly what the West in general and both the U.K. and the U.S. in particular, were not ready or willing to accept. ‘Ancient’ belief in some sort of ‘inherited right’ to colonize, to loot and to control entire the non-white world, was deeply engraved in the psyche of the rulers in both Europe and North America.

Peaceful, tolerant and socially oriented Islam was seen as a tremendous threat, at least in London, Washington, and Paris. It had to be stopped, even destroyed — resolutely and by all available means. Only the pre-approved Wahhabism, which was collaborative with the West and from the onset at least partially ‘co-produced’ by the British Empire, was singled-out and allowed to ‘bloom and succeed’.

*****

Iran fell first, in 1953.

Actually, it did not fall; it was brutally destroyed.

According to the logic of the Empire, Iran had to be derailed and ruined, in order to prevent a so-called ‘domino effect’.

As written by Irfan Ahmad, an Associate Professor of Political Anthropology at Australian Catholic University, Melbourne and author of “Islamism and Democracy in India”:

…Major theatre of de-democratization was Iran, whose elected government was overthrown, in 1953, by a US-UK alliance. Mohammad Mosaddeq was Iran’s elected prime minister. He enjoyed the approval of Iran’s parliament for his nationalization program. The US and UK organized a CIA-led coup to oust Mosaddeq – because Iran refused make oil concessions to the West. During World War II, the UK had taken control of Iran to prevent oil from being passed to its ally, the Soviet Union. Through the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, the UK continued to control Iran’s oil after the war. The French-educated Mosaddeq was highly critical of Iran’s draining of resources to the West. Soon after getting elected as prime minister in March 1951, Mosaddeq and his National Front alliance had moved to nationalize Iranian oil and throw out foreign control of oil fields. One such was the Abadan refinery, then the largest in the world. The UK retaliated by imposing economic sanctions, backed by its heavy naval presence in the region. Mosaddeq, however, was undeterred; his popularity only increased among the Iranian people. Faced with Mosaddeq’s resistance, the UK-US alliance staged a coup to over throw Mosaddeq’s government.

*****

Egypt was next.  France, the U.K. and Israel attacked it in 1956 during the so-called “Suez Canal Crises”. Although the invasion eventually ended and the Canal stayed in the hands of Egypt, the country never fully recovered. There were further Israeli attacks and invasions, and after President Gamal Abdel Nasser passed away in 1970, gross meddling in Egypt’s internal affairs by the Western countries. Gradually, Egypt was turned into an impoverished client state.

In Indonesia, a progressive and religiously tolerant President Ahmed Sukarno was overthrown more than a decade after Mohammad Mosaddeq in Iran. The coup took place in 1965, with direct involvement of the United States. Between 1 and 3 million people were brutally slaughtered.

Sukarno’s main ‘sins’, at least in the eyes of the Western Empire, consisted of strong left wing, patriotic stands, which included nationalization of almost all natural resources. Sukarno was also one of the founding fathers of the non-aligned movement.

By the end of the 1960’s, socialism in the Muslim countries had been almost thoroughly demolished. A dark era of collaboration, particularly in the [Persian] Gulf region, arrived.

The 1953 coup in Iran was later replicated in various parts of the world, even as far as Latin America.

For years it is has been no secret that the U.S and the U.K. planned and executed this deadly event.

In its article, CIA admits role in 1953 Iranian coup, published on 19 August 2013, The Guardian reported:

The CIA has publicly admitted for the first time that it was behind the notorious 1953 coup against Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq, in documents that also show how the British government tried to block the release of information about its own involvement in his overthrow.

On the 60th anniversary of an event often invoked by Iranians as evidence of western meddling, the US national security archive at George Washington University published a series of declassified CIA documents.

The military coup that overthrew Mosaddeq and his National Front cabinet was carried out under CIA direction as an act of US foreign policy, conceived and approved at the highest levels of government,” reads a previously excised section of an internal CIA history titled The Battle for Iran.

Declassified, U.S Department of State “Top Secret” documents from 1952, also clearly demonstrated great appetite of the U.K. to perform the coup in Iran:

Subject: Proposal to Organize a Coup d’etat in Iran

Problem:

The British foreign Office has informed us that it would be disposed to attempt to bring about a coup d’état in Iran, replacing the Mosadeq Government by one which would be more “reliable”, if the American government agreed to cooperate…

Although the U.S. government was originally hesitant about supporting the U.K. in planning to overthrow Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq, it soon changed its mind and allowed the CIA to plot and execute the coup.

What followed was 26 years of perversely brutal rule of Shah Reza Pahlavi, as well as of the British-US control over almost all great natural resources of Iran.

In brief: the West performed an experiment on Iran and on its people: how would the country react to a bloodbath, to overthrowing its popular leader, to a theft of its resources?

*****

As it did for centuries, the U.K. ‘scored’: it correctly predicted that it would be able to ‘get away with murder’. It managed to convince its offspring, the United States, that huge international crimes pay, as long as they are committed barefaced.

And the US industrialized these crimes, as it earlier did production of automobiles or radio sets. Crimes got mass-produced. One ‘inappropriate’ government after another got overthrown, destroyed; all over the world: Congo, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Chile, Brazil, Indonesia, Vietnam… Crimes were piling up, and still are.

1953 in Iran marked the beginning of a ‘new chapter’ in the world history – a terrible and brutal chapter.

Iranian people and Iranian leadership are well aware of it. The country that suffered so much, the country which lost hundreds of thousands of its sons and daughters to Western imperialism, geopolitical games as well as naked greed, is now standing tall and strong, unwilling to surrender or to even budge.

It wants to go forward, it is going forward, but in its own direction, at its own pace, for the benefit of its people.

Iran is not alone. There is now an entire powerful alliance in place, consisting of countries from all over the world: an alliance of those who are not afraid to confront deadly expansionism and consequent terror. From Bolivia to China, from South Africa to Russia, Syria, Venezuela and the Philippines, people are remembering Iran of 1953, determined to defend their countries and the world against the greatest evil, which is imperialism!

Climate Change Demands an End to Excess and Greed

Sat, 2017-08-19 02:06

Man-made climate change, and the interconnected environmental catastrophe more broadly constitute the most urgent crisis facing humanity. It has come about as the result of a certain way of life, a materialistic approach to living in which greed and excessive consumption has been championed.

Voracious consumerism and values based on individual material success, competition and division lie at the very heart of the crisis, and if global warming, desertification, pollution, and the destruction of ecological systems are to be arrested, a fundamental change in attitudes and behaviour is needed. Without this, little of substance can be achieved – technological advances, whilst crucial in breaking the dependency on fossil fuels, are not on their own enough. It’s a way of life – principally a developed world way of life – that needs to drastically change, as the Cloudburst Foundation states: “Balancing the carbon cycle requires much more than technological solutions. It requires a paradigm shift in how we approach economic growth and development”: a shift away from excess, socio-economic injustice and environmental vandalism to sustainability, social-environmental responsibility and sharing.

A new Approach

Together with deforestation, burning fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) to meet humanity’s insatiable appetite for energy, most of which feeds industry, is the major source of the greenhouse gases that are generating climate change. Whilst nations’ production of these noxious elements vary, global emission’s overall are reducing, and despite some developing countries increasing their output, emission levels appear to have finally peaked; the task now before us is to drastically reduce them. Central to this work is the need to inculcate a new approach to how we live: to change the values that determine our actions and to alter the relationship we have with one another and the natural environment.

The most noxious greenhouse gases are Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4) and Nitrous oxide (N2O).  Of these CO2 is the biggest culprit, making up almost 70% of greenhouse gas emissions. It enters the atmosphere, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) explains, “Through burning fossil fuels, solid waste, trees and wood products, and as a result of certain chemical reactions (e.g., manufacture of cement),” and is extracted or ‘sequestered’ (from the atmosphere) when it’s absorbed by plants.

Of the total amount of CO2 cast into Earth’s atmosphere from fossil fuels in 2015, Carbon Brief relates that, “41% came from coal, 34% from oil, 19% from gas, 5.6% from cement production and 0.7% from flaring.” Almost half of all CO2 emissions remained in the atmosphere; a third was absorbed by plants and 26% by the oceans. The burning of coal, natural gas, and oil to meet the demand for electricity and heat is the sector responsible for the largest amount of global greenhouse gas emissions, making up 25%. This is followed, the EPA says by agriculture (crops and livestock) and deforestation. Coming in a close third is industry with 21% of all greenhouse gas emissions, then transportation at 14%.

China emits almost a third of all greenhouse gas emissions and is the world’s biggest polluter, followed by America with around 15%, then the European Union (28 countries) with 11%. Europe has made substantial reductions in emissions and in 2015 they were down 22% compared with 1990. India, with a fifth of the World’s population and global business ambitions is pouring greenhouse gases out at an alarming rate; in 2015 emissions were up 5.2% on the previous year, to 6.3% of the global total.

If we are to halt climate change, and begin to heal the natural environment, we must stop burning fossil fuels and turn to alternative sources of energy (solar and wind e.g.) for the majority of our energy needs. This process is well underway in certain countries: According to the Climate Reality Project, Germany, which produces 21% of the EU’s greenhouse gases is meeting 78% of its electricity demand from renewable sources. In 2015, Sweden proposed a plan to eliminate all fossil fuel usage in the country and immediately increased investment in solar, wind, energy storage, transport and smart grids; Costa Rica met 99% of its electricity needs from renewables in 2015. Denmark drew 42% of its energy from wind turbines in the same year and aims to be fossil fuel free by 2050; Nicaragua supplied 54% of all electricity production from renewables in 2015 and is aiming for 90% by 2020. America, which has the second highest wind energy capacity in the world (after China) is generating only 13% of its electricity from renewables, but an optimistic study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says that the US “could reduce emissions by nearly 80% in 15 years.”

While these and other examples offer hope, renewables currently only account for 2.4% of global energy consumption and 4.7% of electricity generation. If the Paris Agreement of limiting the increase in global temperatures to 2˚C, or 1.5˚C (above pre-industrial levels) has any hope of being achieved a massive increase in renewables is needed, coupled with a reduction in the overall energy demand. A study by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) shows that for net emissions to peak by 2022, renewable sources of energy would need to increase by around 5% per year. In order to achieve this target a move away from lifestyles and economies built around consumerism and excess is essential. This necessitates a shift in attitudes from selfishness and greed, abundance and endless consumption, to sufficiency, sharing and environmental responsibility. It also demands a radically different economic system, one that is sustainable and just. As the Cloudburst Foundation puts it, “To truly reverse global warming we must overturn the current economic and development systems at play, and work to create alternatives that benefit not just some but all.”

At the heart of such alternatives must be sharing, cooperation and a profound sense of group responsibility. Such principles arise quite naturally from the realization that humanity is one, a fact that is strengthened when we express such qualities. We are brothers and sisters of one-humanity, and we have a duty of care for one another and the Earth itself.

Taking Responsibility

The current economic system is fed by endless consumerism, so too is climate change. It is our constant demand for stuff, much of which is made in the factories of the developing world — where workers are poorly treated, have no or few rights and are badly paid — that is perpetuating the industrial demand for energy, which is met by burning fossil fuels.

If we are to halt global warming, reverse the destructive effects of climate change and allow the planet to heal, our approach to how and what we consume needs to fundamentally change and the materialistic value system, which promotes competition, selfishness and greed, rejected. Simplicity, sufficiency and responsible consumption need to be inculcated and encouraged, in place of expediency, waste and ignorance.

Systemic change to alter the socio-economic conditions in which we all live is desperately needed, but more importantly a shift in thinking, a change in consciousness is imperative, and this is taking place within large numbers of people, particularly young people who in many areas lead the charge. Governments have a duty to listen and act, to introduce policies based on environmental considerations; to produce electricity from clean sources (not fossil fuels and certainly not nuclear) to provide efficient and cheap public transport systems run on renewable energy; to promote environmental awareness campaigns to educate and inform the public; to incentivize the use of renewable energy sources and to reduce the nation’s carbon footprint. And individuals have a responsibility to elect politicians that prioritize environmental issues, to act in an environmentally positive manner, to consume responsibly and to reduce consumption. After the economic crash in 2008/9 there was a sharp drop in the production of greenhouse gases in Europe as a result of reduced industrial activity — people felt uncertain and were buying less stuff, which is what is required.

The impact on the environment should be the first factor for consideration when making any and all purchasing decisions, including food, services and utilities: Find an electricity/gas supplier that is fed from renewable sources, a bank that invests in environmentally sensitive companies and projects; be serious, be responsible. Research the choices available, look into the ethos of the company making the product, find out how the item is manufactured or grown and the environmental (and human) impact of production, how long will it last — the longer the better — what resources does it use and were employed in its manufacture and development, cultivation, etc., etc. Buy secondhand, reuse and recycle whenever possible, become a conscious consumer. Transportation is responsible for 14% of all greenhouse gases; this is made up of airline travel, rail and cars/vans/lorries, etc. If you’re buying a vehicle, go electric. If you have a diesel car or van — the most polluting type of vehicle — sell it immediately (preferably scrap it) and replace it with either a hybrid or an all-electric model; in fact, don’t buy a vehicle unless there is really no other option. If you’re travelling – holiday or work – go by train or bus, don’t fly unless it’s absolutely essential; use public transport, walk or cycle as much as possible.

The responsibility for halting climate change rests firmly with each and every one of us. Our individual actions can either inflame the crisis or strengthen the collective fight to heal the natural environment in which we live and usher in a new day in which humanity lives in harmony with the planet.

Trump is not the problem

Sat, 2017-08-19 01:40

Ever since he won the US presidency Donald Trump has attracted an unusually high amount of criticism from the mainstream media. This is extraordinary and quite unprecedented. The US president is normally treated by the press like a messiah, destined to lead mankind into some sort of American paradise. But Trump isn’t treated this way, and I don’t know why. He’s certainly no worse than any who preceded him in the last fifty years or more.

It isn’t easy criticising the US government – not because there isn’t much to criticise, but because it’s a fairly scary business: it wields awesome power, and loves to do so. I understand completely why the British government, for example, is its most loyal and sycophantic lieutenant: it’s too terrified to do otherwise. I get that, I understand: America frightens me too.

The US is the most terrifying organisation on the planet by far. No other country, or organisation, even comes close. No one else has spy stations and powerful military bases located in just about every country on earth (and has used them to overthrow more than fifty governments since the end of WW2, and to control the global economy with ruthless self-interest); or is responsible for more environmental destruction. Anyone who isn’t properly terrified of the US is either a foot-soldier, or a beneficiary of their regime, or just doesn’t understand the situation.

The United Nations – not the United States – is supposed to be the closest thing there is to a world government. The fact that it’s basically powerless to do what it’s supposed to do is not because it’s incompetent, it’s because the US won’t let it.

Ever since the UN was created the US has regarded it as another tool for administering its imperialism. The UN is expected just to rubber-stamp US foreign policy decisions. Member nations are routinely bribed or intimidated to support US proposals. If the General Assembly does go against the US, as sometimes happens, it’s simply ignored (as with Cuba, for example), or vetoed (as with Israel, for example). President Reagan once showed America’s arrogant contempt: “‘One hundred nations in the UN have not agreed with us on just about everything that’s come before them where we’re involved, and it didn’t upset my breakfast at all’.1 No other country has exercised its veto as often as the US.

The problem is not temporary presidents like Mr Trump who come and go, because the president has little personal political power; the real problem is with the terrifying ever-present US government.

  1. The Great Deception, Mark Curtis, p. 188.

The Zionist Exception to the March for Racial Justice

Sat, 2017-08-19 00:58

The March for Racial Justice is committed to standing for racial justice with allies from across all races, ethnicities, and communities.

— Statement of the March for Racial Justice regarding Yom Kippur

The March for Racial Justice correctly acknowledged its oversight in scheduling the march on Yom Kippur.  It is an important oversight and an equally important apology, reaffirming the principles of the march.

But how serious are the organizers about those principles? Are they truly ready to denounce all racism everywhere?  How do they feel about racists participating in the march, supposedly in solidarity, but actually forcing the march to compromise its principles and confer false legitimacy upon some forms of racism?

“I am a white Zionist” declared white supremacist Richard Spencer to Dany Kushmaro of Israel’s Channel 2 television station. “As an Israeli citizen, as someone who understands your identity, who has a sense of nationhood and peoplehood, and history and the experience of the Jewish people, you should respect someone like me, who has analogous feelings about whites.”

Suddenly the emperor has no clothes.  The Zionist myth is that it was never intended to harm anyone, while, in fact, it intended to rid Palestine of its population, culture and even its name.  It was intended to expel the indigenous non-Jews (Palestinians) in order to achieve an overwhelming majority possessing a Jewish pedigree, and then to continue expelling and marginalizing the remainder.

If this isn’t racism, what is?  In Israel even the right to be there is founded upon being a Jew.  The Palestinians who are citizens only because they have been “grandfathered” into the state are required to demonstrate loyalty to the “Jewish” character of the state and can now lose their citizenship.

Is the March for Racial Justice going to be consistent in its anti-racism and tell Zionists that they belong on the other side of the barrier with the white supremacists?  Or are we going to once again witness the hypocrisy of this “anti-racist” movement that will compromise its anti-racism because it’s really only about certain forms of racism?

What is Capitalism?

Fri, 2017-08-18 20:46

I recently had an exchange that got me questioning the nature of Capitalism. What I’ve come to understand in my exploration of the topic is that it is not particularly well defined. I honestly think that’s by design; many of the behaviors that we attribute to natural cooperative exchange between entities is often claimed as Capitalist.

In my discourse, I was confronted with this definition of Capitalism. To paraphrase:

Capitalism = the natural right of ownership of that which is produced by a person by that person as well as the natural right to engage in the free exchange with others of those things which each party owns.

If this is what many libertarians and conservatives believe, then I see why Capitalism is so attractive. This is a quaint definition and, as I’m going to illustrate, basically incorrect.

Let’s start with the idea of that which is produced by a person actually belonging to that person. I really can’t challenge that premise. What a person produces should indeed belong to that person, at least in my estimation.

However, this isn’t a practical concept in a world of seven billion people. How does one protect what they own with so much competition? The ability of a single person to protect what they produce in today’s world simply isn’t realistic. The odds that someone (or, more likely, some group) will come along and just take it, at least in a world without the rule of law, are pretty high.

But, rather than directly address that, let me present this example:

Let’s examine the idea of building a home. Assume that someone builds a dwelling with their own two hands without assistance of any kind; under those circumstances, it’s reasonable to argue that that person should indeed “own” their home, that it is their property, and that no one else should have a claim on it.

Now what if I give that person a hammer with which to build their home?

Most people wouldn’t accept that I can claim any ownership of the home by simply lending a hammer. Their likely position would be that the builder used that tool to do all of the productive work, so the home still rightfully belongs to them.

Now what if I also provide hammers, nails, wood, plumbing, etc. to build that home?

Now it gets a bit murkier. It’s likely that many people would think that, because I provided all of the raw materials, a claim of ownership on my part is somewhat easier to justify.

Now what if, on top of all of the raw materials, I also paid the builder to build the home?

In this circumstance, I still have contributed no productive effort to the building of the home. Yet, in our current economic system, most people would acknowledge that I can make a pretty strong claim for ownership.

So how is this Capitalism?

If I’ve contributed no productive effort to build the home though I’ve contributed all of the materials and paid for it to be built, that fact, at least according to the definition used by many conservatives and libertarians, should mean that I can make no claim of ownership on that home.

But why is that generally not the case?

Why is it possible for people to claim ownership for things that they do not directly produce?

Because, in the example of the home, though I haven’t directly produced anything, what I have arguably done is assumed “risk.”

By providing the materials and payment, I am making an economic commitment to an uncertain outcome: the ability of the builder to actually produce the home. This is the nature of risk from a financial and economic perspective: the commitment of capital to a productive endeavor that may either succeed or fail.

That is Capitalism.

Modern Capitalism is characterized by two factors: production and, more significantly, risk. It is distinguished by the use of financial instruments involving an element of risk to facilitate the means of the production of value. Its structure is the legal and societal apparatus that has been created to codify that risk (in the form of contracts) and enforce agreements (with coercive force if necessary). To put it another way, Capitalism is the legal, financial, and monetary system created to commodify the production of value. The lynchpin of that system is the apparatus created for the production, control, allocation, and distribution of money.

Productive effort is the value creation of society, the mechanism with which wealth is created. But, as my previous example illustrates, very little can now actually be produced by any single individual relative to the whole. So a sophisticated system of “risk” has been created both to facilitate and commodify production. This system has allowed a class of so-called “risk takers,” such as traders, investors, and venture capitalists, to reap disproportionate rewards relative to their own ability to actually produce. In more colloquial terms, Capitalism is a system of middle-men who allocate capital, usually in the form of money, to fund productive efforts. Those efforts can be funded at the individual or small enterprise level (with loans), at the high-risk enterprise level (with venture capital), at the government level (with bonds), and a myriad of other ways.

In exchange for their investment, what do these “risk takers” gain? In some cases, they receive the fruits of production in the form of real assets, such as housing or commercial property, which, by nature, they are unable to produce on their own. However, in most cases, they receive “returns on capital,” which is another way of saying they get back more money from their investments than they commit. In other words, by harnessing the productive capacity of others, they are able to accumulate vast sums of money for themselves. The advantage to them is that money, which is a completely artificial and mostly worthless commodity, can be used to procure things of real value. Accumulate enough of it and you can live a quality of life, at least in terms the ability to acquire possessions and experiences, that is far greater than the overwhelming majority of the people on Earth ever can. The entire Capitalist system, by its nature, promotes hierarchy and stratification. Throughout history, it has manifested as extreme economic inequality which has often motivated war and revolution.

Now here’s the tricky part: if “risk” is funded with a worthless commodity (money), then why is money perceived to have value and why are “risk-takers” able to commodify production with it to their (relatively) exclusive benefit? That question is difficult to conclusively answer. Some of it may simply be expedience. People believe that the money has worth because of its convenience; it is a very efficient method of value transfer and exchange. However, efficient doesn’t mean “accurate.” Indeed, Capitalism’s natural paradoxes and distortions make determining value in terms of money a relatively arbitrary exercise.

However, the main reason production can be commodified with money is government. As time goes on, almost every government on the planet is coming to accept that its true main responsibility is not necessarily the well-being of those whom they govern but the protection of the Capitalist apparatus by any means necessary. Using their monopolies of force, governments have growingly come to understand their roles in protecting a system that allows those who control it to reap massive rewards for its maintenance, in the forms of wealth and power. The so-called “risk takers” operate hand-in-hand with governments to perpetuate the system in which both benefit.

While this may sound nefarious, there is actually a pretty practical reason why such cooperation would take place: it’s much easier than war. Capitalism allows governments to compete with one another through cooperation rather than violence. It’s said that in war there are no winners. However, in Capitalism, even poor countries have a privileged class which reaps the overwhelming majority of the country’s wealth as generated by production. Hell, it beats being strung up by a violent mob or standing in front of a war tribunal by a long shot.

So no, my libertarian friends, Capitalism isn’t about what an individual owns as a result of their own production. Capitalism is the vast societal apparatus involving governments, laws, armies, and police to protect the system of using money to commodify the productive capacity of a large amount of people for the disproportionate benefit of a very few. In the past, conditions such as slavery, colonialism, and imperialism were prevalent aspects of Capitalism. Though they have mostly become obsolete, the system of commodification of human production still produces profound negative results; structural violence related to Capitalism results in the death of tens of millions every year. Though, to be fair, in the last 300 years, substantial benefit has also been produced.

Regarding “risk”… let’s examine this concept more closely. It is not simply a matter of the potential for risk-takers to lose their investments. Capitalism commodifies human production by systemizing risk allocation at many different levels. For instance, the risks of a large percentage of producers can be minimized in exchange for their productive output through a process called “employment.” A producer who chooses not to assume risk can become an “employee,” which is essentially a producer with a minimized risk profile. Hence, pensions, unionization, employer-provided healthcare, and other features of the modern Labor system. Through the employment process, their personal risks are assumed either by public or private legal entities, such as governments and corporations.

However, “risk takers” are now systematically shifting the risk they assumed from those producers back to them. A stark example of this is represented by the so-called “gig economy.” Many consider the assumption of risk at the individual level by entities which benefit greatly from the legal and coercive power of governments the proper exchange for their productive capacity. In other words, the unspoken agreement has been that, in exchange for being allowed to commodify human production in aggregate, the “risk-takers” tacitly agree to minimize the risks of those who freely offer their productive capacity which greatly enriches the risk-takers and, far more modestly, the producers. Many think that the “gig economy,” as well as wages that provide below-subsistence level living conditions, are violations of the implied contract between those who control capital and the productive labor which enriches them.

Capitalism may reward risk-taking, but is far more often highly punitive to both those who do not wish to take such risks as well as those who do. Those who choose to take on the risks directly associated with productive effort are generally referred to as “entrepreneurs.” Entrepreneurship is extremely risky and failure rates are ridiculously high. It’s rare for an entrepreneur to create significant productive value, particularly without the assistance of “risk-takers.” Even then, success is statistically very low. The effect of failed ventures are often terminal and many would-be entrepreneurs spend much of their economic lives repairing the damage.

The producers such as entrepreneurs shoulder the greatest personal risks because failure is potentially devastating. A fortunate few go on to become successful and even extremely successful. To justify the system, “risk-takers” often elevate the most successful entrepreneurs as “front men” for a narrative that champions Capitalism while reaping outsized gains in the background. Keep in mind that, in almost all instances, a “risk-taker” is also enriched by the entrepreneur’s success. For the system to be perpetuated, it’s necessary for “risk-takers” to idealize risk taking. The result drives the system which creates the opportunities for the “risk-takers.”

The “risk-takers” have essentially made a game of gambling on the producers and claiming disproportionate rewards when they succeed and relatively modest losses when they fail. They’ve constructed a financial system that protects them from the worst of their excesses (”too-big-to-fail banks,” etc.) The “risk-takers” themselves have also become idealized and idolized. The ones who take the risks credit themselves with Capitalism’s progress at the expense of those who actually produce.

Here’s the funny thing about “risk”… at scale, in aggregate, over the long-term, it’s an illusion. Progress, as the fruits of production, is inevitable. While any individual “risk taker” could potentially lose their shirt, those at the highest levels benefit from a system designed specifically to shift the damage of failure onto those lower on the chain. It’s no coincidence that criminal prosecution is exceedingly rare for those at the highest economic levels, especially in regards to economic crimes. The system is self-justifying and self-validating. Those at the top are insulated from its most devastating effects which is why they are its most vocal champions.

It’s said that Capitalism makes everyone richer. I’d say that it makes a few people much richer and everyone else somewhat less poor. I can’t deny that, at least statistically, many aspects of the world have improved as a result of Capitalism. But millions also die as a direct result as well as suffer other negative outcomes, such as crime and the destruction of human dignity. As the global economy begins to stagnate, there are also signs that the same system that allows risk to drive productive growth may be reaching its limit.

My proposition is that each of us is born with our own wealth, as our time and effort. Because we own our own efforts, we should also own our own money. In my estimation, it is unjust that effort be artificially deprecated by markets or otherwise commodified. For the modern world, that time/effort can and should, by default, be fungible.

Is risk a necessary element for progress? This is a debatable question and a great argument can be made in the affirmative. However, in my estimation, economic risk as it exists today is an artificial burden that serves only to keep the vestiges of the past world around to justify the existence of power and control institutions which Man has outgrown. Risk was an original element of the hunter/gatherer society. As man has grown and evolved, we’ve systematically both faced risk and conquered it. In a social, collaborative world, should we be motivated by fear or a desire for personal excellence?

I personally think we’ve outgrown Capitalism. If I’m correct and we have, then what do we risk by holding on to it?

Correcting Eva Golinger on Venezuela

Fri, 2017-08-18 20:29

As the class struggle heated up in Venezuela this year, fueled by interventionist threats by the pro-US Organization of American States (OAS) bloc, many former supporters of the Bolivarian revolution have remained sitting on the fence. Fed up with these fair-weather friends and their critiques which recycle corporate news propaganda, some defenders of Venezuela such as Shamus Cooke,  Greg Wilpert, Maria Paez Victor, have come with articles clarifying the stakes and calling the so-called “left” to account.

Among the disaffected is Venezuelan-American lawyer Eva Golinger, the author of The Chávez Code: Cracking US Intervention in Venezuela and self-described friend and advisor to Hugo Chávez.

The day after Trump threatened to militarily intervene in Venezuela, Jeremy Scahill posted his interview with Eva Golinger on The Intercept, one reinforcing some corporate press distortions of Venezuela under President Maduro. Golinger hardly goes as far in this anti-Maduro campaign as Scahill, who more clearly fits what Shamus Cooke characterized as “the intellectually lazy ‘pox on both houses’ approach that has long-infected the U.S. left.”

To her credit, Golinger does emphasize the real class issue ignored by “pox on both your houses” liberals like Scahill: Washington’s and the Venezuelan right-wing’s goal is to crush the heart and backbone of the Chavista revolution, “the grassroots, the social movements, the workers, the community organizers, the people who are actually the ones trying, struggling to hold on to anything that’s left of this movement that they have been building and empowering themselves with now over the past fifteen years or so.”

And, counter to claims of Maduro “authoritarianism,” she correctly notes in her recent article:

Imagine if protestors were to use lethal weapons against security forces in the U.S., even killing some of them. In Venezuela, the anti-government protestors have even burned innocent bystanders to death because they suspected them of being ‘chavistas’. Were that to happen in the U.S., the repression and forceful action by the state would far exceed the leniency exercised by the Venezuelan government in the face of these deadly demonstrations.

Yet within her valuable analysis, and precisely because of her valuable analysis, both in the interview and in her article Golinger makes some statements that require correction.

(a) Golinger writes:  “The demonstrations arose from the massive discontent throughout the country as food shortages, lack of access to medications, skyrocketing inflation and erosion of democratic institutions have intensified since Maduro won office by a slim margin in 2013.”

In fact, the violent demonstrations arose as part of a coordinated effort by OAS General Secretary Luis Almagro, the US government, and the right wing MUD opposition to generate a chaos in the streets that demanded OAS “humanitarian intervention’ to restore order and displace the Maduro government. While there is massive discontent due to food and medication shortages and inflation, those most affected by this, the working classes and poor, are not the ones participating in the anti-government protests.

(b) Golinger defends Attorney General Luisa Ortega, [“the judicial maneuvering by the country’s highest court to silence critics should cease.”] who was eventually removed by unanimous vote of the Constituent Assembly after recommendation by the Supreme Court. The issue was not simply being a critic; Ortega had failed to prosecute violent protesters and their financial backers, and lied to the public.

(c) Golinger writes: “A growing number of Venezuelans who supported Hugo Chávez and his policies have distanced   themselves from his successor, dismayed by the country’s turn from a once vibrant participatory democracy towards a closed one-party state, intolerant of critics.”

She, as with other fair-weather friends, sees a divide between the Maduro and Chavez eras, when, in fact, the fundamental problems of oil dependence, corruption, bureaucracy existed throughout this period, in part overshadowed by Chavez’ charisma and high oil prices.

That the majority of opposition MUD parties are participating in the coming October regional elections clearly proves Venezuela is not a “one-party state, intolerant of critics.”

(d)  She writes: “President Maduro’s convening of a constituent assembly to rewrite the nation’s constitution has been vehemently rejected by the opposition and has caused severe internal rifts within his own movement.”

Events have shown “severe internal rifts” to be false. The July 30 vote was a major victory for the Chavistas and a major defeat for the right wing. Now the violence has mostly ended and opposition parties say they will participate in the upcoming elections.

(e) Scahill dishonestly claimed the July 30 vote for the Constituent Assembly “was held after an order issued by Maduro. Why that was necessary was baffling even to former supporters of Chavez, as the Bolivarian movement has often celebrated its constitution as a revolutionary and meticulous document. For many seasoned observers, the whole affair reeked of an effort to consolidate power.”

Scahill’s “seasoned observers” is a euphemism for “professional corporate media propagandists.”

To clarify, Venezuela’s constitution Article 348 states:

The initiative for calling a National Constituent Assembly may emanate from the President of the Republic sitting with the Cabinet of Ministers; from the National Assembly by a two-thirds vote of its members; from the Municipal Councils in open session, by a two-thirds vote of their members; and from 15% of the voters registered with the Civil and Electoral Registry.

In other words, rather than being an act that violated the constitution, a little fact-checking would show Maduro’s action followed the constitution to the letter.

(f)  Scahill claims: “The vote for the assembly was boycotted by many Venezuelans and when the official results were announced, it was clear that the tally had been tampered with.”

Like the claims of “no doubt” Russia interfered with the US election, Scahill’s “it was clear” comes with no evidence attached.

Golinger, who is not as hostile as Scahill, still says:  “There’s a lot of indication that it wasn’t a free and fair vote — that the tallies are not accurate.” But she likewise gives no evidence for this “indication”.

In fact, international election observers have vouched for the validity of the vote, and the agreement of opposition parties to run in the upcoming regional elections implies they accept the integrity of the National Electoral Council.

(g) Golinger says the government chose the candidates for the Constituent Assembly, so it would have won regardless of how many voted. In fact, people were free to nominate anyone, and in the end, there were 6120 candidates for 545 seats. She does not mention that Chavista candidates won for the simple reason that the opposition boycotted the Assembly election, having planned to have overthrown Maduro by then.

(h) Scahill asserts: “Maduro’s forces have also conducted raids to arrest opposition figures and both government forces and opposition forces have been involved in lethal actions during protests. It must be pointed out that Maduro controls the country’s military and intelligence forces and those far outgun all of the combined masses of government opponents.”

Is he actually surprised that a country has armed forces that can outgun the civilian population? Scahill does not mention that army and police members have also been charged with killing opposition protesters.

(i) Golinger makes a series of misleading statements comparing the present Constituent Assembly process to the one that took place under Chavez. The Chavez one “was put to a vote after he was elected, to whether or not people actually wanted to proceed. More than 70 percent of those participating said yes. Then they elected the members. Then it was done in this extremely open, transparent way. You know, there were drafts of the constitution passed around and discussed in communities. And then it was put to another vote to actually ratify it by the people on a national level. So I mean, we’re missing almost all of those steps this time around and it lasted four months, it had a mandate of four months. And it wasn’t all-supreme, that it could be a legislator and an executor and an enforcer, which is what we’re seeing now.”

No mention that the Chavez era turnout to convoke an Assembly brought out 37.8% of the population (92% voted yes, not 70%). This July 30 voter turnout was higher, 41.5%.  No mention that now, just as before, proposed changes to the constitution must be made public, discussed and voted on by national referendum. No mention that the present Assembly is all-supreme — even over Maduro — unlike the previous Assembly, because this is what the present constitution states, not the case before.

Article 349:

The President of the Republic shall not have the power to object to the new Constitution. The existing constituted authorities shall not be permitted to obstruct the Constituent Assembly in any way.

It is hard to believe Eva Golinger does not know this. She claims the present process is a “major rupture” from the Chavez era, when, in fact, the government and Constituent Assembly are simply following the Chavez 1999 constitution.

(j) She says: “I wish that they hadn’t moved forward with this rewriting of the constitution and creating this sort of supra government, because it does make it more difficult to find a solution to the crisis.”

We see that the opposite is the case. The vote for the Constituent Assembly has made it easier to find a solution.

Maduro did not act in an authoritarian manner. He did not quell the violent protests by declaring a national emergency and resorting to police and military repression. He did not use death squads, or torture, jail and exile the opposition. Instead he called for a Constituent Assembly, and with the mass show of support in the election, the violence has died down, and most of the opposition has returned to the electoral field.

We should call this for what it is: a humanitarian example for other governments when faced with social unrest.

With the July 30 Assembly vote, the US, the OAS Almagro bloc, and the opposition MUD have suffered a serious defeat, as even the hostile New York Times has noted. This gives the progressive forces an opening to resolve the serious problems the country faces. The extent it will make use of this opportunity to break out of the unresolved social, political and economic conflicts of the last few years remains to be seen.

The Karma of Terror

Fri, 2017-08-18 14:31

We have been here quite often recently. Screaming headlines, non-stop coverage in the mainstream corporate-government media which Paul Craig Roberts so aptly dubbed the “presstitutes”. Hours and hours of analysis of the event, at some point lots of information about the dead victims, endless soul-searching and a desperate spate of interviews with “experts” about how to fight this growing horror. This is not supposed to happen in The West. It is boring everyday stuff when it happens in the Middle East, Africa or Asia, but when it hits Barcelona or some other part of the empire’s heartland, the presstitutes go into overjoyed shock and scramble to present yet another extended and profitable feeding frenzy. A horrifying godsend for 24/7 media.

Always missing, however, from the “expert” analysis: the cause. How we got here. Why this has become a permanent feature of our modern world. That is very, very dangerous territory in such discussions. The witch’s magic mirror. The man behind the curtain. Taboo except in “extremist” media like this, and pretty sensitive stuff for many even here.

But taboos get my back up. So here goes. Probably destined for censorship by Facebook and Google, who are developing quite a taste for playing Big Brother, but that just provokes me.

How far back do we want to go? This will be a pretty short piece, so we will save the deeper roots for another piece. The modern historical causes of our current spreading epidemic of terrorism – the ISIS kind, the Al-Qaeda kind, I am not referring to State Terror at the moment — are all tied up with the West’s hysterical and violent response to communism, from the end of the First World War to the present. While that hysteria and that response were not confined to the United States, the disastrous historical chain of events that led us here was mostly forged by successive US governments, often with the support of a scared and brainwashed US population.

As Doris Lessing tells us in her brilliant semi-autobiographical “Children of Violence” series of novels about her youth and young adulthood as a member of the tiny Communist Party in a South African British colony, the (first) Cold War began rapidly in its official, organized form immediately after the end of World War II. The fear of, and hostility toward, Russia and the Soviet Union that had existed among the capitalist powers before that war, and even in its first years, was put on hold as it became clear that the Red Army was all that stood between the West and a victorious Third Reich. It became socially acceptable, in Britain and the Empire, to admire communism and to see it as a possible future for the West, and a great deal of money was raised to help the suffering Soviet Union and to secure Hitler’s defeat. No sooner had the war in Europe been won, however, than the Soviets were officially returned to their status as the Great Menace, which was announced very effectively by the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan in spite of the fact that the Japanese were clearly about to surrender. 200,000 civilians died, radiation sickness and birth defects were widespread, and the racist, power-drunk President Harry Truman was delighted.

This historical episode, including the testimony of many who were directly involved to the effect that “warning” Russia was always the reason for Hiroshima and Nagasaki, is told well in Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick’s book and video series The Untold History of the United States. The Soviet Union wanted a good and constructive relationship with its recent wartime allies. The Soviet government was quite aware that American industrialists, royal circles in Britain, and others had helped create Hitler in the hope that he would destroy communism. But Stalin had a few skeletons of his own in the closet, it was no time for a self-righteousness competition. Still, the Soviets might perhaps have expected that they would continue to receive credit due for defeating the Nazis and saving the West’s ass. Not a chance. It was not long before the popular perception was that America had stepped in and saved the day, and a massive Orwellian propaganda campaign was initiated to portray communism as more dangerous than Germany or Japan had ever been. The techniques of manipulative advertising, public relations, and the shaping of public opinion developed by Edward Bernays based on the theories of his uncle Sigmund Freud were employed by the American government and the CIA with great success.

I grew up in that period, as the son of an FBI Agent working under the communism-obsessed J. Edgar Hoover. There was no doubt about these things in our cultural milieu, the dominant one in the United States between the early 1950s and about 1967. We Americans were good. Russians were dangerous and threatening in spite of their status as brainwashed slaves. And communism was pure, godless evil.

Millions of North Koreans were massacred and bombed into oblivion as Truman’s run continued. The elected Iranian government was overthrown by the CIA under his successor President Eisenhower and the murdering, torturing Shah Reza Pahlavi was placed on the Peacock Throne to do our business in the Middle East (leading in a straight historical line to the birth of the Islamic Republic). A ring of US client states, military bases and atomic missiles began to take shape around the Soviet Union. President Kennedy’s CIA made many attempts to kill Fidel Castro and return the vicious, corrupt crowd around Fulgencio Batista to power, and the government took its paranoid struggle right down to the wire at 10 seconds before midnight during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Then the CIA turned on Kennedy, who may have learned a few things from the experience. The CIA certainly did not.

By the 1970s the American government was arming, organizing and financing islamist-jihadi forces in Afghanistan under Osama bin Laden and others to fight the Soviets’ client government and, after provoking the Soviet invasion, to fight the Soviets themselves. Supervision of anti-communist strategy on “The Grand Chessboard” had passed from the mass murderer and utterly amoral war criminal Henry Kissinger to Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, a Russian-hating Pole who became President Carter’s Svengali and can be considered directly responsible for much current terrorism, since the Reagan government continued and expanded his support of what eventually became Al-Qaeda, the world’s first international non-governmental terrorist franchise, which later gave birth to ISIS as well in the ruins of Iraq.

There is no need for much detail here. Those who wish to learn the details can find plenty of material on these events. It is all public, available information – even the CIA’s support of Al-Qaeda and overthrow of numerous elected governments has mostly been quietly confirmed on the record now – but still, the surreal presstitute taboo against discussing this stuff openly in public remains and, in fact, seems stronger than ever.

Here in Germany the mainstream public media make a pretty sophisticated impression compared to America’s presstitutes. One can read, watch and listen to documentaries with a great deal of very informative historical background about the Nazis, the colonial past, about racism in the USA (covering our own German neo-Nazis and the vast amount of racist, xenophobic violence and domestic terrorism which they perpetrate against refugees and other foreigners is rather out of style currently, however; apparently it reduces one’s capacity for moral outrage against others). We dwell at great length on ISIS terror attacks here in Europe and on fictional Russian “aggression” in Ukraine with nary a word about Obama’s support of the coup that set the New Cold War in motion.

But, as is also the case with the cause of the refugee influx into Europe from US war zones in the Middle East and the Hindu Kush – that same refugee crisis being another big obsession here — it is not polite to badmouth Big Brother. It is also taboo to speak of the origins of Al-Qaeda and ISIS, though one may hint that, just perhaps, the invasion of Iraq was not a complete success. One may also rant and rage about the Horror of Trump and how he has destabilized the world, that is selling quite well on the European market. Obama has a halo here these days, his NSA sins and tapping of Merkel’s cellphone and destruction of Libya are forgiven and forgotten, and his drone control center at Germany’s Ramstein Air Force Base continues to kill (mostly) civilians with relative impunity, not an issue. But we do not go into detail about whom we have to thank for these terrorist attacks on European soil.

Who knows where so much honesty might lead!

America Asleep

Fri, 2017-08-18 13:21

The summer of 1919, called “The Red Summer” by James Weldon Johnson, ushered in the greatest period of interracial violence the nation had ever witnessed. During that summer there were twenty-six race riots in such cities as Chicago, Illinois; Washington, D.C.; Elaine, Arkansas; Charleston, South Carolina; Knoxville and Nashville, Tennessee; Longview, Texas; and Omaha, Nebraska. More than one hundred Blacks were killed in these riots, and thousands were wounded and left homeless. The seven most serious race riots were those which occurred in Wilmington, N. C. (1898), Atlanta, Ga. (1906), Springfield, Ill. (1908), East St. Louis) Ill. (1917), Chicago, Ill. (1919), Tulsa, Okla. (1921) and Detroit, Mich. (1943).
— Robert A. Gibson, The Negro Holocaust: Lynching and Race Riots in the United States,1880-1950

A war of extermination will continue to be waged between the two races until the Indian race becomes extinct.
— California Governor Peter H. Burnett, 1851

At the time, Executive Order 9066 was justified as a “military necessity” to protect against domestic espionage and sabotage. However, it was later documented that “our government had in its possession proof that not one Japanese American, citizen or not, had engaged in espionage, not one had committed any act of sabotage. These Japanese Americans, half of whom were children, were incarcerated for up to 4 years, without due process of law or any factual basis, in bleak, remote camps surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards.
— Michi Weglyn, Years of Infamy: The Untold Story of America’s Concentration Camps, March 1, 1978

The recent attack in Charlottsville hardly stands out as in any way unique in American history. But there are several very telling aspects to this display of organized white supremacist values. First, how is it the police allowed it to happen? Well, ok, we know the answer. That was rhetorical. The next question would be perhaps the media coverage of this. Third would be the President and his response.

In a sense, the media coverage actually encloses the other issues. For the narrative being manufactured by the NY Times and Washington Post and all the rest, CNN and MSNBC is pretty much the same, with only variations that are designed to target specific demographics. The story of U.S. racism and colonial plunder, of a settler mentality and the reality of Manifest Destiny and genocide is simply erased. In its place is the fairy tale of white American goodness that I and millions of others were taught in school. Charlottsville is thus not a result of Trump, of his personality, of his friends such as Steve Bannon. It is part of a deep current in the collective psyche of the U.S.

There has never been a time when America was good. There was goodness in America, certainly in culture, in art and even in certain movements for social justice. There was the Wobblies and early socialists and union organizers. But the overriding reality has been one of acute racism, both institutional and individual, and of conquest and since WW2 of a rabid all consuming anti communism and quest for global hegemony. The U.S. was founded on the twin pillars of slave labor and the genocide of six hundred indigenous tribes. It is a settler colonial project that has never wavered in support for the Capitalist system. It was founded by rich white men, and that also has never changed.

Blacks can’t run it. Nowhere, and they won’t be able to for a hundred years, and maybe not for a thousand. … Do you know, maybe one black country that’s well run?
— Richard Nixon (Whitehouse tapes)

I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe nine out of 10 are, and I shouldn’t like to inquire too closely into the case of the 10th.
— Theodore Roosevelt

I mean one could just go on and on. Woodrow Wilson worked to keep blacks out of Princeton when he was that University’s president. Calvin Coolidge, Andrew Johnson, James Polk — who deserves a special place as the most pro slavery president, perhaps, in U.S. history. In fact, it’s pretty hard to find a president who wasn’t overtly racist.

While it may be tempting to dismiss 500 knuckle-dragging racists marching through Charlottesville waving Confederate flags as unrepresentative of a nation that takes pride in values of tolerance and racial equality, it would be wrong. Those who took part in those ugly scenes are the reality rather than the myth of America. They know that the American exceptionalism which Obama, while president, declared he believed in with every fiber of his being, is in truth white exceptionalism – ‘white’ in this context being not only a racial construct but also an ideological construct.
— John Wight, “Charlottesville: Outrage, Hypocrisy & Obama’s Betrayal“, Greanville Post, August 16, 2017

But what has struck me is the outcry from the educated white class. Those gatekeepers to media and what passes for culture these days. The outrage is extreme and this has served to amp up the anti Trump sentiments even further than they already were. But none of these people uttered a peep about Obama and his CIA support for radical head chopping takfiri killers in Syria, and not a word when Hillary Clinton and Victoria Nuland (and John McCain) orchestrated the coup in Ukraine that installed a full-on Nazi Party, complete with swastikas. But then U.S. foreign policy has a long history of support for fascism. In Africa, the U.S. supported war lords and mass killers…as Keith Harmon Snow wrote

The violence wreaked on Congo-Zaire by Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame was exported by perpetrators who first waged genocidal campaigns and coups-d’état that violated the most fundamental international covenants on state sovereignty first in Uganda, then Rwanda, then Zaire (Congo). On 6 April 1994, they assassinated heads of state from Rwanda and Burundi, again the most fundamental and egregious violations of international law. The U.S., U.K., Canada and Israel could not have been happier.

These first campaigns of Tutsi-Hima guerrilla warfare set the stage for unprecedented violence as the terror regimes of Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame tortured, slaughtered, raped, disappeared, assassinated, and terrorized millions of innocent non-combatant civilians from Uganda to Rwanda to Burundi to Congo (and in South Sudan). They had the backing of western intelligence and covert operations at the start.

Or take Haiti. The U.S. ushered out President Aristide at gunpoint and replaced him with former Ton Ton Macoute fascists. The U.S. removed Zelaya in Honduras (on order from Hillary Clinton) and replaced him with a far right wing fascist. The U.S. supports fascist Leopoldo Lopez and his friends in Venezuela at this very moment. But rarely if ever do I hear a word from those people *outraged* at the tiki torch Blood and Soil pro confederate neo Klansmen in Virginia this week. The U.S. openly supported the fascist loving Croatian secessionists under Franjo Tudjman, an ardent admirer of the fascist state of Croatia in the 1930s under Ante Pavelic, as they dismantled socialist Yugoslavia. The racist murderers in Charlottsville are ideologically the same as countless parties and leaders the U.S. has supported for sixty years. No, for two hundred years and supports today.

I read a meme on social media yesterday that described Trump as having disgraced the office of the President. This is from a liberal and a Democrat. Honestly I’m not sure what one would have to do to disgrace that office. Harry Truman ordered the destruction of two Japanese cities with Atomic bombs, the murder of hundreds of thousands of civilians, women, children, the elderly…everyone. Disgrace the office? The School of the Americas, now rebranded, taught torture and subjugation to several generations of right wing dictators, and helped train death squads throughout Latin America.

I suspect that if Barry Goldwater returned from the dead and ran as a Democrat today he would be hugely successful. There is a certain swooning adoration for rock ribbed conservatives in liberal America. It is the result of an endless inculcating of the idea of money equating with merit. Most Americans have an unconscious knee jerk respect for the wealthy. Listen to how the owners of major sports franchises are talked about…it is always MISTER Bennet, MISTER Dolan, MISTER Snyder, MISTER Kendrick. It is a kind of weird hologram of the plantation system brought to you on network TV.

While demanding an Open Door in China, it had insisted (with the Monroe Doctrine and many military interventions) on a Closed Door in Latin America-that is, closed to everyone but the United States. It had engineered a revolution against Colombia and created the “independent” state of Panama in order to build and control the Canal. It sent five thousand marines to Nicaragua in 1926 to counter a revolution, and kept a force there for seven years. It intervened in the Dominican Republic for the fourth time in 1916 and kept troops there for eight years. It intervened for the second time in Haiti in 1915 and kept troops there for nineteen years. Between 1900 and 1933, the United States intervened in Cuba four times, in Nicaragua twice, in Panama six times, in Guatemala once, in Honduras seven times. By 1924 the finances of half of the twenty Latin American states were being directed to some extent by the United States. By 1935, over half of U.S. steel and cotton exports were being sold in Latin America.
— Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States, 1980, Chapter 16, “A People’s War?”

The white liberal today operates from an ideological position of intellectual containment. One might think Hiroshima would be condemned without qualification. This is not the case. The intellectual containment is to partition aspects of history and simply ignore the disturbing parts — things like the reality of slavery, for example. Hollywood goes a long ways in sanitizing the story of the slave trade, and more, of the enduring scars, emotional and psychic, that such barbarism produced. White supremacism is, as John Wight rightly notes, is an ideological construct.

So back to Charlottsville. The goofy Hitler haircuts and ridiculous tiki torches (Wal Mart sells them by the by) make for good TV and provide an easy target for hand wringing liberals, but the reality is, of course, that most people have no desire to upset the status-quo. How many white American football fans applaud Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the anthem? According to a Reuters poll 72% of Americans saw Kaepernick as unpatriotic. The overt racism and fascist symbols in Virgina are easy to denounce. They seem almost made for that. And the attendant cries of how empowered the Trump base is seem almost silly (for one thing Trump’s real base is upwardly mobile whites, suburban usually, and nominally educated). The cartoon crackers in Virginia are not a significant force. But they do have symbolic weight. And yes, a woman died. Killed by a former Marine. Quelle surprise says I. The police watched. The U.S. domestic police system was born of militia hunting runaway slaves. It has not traveled a very great ideological distance since.

As an internal colony in what some refer to as a prison house of nations that characterizes the U.S. nation state, black communities are separated into enclaves of economic exploitation and social degradation by visible and often invisible social and economic processes. The police have played the role not of protectors of the unrealized human rights of black people but as occupation forces.
— Ajamu Baraka, “Philando Castile, Charleena Lyles: The Body Count in the U.S. War against Black People Continues”, Black Agenda Report, June 21, 2017

The U.S. society is one in distress. There is a desperation in the affluent classes that suggests a growing recognition that the system they believe in, that has protected their privilege, is starting to fray at the edges. And maybe worse than fray. A recent study on addiction to smart phones among teenagers links depression and feelings of isolation with smart phone usage. It also has resulted in a generation that goes out less, has less sex, and desires independence less. Teens live at home longer, and wait longer to get their driver’s license. One in four Americans take anti depressants.

Jonathan Crary’s excellent book 24/7 dissects the global present in which most Westerners today live. And disruptions of sleep play a prominent role in the infantilization of U.S. culture. Everyone today sleeps less. Six and half hours a night compared to eight hours only a generation ago. In a society that metaphorically sleepwalks when awake, the material reality is that people sleep less. They are more anxious, and more afraid.

The anti war movement (of the 60s) had spawned an identification with pacifism and public empathy for the victims of war; but in the 1980s the conditions nurturing these currents had to be eliminated and replaced in all areas with a culture of aggressivity and violence. That millions of supposedly liberal or progressive Americans will not dutifully avow that they ‘support our troops’ while remaining silent about the thousands murdered in imperial wars attests to the success of these counter measures.

This marked the conscious ridicule of the sixties counterculture in mass media. It also marked the start of an aggressive re-writing of history, even recent history. Today it is a criminal offense in many places to feed the poor. It is criminal in many places to grow a vegetable garden in your front yard. It is illegal to criticize the Israel, too. Poverty is shameful, and worse. Against this has come an onslaught of demonizing all communist leaders from Castro to Mao. Chavez is routinely called a dictator, a caudillo, a strongman. Never mind this is only more racism, it is also untrue, factually untrue. No matter. It is a society of mass propaganda on all levels.

So Charlottsville will distract the educated white populace for a week or so, and Trump will be made fun of and denounced. One wonders who watched his TV show, though. I mean it can’t have been just those guys in Hitler haircuts, right? Now Trump is a vile and dangerous man. Clearly close to illiterate, weak, resentful and insecure. But Trump is only a signifier for a wider problem. And that problem is that the United States has never altered its basic course. It began as a settler colony, one with genocidal tendencies and a thirst for violence. And so it is today. Eight hundred military bases across the planet. And allies like Saudi Arabia, where women are beheaded for being witches. Where confessions are the result of torture. Torture that isn’t even denied. The UN appointed Saudi Arabia as head of their human rights council. You see the problem…its much bigger than Charlottsville. If a society has stopped reading, and cannot sleep, and is the most obese in history, and where fertility rates are in steep decline; well, one suspects this is the dawn of the Empire’s collapse.

Ajamu Baraka summarized it best I think.

Looking at white supremacy from this wider-angle lens, it is clear that support for the Israeli state, war on North Korea, mass black and brown incarceration, a grotesque military budget, urban gentrification, the subversion of Venezuela, the state war on black and brown people of all genders, and the war on reproductive rights are among the many manifestations of an entrenched right-wing ideology that cannot be conveniently and opportunistically reduced to Trump and the Republicans.

George Jackson wrote…

The Capitalist class reached its maturity with the close of the 1860-64 civil war. Since that time there have been no serious threats to their power; their excesses have taken on a certain legitimacy through long usage. Prestige bars any serious attack on power. Do people attack a thing they consider with awe, with a sense of its legitimacy?

The U.S. military lays waste to parts of every continent on earth, or threatens to. There are U.S. troops killing people in Yemen, in Syria, in Afghanistan. The U.S. threatens small nations without real power. And the leadership today, and not just Trump, is infantile and narcissistic and ill-educated. It is as if the very worst and most stupid people in the country are now running it. But this has been trending this direction for thirty years now. It is not new. It has only gotten much worse, I think. There were mass pro Nazi rallies in Madison Square Garden in the 1930s. Americans adore royalty, too. The same Euro royals who have supported and protected fascists for hundreds of years. There is an unmediated worship of power and authority. Nearly anyone in uniform is fawned over. The American bourgeoisie always side with authority. With the status quo. With institutional power. Charlottsville is indeed a symptom, but it is not in any way an aberration.

A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand

Fri, 2017-08-18 08:49

The liberal/progressive/left are enjoying their drunkfest of denunciation. I can’t say I have ever witnessed anything like it. These are the people who sat on their hands for 16 years while Washington destroyed in whole or part seven countries. Not being satisfied with this level of warmongering and crimes against humanity, Washington orchestrated a conflict situation with Russia. Americans elected a president who said he would defuse this dangerous conflict, and the liberal/progressive/left turned on him. In contrast, one person is killed after the hated Charlottesville protest event was over, and there is endless absurd outrage against the president of the US.

Three New York Times presstitutes yesterday blamed the crisis on Trump, declaring him “increasingly isolated in a racial crisis of his own making.” Apparently, Trump is responsible for the crisis because he blamed both protest groups for the violence.

But isn’t that what happened? Wasn’t there violence on both sides? That was the impression I got from the news reporting. I’m not surprised that Trump got the same impression. Indeed, many readers have sent emails that they received the same impression of mutual violence.

So Trump is being damned for stating the truth.

Let’s assume that the impression Trump and many others got from the news is wrong. That would make Trump guilty of arriving at a mistaken conclusion. Yet, he is accused of instigating and supporting Nazi violence. How is it possible to transform a mistake into evil intent? A mistaken impression gained from news reporting does not constitute a “defense of white nationalist protesters.” An assertion by the New York Times cannot turn the absence of intent into intent. What the Establishment is trying to do is to push Trump into the arms of white supremacists, which is where they want him.

Clearly, there is no basis for this charge. It is a lie, an orchestration that is being used to delegitimize President Trump and those who elected him.

The question is: who is behind this orchestration?

The orchestration is causing people to run away from Trump or is being used as an excuse by them to further the plot to remove him from office.

Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum headed by Stephen A. Schwarzman ran away, just as members of the Carter Center’s board deserted President Jimmy Carter when he criticized Israel for its apartheid policy toward the Palestinians. The New York Times says that the armed services chiefs are running away. And the entire Republican Party.

The hypocrisy is stunning. For 16 years the armed services chiefs, the New York Times and the rest of the presstitute media, both political parties and the liberal/progressive/left have participated actively or passively in massive crimes against humanity. There are millions of dead, maimed, and displaced people. Yet one death in Charlottesville has produced a greater outpouring of protest.

I don’t believe it is sincere. I don’t believe that people who are insensitive to the deaths of millions at the hands of their government can be so upset over the death of one person. Assume that Trump is responsible for the death of the woman. How much blood is it compared to the blood on the hands of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama? It seems clear enough that the outpouring of grief is an orchestration designed to deligitimize the president and the people who elected him. We are now experiencing at home what the Obama regime inflicted on Ukraine, with the support, of course, of the liberal/progressive/left just as John Wight said in CounterPunch.

Just as the majority of the Maiden protesters had no idea they were being used, the same is the case for the majority of those protesting the false charge against Trump. For most of the liberal/progressive/left, the hatred of Trump and white nationalists that they are expressing is a reflexive result of the Identity Politics with which they are imbued.

Any objective reading of the situation has to conclude that the hate with which Trump and the “deplorables” who elected him are being covered far exceeds in amount the hate expressed by the white nationalists.

Members of the liberal/progressive/left are proclaiming that despicable people such as white nationalists should not be allowed to protest and should not be given a permit to protest. They forget that protest is a right.

The US Supreme Court settled the issue 40 years ago in 1977 by overturning an Illinois court order that blocked an extremist protest in Skokie, a Jewish suburb of Chicago. The Supreme Court ruled that protest is not limited by the fact that some people will be offended or by the chance that there will be violent reactions. Otherwise, whatever faction happens to be in charge can suppress dissent by everyone else.

For decades the liberal/progressive/left has invested heavily in driving people apart. Black studies, women’s studies, and Native American studies can easily cross into propaganda that generates hatred. As a man of peace said, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Charlottesville has given us a debauchery of denunciation that proves that we are a divided nation. Does a nation so divided really want to be in conflict with Russia and China and Iran? If the US is the institutionalization of White Supremacy as the liberal/progressive/left says, how can it be that Americans are simultaneously the “exceptional, indispensable people” with the right to bomb other peoples into the stone age?

Obviously, there is a lot in this scenario that does not make sense.

My readers on my website are people capable of independent thought. They understand that an explanation of something is not an excuse for it. My explanations are explanations. They might be wrong, but they are not apologies. I find it necessary to say this, because my columns are reposted on many other websites where some of the audience wants to hear only what they already believe and are always looking for someone to denounce. It is a great disability for the United States that only a limited number of its citizens are capable of independent thought. Perhaps this is a problem for every country, but it most certainly is a problem for the United States.

The United States has another great disability, and that is that its intellectual class, or perhaps I should say its semi-intellectual class, has a large contingent of cowards who are too fearful to be truthful. Of course, considering the witch hunt mentality that Identity Politics has created, they have reasons to be fearful, but their cowardice leaves the burden of searching for and defending truth to a few.

Note: Virginia governor McAuliffe made false claims that were spread around the world by the presstitutes that the white nationalists had weapons caches and that the Virginia police were outgunned by the supremacists. Reason.com reports that the police have contradicted the moronic governor with the statement that no such weapons caches were found.

Breaking the Steer

Fri, 2017-08-18 07:26

The vast majority of human beings are pretty intelligent. A tiny percentage are noticeably slower than others, and an even tinier percentage are considerably brighter than others, but the vast majority of us are about the same, intelligence-wise. So the reason that most people don’t understand how the world really works has very little to do with intelligence; it has everything to do with two well-established and powerful institutions: education, and the mainstream media.

Public education has never even pretended to teach people how their world really works. Whilst it’s quite good at explaining some of the parts of the whole, it’s never put the pieces together. It’s a bit like a jigsaw puzzle, where you have a thousand pieces but no picture of what the finished puzzle should look like. You can study each of the individual pieces as much as you like, sometimes to a very great extent, but you have no idea what the finished picture looks like – nor even if the thousand pieces you have are all you need to have.

Our education system routinely produces “well-educated” people – youngsters with impressive examination results at various levels of achievement. Some of these people become vastly specialised and expert in some particular part of the puzzle, but for their whole lives remain totally ignorant about the other pieces – and especially how they all fit together.

The subject that education has always failed to address is the appalling cynicism of our own trusted leaders – like showing the finished picture in my jigsaw analogy. Whilst some of our leaders are also as ignorant of this fact as most of the population, a tiny percentage of them, the ones with the most power and influence, know perfectly well what they’re doing. Proof of this is difficult to come by – as secrecy is an essential part of keeping people ignorant – but every now and then a small but bright light is shone on the truth, revealing the knowing complicity of our trusted leaders, and their essential guards and lieutenants.

The missed lessons of war

Consider, for example, the words of Lloyd George, British Prime Minister during the grotesque First World War. Speaking in confidence to C.P. Scot, editor of the Manchester Guardian at the time:

If people really knew, the war would be stopped tomorrow. But of course they don’t know and can’t know. The correspondents don’t write and the censorship would not pass the truth.

Lloyd George was discussing a dinner he’d attended the previous evening where Philip Gibbs, a Times journalist, had just returned from the front and had spoken about his experience.

So here the conspiracy between trusted leaders and equally trusted news-providers to keep secret from the families of those shedding their blood the real horrors of war is openly admitted. “The correspondents don’t write and the censorship would not pass the truth.”1

This collusion between the mainstream media and our trusted leaders, especially in wartime, is quite well-documented. From WW1 and WW2 where at first newspapers and then filmed newsreels routinely churned out mass propaganda which consisted of a mix of carefully selected truths, omissions and outright lies, through the cynical horrors of the Korean War and the Vietnam War, through the egregious lies that supported western slaughter in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq to today’s cynical killing fields in Syria, the mainstream media and our great trusted politicians have never paused in their sinister deceptions and lies.

This mountain of evidence of endless and deliberate state malfeasance is well-documented and easy to find. Yet somehow our educators miss it. Somehow generation after generation of young people are kept in the dark, and taught instead about the great so-called heroes of our past and the magnificent beneficent wisdom that guided like an invisible hand their every move. Somehow the dots are just never joined up. Somehow the picture of the finished puzzle can never be found. We have recently celebrated the centenary of the horrors of Passchendaele. We were treated to images on our TVs of the acres and acres of gravestones, the horrific Menin Gate, and our great trusted leaders looking very sad and solemn. What I never heard mentioned was that WW1 was sold at the time as being “the war to end all war”. Amongst the poems read out I didn’t hear Wilfred Owen’s superbly powerful “Dulce et decorum est”, possibly because of the words that immediately precede that famous line: “The Old Lie: dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori” (It’s sweet and proper to die for the homeland). And I never heard anyone ask these great trusted leaders why we’re still fighting wars today, why the millions of dead soldiers were lied to. This information is easily available, yet somehow our educators overlook those vital questions as they fill yet more young heads with heroic war stories.

The overlooked lessons of history

History is one of the most important subjects a young person needs to learn. Although most schools teach history, they teach a particular type of history. They teach about the greatness of a handful of kings and queens, emperors and presidents, generals and admirals. Sometimes they flit over, in a very broad sense, the billions of lives of ordinary people who had the good fortune to share their times with the dazzling heroes. Sometimes they even mention some of the suffering endured by the silent anonymous billions; but they seldom join the dots, make the connections between the obscene wealth of the glittering heroes of yesteryear and the desperate poverty of the struggling billions who provided their wealth. And they never join the even more important dots, and encourage debate about the fact that there is still obscene wealth today, and desperate poverty – and what could be done about that.

Historian Michael Parenti explains the problem perfectly:

To say that schools fail to produce an informed, critically minded, democratic citizenry is to overlook the fact that schools were never intended for that purpose. Their mission is to turn out loyal subjects who do not challenge the existing corporate-dominated social order. That the school has pretty much fulfilled its system-sustaining role is no accident. The educational system is both a purveyor of the dominant political culture and a product of it.2

School history lessons quietly indoctrinate young people into having a sense of awe and instinctive trust of their leaders. What it should teach is the exact opposite. It’s surely not through want of evidence – but they don’t; year after year new generations of children are newly brainwashed about meek obedience to their great trusted leaders. Two hundred years ago an anonymous contributor to the Mechanics Magazine observed that:

Men had better be without education than be educated by their rulers; for then education is but the breaking of the steer to the yoke.3

It’s not as though the vitally important lessons of history are difficult to find. There are many fine books available. From EP Thompson’s Making of the English Working Class, for example, to Helen Hunt Jackson Century of Dishonour, from John Newsinger’s The Blood Never Dried: A People’s History of the British Empire to Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, from Engels to Galeano, Parenti to Curtis… the bibliography of the history that young people should be learning, – our history, real people’s history – is sizeable and compelling. Yet somehow it’s always overlooked in favour of the glittering kings and queens and dashing generals and admirals.

This is no small matter. Teaching young people to respect and admire the supposedly great institutional leaders of history leads to creating an instinctive respect and admiration for the institutional leaders of today — perpetuating the endless cycle of oppression of the 99% by the super-rich and powerful 1%.

The overlooked lessons of religion

Nothing better illustrates the miseducation of young people than the teaching of religion, which is taught in most parts of the world, to varying degrees of fanaticism.

Wherever religion is taught it’s taught as though it was some inviolable unquestionable truth. Yet there are a multitude of different religions, many of which are totally different from each other. But you cannot have explanations of something that are both true, and completely different. It’s an impossibility. Only one explanation could be right, or none of them are right, but certainly not all of them can be right.

This is obvious to anyone. Yet instead of teaching religion as a quirky oddity about human history (like Egyptian, Inca or Norse mythology, for example, which were believed by their adherents every bit as passionately as today’s Christians or Hindus believe their beliefs), particular and specific religions are selected and taught in more or less total exclusion to any other. Depending on the degree of fanaticism of the school and its teachers, the clear evidence of reality is completely ignored and the religion taught as though it was as natural a law as gravity is.

This would not particularly matter were it not for the fact that many, many wars may not have been fought, nor near so much innocent blood spilt, nor so much pointless destruction wreaked, if the warmongers had not been able to call on religion to justify the horrors they perpetrated.

Key to understanding this situation is the concept of “faith”. Faith is supposed to replace logic and rationality. Religious adherents are expected to totally trust their teachers are telling them the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. If inconvenient questions arise around points of dogma, the questioner must accept and believe the teacher’s explanation, no matter how irrational, or face expulsion. In the secular west this seldom matters, but in some parts of the world in can ruin lives.

At the heart of religion – any religion – lies an inescapable fact: the very existence of the god, or gods, or the existence of the heavens and hells, or paradises or nirvanas or whatever, upon which all religions are wholly constructed, cannot be proven. These mythical and fantastical beings and places cannot be proven to exist. Therefore the whole belief system is, at very best, doubtful. This is an inescapable fact. Yet most of our trusted educators do not teach it. They continue instead to teach dogma which, for thousands of years, has never yet been proved.

Some, particularly in the secular west, might think this doesn’t matter, that people don’t really believe in religion any more. But that assumption is questionable.

Take, for example, that in the US, supposedly the most advanced nation in the world, the teaching of Darwinian evolution is forbidden – because it contradicts a book whose truthful content is extremely limited.

And take for another example one of the worst conflict zones in the world — Palestine. Here we have a situation where unbelievable suffering and misery has been perpetrated for over seventy years, because the most powerful of the groups involved believe their claim to ownership of the land was bestowed by god – an entirely mythical creation whose very existence cannot be proven. Yet this ridiculous claim continues to be believed by legions of young people, and is wholly supported by the most powerful military force on the planet.

And in our largely secular western world, the most important events in most people’s everyday lives – births, deaths and marriages – we still see many people, many young people even, insisting on having some type of religious service.

This shows beyond any reasonable doubt the fact that our trusted educators are still misleading people on the still-important subject of religion.

The missed lessons of economics

Few young people are taught economics at school, at any level; yet proper management of the economy is, after providing for national security, the single most important function of government. How, if nobody learns what proper management of the economy is, can people possibly hope to understand whether their government is doing their job properly?

Where economics is taught, usually in schools reserved for the children of elite and upper middle class families, a particular type of economics is taught — known as capitalism.

Yet economics is a bit like religion. There are at least two very distinct philosophies, socialism and capitalism, which are completely different from each other. In terms of truth ownership both are equally suspect; and both demand from their adherents a type of a blind loyalty, an acceptance that their view and theirs alone is right and true, and that anything else is heresy.

Capitalism enjoys almost total global support not through any purely philosophical strengths over socialism, but because it largely tends to favour a tiny minority of super-rich people — who also control political power. Socialism, being a relatively new economic concept, has never had much of a chance to demonstrate its values, largely because capitalists, who have enjoyed absolute control of much of the planet for thousands of years, have never allowed their grip on economic power to be challenged for any length of time. Of course, there have been brave attempts to do so, going back to at least the English Civil War when the Diggers and Levellers tried to create fairer economies, but the capitalists soon overcame the upstarts — usually through extreme violence rather than proving philosophical superiority.

Even the great powerhouses of the socialist experiment, USSR and Communist China, struggled to survive from the earliest moments of their birth. Once again, these struggles were not the result of philosophical inferiority to capitalism, but because the powerful capitalist nations did everything in their considerable powers to crush them at birth. Russia, devastated more than a.ny nation except Germany and Japan in WW2, received less compensation to rebuild itself than the other major powers – even though its losses and contribution to winning the war had been greater than any other country. Communist China too, received virtually no outside support in its civil war with capitalist Nationalist China, who were strongly supported from the beginning by both the US and the USSR. Later, during the so-called “cold war”, both the USSR and Communist China were ruthlessly victimised by the powerful capitalist nations, and any country that wished to have closer ties to the communists did so on the clear understanding that they risked the combined wrath of the far richer western world.

Cuba and North Korea provide interesting lessons about the ruthlessness of capitalism. Both countries tried to establish socialist economies in the 1950s. They were immediately attacked by the US, the world’s leading exponent of capitalism, and to this day are still regarded by the world superpower as major threats to world peace — even though both are effectively impoverished third world countries as a result of more than half a century of vicious US-imposed trade sanctions. Both countries are held up to the world as examples of the failure of socialism — but the fact that they have hardly been able to trade with anyone for almost sixty and seventy years respectively is conveniently forgotten. How the US or the UK might look if they had been similarly restricted is overlooked, a question that’s almost never asked.

Steve Keen, an Australian economist who has taught capitalism for many years is refreshingly honest about economics. His book Debunking Economics is a damning indictment of his own subject, and given that he’s been teaching at university level most of his working life suggests he might know what he’s talking about.

The essential lesson that Keen points out is that the empirical evidence to support the principles of economics is too flimsy to withstand critical analysis. And whatever philosophical justification there may be is equally groundless. It turns out that economics, like religion, is wholly dependent on having faith that its principles and lessons are true:

There is one striking fact about this whole literature [of economics], and that is that there is not one single empirical fact in it.4

[A] frequent refrain in this book [is] that neoclassical economics is far more a belief system than it is a science.5

The famous Canadian economist JK Galbraith, whose considerable works preceded Keen, appears to have been of similar mind. Here he writes about the attempt to provide credibility to economics by adorning it with mathematical symbolism:

The increasingly technical formulations [of mathematics in economics] and the debate over their validity and precision provided employment for many of the thousands of economists now needed for economics instruction in universities and colleges around the world…

Mathematical economics also gave to economics a professionally rewarding aspect of scientific certainty and precision, adding usefully to the prestige of academic economists in their university association with the other social sciences and the so-called hard sciences. One of the costs of these several services was, however, the removal of the subject several steps further from reality. Not all but a very large number of the mathematical exercises began (as they still do) with the words “We assume perfect competition.” In the real world perfect competition was by now leading an increasingly esoteric existence, if, indeed any existence at all, and mathematical theory was, in no slight measure, the highly sophisticated cover under which it managed to survive.6

And here he is quoting Thomas Balogh, an eminent Hungarian economist:

The modern history of economic theory is a tale of evasions of reality.7

Trying to give economics respectability by making it look like a mathematical science was a trick that was not lost on one of the best-known economists of all time – JM Keynes:

Too large a proportion of recent ‘mathematical’ economics are merely concoctions, as imprecise as the initial assumptions they rest on, and which allow the author to lose sight of the complexities and interdependencies of the real world in a maze of pretentious and unhelpful symbols.8

Economics began life as an area of philosophy. It’s widely acknowledged parent, Adam Smith, was a professor of moral philosophy, not economics. But in its relatively short history that fact has already been disposed of. Here’s Balogh (whose book The Irrelevance of Conventional Economics preceded Keen’s similar thoughts by almost thirty years):

One of the most remarkable features of the development of economic theory over the last hundred years, and especially since the Second World War, has been the insistent craving to purge it of all political, social and moral content.9

These then are some of the truly important lessons about economics which our trusted educators somehow manage to overlook. Our world polarises more and more into a place where hundreds of millions struggle every day to find enough to eat whilst tiny handfuls of people wallow in more personal wealth than entire countries have at their disposal. Many scratch their heads and wonder how the economists might justify this situation. They fail to see, because educators fail to teach it, that the economic system is deliberately engineered to work this way. Contrary to capitalist teaching, there are fine alternatives, such as socialism. Choosing capitalism is just that, a choice, not a necessity. JM Keynes knew it almost a century ago when he said:

Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.10

The overlooked lessons of morality

There are a multitude of components in our education system which together comprise the early stages of mass brainwashing. I have described a mere handful. Almost every subject taught in our schools could and should be analysed for how it contributes to the cause. From the mandatory requirement to attend school at all, and at specific times, to the “acceptable” standards of dress — sometimes imposed by the school, and sometimes imposed by peer-pressure. From usually trivial efforts at teaching the arts to the emphasis in the teaching of sports and games – of win-at-all-cost, rather than just having fun. Even the most important lesson of maths and the sciences is somehow overlooked for its wider implications – the discipline of using evidence-based facts to discover truth.

Then there’s the two or three-tier education system that’s common in many countries – the process whereby small children are divided according to the social status of their parents. The children of the super-rich and powerful are usually segregated from the children of the middle classes, who are often segregated from the children of those struggling to survive on the streets or crumbling tenements.

The children from privileged backgrounds are far more likely to attend universities, producing yet another illusory class distinction, as many people with university educations see themselves as brighter and more intelligent than those without college degrees. And many of those who don’t go to university see themselves as less bright, “stupid” even, when compared with college graduates.

Thus are most children indoctrinated almost from birth into their “exceptionalism” – or lack of it: children who will grow up believing and accepting their lot in life that for the most part the fortunes or misfortunes of their parents have determined.

Our entire education system needs to be scrapped and redesigned. The model we have, as Parenti correctly observed, never was intended to create an informed, critically-minded, democratic citizenry. It was intended to create masters and servants. It must be changed. Good alternative models, which can be built on, already exist. Take the inspirational Summerhill School in Suffolk, for example.

At Summerhill children have been effectively running the place for a hundred years. Children decide for themselves what lessons to take, and what classes to attend – if they feel like attending any. Nearly all decisions at the school are decided democratically by the children at weekly whole-school meetings, which are effectively run by the children. Contrary to what many adults might think, the thing works perfectly, and well-balanced well-educated children graduate from there every year.

Education can, and must, be done differently.

Part Two

The Substitute Brain

So once the young steer has been broken to the yoke, all that remains is to keep him permanently yoked. In human society this service is provided by the mainstream media who, being almost entirely controlled by the super-rich and powerful, see to it that nothing seriously conflicts with the early conditioning provided by the education system.

Comprising mainly newspapers, TV and radio news, but also the vitally important entertainment industry, the mainstream media delivers or maintains relentless 24 hour a day brainwashing. The genius of the model is that with very few exceptions the 99% are not even aware they’re being brainwashed. When you point this out, you’re generally viewed as a nutter and conspiracy theorist. Brainwashing is something only the bad guys do. Our great leaders would never stoop so low, especially against their own people.

But the evidence of brainwashing by our own great trusted leaders is abundant and compelling. Numerous books on the subject are available, and there are several great websites (such as fair.org and medialens.org) that provide hard evidence of the ongoing problem on a daily basis.

One of the earliest descriptions of modern day brainwashing by our own leaders was supplied by Arthur Ponsonby who, for a patrician member of the British aristocracy, was an unusually outspoken anti-war campaigner. His book Falsehood in Wartime, written almost a hundred years ago, cuts directly to the chase in its subtitle: Containing an Assortment of Lies Circulated Throughout the Nations During the Great War. It’s a collection of outrageous claims made mainly in British newspapers which were blatant lies whose purpose was to inflame the passions of a nation that had no appetite for war. The key requirement was, of course, that people trusted and believed what they read in the newspapers.

British journalist Philip Knightley crafted a superb history of the institutionalised deceit of the mainstream media in his great book The First Casualty, taking its title from a quotation originally attributed to US senator Hiram Johnson who is alleged to have said in 1917, “The first casualty when war comes is truth.”

Bearing in mind Johnson’s view, it’s interesting to ponder any connection to the words of Winston Churchill:

In wartime truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.11

Given that our trusted leaders have created a world of Permanent War, have they also given themselves licence to permanently lie to us?

There are other great books on the subject of modern media deceit. Chomsky and Herman’s classic, of course,  Manufacturing Consent, for example, and Edwards and Cromwell’s excellent Guardians of Power. And the great journalist and filmmaker John Pilger has written and spoken many times of the subject. So the problem is not paucity of evidence, it’s the fact that evidence is kept permanently out of the mainstream. It’s one of the very clever devices used by the modern propagandist. Instead of censoring uncomfortable truths — the normal tactic of old despotic regimes — they’re simply marginalised, smeared and ridiculed. It’s a numbers game: it doesn’t really matter if a handful of cranks can see and understand the truth, so long as the vast majority do not.

Props for the illusion

There are several important methods used on a daily basis by mainstream news providers to deceive us. Two of the most important are half-truths, and headline manipulation. Although outright lies are often used too, and obviously should not be discounted, the frequency of their use is possibly not as great as the other methods.

Someone once observed that “the truth, carefully crafted is the biggest lie of all”. Telling half a truth is possibly the most common method of crafting the truth, and it’s something at which the mainstream media have become very proficient – especially by the most highly regarded and respected institutions in the establishment media – such as the BBC, for example, or The Times and Guardian newspapers.

If courtroom trials were conducted in a way that only the prosecution was allowed to present its case we would rightly conclude that justice is not being provided. If there was no mechanism to represent the case of the defendant, or to properly challenge the prosecution case, the trial would be ludicrous, a mockery, a kangaroo court. But this is effectively what our great respected mainstream media provide for us on a daily basis: the prosecution case with little or no input from the defence. Much of the prosecution case may be true, but it’s only half-true. Sometimes they will include some reference to the defence’s argument — to provide the illusion of “balance” — but only where it can be immediately discredited, smeared or refuted. This is the art of the half-truth, telling what may well be true, but carefully selecting only those bits of truth that provide a distorted version of the whole story.

Many people would say they don’t believe what newspapers tell them, that they know that newspapers lie — especially the so-called “gutter press”. Yet these papers are the biggest-selling daily news providers in the country. Although many people say they never actually read the papers, that they only buy them for the sports pages, puzzles, comics or competitions, the fact remains that many of these people usually flick through the pages, glancing quickly at the pictures and headlines. Much of the knowledge they have of world affairs is obtained from absorbing information gleaned from the handful of sensational words in bold type at the head of an article — perhaps together with a carefully selected photograph. But if we take the time to read the whole article below the headline, we often find that not a single shred of evidence is provided to justify the claims of the headline. But most people don’t read the article. The only memory they have, absorbed almost subliminally, is the invariably exaggerated, or flat-out wrong claims of the headline.

The photographs too, or the video clips that we watch on TV, provide powerful tools for truth-manipulation. Ostensibly providing visual confirmation of whatever the accompanying story is, pictures have long been misused to provide distorted “news”. Here’s Phillip Knightley, providing a fine example from a hundred and twenty years ago, used to brainwash British cinema-goers about the Boer War:

An early newsreel film shown to British audiences depicts a Red Cross tent under fire from the Boers while brave British doctors, nurses and orderlies try to treat a wounded soldier. The film was a fake, shot with actors on Hampstead heath, a suburb of London.12

The use of photographic and film trickery since the Boer War never stopped, of course. Today many view the old newsreel footages from WW2 and smile at the naïveté of those who swallowed whole such blatant propaganda. Yet these same people unquestioningly accept the video clips from today’s battlefronts as being truthful, impartial and balanced — failing completely to join the dots from the newsreels of yesteryear with today’s coverage from trusted journalists “embedded” with “our” boys and girls on the front lines. And photographs allegedly depicting horrors perpetrated by whichever designated enemy in Ukraine, Syria or Iraq are frequently shown later to be horrors actually perpetrated by “moderate” rebels supported by “our” boys and girls. The always-excellent Media Lens, for example, provides abundant proof of this, such as this superb Alert: Mass Media Siege: Comparing Coverage of Mosul and Aleppo

The Brain Substitute

Having filled the eyes and ears of the 99% with the words and images that our trusted leaders want us to see and hear it only remains to properly explain and interpret that information. For that purpose our mainstream media can be relied upon to supply a seemingly endless quantity of “experts”, from university academics to ex-intelligence chiefs, from government diplomats to respected journalists, from bemedalled generals and admirals to MPs and knights of the realm; from erudite editorials in respectable newspapers to learned panel discussions on TV and radio. Any number of great trusted leaders and pillars of society can be provided on demand to instruct us on how to properly interpret the misinformation our trusted mainstream media is churning out 24/7. The case for the prosecution is always compelling, the case for the defence is all but totally eradicated.

Smoke and Mirrors

As though the collective efforts of the education system, religion, and the mainstream media are not quite enough to brainwash us thoroughly enough, there’s yet another device our controllers use — arguably to an even greater extent than all the others: the so-called entertainment industry.

It was a trick that was well known as far back as the ancient Romans. Referred to by Juvenal, for example, as “bread and circuses”, it relates to the necessity of controlled distraction, suggesting that it’s next in importance even to providing food. So long as the 99% are kept from starving, the next most important thing is to ensure their attention is diverted away from thinking about the numerous difficulties of their daily lives. To this end a limitless quantity of managed entertainment is delivered.

Although there are many fine books and films, songs and paintings, for example, that encourage deep reflection, somehow these are never the books and films, songs and paintings that are made and strongly promoted in Hollywood or the mainstream book and music publishers. It’s always the exact opposite, with the latest blockbuster film or video depicting the accepted propaganda model; or the popular music industry completely ignoring political and protest songs in favour of mind-numbing banality.

It doesn’t matter what form the distraction takes, from sports to cinema, from reading pulp fiction to attending the opera. None of it really matters providing it achieves the main aim of stopping people from wondering how to make their lives better.

Between working long and hard hours, raising families, and relaxing when possible with managed distractions, the average 99 percenter is hard-pressed to find time, or motivation, to see the world in any way differently to the way she is supposed to see it.

The Steer Well and Truly Yoked

So the education system keeps peddling the same old rubbish about great kings and queens, emperors and presidents, generals and admirals; and the priests keep peddling their mythical fantasies; and the mainstream media churn out “news” stories about today’s great leaders, seamlessly connected to yesteryear’s great leaders, together with their blockbuster movies, and musical pap distractions reinforcing the same old/same old.

Is it really any wonder that the 99% understand the world exactly the way they’re supposed to understand it?

  1. The First Casualty, Phillip Knightley, p. 109.
  2. History as Mystery, Michael Parenti, p. 28.
  3. The Challenge of Democracy – Britain 1832 – 1918, Hugh Cunningham, p. 2.
  4. Debunking Economics, Steve Keen, p. 67.
  5. Ibid, p. 101.
  6. A History of Economics, JK Galbraith, p. 259.
  7. Ibid, p. 189.
  8. General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, JM Keynes, p. 298.
  9. The Irrelevance of Conventional Economics, Thomas Balogh, p. 29.
  10. Extreme Money, Satyajit Das, p. 128.
  11. Bodyguard of Lies, Anthony Cave Brown, Preface.
  12. The First Casualty, Phillip Knightley, p. 75.

Encountering the Berkeley Strangler in a Dark Alley

Thu, 2017-08-17 21:34

On the night of June 20th I came home from a Berkeley City Council meeting feeling like I’d met the Berkeley Strangler in a dark alley; later I saw this photo in the SF BayView newspaper:

(Credit:) SF BayView newspaper

You can see three of us holding a banner “Stop Urban Shield.”  To the left of me is a woman named Bridget, on my right (though not shown in the photo) was Russell Bates, a Navy veteran.  The large cop in front of me is Brian Mathis, one of the officers involved in the suffocation death of Kayla Moore.  Mathis and the other cops are yelling “Get back!  Get back!” shoving us with their batons.

The city council meeting took place in an auditorium packed with 400, possibly 500, people who were there to ask the mayor and council to terminate the city’s participation in “Urban Shield,” a DHS police militarization project.  We had reason to believe they would respond positively to our request; Berkeley’s recently elected progressive mayor, Jesse Arreguin, had even made a commitment to end it.  Nevertheless, at the end of a six-hour session, the city renewed the militarization project.

The audience was outraged, feeling betrayed and yelling “Shame on you!”  Several activists stepped up on the stage and unfurled a huge “Stop Urban Shield” banner.  This was a non-violent protest, it could hardly even be called an act of civil disobedience, and would probably have gone on for no more than a few minutes.  However, the police immediately grabbed two of the activists holding the banner, wrenching and twisting their arms.

Council Member Cheryl Davila grabbed a mic and yelled at the police, “You don’t have to break their arms!”  Davila was one of the two council members who’d opposed renewing Urban Shield and was, at this moment, the only council person remaining in the auditorium.  Mayor Jesse Arreguin and rest of the council had disappeared.  They took a powder.

Yes, they took a powder!  It was all quite remarkable:  Someone had unfurled a banner, and with that, the leadership of the City of Berkeley vanished.

Police Chief Andrew Greenwood was also gone.  He was at this meeting, explaining how useful Urban Shield was in training the Berkeley police in things such as “de-escalation” of crisis situations.  However, at this moment Chief Greenwood had disappeared along with the mayor and council.  Maybe he was in some concrete-lined bunker command post.  Or maybe he just went home.

(FYI: I’m told that Chief Greenwood is a very charming, likable person.  I should also say that a majority of the council are progressives, and Mayor Jesse Arreguin was even endorsed by Bernie Sanders in last fall’s election.  None of those people are Republicans; they’re all Democrats.)

The cops disregarded Council member Davila and continued to twist the arms of persons they were arresting, making an on-stage show of gratuitous manhandling in front of several hundred people who were now shouting “Let them go! Let them go!”

Those of us nearest the stage took up the “Stop Urban Shield” banner as it was dropped by the people who were arrested.  That’s how I came to be among those carrying the banner you see in the photo.

A squad of baton-wielding riot police suddenly appeared at the door; as though about to charge into the crowded auditorium.  (Although it was after midnight, most of the audience was still there, probably around 250 or 300.)  Potentially it was a panic situation where people could’ve stampeded and gotten hurt — the proverbial “Fire in a crowded theater.”  But nobody panicked.  The next moment the police withdrew, they didn’t seem to know what they were doing.

Still carrying the banner we’d retrieved, we and the rest of the audience found our way through the hall, down the stairs, and finally to the exit still chanting “Let them go!”  Out on the street we saw a traffic jam of a dozen police vehicles, trying to drive this way and that, all of them in each other’s way, not seeming to know if they were coming or going.  A dozen vehicles wouldn’t seem like enough to jam that street, but they were getting the maximum amount of traffic-jam that those few vehicles could provide.  Beside the vehicles, a row of cops were lined up shoving us back with their batons, yelling “Get back! Get back!”

That was when the photo was taken of me in front of that large cop who was aggressively shoving people with his baton.  For some reason he didn’t actually shove me; he just sort of glared at me and then started shoving Bridget to my left.  Despite the dim light, I was able to read the officer’s name tag, “Mathis.”  That name didn’t mean anything to me at first, but afterwards I learned of his involvement in the death of a transgender person, Kayla Moore, in 2013.  Moore suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and apparently thought the police were going to harm her; as it turned out she suffocated while they were restraining her.  I also heard from a woman whom Officer Mathis had handled abusively at a demonstration some years ago, damaging a ligament in her arm.  So I must wonder why this officer was assigned to duty at a city council meeting where he’d be dealing with people who were there to exercise our First Amendment rights.  He would seem rather unsuited for such an assignment, or in fact, anything dealing with people.

Although the cops were aggressively shoving people, I didn’t see them actually clubbing anyone, but after they finally untangled their vehicles from their traffic jam and were gone, I looked around and I saw an elderly man sitting on the curb, a gash in his head, two or three nurses were attending him.  Later I read that he was a 73-year-old retired school teacher; he’d dropped his glasses, bent over to pick them up and then got hit.  I assume it was an accident, but that’s the sort of thing that happens when a bunch of Urban Shield-trained militarized police come charging in to de-escalate a crisis that wouldn’t have been a crisis without them there to create it.

So now finally the cops were gone.  It was about 1 a.m. The mayor and city council were of course long gone, and it was just us — a couple hundred of us — there on the dark street by the school auditorium.  “MIC CHECK!” We formed a circle and held a short rally with two or three speakers. Council member Cheryl Davila also spoke to us, apologizing that she’d been unable to hold the cops back.  “I don’t have control over those guys,” she said.  But she’d acted courageously and done her best, and she was the only council member who hadn’t skipped out.

Civilian control over military and police is a basic tenet in a democracy, but I wonder how much control the Berkeley mayor and council really do have over these militarized police.  The police do seem to have a lot of power, and that was indicated at the very beginning of that six-hour meeting when Police Chief Greenwood and his assistants were given 15 minutes to present their case for Urban Shield and NCRIC.  They took 40 minutes.  That’s right, Mayor Arreguin allotted them 15 minutes, and the police took 40.  The mayor just sat there and let them do it.

Why?  The police chief and his assistants simply did not need 40 minutes to tell about their de-escalation skills and other items in their training. It looked to me like they were taking that much time in order to show their status and entitlement, that they intend to run the show in this town.  Urban Shield and the rest of the DHS programs enhance their power and status.  (The training itself appears to be not all that great — an auditorium-full of people would probably testify to that.)

Police militarization has very little public support here in Berkeley (only two persons in that large audience spoke in favor of Urban Shield), so who wants it?  Who’s behind it?  Presumably it’s the same entities that are behind military solutions everywhere, pushing for it in every town and city across the country as well as at the national and international level.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that militarism isn’t just something that happens half-way around the globe.  It’s also happening here in Berkeley, California, and most of our elected city officials seem too intimidated to oppose it.

NDP Leadership Candidate Jagmeet Singh’s Trip to Israel

Thu, 2017-08-17 11:39

Like bears attracted to spawning salmon, politicians seek out power. The former needs to build stores of fat to survive the winter, while the latter must attract the resources and support necessary for successful electoral campaigns. Given the survival imperative, neither bear nor politician should be criticized too harshly for what comes naturally. But, the two best ways to judge politicians are by taking a look at whom they choose to gather resources from and what they are prepared to do to get them.

At worst politicians pander to society’s wealthiest and reactionary social forces, further solidifying their grip on the economic and political system. At best they seek out progressive grassroots and labour organizations, collecting the necessary resources from ordinary people while amplifying their influence.

It’s within this context that one should understand Ontario MPP Jagmeet Singh’s trip to Israel with the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. At the start of the year the current NDP leadership candidate took an organized trip there and met to discuss it with Galit Baram, Israel’s consul general in Toronto.

The trip and meeting were most likely aimed at allaying particular concerns since in early December Singh was the only member of the Ontario legislature to speak out against a provincial vote to condemn the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. He criticized a CIJA-backed motion supporting the spurious “Ottawa Protocol on Combating Anti-Semitism” and rejecting “the differential treatment of Israel, including the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.”

When speaking to NDP members recently Singh has repeatedly highlighted that move rather than the CIJA trip or consular visit. Similarly, Singh published eleven tweets about Palestine on July 16. In the best of the lot he stated: “3 yrs ago today the 2014 Gaza War made headlines when 4 Palestinian boys were killed by an Israeli military strike while playing on a beach” and “I stand for Palestinians’ right to freely determine their political status & pursue their economic, social & cultural development.” In response to two questions Independent Jewish Voices and Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East submitted to NDP leadership candidates Singh said, “I would consider supporting the use of targeted sanctions against Israel” and “I would support mandatory labeling of products originating from Israel’s colonies, and excluding these products from the benefits of CIFTA [Canada Israel Free Trade Agreement]. I am also open to considering a ban.”

(In assessing Singh’s responses to their Middle East policy questionnaire IJV gave him a B for third place while CJPME ranked him second with an –A. Niki Ashton received an A+ from both IJV and CJPME.)

Singh clearly wants average NDP members to think he’s opposed to Israeli violence and supportive of Palestinian solidarity activism. Simultaneously, however, he wants to signal to CIJA and Israeli officials that he’ll play ball.

The Palestinian question is particularly tricky for the Brampton-based politician. With some claiming that his open (Sikh) religiosity is a liability in Québec, Singh’s path to becoming leader is largely contingent on convincing members he’s best positioned to expand NDP support among the young and communities of colour. But, younger and darker NDP members/sympathizers largely oppose the current NDP leadership’s de facto support for Israeli expansionism/belligerence. A February poll found that only 17 per cent of Canadian millennials had a positive opinion of the Israeli government versus 37 per cent of those 65 plus. I’m not aware of any Canadian polling by ethnicity on the subject, but US polling provides a window into attitudes here. According to a July Newsweek headline: “Young, Black and Latino Americans Don’t Like Israel” (after the invariable push back the headline was changed to “Why More Young, Black and Latino Americans Than Ever Before Don’t Like Israel”).

To the extent that Singh can rally younger and ethnically diverse folks to the party it would tend to push the NDP towards Palestinian solidarity. On the other hand, Singh is the preferred candidate of much of the party establishment and his candidacy is heavily media-driven. The dominant media and NDP hierarchy are generally hostile to discussing Canada’s complicity in Palestinian dispossession.

At the first six leadership debates there wasn’t a single question related to the NDP’s position on Palestine. While the party hierarchy refuses to debate it, the NDP actually devotes significant energy to the subject. During the 2015 federal election the NDP ousted as many as eight individuals from running or contesting nominations because they defended Palestinian rights on social media. Last year NDP foreign critic Hélène Laverdière spoke at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) annual conference in Washington and traveled to Israel with Canada’s Governor General where she attended a ceremony put on by the explicitly racist Jewish National Fund (Laverdière is backing Singh for NDP leader). Many party officials – 20 federal NDP MPs, according to a 2014 iPolitics calculation – have gone on all-expense paid trips to that country with an Israeli nationalist organization.

So, party representatives can travel halfway across the globe to investigate the conflict and individuals chosen by local riding associations can be removed for their opinions on the issue, but the subject doesn’t warrant debate.

If Singh wins the leadership will he expend the energy needed to shake up the established order on this issue?

Our Fight Against Fascism

Wed, 2017-08-16 21:40

When editor-in-chief of the Atlantic Jeffrey Goldberg asserts that “the struggle in Charlottesville is a struggle within our own civilization, within Trump’s own civilization,” and that in the wake of such events “an American president should speak up directly on behalf of the American creed, on behalf of Americans who reject tribalism and seek pluralism, on behalf of the idea that blood-and-soil nationalism is antithetical to the American idea itself,” who, exactly, can place his logic?

It reads nicely, and it seems a conscionable thought to have after a woman dies fighting Nazis on American soil. But, really, what history books has Mr. Goldberg been reading?

“Our civilization’s” ongoing genocide against indigenous groups and the violently enforced systematic oppression of Black Americans notwithstanding, the US government – of which Trump is now Commander-in-Chief – has a storied and bloody history of assassinating foreign heads of state precisely because, democratically, a body of citizens or voters “seeking pluralism” elsewhere in the world had commenced down an antifascist political path that did not suit Washington’s interests.

Ariel Dorfman, for instance, reminisces of the 1970s presidential inauguration of Salvador Allende in Chile:

[A]lmost three years later, a few days after the Hawker Hunter planes under the control of General Pinochet attacked the palace on September 11, 1973. Their bombs left a black yawning gap where the balcony stood. Where the president once waved his handkerchief, there is nothing. Allende is dead. And we can sense that outside the frame, below where the balcony jutted out, there is only emptiness…

Oh, were it so easy to condemn Trump for failing to say the “right thing” at the “right time,” and to have that be the end of it. Is this what the Liberal pluribus desires from America’s much-detested Caesar? It may be enough to keep Rachel Maddow employed, but, unfortunately, the reason for the president’s neutrality on fascism is much more serious than this—and let there be no doubt that he, especially, is unaware of the profound impetus for his now proven Nazi-sympathizing.

As we are thoroughly living under oligarchy, we should turn to Deleuze to elucidate a root cause of the Oval Office’s reigning fascist bent:

The administrations in charge never cease announcing supposedly necessary reforms: to reform schools, to reform industries, hospitals, the armed forces, prisons. But everyone knows that these institutions are finished, whatever the length of their expiration periods. It’s only a matter of administering their last rites and of keeping people employed until the installation of the new forces knocking at the door. These are the societies of control

Clearly, the rightward-leaning have shown a distinct susceptibility to every brand of hate-driven politics—and we should recall that the colonial residence of bigoted pilgrims did not predate the arrival of slave ships on American shores, but that it followed one year later (1620 and 1619, respectively). Nevertheless, Liberals have their work cut out for them if they expect to right the ship of American democracy simply by writing lukewarm editorials about “the American idea” and babyishly debating whether it is “OK” to punch Nazis in the face. In fact, our democracy is a ship that has always been listing! It has hardly been a democracy! And those who cry wolf because they think our political vessel founders only now really must have little-or-no experience with political organizing beyond the soothing environs of their yoga studio. Luckily for them, there is a very toothsome radical history they can get on board with.

Nearly a century ago, Spanish anarchist Buenaventura Durruti offered very valuable advice during an interview he gave with the Toronto Star:

No government in the world fights Fascism to the death. When the bourgeoisie sees power slipping from its grasp, it has recourse to Fascism to maintain itself. The Liberal Government of Spain could have rendered the Fascist elements powerless long ago. Instead it compromised and dallied. Even now at this moment, there are men in this Government who want to go easy on the rebels… We want revolution here in Spain, right now, not maybe after the next European war. We are giving Hitler and Mussolini far more worry with our revolution than the whole Red Army of Russia. We are setting an example to the German and Italian working class on how to deal with Fascism.

Our fight against fascism requires that we also set an example for the world, which the US military currently terrorizes. Huffing and puffing about what Trump says or fails to say is superficial. Of course, it is much easier than mounting a revolution to fight fascism to the death. And just how many bourgeois liberals, exactly, are willing to pony-up?

Al-Araqeeb Village: Palestinian Bedouins Refuse to Surrender 116 Times

Wed, 2017-08-16 18:40

On August 1, the Palestinian Bedouin village of Al-Araqeeb was destroyed for the 116th time. As soon as Israeli bulldozers finished their ugly deed and soldiers began evacuating the premises, the village resident immediately began rebuilding their homes.

Twenty-two families, or about 101 residents, are estimated to live here. By now, they are all familiar with the painful routine, considering the first round of destruction took place in July 2010.

It means that the village has been destroyed nearly 17 times per year, since then. And every single time, it was rebuilt, only to be destroyed again.

If the repeated destruction of the village is an indication of Israel’s stubborn insistence to uproot Palestine’s Bedouins, the rebuilding is indicative of the tenacity of the Bedouin community in Palestine.

But Al-Araqeeb is only symbolic of that historic fight.

It would be no exaggeration to state that there is a war waged by Israel against Palestinian Bedouins. The aim is to destroy their culture and to force them into townships similar to those of Apartheid South Africa.

The geographic space of that war extends from the Negev desert to the Southern Hebron Hills to Jerusalem.

The epicenter of the ongoing fight is the village of Al-Araqeeb. Not only has Israel destroyed Al-Araqeeb numerous times in violation of international law, it actually delivers a bill to the homeless residents expecting them to cover the cost of the very ruins wrought by the Israeli state.

According to latest estimates, the families that live in makeshift huts and rely on rudimentary means to survive, are expected to pay up a bill of 2 million shekels, around $600,000.

Israel dubs Al-Araqeeb, along with 35 villages in the Negev, as ‘unrecognized’ by the Israeli government’s master plan, thus they must be erased, and their population driven into townships made for the Bedouins.

However, these villages are older than Israel itself, and any such ‘master plan’ could have easily considered this existing reality. However, what Israeli truly labors to achieve is to replace the Bedouins with its own Jewish population, as it has tirelessly done for seven decades.

Palestinian Bedouins are known for their tenacity. They fully fathom the history and plight of their ancestors, where generation after generation were ethnically cleansed and exiled to refugee camps outside Palestine, or forcibly removed to other areas. Today’s Bedouin communities refuse to be subjected to that same fate again.

The Israeli plan to ethnically cleanse the Bedouins of the Negev is no different from the plan to colonize the West Bank, Judaize the Galilee and Palestinian East Jerusalem. All such efforts always culminate in the same routine – of removing the Arabs and replacing them with Israeli Jews.

In 1965, Israel passed the Planning and Building Law which recognized some Palestinian Arab villages in the Galilee and southern Negev, but excluded others. Nearly 100,000 Bedouin were forcibly removed to ‘Planned Townships’ to endure economic neglect and poverty. Many refused to be moved and, since then, have fought a protracted war to survive and maintain a semblance of their culture and way of life.

Currently, according to the Institute of Palestine Studies (IPS), roughly 130,000 individuals live in the so-called unrecognized villages “under the constant threat of wholesale demolition.”

The anomaly is that these Bedouin communities prove the fallacy of the Israeli claim that it was Jewish settlers – not Palestinians – that ‘made the desert bloom.’

A simple look at statistics demolishes that deceptive claim entirely.

As of 1935 – that is 13 years prior to the existence of Israel – Bedouins “cultivated 2,109,234 dunums of land where they grew most of Palestine’s barley and much of the country’s wheat,” stated IPS.

Moreover, Jewish settlers did not arrive in the Negev till 1940 and, by 1946, the total Jewish population there did not amount to more than 475.

“The amount of land cultivated by the Bedouins in the Negev prior to 1948 came to three times that cultivated by the entire Jewish community in all of Palestine even after sixty years of ‘pioneering’ Zionist settlement,” IPS concluded.

To reverse this indisputable historical reality, Israel has led a decided campaign aimed at vanquishing the Bedouins by severing their relationship to their land. Although this has been done with a great degree of success, the struggle is not yet over.

The same struggle is duplicated elsewhere, especially in so-called ‘Area C’ encompassing 60 percent of the West Bank. Palestinian Bedouin villages there are also enduring a terrible fight, as many of their villages have been singled out for destruction.

Most of West Bank Bedouins live in the central West Bank region, in an area known as the South Hebron Hills. Last month, it was reported that the Israeli Supreme Court is now “deciding the fate” of the Bedouin village of Dkeika. Other villages in the area have either been demolished, received demolition orders or are waiting for their fate to be determined by the Israel court.

It is hardly a question of a single village or two. The UN reported that 46 villages in central West Bank are “at risk of forcible transfer” by the Israeli government.

To preclude any legal wrangling, the Israeli government has been actively pursuing wholesale, irreversible actions to seal the fate of Bedouins once and for all.

In 2013, Israel announced the “Prawer Plan”, the goal of which was the destruction of all unrecognized villages in the Negev. However, massive mobilization involving the Bedouins and Palestinians throughout the Occupied Territories defeated the plan, which was officially rescinded in December of the same year.

But, now, it is being revived under the name ‘Prawer II.’ A draft of the plan, which was leaked to local media, was introduced by Israel’s Agricultural Minister, Uri Ariel. It, too, aims to “deny Bedouin citizens land ownership rights and violate their constitutional protections,” reported Patrick Strickland.

The war on the Bedouin is, of course, part of the larger war on all Palestinians, whether in Israel or under military occupation. While the latter are denied the most basic freedoms, the former are governed by at least 50 discriminatory laws, according to the Haifa-based Adalah Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights.

Many of these laws are aimed at depriving Palestinians of the right to own land or to claim even the very land upon which their homes and villages existed for tens and hundreds of years.

It should come as no shock, then, to learn that, while Palestinian citizens of Israel are estimated at 20 percent of the population, they live on merely 3 percent of the land, and many of them face the constant danger of being evicted and relocated elsewhere.

The story of Al-Araqeeb is witness to the never-ending Israeli desire for colonial expansion at the expense of the indigenous population of Palestine, but also of the courage and refusal to give in to fear and despair as demonstrated by the 22 families of this brave village.

In some way, Al-Araqeeb represents the story of all of Palestine and its people.

The struggle of Al-Araqeeb should evoke outrage at Israel’s constant violation of human rights and its refusal to recognize the national aspirations of the Palestinian people, but it should also induce hope that 70 years of colonial expansion cannot defeat or even weaken the will of a village, of a nation.

The Story of Charlottesville was Written in Blood in the Ukraine

Wed, 2017-08-16 17:51

What is the character of racist right-wing politics today? Is it the crazed white supremacist who plows into an anti-fascist demonstration in Charlottesville, VA or can it also be the assurance by Lindsay Graham that an attack against North Korea would result in thousands of lives lost…. but those lives will be “over there”? What about the recent unanimous resolution by both houses of Congress in support of Israel and criticism of the United Nations for its alleged anti-Israeli bias? Would that qualify as racist and right-wing, since it appears that the ongoing suffering of the Palestinians is of no concern? And what about the vote by the U.S. House of Representatives to go even beyond the obscene proposal of the Trump administration to increase the military budget by $54 billion dollars and instead add a whopping $74 billion to the Pentagon budget?

What I find interesting about the current discussion around what many are referring to as the emboldening of the radical white supremacist right is how easy it is to mobilize opposition against the crude and overt white supremacists we saw in Charlottesville. So easy, in fact, that it’s really a distraction from the more difficult and dangerous work that needs to be done to confront the real right-wing power brokers.

The white supremacy that some of us see as more insidious is not reflected in the simple, stereotypical images of the angry, Nazi-saluting alt-righter or even Donald Trump. Instead, it is the normalized and thus invisible white supremacist ideology inculcated into cultural and educational institutions and the policies that stem from those ideas. That process doesn’t just produce the storm troopers of the armed and crazed radical right but also such covert true believers as Robert Ruben from Goldman Sachs, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Tony Blair and Nancy Pelosi – “decent” individuals who have never questioned for a moment the superiority of Western civilization, who believe completely in the White West’s right and responsibility to determine which nations should have sovereignty and who should be the leaders of “lesser” nations. And who believe that there is no alternative to the wonders of global capitalism even if it means that billions of human beings are consigned permanently to what Fanon called the “zone of non-being.”

This is the white supremacy that I am concerned with. And while I recognize the danger of the violent right-wing movement, I am more concerned with the right-wing policies that are being enacted into law and policy by both Democrats and Republicans at every level of government.

More than two years ago I wrote that:

The brutal repression and dehumanization witnessed across Europe in the 1930s has not found generalized expression in the U.S. and Europe, at least not yet. Nevertheless, large sectors of the U.S. and European left appear to be unable to recognize that the U.S./NATO/EU axis that is committed to maintaining the hegemony of Western capital is resulting in dangerous collaborations with rightist forces both inside and outside of governments.

The impetus of that article was to critique the inherent danger of the Obama Administration’s cynical manipulation of right-wing elements in Ukraine to overthrow the democratically elected government of Viktor Yanukovych. Not only was it dangerous and predictably disastrous for the Ukrainian people, but because U.S. support for a neo-fascist movement in Ukraine took place within a context in which the political right was gaining legitimacy and strength across Europe, the political impact of the right gaining power in Ukraine could not be isolated from the growing power of the right elsewhere. Which meant that the Obama Admiration’s selfish, short-term objective to undermine Russia in Ukraine had the effect of empowering the right and shifting the balance of forces toward the right throughout Europe.

But because Obama was incorrectly seen as a liberal, he was able to avoid most criticism of his policies in Ukraine, in Europe and domestically. In fact, liberals and the left both in the U.S. and in Europe generally supported his Ukraine policies.

However, playing footsie with right-wing elements in the Ukraine and underestimating the growing power of the right has resulted in powerful and dangerous right-wing movements on both sides of the Atlantic who have effectively exploited endemic white racism and the contradictions of neoliberal capitalist globalization. The ascendancy of Donald Trump cannot be decontextualized from the racial, class and gender politics of this moment here and abroad.

The alt-right that showed up in Charlottesville this past weekend was mimicking the tactics of the frontline neo-fascist soldiers who orchestrated the coup in the Ukraine, yet everyone is saying this is a result of Trump. The objective fact is that the U.S. has become a dangerous right-wing society as a result of a steady shift to the right over the past four decades. The idea that Trump’s election somehow “created” the right cannot be taken seriously and cannot be reduced to the crude expressions of the alt-right.

The structures of white power, that is the structures and institutions that provide the material base for Euro-American white supremacy and its ideological reproduction, should be the focus of radical opposition. But the capitalist order and its institutions – the World Trade Organization, IMF, World Bank, and global Westernized higher education that serves as the material basis for hegemonic white supremacist power – escape critical scrutiny because popular attention is directed against a David Duke and a Donald Trump.

Trump and the alt-right have become useful diversions for white supremacist liberals and leftists who would rather fight against those superficial caricatures of racism than engage in more difficult ideological work involving real self-sacrifice – purging themselves of all racial sentimentality associated with the mythology of the place of white people, white civilization and whiteness in the world in order to pursue a course for justice that will result in the loss of white material privilege.

Looking at white supremacy from this wider-angle lens, it is clear that support for the Israeli state, war on North Korea, mass black and brown incarceration, a grotesque military budget, urban gentrification, the subversion of Venezuela, the state war on black and brown people of all genders, and the war on reproductive rights are among the many manifestations of an entrenched right-wing ideology that cannot be conveniently and opportunistically reduced to Trump and the Republicans.

And when we understand that white supremacy is not just what is in someone’s head but is also a global structure with ongoing, devastating impacts on the people of the world, we will understand better why some of us have said that in order for the world to live, the 525-year-old white supremacist Pan-European, colonial/capitalist patriarchy must die.

Your choice will be clear: Either you join us as gravediggers or you surrender to class and racial privilege and join the cross-class white united front. The alt-right is waiting, and they are taking recruits from the left who are tired of “identity politics.”

Locked and Loaded, War with North Korea Cannot be Contained but Must Be Prevented

Wed, 2017-08-16 16:02

After Donald Trump threatened the Democratic People’s Republic of [North] Korea with “fire and fury like the world has never seen,” I spoke to K.J. Noh, a peace activist and scholar on the geopolitics of the Asian continent.

Rehearsing Armageddon

Ann Garrison: North Korea is standing up to the US’s 4800 “locked and loaded” nuclear weapons with an estimated 30 to 60 of its own. Do you think it would still be standing without them?

K.J.Noh: It’s hard to imagine so.

North Korea has been in a defensive crouch since the inception of its state. It has been under risk of nuclear attack almost continuously since 1950. Starting during the Korean War (1950-1953), the use of nuclear bombs against North Korea was considered at least seven times; after the cessation of hostilities in 1953, the US refused to enter into further negotiations, letting the 90 day period to negotiate a peace treaty expire. It subsequently refused to remove troops, weapons, and not introduce new weapons systems into the peninsula, as required by the Armistice Agreement (Paragraph 13d).

Starting 1958, the US placed “Honest John” nuclear missiles, 280mm atomic canons, and nuclear cruise missiles onto the peninsula, and kept them there until 1991. Then, after the fall of the Soviet Union, ICBM’s pointed at the former Soviet Union were redirected at North Korea.

War Games conducted every year (Key Resolve-Foal Eagle and Ulchi Freedom Guardian) rehearse the attack and occupation of North Korea and decapitation of its leadership. The recent spring war games (Key Resolve-Foal Eagle) have been twice the size of the Normandy invasion, involving carrier battle group and submarine maneuvers, amphibious landings of mechanized brigades, naval blockade, live fire drills, special forces infiltration, as well as B-1B, B-2, & B-52 nuclear bombing runs. North Korea’s leadership is also well aware of the fact that Clinton’s 1997 Presidential Decision Directive 60 authorizes pre-emptive nuclear war.

Pyongyang at Korean War’s end

Let’s also not forget the fact that North Korea was literally bombed into the Stone Age during the Korean war, where between 20-30% of its population was exterminated: the country was bombed into a moonscape, scorched into ashes with Napalm, drowned by flooding, and independent reports allege the use of bioweapons. You have to go back to the Punic Wars and the sack of Carthage to imagine destruction of such scale and violence. Even General Douglas MacArthur, no stranger to bloodshed, said in his congressional testimony: “I have never seen such devastation…you are perpetuating a slaughter such as I have never heard of in the history of mankind.”

The current threats by the current president, although a little more off-the-cuff and colorful than usual, are nothing new for the North Koreans. For example, on two occasions, Colin Powell blithely threatened to turn North Korea into charcoal briquette–a chilling statement to a country that for three years had 50,000 gallons of Napalm dropped daily on it.

The North Koreans, having lived through, not merely the threat of Armageddon, but the experience of it, are highly unlikely to let go of nuclear weapons as a deterrent.

Framework of Distrust

There was once a possibility of de-nuclearizing North Korea, back in the 90’s. The North Koreans had agreed to monitoring and dismantling of their nuclear reactor, in exchange for normalization of diplomatic relations, removal of sanctions, fuel oil, and a light breeder reactor. The North Koreans fulfilled (at least the letter of) the bargain for 4 years, but the treaty (the 1994 Agreed Framework) was dead on arrival in Washington two weeks after signing, and none of the conditions were upheld by the US side. After 8 years of Waiting for Godot, the North Koreans found themselves branded as part of the “Axis of Evil”. The North Koreans read the writing on the wall, withdrew from the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, and restarted their program in 2003.

In 2005, the Chinese negotiated a deal (through the six party talks from 2003-2005) between the US and North Korea, whereby the North Koreans would again dismantle their program, and the US would normalize relations. The very day after the signing, the US branded North Korea as a currency counterfeiter and increased sanctions. North Korea withdrew from the deal, and in 2006, tested a nuclear device. The pattern of distrust is repetitious, going all the way back to the armistice of 1953, which the US announced its intention to abrogate the day after signing, to the current moment. The current situation, a nuclear armed North Korea is the result, and it’s unlikely that it can be reversed. Given their own history, not to mention the examples of Libya and Iraq, the North Koreans are unlikely to give up their deterrent, and have said so explicitly. That horse has long left the barn.

The Political Economy of Fear

AG: Does the U.S. have an issue with North Korea aside from the fact that it exists and has a few nuclear weapons?

KJN: The current system is a political economy of fear.

From a viewpoint of propaganda, it’s the recycling of the Aristotelian devices of Fear and Pity for the political theater of this current historical moment.

But it’s also the psychology of the political economy: a culture built on individualism lives always in an existential terror of isolation, and has to dominate its way out of its fear. On a national level, this becomes the bad conscience and projected (karmic) terror of a system built on genocide.

In reality, most commentators have assessed North Korea’s actual threat as the threat to defend itself in the case of attack by the US. If there is no attack on North Korea, there is little chance of an actual threat to the US. NK’s nuclear program is, as Tim Beal put it, a [suicidal] “Sampson Option, and a deterrent unlikely to be exercised except under the threat (or perceived threat) of its own annihilation.

However like Haiti, Cuba, for instance, because it poses the threat of a counterexample of resistance (to global geopolitical design), the example must be extinguished.

Imagined Resistance, Lethal Submission

By way of analogy, we can think, for example, of the policing of African American communities. The history of slavery renders the policing of African American bodies subject to a threshold of compliance and submission so immediate, so absolute, so total, that lethal force is routinely exercised at the first sign of imagined resistance, threat, or non-compliance.

US engagement in Asia, Africa, America involve a similar paranoid “threat” inflation and a similar exercise of lethal “compliance”. The Korean War itself was referred to as a “Police Action”.

It’s useful to re-examine the history in this light.

US-Korea relations go back to 1866, when the USS General Sherman forced its way up the Taedong River in Korea, attempting to force open the closed, isolationist state through gunboat diplomacy. The last dynasty of Korea, the 500 year old Chosun dynasty, was steadfastly Confucian and isolationist, and refused to trade and interact with US, European, or Japanese colonial powers, believing that these colonial powers were “totally ignorant of any human morality” and utterly alien to them, “craved only material goods”. They sent envoys entreating the Sherman to leave, and to leave Korea alone. The Sherman would not take “No” as an answer, defied entreaties to leave, took the envoys as hostages, and opened fire. It in turn was attacked and burned to the ground, and its troops killed.

Five years later, the US returned to settle scores in 1871 with a full scale marine invasion–5 warships and 24 supporting vessels, and obliterated the Korea defenders. After this, Korea (Chosun) surrendered, opened wide its borders and ports to Western trade, and a “friendship” treaty was eventually signed in 1882. Similar to the treaties that the Native American Nations signed with the US, the treaty guaranteed “perpetual peace and friendship” , “a perfect, permanent and universal peace, and a sincere and cordial amity”, and promised to “render assistance and protection”, if other powers “deal unjustly or oppressively” with it. Two decades after the signing of this mutual “friendship treaty”, the US went into secret talks with a rising, imperialist Japan, and pawned Korea over to Japan–green lighting the colonial occupation of Japan, in return for Japan’s non-interference in US colonization of the Philippines. This is the infamous “Taft-Katsura Memorandum” of 1905, which is widely viewed in South Korea as an abrogation and betrayal of the 1882 treaty.

The Japanese colonial occupation of Korea from 1910-1945 was brutal. Koreans were conscripted by the millions into slave labor, where they died in untold numbers. One out five people killed in atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were conscripted Korean slave laborers. The Japanese also kidnapped and enslaved 100’s of thousands of Korean women as military sexual slaves, euphemistically called “Comfort Women”, the world’s largest and most violent system of sexual slavery and trafficking. This became the prototype for modern transnational sexual trafficking. 75-90% of these women would die during their sexual enslavement.

Manchurian Candidates

But to understand this current moment, you have to go to Manchuria of 1930’s. Japanese-colonized Manchuria, as the puppet state of Manchukuo, is where these excesses were the worst. Historian Mark Driscoll compares Manchukuo to the Belgian Congo in terms of its wanton brutality and disregard for human life, and coins the term, “Manchurian Passage”, an Asian “Middle Passage”, to characterize the mass enslavement of Chinese and Koreans to fuel forced industrialization of Manchuria. This became the industrial engine that powered the Japanese Imperial war machine that went on to conquer and colonize all of Asia.

Three key figures are associated with Manchuria; all three are key influences on the current situation: Park Chung Hee, a Korean collaborator who served in the Japanese Imperial forces smashing anti-Japanese resistance; Kishi Nobusuke, the minister of munitions and development, and Kim Il Sung, a guerilla leader fighting the Japanese colonization. Kishi, rehabilitated by the US, later becomes Prime Minister of Japan (his grandson, the far right militarist, Shinzo Abe, is the current president of Japan); Park Chung Hee, becomes the President/dictator of South Korea (his daughter is the recently impeached quisling president of Korea); Kim Il Sung becomes the Leader of North Korea (his grandson, Kim Jung Un, is the current Leader of NK).

Fast forward to 1945, the end of the war. Japan surrenders, Korea is liberated. The liberated Koreans create their own state, the Korean People’s Republic, a democratic, populist state comprised of thousands of people’s committees who fought the Japanese colonization. Its political economy is an indigenous socialism consisting of thousands of labor and farming cooperatives. US cold war policy, cannot countenance an indigenous, grassroots socialism, especially within the possible orbit of a newly arisen China, and divides Korea into two (much like Vietnam), thwarting national elections, and creating by force a capitalist state in the south, and installing an American-friendly puppet, Syngman Rhee as dictator. It also puts Japanese collaborators back into power, along with entire structure of Japanese colonial domination back into place: police, courts, prisons, military, comfort women. The almost complete reinstallation by the US of this military colonial Capitalist system, with the same despotic bloody Japanese collaborators back in power, is the worst nightmare the Koreans can imagine. They fight back, first in mass civil resistance, which is suppressed by mass killings, then guerilla resistance, which results in scorched earth tactics. The suppression reaches genocidal, atrocity-level proportions in the South: hundreds of thousands are mowed down and murdered by the US-installed Southern dictatorship. Eventually, this crests into a full scale war in 1950.

“Closer than Lips to Teeth”

The Chinese, who fought together with the Koreans against the Japanese in Manchuria, consider the creation of the People’s Republic of China indelibly linked to the efforts of Korean fighters, a blood debt. When the US sends troops into in the Korean War, the Chinese, impoverished and weary from their own liberation struggles, send over a million volunteer troops to fight with the North Koreans–just as they had in 1592, when they sent 300,000 troops to repel an earlier Japanese invasion. “Closer than lips to teeth”, is how Chairman Mao characterizes the Korea-China relationship; he sends his own sons to fight in the Korean war; one of them is buried in Korean soil. The Chinese repel the US and South Korean Army in the early stages of the war; US reacts by a carpet bombing that takes on the character of a full-blown genocide, a military violence unseen in the annals of warfare up till then. NK is razed to the ground, “bombed into the Stone Age” and beyond, napalmed into one long fiery barbecue pit, then flooded as damns are destroyed. Mass slaughter of civilians is routine, and blamed on the North, although later studies indicates that the vast majority of civilian casualties were caused by the US or the South Korean army under US control.

In 1953, an armistice is signed, but the key provisions of the armistice are not upheld: to withdraw foreign troops, not to introduce new weapons, and to initiate proceedings to procure a lasting peace within 90 days. No peace treaty is ever signed or pursued; in fact the US announces its intention to let the clock run down on the 90 day provision, covertly introduces new arms the following year (including 166 fighter planes), then dismantles the UN Neutral Nations Inspection Team when they report on these violations. By 1968, there are 950 nuclear weapons on the peninsula threatening North Korea, and the DMZ is routinely punctuated with sporadic raids, border incidents, and firefights.

US troops still occupy South Korea to this day; all of South Korea’s Military and facilities still fall under US Operational Control the moment the US president decides (by declaring Defcon 3); nuclear weapons have been on the ground or in play since the beginning. Every entreaty on the part of the NK for negotiations for a peace treaty or a non-aggression pact has been rebuffed or conditioned to non-starter demands such as unilateral disarmament. Instead, the US conducts twice yearly, the largest military exercises on the planet and recurrently threatens NK with annihilation. Donald Trump’s “fire and fury like the world has never seen” is just the most recent.

A clear eyed assessment of the history and the situation could conclude that it would be irrational for North Korean survival if it gave up nuclear weapons. They also seem to have been using a calibrated Tit-for-Tat approach for escalation and de-escalation of threat–the only strategy to prevent war under a situation of deep distrust. However, this capacity for deterrence itself is seen as a threat from the standpoint of the US.

The Chinese Connection

AG: Syria has no nuclear weapons, but they probably wouldn’t be standing without Russia, which got some backup from China. China sent its destroyers and aircraft carriers into the Mediterranean, though I didn’t hear of them actually engaging. Do you think China and Russia can somehow defuse this?

KJN: China is enmeshed with North Korea through culture, history, geography, proximity, propinquity, consanguinity. It’s also bound to North (and South) Korea through tradition and treaty. There is the 1961 Sino-Korean Mutual Defense Treaty between China and North Korea that is still binding, and has never been disavowed: China will come to North Korea’s aid if attacked. Recent top level statements have reaffirmed and re-emphasized this; party officials who have suggested otherwise have been shown the door. In other words, a war with North Korea, will be a war with China. It’s also important to remember that Russia also shares a border with North Korea, and has interests in maintaining the current status quo.

China is currently leveraging all its diplomatic forces to deescalate the possibility of war–it would rather have a nuclear North Korea than a war or chaos on its border–although the US seems to be trying to suggest that the first will inevitably lead to the others. In 2003, China spearheaded the six-party talks which also attempted to stop a similar escalation. China has also backed the North’s “double freeze (freeze nuclear programs in exchange for freezing military exercises)”, although both Obama and Trump administrations have ignored these proposals. It has also warned the US that any attempt “to overthrow the North Korean Regime and change the political pattern of the Korean peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so.” Moreover, it will not do what the US expects it to do: force North Korea to disarm by strong arming it economically or politically. China has neither the power nor the inclination to be a subcontractor to US foreign policy; any policy that takes that as a starting point is doomed to fail; that may be the point of it for certain involved parties.

China’s goals in the region are significantly, if not diametrically opposed to the US’s. China is acutely aware that the US has been pursuing a policy of military and economic encirclement/containment, from the 90’s onward, but most overtly since 2011, when Hillary Clinton announced the “Pivot to Asia”, and an explicit war doctrine has been mapped out and elements progressively implemented vis-a-vis China. Those factions analyzing or proposing war with China have pointed out that it will be less costly to the US if this happens sooner rather than later.

At the Catastrophic Edge of the Eternal Present

AG: Is conventional warfare even imaginable in this situation?

KJN: War is always a failure of the moral imagination. In the case of Korea, it’s also a limit situation of imagination itself: it’s hard to conceive of a “limited” attack that would not spiral into something much more catastrophic: the cascading contingencies are just too complex and unpredictable; the historical trauma vortex is simply too overdetermined.

French mathematician Rene Thom developed a model of “catastrophic” change, where, for example, the axes of fear and rage, of threat of war and its cost, slide situation incrementally and discretely into an unstable, unpredictable, catastrophic attack. Threat signaling of the type we have seen is not cost-free, and will not bring about de-escalation through tit-for-tat actions, or submission, or escape, but rather pushes parties deeper into the cusp of the catastrophe, fixing an enraged “war trance”, setting the stage for unpredictable, catastrophic violence.

The last Korean War was horrific beyond imagination, which is why it has been completely forgotten and repressed in the West. For the North Koreans, it is eternally present. They live in the eternal present of that experience, which they cannot, will not, metabolize or release into memory, until a lasting peace and security is created on the peninsula. That’s why all concerned parties have to put their shoulder into negotiations for peace, otherwise the consequences will be unimaginable. Inside this current crisis, there is a small seed of opportunity: the current South Korean president, who is in favor of de-escalation with North Korea, has put forth concrete measures to initiate the process.

Peace is possible for the peninsula. There is no other choice for the world.

The One True Faith: Atomic Weapons are God’s Gift to the United States of America, Alone

Wed, 2017-08-16 14:23

Like obscene profits from great fraud or theft, “wonder weapons” of mass destruction, to which the atomic bomb certainly belongs, have their origins in the inability and unwillingness to accept the equality and dignity of one’s opponents/ competitors (never mind whether one’s cause/product is legitimate).

The ambivalence of the US position during WWII — the discrepancy which became apparent after 1945 between the stated and unstated policies — allowed and even promoted the mythic justification for US atomic bombing.

When I first moved to Germany more than thirty years ago, I was appalled at the insensitivity — to put it mildly — in US policy with the deployment of the Pershings. Placing new medium-ranged missiles in Germany at that time caused vocal opposition even among those whose anti-communist credentials (no virtue in my book, but for the “alliance” at least acceptable opposition) were undisputed. However, there was no evidence that anyone (in the US) was willing to grasp that the reply to Pershings would not be ICBMs but more probably Soviet medium-ranged delivery vehicles to Germany! The general US response was that Germany should appreciate the “protection” it was getting from the US. The fact that these missiles were a threat to Germany and the Soviet Union but not to the US was simply disregarded (as is the stationing of missiles on Russia’s borders today.)

The US has the largest gratuitous war machine on the planet. Whatever its claims, as the only belligerent in the past century’s two world wars not to suffer any destruction to its national territory (colonies aside), it can safely be said that it is the only country for whom war is exclusively business. As Smedley Butler said, war is a racket!

“Fire and Fury”: Who should be feared more? Macduff or Macbeth?

The recent threats to Korea — addressed to the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea — are ultimately “business” policies. That is why they are so difficult to challenge effectively. Mr Trump is not making statements which originate in any actual threat or the imperative of a response to such. He is driven by policy objectives that simply are not subject to open discussion let alone democratic process (like most business policy).

Bruce Cumings’ detailed study, The Origins of the Korean War, upon which I have repeatedly drawn in previous attempts to explain US regime policy not only in Asia, shows just how difficult it is to ascertain the underlying policies and interests driving US regime behavior when the war against Korea began. One is forced to infer, interpolate, extract conclusions from information the coherence and relevance of which to public policy is never openly admitted. This leaves what little potential for public — democratic — intervention seriously inhibited.

It is of little help to arrive at the legitimate system level analysis and say that it is American capitalism — a particularly virulent strain of that ideology — which drives US belligerence. This does not tell anyone how to stop particular instances of egregious violence.

One point in all this is that the US policy of non-proliferation is so obviously one directed solely at those countries not utterly allied or subservient to it. (Here it is important that the US allies perceived as “white” are allowed to have atomic bombs and delivery vehicles.) But beyond that, the NPT was also an agreement to reduce and eliminate all atomic weapons — an objective with which the US regime has never materially complied — in fact, quite the opposite. Such threats against Korea — conventional bombing capacity notwithstanding — are clearly only possible because the policy of first strike and super atomic superiority (including the enormous profits this earns for those who run the industry) have never been seriously challenged, revised or abandoned.

There is no doubt, in fact, if not in rhetoric, that the US is led by some of the most spiteful people on the planet for whom gratuitous violence is not only foreign policy, but domestic and cultural obsession. “White rage” and its attendant “lynch justice” are firmly entrenched elements of American culture, not just among the elite. Here in Portugal almost every public venue has a television screen. A friend of mine has several cable channels running in his restaurant– mostly fueled with American product. Since I do not have a television and have not had one for almost thirty years I “miss a lot”.

The TV/cable/cinema programming comprises entirely allusions to libertinism (music videos) or high tech mass violence (so-called crime drama and the endless supply of films and series with highly organised state violence, usually against people in the target countries of US policy). The worst we had when I was growing up was re-runs of WWII propaganda films, Aaron Spelling/Jack Webb Los Angeles police soaps and Hoover’s FBI propaganda. Looking back that seems all incredibly harmless.

Who produces this stuff — with the enormous support from DOD et al?

As I just argued albeit tongue in cheek, the atomic power of the President is not as easy to measure as it seems. In fact, the President — whether Truman or Trump — executes policy but does not really make it. Today no serious scholar can deny that Truman’s decision was prepared for his approval. In fact, everything was done to minimize the possibility that he would deny it. I believe we have to see Trump in the same capacity. Truman is formally responsible for the mass murder in Hiroshima and Nagasaki because the law and Constitution assign that responsibility to him and because he lacked the moral fortitude to refuse mass murder, like many before him. But he did not create the weapon or order its creation nor did he start the war in which it was used.

Donald Trump has always had an inflammatory style — even when he was only a NY real estate mogul. That is nothing new. So now he is President his style is not going to change. There is something actually comical about Trump’s appearances. Who remembers Reagan’s off the cuff “joke” about bombing the Soviet Union?1 These are not accidents. They express the contempt which all Presidents ex officio have for the targets of their atomic bombs. Who now remembers anything Georges Bush said during their respective terms in office?  Every US president has had his style of presenting the wantonly murderous capacity of the US war machine. This is also nothing new.

One has to ask two questions, one historical and the other contemporary.

Historically: It must be asked how and why under the Obama reign the largest increase in the US atomic arsenal since 1989 was performed? Mr Trump came into office with vastly more lethality because of actions taken over the previous eight years approved by his predecessor and the heiress apparent-pretender.

Contemporary: second question is really two. What and above all who is driving this policy? Who or what is their target?2

I believe that there are no countries besides the US and Israel (which are for all intents and purposes one country) that seriously contemplate first strikes with atomic weapons. I also believe that the few sane people in the policy-making venues of the US regime know this — just as George Kennan knew it when he wrote his mendacious “X” article and Dean Acheson knew it too. This leaves us with two simple non-exclusive explanations for the present situation.

Enhancing deniability and lethality

One — the atomic bomb system is a perpetual motion machine for those who own it like DuPont inter alia. There is simply too much money to be made to ever willingly stop producing these weapons that no sane person would ever employ at the strategic level. However, there has been, it would seem, enormous progress in miniaturisation of atomic weapons — including depleted uranium or enhanced radiation — opening the possibility to genuinely “micro-nuke” US competitors.

I am convinced this was already tested against China. The point is that deniable atomic attacks have been on the drawing board for at least twenty years. Hollywood not only propagates fantasy but illustrates the nascent agenda of the national security state. The US generally accuses others of doing what it is, in fact, doing (e.g. brainwashing and germ warfare). So we have been saturated with films and other stories about micronukes in various forms in the hands of criminals (the illegal half of the Business community). Everyone outside the US generally knows more about US policy than the American public and as Cumings indicated in his Korea research the PDRK knew and paid more careful attention to US policy before the US war against Korea started than any reputable people in the US itself. They were not surprised like the average American — who is hermetically isolated from unpleasant reality.

In short, Trump may simply be echoing what has been apparent in the boardrooms of the US regime for the past fifteen years:

We have approached the level of atomic weapons development where we can deliver atomic devastation in ways that only experts will be able to verify. We will be able to graduate the use of our most powerful weapons in such a way that no one will be able to justify retaliation and so this option will disappear.

This is, in fact, the continuation of the policy of limited war — which was so far successful because only those who actually fought, were wounded or died, have any testimony to the fact that the US has been at war without interruption since 1945. So there is first the huge business in atomic weapons which needs targets to justify its existence. Trump is just keeping the public aware of targets so that the business continues unabated.

On one hand there is the imperative to have atomic threats to justify atomic weapons. If the only threats to US “security” came from Serbia or Samoa, this would not be very convincing and it is part of the US system that virtual unanimity for policy must be manufactured. That is about the only way to maintain the appearance of a democracy — aside from annual introduction of a “new” formula of Coca Cola or more massive versions of the terminally mediocre Microsoft products.

On the other hand, the US business elite cannot afford all out war with anyone who has the capacity to defend themselves. (Aside from the fact that the US military is only capable of “winning” aggressive war against the defenseless, like Grenada or Panama.) Yet economic domination of the world has been the number one mission of US policy since 1945. Now China (where there are many US factories) and the alliance with Russia (which under Putin seems to have resisted the continuation of the Kissinger policy of playing China and Russia against each other) can actually challenge US dominion. So the strategic issue is again (!) how to control China but not lose the economic advantages of producing there at high profit to feed US consumers.

Two: Asymetric war — as the new jargon likes to call the GWOT — is not really about the US against little “rogue states” or “state aspirants”. It is the US doctrine of “limited war” revised to include the new generation of micro-atomic weapons. The aim of asymetric war is to wage a tactically brutal assault against a US adversary/competitor which is apparently too small to allow a response that would a) threaten the US, in fact, or b) expose the US as the aggressor. Thus any response by the target would have to be (appear to the international public as) vastly disproportionate. Thus deterrence takes the old meaning from school days. The bully hits when no one is looking and knows that the counterblow comes just when the teacher is watching.

This is the kind of blackmail that all the films from Hollywood show — not because there are some “rogue criminal elements” waiting to act — but because this is the US policy for which the public has to be prepared. Just like they were prepared for the WTC destruction. Most people I know reacted the same as I did to the first images on TV — we thought this was a scene from one of those perennial Hollywood-NY disaster films.

(In fact, it was filmed by crews in place before the event so that all the work was done like Hollywood would have done it in the studio.) We have been watching US policy in preparation for the past twenty years. But for most people — including many from whom one would expect more sense — it was only decided in January of 2017.

Does this offer any options for ending the crisis? Not immediately. It does tell us, however, that Trump is not the crisis. Moreover his removal from office will not alter a policy he did not make. Even the obvious questions like “what about Mr Pence?” are not asked. If the crazies (i.e. those who believe that Trump must go at all costs) were actually to force the dismissal or resignation of Donald Trump, they would then have Mr Pence as President. The administration would not change at all. (Ronald Reagan actually covered the first Bush presidency. Although Alexander Haig may have thought he was president for a few hours– which says more about what actually happens in the White House than anything we read in the organs of the Business Party. The Bush dynasty began in 1980 and has more or less continued to this day.)

It’s the Open Door that lets all the (F)lies in…

It should tell the sane, educated and those with some access to public opinion shaping institutions that the driving force of the atomic industry and those who finance it has grown enormously, not declined and that this industry, not the POTUS, is driving the war machine. So if there are any systemic interventions possible, they must be aimed at closing down the atomic bomb industry entirely. To do this it is necessary to honestly identify the people in that industry, its producing, financing, and beneficiary members natural and corporate. After 1945, certain corporations were dissolved in Germany on the premise that they were criminal conspiracies. Notwithstanding the deception and circumvention — this was public policy. That means there are precedents for dealing not only with natural criminals but with their corporate shells. In fact, the so-called RICO Act is US law. Imagine General Butler defined war as a “racket”. Taking this literally all enterprises engaged in the war “industry” are “racketeers” in the meaning of the act…

It should also tell those same people that there is something fundamentally wrong with the way Asian policy is made and the policies themselves. Cumings’ book Dominion from Sea to Sea comes very close to stating the problem in its historical essence and showing why it is almost impossible to counter US policy: namely, it enjoys a centuries old consensus among the elite and one manufactured for just about a century now for everyone else. There has been no change in the fundamentals driving it — of which most people are only subliminally aware. Nothing — even on the so-called Left — has been or is being done on a meaninful scale to revise the view of the United States of America as “god’s gift to humanity”. As long as the vast bulk of the US population (and certainly almost all “whites” who also think Jesus God is just like them — even if they do not believe in either) is convinced that they live in God’s country they can be forgiven for thinking like Harry Truman, that the atomic bomb was god’s gift to them.

In all this lies one very serious core problem — the US is an empire and there are no empires which have voluntarily surrendered their claims to power and expansion.

If my assertion about the state of ordnance and doctrine is correct — and I have every reason to believe it is — then Korea is reacting to knowledge and awareness of this policy by extroverted means. China, on the other hand, is responding introvertedly. They see the difficulty of confronting this enhanced deniability. They also do not want to provide more fuel to inflame the US lynching party. And behind the scenes the instruments of covert power are supporting whatever business objectives may best be served by this enhanced bellicosity.

Of course, I write “it should tell the sane…” If by that one means those who publish the leading organs of official opinion and that which is “fit to print” if in support of same, then there is not much reason to expect a sane response. In these venues it is not the policy which is in dispute but the sociability among the factions. One cannot expect any efforts to reorganize and reorient leading opinion (the rest of opinion does not matter anyway).

So currently the only limitations on US policy and action will come from abroad in the form of challenges that the regime is unable to suppress or where they are unable to prevail. There are indications that China and Russia are, in fact, capable of sustaining such challenges. The US regime may be losing its international diplomacy campaign with Trump — which will probably be the only factor in a potential dismissal. He is obviously trying to counter that with obsequity toward the centres of bureaucratic power — the CIA and the Pentagon (and those who own these two bureaucracies).

It is apparent to anyone outside the US that the regime has no alternative to imperialism — it has cannibalised its entire economy to maintain its “open door” (if necessary by means of a solid kick with a “standard issue”) empire. Even the US cannot live by marketing alone. It has been reduced more or less to its origins, a country ruled by traffickers in drugs, arms, contraband, bonded labour, and stolen goods — whose claim to trade is based on the imposition of the USD. Unfortunately this empire has simply more destructive power (and the nihilism to exercise it) than any previous empire of such longevity. So unless the US regime is disarmed by its population (now it seems pretty much the other way around), we will just have to watch the carnage continue. The Open Door will continue to let the flies in and there will be plenty of dead flesh upon which their larvae will feed.

  1. On 11 August 1984, America’s favorite President, Ronald Wilson Reagan, meanwhile the patron saint of the regime (Reagan had been a member of both major electoral machines), celebrated the atomic bombing of Japan 39 years later by suggesting it was time to bomb the Soviet Union.
  2. Since it has been argued here on numerous occasions that the CIA — as the global enforcer of the US economic elite, especially in all its trafficking activities — makes much of the regime’s foreign policy, the heightened attention given to the PDRK could be explained by what this author writes.

Addressing The Big Food/Pharma/Quackery Consortium

Wed, 2017-08-16 08:40

Dead, decaying industrial cities, teeming with illicit drugs, prostitution, and desperation.  Condemned, dilapidated factories and foreclosed, rat-infested houses, offering temporary shelter to disposable, hopeless, unwashed minions.  Back alleys where life is cheap.  Where they wouldn’t think twice about cutting your throat for a buck, and leaving your carcass for packs of hungry dogs.  A very dangerous place.

Prison yards, where hope is but a distant memory, and neither innocence nor guilt have meaning.  Where you learn to do as you’re told.  Slave to the guards and gangs.  Thrall to corporations which exploit your labor.  Unwilling bitch to a beastly cellmate, you learn to bend over and take it like a man.  Tiptoeing lightly, as if on broken glass, wishing the time would evaporate, hoping in vain for parole.  Or death.  An extremely dangerous place you’ll never want to be.

If you enjoy certain kinds of danger, you might want to emulate the recent feat of 31 year-old Alex Honnold, who made the first solo, rope-free ascent of Yosemite’s El Capitan.  A vertical 3000 foot granite face where few humans have dared to tread.  Equipped with only sticky climbing shoes and a bag of chalk, Alex completed the impossible climb in just under four hours.  The slightest misstep would have transformed him into a broken, bloody bag of bones.  But the danger he encountered pales by comparison to the most dangerous place in The United States.

They enter the clean, tiled hallways, confident of finding help with their deadly problems.  Met with friendly, smiling receptionist faces, their optimism is boosted, and hope springs anew.  They’re plagued by a plethora of diseases.  Victims of stroke, heart attack, coronary artery disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, hyperthyroidism, lupus, anemia, myasthenia gravis, kidney malfunction, eye disorders, prostate-breast-colorectal cancers, or simply uncontrollable obesity.  They come seeking a cure, but find instead, a broken system in which “cure” is the most dreaded four-letter word.  In the world of Big Medicine, there is no profit in finding cures, but handsome rewards in treatment, or preferably surgery.  The most dangerous place in The United States is your local doctor’s office.  Enter with care and a healthy dose of skepticism.

Here’s the part where 95% of my readers look elsewhere for enlightenment or entertainment.  This is the part where I proclaim loudly and confidently that, in most cases, every one of the above listed diseases, and more, could have been entirely avoided by a radical change of diet.  This is where I make the seemingly ridiculous claim that nearly all of these life threatening conditions may be reversed and eliminated by adopting an exclusively plant-based diet.  This is the place in the article where nearly everybody says bullshit, and heads out to their closest McDonald’s for a Big Mac & fries, or to Pizza Hut for a large pepperoni with extra prostate/breast cancer…I mean cheese.

These are the undisputable facts:

  1.  Exhaustive studies by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. John McDougall, and T. Colin Campbell, PhD. prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that a plant-based diet prevents most incidents of the above mentioned diseases, and…
  2. In many cases, a plant-based diet has been shown to reverse and even cure those same diseases.
  3. A four year course in medical school typically includes only 1 or 2 hour credits in nutritional studies, and (T. Colin Campbell quote) “When nutrition education is provided in relation to public health problems, guess who is supplying the ‘educational’ material?  The Dannon Institute, Egg Nutrition Board, National Cattleman’s Beef Association, Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, (and) Baxter Healthcare Corporation.”
  4. The animal food industry, healthcare for profit, and Big Pharma also fund and regulate all the research, upon which the entire medical curriculum is based.  This research includes virtually no nutritional studies.
  5. Because of the obvious, blatant conflict of interest involved in doctors being schooled in nutrition by multi-trillion dollar animal food industry, healthcare for profit chains, and pharmaceutical corporations, they put out their shingles knowing as much about nutritional health as the average toddler.
  6. Esselstyn, Ornish, McDougall, and Campbell met with brick walls within the medical establishment throughout their careers.  To question the basic accuracy of the medical/pharmaceutical status quo is not allowed.  Nor is the use of that dreaded four letter word:  cure.
  7. In 1976, Senator George McGovern and five other powerful senators from agricultural states drafted recommendations that less fatty animal foods be consumed by the public.  Their bids for reelection met with failure in 1980, thanks largely to efforts by the powerful animal foods industry.  Nobody who publicly questions the healthy goodness and necessity of meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy will be allowed to hold high office for long.

Behind the walls of the most dangerous place in The United States, your family doctor detects a bruit (murmur) in your carotid artery.  He refers you to a nearby cardiologist.  Within the equally dangerous office of the cardiologist, you are told that you have 65% blockage in your carotid.  He patiently explains to you that cardiovascular disease is irreversible, and that you should be prepared for future surgery.  He prescribes statin drugs and sends you on your way, without mentioning that statins are completely useless in 98% of cases, have horriffic side effects, and are possibly the biggest multi-billion dollar scam ever dreamed up by Big Pharma.  Visions of a catheter being shoved up into your heart dance through your head.  Lasers, stents, possibly valve replacement.  You imagine yourself face up on the operating table.  Chest sliced open, ribs ripped and spread far apart, doctors cutting, stitching, chuckling, talking about their golf handicaps.  Weeks in recovery.  Months in rehab.  The sad hand you’ve been dealt, but nothing you can do about it.  You begin putting your affairs in order, and await the grim reaper.

OR…

Behind the walls of the most dangerous place in The United States, your family doctor detects a bruit (murmur) in your carotid artery.  He refers you to a nearby cardiologist.  Within the equally dangerous office of the cardiologist you are told that you have 65% blockage in your carotid.  He patiently explains to you that cardiovascular disease is irreversible, and that you should be prepared for future surgery.  Lucky for you, between these appointments, a friend loaned you a copy of “The China Study” by T. Colin Campbell.  After reading about his research, you followed up with the studies of Doctors Esselstyn, Ornish, and McDougall.  You question the cardiologist about the possibility of coronary artery disease reversal if you adopt a plant-based diet.  He shakes his head slightly, with a condescending smile.  “The blockage in your carotid artery is there for good.  It cannot be reversed.” he insists.  You fire him on the spot, leave the most dangerous place in The United States, and immediately adopt a plant-based diet.  Six months later, you’ve lost 20 unneeded pounds, feel stronger, younger, and happier.  Cardiovascular disease is history.  It is a food-borne illness, and you’ve sent it packing.

The unholy alliance linking the Animal Food, Pharmaceutical, and Healthcare industries is the quintessential, synergistic, capitalist scam.  Self-sustaining, it resists all assaults upon its misguided dictums and principles, guarding its power fiercely on all fronts.  Identical in structure to The Military/Industrial Complex, The Big Food/Pharma/Quackery Consortium preys on innocent lives, turns blood into money, and does so with complete impunity.  Doctors shoulder little blame.  They’ve been taught a system built upon lies, and are soon hooked on the money, power, and status.  Few would think to question the status quo.  Why should they?  Anyway, I have a doctor to thank for sewing my nose back on my face after a bad car wreck a half century ago.  Occasionally they’re nice to have around.  Of course the cardiologist in the examples above is going to do everything he can to get you into surgery, split open your chest, make a few adjustments, sew you back up, and pocket a hundred thousand bucks or so.  It’s business.  Nothing personal.

The doubt out there is so thick, you could cut it with a knife.  But you’ll likely need that knife to slice tonight’s rib eye steak into bite-size pieces.  It’s a difficult task overcoming a lifetime of false nutritional information, and a huge chore to change dangerous eating habits.  Besides, you’re saying, I need to eat meat.  It’s the only way to get enough protein to maintain my strength.  Along with your rib eye, here’s a helping of food for thought:  Alex Honnold, the young man in paragraph three above, who accomplished the impossible feat of completing the first and only solo, rope-free ascent of Yosemite’s El Capitan…Alex Honnold, pound for pound, possibly the strongest, fittest man on earth, is a vegetarian.

Money Laundering in Chief: Scandal at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia

Mon, 2017-08-14 21:13

The Australian banker is a smug species, arguably more than his international peers.  Caught off guard by the financial disasters of the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Australian banking system has become an expression of a classic oligopoly, manipulating prices and squeezing customers.  Such an Australian banker is perky as well, self-assured that any inappropriate — let alone illegal — behaviour might be passed off as an effort to do better, to buck trends, to be audacious.

Over the last few weeks, AUSTRAC has had little time for that audacity.  The financial intelligence agency and regulator had picked up on suspicious transactions made through the Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s “intelligence deposit machines” numbering over 53,000 and exceeding the legal $10,000 limit.  The machines in question were part of a CBA modernisation scheme involving 40 new deposit ATMs that would permit the register of cash deposits in real time.

The bubbly language from such individuals as chief information officer, Michael Harte, has been that of frat boy enthusiasm, the optimist without limits.  “If you don’t open channels, if you don’t have rich relationship data and real-time services you cannot lead the market and you cannot change the game.”

Harte’s point has been breakneck speed, acceleration, briskness.  Transactions need immediacy.  Money should not be kept in transit, a state of costly languishing that renders the bank unattractive for the client.  “With real-time banking at the core, we have enabled instant transfer of value between parties.  We aren’t holding money for days; we know our customers don’t want this.  We know banks and others are disliked for this.”

Such enthusiasm has bucked and fronted the law.  Harte’s program has fallen foul of a conventional problem in this field: the mechanism, fashioned as such, is not necessarily conducive to the regulators.  In all likelihood, it might hold such regulation in contempt, enabling money to be given a good rinse or bolstering the financial security of designated terrorist organisations.

Not that the CBA is indifferent to playing the card of brute cynicism: having set up a system achingly attractive for abuse, it advertises the opposite with professional panache. “At CommBank we are committed to fighting money laundering and terrorism financing.” A look shot, it would seem, both ways.

True to form, the machines have been used by a range of parties not otherwise on the “approved” list.  Not that the CBA were ignorant of the fact. By admission of CBA chairwoman Catherine Livingstone, the board were first alerted to the money laundering risks posed by the intelligent deposit machines in the second half of 2015.

Various sumptuous morsels can be found in the weighty 583 page statement outlining AUSTRAC’s grievance against the CBA.  Among them are instances of one customer placing vast sums of cash through the Intelligence Deposit Machines outside the doors of the Leichardt Marketplace branch in Sydney’s inner west.

Foiled by an unusually attentive branch manager, the person in question made his dash, and deposited the rest of his proceeds at the bank’s Mascot branch. By the end of that June day in 2015, $670,420, compromising 13,000 notes or so of mostly $50 notes, had found its way into the CBA.

The daring individual behind the venture was Yeun Hong Fung, a man so enterprising he had used 29 identities to launder money derived from methamphetamine sales to Hong Kong-based accounts.  This was no mean feat for a man who had been deported three times yet able to return to Australia on 34 occasions using false passports.

Such feats were not a point of concern for CBA chief executive Ian Narev.  Things, he suggested, happened all the time. Far from it for him or members of the board to take note, let alone inform investors, of the seriousness of such financial misconduct.  “In an organisation of this size,” he said with casual contempt, “there are individual items that come to the attention of the board and management from regulators and others all the time.”

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has gotten industrious on this point, promising to investigate the bank’s celebrated modern practices, notably whether it complied with the disclosure provisions outlined in the Corporations Act.  The licensing requirements “to act efficiently, honestly and fairly” will be part of the remit.

“I want to inform the committee,” explained ASIC’s Greg Medcraft to a parliamentarian joint committee last week, “that ASIC has commenced inquiries into this matter and any consequences this matter has for the laws we administer.”

The teeth behind the investigation will come from AUSTRAC, which promises, should the evidence stack up, heavy fines.  On Monday morning, the bank shed its first appointed casualty, announcing the very mild, obvious if delayed sacrifice of Narev.

Chairman Livingstone informed the press that the “succession” plan had been brought forward, meaning that Narev would be stepping down at the end of this year.  His pay packet has also been given a decent pruning – 50 percent of it, to be precise.  Short-term bonuses for all senior executives for the 2017 financial year were also shelved.

All this is small beer, given that one of Australia’s golden institutions has found itself caught in mid-flight. In an effort to achieve Harte’s dream of speed and efficiency in moving capital, it embraced that old wisdom from the Roman Emperor Vespasian about money having no smell: pecunia non olet, as it were. 

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