Legendary political and media persona Pat Buchanan has recently published a serious lamentation about the dying state of Democracy we find ourselves in. His piece “Is Democracy a Dying Species” asks a profound and very relevant question that I will humbly try to answer for Mr. Buchanan is one of the few people in politics capable of listening to answers he may not like.
His overall line of thinking revolves around an apparent paradox within Democracy as he sees it. That in many of the most prosperous nations on Earth, whose wealth Mr. Buchanan attributes to Democracy there are large Anti-Democratic violent movements which seem to be only increasing size and number.
“Yet, one wonders: Why are these outbursts of violent protests and rioting taking place in stable, free and prosperous societies?
Chile is the most stable and wealthy country in South America. Catalonia is the most prosperous part of Spain. Paris is hardly a hellhole of repression. And Hong Kong is the freest city of China.
If the beneficiaries of freedoms and democratic rights come to regard them as insufficient to produce the political, economic and social results they demand, what does that portend for democracy’s future?”
The problem in Mr. Buchanan’s reasoning is the foundational idea that change within Democracy has at any time ever been done by the majority. Every revolution, be it towards or away from Western-Style Democracy (or for radial change within it) has been the passion project of a tiny elite majority.
The “Russian” Communists in 1916 were a small network of intellectuals sharing underground newspapers and waiting for an opportunity and when they got their chance they were able to woo the angry frustrated (by WWI) masses to their side. Besides dying with rifles in their hands to crush the Whites, few of them probably even truly knew what they were fighting for. Communism offered “land to the peasants” and that is all they needed to know. An intelligent elite started this revolution and the masses fought it.
On the Declaration of Independence, there are 56 signatures, not countless thousands. The elite of the Colonies determined it was time for a change, not the masses. After victory and the failed Articles of Confederation, the Constitution was written by a handful highly intelligent, highly ideological, powerful individuals. The masses simply had the greatest agreement in human history between man and government handed to them as an article of faith to be accepted, which they did. How many of them truly understood the concept of Liberty in the context of the Enlightenment? How many understood the debate between Hobbes and Locke? Probably none, but many died fighting as if they did.
Moving away from revolutionary change in a violent sense, it is obvious that the ability of the majority to elect officials, is a key part of Democracy, but many of the big issues that they have voted on have been put on the table due to lobbyists and activists. And these individuals represent a tiny minority of society that is highly ideologically passionate, very active and at times well funded. The toiling masses never woke up one day to demand gender neutral bathrooms, hate crime legislation or to eliminate plastic straws. Public support for these things was created by activists/lobbyists.
The real truth and one of the key reasons, why I argue that Democracy “does not exist” is that the masses do not and cannot actually reflect their will systemically. 40 million Ukrainian citizens now life in Europe’s Zimbabwe because 40,000 of them created the Maidan leading to thousands of deaths in the Donbass and the Russian language being made all but illegal which is blasphemous to Enlightenment principles. No Democratic system would allow this, but the will of the majority who are busy toiling away their lives is never counted.
As we move forward, the goals of activists will only continue to grow more and more pointless and baffling, as those who have time for activism tend to be traditionally the absolute bottom of society – angry rejects without jobs or families living on some sort of welfare. It is this type of person who has the free time necessary to conduct the ideological work needed to convince the media that they are the majority instead of the tiny but vocal minority they are. Every revolutionary group and political movement always insists that it speaks for the majority, but none of them ever actually do.
Richard Nixon had a moment of genius when he coined the phrase “silent majority” because that is exactly the way in which the working, busy, toiling, child-raising overwhelming majority behaves in society – silently, only until an organized, motivated by a tiny elite minority can rile them up to fight for their own ideological ends.
I think what Mr. Buchanan actually wants is for the majority’s voice to be heard because it is a far more traditional, conservative, pro-human worldview and I whole-heartedly share his dream. It is the factory worker and farmer in the heartland that give a nation its soul and are the source of goodness in society. The American Rugged Individual in the fly-over states and the Russian “Muzhik” far from Moscow’s MKAD highway are the backbone of the two societies in which I live, but sadly they are eternally silenced by the San Fransisco’s and Downtown Moscow’s activist freak show.
So why should Big Tech, with it’s army of lobbyists, exclusionary practices and consumer exploitation avoid reckoning?
Filippo LANCIERI, Luigi ZINGALES
Reining in Big Tech is not a conservative or liberal agenda, it’s an American agenda. A new independent academic report shows a way forward
Big Tech is on the spotlight. Hardly a week goes by without fresh news on some problems in Big Tech: from growing market power to concern over their excessive data gathering, to end with concerns on how Big Tech companies negatively impact democracy.
For example, over the past months, The American Conservative has published pieces affirming that antitrust is not the right tool to address the many Big Tech concerns; others saying antitrust is the way to go; arguing that companies such as Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon are “incubating a quiet and particularly insidious form of tyranny” that Americans should fight to maintain their freedoms; discussing problems with tech addition and the business model of digital platforms; wondering whether Reddit is purging The_Donald, a pro-Trump page; and arguing that, while pretending to be liberal, Big Tech has a troublesome history of mostly ignored sexual harassment cases.
Reading these and many other pieces in the media will make it clear that reining in Big Tech is not a conservative or liberal agenda; it’s an American agenda. America was born fighting the tea monopoly granted by the colonizers to the East India Company. It is time to gear up for a fight against an even greater threat to liberty. Anyone who loves freedom should be concerned with the ubiquitous power digital platforms such as Google and Facebook hold over our lives.
While there is bi-partisan distress about Big Tech, there is no consensus on the appropriate policy solutions to address these concerns. In fact, there is not even a widely accepted agreement on what is the ultimate source of these problems. The lack of a clear roadmap is to be expected.
First, digital platforms are complex and diverse companies, so policy initiatives require the combination of multiple disciplines. Second, the U.S. Federal Government stands out amongst advanced democracies for not having taken any formal step to promote a better understanding of the challenges raised by these companies. While the Federal Trade Commission was holding endless hearings on “Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century,” governments from the UK to Germany and Australia have already produced in-depth analyses not only on the negative impact of digital platforms, but also on the alternative ways to address them.
The same delay seems to prevail in enforcement. While the United States is just starting investigations (see the recent announcements by the DoJ, the FTC and 50 State Attorneys General), in other jurisdictions many of these cases have already been trialed.
These delays might be due to the fact that Big Tech has long been in close contact with Washington, and/or that companies such as Alphabet, Amazon, and Facebook are the second, sixth, and ninth largest spenders in corporate lobbying. Even if this were the case, however, not all hope is lost. The United States has a laudable history of a strong civil society performing many of the roles that in other countries are left to governments. In keeping up with this noble tradition, the Stigler Center at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business created an independent, multidisciplinary committee, composed of 30 academics and policy experts, to study the problems created by digital platforms.
This Stigler Center Committee on Digital Platforms spent a year studying digital platforms’ political and market power, their respect of individual privacy, and their impact on our news ecosystem. The final report and attached policy brief released a couple of weeks ago probably represent the most in-depth independent academic study of digital platforms to date. The report does not limit itself to an in-depth analysis of the current state of affairs; it also provides an array of possible solutions.
On the market power front, the Stigler Report argues that digital platforms operate in markets that tend to monopolies. In these markets, when an incumbent reaches a certain threshold market share, it naturally tends to become a monopolist—a phenomenon known as “tipping.” This means that new entrants will face prohibitively high barriers to entry if they try to displace incumbents like Google or Facebook. To make matters worse, platforms have been actively engaging in exclusion practices and have acquired hundreds of companies with almost no governmental oversight. These practices have led many venture capitalists to talk about “kill zones”—a set of industries where little new investment in innovation takes place.
In addition, the Report shows how the concept that digital platform services are “free” is largely an illusion. Consumers not only barter data and attention but, more importantly, they often end up paying the cost of the expensive advertising through higher prices for the goods and services they ultimately buy.
The harms arising from platforms’ market power are the greatest when combined with these companies’ abilities to exploit consumers’ behavioral biases. Many products are designed to be as addictive as possible, keeping us constantly “hooked” to the platforms without any considerations for our wellbeing. The problem is exacerbated by so-called “dark patterns,” which have proven to be particularly efficient ways to subvert the free choice of the most vulnerable users—poor, uneducated, and older consumers.
If all this was not enough, digital platforms have emerged as some of the most powerful political actors of our times. They spend fortunes in direct lobbying, set the agenda in a way commonly associated with media companies, are as complex to regulate as large banks, and may directly engage their user base in fighting new legislation and/or play a “China” card any time their interests are threatened. This combination of the political power of the companies and the addictive nature of their products is particularly worrisome.
We are already witnessing firsthand the many problems associated with the rise of these companies. Think of excessive data collection or the crisis in investigative journalism. The dramatic reduction in the cost of collecting, storing, and analyzing billions of bits is transforming all our devices into “digital spies.” While large datasets bring many benefits to society, we need to discuss more clearly the trade-offs to understand where they are worth it and where they are not. Most importantly, we have to discuss how this “surveillance” might impact our own freedom. As the Stigler Report makes clear, market incentives alone will not be sufficient to protect our personal privacy or ensure data security.
Another collateral damage of the rise of digital platforms is the devastation in the newspaper industry: Almost 50 percent of U.S. counties no longer have a daily newspaper. Digital platforms did not target newspapers; they were simply more efficient advertisers. Nonetheless, the growing concentration of news distribution around digital platforms will have many adverse impacts on American democracy.
First, as digital platforms increase their control over news distribution and readership, they replace thousands of viewpoints by roughly a duopoly. Second, the sole goal of digital platforms is to maximize time spent on the platform, not to provide any news content. Unfortunately, these two goals are often negatively correlated. Last but not least, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act immunizes digital platforms from all liability associated with speech, so these companies are all but encouraged to spread inflammatory or even overtly false content.
The Stigler Report proposes a wide range of policy solutions that span both sides of the political spectrum. In the Policy Brief that accompanies the report support we defend several measures, including
These are some carefully thought initial suggestions that some will consider too timid and others too radical. We welcome dissent and discussions on the pros and cons of these and other alternative solutions—a strong public debate is necessary to ensure that policy responses are not captured by the platforms. What is clear, however, is that once again monopolies are threatening the free markets and the democratic values that Americans rightfully praise. Whatever the preferred solutions are, we need to start implementing some of them now. Tomorrow might be too late.
Oh, oh, here we are again! In 1967, it was then the ‘threat’ of the standing Arab Armies (and the ensuing six-day war on Egypt and Syria); in 1980, it was Iran (and the ensuing Iraqi war on Iran); in 1996, it was David Wurmser with his Coping with Crumbling States (flowing on from the infamous Clean Break policy strategy paper) which at that time targeted secular-Arab nationalist states, excoriated both as “crumbling relics of the ‘evil’ USSR” and inherently hostile to Israel, too; and in the 2003 and 2006 wars, it was Saddam Hussein firstly; and then Hezbollah that threatened the safety of the West’s civilizational ‘outpost’ in the Middle East.
And here we are once more, Israel cannot safely ‘live’ in a region containing a militant Hezbollah.
Not surprisingly, the Russian Ambassador in Beirut, Alexander Zasypkin, quickly recognized this all too familiar pattern: Speaking with al-Akhbar on 9 October in Beirut (more than a week before the protests in Beirut erupted), the Ambassador dismissed the prospect of any easing of regional tensions; but rather identified the economic crisis that has been building for years in Lebanon as the ‘peg’ on which the US and its allies might sow chaos in Lebanon (and in Iraq’s parallel economic calamity), to strike at Hezbollah and the Hash’d A-Sha’abi — Israel’s and America’s adversaries in the region.
Why now? Because what happened to Aramco on 14 September has shocked both Israel and America: the former Commander of the Israeli Air Force wrote recently, “recent events are forcing Israel to recalculate its path as it navigates events. The technological abilities of Iran and its various proxies has reached a level at which they can now alter the balance of power around the world”. Not only could neither state identify the modus operando to the strikes (even now); but worse, neither had any answer to the technological feat the strikes plainly represented. In fact, the lack of any available ‘answer’ prompted one leading western defense analyst to suggest that Saudi should buy Russian Pantsir missiles rather than American air defenses.
And worse. For Israel, the Aramco shock arrived precisely at the moment that the US began its withdrawal of its ‘comfort security blanket’ from the region – leaving Israel (and Gulf States) on their own – and now vulnerable to technology they never expected their adversaries to possess. Israelis – and particularly its PM – though always conscious to the hypothetical possibility, never thought withdrawal actually would happen, and never during the term of the Trump Administration.
This has left Israel completely knocked, and at sixes-and sevens. It has turned strategy on its head, with the former Israeli Air Force Commander (mentioned above) speculating on Israel’s uncomfortable options – going forward – and even postulating whether Israel now needed to open a channel to Iran. This latter option, of course, would be culturally abhorrent to most Israelis. They would prefer a bold, out-of-the-blue, Israeli paradigm ‘game-changer’ (i.e. such as happened in 1967) to any outreach to Iran. This is the real danger.
It is unlikely that the stirring of protests in Lebanon and Iraq are somehow a direct response to the above: but rather, more likely, they lie with old plans (including the recently leaked strategy paper for countering Iran, presented by MbS to the White House), and with the regular strategic meetings held between Mossad and the US National Security Council, under the chairmanship of John Bolton.
Whatever the specific parentage, the ‘playbook’ is quite familiar: spark a popular ‘democratic’ dissent (based on genuine grievances); craft messaging and a press campaign that polarizes the population, and which turns their anger away from generalized discontent towards targeting specific enemies (in this case Hezbollah, President Aoun and FM Gebran Bassil (whose sympathies with Hezbollah and President Assad make him a prime target, especially as heir-apparent to the leadership of the majority of Christians). The aim – as always – is to drive a wedge between Hezbollah and the Army, and between Hezbollah and the Lebanese people.
It began when, during his meeting with President Aoun in March 2019, US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo reportedly presented an ultimatum: Contain Hezbollah or expect unprecedented consequences, including sanctions and the loss of US aid. Leaked reports suggest that Pompeo subsequently brought ally, PM Hariri into the picture of the planned disturbances when Hariri and his wife hosted Secretary Pompeo and his wife for a lunch banquet at Hariri’s ranch near Washington at the end of the Lebanese premier’s August visit to the US.
As the Lebanese demonstrations began, reports of an ‘operations room’ in Beirut managing and analyzing the protests, and of large scale funding by Gulf states proliferated; but for reasons that are not clear, the protests faltered. The Army which originally stood curiously aloof, finally engaged in clearing the streets, and returning some semblance of normality – and the Central Bank governor’s strangely alarmist forecasts of imminent financial collapse were countered by other financial experts presenting a less frightening picture.
It seems that neither in Lebanon or in Iraq will US objectives finally be achieved (i.e. Hizbullah and Hash’d A-Sha’abi emasculated). In Iraq, this may be a less certain outcome however, and the potential risks the US is running in fomenting chaos much greater, should Iraq slip into anarchy. The loss of Iraq’s 5 million barrels/day of crude would crater the market for crude – and in these economically febrile times, this might be enough to tip the global economy into recession.
But that would be ‘small beer’ compared to the risk that the US is running in tempting ‘The Fates’ over a regional war that reaches Israel.
But is there a wider message connecting these Middle East protests with those erupting across Latin America? One analyst has coined the term for this era, as an Age of Anger disgorging from “serial geysers” of discontent across the globe from Equador to Chile to Egypt. His theme is that neoliberalism is everywhere – literally – burning.
We have noted before, how the US sought to leverage the unique consequences arising from two World Wars, and the debt burden that they bequeathed, to award itself dollar hegemony, as well the truly exceptional ability to issue fiat credit across the globe at no cost to the US (the US simply ‘printed’ its fiat credit). US financial institutions could splurge credit around the world, at virtually no cost – and live off the rent which those investments returned. But ultimately that came at a price: The limitation – to being the global rentier – has become evident through disparities of wealth, and through the incremental impoverishment of the American middle classes that the concomitant off-shoring brought about. Well-paid jobs evaporated, even as America’s financialised banking balance sheet ballooned across the globe.
But there was perhaps another aspect to this present Age of Anger. It is TINA: ‘There is no alternative’. Not because of an absence of potentiality – but because alternatives were crushed. At the end of two World Wars, there was an understanding of the need for a different way-of-being; an end to the earlier era of servitude; a new society; a new social contract. But it was short-lived.
And – long story, short – that post-war longing for ‘fairness’ (whatever that meant) has been squeezed dry; ‘other politics or economics’ of whatever colour, has been derided as ‘fake news’ – and in the wake of the 2008 great financial crisis, all sorts of safety-nets were sacrificed, and private wealth ‘appropriated’ for the purpose of the re-building of bank balance sheets, preserving the integrity of debt, and for keeping interest rates low. People became ‘individuals’ – on their own – to sort out their own austerity. Is it then, that people now are feeling both impoverished materially by that austerity, and impoverished humanly by their new era servitude?
The Middle East may pass through today’s present crises (or not), but be aware that, in their despair in Latin America, the ‘there is no alternative’ meme is becoming reason for protestors ‘to burn the system down’. That is what happens when alternatives are foreclosed (albeit in the interests of preserving ‘us’ from system collapse).
It’s hard to overstate the importance of the election results last weekend in Thuringia. The complete collapse of the two centrist parties there, Angela Merkel’s CDU and the Social Democrats (SPD), is looking like a harbinger of what comes next in German politics.
A majority in Thuringia, ruled by the CDU since the early 1990’s until 2014 when Die Linke took over with the Social Democrats and the Greens, just voted against the centrist, Merkelist, grand coalition of standing for nothing but globalism and tighter EU integration.
Die Linke and Alternative for Germany (AfD) secured more than 54% of the total vote. Die Linke, the remnant of the East German Communist Party, and AfD, the new face of anti-immigration and fiscally responsible Germans, took first and second place ahead of Merkel’s CDU.
(source Wikipedia via Thüringer Landesamt für Statistik)
Whereas in 2014, Die Linke could form a government with the SPD and the Greens, today they cannot, falling 4 seats short of a majority, and the Greens barely beat the 5% threshold for representation. Had they not the coalition calculus would be unsolvable.
It is just as bad for Merkel and the CDU as they categorically refuse to ally with AfD in any capacity. So, there is no easy path to a government in Thuringia. The path is just as bad in Brandenburg which voted in September.
In both cases massive cartel-style coalitions will be needed, four parties, to cobble together a majority because all have refused to entreat with AfD. Lower Saxony will likely retain its current coalition between Merkel’s CDU, the SPD and the Greens after their election last month.
These results all highlight where things are headed in Germany, namely against making promises to everyone and eventually reneging on them, which is Merkel’s legacy. As Alexander Mercouris at The Duran pointed out the other day, Merkel’s operating principle is one of holding the line on the status quo regardless of the real changes happening around her.
That has created a meta-stable environment which looks like it never loses on the surface but is teetering on collapse with every new development.
She’s done this with every major policy decision of the past five years, trying desperately to keep the European project on the narrow path forward. But in trying to keep things as they are, she’s let things go to hell back home.
And it may finally be time for Angela Merkel to leave the political stage.
The state elections this fall in Germany have been nothing short of a disaster for Merkel. Think back to the fall of 2017 and how hard it was for her to put a coalition together. I prematurely called for the end of Merkelism. The problems she’s facing now were just as acute then. but she chose to paper them over with yet another disastrous coalition with the Social Democrats.
The one thing I got right back then was their collapse. They were in free fall then and this has continued to today where they took just 8% of the vote in Thuringia. They lost their majority in the stronghold of Rhineland-Westphalia in 2017 and that was your harbinger of bad news at the national level later that year.
What’s clear is that political opinions about the future of Germany are hardening away from what Merkel has been selling and it will come to a head in the near future.
The SPD has a party congress in December and with these election results along with the national level polling seeing the Greens rise dramatically, Merkel presides over a zombie Bundestag that no more accurately represents the popular opinion in Germany than the parliaments in Italy and the United Kingdom do.
And in the U.K. it took herculean efforts by Boris Johnson to finally get a general election through the miasma of suck that is the British and European political classes, which no more want to see a real Brexit than decent people want to see Hillary Clinton as U.S. President.
The SPD didn’t want to join another coalition with Merkel in 2017 and after Thuringia there is every expectation that they will finally end the association with her once and for all. And a general election can’t be far behind. The problem with this line of thinking, unfortunately, is that there is no appetite for new elections in Germany.
They are simply not used to this kind of political turmoil.
Moreover, no one in the Eurocratic class wants to see Merkel exit the stage in abject defeat. So, immense pressure will be placed on SPD leadership to hang with Merkel, just like it was applied to them in late 2017 to form the coalition.
But with Germany entering recession Merkel has already signaled that if she has to go back to the polls she’s ready to make a deal with the Greens with her recent concessions on renewable energy projects and more sops to them.
Current polling has the Greens, however, on the downside of their popularity, having peaked during the European elections at 25% and are now polling down at 22%. And, again, they, like AfD, are more regionally powerful than they are at the national level.
Meanwhile the SPD, nationally, is in a horse race with AfD at around 14%. The longer the SPD stays below the magic 16% level the more likely they are to sink into complete irrelevance as they have in Thuringia.
So, if the SPD pulls the plug on the coalition the results of any election in early 2020 won’t likely be any more conclusive than the last one. More likely than an election, Merkel will simply step down as leader of the CDU and the coalition will try to limp along until 2021.
But the reality is that the global financial system is teetering on the edge of an abyss. Central Banks like the Fed and the ECB are panicking into major liquidity moves before any real threats have made it into the headlines.
And why is that, unless things are truly far worse than anyone is willing to admit. How long are we until a Deutsche Bank collapse?
All we’re waiting for right now is a catalyst. The EU needs to manage their change in power smoothly to keep markets reassured. But the signs of a major problem are everywhere. All it takes is a spark.
Because all three of these state elections highlight the huge split between what were West and East Germanies during the Cold War. And that functional split in political thinking is only going to get worse until it is expressed by the ruling government.
And if Merkel continues to stand in the way of that at some point she’s going to get run over by the force of history.
Both Die Linke and AfD share important fundamental criticisms of the EU as well as with Merkel’s foreign policy. Both are backed by voters who heavily support withdrawal of U.S. troops from their country. And both are opposed broadly to Merkel’s disenfranchising voters via her mass immigration policy.
Moreover, both want normalization of relations with Russia. And with the completion of the Nordstream 2 pipeline and Ukraine’s acceptance of the “Steinmeyer Formula” for resolving conflict in the Donbass, political pressure is mounting for an end to EU sanctions as Merkel has been the person most committed to keeping them until these conditions were met.
To save herself in the near term look for her to promise lifting the sanctions to stave off her final demise. The stage is now set for this sometime in 2020.
And while we’ll never see the kind of Euroskeptic alliance between AfD and Die Linke like we saw in Italy last year, as economic conditions in Germany deteriorate and Merkel is blamed for it, rightfully so, these areas of policy agreement set the stage for a ripping apart at the seams of the German political fabric.
Counting on foreign aid to reduce corruption is like expecting whiskey to cure alcoholism. After closed House of Representatives impeachment hearings heard testimony on President Trump’s role in delaying U.S. aid to Ukraine, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer declared:
“Numbers don’t lie. It’s even more clear now that President Trump is not the anti-corruption crusader he claims to be.”
Most of the press coverage has tacitly assumed that American assistance is vital to fighting corruption in Ukraine. But that ignores foreign aid’s toxic record and Ukraine’s post-Soviet history.
A 2002 American Economic Review analysis concluded that “increases in [foreign] aid are associated with contemporaneous increases in corruption,” and that “corruption is positively correlated with aid received from the United States.”
That was the year President George W. Bush launched a new foreign aid program, the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA). Bush declared, “I think it makes no sense to give aid, money, to countries that are corrupt.” But the Bush administration continued delivering billions of dollars in handouts to many of the world’s most corrupt regimes. By 2004, the State Department had codified what amounted to backtracking: “The MCA is an incentive-based supplement to other U.S. aid programs.” The Bush team found excuses to give MCA aid to some of the world’s most corrupt governments as well, including Georgia.
In 2010, President Barack Obama proclaimed at the United Nations that America was “leading a global effort to combat corruption.” Obama’s “aides said the United States in the past has often seemed to just throw money at problems,” the Los Angeles Times reported. But the reform charade was exposed the following year when the Obama administration fiercely resisted congressional efforts to curb wasteful aid. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that restricting handouts to nations that fail anti-corruption tests “has the potential to affect a staggering number of needy aid recipients.”
The Obama administration continued pouring tens of billions of American tax dollars into sinkholes such as Afghanistan, which even its president, Ashraf Ghani, admitted in 2016 was “one of the most corrupt countries on earth.” And the deluge of aid the Afghan government received only worsened the corruption. As John Sopko, the heroic Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR), observed, “We need to understand how US policies and practices unintentionally aided and abetted corruption. We must recognize the danger of dealing with characters or networks of unsavory repute, tolerating contracting abuses, accepting shoddy performance and delivering unsustainable projects.”
The closed House impeachment hearings last week heard from acting U.S. ambassador to the Ukraine William B. Taylor Jr., who testified that he “had authority over the bulk of the U.S. effort to support Ukraine against the Russian invasion and to help it defeat corruption.” The Washington Post lauded Taylor as someone who “spent much of the 1990s telling Ukrainian politicians that nothing was more critical to their long-term prosperity than rooting out corruption and bolstering the rule of law, in his role as the head of U.S. development assistance for post-Soviet countries.”
Transparency International, which publishes an annual Corruption Perceptions Index, shows that corruption surged in Ukraine during the late 1990s and remains at obscene levels (though recent years have shown slight improvements). Taylor was ambassador to Ukraine from 2006 to 2009, when corruption sharply worsened despite hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. aid. Ukraine is now ranked as the 120th least corrupt nation in the world—lower than Egypt and Pakistan, two other major U.S. aid recipients. What Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder is to the NFL, Taylor appears to be to the anti-corruption cause.
Bribing foreign politicians to encourage honest government makes as much sense as distributing free condoms to encourage abstinence. Rather than encouraging good governance practices, foreign aid is more likely to produce kleptocracies, or governments of thieves. As a Brookings Institution analysis observed, “The history of U.S. assistance is littered with tales of corrupt foreign officials using aid to line their own pockets, support military buildups, and pursue vanity projects.” And both American politicians and bureaucrats are want to continue the aid gravy train, regardless of how foreign regimes waste the money or use it to repress their own citizens.
If U.S. aid was effective, Ukraine would have become a rule of law paradise long ago. The country’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, may be sincere in his efforts to root out corruption. But it is an insult to both him and his nation to pretend that Ukraine cannot clean up its act without help from Donald Trump. The surest way to reduce foreign corruption is to end foreign aid.
As the political temperature in Washington rapidly rises to unprecedented boiling levels, when accusations of attempted coup and state treason are exchanged between the president and the speaker of the House, what’s the danger of spillover into the foreign policy arena?
Nowadays Russia is the perfect scapegoat when practically any domestic or world problem can be blamed on President Vladimir Putin. The latest example is provided by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who detected his long hand in what she claims is an impeachable crime, meaning a telephone exchange between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Not to be outdone, former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton — “the queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long” — blew up the cover of Iraq war veteran Rep. Tulsi Gabbard whom Mr. Putin has “successfully implanted” in Congress.
Some “Deep Staters” are obviously not very happy that the Russiagate plot is slowly sinking into oblivion and freeing space for Ukrainegate or Bidengate. This is not good and must be corrected ASAP to reverse the process, return Russia to the crime scene spotlight, and uncover new evidence of the Trump-Putin “comrades in arms” alliance.
There’s a wide choice of angles, from recycling the old sins to the anticipated meddling in 2020 elections, the California power grid failure, the Turkish invasion in Syria or fresh Barcelona riots in Spain.
A renewed and reinvigorated anti-Russia campaign might especially benefit Democrats by redirecting the public and media attention from the upcoming and potentially devastating for them results of the Attorney General William Barr, Department of Justice Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz, and U.S. Attorney for Connecticut John Durham “investigation into the investigators.”
All this makes some people in the know worry that we are getting closer and closer to an extremely dangerous point.
In his recent book “The Russia Trap: How Our Shadow War with Russia Could Spiral into Nuclear Catastrophe,” George Beebe, the former head of Russia analysis at the CIA, states that the actual threat of nuclear war is much greater than we realize: “Diplomacy and a desire for global peace have given way to complacency and a false sense of security that nuclear escalation is outside the realm of possibility.”
The list of well-known and respectable experts who share this opinion is constantly growing, but there is no sign that Washington is getting ready to resume any dialogue with Moscow.
One unexpected but pleasant surprise was a Wall Street Journal article by recently retired U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman, who said that “we need more, not less, dialogue with Russia.” Mr. Huntsman now may be in danger of getting onto the swamp’s list of Putin bootlickers for noting that “In the U.S. sanctions have become our go-to foreign policy tool” and “while it is easy to initiate sanctions it has become politically perilous to discuss removing them. … blithely implementing sanctions without making sure they fit into a larger strategy of engagement costs us the ability to shape outcomes.”
It was refreshing to hear this from Mr. Huntsman after his previous statement on the American aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln traveling through the Mediterranean. At that time, the ambassador declared the carrier to “represent 100,000 tons of international diplomacy,” saying it demonstrates to Russia that they have to change their activities around the world to come into line with U.S. expectations.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov immediately responded saying that he hopes the U.S. will realize that they’ve failed to find normal, constructive dialogue options with partners instead of relying on “megaphone diplomacy.”
On another occasion Mr. Huntsman declared that “The real secret of diplomats is that we are trained to say something when we have nothing to say and say nothing when we have something to say.”
Well, so much for dialogue but hopefully after reading Mr. Huntsman’s newest op-ed Moscow will forget his previous escapades and welcomes his newly open-minded position.
President Trump keeps repeating the same line over and over again about importance for U.S. national security to get along with Russia. But the only thing that his detractors on both sides of the isle agree is that this is out of question.
At the same time, the latest Gallup congressional approval rating is 18% with 78% disapproval. What does it say about American democracy when the body that has lost its trust with the people prevents the president to make decisions about war and peace?
Of course this sad state of affairs can be also blamed on Mr. Putin since according to Congress and the media it is he who hijacked our democracy in 2016. One wonders how much democracy there really was left at this point to hijack.
With Putin’s political maneuvers and the US falling back the political landscape of the Middle East is changing and China wants to take advantage of a more stable Arab World. As soon as Middle-Eastern stability appears, the Chinese dragon pounces on it.
A gun is usually acknowledged to be a weapon from which a bullet is fired, and a ‘smoking gun’ is literally one from which a bullet has emerged, causing a puff of smoke to appear at the end of the barrel. On the other hand, a smoking gun is frequently defined as “a piece of incontrovertible incriminating evidence”, and there are countless smoking guns in the United States right now: some in politics, but many in literal circumstances in which people have been killed. We are told that “as of September 24, 2019, 334 mass shootings have occurred in 2019… In these shootings, 1,347 people were injured and 377 died.” In almost every other country in the world, this would be regarded as a massive social problem that required decisive action, such as that taken so swiftly by New Zealand after a horrific gun attack by a terrorist in March 2019.
But not in America, where concentration is on political smoking guns, and the attention given to mass killings is bizarrely dismissive.
One of the latest smoking gun reports concerns the ongoing Trump impeachment inquiry, in which evidence is mounting that he tried to persuade the Ukrainian government to investigate his political rival, former vice-president Biden. The Economist reported that “On October 22nd America’s top diplomat in Ukraine, William Taylor, testified to House investigators that President Donald Trump threatened to withhold $391 million in military aid unless Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Ukraine’s president, opened an investigation into the son of Joe Biden, one of Mr Trump’s potential rivals in next year’s election. It was the clearest and most detailed account to date—from a public servant whose career spans five decades and nine administrations—of Mr Trump leaning on a foreign leader to help his re-election effort.” This was followed by similar statements from several other trustworthy individuals who even in the era of Trump were surprised at the squalid deceit they had witnessed.
Killing, however, was not confined to the US, and it was reported on 10 October that in Germany “A gunman in military outfit went on a rampage in the city of Halle, killing two people, with further bloodshed averted only because the attacker’s homemade firearms malfunctioned” Footage on a livestreaming platform showed the gunman becoming increasingly frustrated as his weapons repeatedly malfunctioned. “In at least three instances the video shows the suspect pointing a gun directly at a victim only for the weapon to jam.”
At the end of his shooting frenzy he is heard saying “At least I’ve proved homemade weapons are useless” and later it was reported that the accused assailant was Stephan Balliet, aged 27, who “spent several hours giving evidence before a federal court judge.”
We are informed by German Culture that “The German system of gun control is among the most stringent in Europe. It restricts the acquisition, possession, and carrying of firearms to those with a creditable need for a weapon. It bans fully automatic weapons and severely restricts the acquisition of other types of weapons.”
On the other hand, in the United States of America any individual may own a personal weapon, as confirmed by the Supreme Court District of Columbia v. Heller decision of 2008, and soundly endorsed by President Trump in a speech to the National Rifle Association in 2017 when he declared “let me make a simple promise to every one of the freedom-loving Americans in the audience today: as your President, I will never, ever infringe on the right of the people to keep and bear arms — never, ever. Freedom is not a gift from government. Freedom is a gift from God.” Like the votes of the NRA’s gun-loving fanatics.
But there would have been a very different outcome to the Halle shooting onslaught if all Germans had the right to keep and bear arms, and if there had been the gift of freedom for Stephan Balliet to go to a supermarket where they are for sale to all.
In a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, on August 3, 2019, 21 year-old Patrick Crusius shot dead 22 people with an assault rifle. Two of the 25 injured were still in hospital when he appeared in court on October 10. A month after the shooting, as reported by CNN, Walmart “said it will stop selling handgun ammunition and ‘short-barrel rifle ammunition,’ such as the .223 calibre and 5.56 calibre, that can also be used on assault-style weapons, after selling all of its current inventory [emphasis added]. Walmart will continue to sell long barrel deer rifles and shotguns and much of the ammunition for those guns. The company sells guns in about 3,900 stores.”
Walmart’s modest anti-slaughter actions after the El Paso killings prompted the National Rifle Association to berate the company and announce on September 3 that “The strongest defence of freedom has always been our free-market economy. It is shameful to see Walmart succumb to the pressure of the anti-gun elites. Lines at Walmart will soon be replaced by lines at other retailers who are more supportive of America’s fundamental freedoms. The truth is Walmart’s actions today will not make us any safer. Rather than place the blame on the criminal, Walmart has chosen to victimize law-abiding Americans. Our leaders must be willing to approach the problems of crime, violence and mental health with sincerity and honesty.”
It is difficult to imagine the mental processes of whoever wrote that demented gibberish, and their lack of balance is placed in perspective by the New York Times’ report that it “examined all shootings between Memorial Day [27 May] and Labor Day [2 September] in which three or more people died, not including the gunman” and counted 26 mass gun attacks in which 126 people were killed. The National Rifle Association cannot explain how these hideous atrocities could possibly demonstrate “fundamental freedoms” but it seems it doesn’t need to explain anything very much in order to maintain its influence over the American people, because it has the backing of countless politicians including Trump, who spoke with Wayne LaPierre, the chief executive of the National Rifle Association (annual salary $985,000), for half-an-hour on August 20.
Then on September 27 Mr La Pierre visited the White House where he and Trump “discussed prospective gun legislation and whether the NRA could provide support for the president as he faces impeachment and a more difficult re-election campaign.” It is notable that so far in the 2020 presidential election cycle the NRA has donated $16,800 to Trump and over a quarter of a million dollars to other politicians and political agencies.
The moral smoking gun in America is the repulsive behaviour of the National Rifle Association, an organisation whose reaction to the real smoking guns that kill US citizens in horrific and ever-increasing numbers is to denigrate those who seek to control and reduce the slaughter. They are the traitors to true American values, as was demonstrated by Trump’s tweet tirade about Beto O’Rourke, a politician supporting gun control who withdrew from the list of those seeking the democratic nomination to face Trump in the 2020 election. Mr O’Rourke’s home town is El Paso, scene of the August Walmart slaughter, and he had proposed the buyback of assault rifles, which prompted ferocious criticism from the gun fanatics. He wants to “end the epidemic of gun violence” but Trump called him ‘pathetic’, ‘nasty’ and a ‘poor bastard’.
The guns will continue to smoke in America, and it must be hoped that the political ones directed against President Trump will assist in his removal before there are even more mass murders of innocent people by assault weapons endorsed by the National Rifle Association.
…and just as I am completing this piece, the Washington Post reports that “Five people were killed and several others were injured after gunfire erupted at a Halloween party in Orinda, California”. Freedom, anybody?
Legendary founder of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, Lew Rockwell, delivers a fascinating and very important talk at the 2019 RPI Washington Conference.
Bolivia has recently had a presidential election that without foreign interference would have passed without notice outside Latin America. President Evo Morales was re-elected democratically to a forth term without the need of a run-off election with incumbent Carlos Mesa, which shows his strength as the chosen candidate. However, nine days after the elections the Foreign Ministry of the Canadian government issues a statement expressing “concern” about “reports of serious election irregularities.”
We are used to expecting that kind of political position towards a popular left-leaning government from the US, which in fact has not recognised the Morales elections yet. But why is Canada so adamant in questioning the Bolivian election in the face of weak evidence of so-called irregularities?
To start, it is important to establish that US and Canada’s involvement in the region is very well coordinated. In 2017 Ottawa and Washington formed an association that “called on [the two governments] to take economic measures against Venezuela.” The focus on Venezuela should not hide the reality of the mandate, which is to produce a regime change wherever leftist governments are present, albeit Venezuela is at the top of the list. This is an association based on common ideology to be carried out with a division of tactical labour: Canada uses its “soft power” while the US hits with its brute financial force.
For instance, while the US government is punishing Venezuela with a severe economic and financial blockade, Canada’s “job” has been instrumental in subverting the progressive support base in the region to the extent of even breaking the strong Cuba-Venezuela friendship. Canada has become the self-appointed “leader” within the OAS, an organisation that gathers mostly Latin American and Caribbean countries; only Canada and the US are not from those geographical areas.
Under the direction of Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland from 2017, Canadian foreign policy seems to have taken an overt pro-corporation approach with a strong pro-neoliberal ideology. She came to that office from being Minister of International Trade where she would have heard many “complains” of lost business in Venezuela from Canadian mining corporations, which are nevertheless questioned in some cases.
With that background and reputation she helped create the so-called Lima Group of a dozen mostly Latin American rightwing governments some of which have appalling records of human rights violations and of breaking the institutional order (Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras and Paraguay among others).
Therefore Canada is a willing partner of US sponsored Color Revolutions that are taking place in Latin America by omission or by commission.
While the ongoing recent unrest that we observe in Ecuador, Chile and Bolivia manifest the same sentiments of rebellion and indeed desire for regime change, not all Revolutions are created equal. Ecuador and Chile have rightwing conservative neoliberal governments, the kind that are supported by the Canadian regime, unlike Bolivia.
It is imperative to pay attention to the political alignment and interests of the major geopolitical players to be able to discern, more that the methods, the goal of the intended change. Canada, which has been called The Empire’s Shadowy Cousin, has decidedly engaged in delegitimising the Nicolas Maduro government in Venezuela because as we previously reported Canada is bound to gain a large “prize” in mining resources if it manages to oust Maduro.
In the case of Bolivia the main trade interest also seems to be in mining. In 2017 Canadian imports totaled $274.35 million (mainly in mineral ores, metals and precious stones and vegetables). But this has to be weighed vis-a-vis Bolivia’s claim on “Sovereignty over natural resources” as one of its pillars established in the Economic and Social Development Plan 2016-2020, which states, “The strategic sectors of hydrocarbons and mining are the cornerstones of the Plurinational State of Bolivia economy as a result of the nationalization process and because of the role of the State in the administration of these strategic resources owned by the Bolivian people.” To the ears of neoliberal politicians this must sound like outright socialism.
In conclusion, the claim of election “irregularities” may just be Canada’s public (readily unverifiable) excuse for more political interests. In fact, at the time of writing the OAS has accepted an invitation by the Morales government to audit the election results. If there should be any proven irregularity a second round of vote is proposed. The findings should be binding by both sides. However the political damage has already been done because the opposition has declared that will only accept a new election.
What has been a crass irregularity and interference is the public statement by the OAS Mission of election observers that overstepped its mandate by issuing “preliminary conclusions” calling for a second round before the vote count was completed.
It is important to recognise that Canadian involvement in the region has a dangerous and questionable implication as suggested by its actions in Bolivia’s elections.
The application of sanctions or public statements, propagating unwarranted false or misleading information with the sole intention of countering the resurgence of countries’ chosen socialist governments that are opposed to neoliberal austerity policies in Latin America, is a provocation against the sovereignty of those countries and their established social order. This is clearly the case towards Venezuela, and Canada is now attempting to include Bolivia by using similar language in casting “doubt over the legitimacy of the [electoral] results.”
While world’s attention is absorbed by tectonic shifts unfolding across the Middle East, and as many Americans are brainwashed to believe the 2020 elections are driven by the need to impeach President Trump, something very ominous has appeared “off of the radar” of most onlookers. This something is a financial collapse of the western banks that threatens to unleash chaos upon the world.
In my last report, I discussed why the current financial system is on the verge of a 1923-Weimar style hyperinflation driven by Federal Reserve bailouts trying desperately to support a deleveraging of the $1200 trillion derivatives bubble that has taken over the western banking system. I also discussed the Bank of England-led “solution” currently to this crisis involves a new global “green” digital currency with new “rules” which are very similar to the 1923 Bank of England “solution” to Germany’s economic chaos which eventually required a fascist governance mechanism to impose it onto the masses.
In this article, I wish to take a deeper look at the causes and effects of Weimar Germany’s completely un-necessary collapse into hyperinflation and chaos during the period of 1919-1923.
Versailles and the Destruction of Germany
Britain had been the leading hand behind the orchestration of WWI and the destruction of the potential German-Russian-American-Ottoman alliance that had begun to take form by the late 19th century as foolish Kaiser Wilhelm discovered (though sadly too late) when he said: “the world will be engulfed in the most terrible of wars, the ultimate aim of which is the ruin of Germany. England, France and Russia have conspired for our annihilation… that is the naked truth of the situation which was slowly but surely created by Edward VII”.
Just as the British oligarchy managed the war, so too did they organize the reparations conference in France which, among other things, imposed impossible debt repayments upon a defeated Germany and created the League of Nations which was meant to become the instrument for a “post-nation state world order”. Lloyd George led the British delegation alongside his assistant Philip Kerr (Lord Lothian), Leo Amery, Lord Robert Cecil and Lord John Maynard Keynes who have a long term agenda to bring about a global dictatorship. All of these figures were members of the newly emerging Round Table Movement, that had taken full control of Britain by ousting Asquith in 1916, and which is at the heart of today’s “deep state”.
After the 1918 Armistice dismantled Germany’s army and navy, the once powerful nation was now forced to pay the impossible sum of 132 billion gold marks to the victors and had to give up territories representing 10% of its population (Alsace-Loraine, Ruhr, and North Silesia) which made up 15% of its arable land, 12% of its livestock, 74% of its iron ore, 63% of its zinc production, and 26% of its coal. Germany also had to give up 8000 locomotives, 225 000 railcars and all of its colonies. It was a field day of modern pillage.
Germany was left with very few options. Taxes were increased and imports were cut entirely while exports were increased. This policy (reminiscent of the IMF austerity techniques in use today) failed entirely as both fell 60%. Germany gave up half of its gold supply and still barely a dent was made in the debt payments. By June 1920 the decision was made to begin a new strategy: increase the printing press. Rather than the “miracle cure” which desperate monetarists foolishly believed it would be, this solution resulted in an asymptotic devaluation of the currency into hyperinflation. From June 2020 to October 1923 the money supply in circulation skyrocketed from 68.1 gold marks to 496.6 quintillion gold marks. In June 1922, 300 marks exchanged $1 US and in November 1923, it took 42 trillion marks to get $1 US! Images are still available of Germans pushing wheel barrows of cash down the street, just to buy a stick of butter and bread (1Kg of Bread sold for $428 billion marks in 1923).
With the currency’s loss of value, industrial output fell by 50%, unemployment rose to over 30% and food intake collapsed by over half of pre-war levels. German director Fritz Lang’s 1922 film Dr. Mabuse (The Gambler) exposed the insanity of German population’s collapse into speculative insanity as those who had the means began betting against the German mark in order to protect themselves thus only helping to collapse the mark from within. This is very reminiscent of those Americans today short selling the US dollar rather than fighting for a systemic solution.
1923: City of London’s Solution is imposed
When the hyperinflationary blowout of Germany resulted in total un-governability of the state, a solution took the form of the Wall Street authored “Dawes Plan” which necessitated the use of a London-trained golem by the name of Hjalmar Schacht. First introduced as Currency Commissioner in November 1923 and soon President of the Reichsbank, Schacht’s first act was to visit Bank of England’s governor Montagu Norman in London who provided Schacht a blueprint for proceeding with Germany’s restructuring. Schacht returned to “solve” the crisis with the very same poison that caused it.
First announcing a new currency called the “rentenmark” set on a fixed value exchanging 1 trillion reichsmarks for 1 new rentenmark, Germans were robbed yet again. This new currency would operate under “new rules” never before seen in Germany’s history: Mass privatizations resulted in Anglo-American conglomerates purchasing state enterprises. IG Farben, Thyssen, Union Banking, Brown Brothers Harriman, Standard Oil, JP Morgan and Union Banking took control Germany’s finances, mining and industrial interests under the supervision of John Foster Dulles, Montagu Norman, Averill Harriman and other deep state actors. This was famously exposed in the 1961 film Judgement at Nuremburg by Stanley Kramer.
Schacht next cut credit to industries, raised taxes and imposed mass austerity on “useless spending”. 390 000 civil servants were fired, unions and collective bargaining was destroyed and wages were slashed by 15%.
As one can imagine, this destruction of life after the hell of Versailles was intolerable and civil unrest began to boil over in ways that even the powerful London-Wall Street bankers (and their mercenaries) couldn’t control. An enforcer was needed unhindered by the republic’s democratic institutions to force Schacht’s economics onto the people. An up-and-coming rabble rousing failed painter who had made waves in a Beerhall Putsch on November 8, 1923 was perfect.
One Last Attempt to Save Germany
Though Hitler grew in power over the coming decade of Schachtian economics, one last republican effort was made to prevent Germany from plunging into a fascist hell in the form of the November 1932 election victory of General Kurt von Schleicher as Chancellor of Germany. Schleicher had been a co-architect of Rapallo alongside Rathenau a decade earlier and was a strong proponent of the Friedrich List Society’s program of public works and internal improvements promoted by industrialist Wilhelm Lautenbach. The Nazi party’s public support collapsed and it found itself bankrupt. Hitler had fallen into depression and was even contemplating suicide when “a legal coup” was unleashed by the Anglo-American elite resulting in Wall Street funds pouring into Nazi coffers.
By January 30, 1933 Hitler gained Chancellorship where he quickly took dictatorial powers under the “state of emergency” caused by the burning of the Reichstag in March 1933. By 1934 the Night of the Long Knives saw General Schleicher and hundreds of other German patriots assassinated and it was only a few years until the City of London-Wall Street Frankenstein monster stormed across the world.
The New Silk Road or New World Order
Today’s world sits atop a bubble of unimagined proportions which began to blow in 2008 and has been kept afloat by nothing more than a decade of blind hope mixed with money printing, zero interest rates, speculation and austerity. The PHYSICAL economic basis supporting the money system has been crippled due to 40 years of post-industrial consumerism rampant across the west. While it is admitted that the U.S dollar cannot remain the reserve currency for the world as it has from 1945-present, those same central banking forces from London have admitted that if their plans for a “one-world” green digital currency is not forced onto nations, then China’s Yuan and the New Silk Road will shape the new system.
Whether London will manage to succeed in 2020 pushing a fascist de-carbonization (ie: depopulation) scheme onto the world where their 1920 Monster failed remains to be seen.
The author can be reached at email@example.com
Argentina is in trouble again. Even after a substantial aid package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), it is struggling to service its sovereign debt. One should not be surprised: when you keep employing the same policies, you are likely to end up with similar outcomes. This, however, is not the lesson Harvard economist Ken Rogoff draws from Argentina’s experience. Instead, he calls for even more aid flows to Argentina.
Rogoff is right to criticize President Macri’s decision to cut the fiscal deficit gradually, rather than attacking the issue more forcefully early on. That strategy ultimately required Macri to seek help from the IMF. But he is wrong to characterize the Macri tax cuts and liberalization efforts as “Big Bang reforms.” The tax cut was marginal at best. And, while capital controls were lifted under Macri, more comprehensive measures of economic freedom show no significant improvements.
Getting the story straight is important. If Macri is a great economic reformer, as Rogoff suggests, it calls into question the standard view that countries facing a sovereign debt crisis should engage in structural reforms (cutting marginal tax rates, liberalizing labor and financial markets, etc.). “Argentina tried structural reforms,” some will say, “and those reforms did not work.”
Moreover, since structural reforms cause political instability, the argument goes, they might make matters even worse.
If, instead, the Macri reforms are seen as they were — a slow, inadequate response to a huge, pressing problem — then one need not call on the IMF to provide even more aid to those countries struggling to service their sovereign debt. Indeed, aid from the IMF and other organizations might even make matters worse by shielding policy makers from the consequences of their policies.
Rogoff’s case for more aid would be stronger if Argentina’s problems were temporary. An unexpected emergency can be handled with emergency funding. But the problem in Argentina is not temporary. It is structural. Argentina must deal with its chronic budget deficits. Additional funds enable the profligate spending and inadequate taxation to continue. It doesn’t solve the problem. It perpetuates it, requiring even-more-painful structural reforms in the future.
The IMF may be reluctant to dictate domestic policy. Yet, as Rogoff explains, the IMF does not give out (free) grants, but loans. And, as such, its loans can be issued conditionally on required structural-reform requirements. It might require specific fiscal or market liberalization reforms.
Or, it might require an increase by so many points on a given index (e.g., Economic Freedom of the World, Doing Business report, labor-rigidity index, Global Competitiveness Report) and allow domestic policy makers to decide how best to achieve those results. In either case, however, it would be recognizing that the reforms — and not the short-term funding — are what is ultimately required. And governments failing to make those reforms would bear the costs.
On October 30th, there was a panel discussion broadcast live on C-Span from the National Press Club and the Michael V. Hayden Center. The discussants were John Brennan, Michael McCabe, John McGlaughlin, and Michael Morrell. They all agreed with the statement by McLaughlin (former Deputy CIA Director) “Thank God for the ‘Deep State’”, and the large audience there also applauded it — nobody booed it. John Brennan amplified upon the thought, and there was yet more applause. However, that thought hadn’t been invented by McLaughlin; it instead had evolved recently in the pages of the New York Times. Perhaps the discussants had read it there. Instead of America’s ‘news’-media uncritically trumpeting what government officials assert to be facts (as they traditionally do), we now have former spooks uncritically trumpeting what a mainstream ‘news’-medium has recently concocted to be the case — about themselves. They’ve come out of the closet, about being the Deep State. However, even in that, they are lying, because they aren’t it; they are only agents for it.
In America, the Deep State ‘justifies’ itself in the ‘news’-media that it owns, and does so by falsely ‘defining’ what the “Deep State” is (which is actually the nation’s 607 billionaires, whose hired agents number in the millions). They mis-‘define’ it, as being, instead, the taxpayer-salaried career Government employees, known professionally as “the Civil Service.” (Although some Civil Servants — especially at the upper levels — are agents for America’s billionaires and retire to cushy board seats, most of them actually are not and do not. And the “revolving door” between “the public sector” and “the private sector” is where the Deep State operations become concentrated. That’s the core of the networking, by which the billionaires get served. And, of course, those former spooks at the National Press Club said nothing about it. Are they authentically so stupid that they don’t know about it, or is that just pretense from them?)
How the Deep State’s operatives perpetrate this deception about the meaning of “Deep State” was well exemplified in the nine links that were supplied on October 28th by the extraordinarily honest anonymous German intelligence analyst who blogs as “Moon of Alabama” and who condemned there (and linked to) 9 recent articles in the New York Times, as posing a threat against democracy in America. As I intend to argue here, the 9 articles are, indeed, aimed at deceiving the American public, about what the true meaning of the phrase “the Deep State” is. He headlined “Endorsing The Deep State Endangers Democracy”. (And that’s what the October 30th panel discussion was actually doing — endorsing the Deep State.) However, he didn’t explain the tactic the NYT’s editors (and those former spooks) use to deceive the public about the Deep State, and this is what I aim to do here, by showing the transformation, over time, in the way that that propaganda-organization, the New York Times, has been employing the phrase “Deep State” — a remarkable transformation, which started, on 16 February 2017, by the newspaper’s denying that any Deep State exists in America but that it exists only in corrupt nations; and which gradually transitioned into an upside-down, by asserting that a Deep State does exist in the United States, and that it fights against corruption in this country. As always, only fools (such as that applauding audience on October 30th) would believe it, but propagandists depend upon fools and cannot thrive without them. In this case, the Times, in those 9 articles, was evolving quickly from a blanket denial, to an American-exceptionalist proud affirmation, that a Deep State rules this country and ought to rule it. I agree with the statement that “Endorsing The Deep State Endangers Democracy”, but I am more concerned here to explain how that endorsement — that deceit — is being done.
The first of these NYT articles was published on 16 February 2017, and it denied that the US has any “Deep State” whatsoever. The second, published on 6 March 2017, blamed President Trump (since the NYT represents mainly Democratic Party billionaires) for mainstreaming the phrase “the Deep State” into American political discourse, and it alleged that that phrase actually refers only to “countries like Egypt, Turkey and Pakistan, where authoritarian elements band together to undercut democratically elected leaders.” The third, published on 10 March 2017, repeated this allegation, that this phrase applies only to “the powerful deep states of countries like Egypt or Pakistan, experts say.” The fourth, published on 5 September 2018, was an anonymous op-ed from a Government employee who condemned Trump and “vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.” “This isn’t the work of the so-called deep state. It’s the work of the steady state.” So: still the NYT’s editors were hewing to their propaganda-line, that no “Deep State” exists in America — there are just whistleblowers, here. The fifth, on 18 December 2018, said, for example, that “Adam Lovinger, a Pentagon analyst, was one of the first to wrap himself in the deep state defense” — namely, that they consist of “people who have been targeted for political reasons.” So, the NYT’s editors were now reinforcing their new false ‘definition’ of “Deep State,” as consisting just of Government whistleblowers. The sixth, on 6 October 2019, said, “President Trump and some of his allies have asserted without evidence that a cabal of American officials — the so-called deep state — embarked on a broad operation to thwart Mr. Trump’s campaign. The conspiracy theory remains unsubstantiated.” So: the NYT’s editors were back, again, to denying that there is any “Deep State” in America. This was a signal, from them, that they were starting to recognize that they’d need to jiggle their ‘definition’ of “Deep State,” at least a bit. The seventh, on 20 October 2019, was by a member of the Editorial Board, and it boldly proclaimed, about “the deep state,” “Let us now praise these not-silent heroes.” The propagandists now had settled firmly upon their new (and previously merely exploratory) ‘definition’ of “Deep State,” as consisting of whistleblowers in the US Government’s Civil Services, “individuals willing to step up and protest the administration’s war on science, expertise and facts.” The eighth, on 23 October 2019, equated “the deep state” even more boldly with the impeachment of President Trump: “Over the last three weeks, the deep state has emerged from the shadows in the form of real live government officials, past and present, who have defied a White House attempt to block cooperation with House impeachment investigators and provided evidence that largely backs up the still-anonymous whistle-blower.” The ninth, on 26 October 2019, which came from “a contributing opinion writer and professor of history,” alleged that the origins of “the deep state” are to be found with Teddy Roosevelt in the 1880s, when “A healthy dose of elitism drove Roosevelt’s crusade, as the spoils system had been the path to power for immigrant-driven political machines in big cities like New York. Yet the Civil Service laws he and others created marked the beginning of a shift toward a fairer, less corrupt public realm.”
In other words: the Deep State, in America, are not perpetrators of corrupt government (such as in “countries like Egypt, Turkey and Pakistan, where authoritarian elements band together to undercut democratically elected leaders”), but are instead courageous enemies of corrupt government; and they are instituted by the aristocracy here (today’s American billionaires), in order to reduce, if not eliminate, corruption in government (which, the Times now alleges, originates amongst, or serves, the lower classes).
The lessons about Big Brother, which were taught by George Orwell in his merely metaphorical masterpiece 1984, were apparently never learned, because even now — as his “Newspeak” is being further refined so that black is white, and good is bad, and truth is falsehood — there still are people who subscribe to the propagandists and cannot get enough of their ridiculous con-games. Though in some poor countries, a corrupt Deep State rules; a Deep State rules in America so as to reduce if not prevent corruption, the New York Times now concludes.
You can see how it’s done, in those nine NYT articles. Isn’t it simply amazing there?!
Trump urged to take radical action to ensure the US doesn’t fall further behind
David P. GOLDMAN
A prominent Republican who advises President Donald Trump called America’s 5G strategy “the biggest strategic disaster in US history.” US efforts to impede China’s telecom giant Huawei from dominating the global market in fifth-generation mobile broadband have failed, while incompetent regulation and corporate misbehavior have held back the United States’ 5G effort at home, the politician told a closed-door gathering of Republican donors and activists.
The adviser has urged President Trump to make a radical policy shift to ensure that the United States isn’t late to roll out 5G. The US president hasn’t yet made a decision, the adviser said. The US military controls most of the spectrum that civilian 5G broadband would use, and the major US telecom providers are holding back from a full commitment to 5G, the adviser added.
In a separate development, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Bloomberg Television Sunday morning that the US would grant licenses “very shortly” to permit US manufacturers to sell components to Huawei and other Chinese tech firms. President Trump in July said that he “easily” would restore tech exports in the context of a trade deal with China, and told the Commerce Department to begin approving export licenses at a White House meeting in early October, the New York Timesreported at the time. Echoing other Trump administration officials, Secretary Ross predicted that the first phase of a trade deal with China might be signed this month.
It appears that the Trump administration may be ready to cut its losses on a losing strategy. Huawei has signed equipment agreements with every telecom provider on the Eurasian continent, despite high-profile American threats to cut off intelligence sharing with allies that include Huawei equipment in their networks.
China rolled out its 5G network, the world’s largest, at the end of October.
Huawei is expected to sell 600,000 5G base stations by the end of 2019 and two million by the end of 2020, according to company estimates, despite an American embargo on the sale of American components to Huawei and 28 other Chinese companies.
During the past year Huawei released its own chipsets to power its smartphones with artificial intelligence capability, as well as ultra-fast processor chips. Huawei’s 2019 first-half revenues rose 24% year-on-year, and the company sold 24% more smartphones, despite a US government block on its access to popular Google applications.
US semiconductor stocks have risen by more than 11% since Oct. 9, the best-performing sector of the US stock market, as investors looked towards an early resolution of the export ban. US semiconductor design firms depend heavily on the Asian market, and US high-tech companies have lobbied the White House aggressively to allow them to keep exporting. Most of the components the US industry sells to Huawei and other Chinese firms can be obtained from Japan, Taiwan, or South Korea, or can be manufactured in China itself.
In March 2018, the US virtually shut down China’s second-largest telecom communications equipment company, ZTE, by placing an embargo on the Qualcomm chips that powered its handsets, in retaliation for ZTE’s violation of sanctions on Iran. By the end of 2018, though, ZTE’s much larger counterpart Huawei had developed the Kirin chipset, with performance comparable to Qualcomm.
If President Trump backs away from the global campaign against Huawei championed by US intelligence agencies and focuses instead on accelerating America’s own 5G rollout, prospects for an early end to the US-China trade war will improve markedly.
China doesn’t like American pressure to reduce the bilateral trade deficit but is willing to buy more US agricultural products and energy to placate a protectionist president. American attempts to stifle Huawei, though, are viewed by China as an existential issue: If the United States can’t accept the fact that China has taken leadership in an important field of technology, the Chinese believe, it means that America wants to stifle China’s development. In that case, China would hunker down for a long-term trade war.
China has focused its domestic policy on boosting domestic consumption to compensate for the fall in its exports in the course of the trade war. Investors responded by bidding up the prices of Chinese consumer staples companies, the top performer among the sectors of the Shenzhen 300 stock market index.
China’s growth has slowed to the lowest rate since the 1990s, although it is still by far the highest of any economy in the world at around 6%. Last week the Caixin index of Chinese manufacturing activity showed a surprise bounce, although the government’s purchasing managers’ index remained below 50, that is, in contraction territory. The Caixin survey includes more private companies.
By abrogating the autonomous status of the now-former state of Jammu and Kashmir and transforming it into two direct rule territories, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi may have set in motion forces that could result in challenges to its control of portions of the Himalayan region.
On October 31, the new Indian union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh were officially bifurcated. Neither enjoy the autonomous self-governing status as that of the former State of Jammu and Kashmir. Jammu and Kashmir became the first Indian state to be reduced from a state to a union territory, something that has alarmed other states that have had a contentious relationship with New Delhi. During her time as prime minister, Indira Gandhi often dismissed the governments of various states and imposed direct rule from New Delhi, however, she never downgraded the status of an Indian state.
Leh, the capital of Ladakh, which is largely Buddhist, was generally happy about its separation from Muslim-dominated Jammu and Kashmir. However, that was not the case in Ladakh’s district of Kargil, which has a majority Muslim population. Most of the Muslims of the district are Shi’as, who have their own grievances with the Sunnis of the rest of Kashmir, as well as those in Pakistan. Residents and members of the Kargil Hill Development Council observed their new status with an October 30th “Black Day,” with protesters hitting the streets of Kargil to decry their downgraded status. The protests followed a four-day general strike that shut down business in the district. The bifurcation and restlessness in Kargil have some quarters in New Delhi concerned. The Buddhists in Leh and the Shi’as in Kargil have actually managed to coexist amicably in recent years. Both have reasons to be suspicious of Sunni troublemaking in the region spurred on by the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency and Wahhabist Sunni provocateurs funded by Saudi Arabia.
In 1999, Kargil was ground zero for deadly Sunni Islamist terrorist actions and an Indian-Pakistani military conflict. The Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) and Al-Faran Islamist terrorist groups, backed by ISI, had previously conducted attacks against foreign tourists, including the beheadings of foreign hostages. Faced with the threat posed by Wahhabi-influenced terrorists, the Buddhists of Ladakh and Shi’a majority in Kargil have formed a somewhat united front. One point of contention arose in the 1990s in Leh, when the Sunni mosque in the town center began issuing forth incendiary anti-Buddhist messages from the loudspeaker normally used for the Muslim calls to prayer.
Neither the Ladakh Union Territory nor the new Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory have elected legislatures. Instead both have Lieutenant Governors answerable only to the Modi government. The new Lieutenant Governors — Radha Krishna Mathur in Ladakh and Girish Murmu in Jammu and Kashmir – are retired officers of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) – India’s own version of the “deep state,” a permanent civil service bureaucracy left over from the British colonial era. Mathur is also the former Indian Chief Information Commissioner, a post he left in 2018. He also served as the central government’s Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises Secretary and Defense Production Secretary. With his experience in the defense sector, there was no surprise when Murmu said his main focus will be on “sensitive border areas.” That equates to keeping a close watch on China and Pakistan in the mountainous region.
The Member of the Lok Sabha who represents Ladakh, Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, called the bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir and the creation of the Ladakh Union Territory an “inclusive development plan” for the region. Under the previous state administration in Srinagar, the Buddhists of Ladakh felt left without a voice in local government. Although Namgyal is a member of Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the political alignment was for convenience, since the Buddhists of Ladakh did not have the political pull to engineer its separation from the former Jammu and Kashmir state. Previous alignment of Ladakh Buddhists with the Indian Congress Party of Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, and other Congress prime ministers never yielded any final agreement to separate Ladakh from the rest of Jammu and Kashmir.
Now that the Buddhists of Ladakh have a separate political voice, they are using it to their advantage. Former Buddhist members from Ladakh in the now-defunct Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly are demanding that they be included in the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution, which ensures cultural and economic protections for India’s tribal peoples.
Modi may have ignited long suppressed Buddhist nationalist resentment that extends from Ladakh in the western Himalayas to Sikkim in the central Himalayas and into Arunachal Pradesh in the east. China, ostensibly on behalf of the Tibetan Autonomous Region, has land claims along the entire Indian frontier. Another factor is the Dalai Lama of Tibet, whose Tibetan government-in-exile makes Dharamsala in India its home.
Now that Ladakh has a separate identity from Jammu and Kashmir, albeit a territorial one without representation in the former Legislative Assembly in Srinagar, Buddhist identity movements, such as the Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA) and the Ladakh Union Territory Front (LUTF), feel emboldened to stake their political, cultural, and economic claims. The LBA believed the former Muslim-dominated state government of Jammu and Kashmir was hostile to Buddhist interests in Ladakh. Because of its distrust of the state government, the LBA was always in favor of bifurcation of Ladakh from Jammu and Kashmir and even trifurcation of Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh, into majority Hindu, Muslim, and Buddhist states, respectively.
Ladakh only had four seats in the former Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly. It continues to retain its one seat in the Lok Sabha, currently filled by the BJP’s Jamyang Tsering Namgyal. Although the Buddhist Ladakhis have been given a respite from the Muslim political interests that had a monopoly of power in the old Jammu and Kashmir, they also fear being overrun by Hindus desiring to escape the increasingly hotter temperatures of the Indian coast and Deccan Plateau for the cooler climes of the Himalayan region.
With Ladakhis now free of control from Srinagar and the old Jammu and Kashmir state, they may begin, as a cohesive unit, to reach out to fellow Buddhists in other parts of India. The Buddhist Bhutias and Lepchas of Sikkim, an Indian state wedged between Nepal and Bhutan – the latter a Buddhist kingdom — long for the era of Sikkim’s independence under a Buddhist king or “Chogyal.” Sikkim lost its independence in 1975 after the Indian army invaded the kingdom, deposed the Chogyal, and presided over the annexation of Sikkim to India as a state. There is not only an increasing nostalgia for the kingdom among the Buddhists, but some of the majority Nepalese Hindus have also displayed a yearning for the lost kingdom.
Buddhist national identity has taken on violent excesses in countries like Myanmar and Sri Lanka. But in the Himalayas, which is the birthplace of Gautama Buddha, Buddhism is attempting to make a resurgence in a political sense. Had the region not fallen prey to the Cold War interests of India, China, and the United States, a region of independent Buddhist states – Ladakh, Sikkim, and Bhutan – and semi-independent Buddhist principalities – Mustang in Nepal and Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh – may have emerged to provide a neutral buffer between India and China. With recent developments in Ladakh and Sikkim, such a future outcome may not be totally out of the question.
With the U.S. presidential cycle gearing up, Elizabeth Vos takes stock of lessons from 2016.
Establishment Democrats and those who amplify them continue to project blame for the public’s doubt in the U.S. election process onto outside influence, despite the clear history of the party’s subversion of election integrity. The total inability of the Democratic Party establishment’s willingness to address even one of these critical failures does not give reason to hope that the nomination process in 2020 will be any less pre-ordained.
The Democratic Party’s bias against Sen. Bernie Sanders during the 2016 presidential nomination, followed by the DNC defense counsel doubling down on its right to rig the race during the fraud lawsuit brought against the DNC, as well as the irregularities in the races between former DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Tim Canova, indicate a fatal breakdown of the U.S. democratic process spearheaded by the Democratic Party establishment. Influences transcending the DNC add to concerns regarding the integrity of the democratic process that have nothing to do with Russia, but which will also likely impact outcomes in 2020.
The content of the DNC and Podesta emails published by WikiLeaks demonstrated that the DNC acted in favor of Hillary Clinton in the lead up to the 2016 Democratic primary. The emails also revealed corporate media reporters acting as surrogates of the DNC and its pro-Clinton agenda, going so far as to promote Donald Trump during the GOP primary process as a preferred “pied-piper candidate.” One cannot assume that similar evidence will be presented to the public in 2020, making it more important than ever to take stock of the unique lessons handed down to us by the 2016 race.
Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during a 2016 Democratic primary debate.(YouTube/Screen shot)
Social Media Meddling
Election meddling via social media did take place in 2016, though in a different guise and for a different cause from that which are best remembered. Twitter would eventually admit to actively suppressing hashtags referencing the DNC and Podesta emails in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. Additional reports indicated that tech giant Google also showed measurable “pro-Hillary Clinton bias” in search results during 2016, resulting in the alleged swaying of between 2 and 10 millions voters in favor of Clinton.
On the Republican side, a recent episode of CNLive! featured discussion of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which undecided voters were micro-targeted with tailored advertising narrowed with the combined use of big data and artificial intelligence known collectively as “dark strategy.” CNLive!Executive Producer Cathy Vogan noted that SCL, Cambridge Analytica’s parent company, provides data, analytics and strategy to governments and military organizations “worldwide,” specializing in behavior modification. Though Cambridge Analytica shut down in 2018, related companies remain.
The Clinton camp was hardly absent from social media during the 2016 race. The barely-legal activities of Clintonite David Brock were previously reported by this author to have included $2 million in funding for the creation of an online “troll army” under the name Shareblue. The LA Times described the project as meant to “to appear to be coming organically from people and their social media networks in a groundswell of activism, when in fact it is highly paid and highly tactical.” In other words, the effort attempted to create a false sense of consensus in support for the Clinton campaign.
In terms of interference in the actual election process, the New York City Board of Elections was shown to have purged over one hundred thousand Democratic voters in Brooklyn from the rolls before the 2016 primary, a move that the Department of Justice found broke federal law. Despite this, no prosecution for the breach was ever attempted.
Though the purge was not explicitly found to have benefitted Clinton, the admission falls in line with allegations across the country that the Democratic primary was interfered with to the benefit of the former secretary of state. These claims were further bolstered by reports indicating that voting results from the 2016 Democratic primary showed evidence of fraud.
DNC Fraud Lawsuit
“Bernie or Bust” protesters at the Wells Fargo Center during Democrats’ roll call vote to nominate Hillary Clinton. (Becker1999, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)
The proceedings of the DNC fraud lawsuit provide the most damning evidence of the failure of the U.S. election process, especially within the Democratic Party. DNC defense lawyers argued in open court for the party’s right to appoint candidates at its own discretion, while simultaneously denying any “fiduciary duty” to represent the voters who donated to the Democratic Party under the impression that the DNC would act impartially towards the candidates involved.
In 2017, the Observer reported that the DNC’s defense counsel argued against claims that the party defrauded Sanders’ supporters by favoring Clinton, reasoning that Sanders’ supporters knew the process was rigged. Again: instead of arguing that the primary was neutral and unbiased in accordance with its charter, the DNC’s lawyers argued that it was the party’s right to select candidates.
The Observer noted the sentiments of Jared Beck, the attorney representing the plaintiffs of the lawsuit:
…“People paid money in reliance on the understanding that the primary elections for the Democratic nominee —nominating process in 2016 were fair and impartial, and that’s not just a bedrock assumption that we would assume just by virtue of the fact that we live in a democracy, and we assume that our elections are run in a fair and impartial manner. But that’s what the Democratic National Committee’s own charter says. It says it in black and white.”
The DNC defense counsel’s argument throughout the course of the DNC fraud lawsuit doubled down repeatedly in defense of the party’s right to favor one candidate over another, at one point actually claiming that such favoritism was protected by the First Amendment. The DNC’s lawyers wrote:
“To recognize any of the causes of action that Plaintiffs allege would run directly contrary to long-standing Supreme Court precedent recognizing the central and critical First Amendment rights enjoyed by political parties, especially when it comes to selecting the party’s nominee for public office.” [Emphasis added]
The DNC’s shameless defense of its own rigging disemboweled the most fundamental organs of the U.S. body politic. This no indication that the DNC will not resort to the same tactics in the 2020 primary race,
Tim Canova’s Allegations
Tim Canova with supporters, April 2016. (Canova For Congress, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)
If Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s role as disgraced chairwoman of the DNC and her forced 2016 resignation wasn’t enough, serious interference was also alleged in the wake of two contests between Wasserman Schultz and professor Tim Canova in Florida’s 23rd congressional district. Canova and Wasserman Schultz first faced off in a 2016 Democratic primary race, followed by a 2018 general congressional election in which Canova ran as an independent.
Debacles followed both contests, including improper vote counts, illegal ballot destruction, improper transportation of ballots, and generally shameless displays of cronyism. After the controversial results of the initial primary race against Wasserman Schultz, Canova sought to have ballots checked for irregularities, as the Sun-Sentinel reported at the time:
“[Canova] sought to look at the paper ballots in March 2017 and took Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes to court three months later when her office hadn’t fulfilled his request. Snipes approved the destruction of the ballots in September, signing a certification that said no court cases involving the ballots were pending.”
Ultimately, Canova was granted a summary judgment against Snipes, finding that she had committed what amounted to multiple felonies. Nonetheless, Snipes was not prosecuted and remained elections supervisor through to the 2018 midterms.
Republicans appear no more motivated to protect voting integrity than the Democrats, with The Nation reporting that the GOP-controlled Senate blocked a bill this week that would have “mandated paper-ballot backups in case of election machine malfunctions.”
Study of Corporate Power
A 2014 study published by Princeton University found that corporate power had usurped the voting rights of the public: “Economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.”
In reviewing this sordid history, we see that the Democratic Party establishment has done everything in its power to disrespect voters and outright overrule them in the democratic primary process, defending their right to do so in the DNC fraud lawsuit. We’ve noted that interests transcending the DNC also represent escalating threats to election integrity as demonstrated in 2016.
Despite this, establishment Democrats and those who echo their views in the legacy press continue to deflect from their own wrongdoing and real threats to the election process by suggesting that mere discussion of it represents a campaign by Russia to attempt to malign the perceptionof the legitimacy of the U.S. democratic process.
Hillary Clinton’s recent comments to the effect that Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is being “groomed” by Russia, and that the former Green Party Presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein is a “Russian asset”, were soon echoed by DNC-friendly pundits. These sentiments externalize what Gabbard called the “rot” in the Democratic party outward onto domestic critics and a nation across the planet.
Newsweek provided a particularly glaring example of this phenomenon in a recent op-ed penned by columnist Naveed Jamali, a former FBI double agent whose book capitalizes on Russiagate. In an op-ed titled: “Hillary Clinton Is Right. Tulsi Gabbard Is A Perfect Russian Asset – And Would Be A Perfect Republican Agent,” Jamali argued:
“Moscow will use its skillful propaganda machine to prop up Gabbard and use her as a tool todelegitimize the democratic process.” [Emphasis added]
Jamali surmises that Russia intends to “attack” our democracy by undermining the domestic perception of its legitimacy. This thesis is repeated later in the piece when Jamali opines: “They want to see a retreat of American influence. What better way to accomplish that than to attack our democracy bycasting doubt on the legitimacy of our elections.” [Emphasis added]
The only thing worth protecting, according to Jamali and those who amplify his work (including former Clinton aide and establishment Democrat Neera Tanden), is the perception of the democratic process, not the actual functioning vitality of it. Such deflective tactics ensure that Russia will continue to be used as a convenient international pretext for silencing domestic dissent as we move into 2020.
Given all this, how can one expect the outcome of a 2020 Democratic Primary — or even the general election – to be any fairer or transparent than 2016?
Today Russia is Christian like its neighbors. Shouldn’t the religious tension be over? Not when Cold War 2.0 is just heating up.
Many Chileans were not enthused upon Michelle Bachelet’s appointment to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and with good reason. Twice President of Chile, between 2006-2010 and 2014-2018, Bachelet joined the list of presidents who, since the transition to democracy, upheld Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship legacy in her politics.
Bachelet is no stranger to dictatorship tactics. Her father, General Alberto Bachelet, died of torture at the hands of the National Intelligence Directorate (DINA) in 1974. Bachelet and her mother were detained and tortured at Villa Grimaldi; in a statement in 2013, she had revealed that her torturer was none other than DINA Chief Manuel Contreras.
When politics is divested of memory, the cycle of human rights violations is guaranteed. Just a week after the protests erupted in Chile, with Chileans facing military violence for taking to the streets and demanding an end to the dictatorship constitution, as well as President Sebastian Piñera’s resignation, Bachelet issued a weak statement in her capacity as UNHRC Chief.
“There needs to be open and sincere dialogue by all actors concerned to help resolve this situation, including a profound examination of the wide range of socio-economic issues underlying the current crisis,” Bachelet stated.
The statement is misleading on several levels. Primarily, open and sincere dialogue cannot happen with a government that approves dictatorship tactics in a democracy, no matter how flawed the democratic implementation is. Secondly, Bachelet is wrong in defining the nation-wide protests as “the current crisis”. This is an ongoing crisis which the democratic transition refused to tackle; like other governments, Bachelet played a role in preserving the neoliberal project unleashed upon Chile by the US-backed military coup.
In his essay about neoliberalism in Chile, the late Chilean economist and diplomat Orlando Letelier who was killed by a car bomb in 1976 as directly ordered by Pinochet, explained the dynamics between neoliberalism and violence thus: “The economic plan has had to be enforced, and in the Chilean context that could be done only by the killing of thousands, the establishment of concentration camps all over the country, the jailing of more than 100,000 persons in three years, the closing of trade unions and neighbourhood organisations, and the prohibition of all political activities and all forms of free expression.”
Letelier was analysing the Pinochet dictatorship’s violent rationale for implementing policies that would repress the working class to safeguard the elite minority in Chile. Subsequent governments have retained this formula. It can be argued that the scale of Pinochet’s repression was not repeated in Chile. However, the reason for this is that the governments since the democratic transition inherited a nation to govern that was broken by trauma, and where memory attempted to make itself heard within the established parameters that prioritised impunity for governments and the military.
In terms of controlling resistance, the anti-terror laws enacted by Pinochet remain a favourite means of crushing dissent in Chile. Bachelet herself applied the anti-terror laws to the Mapuche population in efforts to quell their struggle for land reclamation and also against land exploitation by the government and multinational companies. Piñera promised to reform the anti-terror laws to facilitate Mapuche prosecution.
During Piñera’s first presidency, there was an attempt to alter history textbooks to eliminate references to the dictatorship – a move that was opposed by the left-wing opposition. Yet, when Bachelet won the presidential elections for the second time, her inaction over the promise to close the luxury prison of Punta Peuco which houses DINA agents imprisoned for their crimes during the dictatorship, she directly contributed to obstructing Chilean memory and justice.
Lest it be forgotten, when Pinochet was detained in London pending an extradition to Spain to face the courts for crimes against humanity as indicted by Judge Baltasar Garzon, the former Chilean President Eduardo Frei defended Pinochet, saying he would exhort all legal, political and humanitarian means for the dictator to face justice in Chile. The Chilean courts ruled Pinochet to be unfit for trial on account of alleged dementia.
What Bachelet describes as a “current crisis” has roots that go deeper into a history which Chilean governments prefer to dissociate from the demonstrations. Neoliberalism in Chile is a brutal ongoing experiment and Bachelet does indeed know better than other diplomats at the UN that the protests must achieve their aim before any so-called dialogue with politicians, whether right-wing or centre-left. However, her role at the UNHRC makes it easy for her to rely on prepared statements which do little other than substitute the name of one country for another. After all, is there a better way for her to affirm her calls for oblivion, in much the same manner as the dictator required to quell any collective Chilean resistance?
The current frenzy to impeach President Donald Trump sometimes in its haste reveals that which could easily be hidden about the operation of the Deep State inside the federal government. Congress is currently obtaining testimony from a parade of witnesses to or participants in what will inevitably be called UkraineGate, an investigation into whether Trump inappropriately sought a political quid pro quo from Ukrainian leaders in exchange for a military assistance package.
The prepared opening statement by Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, described as the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council (NSC), provides some insights into how decision making at the NSC actually works. Vindman was born in Ukraine but emigrated to the United States with his family at age three. He was commissioned as an army infantry officer in 1998 and served in some capacity in Iraq from 2004-5, where he was wounded by a roadside bomb and received a purple heart. Vindman, who speaks both Ukrainian and Russian fluently, has filled a number of diplomatic and military positions in government dealing with Eastern Europe, to include a key role in Pentagon planning on how to deal with Russia.
Vindman, Ukrainian both by birth and culturally, clearly was a major player in articulating and managing US policy towards that country, but that is not really what his role on the NSC should have been. As more than likely the US government’s sole genuine Ukrainian expert, he should have become a source of viable options that the United States might exercise vis-à-vis its relationship with Ukraine, and, by extension, regarding Moscow’s involvement with Kiev. But that is not how his statement, which advocates for a specific policy, reads. Rather than providing expert advice, Vindman was concerned chiefly because arming Ukraine was not proceeding quickly enough to suit him, an extremely risky policy which has already created serious problems with a much more important Russia.
Vindman apparently sees Ukraine-Russia through the established optic provided by the Deep State, which considers global conflict as the price to pay for maintaining its largesse from the US taxpayer. Continuous warfare is its only business product, which explains in part its dislike of Donald Trump as he has several times threatened to upset the apple cart, even though he has done precious little in reality. Part of Vindman’s written statement (my emphasis) is revealing: “”When I joined the NSC in July 2018, I began implementing the administration’s policy on Ukraine. In the Spring of 2019, I became aware of outside influencers promoting a false narrative of Ukraine inconsistent with the consensus views of the interagency. This narrative was harmful to US government policy. While my interagency colleagues and I were becoming increasingly optimistic on Ukraine’s prospects, this alternative narrative undermined US government efforts to expand cooperation with Ukraine.”
Alexander Vindman clearly was pushing a policy that might be described as that of the Deep State rather than responding to his own chain of command where it is the president who does the decision making. He also needs a history lesson about what has gone on in his country of birth. President Barack Obama conspired with his own version of Macbeth’s three witches – Rice, Power and Jarett – to overthrow the legitimate government of Ukraine in 2014 because it was considered to be too close to Moscow. The regime change was brought about by “mavericks” like the foul-mouthed neocon State Department officer Victoria Nuland and the footloose warmonger Senator John McCain. Vice President Joe Biden also appeared on the scene after the “wetwork” was done, with his son Hunter trailing behind him. Since that time, Ukraine has had a succession of increasingly corrupt puppet governments propped up by billions in foreign aid. It is now per capita the poorest country in Europe.
Washington inside-the-beltway and the Deep State choose to blame the mess in Ukraine on Russian President Vladimir Putin and the established narrative also makes the absurd claim that the political situation in Kiev is somehow important to US national security. The preferred solution is to provide still more money, which feeds the corruption and enables the Ukrainians to attack the Russians.
Colonel Vindman, who reported to noted hater of all things Russian Fiona Hill, who in turn reported to By Jingo We’ll Go To War John Bolton, was in the middle of all the schemes to bring down Russia. His concern was not really over Trump vs. Biden. It was focused instead on speeding up the $380 million in military assistance, to include offensive weapons, that was in the pipeline for Kiev. And assuming that the Ukrainians could actually learn how to use the weapons, the objective was to punish the Russians and prolong the conflict in Donbas for no reason at all that makes any sense.
Note the following additional excerpt from Vindman’s prepared statement: “….I was worried about the implications for the US government’s support of Ukraine…. I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma, it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play which would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing the bipartisan support it has thus far maintained.”
Vindman’s concern is all about Ukraine without any explanation of why the United States would benefit from bilking the taxpayer to support a foreign deadbeat one more time. One wonders if Vindman was able to compose his statement without a snicker or two intruding. He does eventually go on to cover the always essential national security angle, claiming that “Since 2008, Russia has manifested an overtly aggressive foreign policy, leveraging military power and employing hybrid warfare to achieve its objectives of regional hegemony and global influence. Absent a deterrent to dissuade Russia from such aggression, there is an increased risk of further confrontations with the West. In this situation, a strong and independent Ukraine is critical to US national security interests because Ukraine is a frontline state and a bulwark against Russian aggression.”
The combined visions of Russia as an aggressive, expansionistic power coupled with the brave Ukrainians serving as a bastion of freedom is so absurd that it is hardly worth countering. Russia’s economy is about the size of Italy’s or Spain’s limiting its imperial ambitions, if they actually exist. Its alleged transgressions against Georgia and Ukraine were both provoked by the United States meddling in Eastern Europe, something that it had pledged not to do after the Soviet Union collapsed. Ukraine is less an important American ally than a welfare case, and no one knows that better than Vindman, but he is really speaking to his masters in the US Establishment when he repeats the conventional arguments.
It hardly seems possible, but Vindman then goes on to dig himself into a still deeper hole through his statement’s praise of the train wreck that is Ukraine. He writes “In spite of being under assault from Russia for more than five years, Ukraine has taken major steps towards integrating with the West. The US government policy community’s view is that the election of President Volodymyr Zelensky and the promise of reforms to eliminate corruption will lock in Ukraine’s Western-leaning trajectory, and allow Ukraine to realize its dream of a vibrant democracy and economic prosperity. The United States and Ukraine are and must remain strategic partners, working together to realize the shared vision of a stable, prosperous, and democratic Ukraine that is integrated into the Euro-Atlantic community.”
Alexander Vindman does not say or write that the incorporation of Ukraine into NATO is his actual objective, but his comments about “integrating with the West” and the “Euro-Atlantic community” clearly imply just that. The expansion of NATO up to Russia’s borders by the rascally Bill Clinton constituted one of the truly most momentous lost foreign policy opportunities of the twentieth century. The addition of Ukraine and Georgia to the alliance would magnify that error as both are vital national security interests for Moscow given their history and geography. Vindman should be regarded as a manifestation of the Deep State thinking that has brought so much grief to the United States over the past twenty years. Seen in that light, his testimony, wrapped in an air of sanctimoniousness and a uniform, should be regarded as little more than the conventional thinking that has produced foreign policy failure after failure.
The United States — the world’s largest historic greenhouse gas emitter — will become the only country outside the accord.
BoJo ran out of rope when all his gambits intended to bounce parliament into accepting his Brexit deal got nowhere (as was widely predicted). The EU accepted his deal, but he wanted it rushed through parliament to meet his 31st October deadline, and parliament failed to oblige.
BoJo, never one to shun bombast, had promised to “die in a ditch” if Brexit did not take place by Halloween.
Few took BoJo’s deadline seriously, except for the hardline Brexit loons who hang on his every word.
Members of his immediate family say publicly they don’t trust him, so what hope is there left for the rest of us?
The only option left for “dead in the ditch” BoJo was to shelve his deal and seek a snap general election, which will now be held on 12thDecember.
BoJo is hoping to tap into the exhaustion resentful voters now feel about the endless Brexit delays, and the cornerstone of his campaign is to blame the “anti-people” parliament for these stoppages. He’s also promised to deliver Brexit by mid-January if elected.
This pretense of a having a “people’s election” is precisely that—a sham. For once The Guardian got it right:
“Mr Johnson wasted time after attaining office by not talking to the EU. He then unlawfully prorogued parliament to evade scrutiny. Mr Johnson came out with a set of proposals that were unacceptable to Brussels before being swiftly amended. There was no way MPs would permit Britain to be bundled out of the EU with no deal or on terms that threaten jobs, the economy, peace in Northern Ireland or the union with Scotland. The courts and MPs did not allow the prime minister to disregard proper procedure – to their credit, because a future government could use the precedent established for more sinister purposes. Mr Johnson does not care about such things. His calculations revolve around naked self-interest and power”.
It will be interesting to see how BoJo campaigns in the election, after having abandoned his promise to die in a ditch by Halloween.
When he ran for the leadership of the Tory party, BoJo’s handlers did their best to hide their gaffe-prone boss from party members, journalists, and the public.
BoJo’s handlers got away with this strategy then, but shielding a candidate who professes to be a “man of the people” from “the people” in a nationwide election was never going to be as easy.
Johnson’s team will have to let loose their bumbling but over-confident leader, and take their chances with whomever he encounters.
BoJo’s first public appearance did not go according to plan (if indeed there was one).
A politician who is on record as wanting to sell-off the NHS to the private sector would be advised not to visit an NHS hospital as a PR stunt.
However, BoJo’s handlers, aware that the Tory record on the NHS is a weak spot in their campaign platform, decided their candidate should display some fake love for the NHS by visiting the university hospital in Cambridge for a photo op.
BoJo was booed off the hospital premises by medical staff, patients, and visitors. His visit was covered by mainstream media, including the pusillanimous BBC, which did not however mention the raucous send-off given BoJo in the reception lobby at Addenbrookes hospital.
Social media though was more diligent in its coverage and did full justice to BoJo’s cynical visit to Addenbrookes.
Social media also had a field day with the Tory election slogan “Britain deserves better”. Given that the Conservatives have been in office since 2010, and made a complete pig’s ear of Brexit, the PR team responsible for this deeply ironical slogan should perhaps be banished by Tory HQ to the mansion of Prince Charles and made to flat-iron Charlie Boy’s shoelaces each morning.
The old adage “with friends like this you don’t need enemies” has always been applicable to Nigel Farage, the ever-opportunistic grifter who leads the far-right Brexit party, who has proven himself to be even more adept at lying than Johnson.
Farage pretends to be an ally of the Tories in wanting Brexit, but issued them an ultimatum: form an electoral alliance with us or else my Brexit party will field candidates in all seats in the election.
Farage had one condition, given that he considered BoJo’s shelved deal with the EU to be a “lousy” one– a No Deal Brexit had to be on the table for Farage’s pact with the Tories to be implemented.
Farage’s condition is designed to peel-off hardcore Brexiters—most of them far-right nationalists, Little Englander xenophobes, and white supremacists– from the Conservatives, something BoJo can ill-afford to have happen.
At the same time, Farage’s seemingly uncompromising No Deal Brexit condition for a pact with the Conservatives could drive Tories opposed to Brexit (and they do exist) into the arms of the Remainer almost-Tory Lib Dems.
Farage also had a fawning interview with Donald Trump on LBC radio.
Corbyn would be “so bad” for the UK, the “America First” president told Farage’s listeners, quite unaware that his huge unpopularity with Brits meant this message was bound to backfire.
Trump, unaware of the competition between Farage and BoJo for Brexit voters, sought to give BoJo and his Brexit deal a boost in this interview, but ended-up guaranteeing that BoJo would now be linked to someone regarded by many Ukanians as America’s sick joke on the world.
Meanwhile Johnson continues to come-up with his trademark whoppers.
On Sunday, The Daily Telegraph was forced to correct a column written by BoJo, in which he falsely claimed the UK is set to “become the largest and most prosperous economy in this hemisphere”, i.e. that the UK will overtake Germany as an economic power “in our lifetimes”.
The reality is quite different. The World Bank’s GDP-by-country rankings shows something that is not on the horizon for Johnson— e.g. that far from overtaking Germany, the UK is about to be overtaken by India (UK $2,825,208 vs India $2,726,323).
I’ll be in London next week to get a further sense of the directions taken by the election campaigns of the main parties.
We already know that Nigel Farage has declined to stand as a candidate for parliament in the election.
In a little less than a year and a half, Ms. Thunberg has garnered a great deal of media attention for her passionate pleas that the world finally take heed to the very real crisis of climate change affirming that if we fail to meet the requirements laid out for us by the IPCC we will most assuredly have no planet to live on 11 years from now. Ms. Thunberg has confidently and frequently stated this in almost every interview or speech she has made since her media blitz began.
This is of course very disturbing news indeed.
What is just as disturbing is that it is seemingly all up to the children around the world to take matters into their own hands, since all adults have apparently become the equivalent to the walking dead, with children being the supposed organisers behind these immense marches across Europe, Canada and the US, to save the planet from total annihilation. This regard for the adults in the west and their seeming encouragement of this regard of themselves is very disappointing, but hardly surprising when you realise that many of them are from the ‘Make Love Not War’ live in the moment movements from the 60s that used as one of their main slogans “Never trust anybody over 30”. Interestingly, these are the parents of the dejected youth of today, who seem to have all taught their children the same lesson: don’t trust adults. Apparently something really terrible happens to you once you turn 31 and either you have to accept the fact that you are now analogous to a sack of potatoes or maintain a 20 something year old mental state for your entire life in order to stay “relevant”.
‘Forever young’ justice warriors such as Jane Fonda are a model for us all on how to never mentally develop past the age of 30. At the age of 81, Jane has made the vow to get arrested once a week for 14 weeks until she has to film her tv show ‘Grace and Frankie’, where at that point she will have fulfilled her part in making the world a better and safer place and will have earned her entrance into sainthood. As Jane stated in an interview with Washington Post, “Greta said we have to behave like it’s a crisis…We have to behave like our houses are on fire”. Jane apparently has a strange understanding of what she would do if her house was on fire since she continues to fly frequently and supports the eating of meat, the two top “no-no’s” from Greta. Regardless, Jane is on a mission to send a message to everybody else that even though she does not follow what Greta asks, if others also do not, we will all die horrible deaths in 11 years. After all, Jane will be 92 at that point…but with the mind of a forever young 20 year old.
As Roger Hallam, co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, put it, “If we don’t work together, we are going to die together”. Bone-chilling words to be sure. The way things are going we might end up seeing baby boomer NATO Defense Ministers holding hands singing “We Are the World”, wait…that already happened in 2015.
However, it is no longer good enough to distrust anybody over 30, and those now leading the charge are just entering their teens since people in their 20s are becoming part of ‘the problem’ and are just not willing to do enough to save the planet. In a world that up until recently was obsessed with whether someone had a PhD title before they could make any public statement on the climate change subject, now could care less about academic titles and don’t even require a high school diploma to dictate world policy. Why? Well, because “all the science is already in” on climate change and now it is just about getting action done and since adults have been the problem that has got us to where we are today, it is only fitting that the children take matters into their own hands…right?
Before we dare to answer that question I thought I would share some interesting periods in history that may help provide a new perspective about the current situation we find ourselves in. Bare with me, I am past 30 years in age.
The Art of Prophesising
On January 23, 2019 Greta made the prediction: “The date is January 23, 2031. The world has just ended. No humans are left on the planet once known as ‘Earth’ ”.
Have we really come to a point where we are at the brink of the end times? I have spoken with a great many people who believe this to be the case. Whether they believe it will be in 11 years or 50 years, the consensus among the many is that we are certainly approaching the end of the world, something that used to be associated to the crazy guy who pulled out all his teeth so they could no longer hear his thoughts, holding up the sign “The End is Nigh” and babbling apocalyptic lines from the Book of Revelations…now the majority of us would look at that guy and say “You know, I think he has a point.”
But in all seriousness, are we truly living in the darkest period of humanity’s existence?
I will come back to that question because I truly do not take it lightly, but it should be known that there is not only a long list of false prophecies for the end of the world that had massive followings throughout history, but there are a lot of parallels to those periods and to that of our present day.
In 1345 the biggest financial collapse of history hit Europe. Food became increasingly hard to come by and water sanitation could not be maintained. It was not long after that the plague, carried by ships travelling from Asia, consumed a vulnerable Europe. During this time, many cities suffered up to a 50-70% mortality rate, killing much of the very young and old.
Many thought this to be the end of the world. There was no seeming solution to the problem and many believed that they were either being punished or had been abandoned by God, and since their condemnation seemed certain, took the path of living in the most hedonistic lifestyles imaginable as death and despair surrounded them. Others tried to buy their entrance into Purgatory with “indulgences” issued by the Church (somewhat reminiscent of today’s purchasers of carbon offsets). The basic idea was that one could reduce the amount of punishment one would undergo for committing a sin in exchange for money. This gave individuals, who could afford it, a way to partake in this end of world orgy-fest while avoiding their soul’s eternal damnation, or at least so they were told.
Others took matters a little more into their own hands to make it right with God. They set out onto the streets whipping themselves profusely. It was thought that if they punished themselves God would spare them from the plague, while others who had already contracted it thought it would move God to take the sickness back. These were known as the Flagellants, and they had a very large following. Later on they would blame the Jewish people for God’s wrath and resorted to the slaughter and burning alive of these groups of people in the hope that God would finally relent.
Another interesting period to take note of was during the Roman Republic. One of the most illustrious positions that one could hope for, outside of being Consul, was to be an Augur. This was an incredibly prestigious position within the Roman government that was usually assigned for life. An Augur was basically the interpreter of ominous and fortuitous signs, which included interpreting animal entrails (considered an exact science at the time), behaviour of birds and so forth to dictate future policy of the Republic.
There was also the period between the 4th and 5th Crusade known for its ‘Child Crusaders’. According to George Zabriskie Gray’s research on this subject, in 1212 a twelve year old boy named Stephen, from the village Cloyes in France claimed he had been selected by God to lead a Crusade of Children to rescue the Holy Land. He would recruit 30, 000 children to join him. Around the same time, a 10 year old boy named Nicholas, from Cologne, would also begin to preach and recruit children for the same mission. He too claimed that he had been selected by God and recruited a following of at least 20, 000 children. What little is known of the fate of these children is that the majority of them died of either starvation, were murdered or sold into slavery. Of the few thousand that actually set sail for Palestine, it is not known what happened to them, but only that they never arrived to the Holy Land.
And the list of examples goes on…
In Praise of Folly
So what is the point of all this? I think it is useful for us to have a memory of our past folly. And I think we are in the greatest danger of committing folly when we forget the foolish whims and beliefs of the past that were not just based on religious misconceptions but also on misconceptions of what passed for ‘science’. I think it is very dangerous when a population cannot even remember its recent ecstasies in folly in end of world prophecies such as the Y2K scare only 20 years ago, with a massive following of believers who were prepared for end times. This was a subject that was constantly being talked about on mainstream media and even by the governments of countries, President Clinton being no exception.
I think it is also very dangerous when there are absolute statements made such as “all the science is in” on a subject. Climate science is a relatively new science, and an extremely complicated one with many unknown variables. It is interesting that a group of scientists in this field have claimed that they know everything there needs to be known on this subject, when I don’t think we can say that for any other subject in the sciences to this date. Either climate science is far more simple than we thought or we are skipping steps.
What is also concerning is that although this grouping of climate scientists speak with such certainty about what the climate will be 10 years from now and what is influencing it, they are still unable to accurately predict the weather 2 weeks from now (let alone when a cold or hot front will be entering a region months or years from now). Meteorologists admit that their forecasts are at best an “educated guess” from measurements they take in change of atmospheric pressures. This does not even take into account the role of the Sun, which is an obvious contributor to global climate cycles, nor other factors within our galaxy such as supernova emissions of radiation and cosmic rays. Yet despite this lack of understanding we can be certain that climate scientists can with confidence predict the climate trend of the WORLD 10 or even 50 years from now!
We are told that the climate is completely chaotic now and unpredictable but moving towards a measurable point in the future. This confident prediction is being calculated by super computers. Computers that are ultimately limited to their programs’ parameters and variables. It is claimed that these computers can ‘learn’, can ‘problem solve’, but it still is operating within a human-made program and is thus limited to the assumptions of that program. A computer cannot decide to start taking into account the Sun’s role in climate change for instance. It does not even have a concept of what the Sun is. There seems to be an almost mystical faith being put into these super computers, likened to a shaman who shakes a bag of bones and dumps its contents out to form some random pattern that somehow will reveal our fate.
How can a computer have all the answers when we don’t even know all the variables let alone how they interact in order for it to calculate the outcome years from now? Well the answer is we obviously can’t. It is not an accurate prediction. Just like the Y2K scare.
I would further add that when a movement forms vehemently asserting that the end of the world is nigh, that is a reflection of the breakdown of that society. It is a reflection that the people of such a society no longer have faith in that society’s fitness for survival. I think it is no coincidence that the leading nations supporting the prophecy of Greta are largely first world western countries, countries that at one time enjoyed the highest standards of living but now are experiencing decay and economic collapse.
There are already answers to the clean energy crisis. Namely nuclear power, with fission power (and soon fusion) not only being the cleanest forms of energy but by far the most efficient and most powerful source of energy human civilization has ever had access to, making actions once impossible turn into the possible, such as long-distance space travel. The technology of the plasma torch has the capability to break down matter into its ionic components, this means that landfills could be cost-effectively broken down into their elemental forms which would thus turn them into resource mines. It is a wonder that those who seem to care so much about solving these problems never seem to bring up these very evident solutions.
So how did European civilization ultimately survive the mayhem of the Black Death? Fortunately there were those who did not believe that this was the end of the world and sought to not only rebuild but improve upon the conditions of the past. They did not believe that people needed to resort to some form of supplication to avoid the end of the world (somewhat reminiscent of today’s concept of all humans being innately polluters who must repent and minimise the negative effects of their mere existence). Rather those that brought Europe out of the Dark Ages believed that the avoidance of the end of the world could only come about through human intervention, which had the highest capacity for the good and depended on scientific discoveries that could only be brought about through the creative imaginings of an optimistic human mind.
A 10 percent drop in manufacturing and dwindling investment due to tariffs could lose him the election
Jon Basil UTLEY
Decisions based on false or misleading information can lead to wrong and harmful solutions. The constant harping on Chinese trade having “cost” America millions of jobs is false, especially given what we now know: that 85 percent of American job losses have resulted from technology, not trade.
This complicated issue is detailed in a Yale University School of Management report. However, this is not the end of the story.
Millions of simple manufacturing jobs have been replaced with service and advanced manufacturing jobs, where America still leads. In fact, American manufacturing’s major problem right now is a shortage of a million skilled workers. We need better worker re-training programs and a campaign to change attitudes towards the social standing of skilled workers in place of our current hyper-focus on college degrees.
Trump excluded service jobs from his trade statistics, yet they represent 90 percent of American employment and a $250 billion export surplus. Dismissed as “flipping burgers,” these jobs actually involve education, medicine, travel, transport, tourism, banking, computer programming, sales, and a vast array of tasks far preferable to manning old-fashioned factory production lines. A major reason the U.S. economy is still creating jobs, despite trade war-related losses in the farm sector, is because it’s so large and dynamic that it can weather the loss of a major sector’s prosperity—and because it’s still creating those service jobs we love to demean.
Steel and aluminum prices were supposed to be buoyed by Trump tariffs; instead they’ve declined because of a global drop in prices caused by the slowdown in trade. Trump’s tariffs have led to lower prices, less business, lower profits, and fewer jobs. Steel and aluminum fabricating industries have been hurt. Ford alone lost $1 billion from higher prices. Forbes reports that a Tax Foundation study estimates 16 lost jobs in fabricating for every new job the tariffs are expected to create. Protectionists argue that manufacturing jobs are important for national defense, but the trade war has sunk U.S. manufacturing to a 10-year low.
So-called National Conservatives promote protectionism, often for cultural rather than economic reasons, opposing immigrants and trade, which they see as harming American culture. But they are totally wrong to promote tariffs as the solution to lost jobs.
Just look at your iPhone as an example of how new technology displaces old jobs and creates new ones. Add up the dozens of industries that it’s helped change or make obsolete—from taxis to cameras, from film to alarm clocks. Trade and technology do cause job losses but they’ve also created millions more throughout human history.
Many in the anti-trade lobby are conservatives who yearn for a return to the 1950s, with local shops and local factories. Some argue that it’s China’s fault for supplying Amazon and Walmart with low-cost goods. But advanced computing and the internet have created an era of growth and change not seen since the 1890s. The creative destruction of capitalism has resulted in all sorts of economic dislocations, yes, but shuttered shops and lost jobs in Appalachia are not the fault of trade (especially with China). And the evidence is already in that raising tariffs won’t bring back those jobs. Domestic factory activity hit a 10-year low in September, while new jobs expanded at the slowest rate in 18 months. Farmers now depend upon Washington subsidies for 40 percent of their income because of lost trade with China and Europe.
Withdrawing from trade with China, as some protectionists advocate, would lower our standard of living and our security. America has flourished mostly from the international order and the rule of law, which Trump’s policies are destroying. His overnight decree violating World Trade Organization treaty agreements and cutting off certain nations from buying some of our exports has made America look unreliable. Already China has designed computer chips to replace some of those imported from the American company Qualcomm, which Trump embargoed. More of our export markets will contract as other nations begin to fear similar abrupt cancelations of U.S. trade contracts.
I predicted this crisis a year ago in an article that disproved many of the shibboleths bandied about in the campaign against trade.
Unless Trump pulls back from most of his demands upon China, the Midwestern farm states will continue to suffer because of lost foreign markets. That could send the whole American economy into recession just in time for next year’s election. Trump will risk losing a second term if the Democrats can field a moderate candidate to take him on.
And while it isn’t clear whether Trump’s trade policies are a direct cause of this, his approval ratings have plummeted in the key manufacturing states—Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan—by 17 to 18 points.
Our great economic prosperity, engendered by the Trump tax cuts, regulatory reform, and deficit spending, is now being contravened by the trade war. Business investment is declining as companies grow uncertain over how new tariffs and consequent foreign retaliation will affect future supply chains and competition. The election is Trump’s to win—or lose—depending on what he does next.
A United Nations expert in torture diagnosis has in the past week issued a stark warning that Australian whistleblower Julian Assange is in danger of dying from extreme prison conditions in Britain.
It is testimony to the rank hypocrisy of British and American governments who lecture others around the world about democracy, human rights and international law.
One can only imagine the hysterical outcry among Western governments and media if somehow Assange was being detained in a Russian prison.
The 48-year-old Assange has been held in a maximum-security prison in London since April this year when he was forcibly removed from the Ecuadorean embassy. His arrest was itself a staggering breach of international law. Assange had been confined to the embassy for nearly seven years where he sought asylum to avoid being extradited to the US.
He should have been released on September 22 when his sentence for a past bail infringement had been served out. Instead, a British judge has ordered Assange to be detained until the extradition trial to the US gets underway next year. If Assange is extradited to the US he is facing 175 years in prison if convicted for espionage. Few would believe that he will receive a fair trial in Britain or the US. He has been denied due process of consulting with his defense lawyers.
Assange’s “espionage” charge stems from the fact that his whistleblower site Wikileaks published volumes of damning information exposing massive US and NATO war crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. His publications of leaked data also exposed Western diplomatic malfeasance in several countries, as well as illegal global spying on citizens by US intelligence agencies in collusion with British counterparts.
Assange has provided vital information to the international public which demonstrates systematic corruption by Washington and its allies. For telling the truth, he is now being persecuted, just as his whistleblowing colleagues, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden are. Manning has been repeatedly imprisoned in the US, while Snowden has had to seek asylum in Russia for fear of being summarily incarcerated as a “traitor” if he returns to the US.
Nils Melzer, an internationally recognized expert on torture treatment, visited Assange back in May this year during his ongoing detention in Belmarsh Category A prison under conditions of solitary confinement. He concluded then that Assange was suffering psychological torture by the British authorities. His latest warning is based on up-to-date medical information pertaining to Assange’s health, and it makes for a grim assessment.
In comments to the AFP news agency, which this week received little Western media coverage, Melzer said: “Mr Assange’s health has entered a downward spiral of progressively severe anxiety, stress and helplessness typical for persons exposed to prolonged isolation and constant arbitrariness.”
In a grave conclusion, he added: “While the precise evolution is difficult to predict with certainty, this pattern of symptoms can quickly develop into a life-threatening situation involving cardiovascular breakdown or nervous collapse.”
Melzer said the measures he urged back in May to protect Assange’s health and dignity have been pointedly ignored. “However, what we have seen from the UK government is outright contempt for Mr Assange’s rights and integrity… Despite the medical urgency of my appeal, and the seriousness of the alleged violations, the UK has not undertaken any measures of investigation, prevention and redress required under international law.”
In a further damning comment, Melzer said that Julian Assange “continues to be detained under oppressive conditions of isolation and surveillance, not justified by his detention status. While the US government prosecutes Mr Assange for publishing information about serious human rights violations, including torture and murder, the officials responsible for these crimes continue to enjoy impunity.”
The appalling assessment corroborates what Assange’s father told Strategic Culture Foundation in an interview published on September 24. John Shipton warned then that he feared his son was being killed extrajudicially by the British and American authorities.
Despite Assange’s award-winning journalism and truth-telling, the Western mainstream media have shown utter disregard for his plight. Indeed, such media have tended to bolster the vilification and character assassination piled on Assange by the American and British governments.
The hypocrisy is further underscored by recent US media attempts to lionize a so-called whistleblower who has helped launch impeachment proceedings against President Trump over alleged corruption in connection with Ukraine. By contrast, the same media in their callous indifference towards Assange are condemning him to torture for acts of whistleblowing which were truly historic in their scope and importance.
However, one thing that has severely disadvantaged the cause of Assange is the smear campaign against him, accusing him of being a “Russian asset” or “cyber terrorist”. These smears have been peddled by Western media.
So, evidently, when so-called whistleblowing serves power it is deemed praiseworthy. But when whistleblowers challenge and discredit power then they are persecuted as criminals, even to the point of death.
Arguably, if President Donald Trump had any scruples he would drop the trumped-up espionage case against Assange. After all, it was Wikileaks’ exposures of corruption by Hillary Clinton and her Democratic Party chiefs which partly boosted Trump’s election in 2016. Assange obtained those leaks from a Democratic insider, not from Russian hackers, as is commonly asserted by deluded “Russiagaters”.
Julian Assange while he was free and now while in prison exposes the systematic criminality and immorality of Western governments and their lackey corporate media. That’s why he finds himself in the hellish dungeon conditions today in a British prison.
We can only hope that mounting public pressure can be brought to bear on Washington and London to restore Assange’s freedom and life. In the meantime, the cruel vindictiveness of both governments, their lawlessness and profound contempt for human rights, is surely an eye-opening spectacle.
Jury selection began Tuesday in Washington in the trial of political operative Roger Stone on charges of obstructing justice and lying to Congress. But instead of focusing on those narrow charges, the corporate media is trying to make this about Stone’s personality while attempting to revive the discredited allegation of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
The media has a long history of putting personality above facts. Judgement should be reserved to what people say and what they do. Instead we’ve seen character assassination of many people, including imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, rather than a truthful examination of his actions and the dangerous charges against him for practicing journalism. There is the same obsession with the personalities of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, for instance, rather than objectively examining their actions, particularly on foreign policy. In the same way, Barack Obama’s personality was elevated to cover up for his foreign policy disasters in Syria, Libya, Ukraine, and Yemen and in building tensions with Russia.
Stone on his way to court in February. (Victoria Pickering/Flickr.)
Now Stone, by all appearances a sleazy operative in a town full of sleazy operatives for both parties, is portrayed by The New York Times as a “swashbuckling and abrasive political trickster for decades” and “eccentric and flamboyant.” Stone is still innocent until proven otherwise. It’s becoming harder to find, but serious reporting about a person on trial would ditch the adjectives.
The reporting on Stone has little to do with the actual charges against him, but rather serves the purpose of reviving a narrative the media falsely pushed for two years: that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to turn the 2016 election.
Newsweek reported Tuesday:
“Stone, 67, is at the center of the question of whether the Trump campaign conspired or cooperated with WikiLeaks or Russia to leak stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign during the 2016 election.”
At least The New York Times admitted,
“Mr. Mueller’s investigation found insufficient evidence to charge anyone tied to the Trump campaign with criminally conspiring with WikiLeaks or the Russians to damage the campaign of Hillary Clinton. But as documents released last week by the Justice Department underscore, Trump campaign aides were elated when WikiLeaks began publishing emails that the Russians stole from Democrats.”
Of course they were elated as any campaign would be if such damaging, and true, information came out about its opponent. Is elation now a crime?
The Democrats’ and the media’s allegation against Stone, though it is not in his indictment, is that he somehow knew about coming WikiLeaks releases and told Trump about them. Even if he did, is it a crime if he had nothing to do with obtaining the emails? Stone knew about the coming WikiLeaks releases because Assange had already announced they were coming. The Times reported: “Mr. Stone later insisted that he never had any inside information from WikiLeaks, and his claims were simply ‘posture, bluff and hype.’”
The Only Russiagate Crime
Assange in 2014, while in the Ecuadorian Embassy. (Cancillería del Ecuador, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
Aside from the technical charges against Stone on lying and obstructing justice regarding his alleged efforts to learn whatWikiLeaks was preparing to release, the only crime in this whole story is the stealing of the DNC and Podesta emails. It has never been proven in court who did it, and probably never will, despite the Times and other corporate media saying flatly that Russia did it.
Earlier in Stone’s legal process his lawyers filed a motion to try to prove that Russia did not hack the DNC and Podesta emails. The motion revealed that CrowdStrike, the cybersecurity firm hired by the DNC and Clinton campaign, never completed its report, and only gave a redacted draft to the FBI blaming Russia. The FBI was never allowed to examine the DNC server itself.
In the end, though, it doesn’t matter if it were a hack or a leak by an insider. That’s because the emails WikiLeaks released were accurate. When documents check out it is irrelevant who the source is. That’s why WikiLeaks set up an anonymous drop box, copied by big media like The Wall Street Journal and others. Had the emails been counterfeit and disinformation was inserted into a U.S. election by a foreign power that would be sabotage. But that is not what happened.
The attempt to stir up the thoroughly discredited charge of collusion appears to be part of the defense strategy of those whose reputations were thoroughly discredited by maniacally pushing that false charge for more than two years. This includes legions of journalists. But principal among them are intelligence agency officials who laundered this “collusion” disinformation campaign through the mainstream media.
Faced now with a criminal investigation into how the Russiagate conspiracy theory originated intelligence officers and their accomplices in the media and in the Democratic Party are mounting a defense by launching an offensive in the form of impeachment proceedings against Trump that is based on an allegation of conducting routine, corrupt U.S. foreign policy.
Stone may be just a footnote to this historic partisan battle that may scar the nation for a generation. But he has the personality to be the poster boy for the Democrats’ lost cause.
Last week’s impeachment headlines show why. If all you read is the New York Times, you’d think that the dump-Trump movement was going swimmingly. On Tuesday, Oct. 29, it announced that Congressman Adam Schiff, the Democrat leading the impeachment charge, had landed a key witness, a decorated army officer willing to testify that Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was “so damaging to American interests that he reported it to a superior.” Two days later, the Times dropped another bombshell, the news that neocon regime-change advocate John Bolton, furious at Trump for firing him as national security adviser two months ago, might testify as well.
“Many Democrats regard Mr. Bolton as the perfect witness,” it said, “a respected conservative national security hawk who was nonetheless incensed by the how the president and his inner circle were treating Ukraine, and who broke sharply with the president upon his departure from the White House.”
Finally, another epic disclosure came on Friday. Yet another National Security Council official, the Times said, had “confirmed a key episode at the center of the impeachment inquiry, testifying that a top diplomat working with President Trump told him that a package of military assistance for Ukraine would not be released until the country committed to investigations the president sought.”
Wow! Two star witnesses plus confirmation, even if only second hand, that the president was guilty of a quid pro quo. Send up the flares — impeachment was on the way.
Except that it wasn’t. The Times was only telling half the story while trying desperately to keep the other half, far less favorable to the Democrats, under wraps.
Take the Oct. 29 article announcing Schiff dramatic new witness, a National Security Council staffer named Alexander S. Vindman. Deep inside was a curious tidbit:
“Because he emigrated from Ukraine along with his family when he was a child and is fluent in Ukrainian and Russian, Ukrainian officials sought advice from him about how to deal with [Trump attorney Rudy] Giuliani, though they typically communicated in English.”
The Times began to hem and haw as soon as conservatives seized on the item. “We have a US national security official who is advising Ukraine while working inside the White House, apparently against the president’s interest,” laughed Fox News host Laura Ingraham. “And, usually, they spoke in English. Isn’t that kind of an interesting angle on this story?” When rightwing internet activist Jack Posobiec tweeted that Vindman was trying “to counter President Trump’s foreign policy goals” and then cited the Times as the source, the paper declared huffily that, “in fact, the Times reported no such thing.”
But it did. Indeed, a subsequent Times piece was even more explicit. “During a May meeting in Ukraine to mark Mr. Zelensky’s inauguration,” it said, “the colonel advised him to try to avoid becoming ensnared in politics in the United States” by stonewalling Trump’s request for an investigation into corruption and Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election.
If this wasn’t counseling a foreign government about how to counter White House policy, then what is? As the always provocative Moon of Alabama website pointed out, Vindman’s statement to Schiff’s House Intelligence Committee, conveniently leaked to the press, was revealing in other ways as well,.
“[A] strong and independent Ukraine,” it said, “is critical to US national security interests because Ukraine is a frontline state and a bulwark against Russian aggression.… The US government policy community’s view is that the election of President Volodymyr Zelensky and the promise of reforms to eliminate corruption will lock in Ukraine’s Western-leaning trajectory, and allow Ukraine to realize its dream of a vibrant democracy and economic prosperity.” But, it continued, “outside influencers [are] promoting a false narrative of Ukraine inconsistent with the consensus views of the interagency.”
References to a US government policy community should have raised all sorts of alarms. After all, what is such a community and who on earth appointed it? Who gets to decide what the consensus view is? How do we know outside influencers are promoting a false narrative – because the consensus says so?
What Vindman doesn’t understand is that in order to set policy, you’ve got to get elected, something Trump is – if only by the Electoral College – and something that self-appointed foreign-policy experts are not. Trump can seek policy advice from whatever source he wants, and it’s not up to some NSC flunky to tell him otherwise.
The other big news that the Times managed to ignore last week was the disclosure that the whistleblower who kicked off the furor over the Trump-Zelensky phone call is a 33-year-old CIA agent named Eric Chiaramella, an Obama holdover who advised Joe Biden on the Ukraine and who worked with a Democratic operative named Alexandra Chalupa, whose job was to meet with Ukrainian officials and dig up dirt on Trump.
Paul Sperry’s report in RealClearInvestigations.com – which Chiaramella’s attorneys have so far failed to deny – is a big deal because of what it says about the infighting between Trump and Obama loyalists that is now tearing Washington apart. Chiaramella also turns out to be a member of Washington’s self-appointed policy community who thinks that Trump’s job is to do as he’s told. As an unnamed White House official told Sperry:
“My recollection of Eric is that he was very smart and very passionate, particularly about Ukraine and Russia. That was his thing – Ukraine. He didn’t exactly hide his passion with respect to what he thought was the right thing to do with Ukraine and Russia, and his views were at odds with the president’s policies.”
So Chiaramella reported his findings to Adam Schiff, who agreed right off the bat to prosecute the president for daring to set a new course. This is what impeachment is about, not high crimes and misdemeanors, but who lost the Ukraine – plus Syria, Libya, Yemen, and other countries that the Obama administration succeeded in destroying – and why Trump should pay the supreme penalty for suggesting that Democrats are in any way to blame.
Of course, the Times is to blame as well. It twisted the news so as to cheer on such misbegotten policies just as it cheered on the twin invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq a dozen years or so earlier. This is why it’s furious with Trump for holding Democrats to account and why it now fills its pages with endless blather about quid pro quo’s just as it once did about Russian collusion.
But it won’t work. The only thing Democrats will succeed in impeaching is their own integrity.
The western media has been hit with warnings of “financial Armageddon” and the need for a “global hegemonic synthetic currency” to replace the collapsing US dollar under a new system of green finance. These statements have been made by former and current Bank of England Governors Mark Carney and Mervyn King respectively and should not be ignored as the world sits atop the largest financial bubble in human history reminiscent of the 1929 bubble that was triggered on black Friday in the USA which unleashed a great depression across Europe and America.
While I’m not arguing that a systemic change is not vital to protect people from the effects of a general meltdown of the $1.2 trillion derivatives bubble sometimes called “the western banking system”, what such central bankers are proposing is a poison more deadly than the disease they promise to cure.
In principle, the world crisis, is no different from the artificially manufactured crises which the world faced in 1923 when unpayable Versailles debts were heaved onto a beaten Germany, which I elaborated upon in my previous report. It is also no different from the nature of the folly that unleashed unbounded speculation during the “roaring 1920s” which led to the bank-run and general meltdown. Similarly, the solutions being proposed to put out the fire by those same arsonists who lit the matches today are identical to what the world faced in 1933 as a “central bankers” solution for the world depression.
How the 1929 Crash was Manufactured
While everyone knows that the 1929 market crash unleashed four years of hell in America which quickly spread across Europe under the great depression, not many people have realized that this was not inevitable, but rather a controlled blowout.
The bubbles of the 1920s were unleashed with the early death of President William Harding in 1923 and grew under the careful guidance of JP Morgan’s President Coolidge and financier Andrew Mellon (Treasury Secretary) who de-regulated the banks, imposed austerity onto the country, and cooked up a scheme for Broker loans allowing speculators to borrow 90% on their stock. Wall Street was deregulated, investments into the real economy were halted during the 1920s and insanity became the norm. In 1925 broker loans totalled $1.5 billion and grew to $2.6 billion in 1926 and hit $5.7 billion by the end of 1927. By 1928, the stock market was overvalued fourfold!
When the bubble was sufficiently inflated, a moment was decided upon to coordinate a mass “calling in” of the broker loans. Predictably, no one could pay them resulting in a collapse of the markets. Those “in the know” cleaned up with JP Morgan’s “preferred clients”, and other financial behemoths selling before the crash and then buying up the physical assets of America for pennies on the dollar. One notable person who made his fortune in this manner was Prescott Bush of Brown Brothers Harriman, who went onto bailout a bankrupt Nazi party in 1932. These financiers had a tight allegiance with the City of London and coordinated their operations through the private central banking system of America’s Federal Reserve and Bank of International Settlements.
The Living Hell that was the Great Depression
Throughout the Great depression, the population was pushed to its limits making America highly susceptible to fascism as unemployment skyrocketed to 25%, industrial capacity collapsed by 70%, and agricultural prices collapsed far below the cost of production accelerating foreclosures and suicide. Life savings were lost as 4000 banks failed.
This despair was replicated across Europe and Canada with eugenics-loving fascists gaining popularity across the board. England saw the rise of Sir Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists in 1932, English Canada had its own fascist solution with the Rhodes Scholar “Fabian Society” League of Social Reconstruction (which later took over the Liberal Party) calling for the “scientific management of society”. Time magazine had featured Il Duce over 6 times by 1932 and people were being told by that corporate fascism was the economic solution to all of America’s economic woes.
In the midst of the crisis, the City of London removed itself from the gold standard in 1931 which was a crippling blow to the USA, as it resulted in a flight of gold from America causing a deeper contraction of the money supply and thus inability to respond to the depression. British goods simultaneously swamped the USA crushing what little production was left.
It was in this atmosphere that one of the least understood battles unfolded in 1933.
1932: A Bankers’ Dictatorship is Attempted
In Germany, a surprise victory of Gen. Kurt Schleicher caused the defeat of the London-directed Nazi party in December 1932 threatening to break Germany free of Central Bank tyranny. A few weeks before Schleicher’s victory, Franklin Roosevelt won the presidency in America threatening to regulate the private banks and assert national sovereignty over finance.
Seeing their plans for global fascism slipping away, the City of London announced that a new global system controlled by Central Banks had to be created post haste. Their objective was to use the economic crisis as an excuse to remove from nation states any power over monetary policy, while enhancing the power of Independent Central Banks as enforcers of “balanced global budgets”. elaborate
In December 1932, an economic conference “to stabilize the world economy” was organized by the League of Nations under the guidance of the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) and Bank of England. The BIS was set up as “the Central Bank of Central Banks” in 1930 in order to facilitate WWI debt repayments and was a vital instrument for funding Nazi Germany- long after WWII began. The London Economic Conference brought together 64 nations of the world under a controlled environment chaired by the British Prime Minister and opened by the King himself.
A resolution passed by the Conference’s Monetary Committee stated:
“The conference considers it to be essential, in order to provide an international gold standard with the necessary mechanism for satisfactory working, that independent Central Banks, with requisite powers and freedom to carry out an appropriate currency and credit policy, should be created in such developed countries as have not at present an adequate central banking institution” and that “the conference wish to reaffirm the great utility of close and continuous cooperation between Central Banks. The Bank of International Settlements should play an increasingly important part not only by improving contact, but also as an instrument for common action.”
Echoing Carney’s current fixation with “mathematical equilibrium”, the resolutions stated that the new global gold standard controlled by central banks was needed “to maintain a fundamental equilibrium in the balance of payments” of countries. The idea was to deprive nation states of their power to generate and direct credit for their own development.
FDR Torpedoes the London Conference
Chancellor Schleicher’s resistance to a bankers’ dictatorship was resolved by a “soft coup” ousting the patriotic leader in favor of Adolph Hitler (under the control of a Bank of England toy named Hjalmar Schacht) in January 1933 with Schleicher assassinated the following year. In America, an assassination attempt on Roosevelt was thwarted on February 15, 1933 when a woman knocked the gun out of the hand of an anarchist-freemason in Miami resulting in the death of Chicago’s Mayor Cermak (1).
Without FDR’s dead body, the London conference met an insurmountable barrier, as FDR refused to permit any American cooperation. Roosevelt recognized the necessity for a new international system, but he also knew that it had to be organized by sovereign nation states subservient to the general welfare of the people and not central banks dedicated to the welfare of the oligarchy. Before any international changes could occur, nation states castrated from the effects of the depression had to first recover economically in order to stay above the power of the financiers.
By May 1933, the London Conference crumbled when FDR complained that the conference’s inability to address the real issues of the crisis is “a catastrophe amounting to a world tragedy” and that fixation with short term stability were “old fetishes of so-called international bankers”. FDR continued “The United States seeks the kind of dollar which a generation hence will have the same purchasing and debt paying power as the dollar value we hope to attain in the near future. That objective means more to the good of other nations than a fixed ratio for a month or two. Exchange rate fixing is not the true answer.”
The British drafted an official statement saying “the American statement on stabilization rendered it entirely useless to continue the conference.”
FDR’s War on Wall Street
The new president laid down the gauntlet in his inaugural speech on March 4th saying: “The money-changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit”.
FDR declared a war on Wall Street on several levels, beginning with his support of the Pecorra Commission which sent thousands of bankers to prison, and exposed the criminal activities of the top tier of Wall Street’s power structure who manipulated the depression, buying political offices and pushing fascism. Ferdinand Pecorra who ran the commission called out the deep state when he said “this small group of highly placed financiers, controlling the very springs of economic activity, holds more real power than any similar group in the United States.”
Pecorra’s highly publicized success empowered FDR to impose sweeping regulation in the form of 1) Glass-Steagall bank separation, 2) bankruptcy re-organization and 3) the creation of the Security Exchange Commission to oversee Wall Street. Most importantly, FDR disempowered the London-controlled Federal Reserve by installing his own man as Chair (Industrialist Mariner Eccles) who forced it to obey national commands for the first time since 1913, while creating an “alternative” lending mechanism outside of Fed control called the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) which became the number one lender to infrastructure in America throughout the 1930s.
One of the most controversial policies for which FDR is demonized today was his abolishment of the gold standard. The gold standard itself constricted the money supply to a strict exchange of gold per paper dollar, thus preventing the construction of internal improvements needed to revive industrial capacity and put the millions of unemployed back to work for which no financial resources existed. It’s manipulation by international financiers made it a weapon of destruction rather than creation at this time. Since commodity prices had fallen lower than the costs of production, it was vital to increase the price of goods under a form of “controlled inflation” so that factories and farms could become solvent and unfortunately the gold standard held that back. FDR imposed protective tariffs to favor agro-industrial recovery on all fronts ending years of rapacious free trade.
FDR stated his political-economic philosophy in 1934: “the old fallacious notion of the bankers on the one side and the government on the other side, as being more or less equal and independent units, has passed away. Government by the necessity of things must be the leader, must be the judge, of the conflicting interests of all groups in the community, including bankers.”
The Real New Deal
Once liberated from the shackles of the central banks, FDR and his allies were able to start a genuine recovery by restoring confidence in banking. Within 31 days of his bank holiday, 75% of banks were operational and the FDIC was created to insure deposits. Four million people were given immediate work, and hundreds of libraries, schools and hospitals were built and staffed- All funded through the RFC. FDR’s first fireside chat was vital in rebuilding confidence in the government and banks, serving even today as a strong lesson in banking which central bankers don’t want you to learn about.
From 1933-1939, 45 000 infrastructure projects were built. The many “local” projects were governed, like China’s Belt and Road Initiative today, under a “grand design” which FDR termed the “Four Quarters” featuring zones of megaprojects such as the Tennessee Valley Authority area in the south east, the Columbia River Treaty zone on the northwest, the St Laurence Seaway zone on the North east, and Hoover Dam/Colorado zone on the Southwest. These projects were transformative in ways money could never measure as the Tennessee area’s literacy rose from 20% in 1932 to 80% in 1950, and racist backwater holes of the south became the bedrock for America’s aerospace industry due to the abundant and cheap hydropower.
Wall Street Sabotages the New Deal
Those who criticize the New Deal today ignore the fact that its failures have more to do with Wall Street sabotage than anything intrinsic to the program. For example, JP Morgan tool Lewis Douglass (U.S. Budget Director) forced the closure of the Civil Works Administration in 1934 resulting in the firing of all 4 million workers.
Wall Street did everything it could to choke the economy at every turn. In 1931, NY banks loans to the real economy amounted to $38.1 billion which dropped to only $20.3 billion by 1935. Where NY banks had 29% of their funds in US bonds and securities in 1929, this had risen to 58% which cut off the government from being able to issue productive credit to the real economy.
When, in 1937, FDR’s Treasury Secretary persuaded him to cancel public works to see if the economy “could stand on its own two feet”, Wall Street pulled credit out of the economy collapsing the Industrial production index from 110 to 85 erasing seven years’ worth of gain, while steel fell from 80% capacity back to depression levels of 19%. Two million jobs were lost and the Dow Jones lost 39% of its value. This was no different from kicking the crutches out from a patient in rehabilitation and it was not lost on anyone that those doing the kicking were openly supporting Fascism in Europe. Bush patriarch Prescott Bush, then representing Brown Brothers Harriman was found guilty for trading with the enemy in 1942!
Coup Attempt in America Thwarted
The bankers didn’t limit themselves to financial sabotage during this time, but also attempted a fascist military coup which was exposed by Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler in his congressional testimony of November 20, 1934. Butler had testified that the plan was begun in the Summer of 1933 and organized by Wall Street financiers who tried to use him as a puppet dictator leading 500 000 American Legion members to storm the White House. As Butler spoke, those same financiers had just set up an anti-New Deal organization called the American Liberty League which fought to keep America out of the war in defense of an Anglo-Nazi fascist global government which they wished to partner with.
The American Liberty league only changed tune when it became evident that Hitler had become a disobedient Frankenstein monster who wasn’t content in a subservient position to Britain’s idea of a New World Order. In response to the Liberty League’s agenda, FDR said “some speak of a New World Order, but it is not new and it is not order”.
FDR’s Post-War Vision Destroyed
While FDR’s struggle did change the course of history, his early death during the first months of his fourth term resulted in a fascist perversion of his post-war vision.
Rather than see the IMF, World Bank or UN used as instruments for the internationalization of the New Deal principles to promote long term, low interest loans for the industrial development of former colonies, FDR’s allies were ousted from power over his dead body, and they were recaptured by the same forces who attempted to steer the world towards a Central Banking Dictatorship in 1933.
The American Liberty League spawned into various “patriotic” anti-communist organizations which took power with the FBI and McCarthyism under the fog of the Cold War. This is the structure that Eisenhower warned about when he called out “the Military Industrial Complex” in 1960 and which John Kennedy did battle with during his 900 days as president.
The New Silk Road as the 21st Century New Deal
This is the structure which is out to destroy President Donald Trump out of fear that a new FDR impulse is beginning to be revived in America which may align with the 21st Century international New Deal emerging from China’s Belt and Road Initiative and Eurasian alliance. French Finance Minister Bruno LeMaire and Marc Carney have stated their fear that if the Green New Deal isn’t imposed by the west, then the New Silk Road and yuan will become the basis for the new world system.
The Bank of England-authored Green New Deal and Synthetic Hegemonic Currency which promise to impose draconian constraints on humanity’s carrying capacity in defense of saving nature from humanity have nothing to do with Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and they have less to do with the Bretton Woods conference of 1944. These are merely central bankers’ wet dreams for depopulation and fascism “with a democratic face” which their 1933 conference failed to achieve and can only be imposed if people remain blind to their own recent history.
(1) Zingara was labelled a “lone gunman” and promptly executed before any proper investigation could be done.
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
In Latin America several countries are under turmoil, as people cannot even meet their most basics needs. The last few months have seen a remarkable spectacle: hundreds of thousands of citizens are taking to the streets to protest to what they perceive is their governments’ attack on their well-being, and the governments’ responses have been late and inadequate.
A reason for these failures can be found in an anecdote related by Jean Cocteau. A couple of drivers suffer a car malfunction in a small Chinese town: there is a hole in the gas tank. They find a mechanic that can repair it; he can do an exact replica of the tank in a couple of hours. When they pick up the car they restart the trip when, in the dark hours of the night, they face the same problem. The reason: the mechanic had also copied the hole in the gas tank. Governments, and alas, not only those in Latin America, are trying to solve problems facing them using the same recipe, the one that hadn’t succeeded before.
What is happening now is important not only in its dimension, but also in the possibility of a generalized continental chaos with unpredictable consequences. And this is happening after Latin America seemed to be a on a path to sustained development, based on years of high commodity prices. However, governments, rather than taking advantage of this situation, have instead used the remarkable financial resources obtained for their own spurious aims.
The citizenry, tired of false promises, resorts to voting for populist governments that, although they increase the countries’ external debt, have at least a policy of redistribution of resources that solves immediate problems and gives people a false sense of security. This has been starkly seen now in Argentina, where Alberto Fernández and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (they are not related) won the country’s presidential election although she has more than a dozen criminal cases against her.
Present economic and social crises have special characteristics according to what countries are considered. The common denominator to all is the profound economic inequality which, according to the United Nations, is greater in Latin America than in any other part of the world. The Economic Commission for Latin America and Caribbean states that, although in Chile poverty levels went down three percentage points between 2016 and 2019, one percent of the country’s population still owns 26.5 percent of its wealth.
David Konzevik, an Argentine economist and advisor to many governments, has developed the theory called “The revolution of expectations”. According to Konzevik, the degree of knowledge and information that exists today makes people aware of possibilities for better living that are unfulfilled. Governments by and large remain deaf to people’s demands. “The poor today are rich in information and millionaires in expectations,” Konzevik told me recently in New York.
In addition, in almost all countries judicial institutions are weak and as a result widespread corruption remains unpunished. As the worldwide economy has slowed down, governments lack resources to pay for social programs. As a result, the public has become increasingly more vocal in its demands for better services and salaries, and less willing to accept great levels of social inequality.
However, today not only the poor participate in the protests against the governments. Protesting as well are vast sectors of the middle class who also see their quality of life considerably lowered by government policies that favor mainly the rich.
Is there a way out of this morass? The answer may be in the following story told by the Spanish-Mexican historian Juan María Alponte. “A man, passing a quarry, saw three stone cutters. He asked the first: ‘What do you do?’ ‘You see, cutting these stones.’ The second said: ‘I prepare a cornerstone.’ The third one simply said, unaffected. ‘I build a cathedral.’” We need politicians who want to build a cathedral.
Into its third week and the stand-off between protestors and the elite in Lebanon is still holding strong as thousands of Lebanese are calling for a radical overhaul of a system which collapsed under its own weight of corrupt warlords who have looted the state coffers for decades
But do they know what they want? And how relevant is Hariri’s resignation?
Hariri resigning could mean a new anti-corruption agenda installing itself within the political institutions – whether he comes back as PM with his own cabinet hand-picked, or is dispatched to the darkness of opposition.
Or it could mean just a rearrangement of the window dressing to keep the old guard in place.
The call from protestors to install a new government cabinet of technocrats who are not part of the political elite will have to be heeded; the question is whether it will be done properly or disingenuously. Your technocrats or mine?
But his resignation was fundamentally based on a clash of personalities. And its personalities which play a huge role in Lebanon, which operated under a sectarian power sharing system for decades – one which many Lebanese claim they are tired of, but which they are still very much attached to, despite the protests, the chanting and even the partying.
The problem Lebanon has is that while many want change, few, if any, are able to provide any lucid vision of what that might entail.
Consequently, this places even more emphasis on political figures. It’s unlikely that a new European style of democratic apparatus will permeate the Lebanese government. What is more likely is that the old system will stay in place, but a genuine crackdown on corruption – which is seen to work – will be forced to take root.
The fundamental difference of opinion is thus. Hariri plus two other groups (socialist Druze and ultra Christian conservative ‘Lebanese Forces’) all believe this should be done through installing an entirely new cabinet of technocrats, based on their individual merit. The opposition to that plan, from Aoun and Hezbollah, is that this can be done from within the existing political framework, with less fuss.
Hezbollah is keen not to let the country descend into chaos but also invested heavily in the Aoun-Hariri power sharing model which kicked off on October 31st 2016. In short, it fears that the Hariri plan would ultimately lead to an entirely new breed of MPs which would erode its support base.
Indeed, the baying crowds need to see an entirely new approach to governance and responsibility of office. For the moment, this has put a spotlight on key figures as their resignation is seen to be a swift and clean antidote to decades of embezzlement and greed. The house speaker, for example, Nabih Berri, has been in the job since 1992 and so entire generations of Lebanese know no other. But even his own supporters are tired of his rapacious embezzlement of state funds and running the south of Lebanon almost like a mafia chief, according to a leaked US cable. Aoun himself, also profited from the ‘wasta’ (kinship)corruption system, and is from a different age which no Lebanese understands or align themselves to. His background is military and he is hated for running the country along the same lines as any clueless dictator, taking his lead from Hezbollah and showing a vociferous disdain for anything whiffing of democratic reform.
And how can you trust a man who lies about his age, to have the best interests of the country at heart, let alone the economy?
Hariri’s original proposals, which were accepted, fall short of the mark on saving the economy also. One has to question how serious he was about banking transparency of the elite or a new anti corruption agency, when, in fact, he agreed at least to close down the previous one – a farcical set up of a minister and a fax machine in downtown Beirut run by an Aoun supporting minister who is considered part of the elite.
What Hariri does see though is the removal from office of key figures which are universally loathed for their personal aggrandizement – both financially and politically – and his resignation was based on this. It is said in Beirut that he visited Hassan Nasrallah, secretary general of Hezbollah, on the day of his resignation where he demanded that the president’s son in law, Gebran Bassil, be removed from his post as foreign minister.
Bassil is despised by protestors and is seen as a epitome of greed and graft – who was actually made a minister by his father in law, President Michel Aoun – through the corrupt political system, based on tribalism and kinship. But worse, the odious Bassil – recently reported in Lebanon for taking boxes of cash from Iran, disguised as Red Cross aid parcels – is being groomed by Hezbollah to inherit the presidency from Aoun.
He’s actually seen as Assad’s man in Beirut.
For many Lebanese, even those not interested in confessional politics, this is what is at stake. Aoun’s presidency, tainted by journalists and protestors being beaten up and jailed and corruption reaching new levels, has made Lebanon more or less a tin pot African dictatorship, complete with succession of heirs, no power nor water, a garbage crisis, a local currency under threat of being devalued and a new level of lawlessness taking root.
Even Aoun’s own daughters are enraged by Bassil becoming President and want him kicked out, believing their father’s legacy had been stained. And Bassil also became the focal point of particularly vitriolic chants from the protestors.
And so, for Hariri, it was clear that a quick and decisive way to quell the protestors’ anger, would be to do some culling. The removal of Bassil is key, he believes, to moving forward.
Hezbollah has resisted this though as indeed has Aoun as Bassil represented a new, younger face to represent Iran’s interests in a country where there aren’t too many candidates for such a job.
And getting Berri to step down as House Speaker will also be difficult. The sheer pusillanimity of these characters is what is fundamentally wrecking the Lebanese economy as is their idea that it is the poor who should pay for their call-centre governance with a whatsap tax, which is what ignited the protests on October 17.
A caretaker government with Hariri still acting as PM is the most likely of scenarios in the short term, while Hezbollah, Aoun, Berri and Bassil all try and manipulate MPs to vote for the status quo with a new Sunni PM, possibly Raya al-Hassan, the current minister of interior who is from Tripoli and has no stained record of graft. If they however go for a Hariri come back, then this will be seen as a survival ticket for themselves – as it will mean Bassil leaving the cabinet and the protestors’ fevered demands for early parliamentary elections possibly cooling. To re-elect Hariri, which is not at all a far-fetched scenario – will almost be the starter’s pistol on a revolution, one which will be keenly watched both by wobbly Gulf Arab rulers in the region and even as far as Algeria and Morocco. The problem is there is not the time for such previous stand offs which have left Lebanon without a government. There simply isn’t time left to experiment further with the Hezbollah-Aoun ruse.
Find out about the unlikely story of Baghdadi’s umpteenth death.
By 1937, the German Army, the Wehrmacht was confident enough to show off its new Panzer armored combat tactics to visiting military delegations from other nations. Senior officers from Germany’s ancient enemy France were especially impressed – and appalled – at the radical new weapons systems and tactics on display.
According to one story, which may be apocryphal, a French general asked a senior German officer where the new concepts came from. “But we just read the book of your own great armored theorist, De Gaulle,” the answer came.
The French generals were even more puzzled: None of them had heard of their own lowly Colonel Charles De Gaulle, author of “Vers l’Armée de Métier” (“Towards a Professional Army”). Only 700 copies were sold in all of France.
In Germany, Heinz Guderian and other senior commanders eagerly seized on De Gaulle’s teachings of integrated armor, artillery and infantry forces. They developed the Blitzkrieg techniques that conquered the large nation of Poland in only five weeks in September through early October 1939. Still the French generals would not listen to De Gaulle. The following year, their own nation -supposedly the supreme military power in the world – fell to the Wehrmacht in only eight weeks.
Today, the United States and its allies have received a military wakeup call and warning in the Middle East as epochal as the Conquest of Poland was in 1939.
For a new Revolution in Military Affairs has just begun. Three brigades of the Saudi Arabian Army armed to the teeth by the United States in Riyadh’s $90 billion a year military budgets have just been wiped out by a handful of Houthi rebels from Yemen employing military equipment that was largely adapted from commercial models now easily available in chain stores all across the United States and the rest of the developed world.
The Houthis used cheap and easily available Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or drones and small, precision-guided missiles and ordinance. Neither the US-supplied Saudi Hardware nor the US-inculcated Saudi tactics proved a match for them.
Ironically, the US armed forces have introduced the military use of drones for surveillance and targeted assassinations on an enormous scale. But they have failed to take the next step and integrate this new military technology with all its myriad potential into tactical combat doctrine for full-scale land battle.
In very large part, this is because since the catastrophic decisions of George W. Bush and his Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the US Army over the past 18 years has been sucked into endless, exhausting counter-insurgency campaigns around the world – always without any realistic political framework or strategy at all.
The British Empire made the same mistake in its own long counter-insurgency campaigns of the 1920s and 1930s in Ireland, Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan – all territories that have an eerily contemporary ring.
When the great land clash of armies to decide the fate of Europe came in May 1940, therefore, the British Army and its High Command were woefully unprepared for it: The US Army leadership over the past two decades has gone down the same rabbit hole.
The brilliant Houthi military victory over the Saudis fulfilled the predictions in military doctrine made by America’s own De Gaulle, a retired US Army Colonel, Douglas Macgregor with an outstanding combat and command record who has been treated over the past 20 years by most of his own country’s four star generals and civilian theorists with contempt: Just as the French Army ignored De Gaulle’s armored warfare doctrines 90 years, when they were being read and applied passionately by the generals of Germany.
Macgregor observed after the Houthi victory in September that that there was no reason for surprise. Sure enough, two and a half years earlier, in testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) on March 7, 2017, he stated:
“The skies over the battlefield will be crowded with loitering munitions, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or drones). These agile cruise missiles are designed to engage beyond line-of-sight ground targets. With proximity-fused, high-explosive warheads, these systems will remain airborne for hours, day or night. Equipped with high resolution electro-optical and infrared cameras, enemy operators will locate, surveil, and guide the drones to targets on the ground… When these loitering missiles are integrated into the enemy’s Strike Formations armed with precision guided rocket artillery that fires high explosive, incendiary, thermobaric, warheads including sub-munitions with self-targeting anti-tank and anti-personnel munitions warfare as we know it changes.”
Macgregor was even more prescient in predicting the previous Houthi precision missile strikes that wiped out half the production capacity of Saudi Arabia’s oil refineries earlier in September. Those attacks humiliatingly exposed the ultra-expensive, endlessly praised US missile defense systems sold to Riyadh as worthless dinosaurs.
Yet, writing in his book “Transformation Under Fire” published back in 2003, Macgregor had said: “The idea is to link maneuver and strike assets through a flatter operational architecture empowered by new terrestrial and space-based communications throughout the formation… Long-range, joint precision fires and C4ISR [Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance] offer the possibility to reach over enemy armies to directly strike at what they hope to defend or preserve. Precision strategic strikes closely coordinated and timed with converging Army combat forces would present a defending enemy with an insoluble dilemma.”
In an article in “Joint Force Quarterly” in 2011, Macgregor concluded that such “precision effects (kinetic and non-kinetic) using a vast array of strike forces enabled by the rapid and timely dissemination of information through networked ISR capabilities point the way to a fundamental paradigm shift in the character of warfare.”
Thanks to the lowly Houthis, supposedly reduced to the status of cannon fodder for Saudi Arabia’s hot shot F-15 pilots and the most expensive munitions the United States could sell to its Riyadh ally, that paradigm shift foreseen by Macgregor has arrived. Its effects will soon be felt all across Asia and Europe as well as in the more obscure corners of Arabia. We are about to enter dangerously interesting times.
Despite Nancy Pelosi’s “prayerful” concerns and the cowardice of the party she leads, impeachment time has come at last! Republicans must now decide whether to flee their Dear Leader, like rats on a sinking ship, or to stand by his big and very stable brain.
As of now, the smart money has them remaining on board – agonizing over their own fates.
Agonize away, miscreants! When bad things happen to bad people, it “proves the heavens more just.”
Republican – that is, Trump Party — strategists, in the White House and Congress, know that defending Trump on the merits, on any merits, is out of the question.
They have also come around to the realization that, even with Fox and Worse behind them, they can no longer defend him by complaining about the procedures Democrats have put in place in their impeachment inquiries – not with “the revolution,” or whatever it is, about to be televised.
And so, by all accounts, they are about to concede that, yes, Donald Trump is guilty as charged. Since there will soon no longer be any remotely plausible way to claim that the Democrats have not been fair to a fault, they will stop harping on that too.
What they will do instead is insist that the case against Trump somehow doesn’t “rise to the level” required for impeachment.
But for the fact that hardcore Trump supporters are unmoved by reason and could care less about evidence, that line of defense would qualify technically as a “hail Mary pass.” Anyone who doesn’t know what I mean by that should check with the Chamber of Commerce or, better yet, the hapless mayor of South Bend, Indiana, home of the Fighting Irish.
Republicans, especially the Republican Senators now gearing up to keep Trump in office after the House impeaches him, seem to think that they can ride out whatever comes their way as long as the economy doesn’t turn south in time to matter in next year’s election.
They are also counting on the suckers Trump has bamboozled – in America, it seems, there really is one born every minute — hanging onto the belief that even if their man is an asshole, a swindler, and a moral reprobate, at least he is their asshole, swindler and reprobate.
Their expectations are not unreasonable. Evangelicals have been with Trump, the personification of all they supposedly abhor, since Day One; why not the rest of his vaunted base as well?
They will also argue, of course, that the Democratic nominee is too far out in left field to win.
That will be their contention even if, through some aberration in the light of reason, the Democrats nominate Joe Biden or that ridiculous South Bend mayor or any other “moderate” – in other words, anyone who defends the status quo within the Democratic Party and in the larger society by seeming to oppose at least some of what is driving the views of many potential Democratic voters far to the left of their party’s leaders.
Our “democratic” institutions make a mockery of such core democratic notions as political equality, equality of political influence, one person one vote, and so on; they also make it extremely difficult to reverse bad electoral choices, regardless what most citizens demand.
In line with that, Republicans, finding all other avenues exhausted, now want Trump’s fate to hinge on what counts as an impeachable offense. The trouble with that is that everything or nothing could, as it were, “rise” to that level.
What is impeachable is whatever the House and Senate say is impeachable. According to any remotely plausible reading of a Constitution that all sides claim to regard as the supreme authority on the matter, there is no principled way to gainsay their judgment; they are, for all practical purposes, more infallible than the Pope.
There has long been ample evidence supporting Samuel Johnson’s claim that “patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels.” In the Land of the Free, we have scoundrels aplenty; in recent years, the escapades of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, his éminence grise, produced a bumper crop.
But because Trump makes everything worse, Johnson’s contention must now be revised. Patriotism is no less noxious than it used to be, but, in our time and place, it is no longer the very last refuge of scoundrels. Lawyerly gobbledygook is. Who’d have thunk it?
* * *
When first developed more than a century ago, the jurisprudential doctrine now called “legal realism” was of a piece with the pragmatist philosophies of the time. Like the pragmatists, legal realists were naturalists. Thus, in their view, laws are not grounded in any special rationally accessible or theologically prescribed authority; they are, and ought to be, based on empirically accessible matters of fact.
As such, they are, in the final analysis, neither more nor less than, as Oliver Wendell Holmes famously put it, “predictions” of what courts will do.
For a long time now, most legal theorists have distanced themselves from views like Holmes’, arguing, in various ways, that reasons to respect laws and follow their dictates are defensible in their own right, irrespective of contingent matters of fact.
This is not the place to engage the several debates that raged around these issues, except to note that everyone involved in them took for granted the basic probity of the legal system itself.
Those who held that legal arguments are ultimately mere formalities that are justifiable or not depending on facts about human nature, the human condition, and the circumstances at hand, and those who claimed that they articulate rationally defensible substantive constraints on what courts my rightfully do, agreed that, for the most part, the American legal system could be counted on to do the right thing.
The American public thought so too.
Not only did confidence that this was the case run deep; for a long time, it seemed entirely justified. It survived Nixon and Reagan and the Bushes diminished, but still basically intact. The judges that Republican presidents nominated, retrograde as they often were, were still, for the most part, faithful guardians of the rule of law. Even the diminution of privacy rights and the attacks on civil liberties brought on by the Bush-Obama “war on terror” changed nothing fundamental in that respect.
But Trump makes everything worse. With the villainous Mitch McConnell doing the heavy lifting, and with the Republican Senate in tow, he has made assumptions about the basic probity of the federal judiciary a lot harder to sustain.
McConnell has done his level best to pack the federal judiciary with troglodyte judges, and the Trump-Barr Justice Department cannot be counted on to uphold anything like the rule of law, at least not when the matters in dispute involve Trump himself.
With two Trump appointees now joining the rightwing menagerie already there, the Supreme Court itself could soon follow suit. For years after Trump is gone, the consequences will reverberate.
What to do about this is among the most important questions of this historical moment; its urgency will become acute if all goes well, or at least not too disastrously, next November.
But with Trump’s defenders now reduced to playing a legalistic jibber-jabber card of their own contrivance, a low-grade battle is already on.
It has therefore become timely to ask what does “rise to the level,” as they say, of an impeachable offence? Liberal columnists in the “quality press” and the talking heads featured on the liberal cable networks – most of them former Republicans or unreconstructed Democratic centrists – nowadays write or talk about little else.
What they have to say, however, is not exactly clarifying.
For one thing, they tell us that impeachment is a political, not a legal, process. What might that mean?
It could mean that it is not about following precedents or legal principles, even if there were suitable ones to follow, but about doing what legislatures are supposed to do. On some not too outlandish views, that would involve trying to figure out what would be the best thing to do.
Engage that issue and it becomes glaringly obvious that it should be easy, not practically impossible, to get rid of a sitting president as awful and dangerous as the one with whom the United States and the entire world must now contend.
To hear leading Democrats and their media flunkies tell it, impeachment is such a monumental act that Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats who think like her, or say that they do, are, or claim to be, reduced to fear and trembling by the gravity of their task, even to the point of prayerfully asking (or, in case there is no one there to answer, thinking that they are asking) God for guidance.
The gravity of the situation is not caused just by the Constitutional strictures that make the impeachment process hard to execute. Democrats are at fault too; for their role in the bipartisan effort to take up where the Constitution leaves off – by turning impeachment into a quasi-legal process, after all.
This makes the whole business a lot like going after Al Capone for taxes. Capone, by the way, must be turning over in his grave, seeing a man not half the crook he was, getting away with whatever it is he is keeping the IRS from revealing. How ironic!
It was like that with Nixon too. Much of what he did was a lot worse than what he would have been impeached for, had he not resigned first. The disparity is even more extreme in Bill Clinton’s case. In his circumstances, can anyone really blame him for falling for Monica Lewinsky or even, to save his ass, for lying about it.
Now it is Trump’s turn. Reasons why he should be removed from office are as plentiful as the stars in the sky. If not quite with every breath he takes, then with every barely literate rant he tweets, he adds to their number.
But count on him being impeached for almost none of it, and certainly not for the worst things he has done. Indeed, Pelosi and Company seem about to insist that the House Judiciary Committee go no farther than some comparatively harmless extortion and obstruction of justice offenses.
In fairness, we do not yet know what the articles of impeachment that the House will finally settle on will be. But it is far more likely than not that they will barely scratch the surface of Trump’s iniquity. If Pelosi gets her way, they could well involve nothing more than Trump’s efforts to extort Ukraine for help in smearing the Bidens, Hunter and Joe.
One of the myths surrounding Trump is that he is, or was, a great businessman. What he was great at is taking advantage of the political juice bequeathed him by his father, his father’s cronies, and sleazeballs like Roy Cohn, weaseling out of debts to creditors, stiffing contractors and workers in his employ, and using bankruptcy laws to his advantage. Yet the myth survives, no matter how often and how compellingly investigative journalists make mishmash of it.
Another myth is that the Donald is a great political tactician. If he were, why would he target the one Democrat with any chance of becoming the Democratic nominee who could blow an easy victory in 2020 just as surely as Hillary Clinton did in 2016?
Biden is cut from the same center-right cloth as Clinton. The difference is that he is goofier and even more inept. He is also more “moderate” and “pragmatic – in other words, more rightwing.
It took a Clinton to lose to Trump; what kind of “very stable genius” could think that Biden, a lesser Hillary by any measure, is the biggest threat to his reelection now?
Democrats who favor Biden because they consider him more electable than Sanders or Warren or any of the other contenders seeking their party’s nomination are not exactly geniuses either. They are all confounding the skills of a political tactician with those of a snake oil salesman running a con.
That is what Trump is. That is how he built his base and how he keeps the thirty-five to forty percent of Americans who still support him on board.
He is not half bad either at recruiting and retaining his marks; for that, he is more than cunning enough. But if he thinks Biden is all that stands between him and a second term, he is even more of an idiot than he seems.
Meanwhile, Pelosi has taken the place formerly occupied by G-man Mueller in the imaginations of liberals and others who cannot wait for Trump to be gone and for the Trump era to be over.
The consensus among them is that, unlike Trump, she really is a master tactician. Apparently, Steve Bannon thinks so too. That is a good sign. Bannon is evil but, unlike nearly everyone else in Trump’s camp, he is capable of thinking clearly.
If the consensus view is sound, then, since removing the menace Trump poses – or, failing that, hobbling him beyond repair — is the most urgent task at hand, accepting Pelosi’s leadership on impeachment may actually be wise.
As a good liberal, she is useless for addressing systemic causes. But she can be good for dealing with some of their effects. Until the ambient political culture radicalizes a good deal more than it already has or soon will, there really is no alternative but to make common cause with her and her cohort, and to make the best of it.
* * *
This is not incompatible with also addressing matters beyond the liberal ken.
It would be a shame, after all, not to take advantage of the opportunity impeachment presents for making the impeachment question less about what Southern planters and wealthy merchants in the Mid- Atlantic and New England states thought some two and a half centuries ago, and more about what makes the most sense here and now.
If there is bipartisan agreement that impeachment should be treated as a legal, or quasi-legal, proceeding, despite all the talk about how it is a political, not a legal process, then now is a time to expose the incoherence of the consensus view, not to embrace it.
After all, unlike in true legal contexts, there really are no precedents that could plausibly be considered binding; there are no overarching principles that could be appealed to either.
Therefore, even if our legislators and others who talk about what does and does not rise to the level of an impeachable offense, are, for whatever reason, intent on mimicking proceedings in American courts, they are nevertheless free to create relevant precedents and principles as they go along, whether they realize it or not.
Now is therefore a time to go on the offensive against those who, whenever Constitutional issues arise, gravitate towards the “originalism” of the Scalias and the Kavanaughs and others of their ilk. What a strange bunch those bozos are! How odd that so many of them are Catholics defending what is essentially a Protestant ethos, according to which a sacred text, though susceptible to countless interpretations, is nevertheless deemed inerrantly correct.
This is one thing that cannot be blamed on Trump. The oddness of their thinking predates the Trump era; it is one of the few facets of our political culture that he has had almost nothing to do with and has therefore been unable to make worse. But, in order to keep his Evangelical backers on board, he has done all he can to give them the retrograde judges they crave – effectively normalizing originalist nonsense and making it the dominant view.
Thus, across what passes for a political spectrum, nearly the entire political class is, or claims to be, determined to work within parameters set by social and economic elites in a pre-industrial era, structured, in both the North and the South, by the exigencies of the Atlantic slave trade.
Needless to say, The Federalist Papers are well worth studying; there is much in them from which readers today can learn many things, including much that is relevant to legislators about to impeach the worst American president ever.
But none of it justifies viewing what the authors of the Constitution wrote, including the Constitution itself, as if it were Holy Writ.
We are not dealing, after all, with revealed truths, but with a philosophically insightful and relevant, but nevertheless historically particular, line of thought.
From the sixteenth century until the early nineteenth, Topic A for many of the best political minds in Europe, in France especially, was the suitability of various forms of executive power for different kinds of emerging nation states. The contenders were essentially those that Aristotle had discussed nearly two millennia earlier.
The authors of the American Constitution were immersed in that literature.
How ironic that what gave them the leisure to philosophize and then to concoct “a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men (sic) are created equal” was a slave economy — directly in the South, especially in Virginia, home of the most gifted thinkers among them, and indirectly everywhere else.
How remarkable too that, even nowadays, in on-going discussions about grounds for impeachment, hardly anyone comments on this. Even Black Lives Matter militants seem, on this issue at least, to excuse those founding fathers of ours for being in the grip of contemporaneous norms.
Evidently, we Americans, like those Enlightened late eighteenth century Virginians, are good at compartmentalizing.
The consensus view among nearly everybody who thought about the issue in that long-ago historical period was that the larger the political community, the more concentrated and powerful, and therefore the less democratic, a state’s executive branch should be. In the same vein, it was widely believed that, up to a point, democracy does better the weaker the state is.
Updating these thoughts somewhat, we might say that empires need a strong executive branch, and that democracies do better when the executive power is weak.
As everyone knows, the founding fathers wanted a republic, not a monarchy.
Of course, the monarchies they had in mind were not the benign, effectively powerless, kind that can now be found in the UK – note the irony there! – or in Japan or in the Netherlands and the Nordic countries. What they opposed were the absolutist monarchies of the emerging Western European nation states of the early modern period.
The founders wanted a republic, but they could already see that the country whose institutions they were constructing would discover its “manifest destiny” expanding westward, eventually controlling large swathes of the North American continent. They could already see that the United States of America would not be a republic in the classical sense. If anything, it would be the antithesis of that; it would be an empire.
But not an empire of the kind found elsewhere, seemingly from time immemorial. It would however grow out of an imperial project and was therefore in need of an executive stronger than the kind generally deemed appropriate for a democratically governed republic.
No doubt, this consideration at least partly explains why those founders were so ambivalent about impeachment; why they thought of it as something that should somehow be, at the same time, both easy and impossibly hard to do.
In a parliamentary democracy, a vote of “no confidence” would suffice to make short order of a rogue executive branch. That can sometimes be difficult to pull off too, but the founding father’s way compounds the difficulty many times over.
Or, rather it does, when the consensus view has it that the words of the founders, like the word of God, must be called upon to deem an offense impeachable.
Surely, the time is past due to put that notion to rest. Should it really be necessary to fashion legalistic arguments, grounded in indefensible premises, to rid the world, as swiftly and thoroughly as possible, of a president who poses a clear and present danger to life on earth as we know it?
Shouldn’t those who, at least on this, are effectively founders themselves simply be free to do what is so plainly the right thing, the more democratic thing, just because it accords with what reason, not ersatz Scripture, demands?
What rises to the level of impeachability? The short answer is or ought to be: pretty much everything Trump does.
Donald Trump has been accused of racism since the moment he decided to run as a Republican, but The Washington Post is pushing this narrative one step farther, claiming that the President of the United States is so blinded by his own “loathing” for Ukraine, that he is blowing critical American foreign policy opportunities in that nation. CNN has also jumped on the propaganda bandwagon declaring that Trump has a “disdain” for the Ukraine that is “raising alarm bells”. Trump does not have an irrational hatred for Ukrainians and there is nothing in this region to be gained which has not already been achieved in recent years.
“WaPo’s” bizarre and utterly irrational condemnation of Trump begins with the following statement…
“Three of President Trump’s top advisers met with him in the Oval Office in May, determined to convince him that the new Ukrainian leader was an ally deserving of U.S. support.”
Ukraine’s leadership has no choice but to be an ally of the United States, much in the same way that India had to be allies of Britain during Queen Victoria’s reign. Ukraine is a vassal entity whose near future will be determined by Washington and/or Moscow. Ukraine is too battered and poor and infiltrated by both greater powers to actually have any real self-determination, meaning that there is no need for Trump or any other President to woo Kiev. The region is now almost completely under Washington’s control thanks to the US meddling that was the cause for the Maidan and the war in the Donbass. The “powers that be” in Kiev push a hardcore anti-Russian\pro-EU\pro-Western agenda because they have to serve masters who got them into power, this is only natural. Presenting the Ukraine as a sovereign nation that needs to be won over to America’s side is a complete lie and a slap in the face to The Washington Post’s readership. But this is only the beginning…
“They had barely begun their pitch when Trump unloaded on them, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with the meeting. In Trump’s mind, the officials said, Ukraine’s entire leadership had colluded with the Democrats to undermine his 2016 presidential campaign.”
The words “In Trump’s mind…” imply that his beliefs of Ukrainian influence against his campaign are completely made up and irrational. Basically the big hint is that Trump’s fears are paranoia/delusional, which could be true if fake dirt hadn’t actually been directly thrown onto Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort from Ukraine. The implication that Trump has just dreamt up a conspiracy against himself from around the Dnieper is factually proven to be untrue.
“So far, a dozen witnesses have testified before House lawmakers since the closed-door impeachment inquiry began a month ago. One theme that runs through almost all of their accounts is Trump’s unyielding loathing of Ukraine, which dates to his earliest days in the White House.”
No examples of these tweets were supplied (Trump is known to be very loose with his tweets so this very well could be fully true) but you can see in this statement that there is a heavy handed hinting that a dislike of the status quo in Kiev is now a form of hatred and racism.
This is the most cheap and basic way to try to get a politician to shut up – using the “if you don’t approve of X, then you are a racist against X”, which sadly very often works. A “loathing” for some Israeli policy makes one anti-Semitic, a “disdain” for sending US troops to die in countries with odd names means you are against the troops or at the very least unpatriotic.
But thankfully for the President of the United States, unlike Israel or “The Troops”, no one actually cares about the Ukraine outside of the Beltway. Furthermore, if Trump had been projecting a blazing hatred towards everything Russian over the last few years, no one would be accusing him of Russophobia.
The Washington Post’s wretched hypocrisy in this article can me smelled from over the ocean.
“Inside the administration, Trump’s top advisers debated the origins of his ill-feeling. Some argued that Trump saw Ukraine as an impediment to better U.S. relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was angry about U.S. sanctions imposed on Moscow for its annexation of Crimea and for the Kremlin’s ongoing support of pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.”
If the Russians took away the entire South of the United States, put a puppet government into power that is fanatically anti-American that then killed thousands of its own citizens (i.e. Americans) one would sure see that as an “impediment” to better US-Russian relations. Ukraine is a blip on the radar for America but for Russia it is basically the holy land from which it was born and an inalienable part of its civilization. Russia can be Russia without Tajikistan, but not without the Ukraine and Belarus. The horrors in the Donbass witnessed by many Russian-speakers that reminded them of the atrocities committed by the Nazis on the Eastern Front will not be soon be forgotten and make a submissive compromise situation a non-option. Thus, unless Washington throws away half of its current territorial control of Ukraine to the Russians (i.e. the regions that are strongly pro-Russian) there is no chance of reaching some sort of resolution that will improve US-Russian relations.
“Trump’s entire national security Cabinet unanimously supported it. But Trump hesitated. “He kept saying it… wasn’t worth pissing off Russia and what a bad country Ukraine was,” said the former senior White House official.”
If we take the time to reformat this question we can see where Trump could be coming from – “is it worth risking WWIII over a region of the world that means nothing to America (or the West) and everything to the Russians?”. Protecting American territory from the Russians is important, protecting the West as a whole is also worth it, but funneling buckets of money into an endless Ukrainian hole on former Russian territory will not yield anything positive for America.
“None of those lofty arguments worked with Trump. “Many Americans feel strongly about supporting Ukraine because it’s the little guy and is fighting for values we consider fundamentally American”
There are more Americans who are concerned over plastic straws and the rights of men in dresses to pee in the women’s room than the Ukrainian situation. American men often voluntarily signed up for WWII and to a lesser extent Vietnam to fight a real ideological threat to the USA. How many guys would register for the draft over the Donbass? The overwhelming majority of Americans do not care about the fate of Kiev and why should they?
Fundamentally this primitive article by The Washington Post, is one long blunt implication that if Trump does not want to use American resources to push for maintaining a firm grasp on a heavily anti-Russian Ukraine then he is a racist bad person or at the very least is heavily misguided and irrational due to hurt feelings from his election campaign.
The Washington Post demonstrates in this piece the mentality of a Medieval peasant – if you don’t agree with me then you must be evil or possessed by demons blinding your judgment. This publication’s motto is “Democracy dies in Darkness” but their attitude towards the President having a viewpoint they don’t like is straight out of the Dark Ages.
Jeffrey D SACHS
The worst foreign-policy decision by the United States of the last generation – and perhaps longer – was the “war of choice” that it launched in Iraq in 2003 for the stated purpose of eliminating weapons of mass destruction that did not, in fact, exist. Understanding the illogic behind that disastrous decision has never been more relevant, because it is being used to justify a similarly misguided US policy today.
The decision to invade Iraq followed the illogic of then-US vice-president Richard Cheney, who declared that even if the risk of WMD falling into terrorist hands was tiny – say, 1% – we should act as if that scenario would certainly occur.
Such reasoning is guaranteed to lead to wrong decisions more often than not. Yet the US and some of its allies are now using the Cheney Doctrine to attack Chinese technology. The US government argues that because we can’t know with certainty that Chinese technologies are safe, we should act as if they are certainly dangerous and bar them.
The problem with the Cheney Doctrine is not only that it dictates taking actions predicated on small risks without considering the potentially very high costs. Politicians are tempted to whip up fears for ulterior purposes.
That is what US leaders are doing again: creating a panic over Chinese technology companies by raising, and exaggerating, tiny risks. The most pertinent case (but not the only one) is the US government attack on the wireless broadband company Huawei. The US is closing its markets to the company and trying hard to shut down its business around the world. As with Iraq, the US could end up creating a geopolitical disaster for no reason.
I have followed Huawei’s technological advances and work in developing countries, as I believe that fifth-generation (5G) and other digital technologies offer a huge boost to ending poverty and other Sustainable Development Goals. I have similarly interacted with other telecom companies and encouraged the industry to step up actions for the United Nations’ SDGs. When I wrote a short foreword (without compensation) for a Huawei report on the topic, and was criticized by foes of China, I asked top industry and government officials for evidence of wayward activities by Huawei. I heard repeatedly that Huawei behaves no differently than trusted industry leaders.
The US government nonetheless argues that Huawei’s 5G equipment could undermine global security. A “back door” in Huawei’s software or hardware, US officials claim, could enable the Chinese government to engage in surveillance around the world. After all, US officials note, China’s laws require Chinese companies to cooperate with the government for purposes of national security.
Now, the facts are these. Huawei’s 5G equipment is low-cost and high-quality, currently ahead of many competitors, and already rolling out. Its high performance results from years of substantial spending on research and development, scale economies, and learning by doing in the Chinese digital marketplace. Given the technology’s importance for their sustainable development, low-income economies around the world would be foolhardy to reject an early 5G rollout.
The debate over Huawei rages in Germany, where the US government threatens to curtail intelligence cooperation unless the authorities exclude Huawei’s 5G technology. Perhaps as a result of the US pressure, Germany’s spy chief recently made a claim tantamount to the Cheney Doctrine: “Infrastructure is not a suitable area for a group that cannot be trusted fully.” He offered no evidence of specific misdeeds. Chancellor Angela Merkel, by contrast, is fighting behind the scenes to leave the market open for Huawei.
Ironically, though predictably, the US complaints partly reflect America’s own surveillance activities at home and abroad. Chinese equipment might make secret surveillance by the US government more difficult. But unwarranted surveillance by any government should be ended. Independent UN monitoring to curtail such activities should become part of the global telecommunications system. In short, we should choose diplomacy and institutional safeguards, not a technology war.
The threat of US demands to blockade Huawei concerns more than the early rollout of the 5G network. The risks to the rules-based trading system are profound. Now that the US is no longer the world’s undisputed technology leader, President Donald Trump and his advisers don’t want to compete according to a rules-based system. Their goal is to contain China’s technological rise. Their simultaneous attempt to neutralize the World Trade Organization by disabling its dispute settlement system shows the same disdain for global rules.
If the Trump administration “succeeds” in dividing the world into separate technology camps, the risks of future conflicts will multiply. The US championed open trade after World War II not only to boost global efficiency and expand markets for American technology, but also to reverse the collapse of international trade in the 1930s. That collapse stemmed in part from protectionist tariffs imposed by the US under the 1930 Smoot-Hawley Act, which amplified the Great Depression, in turn contributing to the rise of Adolf Hitler and, ultimately, the outbreak of World War II.
In international affairs, no less than in other domains, stoking fears and acting on them, rather than on the evidence, is the path to ruin. Let’s stick to rationality, evidence and rules as the safest course of action. And let us create independent monitors to curtail the threat of any country using global networks for surveillance of or cyberwarfare on others. That way, the world can get on with the urgent task of harnessing breakthrough digital technologies for the global good.
Project Syndicate via asiatimes.com
With less than a month until the next big NATO meeting, scheduled for the first week of December, France’s Macron has jumped into public relations mode to prepare the public for some big changes on the horizon. Indeed, Macron’s major interview with the Economist on November 7th on the question of the US’s alleged wavering commitment to NATO is a stunning sign of the times.
Europe wants its own Army
Cutting through a lot of intentionally confusing messaging, is that France and Germany are just fine with any end to NATO because it helps justify the coming European Army – one that they want, and believe they need anyhow. It only happens to be part of the same reality that US hegemony, and its ability to finance NATO in turn, are coming to an end. In sounding more like a radical post-structuralist international relations theorist than a fiscally conservative leader of a capitalist democracy, Macron shocked the world when he stated in no uncertain terms that this period we are in marks the end of ‘Western Hegemony’.
The real facts of motives behind big changes have an odd way of ultimately making themselves known for what they are at the end of the day. Often these are cloaked in the underlying framework of the politics of the time. Revealing these in the case of France and NATO can show some top-level word salad at play: justify independence not on the basis that being controlled isn’t fair, but rather that those doing the controlling aren’t doing it well enough and don’t seem committed to it as much as they ought to be. Macron is doing this very well, and mirrors Trump’s own discursive games.
Occupiers aren’t doing their job – the End of Trilateralism
Imagine if you will a French argument against the Nazi occupation not because it placed Germany in control of France’s fate, but rather on the basis that the Wehrmacht was decreasing its troop presence in France, or conversely appeared to be wavering on the Eastern Front, and as a consequence France was worried about Germany’s commitment to the Reich. This is, in short, what Macron is arguing today regarding the US and NATO.
Imagine likewise, that the Wehrmacht said it was considering abandoning its occupation of France not because it had to move resources to the Eastern Front, but because France wasn’t giving enough to the war effort. This is the crux of Trump’s argument for public consumption.
Under any other prior historical iterations, the US’s moves to reduce its NATO commitments to Western Europe would be hailed by progressives in the Democratic Party in the US as a step in the right direction. Yet now in this exciting time, one in which the US Empire is down-sizing and adjusting itself to its real force potential, progressives in the US are making geopolitical realism into a partisan issue: since the most obvious or observable stage is happening under a nominally conservative, Republican administration, it must therefore be a Democratic Party talking point to oppose this in principle.
The matter is of course deeper than this, and the Democratic Party’s investment in the trilateralism (US + EU + Japan) of Rockefeller and Brzezinski has been at odds with the unilateralism of the neoconservatives. We will recall when President George W Bush attacked Iraq, it came not long after moves by the Iraqi government to do their oil dealings in Euros. The Europe-wide hatred for Bush’s war on Iraq seemed to the politically naïve as an expression of social-democratic pacifism, but in reality was an expression of Europe’s sovereign financial interests versus dollar hegemony. These questions really have not gone away.
When NATO came onto the stage, it was couched in terms of protecting Western Europe from the growth of the Soviet sphere of influence which the latter had won from its victory over Germany in WWII.
The idea that NATO was not a collaborative and mutual effort of freely-acting European states in defense of market freedoms and Western values, but instead more like a US led and sustained military occupation in Western Europe, in the past could be criticized as either Communist or even neo-Nazi propaganda. Against this view the entire media-academic industry was mobilized, assuring the public that all the European countries of NATO were members of their own accord and will: an outgrowth of the democratic mandate from the peoples of the member states, arrived at through fair parliamentary processes.
Macron still needs to make everyone look good
All this places Macron in an odd position. NATO is the military component of economic Atlanticism, but this transatlantic relationship experienced a major breach of trust in the years following the US market crash in 2007. This was because US based banks and government colluded to deceitfully push a significant portion of its liabilities onto the EU all the while claiming these were investments – who in turn placed an undue burden in PIIGS countries, in particular Greece. This all in turn has fueled a marked increase in Eurosceptic and ‘exit’ movements across the beleaguered EU.
Then on top of that, the Trump administration makes the EU’s commitment to NATO a cornerstone of his Europe policy, along with a brewing trade war. These two are intimately connected.
And so Macron’s apparent lamentations over the ‘brain death’ of NATO is quite revealing. In this, he refers to truths that everyone knew, but couldn’t say: “NATO is essentially a military occupying force against European sovereignty – for the EU to be a geostrategic entity, it must be in control of its own military forces”. This sounds like it could have been said by de Gaulle, even Pétain, and while the notion easily fits with Marine Le Pen’s platform, the reality of France forces Macron to hold it.
Europe’s not in love with Atlanticism
The problem is that even though transatlantic financial dealings have increasingly less to offer the EU, the US side of this equation needs to maintain the relationship and all the appearances and structures that go along with it, in order to leverage itself in any future potential dealings. In short, one way that the US believes it can hold onto things longer, or decrease the tempo at which they’re losing them, is by keeping up appearances. And these appearances are more than just superficial – they are real existing financial obligations which in all reality do not work well for European institutions.
Macron has iterated the call for an EU army a number of times. But his statements in the economist represent a skillful if distorted way to couch the EU’s real situation within the accepted discourse of our time: Atlanticism is good. This mirrors Trump’s method and reasoning – and to be clear, it is not certain that Trump is very much committed to trans-Atlanticism, at least not in its present iteration.
Back in August, speaking on how isolating Russia is a mistake, Macron explained that “Western hegemony” is over. This leave us an interesting formula: Western hegemony is over, European regional hegemony must begin. This implies that Western hegemony had always meant Europe plus the US together. Without the US, there is no Western hegemony.
Trump’s calls that EU countries increase its funding of NATO on the rationale that Europe isn’t doing their share, could only have been to provoke a reaction from Europe to speak its own truth – ‘we don’t like NATO either’ – and to justify the US’s own eventual reorganization or dismantling of NATO. Like Imperial Japan told its puppet-state Manchukuo: it’s only natural that you should pay for the cost of your own occupation.
If NATO member states no longer want to pay for their own occupation, then they will no longer get to enjoy it.
Macron masters Trump’s Discursive Trap
Macron, likewise, plays a similar game – and his discourse is aimed at being acceptable to multiple audiences, who themselves have greatly divergent interests and positions.
The realists in the US, of which Trump is the most evident representative, know that the US simply cannot afford to continue with its NATO obligations. Underneath this is the fact that the US cannot offer Europe better deals than it can get elsewhere. The days of forcing Europe to work through the US through various ways, wherein using the US dollar as the primary transaction currency and the global reserve currency in the past meant that the US was middle-in to every deal. Those days are just about over. Rather than disclose that all this is about decreasing US influence, power, and wealth on the global scene, it is more prudent to make this about fairness – that the EU isn’t doing its part.
And to wit, as we have said, for Macron’s part of the dance – he knows he needs to keep the trans-Atlanticists happy, they still exert tremendous political control in Brussels and are interwoven into Europe’s financial sector – the most important sector in capitalist Europe. There can be no doubt: Macron was the banking establishment’s choice against Le Pen. The question as to whether he was some Manchurian candidate from beyond the financial sector’s grasp, or whether there is some pro-European sovereigntist faction within the European side of this transatlantic financial sector, is a fascinating question for later investigation. But sufficed to say, those transatlantic deals aren’t the best deals, but these institutions are using whatever influence and capital they still have to force a political position. Macron, nominally, wants to keep them happy.
Thus Macron’s ‘warnings’ and ‘lamentations’ that the US under Trump has abandoned its NATO commitments in controlling Europe’s military are anything but. These ‘lamentations’ will serve a perfect pretext for France and Germany to work together to organize a Europe-wide military force. In reality, this has been brewing for many years under the rubric of NATO command. In essence, all the structures are there, it is only necessary to remove US command from the structure and change some patches and flags.
In speaking to the Economist regarding NATO’s Article V provision (in which NATO members must rally on the side of a NATO state if it is attacks and invokes the article), Macron seems to imply, in some twisted and round-about – really convoluted way – that he questions the US’s commitment to NATO because of the way it abandoned its allies, the Kurds. This is doubly odd – the adventure in Syria was not a NATO operation, and it is Turkey, the force attacking Kurdish separatists in Syria, that is the NATO ally. Turkey is NATO’s second largest army after the US.
Macron isn’t wrong then to imply – what is NATO without the US and Turkey? It is the European Army. This is the view which both France and Germany enter into the December meeting with.
So while Trump hides that the US simply can’t afford its empire anymore by blaming Europe for not doing its share, Macron hides that Europe’s been pushing for its own army for years before Trump assumed office. Indeed, the EU’s CSDP, known also as the European Defense Union, has been around in in developing form since 1999, the same year the currency was launched. This has been a part of the plan, it would seem, for quite some time.
Macron and Trump can’t be faulted for the word salad they are serving: it’s only a reflection of what’s acceptable in our day. The US president and European leadership appear to agree that NATO’s days are over. It seems the transatlantic financial institutions are the primary team expressing deep concern of this, and are looking to slow the process down by reversing the most overt policies of Trump by ousting him from the White House in 2020. Doing so could drag the process out for another decade, but doing so would be more painful and costly for everyone in avoiding the inevitable.
For many decades, any politician daring to fight for economic justice was liable to be denounced for engaging in “class warfare.” It was always a grimly laughable accusation, coming from wealthy elites as well as their functionaries in corporate media and elective office. In the real world, class warfare — or whatever you want to call it — has always been an economic and political reality.
In recent decades, class war in the USA has become increasingly lopsided. The steady decline in union membership, the worsening of income inequality and the hollowing out of the public sector have been some results of ongoing assaults on social decency and countless human lives. Corporate power has run amuck.
Now, the billionaire class is worried. For the first time in memory, there’s a real chance that the next president could threaten the very existence of billionaires — or at least significantly reduce their unconscionable rate of wealth accumulation — in a country and on a planet with so much human misery due to extreme economic disparities.
When Elizabeth Warren stands on a debate stage and argues for a targeted marginal tax on the astronomically rich, such advocacy is anathema to those who believe that the only legitimate class war is the kind waged from the top down. In early autumn, CNBC reported that “Democratic donors on Wall Street and in big business are preparing to sit out the presidential campaign fundraising cycle — or even back President Donald Trump — if Sen. Elizabeth Warren wins the party’s nomination.”
As for Bernie Sanders — less than four years after he carried every county in West Virginia against Hillary Clinton in the presidential primary — the state’s Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin flatly declared last week that if Sanders wins the nomination, he would not vote for his party’s nominee against Trump in November 2020.
Some billionaires support Trump and some don’t. But few billionaires have a good word to say about Sanders or Warren. And the pattern of billionaires backing their Democratic rivals is illuminating.
“Dozens of American billionaires have pulled out their checkbooks to support candidates engaged in a wide-open battle for the Democratic presidential nomination,” Forbes reported this summer. The dollar total of those donations given directly to a campaign (which federal law limits to $2,800 each) is less significant than the sentiment they reflect. And people with huge wealth are able to dump hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars at once into a Super PAC, which grassroots-parched AstroTurf candidate Joe Biden greenlighted last month.
The donations from billionaires to the current Democratic candidates could be viewed as a kind of Oligarchy Confidence Index, based on data from the Federal Election Commission. As reported by Forbes, Pete Buttigieg leads all the candidates with 23 billionaire donors, followed by 18 for Cory Booker, and 17 for Kamala Harris. Among the other candidates who have qualified for the debate coming up later this month, Biden has 13 billionaire donors and Amy Klobuchar has 8, followed by 3 for Elizabeth Warren, 1 for Tulsi Gabbard, and 1 for Andrew Yang. Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders has zero billionaire donors.
(The tenth person who has qualified for the next debate, self-funding billionaire candidate Tom Steyer, is in a class by himself.)
Meanwhile, relying on contributions from small donors, Sanders and Warren “eagerly bait, troll and bash billionaires at every opportunity,” in the words of a recent Los Angeles Times news story. “They send out missives to donors boasting how much damage their plans would inflict on the wallets of specific wealthy families and corporations.”
The newspaper added: “Sanders boasts that his wealth tax would cost Amazon owner Jeff Bezos $8.9 billion per year. He even championed a bill with the acronym BEZOS: The Stop Bad Employers By Zeroing Out Subsidies Act would have forced Amazon and other large firms to pay the full cost of food stamps and other benefits received by their lowest-wage employees.”
For extremely rich people who confuse net worth with human worth, the prospect of losing out on billions is an outrageous possibility. And so, a few months ago, Facebook mega-billionaire Mark Zuckerberg expressed his antipathy toward Warren while meeting with employees. As a transcript of leaked audio makes clear, Warren’s vision of using anti-trust laws to break up Big Tech virtual monopolies was more than Facebook’s head could stand to contemplate.
“But look,” Zuckerberg said, “at the end of the day, if someone’s going to try to threaten something that existential, you go to the mat and you fight.”
The fight happening now for the Democratic presidential nomination largely amounts to class warfare. And the forces that have triumphed in the past are outraged that they currently have to deal with so much progressive opposition. As Carl von Clausewitz observed, “A conqueror is always a lover of peace.”
On October 17th, Hillary Clinton did an hour-long podcast interview with David Plouffe, who had been Barack Obama’s 2008 Campaign Manager, and she spent over half the time on the topic of Russia’s destroying American democracy by using minor political parties to draw votes away from Democratic candidates but not away from Republican candidates, and she also accused Russia of using the internet in order to deceive Democratic Party voters into not voting, or else to vote for more-progressive third parties instead of for the Democratic Party’s nominees. Her underlying assumption was that Russia does all of this in order to cause Republican nominees to become elected. Whereas Joseph R. McCarthy, in the 1950s, accused the communist Soviet Union of infiltrating the US Government in order to place Democrats into control of the government, Hillary Clinton now is accusing non-communist Russia of doing something similar, in order to place Republicans in control.
Here will be presented the first full transcript of the complete passage in which Hillary Clinton accused both the Democratic Presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard (who has been a Representative in the US House of Representatives for 6 years) and the Green Party leader (who hasn’t ever held any elective governmental office) as being “Russian assets”; and, regarding Gabbard, alleged also that Russia is “grooming her to be the third-party candidate.” Hillary meant there that Russia, and those two “Russian assets,” are planning to do this so as to reduce the votes for whomever will be the Democratic Party’s Presidential nominee, and thus to throw the 2020 election to Donald Trump, like Ralph Nader threw the 2000 Presidential election to George W. Bush, by taking more votes away from Gore than away from Bush in both New Hampshire and Florida and thus actually enabling the Republican US Supreme Court to step in and choose Bush to be the US President. But Hillary never alleged that Nader had been “a Russian asset.” Maybe there isn’t a Russian under every rock, just like there isn’t a Jew under every rock. However, bigots can be found almost everywhere, and evil politicians of every political party can play them like a Paderewsky upon the keys. And Obama’s former campaign manager played right along with her.
Regarding this podcast, I warn anyone who clicks onto either of the two URLs to that podcast: it blasts one’s ears out and has no volume-control on it (at least on my system); so, I advise that, in order to save your ears, it might be safer just to read the transcript that I present of it, below:
Apple Podcasts: Campaign HQ with David Plouffe
Th. 17 October 2019 David Plouffe interviews Hillary Clinton
Google Podcasts: Campaign HQ with David Plouffe
17 October 2017
35:30-36:25: Hillary Clinton (referring to Russians): “They’re also going to do third party again. And, I’m not making any predictions but I think they’ve got their eye on somebody who’s currently in the Democratic primary, and are grooming her to be the third-party candidate. She’s the favorite of the Russians, they have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far, and that’s assuming Jill Stein will give it up which she might not because she’s also a Russian asset. She’s a Russian asset, I mean, totally, and so they know they can’t win without a third party candidate. And so I don’t know who it’s going to be but I guarantee they’ll have a vigorous third-party challenge — in the key states that they most need it.” [Commercial break]
That’s all there is of it. The rest of the hour was mainly her regular accusations against Russia, which she has stated many times before, plus a bit of her thoughts about how Republicans deceive stupid voters (whom she once called a “the basket of deplorables” — as if she had none, or else a smaller “basket,” but surely a different “basket,” of them — whomever they might be) to vote for Republican nominees. So, Hillary promotes hatred of Russians for being evil and dangerous people, and contempt for Republicans, as their being Russians’ dupes. Maybe she hopes this way to win enough dupes of her own, in order to win something, other than the Senate seat from New York, which she did win, as the departing First Lady.
Since Jill Stein has no actual public-policy record, because she’s never been a public official, there is nothing to indicate to an intelligent voter what her polices and policy-priorities — as opposed to mere campaign-promises — are; but Tulsi Gabbard does have an actual policy-record, and it is approximately as hostile against Russia as that of most members of Congress. Here are some of her key votes, and statements explaining them, so that one can reasonably judge whether Gabbard is hostile, or friendly, toward Russia (since Hillary seems to think that Gabbard is deficiently hostile toward Russia):
GABBARD AGAINST RUSSIA:
http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2014/roll114.xml 6 March 2014
http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2014/roll117.xml 11 March 2014
http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2014/roll148.xml 27 March 2014
http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2014/roll149.xml 1 April 2014
http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2017/roll413.xml 25 July 2017
https://www.congress.gov/ 12 Feb. 2015
https://www.congress.gov/ 6 Jan. 2017
Here is Gabbard’s press release in March 2014, specifically about her position regarding the overthrow in February 2014 of the democratically elected Ukrainian President who was very popular both in Crimea and in far eastern Ukraine and who refused to accept that Ukraine pay the full projected $160 billion cost which would be entailed if Ukraine were to join the European Union (which the US demanded that he accept):
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: Russia Must Face Consequences for Continued Aggression in Ukraine
March 17, 2014 Press Release
Calls for US to offer weapons, military training assistance
Washington, DC – Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) today released the following statement after the President’s announcement of expanded sanctions against Russian officials:
“Russia has violated the sovereignty and independence of the Ukrainian people, in direct contravention of its own treaty obligations and international law,” said Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, an Army combat veteran and member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “I support the sanctions announced today, and I strongly urge the President to go further and consider a broader range of consequences. If Russia is allowed to continue its aggressive push for control in Ukraine, there will be long-term, serious, and costly security risks for the United States and Europe. Russia must face serious consequences for their actions; the US must consider options that truly isolate Russia economically and diplomatically — not just sanction a handful of oligarchs — and send a message of unity and strength from the international community.
“We cannot stand by while Russia unilaterally degrades Ukraine’s territorial integrity. We must offer direct military assistance — defensive weapons, military supplies and training — to ensure Ukraine has adequate resources to respond to Russia’s aggressions and defend themselves. We cannot view Ukraine as an isolated incident. If we do not take seriously the threat of thinly veiled Russian aggression, and commit to aiding the people of Ukraine immediately, we will find ourselves in a more dangerous, expensive and disastrous situation in the future.”
In a House Foreign Affairs Committee mark-up of H.Res. 499 recently, the congresswoman gained unanimous approval on including amendments on anti-corruption, and protection of civil and political rights throughout Ukraine. She also supported the House passage of H.R. 4152, which authorized loan guarantees for Ukraine.
So: she was just as determined as the rest of Congress to force the residents in Crimea and in far eastern Ukraine to accept the illegally imposed post-coup leaders that Victoria Nuland, President Obama’s point-person controlling the overthrow, chose to lead Ukraine. Nuland did it in this phone call, when she instructed the US Ambassador to Ukraine to have Arseniy Yatsenyuk, “Yats,” chosen to lead the country, and for the Ambassador not to allow the EU’s preferred person, “Klitch” or Vitaly Klitchko, to be appointed. She angrily said there, “Fuck the EU,” because “Klitch,” actually, wasn’t nearly as anti-Russian as “Yats.” And having “Klitch” even so much as work under “Yats, “It’s just not going to work,” she said. The EU’s choice — the person who didn’t seethe with hate for Russians — needed to be excluded, entirely, from serving in the new, US-imposed, government.
Here’s that phone-call:
A transcript of its main parts can be seen here:
The head of the ‘private CIA’ firm, Stratfor, called it “the most blatant coup in history.”
Tulsi Gabbard was just as supportive of this as were virtually all other members of Congress. So: when did Gabbard become a “Russian asset?”
If one clicks onto the votes that she had made in 2014, 2015, and 2017, when the big anti-Russian bills were being voted on in Congress, she was just as hostile toward Russia as the others were, wasn’t she?
So: when did it happen?
Frankly, if Gabbard remains in that Party, and doesn’t try to form a less war-mongering party to replace today’s rabidly neoconservative (like the Republicans are) Democratic Party, and to present an authentically progressive alternative to the fascism of both of America’s two existing, billionaire-backed, Parties, then would she really be a supporter of ending America’s “regime-change wars” — the string of US invasions and coups to overthrow governments that are allied with, or even merely friendly toward, Russia — as she claims to be? How can she stay in either of the existing Parties, if she doesn’t support regime-change wars? These wars are intended to isolate and ultimately destroy Russia: these wars are waged only against Russia-friendly or -allied countries, which never invaded, nor even threatened to invade, the United States. Who is she, if she doesn’t separate herself from both neoconservative Parties, which Hillary now dares her to do? Does Tulsi Gabbard really oppose “regime-change wars”?
Hillary Clinton condemns Tulsi Gabbard actually for opposing regime-change wars, but Gabbard’s voting record in Congress is almost as supportive of those wars as the rest of Congress is. So: what is Clinton’s complaint?
Gabbard claims to despise Hillary Clinton, but Gabbard has voted mostly for the initiatives in Congress that Ms. Clinton had helped to lead. (Victoria Nuland is a close friend of Hillary’s.) If Gabbard actually will split from the Democratic Party, then I, for one, would vote for her against both the Democratic and the Republican Parties, because I am anti-fascist, and both of today’s Parties are fascist. But she would need to explain why she condemns both Parties though supporting their regime-change wars and coups.
The choice between two fascist Parties isn’t any democracy — none at all. But I’m not sure where Tulsi Gabbard really stands, on the necessity to give Americans a real choice, real democracy. That’s not clear. It’s not clear where she actually stands.
George W. Bush invaded Iraq in 2003. Barack Obama invaded Libya in 2011, and Syria in 2012-. What’s to choose between such fascists? It that democracy? It’s empire, and empire was sought by the Axis powers in World War II — three imperialistic fascist countries: Germany, Italy, and Japan. America is now imperialistic fascist. Does Tulsi Gabbard really support that? If not, then why has she voted in Congress for it (just like virtually all other members of Congress — none of whom condemn “regime-change wars,” as she does)?
Where does she really stand? That’s the actual question about her, not “When did Tulsi Gabbard become a Russian asset?” Hillary simply lies about that (even if Gabbard does end up running as a third-party candidate).
Thirty years ago, on November 9, with a sense of momentous events palpable in Berlin’s famous air, East Germans began streaming through the Berlin Wall, two-stroke East German cars putt-putted past major symbols of capitalism like the KaDeWe department store, and it appeared that the Germans were the happiest people in the world.
I was there to interview eyewitnesses I had found in my dissertation research for a documentary film and gave a lecture on October 25 at East Berlin’s Humboldt University on “socially forced concessions in Nazi Germany.”
Crossing from West to East Berlin for the enormous November 4 demonstration on Alexanderplatz 10 days later, we joked, “Why not drive straight through the Brandenburg Gate without stopping?”
For 28 years, the wall split Germany like an iron curtain, into the capitalist West and the communist East. Estimated hundreds had died trying to cross that wall, and beginning in September 1989, demonstrations demanding reform were swelling quickly week by week.
The day after the Wall fell, former West German Chancellor Willi Brandt foresaw a “challenge to all of us to do a lot more in order to bring together what belongs together.”
But 30 years later, I see the divide growing between the East and West.
It brings to mind a friend and Stasi agent, who in 1988 told me that East Germany could tear down the wall and the East German people would stay. Or the East German dissident who remarked in 1993 that “Yes, West Germany has swallowed us, but soon it will be having indigestion.”
‘The wall in the head’
How is it that the disappearance of the wall separating capitalism from socialism, which East German leader Erich Honecker in 1987 likened to “fire and water,” would unite East German officials and those who had just risked their lives to protest against them?
To begin with, the leaders of East Germany’s protest movement agitated for some democratizing reforms for socialism, not a demise of the state in favor of an effort to balance democracy with capitalism in the image of the West. They encouraged the change in the protesters’ initial chants from “we want out” to “we’re staying here.” Reform was the theme in the anti-unification demonstration I witnessed in December 1989.
Many East Germans, drawn west by images from West German TV and the imagination of things the wall was forbidding, soon began to agree. Turned away by the hectic pace and competition of cold individualism in place of socialism’s boring security, many returned.
Novelist Peter Schneider had written of “the wall within the head,” independent of the physical wall, reflecting the different experiences of two generations in divided Germany.
In West Germany, the unification Chancellor Helmut Kohl led a plan to grow the two parts of Germany together through forces of capitalism, promising an Eastern “blooming landscape” of jobs, high living standards and a range of amazing consumer products. The West German system was essentially extended to encompass the East.
But entrepreneurs did not establish production sites in the East, as Kohl predicted. West German entrepreneurs preferred to increase production from Western firms, putting Eastern factories out of business rather than moving capital there to launch industry and jobs.
The West maintained that capitalist democracy would soon make West Germans of the Easterners.
Nostalgia for the East
But the 1990s revealed that Eastern Germans too young to remember socialism nevertheless identified with East Germany rather than the newly expanded Federal Republic. I have heard that East German “nostalgia” carried on as parents transmitted stories over the dinner table of a communitarian, less cutthroat life.
Embellished or not, these stories were backed by widespread perceptions in the East that they were now ruled by the West. They felt that the West had not really wanted them.
Meanwhile, according to a poll by Der Spiegel, a major German newspaper, 63% of West Germans favored accommodating East Germans in the West shortly before the Wall fell. Only 33% voiced the same opinion two months after the wall.
Resentments arose overnight. The West was apprehensive of big tax increases to pay for reunification and feared that East Germans would wreck the Germany they had built and loved. A family resettled in the West was denounced on the street as “East German swine,” in early 1990. “The kids pick up what they hear at home and then babble it about,” a high school principal in Hamburg complained.
There were essential differences in values, too. In the 1990s, Eastern Germans viciously attacked foreign refugees in the Eastern state of Brandenburg, where violent attacks were three times more common than in Western Germany. This stimulated arguments that socialism had not provided the context for East Germans to accept the West’s patterns of pluralism.
In the 1992, in cities across the West, grassroots demonstrations rose up against the image of German intolerance. In Munich, millions marched in candlelight vigils proclaiming solidarity. German politicians and the Federation of Jewish Communities alike hailed these massive grassroots demonstrations as an illustration that Germans now rejected Nazism and moreover knew how to defend democracy.
Rise of the extreme right
Over the decades, threats of neo-Nazism and the extreme right from the East have continued to surface. But only since a political party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), formed in 2013 have the threats gained power.
Support in the East for the AfD has surged dramatically, especially since Chancellor Angela Merkel’s admission of well over a million refugees fleeing death and turmoil in the Middle East and Asia.
In 2017, the AfD, buoyed by strong support in the East, became the first far-right party to enter the German Parliament since World War II. The party came in first in the October elections in the Eastern state of Thuringen, pushing Merkel’s party, Christian Democratic Union, into third place.
The Christian Democratic Union is now debating whether to break a longstanding taboo by forming an alliance with the AfD. A poll early this year showed that 42% of Eastern Germans, compared with 77% of those in the West, think their German democracy is the best type of government.
Like other parties and leaders across the globe who are challenging democratic systems this century, the AfD is taking to the halls of power through popular elections.
The rise of AfD fits into a global pattern of anger at democracy. The East Germans feel alienated and powerless. Almost one-half of Easterners see themselves as second-class citizens, while 63% think the differences between them and the West are greater than what they have in common.
Critically, growing economic equality has not generated growing support for Western democracy. In 2018, the average unemployment rate was 6.9% in the former East, compared with 4.8% in the West. Former East Germans earned just 86% percent of what their West German counterparts made in 2017.
Reflecting the early preferences of Western entrepreneurs, many Eastern firms belong to West German or foreign corporations. No major companies are headquartered in the East, and not a single Eastern company is on Germany’s leading stock exchange index.
In 1991, I interviewed East Germany’s last leader Egon Krenz, relating my experience, as a graduate student, among East Berliners crowding near the wall to overhear a concert nearby in West Berlin, and shouting “The wall has to go” and “Gorby, Gorby,” referring to Soviet reformer Mikhail Gorbachev. The East German government should have paid more attention to the East German people, he allowed.
Is the same true for the architects of German unification? Unification is a massive undertaking and could not have happened quickly.
The 30th anniversary is an opportunity to reflect on how challenging it is for humans to really make day-to-day sacrifices for those outside their group, and what more the German government might have done to really make the East bloom like the West.
What happens if the two premises on which Israel and America’s grand Iran strategy is founded are proven false? ‘What if’ maximum pressure fails either to implode the Iranian state politically, nor brings Iran to its knees, begging for a new ‘hairshirt’ nuclear deal? Well …? Well, it seems that Netanyahu and Mossad were so cocksure of their initial premise, that they neglected to think beyond first move on the chess board. It was to be checkmate in one. And this neglect is the cause of the strategic bind in which Israel now finds itself.
Lately, these lacunae in strategic thinking are being noticed. Iran is doing just fine, writes Henry Rome in Foreign Affairs:
“Some analysts predicted that Iran’s friends in Europe and Asia would defy the United States to lend Iran economic help. Others reckoned that the sanctions would send Iran’s economy into a “death spiral,” leaving Tehran the choice to either surrender or collapse. Neither of these predictions came to pass.
“Rather, Iran now enters its second year under maximum pressure strikingly confident in its economic stability and regional position. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and other hard-liners are therefore likely to continue on their current course: Iran will go on tormenting the oil market, while bolstering its non-oil economy—and it will continue expanding its nuclear program while refusing to talk with Washington.”
Similarly, the (US) Crisis Group reports that on the eve of the US oil sanctions snapback in November 2018, Secretary Pompeo was asked if Iran might restart its nuclear program. He responded: “we’re confident that the Iranians will not make that decision”. But, Iran did just that: In April 2019 – after the US revoked the sanction waivers that had previously allowed eight countries to import Iranian oil – the Iranian leadership started pushing back.
They are still doing it. “Iran’s responses on the nuclear and regional fronts call into question the core premises of the U.S. “maximum pressure” campaign … Tehran [effectively] has broken the binary outcome of concession or collapse by instead adopting what it touts as “maximum resistance”. As a result … there can be little doubt that the [US] strategy has fallen short, delivering impact without effect and rather than blunting Iran’s capabilities only sharpening its willingness to step up its [push-back]”, the Crisis Group report concludes.
So here we are: Iran’s “fourth step” in its incremental lessening of compliance with the JCPOA (injecting nuclear gas into the – hitherto empty – centrifuges at Fordo; augmenting enrichment to 5% and unveiling substantially improved centrifuges), effectively tests the very core to the Obama JCPOA strategy.
The Accord was built around a framework that meant Iran would remain at least 12 months away from break-out capacity (the moment when a state can transition into a nuclear weapons’ state). Iran – in these de-compliance steps is inching under that limit, if it is not already under it. (This does not, however, imply that Iran is seeking weapons, but rather that it is seeking a change in western behaviour.)
Yes, Israel – which pushed hard its assessment (albeit, onto a Trump team wholly receptive to this Israeli analysis) of an Iran entering into a death-spiral within one year, under Trump’s maximum pressure – can plead reasonably that its grand strategy was struck by two ‘black swans’. The double ‘punch’ quite evidently has knocked Israel – it is now all at sixes and sevens.
One was the 14 September strikes on the two Aramco plants in Saudi Arabia (claimed by the Houthis), but demonstrating a level of sophistication which Israelis explicitly admit took them wholly by surprise. And the second was the accumulated evidence that the US is in the process of quitting the Middle East. Again, Israel – or at least Netanyahu – never believed this could happen under Trump’s ‘watch’. Indeed, he had built a political platform on his claim of intimate rapport with the US President. Indeed, that did seem at the time to be perfectly true.
Israeli historian, Gilad Atzmon observes, “it now seems totally unrealistic to expect America to act militarily against Iran on behalf of Israel. Trump’s always unpredictable actions have convinced the Israeli defense establishment that the country has been left alone to deal with the Iranian threat. The American administration is only willing to act against Iran through sanctions”.
And the former Israeli Ambassador to Washington put the consequences yet more bluntly under the rubric of The Coming Middle East Conflagration: “Israel is bracing itself for war with Iranian proxies … But what will the United States do if conflict comes?” — by this Oren implies the US might do little, or nothing.
Yes. This is precisely the dilemma to which the Israeli policy of demonising Iran, and instigating ‘the world’ against Iran, has brought Israel. Israeli officials and commentators now see war as inevitable (see here and here) – and they are not happy.
War is not inevitable. It would not be inevitable if Trump could put aside his Art of the Deal pride, and contemplated a remedy of de-escalating sanctions – especially oil export sanctions – on Iran. But he has not done that. After a quick (and wholly unrealistic) ‘fling’ at having a reality-TV photo-op with President Rouhani, his Administration has doubled down by imposing further, new sanctions on Iran. (Friends might try to tell their American counterparts that it is well time they got over the 1979 Tehran Embassy siege.)
And war is not inevitable if Israel could assimilate the reality that the Middle East is in profound flux – and that Israel no longer enjoys the freedom to strike wherever, and whomsoever it choses, at will (and at no cost to itself). Those days are not wholly gone, but they are a rapidly diminishing asset.
Will Israel shift posture? It seems not. In the context of the Lebanon protests, the local banks are becoming vulnerable, as capital inflows and remittances dry up. Israeli, plus some American officials, are favouring withholding external financial assistance to the banks – thus making the banking system’s survival contingent on any new government agreeing to contain and disarm Hizbullah (something which, incidentally, no Lebanese government, of whatever ‘colour’, can do).
That is to say, US and Israeli policy is that of pushing Lebanon to the brink of financial collapse in order to leverage a blow at Iran. Never mind that it will be the demonstrators – and not Hizbullah – who will pay the heaviest price for pushing the crisis to the brink – in terms of a devalued pound, rising prices and austerity. (Hizbullah, in any case, exited the Lebanese banking system, long time past).
Iran, on the other hand, faced with maximum pressure, has little choice: It will not succumb to slow-strangulation by the US. Its riposte of calibrated counter-pressure to US max-pressure, however, does entail risks: It is predicated on the judgement that Trump does not want a major regional war (especially in the lead up to US elections), and also predicated (though less certainly) on the US President’s ability to avoid being cornered by his hawks into taking responsive military action (i.e. were another US drone to be shot down).
So, what do all these various geo-political ‘tea-leaves’ portend? Well, look at Lebanon and Iraq through the geo-political spectacles of Iran: On the one hand, it is well understood in Tehran that there is justified, deep popular anger in these states towards corruption, the iron sectarian structures and hopeless governance — but that is only one part of the story. The other is the long-standing geo-strategic war that is being waged against Iran.
Maximum pressure has not produced a chastened, and repentant Iran? So, now Iranians see the US and Israel resorting to ‘Euromaidan warfare’ (Ukrainian protests of 2013) against Iran’s Lebanese and Iraqi allies. (It was, after all, during President Aoun’s visit to Washington in March, that Trump first warned Aoun of what was coming – and presented his ultimatum: Contain Hezbollah, or expect unprecedented consequences, including sanctions and the loss of US aid).
Fresh sanctions, plus an Euromaidan-type assault on Iranian allies (Hizballah and Hash’d A-Shaabi)? Might we then expect another ‘Gulf surprise’ – in coming weeks?
This tit-for-tat of pressure and counter-pressure is set to continue — Michael Oren, the former Israeli Ambassador to the US, lays it out:
“The conflagration, like so many in the Middle East, could be ignited by a single spark. Israeli fighter jets have already conducted hundreds of bombing raids against Iranian targets in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. Preferring to deter rather than embarrass Tehran, Israel rarely comments on such actions. But perhaps Israel miscalculates, hitting a particularly sensitive target; or perhaps politicians cannot resist taking credit. The result could be a counterstrike by Iran, using cruise missiles that penetrate Israel’s air defenses and smash into targets like the Kiryah, Tel Aviv’s equivalent of the Pentagon. Israel would retaliate massively against Hezbollah’s headquarters in Beirut as well as dozens of its emplacements along the Lebanese border. And then, after a day of large-scale exchanges, the real war would begin.
“Rockets, many carrying tons of TNT, would rain on Israel; drones armed with payloads would crash into crucial facilities, military and civilian. During the Second Lebanon War, in 2006, the rate of such fire reached between 200 and 300 projectiles a day. Today, it might reach as high as 4,000. The majority of the weapons in Hezbollah’s arsenal are standoff missiles with fixed trajectories that can be tracked and intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome system. But Iron Dome is 90 percent effective on average, meaning that for every 100 rockets, 10 get through, and the seven operational batteries are incapable of covering the entire country. All of Israel, from Metulla in the north to the southern port city of Eilat, would be in range of enemy fire.”
Of course, the claim that Israeli air defences are 90% effective is ‘for the birds’ (Israeli officials would not be in such a panic if it were true). But Oren sets out the course to a region-wide war plainly enough. This is the end to which their Iran strategy has brought them.
And just to recall, this strategy was always a ‘strategy of choice’ – taken for domestic political purposes. Israel’s demonization of Iran did not begin with the Iranian Revolution. Israel initially had good relations with the revolutionary republic. The relationship transformed because an incoming Israeli Labour government needed it to transform: It wanted to upend the earlier political consensus, and to make peace with the ‘near enemy’ (i.e. its Arab neighbours). But Israel then required a ‘new’ villain threatening ‘plucky little Israel’ to keep unstinting US Congressional support coming through: Iran became that villain. And then, subsequently, Netanyahu made his twenty-year career out of the Iranian (nuclear) bogeyman.
Reaping what a long-term strategy of threats and incitement sews …? In one of the most detailed assessments of Iran’s strategy and doctrine across Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) concludes that Iran’s “third party capability” has become Tehran’s weapon of choice: “Iran now has an effective military advantage over the US and its allies in the Middle East, because of its ability to wage war using third parties such as Shia militias and insurgents”, the report concludes. It has the military edge? Well, well …
And doesn’t this fact help explain what is happening in Iraq and Lebanon today?
Who cares about public pension liability? Well, you should – after all, it’s the reason entire cities and even states are facing bankruptcy.
International Man: Last year, President Trump took the unusual step of bypassing his advisors to announce his intention to withdraw all US troops from Syria quickly. The decision rattled Washington and the mainstream media. It caused former Defense Secretary Mattis to resign. Almost a year later, the US has withdrawn only a token number of soldiers. It still has thousands of troops occupying the part of the country where oil fields are located. What is going on here?
David Stockman: Well, that’s the Deep State at work.
Donald Trump is all by his lonesome. He’s home alone in the Oval Office. Now, half of it, he can blame himself. If he hires someone, a known idiot like John Bolton, what does he expect is going to happen except that everything he wanted to do is going to be undermined.
Nevertheless, he can’t seem to find anybody who can articulate on a day-to-day basis a pathway to the more restrained America First posture that he had in mind.
He’s surrounded by people who constantly countermand his orders. You have James Jeffery, the US Ambassador and special envoy to Syria saying, “Well, Trump didn’t mean that when he said he wanted the troops out of Syria.”
We have the same thing with North Korea. Trump finally said, here we are, 66 years after the armistice and we still don’t have a peace treaty, and we’re still occupying the Korean peninsula, which is of no interest to our national security one way or the other.
You have to do what I would call “contrafactual history.” In other words, if you understand what could have happened the other way, then maybe you’re not going to be so impressed with all this threat inflation.
I go back to why the Korean War happened, because I think it’s important to this whole thing going on now, with Trump trying to make a deal with Kim Jong-un.
In the late ’40s, Washington officials said that Korea is outside our sphere of influence, the line between North and South hastily drawn at the Potsdam war conference in July 1945. Dean Acheson, the US secretary of state in the late 1940s, said it was a mere surveyor’s line; it’s of no strategic influence. What if common sense had prevailed, instead of the hot-headed advice that President Truman got?
What if Truman had said, “Okay, we’re vacating this damn peninsula”? Well, it would have become a quasi-province of China, just like all the rest of them.
They’d probably be making all kinds of stuff, sending it to Walmart today, and nobody would know the difference.
Instead, we had a war. If I remember right, 54,000 servicemen were killed. The whole peninsula was pummeled, carpet bombed, and literally destroyed. It was like a wasteland in the north. There are reasons why the Kim family has survived all these years, because they hate us for what happened. People remember. It was really scorched earth. I mean, it was in some sense genocide, even then.
So, all of that happened, and Eisenhower comes in and is astute enough to say that we don’t really have national security on the line. He negotiated an armistice, and yet the War Party kept tension on the DMZ for all those years because it had to be in the playbook of threats.
I remember well when I was fighting the big Reagan defense build-up, back when I was budget director. It was always, we need all these different new tanks and attack aircraft and resupply logistics capabilities, because we have to have the ability to fight two and a half wars.
Well, where was the half war? I knew where the other ones were. The half war was in Korea. Well, why did we have to have a half war in Korea? But nevertheless, that was part of the rationalization—justification—for this massive military force that really is a tool of empire and not a tool of homeland defense.
Today, we have Trump finally saying, let’s let the Koreans decide how to run the future of Korea—and back off this long-running, 65-year confrontation.
And yet as courageous in some ways as he has been, he’s constantly being undermined by his own people, who as soon as he’s not looking send real nasty messages to the North Koreans—that will only set Kim back on his heels—and therefore nothing gets done. Even though it could very easily be done.
When you have a regime change policy—and this was the one real positive thing Trump brought to the table. He said regime change has failed; we’re not going to do it under my policy.
Why do you think the North Koreans are quasi-starving? And I know the Communist elite and Kim’s family and so forth live a pretty fat life, but nevertheless they’re in dire straits economically.
Why do they invest all this money in developing nuclear capability and missile capability? Because they don’t want to be regime changed. Kim is a young man, he’s in his mid-30s, and he doesn’t want to be another Muammar Gaddafi or Saddam Hussein.
He knows what happens. You get hung on national TV if you’re a Hussein, or you get tortured and drugged behind a Jeep if you’re a Gaddafi.
Obviously, this stuff has consequences. These idiots in Washington and all these think tanks that talk about regime change and bringing democracy to the world and so forth—never even think about the consequence—the message that these violent episodes send—and the unfortunate reaction that people take in order to defend themselves.
International Man: With John Bolton out of the picture, do you see US talks with North Korea bearing fruit for Trump?
David Stockman: I think it’s touch and go.
The problem is there’s lasting damage when you engage in all this regime change over so many years and episodes. They don’t trust you.
Trump has worked very hard, using an odd, idiosyncratic personal diplomacy to build up trust with Kim. It seems to be working, but there are just so many forces at work behind the scenes that are aiming to undermine that trust-building so that nothing happens.
They want to keep 29,000 troops in South Korea, in harm’s way, as a tripwire, so that the North Koreans obey us as we tell them to behave. It’s crazy.
I would give it a 50/50 chance. I know he wants a big victory, a foreign policy win. He’s desperate for one, because not much is happening elsewhere and what he intended to do is being totally undermined.
Maybe there’s a chance that something could happen here, but I am so distrusting of the Deep State machinery and their need for perennial threats.
If you take away the Korean threat, if you recognize the Iranians aren’t a threat, if you see that Russia is a tiny little country that’s not going to invade Western Europe and crash through the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, and so forth—
All of a sudden somebody is going to do the math as we get into the coming fiscal crisis and say, “We can’t afford all this defense that we don’t need. Let’s cut it back dramatically.”
They don’t want this to happen. And so, they have to keep these hot spots burning and these threats maintained or inflated, because they know if the real truth of the world were considered by Congress, the defense budget would be slashed dramatically.
International Man: So far, President Trump has had a very different foreign policy than Candidate Trump. What will happen to Trump’s chances for re-election if he doesn’t make any progress on ending the war in Afghanistan, withdrawing from Syria, and bringing peace to Korea?
David Stockman: I think his re-election is binary.
If the stock market holds up and the economy manages to skirt recession, he’ll be in good shape. But I don’t think that’s going to happen.
I think the stock market is in its last days of bubble excess. I think the economy is slouching toward recession within a matter of a few quarters or months. If that happens, Trump is toast. Elizabeth Warren becomes president, and then that’ll be a whole new ball game that is hard to figure.
International Man: What kind of role do you see foreign policy playing in the 2020 election?
David Stockman: It won’t be the normal sense of debating policy—where there’s usually the bipartisan duopoly, with nuanced shades of difference that they like to debate and pretend are meaningful.
That isn’t even going to happen this time. Foreign policy has been totally taken over by the Democratic paranoia about Russia and Putin and meddling in our elections.
Now it’s extended to the whole impeachment inquiry and Ukraine-gate. That’s what the whole debate is going to be about. The debate is going to be about a sideshow.
The underlying issues are why we are constantly steaming warships into the Black Sea. That’s like the Gulf of Mexico to Russia.
Why are we sending warships into the Baltic?
Why are we constantly doing big maneuvers in Poland and in the Baltic states, right on Russia’s doorsteps with these tens of thousands of forces going through these maneuvers and exercises? What the hell are we doing all this for?
Those are the issues. But they’re not even going to get debated.
One last point: Trump had raised the question, isn’t NATO obsolete? The Soviet Union is gone. The 50,000 tanks allegedly on the central front facing western Europe have been melted down for scrap. And yet, he can’t even do anything about NATO.
He’s had to double-talk his way into saying, “Well, the other countries are going to commit some more money they don’t have. They’re going to waste more money on defense.” That’s all that’s come of it.
The point is we ought to be debating what the hell are we doing with NATO 25 years after the Soviet Union disappeared from the face of the earth?
Why isn’t Washington and the president leading the world with this disarmament conference so that we can begin to reduce this massive expenditure for weapons that nobody can afford?
This is what Washington should be doing. The president of the United States should be leading the great global disarmament conference of 2021, and yet that won’t even come up. It’s not even on the radar screen.
It’s not even mentioned because, as I say, the Warfare State machinery essentially squelches any kind of debate, suffocates any kind of thought that at all deviates from the status quo.
The big issue in the world today is war and peace, and we’re facing a campaign in 2020 where it won’t even be mentioned.
There was once an interest around the world in forming political unions between nations or confederations of several states. As the European Union faces possible withdrawal by the United Kingdom, political unions are no longer a fad. The creation of the United Nations by the victorious Allies in 1945 gave some impetus to the formation of unions and federations, however, old political, economic, social, and religious animosities resulted in many federations ending up on the list of defunct attempts to unite small nations into single entities.
Since the end of World War II, there are more examples of federations and unions of states falling apart than in the continuation of stable and long-lasting federal unions. Today, few people remember the Confederation of Senegambia, the United Arab Republic (and the more obscure Federation of Arab Republics), the West Indies Federation, and the Federation of Ethiopia and Eritrea. These political federations all existed and were recognized internationally. Only the United Arab Republic and Federation of Ethiopia and Eritrea were members of the United Nations.
Senegambia’s confederal agreement permitted its constituent members – Senegal and Gambia – to conduct their own foreign policies and maintain their individual seats in the United Nations. The ultimate failure of Senegambia was foreseen in Clause 17 of the confederal agreement, which stipulated that “each Confederated State may conclude International Agreements in accordance with its constitutional requirements.” When it came for both nations to more closely link their governments in a unitary entity, they, particularly Gambia, balked. The idea for a political union of Senegal and Gambia grew out of a United Nations report commissioned in the 1960s. For some reason, the UN believed that Senegal, a French-speaking former French colony, and Gambia, an English-speaking former British colony, would harmoniously come together like two jigsaw puzzle pieces. With their significant political and cultural differences, Senegal and Gambia resisted further efforts at integration. When the confederation ended in 1989, Senegalese President Abdou Diouf discovered, to his chagrin, that Gambia’s restored national sovereignty helped boost the independence desires of the part of southern Senegal – the Casamance region, that had shared ethnic bonds with Gambia. The separatist Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance began an armed campaign against control by Senegal.
There are many examples of political union and integration, forced by external players, resulting in the unattended consequence of demands for separation. The Casamance rebellion in Senegal is but one example. Others include the union of Somalia, a former Italian colony and UN Trust Territory, and Somaliland, a former British colony; the Federation of Malaysia, which included Malaya and Singapore; and the United Arab Republic, a political union of Egypt and Syria that lasted from 1958 to 1961. The United Arab Republic was a member of a larger union, the United Arab States, a loose confederation like Senegambia, that included the Kingdom of Yemen. The United Arab States and the United Arab Republic ended in 1961 with a military coup in Syria.
The failed Confederation of Senegambia serves as an example of what can occur when international federalists bite off more than they can chew. The European federalists went down this road and it ultimately resulted in a referendum in the United Kingdom and the rise of anti-EU political parties among many of the EU’s member states. These parties included the UK Independence Party (UKIP), the Brexit Party, and the nationalist wing of the Conservative Party, as well as the National Rally of France, the Northern League of Italy, and both right-wing and left-wing parties across Europe.
The Brexit referendum vote of 2016 was narrowly won by those in favor of the UK exiting the EU. The resulting political chaos in the UK, which included three Conservative Party prime ministers in a mere three-year period, along with “musical chairs” UK Cabinet appointments and bedlam at EU headquarters in Brussels, are but other examples of federalists overreaching for unrealistic goals.
When the forerunner of the European Union, the European Economic Community (EEC), was created by the Treaty of Rome in 1957, French President Charles de Gaulle maintained a policy of opposition to the notion of “supranationalism.” De Gaulle remained opposed to efforts by European federalists like former Belgian Prime Minister Paul Henri Spaak, the former French deputy Secretary-General of the failed League of Nations Jean Monnet, and former French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman. De Gaulle also opposed British membership in the EEC because he saw the UK as a potential U.S. “Trojan horse” inside of the European community.
When the UK joined the EEC in 1973, which was enabled after de Gaulle’s resignation as French president, large sectors of British public opinion was opposed to British membership. The Labor Party was officially opposed to the terms for the UK’s accession to the EEC and not all Conservatives backed Prime Minister Edward Heath’s policy of British membership. There were Labor rebels who supported Heath in the House of Commons vote on membership and Conservatives who bolted from Heath to support the Labor Party’s stance.
In 1972, there was real angst by MPs over such issues as UK access to Commonwealth sugar and New Zealand butter after the UK’s accession to the Treaty of Rome and full membership in the EEC. In fact, what took place in the House of Commons in 1972 was not much different than the situation today. Many MPs are not at all happy with the terms of Brexit. There were Conservative and Labor rebels in 1972, just as there are similar rebels who are pro- and anti-Brexit. The international federalists just never seem to take into consideration “real people” issues, such as those that vexed the MPs in 1972 and continue to do so today: consumer prices of agricultural, fisheries regulation, and the like.
Some federalists in the British Parliament did see the pitfalls of a future united Europe. Labor MP Austen Albu said, during the debate on accession to the EEC, “No one believes that there will be any very rapid advance towards a federal Europe. In fact, very few people in Britain understand what federalism means, and the words “federalism” and “confederalism” are often used as though they had the same meaning when, of course, they do not. Therefore, I do not believe that the new Europe of the Community of 10, as it will be in the near future, will become, if it can ever become, a major world power.
The East African Community (EAC) was founded in 1967 as a vehicle to bring about a single-state East African Union. In 1977, the EAC collapsed, mainly because Ugandan dictator Idi Amin charged that Tanzania was harboring an army poised to invade Uganda and oust Amin. Also contributing to the demise of the EAC was the fact that Tanzania had a socialist economy, Kenya, a capitalist system, and Uganda, a kleptocratic dictatorship. Tanzania has its own internal problems. What began as the Union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar and morphed into the United Republic of Tanzania is now experiencing a desire by the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba, autonomous under the present Constitution, to have their independence restored. In Tanganyika, there is a resentment that Zanzibar and Pemba have their own autonomous government institutions, whereas there is no separate structure, including a parliament, for the mainland. The same complaint is heard in England, where many believe, that because Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have their own autonomous governments, the English should also.
The planned East African Union continues to be plagued with problems. For example, two of its members, Uganda and Rwanda, both former allies, are now de facto enemies.
Unions and federations of nations, like the marriages of people, often end in divorce. Perhaps the international bureaucracy of supranational institution builders should take that fact into consideration before international political unions even occur.
French President Emmanuel Macron certainly ruffled a lot of feathers this week when he lamented the US-led NATO military alliance as being “brain dead”. But his comments were less about a principled or objective assessment of NATO, and more about self-aggrandizement by the French leader.
Macron, whose political ambition is suffused with reviving France as a global power, appears to be exploiting tensions in the transatlantic alliance in order to push his pet plan for creating a European Army.
With Britain leaving the European Union, the French president sees an opportunity for France becoming the lead power in Europe. His call for Europe to regain “military sovereignty” is aimed at enhancing French power as the top European military force.
In an interview with the London-based Economist, Macron said: “What we are currently experiencing is the brain death of NATO.” He went on to claim that the United States is relinquishing commitment to the alliance; that the US is “turning its back on us”; and that European states must therefore “wake up” to “be in control of our destiny”.
His comments drew swift rebuke from the US and other NATO members. German Chancellor Angela Merkel dismissed Macron’s words, saying they were “drastic”. She asserted that NATO was the “cornerstone of security” for Germany.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, while visiting Germany this week, said that NATO was “critically important” as ever and he reaffirmed America’s military commitment to Germany, where there are over 38,000 US troops based.
NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg, who spoke alongside Merkel in Berlin, also rejected Macron’s apparent disparagement of the alliance’s present status.
Given that leaders of NATO’s 29 member states are due to gather in London on December 3-4 to mark the 70th anniversary of the military bloc’s foundation in 1949, Macron’s interview comes at an awkward time. There is a sneaking suggestion the French leader deliberately aimed his media comments to spark controversy in his favor.
At a superficial level, Macron may appear to be making a valid point. Yes, it is true that US President Donald Trump has continually lambasted European members of NATO for what he derides as their lack of military spending. Trump has warned about withdrawing US support for NATO. This is typical “transactional” Trump taking the hump about perceived petty cost-sharing and his relentless griping about America being “ripped off”.
In spite of Trump’s harrumphing, there is no sign that “the US is turning its back” on NATO or Europe, as Macron claims. On the contrary, Washington is investing more troops, tanks and warplanes on European territory, especially in the Baltic states close to Russia’s border.
Trump may threaten to walk away from NATO in Europe, but the US political and military establishment know full well that is an idle threat. America’s geopolitical power relies on the transatlantic bond to Europe which is afforded by NATO – its intrinsic founding purpose. NATO is essential to Washington’s hegemony over Europe and in particular for the prevention of any convergence between Europe and Russia as strategic partners. Rhetoric about “defending Europe” from alleged Soviet and later Russian aggression is simply a pretext for American dominance over European politics.
Macron is thus being melodramatic in his death-knell pronouncements for NATO. When he says, “we are currently experiencing the brain death of NATO”, he is inferring a demise in American leadership. The supposed demise is only superficial due to Trump’s tetchy rhetoric. In every fundamental way, the NATO alliance and Washington’s strategic dependence on it as a structure for projecting American power over Europe is as paramount as ever.
It is telling that Macron cites the purported US troop pullout from Syria last month as evidence for his depiction of a waning NATO. Macron is aggrieved that France and other European states were not consulted by the American move “to abandon Kurdish allies”.
But those comments reveal Macron disingenuously “protesting too much”. When were European states ever consulted by their American NATO paymaster?
Washington has launched countless military invasions of foreign countries over the decades with hardly a call in advance for Europe’s “consultation”. It is the servile function of European members of NATO to simply follow orders and row in behind American troops on Washington’s imperialist conquests in order to give US criminality a veneer of “multilateralism” and “legitimacy”.
Therefore for Macron to bemoan NATO as a “current experience” of brain-death is an exaggeration. It has always been brain-dead as far as European consultation or independence goes. Europe habitually serves as a zombie pandering to Washington’s imperialist demands.
Witness how the European powers have slavishly deferred to the “Washington consensus” on socially disastrous neoliberal economic policy; or Washington’s catastrophic wars in the Middle East and Central Asia which have generated a migration crisis for European societies.
Witness too how European states have meekly, even keenly, gone along with Washington’s policy of hostility towards Russia and the self-harming economic sanctions imposed on Moscow.
Admittedly, Macron, in his interview this week, said that a more independent Europe should seek dialogue and partnership with Russia. That is to be welcomed. But Macron’s chances of achieving that are remote when the fact is Europe is so dominated by Washington.
Macron’s attempt at stirring controversy over NATO and Washington’s relations with Europe is a jejune self-serving bid by the French president to assert himself and France as the pivotal European power.
That’s no doubt why Germany’s Merkel reacted quickly with reproach. After all, Berlin has shown a newfound desire to increase its national military power. This week defense minister Annegret Kamp-Karrenbauer called for more “proactive deployment” internationally of the Bundeswehr in order to secure Germany’s “strategic interests”.
Merkel has previously joined Macron in endorsing a European Army. She too has complained about the US no longer being reliable as a protector. Such comments by Merkel, Macron and other European politicians betray their misplaced understanding about the nature of American power and its core relation to Europe. Calls for a European Army are not about rejecting the militarism of NATO in principle, but rather about France and Germany reviving their own national militaristic power.
This week, however, the Neo-Napoleonic Macron went too far in his quest for renaissance of French global power. Exaggeration, pseudo criticism of America and NATO, were really all about aggrandizing French power by way of creating a new role of military supervisor of Europe. And Auntie Angela was compelled to slap down the naughty little French boy. Because Berlin has designs of its own.
With the UK Parliament already on alert, how long will it be before Congress wakes up to this scandal-in-the-making?
The cat is out of the bag. The UK is potentially complicit in a war crime. With typical insouciance the U.S. military dropped this bombshell by tweet and apparently without realizing the implications for U.S. partners:
We are repositioning @CJTFOIR forces to Deir ez Zor #Syria to continue partnering w/ #SDF to defeat ISIS remnants, protect critical infrastructure, & deny ISIS access to revenue sources. Mechanized forces provide infantry, maneuver, and firepower.
— OIR Spokesman Col. Myles B. Caggins III (@OIRSpox) October 31, 2019
OIR is Operation Inherent Resolve, which is the name behind which the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS cloaks its military activities. (Think NATO wearing a thobe.) CJTFOIR is the Combined Joint Task Force for Operation Inherent Resolve.
If, as per the spokesman’s statement, the forces being redeployed to Syria’s oil-producing areas are Inherent Resolve forces, it follows that those troops are doing so in the name and under the aegis of the Coalition. Simple. Ah yes, but awkward for the British government to admit – awkward for practical, political and legal reasons.
In practice, if this is a Joint Task Force Operation as we are told by the U.S. spokesman, it would be next to impossible for the deployment in Deir Ez Zor province to be taking place without some input from the senior UK officers embedded with the U.S. military in the Coalition Joint Task Force headquarters (the Deputy Commander is a British general) and active in carrying out Operation Inherent Resolve.
Politically this matters because hitherto all the opprobrium leveled at President Trump for allegedly ‘looting’ Syria’s oil has spared other participants in Inherent Resolve, including the UK, France, and Germany. How awkward it might be for Boris Johnson, facing an election, to find himself tarred with yet another Trump brush to put alongside Trump’s alleged grab for the UK National Health Service.
Legally this matters because if Trump puts into practice his promise to seize Syrian oil production, that will constitute, according to authoritative legal experts, a violation of international law against ‘pillaging’ enshrined in the Fourth Geneva Convention and thus constitute a war crime. Any party complicit in pillaging, and that would surely include other parties in the Joint Task Force, even if only headquarters staff and not boots on the ground, could also be culpable. The British government might find itself challenged in a UK court even if no international court could be found willing to act.
A nightmare for British government lawyers
This is the stuff of nightmares for British government lawyers.
Parliament is already alerted. The independent peer Baroness Cox prompted the following exchange with a government minister by putting down a tricky parliamentary question.
We can take that as an embarrassed ‘yes’.
Lord Ahmed, an FCO Minister, gave a similarly evasive answer to another question asked by Baroness Cox:
You can picture Lord Ahmed squirming.
It gets worse.
The British government may soon find itself complicit in harboring and funding terrorists because of Inherent Resolve’s involvement in pillaging Syria’s oil.
The U.S. says it will work with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to ‘safeguard vital infrastructure’ and will route proceeds of oil sales to the SDF to pay for its role, described as being anti-ISIS. What this overlooks is that the oilfields are not in Kurdish areas, which are mainly in the north, near the Turkish border, but in southern Deir Ez Zor province, which is dominated by Sunni Arabs who formed a core constituency for ISIS. This area is not far from Raqqa. The nominally SDF forces in the area, with which the U.S. will have to work, are mainly Arab and notoriously marbled with ISIS fighters. This part of the SDF has been described as ‘SDF by day, ISIS by night’. Not that they will not make excellent guards. These fighters, far from attacking the U.S., will likely be delighted to find the U.S. not only creating a safe haven for them but funding them as well.
Aiding terrorism, committing war crimes: a prospect to make any UK politician gulp. No wonder the parliamentary answers were evasive, even more so than usual with the grand yet nebulous ‘Global Coalition’. (In answer to another awkward question asking how many ISIS the Coalition had killed or detained in Syria in the last two years the FCO claimed implausibly that the government ‘does not hold this information’, no doubt to avoid having to acknowledge that the number is tiny and that the main purpose of the Coalition is to deny territory to Assad.)
With the UK Parliament already on alert, how long will it be before Congress wakes up to this scandal-in-the-making?
A Bloomberg report of October 22 was concise and uncompromising in declaring Russia to be a surveillance state. Harking back to the good old days of the Cold War, as is increasingly the practice in much of the Western media, Bloomberg recounted that “The fourth of 10 basic rules Western spies followed when trying to infiltrate Russia’s capital during the Cold War — don’t look back because you’re never alone — is more apt than ever. Only these days it’s not just foreigners who are being tracked, but all 12.6 million Muscovites, too. Officials in Moscow have spent the last few years methodically assembling one of the most comprehensive video-surveillance operations in the world. The public-private network of as many as 200,000 cameras records 1.5 billion hours of footage a year that can be accessed by 16,000 government employees, intelligence officers and law-enforcement personnel.”
Terrifying, one might think. Straight out of Orwell’s 1984, that dystopian prediction of what the world could become, as noted in one description of how the face of the state’s symbolic leader, Big Brother, “gazes at you silently out of posters and billboards. His imposing presence establishes the sense of an all-seeing eye. The idea that he is always watching from the shadows imposes a kind of social order. You know not to speak out against The Party — because big brother is watching… The face always appears with the phrase Big Brother is watching you. As if you could forget.” Such is the terrifying Bloomberg picture of Moscow where there are supposedly 200,000 video cameras. You can’t blow your nose without it being seen. And wait for the next phase, in which Big Brother will hear you laugh.
In line with the Western approach, there is little mention of surveillance in other cities, but the website ‘Caught on Camera’ has analysed world-wide practices. It reports that there are some 25 million closed-circuit surveillance cameras world-wide and “the United Kingdom [with 4 million cameras] has more CCTV activity than any other European country, per capita… surprisingly, the Wandsworth borough in London in particular has more CCTV cameras than Boston, Dublin, Johannesburg and San Francisco put together. It is estimated there are 500,000 cameras dotted around London. The average person living in London will be recorded on camera 300 times in one day.”
The statistics obtained by Caught on Camera and comparitech differ markedly from those in the Bloomberg story which was retailed throughout the Western world by many news outlets, who increasingly refer to the West as “the Free World”. Comparitech records that as at August 2019 Moscow, with a population of 12.4 million, had 146,000 (not 200,000) cameras, while London’s 9 million citizens were being watched by 627,707 cameras. The picture (if one may use that word) is slightly slanted. To put it another way, London has 68 cameras for each 1,000 people, and the ratios elsewhere are enlightening: Shanghai 113 (China is in treble figures in three cities); Atlanta (Ga) 15; Chicago 13; Baghdad, Sydney and Dubai 12; Moscow and Berlin 11; and St Petersburg, Canberra and Washington DC tie at 5.
The slanting doesn’t stop there, because there are other ways of attacking Russia, spearheaded by such as the Washington Post, which highlighted the Bloomberg surveillance tale. The Post behaves like Big Brother focusing on Winston Smith, the hapless victim/hero of 1984 whose job it is “to rewrite the reports in newspapers of the past to conform with the present reality.” There is an eerie resonance in this, because the Post’s reportage on Russia verges on the obsessively censorious, while it avoids mention of anything remotely positive.
Understandably, the Post relies heavily on such sources as “Meduza, a Latvia-based online news outlet that covers the Kremlin” which reported that the Russian government “passed a law earlier this year that lets Vladimir Putin take all the country’s Internet traffic off the World Wide Web if he decrees that there’s an ‘emergency’.”
The fact that the intelligence services of the West have worked for a long time to devise strategies and tactics to destroy internet services in Russia and many other countries is neither here nor there, but it is important for Western propaganda purposes to condemn Russia for taking measures to counter the manoeuvres of the West’s cyberwar agencies. The Post emphasised that arrangements were made by various Russian ministries and agencies, including the Emergencies Ministry and the Federal Security Service which “is the successor to the KGB, where Putin was once an officer.”
The absurdity of that needlessly-injected personal point is amusing in a way, and serves to highlight the unending reiteration of detail intended to set the western public against Russia. Naturally, there is exclusion of information that could lead to audiences approving of Russia in any way.
The news site Axios states it aims to “deliver the cleanest, smartest, most efficient and trust-worthy experience for readers and advertisers alike” but when it comes to Russia it appears that there could be a bit of selectivity in that delivery. For example, in October the UK’s Guardian newspaper reported approvingly that according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), alcohol consumption in Russia “has dropped by 43% since 2003” and commented that the WHO had “put the decrease down to a series of measures brought in under the sport-loving president, Vladimir Putin, including restrictions on alcohol sales and the promotion of healthy lifestyles.” But Axios didn’t report it quite like that.
The Guardian also noted that “The last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, led an anti-alcohol campaign with partial prohibition, which brought down consumption from the mid-1980s until 1990. But after the collapse of the Soviet Union, alcohol consumption exploded, continuing to rise until the start of the 2000s. Under Putin, Russia has introduced measures including a ban on shops selling any alcohol after 11 pm, increases in the minimum retail price of spirits and an advertising blackout.” The result has been “increased life expectancies in Russia, which reached a historic peak in 2018, at 78 years for women and 68 years for men. In the early 1990s, male life expectancy was just 57 years.”
This is an amazing societal development. In no other country has there been a comparable initiative that resulted in such a massive and positive shift in community habits.
The BBC was more coy than the Guardian about allocating approval for the remarkable success of the programme, and confined itself to reporting that the WHO “attributed the decline to a series of alcohol-control measures implemented by the state, and a push towards healthy lifestyles.” There was no reference to President Putin, and indeed the credit went elsewhere, because “alcohol-control measures introduced under former President Dmitry Medvedev included advertising restrictions, increased taxes on alcohol and a ban on alcohol sales between certain hours.”
Axios followed suit, and ‘Radio Free Europe’ didn’t mention Presidents Putin, Medvedev or Gorbachev, retailing simply that the “decline in consumption was due to “alcohol-control measures introduced at the beginning of the 2000s.” There were no reports of the achievement in US mainstream outlets or the UK’s resolutely right-wing anti-Russia media. (The Guardian doesn’t carry a Russian flag; it merely reports without xenophobic bias.)
The WHO Case Study provides an admirably detailed timeline of legislature and other developments concerning Russia’s successful drive against alcohol abuse, recording, for example, that in 2018 there was a “presidential decree on ‘National Purposes and Strategic Development Challenges of the Russian Federation until 2024’… including in the field of public health. The aim is to increase life expectancy to 78 years by 2024 and to 80 years by 2030, as well as the proportion of citizens leading a healthy lifestyle and systematically engaging in physical activities and sports.”
Don’t expect such an initiative to be praised or even mentioned by the Western media. Big Brother prefers to slant the cameras.
If anything good can come from the Democrat’s incessant efforts to impeach Donald Trump it will be the outgrowth, from the nurturing ‘mother of necessity,’ of a more inclusive political system that acknowledges more than just a compromised duopoly as the voice of the American people
With complete disregard for the consequences of their actions, the Democrat House Intelligence Committee under Adam Schiff has abandoned all pretense of democratic procedure in their effort to remove the 45th President of the United States from office.
Indeed, the Democrats have provided the Republicans with a Machiavellian crash course on the subtle art of decadent behavior for getting what you want, which of course is ultimate political power, and to hell in a proverbial hand basket with the consequences. The Republicans have been snoozing through a game of 2D checkers, holding out hope that Sheriff Billy Barr and his deputy John Durham will round up the real criminals, while the Democrats have been playing mortal combat.
The dark prince in this Gothic tale of diabolical, dare I say biblical, proportions is none other than Adam ‘Shifty’ Schiff, who, like Dracula in his castle dungeon, has contorted every House rule to fit the square peg of a Trump telephone call into the bolt hole of a full-blown impeachment proceeding. Niccolò Machiavelli would have been proud of his modern-day protégé.
As if to mock the very notion of Democratic due process, whatever that means, Schiff and his torch-carrying lynch mob took their deliberations down into the dank basement, yes, the basement, of the US Capital where they have been holding secretive depositions in an effort to get some new twist on the now famous phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky back in June. But why all the cloak and dagger theatrics when the transcript has long been available for public consumption?
At one point, the frazzled Republicans bared a little backbone against this bunker mentality when they crashed the basement meetings for some really outstanding optics. Schiff, betraying a lack of foresight, could not defenestrate the well-dressed hooligans since the meetings, as mentioned, are being held inside of a windowless dungeon. The Republican troublemakers were ushered back up the stairs instead.
Considering what Prince Schiff has managed to pull off over the course of this not-made for television impeachment process is astounding, and could not have happened without the drooling complicity of the lapdog media corporations. Schiff got the ball bouncing when he performed a Saturday Night Live skit of the Trump-Zelensky phone call on the hallowed floor of Congress. The imaginary voices in Schiff’s head made the president sound like a mafia boss speaking to one of his lackeys.
Not only did Schiff survive that stunt, it was revealed that he blatantly lied, not once but several times, about his affiliation with the White House insider, reportedly a CIA officer, who, without ever hearing the Trump-Zelensky phone call firsthand, blew the whistle anyways. The Democrats claim Trump was looking for some ‘quid pro quo’ with Kiev, which would dig up the dirt on Joe Biden and his son Hunter in exchange for the release of $400 million in military aid. The transcript, however, points to no such coercion, while Zelensky himself denies that he was pressured by Trump.
Meanwhile, Schiff has taken great efforts to keep the identity of the whistleblower a ‘secret’ out of “safety concerns.” The Republicans in the House said they will subpoena the whistleblower for the public impeachment that starts next week, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) told reporters. Yet Schiff has awarded himself the power to reject any witnesses the Republicans may wish to grill.
“We’ll see if he gives us any of our witnesses,” Jordan said.
A person need not feel any particular fondness for Donald Trump to find these circumstances surrounding the impeachment show trial as disgraceful, dishonorable and beneath the dignity of the American people. And whether they want it or not, the fallout from Schiff’s shenanigans will have repercussions long into the future of the US political system, which is groaning under the weight of corruption and deceit.
It is doubtful the Republicans will soon forgive and forget what the Democrats have put them through ever since Trump entered office in 2016. From Russiagate to Ukrainegate, the Trump White House has been held hostage by a non-stop, media-endorsed hate campaign to oust a democratically elected POTUS. Although it would be difficult for the Republicans, who lack the support of the media, an overwhelmingly left-leaning propaganda machine, to exact an equal amount of revenge on the Democrats when the latter have one of their own in the White House, they will certainly try. This will lead the Republic into an inescapable vortex of infighting where the sole function of the political system will be based on that of vengeance and ‘pay backs’ and more waste of time and money as the parties investigate the crimes of the other side.
The public, which is slowly awakening to the problem, will ultimately demand new leadership to break the current two-party internecine struggle. Thus, talk of a civil war in the United States, while possible, is being overplayed. The truth will be much simpler and far less violent. Out of the dust and ashes of the defunct duopoly that is now at war with itself, the American people will soon demand fresh political blood in Washington and this will bring to the forefront capable political forces that are committed to the primary purpose of politics: representing the needs of the people, once again.
Better not mess with the former Brazilian president; Putin and Xi are his real top allies in the Global Left
He’s back. With a bang.
Only two days after his release from a federal prison in Curitiba, southern Brazil, following a narrow 6×5 decision by the Supreme Court, former President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva delivered a fiery, 45-minute long speech in front of the Metal Workers Union in Sao Bernardo, outside of Sao Paulo, and drawing on his unparalleled political capital, called all Brazilians to stage nothing short of a social revolution.
When my colleagues Mauro Lopes, Paulo Leite and myself interviewed Lula at the federal prison, it was his Day 502 in a cell. By August, it was impossible to predict that release would happen on Day 580, in early November.
Lula detailed the current “terrible conditions” for Brazilian workers. He ripped to pieces the economic program – basically a monster sell-out – of Finance Minister Paulo Guedes, a Chicago boy and Pinochetist who’s applying the same failed hardcore neoliberal prescriptions now being denounced and scorned every day in the streets of Chile.
He detailed how the Brazilian right wing openly bet on neo-fascism, which is the form that neoliberalism recently took in Brazil. He blasted mainstream media, in the form of the so far all-powerful, ultra-reactionary Globo empire. In a stance of semiotic genius, Lula pointed to Globo’s helicopter hovering over the masses gathered for the speech, implying the organization is too cowardly to get close to him on ground level.
And, significantly, he got right into the heart of the Bolsonaro question: the militias. It’s no secret to informed Brazilians that the Bolsonaro clan, with its origins in the Veneto, is behaving as a sort of cheap, crude, eschatological carbon copy of the Sopranos, running a system heavy on militias and supported by the Brazilian military. Lula described the president of one of the top nations in the Global South as no less than a militia leader. That will stick – all around the world.
So much for “Lula peace and love,” which used to be one of his cherished mottos. No more conciliation. Bolsonaro now has to face real, fierce, solid opposition, and cannot run away from public debate any more.
Lula’s prison journey has been an extraordinary liberating experience – turning a previously wounded statesman into a fearless warrior mixing the Tao with Steppenwolf (as sketched in Herman Hesse’s book). He’s free like he’s never been before – and he said so, explicitly. The question is how he will be able to muster the organizational work, the method – and have enough time to change the dire conditions for democratic opposition in Brazil. The whole Global South is watching.
At least now the die is cast – and crystal clear: It’s social democracy against neo-fascism. Socially inclusive programs, civil society involved in setting public policy, the fight for equality versus autocracy, state institutions linked to militias, racism and hate against all minorities. Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn, to their credit, have offered Lula their unconditional support. In contrast, Steve Bannon is losing sleep, qualifying Lula as “the poster boy of the globalist Left” across the world.
Now for the really nasty bits.
I saw Lula’s speech deep into the night in snow stormed Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan’s capital, in the heart of the steppes, a land trespassed against by the greatest nomad empires in history. The temptation was to picture Lula as a fearless snow leopard roaming the devastated steppes of urban wastelands.
Yet snow leopards, crucially, are a species threatened with extinction.
After the speech I had serious conversations with two top interlocutors, Bern-based analyst Romulus Maya and anthropologist Piero Leirner, a crack authority on the Brazilian military. The picture they painted was realistically gloomy. Here it is, in a nutshell.
When I visited Brasilia last August, several informed sources confirmed that the majority of the Brazilian Supreme Court is bought and paid for. After all, they de facto legitimized all the absurdities that have been taking place in Brazil since 2014. The absurdities were part of a hyper-complex, slow-motion, rolling hybrid war coup that, under the cloak of a corruption investigation, led to the dismantling of industrial national champions such as Petrobras; the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff on spurious charges; and the jailing of Lula, the work of judge, jury and executioner Sergio Moro, now Bolsonaro’s justice minister, who was completely unmasked by The Intercept’s revelations.
But there are no structural changes whatsoever on the horizon. The project remains a Brazil sell-out – coupled with a thinly veiled military dictatorship. Brazil remains a lowly US colony. So Lula is out of jail essentially because this system allowed it.
The military abide by Bolsonaro’s abysmal incompetence because he cannot even go to the toilet without permission from General Heleno, the head of the GSI, the Brazilian version of the National Security Council. On Saturday, a scared Bolsonaro asked the top military brass for help after Lula’s release. And crucially, in a tweet, he defined Lula as a “scoundrel” who was “momentarily” free.
It’s this “momentarily” that gives away the game. Lula’s murky juridical situation is far from decided. In a harrowing but perfectly plausible short-term scenario, Lula could in fact be sent back to jail – but this time in isolation, in a maximum security federal prison, or even inside a military barracks; after all, he’s a former chief of the armed forces.
The full focus of Lula’s defense is now to have Moro disqualified. Anyone with a brain who’s been through The Intercept’s revelations can clearly identify Moro’s corruption. If that happens, and that’s a major “if,” Lula’s already existing convictions will be declared null and void. But there are others lawsuits, eight in total. This is total lawfare territory.
The military’s trump card is all about “terrorism” – associated with Lula and the Workers Party. If Lula, according to the harrowing scenario, is sent back to a federal prison, that could be in Brasilia, which not by accident holds the entire leadership of the PCC, or “First Command of the Capital”– the largest Brazilian criminal organization.
Maya and Leirner have shown how the PCC is allied with the military and the US Deep State, via their asset Moro, to establish not a Pax Brasilica but what they have described as a “Cocaine Evangelistan” – complete with terrorist false flags blamed on Lula’s command.
With the military betting on a strategy of chaos, augmented by Lula’s immense social base all over Brazil fuming about his return to prison and the financial bubble finally burst, rendering the middle classes even poorer, the stage would be set for the ultimate toxic cocktail: social “commotion” allied with “terrorism” associated with “organized crime.”
That’s all the military needs to launch an extensive operation to restore “order” and finally force Congress to approve the Brazilian version of the Patriot Act (five separate bills are already making their way in Congress).
This is no conspiracy theory. This is a measure of how incendiary Brazil is at the moment, and Western mainstream media will make no effort whatsoever to explain the nasty, convoluted plot for a global audience.
Leirner goes to the heart of the matter when he says the current system has no reason to retreat because its side is winning. They are not afraid of Brazil turning into Chile. And even if that ends up happening, they already have a culprit: Lula. Brazilian mainstream media are already releasing trial balloons – blaming Lula for the spike of the US dollar and the rise of inflation.
Lula and the Brazilian Left should invest in a full spectrum offensive.
The 9th BRICS summit takes place in Brazil this week. A master counter-coup would be to organize an off-the-record, extremely discreet, heavily securitized meeting among Lula, Putin and Xi Jinping, for instance in an embassy in Brasilia. Putin and Xi are Lula’s real top allies on the global stage. They have been literally waiting for Lula, as diplomats have confirmed to me over and over again.
If Lula follows a restricted script of merely reorganizing the Left, in Brazil, Latin America and even the Global South, the military system currently in place will swallow him whole all over again. The Left is infiltrated – everywhere. Now it’s total war. Assuming Lula remains free, he most certainly won’t be allowed to run again for the presidency in 2022. But that’s no problem. He’s got to be extra-bold – and he will be. Better not mess with the Steppenwolf.
Conducted by Leslie Stahl, the lead November 3 CBS 60 Minutes segment on Maria Butina, is on par with Stahl’s January 7, 2018 hit job on RT. At play, is a concerted effort to misrepresent mainstream Russian perspectives. This establishment bias against Russia/Russians typically doesn’t acknowledge certain aspects like the diverse views aired on RT. That station has given ample time to the likes of Michael O’Hanlon, Kenneth Roth, Dick Pound, Richard McLaren, Richard Goodstein and Mark Galeotti.
Stahl’s feature with Butina started off with subjectively stacked talking points. The not so well substantiated mantra of Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election was harped on – something that Butina wasn’t accused of.
Stahl expressed astonishment that someone Butina’s age (23 at the time) had been doing the activity she was involved in. Butina said that remark was sexist. In actuality, Stahl was exhibiting age discrimination and possibly doing so in a hypocritical way. Consider Mark Zuckerberg’s age when he achieved far greater fame than Butina. Other early bloomers include Joshua Wong and Catherine Chumachenko. Now 23, the Hong Kong political activist Wong started getting noticed in his teens. Chumachenko (the wife of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko) headed the pro-Stepan Bandera Captive Nations Committee in her early twenties.
John Demers’ appearance on the 60 Minutes segment was for the purpose to mop up on Butina. No one was there to mop up on him. Demers’ US government office was involved with prosecuting Butina. He projected his deceptive manner to Butina. Demers belittled her comment on the anti-Russian biases evident in the US, while highlighting the image of Butina lobbying for a foreign government in the US, without being registered to do so.
BS aside, it’s fairly well known that numerous individuals in the US have in one way or the other, done the bidding for foreign countries/governments without being registered as a foreign agent. This very matter can be murky and with varying factors, which arguably go against taking the marching orders of a given foreign government.
Someone can independently have a pro-American and pro-Russian stance, without coordinating his/her views with a government. This observation doesn’t omit the possibility of such a person periodically interacting with government or government-connected people (American, Russian or other) – a point that concerns Butina.
Relative to Butina, is it too much of a stretch to characterize Alexandra Chalupa as a foreign operative? Butina is a guns rights advocate, who also seeks improved US-Russian ties. How horrible! We’re to believe that there was a grand Russian plan to takeover the US, with the infiltration of the National Rifle Association (NRA) as a stepping stone. If anything, the NRA was more on the verge of gaining influence in Russia than vice versa. To underscore this point, Butina sought NRA like influence in Russia.
In comparison, during the 2016 US presidential election, Chalupa interacted with Ukrainian government personnel to find dirt on Trump’s campaign for the benefit of the Democratic National Committee – specifically Hillary Clinton. At the time, the Kiev regime wasn’t pleased with what Trump said about Russian-Ukrainian issues. This was also true among US based neocons, neolibs and some others. The US mass media interest in Chalupa’s activity has been limited, when compared to Butina and the Russiagate hoopla.
On the subject of acting like a foreign agent, Michael Pillsbury has presented evidence indicating that Joe Biden (when he was vice president) adopted a more pro-Chinese position after his son received a lucrative arrangement in China.
Demers’ belittling of anti-Russian biases in the US runs counter to reality. A prime comparative example is evident with the hypocritical condemnations on CNN and MSNBC, over the second guessing of Alexander Vindman, the Ukrainian SSR born US army officer, who said that Donald Trump’s phone conversation with Volodymyr Zelensky was inappropriate. (Vindman was one of several individuals who listened in on that phone discussion.)
There was some pro-Trump backlash over Vindman, suggesting that he isn’t pleased with what the US president has said over the course of time regarding Russian-Ukrainian matters. Thereafter, CNN and MSNBC ran segments suggesting that the pro-Trump response to Vindman is discriminatory – in the form of questioning the loyalty of a foreign born person. Among those leading that charge are Brian Williams, Michael McFaul and Max Boot.
Relatively speaking, not much is known about Vindman’s views, unlike William Taylor, who (in articles and live appearances) is pro-Euromaidan Ukrainian and Russia unfriendly. (Taylor like Vindman had testified before the Adam Schiff led investigation of the Trump-Zelensky phone conversation.) A retired US army officer Jim Hickman, describes Vindman as a pro-Democratic Party leaning individual, lacking scruples. Noting Vindman’s Jewish background, the Alexei Bayer and Julia Ioffe pieces on Vindman are limited in scope. Regardless of ethnicity or religion, those of a former Russian Empire and/or former Soviet heritage aren’t monolithic.
Bayer takes a pro-Euromaidan Ukrainian/anti-Russian leaning slant, as evidenced by his frequent Kyiv Post appearances. His article at issue presents Trump as being more pro-Russian than pro-Euromaidan Ukrainian. Another way of reviewing Trump is to observe that he’s not anti-Russian, along the lines of Bayer, Taylor and the Kyiv Post, while having America’s best interests (as Trump sees it) at heart. (BTW, among the high profile of former Soviet based English language media, the Kyiv Post is better at promoting nationalist anti-Russian leaning views, when compared to The Moscow Times’ approach to patriotically reasonable Russian perspectives.)
Whatever the case is with Vindman, the comments second guessing him, fall well short of the clearly stated anti-Russian bigotry, expressed by James Clapper, the former national security adviser, who was hired by CNN as an analyst. When discussing the CBS 60 Minutes feature on Butina, CNN’s Brian Todd belittles the otherwise clear anti-Russian bigotry, which his employer is casual about. Todd’s November 4 CNN bit muddies facts with questionable opinions. From that, a creative attempt is made to suggest something sinister. Butina didn’t do anything close to stealing or attempting to steal classified US government information.
Contrary to Todd, given the anti-Russian backdrop evident, it wasn’t unreasonable for Butina to (at one point) advocate a low profile Russian presence in the US. A thought that Todd spun as something underhanded.
As I previously noted, US sports legal politico Travis Tygart’s support for a collective ban on all Russian Olympic athletes is very much in line with the anti-Russian biases dominating the US mass media and body politic. A November 6 New York Times article gives credence to the belief that American University is too soft on Russia. Never mind doing an overall comparison with the anti-Russian biases evident in high profile situations. You’d be hard pressed to find any US mass media follow-up on the anti-Russian biases at numerous places, including the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and Atlantic Council.
“Bolivian President Evo Morales steps down following accusations of election fraud” proclaims CNN.
“Bolivia’s Morales resigns amid scathing election report, rising protests” reports The Washington Post.
“Bolivian Leader Evo Morales Steps Down” says The New York Times.
“Bolivian President Evo Morales resigns amid fraud poll protests” declares the BBC.
“President of Bolivia steps down amid allegations of election rigging” we are informed by Telegraph.
“Bolivia’s President Morales resigns after backlash to disputed election” says the Sydney Morning Herald.
So, there you have it. The indigenous leader of a socialist South American government which has successfully lifted masses of people out of crushing poverty, which happens to control the world’s largest reserves of lithium (which may one day replace oil as a crucial energy resource due to its use in powering smartphones, laptops, hybrid and electric cars), which has an extensive and well-documented history of being targeted for regime change by the U.S. government, simply stepped down due to some sort of scandal involving a “disputed election.” Nothing to do with the fact that right-wing mobs had been terrorizing this leader’s family, or the fact that the nation’s military literally commanded him to step down and are now currently searching for him to arrest him, leading to ousted government officials being rounded up and held captive by soldiers wearingmasks.
All perfectly normal and not suspicious at all.
Fully support the findings of the @OAS_official report recommending new elections in #Bolivia to ensure a truly democratic process representative of the people’s will. The credibility of the electoral system must be restored.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) 10 ноября 2019 г.
The field of narrative management keeps making more and more advances.
They never did find any evidence of fraud in the October 20th election, but the media repeated the allegation so many times that it became “true,” in this post-truth world. Thread: https://t.co/8oWFNKNebT
— Mark Weisbrot (@MarkWeisbrot) 10 ноября 2019 г.
And the empire can afford to do this. When you have all the power and resources, you can bide your time, knowing that if the current attempt at toppling the government in a sovereign nation fails, there’s always tomorrow.
At a United Nations Security Council meeting last year, Morales summed up the true nature of America’s role in the world very accurately, and, it turns out, very presciently.
“I would like to say to you, frankly and openly here, that in no way is the United States interested in upholding democracy,” Morales said. “If such were the case it would not have financed coups d’etat and supported dictators. It would not have threatened with military intervention democratically elected governments as it has done with Venezuela. The United States could not care less about human rights or justice. If this were the case, it would have signed the international conventions and treaties that have protected human rights. It would not have threatened the investigation mechanism of the International Criminal Court, nor would it promote the use of torture, nor would it have walked away from the Human Rights Council. And nor would it have separated migrant children from their families, nor put them in cages.”
“The United States is not interested in multilateralism,” Morales continued. “If it were interested in multilateralism it would not have withdrawn from the Paris Agreement or given the cold shoulder to the global compact on migration, it would not have launched unilateral attacks, nor have taken decisions such as illegally declaring Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel. This contempt for multilateralism is motivated by the thirst of the United States for political control and for the seizing of natural resources.”
“Each time that the United States invades nations, launches missiles, or finances regime change, it does so behind a propaganda campaign which incessantly repeats the message that it is acting in the course of justice, freedom and democracy, in the cause of human rights or for humanitarian reasons,” Morales also said.
“The responsibility of our generation is to hand over a fairer and more secure world to the following generation,” Morales concluded. “We will only achieve this dream if we work together to consolidate a multipolar world, a world with common rules that are respected by and defended from all the threats ranged against the United Nations.”
Indeed, the only reason the U.S. is able to wage its endless campaign of regime change agendas against unabsorbed governments is because the unipolar world order it rules has allowed it the power, resources and leisure to do so. A multipolar world would enable the citizenry of this planet to have a say in what happens to them in a way that is not dictated by a few sociopaths in and around Washington, DC. A multipolar world is to democracy as a unipolar world is to monarchy. The citizens of the world should oppose this unipolarity.
CaitlinJohnstone.com via consortiumnews.com
France’s Macron has burst into tears again and has used the British press to hold court and whimper about how he and his EU vision aren’t working out.
Oh to be Emmanuel Macron. The French president appears to be on the edge of some kind of meltdown, following his fatuous comment about NATO being “brain dead”. And glancing at the slow growth in the EU – which is hitting Germany for the first time, as well as of course France – you can see how Macron is starting to panic.
He recently warned in an interview with the Economist that America was turning its back on Europe and that he had no confidence in NATO anymore. Was this a dig at Trump or more specifically a vitriolic outburst at Trump’s policy towards Iran, which in a matter of weeks will turn to the EU for cash hand outs and support, as it pulls out all together from the infamous JCPOA, otherwise known as the Iran Deal?
Macron’s big ideas about the EU being a big player are not really working out. Perhaps it is his main idea of him being the big player in a bigger EU which is the real issue though as his attempts to run the EU (in his role as French president) are floundering; few doubt that in five years time, when the EU in Brussels needs a new Council and Commission president, that his name will be on the list and he will break the old unwritten rule that no ‘giant’ of the EU can have a president in Brussels.
Well, not since Jacques Delors, anyway.
The EU is not working. Its economy is hitting new lows, which is even affecting non-eurozone countries like Sweden, and Britain’s more joined up departure will be one more unedifying message to its members: time for a rethink of the project.
The problem is that the ‘rethink’ idea will be as divisive as ever. In one camp, Macron and his pro federalist buddies in Brussels who are addicted to the EU udder tend to think dramatically, rather than rationally when thinking of ‘reforming’ the EU project. ‘Reform’ for them means taking more power in an anti-democratic fashion and then hope that, say a new EU army (from larger national EU defence budgets), bigger EU grants towards research (to compete with the US), minimal wages across 27 member states and, most radically, overhauling the Schengen Agreement with a new, single asylum policy, will all collectively muster greater political support.
Moderates across Europe though – perhaps what he might call ‘Eurosceptics’ – might argue that in such a crisis that the EU is in, that a decaling and downgrading of the projects ambitions might be a way to re-connect with EU voters.
I once asked European Commission president, Romano Prodi in 2002, what his chief task was in office. “To reconnect with voters” he answered confidently.
The smug smile soon vanished from his cherub like face when I replied “but surely that would suggest that once the EU was connected with them?”.
The tantrum that Macron is having presently with NATO is part of a bigger picture of the EU in decline. For EU countries to oblige Trump by agreeing to the 2% of GDP to be put aside on defence spending is an abhorrent attack on Macron and his vision of a new EU. Macron wants bigger defence spending to boost the EU project’s failing political support. But even this logic is flawed. Voters have been in steady decline for the EU project for at least the last three EU elections and a larger populist block in the European parliament is a clear testament to that.
Superpowers act. Pseudo super powers talk and hope their carefully-crafted press releases make an impact. The heart of the matter of this recent attack on NATO is how US policy targeted at Iran is failing. But that failure can be weathered by the US, as superpowers, by definition, look to others to shoulder the burden of their errors. And it is to the EU, where Trump looks for that action. It will be the EU which will pay the greatest price for Iran to make its next move in the coming days and pull itself further away from its obligations under the so-called Iran deal.
The problem with Macron is that he is so entrenched in his ultra conservative neo conservative past. Even in his letter published earlier this year in the Guardian he talks of a new EU looking more to Africa for future investment, perhaps a glimpse of Conrad like old values of France and its colonial legacy. Contrasted to the NATO secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg who has a more modern, realistic view of France and old Europe.
“I strongly welcome efforts to strengthen European defence… But the EU cannot defend Europe” he said recently at an event celebrating 70 years of NATO’s existence. “This is partly about military might. After Brexit, 80% of NATO’s defence expenditure will come from non-EU allies.’
That must have hurt Macron. But if the EU can’t even defend itself, it is ‘brain dead’ to think of any plans to expand itself and its powers?