News for progressives

In Crisis of Democracy, We All Must Become Julian Assange

Counterpunch - 8 hours 7 min ago

The US government’s indictment against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange marked the worst attack on press freedom in history. Assange has been charged on 18 counts, including 17 violations of the Espionage Act. James Goodale, former general counsel of The New York Times, who urged the paper to publish the Pentagon Papers during the Nixon administration noted, “If the government succeeds with the trial against Assange, if any, that will mean that it’s criminalized the news gathering process.”

On June 12, UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid has signed the extradition papers. Assange’s hearing is now set to begin next February. He is now being held in London’s Belmarsh prison for what amounts to a politically motivated, 50-week sentence given by the judge for him violating bail conditions in 2012 in order to seek and obtain political asylum in Ecuador against the threat of extradition to the US.

Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, who visited Assange in a notorious UK prison previously referred to as “Britain’s Guantanamo Bay”, assessed that Assange has been subjected to prolong psychological torture by the US government and its allies for nearly a decade. While this multi-award winning journalist, who has revealed the governments’ war crimes, suffers in jail, the British government that has been a key player of this political persecution recently held a Global Conference for Media Freedom.

Despite its stated mission of protecting the safety and rights of journalists, the conference failed to address the degrading and inhumane treatment of Assange and the US government’s prosecution of the publisher that could set a dangerous precedent for press freedom. This hypocrisy of all was best shown by the fact that this gathering was hosted by UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt who, last month, told the US TV that he would happily extradite Assange to Trump’s America where former CIA officer John Kiriakou indicated that he would receive no fair trial and face life imprisonment.

True face of Western liberal democracy

What is this Western governments’ coordinated attack on this Australian native who published truthful information, in the public interest, about the US government? Over 10 million documents that WikiLeaks released with a pristine record of accuracy informed people around the world about corruption and wrongdoing of governments and corporations. But most importantly, they exposed the true face of Western liberal democracy.

What is Western liberal democracy? It is a particular style of governance that was developed in the US and exported around the world. Political theorist Sheldon S. Wolin (2008) described it as “modern managed democracy” and attributed its creation to the framers of the Constitution. Wolin described how the Founding Fathers made a system that favored elite rule and that “the American political system was not born a democracy, but born with a bias against democracy” (p. 228).

This managed democracy relies on secrecy and deception to control the will of the populace. In this system, press works as a propaganda machine. Journalists become gatekeepers, whose job is to maintain an illusion of democracy through restricting the flow of information and controlling narratives. Now, WikiLeaks’ disclosures on government secrecy have pierced a façade of democracy and began challenging the hidden power inside the system.

Crisis of legitimacy

WikiLeaks revelation, coupled with the 2008 financial meltdown, triggered the global crisis of legitimacy. People came to recognize the unfairness and injustice inherent in the system, where rules don’t apply to everyone equally. Weakening of public trust in institutions spawned a cycle of protests around the world.

In 2011, Amnesty International recognized the role of WikiLeaks’ documents in instigating global revolutionary uprisings. The US diplomatic cables leak helped generate a powerful force that finally toppled the corrupt Tunisian dictator Ben Ali. The fire of self-immolation and global awakening confirmed by the US embassy cables, spread like wildfire through social media and lit the passions of Egyptians in Tahrir Square.

From Spain, Greece, and the London riots to the Occupy movement, waves of action for self-determination were reaching the West. This crisis of liberal democracy didn’t just emerge in 2011. The roots of the problems that we are now facing are found at the birth of the American republic.

The truth is that the country has been in crisis from the very beginning. Although the Constitution was founded on the revolutionary ideas that rejected the power of the King’s monarchy, it contained contradictions and was far from being perfect. A constitutional republic was built in violation of the ideals infused in the Declaration of Independence, manifested in genocide of natives, the enslavement of blacks, and the suppression of women.

One of influential figures in America’s earlier development, Thomas Jefferson, predicted and warned his fellow citizens about the seed of corruption within, when he feared, there would come a time when the American system of government would degenerate into a form of “elective despotism”.

Invention of new journalism

Julian Assange, through his work with WikiLeaks responded to this crisis that has existed all along inside this nation. How did he do it? To examine this question, we have to look at who Julian Assange is.

When Assange was once asked to describe what exactly he does in life, he answered; “I am an activist, journalist, software programmer expert in cryptography, specialized in systems designed to protect human rights defenders.”

Assange is an excellent journalist. He published material at a scale and speed that has never been seen before, winning numerous journalistic awards. But he is much more than just a journalist. With a variety of skills and talents, he made significant contributions to the larger society. He was nominated for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize and was a recipient of the Sydney Peace Foundation Gold Medal, the Sam Adams Award and the Voltaire Award for Free Speech, among others.

Perhaps the best way to describe him would be that he is an innovator at heart. Innovators understand the problems that exist in our society and come up with solutions. What were the problems that Assange identified? He recognized anti-democratic forces inside the history of the United States. He also understood that within the existing political system there is no mechanism for ordinary people to check on this power. Upon this analysis, he found a way to tackle this problem by inventing a new form of journalism. WikiLeaks was the solution.

Problems of unaccounted power

The framers of the constitution wanted to have power over people. As a testimony to this, the original draft of the constitution did not have a Bill of Rights. They were added to the constitution as amendments. This didn’t come about without struggle. The proponents of the Bill of Rights demanded them in order to safeguard individual liberty and challenged those who seek to preserve levers of control.

Even after the constitution was ratified with a Bill of Rights, the problem of this unaccounted power was never truly addressed. The wording of the First Amendment reads:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Here, the First Amendment was aimed to restrict the governmental power. It was specifically addressing what Congress can’t do. However, the constitution didn’t ensure that corporations would not be able to make laws restricting the freedom of speech. With the infiltration of commercial interests and the consolidation of media, the big business class has found a way to regulate free speech on their terms. The establishment of corporate media turned journalists’ First Amendment protection into a privilege that they can use against the public.

New mechanism of accountability

Journalists, who have now become a new class of professionals, no longer share interests with ordinary people. They are systematically placed to serve the agendas of the powerful state. For instance, The New York Times has publicly acknowledged that it sends some of its stories to the US government for approval from “national security officials” before publication.

With the merger of the state and corporations, the power of private companies to influence governments and erode civil liberty has increased. Transnational corporations can now revoke and restrict basic rights at any time, crossing the judicial boundaries on the borderless cyberspace. Tech giants like Google, Facebook and Twitter censor free speech online and, without warrant, they spy and invade the privacy of people.

Civil right activist Audre Lorde once wrote, “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” In a tyranny of corporate takeover, Assange through his work with WikiLeaks found solutions to this problem of corporate subjugation of journalism. WikiLeaks provides vital tools that make it possible for everyday people to dismantle the master’s house.

At the core of this invention is scientific journalism. By publishing full archives in a searchable format, WikiLeaks gave ordinary people a mechanism to independently check the claim of journalists and to hold those unelected powers accountable. This way, the whistleblowing site enabled a true function of free press and opened a door for democracy.

Call for real democracy

With the Trump administration’s prosecution of Assange, we are now seeing a deepening crisis of enlightenment values. In Chinese, the word for crisis is composed with two meanings. It signifies danger and opportunity. This attack on free press poses great threat to democracy, but at the same time, it presents an opportunity that has never been available before.

With great courage, Assange responded to the crisis of legitimacy. He sacrificed his personal liberty in order to give us a chance to create a society where we have privacy for the weak and transparency for the powerful. Now, this man who defended our rights, is made defenseless. He is not allowed to use a computer and has limited access to his lawyers, making him unable to adequately prepare for his legal defense.

In a message sent out from a high security prison, where he is being held in solitary confinement, he asked everyone to take his place. Democracy requires ordinary’ people’s participation in power. In order for us to alter this oppressive system, change ought to be made first within ourselves. Each of us needs to start exercising our right to free speech, assemble and associate with one another and organize a society, governed not by elite few, but through networked hearts of common people.

Even after his imprisonment, Assange continues to fight. He endures isolation and character assassination with the latest CNN hit piece twisting embassy surveillance records against him. Assange remains silenced. He is suffering for all of us, for us to seize this opportunity to take back the power that belongs to us. Let us fight for his freedom. Let us complete the great work of justice and democracy he started with WikiLeaks. His plight of curtailed freedom is a call for a real democracy. We all must now take his place and claim our own significance. We must become Julian Assange, for his struggle is ours. We are all Julian Assange.

The Immoral Silence to the Destructive Xenophobia of “Just Leave”

Counterpunch - 8 hours 7 min ago

Donald Trump tweets “why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came” and doubles-down by then accusing four sitting members of Congress of hating America (referring to Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, NY; Ilhan Omar, MN; Rashida Tlaib, MI; and Ayanna S. Pressley, MA). Only one of the four, Omar, was born outside the US, and was a refugee fleeing war in Somalia.

“Just leave” is a dog-whistle for white nationalism. Research shows that supporters and opponents of Donald Trump respond differently to racial cues. Simply put: Trump intentionally and incessantly works to make white people angry at minorities, his divisiveness is working. Hate crimes in the U.S. are up, especially in pro-Trump areas and places where he held rallies. His divisive rhetoric was a motivating force for mosque attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand and other hate crimes here and abroad, as cited by the attackers themselves in most cases. A bigoted bully his entire career, openly and unapologetically racist for decades, it is dishonest to pretend there is a debate; then there is the dishonesty of silence.

The breadth of silence of silence from the Republican party (and his rise in Republican voter support shown in subsequent polls) showcases the tacit support of the insinuation that people of color are foreigners. Either Trump speaks for American conservatives or their cowardice is too great to mount any opposition. Minority House Leader Kevin McCarthy stands by Trump’s side and nods approvingly with Trump’s messages that minorities are a threat to American safety, values, and people of color do not belong. Majority Senate leader Mitch McConnell, a descendant of slave owners (census records show two of his great-great-grandfathers owned more than a dozen slaves) pretends to be the statesman and tells everyone to calm down, as if Trump should be permitted to engage in all the cruelty and bullying that suits him.

Since the 1780’s the great American Melting-Pot has been an important metaphor. It was used to articulate the blending of different cultures, ethnicities, and nationalities into a single American identity. The logical extension of a true support for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness combined with the acknowledgement of “created equal” that is perhaps best expressed E pluribus Unum—out of many, one—our national motto.

These time-honored values are not defended by those who truly need to model them, as history shows. In Rwanda, leading to the 1994 genocide, the Hutus failed to defend Tutsis when bigoted leadership called them “cockroaches.” German non-Jews failed to stand up to Hitler as he ramped up in the early 1930s with actions not dissimilar to Trump right now. This is comparable to McCarthy and McConnell failing to correct Trump’s anti-brown bigotry.

It is not easy to push back against bigotry. In McCarthy’s Bakersfield, CA, where I’m from, I remember the lesson well. In high school in the 90’s “just joking” racism bought me acceptance, and speaking out against pejorative slurs earned me the recognition of “race traitor.” I can tell you every time I spoke out it made a difference, and I slept at night. Even if you didn’t speak out about the “very fine people” neo-Nazis in Charlottesville (Trump’s approving words), you can say something about the concentration camps at the Mexican border; you can defend the Americans being told to leave, we need to be united on this.

“The Ten Brexit Questions No-One’s Giving a Straight Answer To”

Naked Capitalism - 8 hours 13 min ago
A short Brexit update and some questions on the state of Labour.

McDonald’s: Stop Exploiting Our Schools

Counterpunch - 8 hours 15 min ago

Corporate America is looming larger and larger in U.S. public schools. That’s not a good thing for educators, students, or workers.

Nowhere could this be more clear than the case of McDonald’s, whose founder once scouted locations for new stores by flying over communities and looking for schools. The fast food giant pioneered methods of attracting school children to its stores — from Happy Meals to marketing schemes like McTeacher’s Nights.

McTeacher’s Nights have become almost commonplace in many parts of the country. Here’s how they work.

Teachers and other public school employees prompt students and parents to eat at their local McDonald’s on an otherwise slow night. Then teachers volunteer their time behind the cash register, serving students and their families junk food, while McDonald’s workers are often told not to go in that night for their shift.

A small amount of the proceeds — about $1 to $2 per student — then goes back to the school.

Many students have grown up with these seemingly innocuous fundraisers. Hundreds, if not thousands, happen across the U.S. each year, according to Corporate Accountability and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.

Meanwhile, thanks to gross underfunding of public schools, such fundraisers get less scrutiny than they should. Beyond the obvious problem of enlisting teachers — the people children trust most, next to their parents — to serve young people junk food, there’s also the issue of labor rights.

Teachers are already woefully underpaid for the service they provide our communities. McTeacher’s Nights engage these teachers to volunteer additional hours, often displacing low-income McDonald’s workers in the process.

What results is what one former McDonald’s CEO described as philanthropy that’s “99 percent commercial” in nature. What do we call it? Exploitation.

Teachers need to be standing in solidarity with McDonald’s employees, not at cross-purposes. They are our students, family members, and our neighbors. For their long hours working on their feet, they are often paid poverty wages.

And as a recent report from the National Employment Law Project finds, the corporation is failing in its legal duty to provide employees a safe work environment. Dozens of women from California to Florida have filed complaints alleging sexual harassment by supervisors and co-workers in McDonald’s stores and franchises. And thousands of workers in 10 cities walked off the job to protest these abuses.

In the education field, we know the importance of a strong union to prevent abuses like these. Yet McDonald’s has been accused of union-busting, and even firing employees for attending Fight for $15 rallies to raise the minimum wage.

That’s why more than 50 state and local teachers unions have signed an open letter challenging McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook to end McTeacher’s Nights. And this year, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), representing 1.7 million members and 3,000 local affiliates, adopted a resolution rejecting all corporate-sponsored fundraisers for schools.

It’s time for McDonald’s and other corporations to stop exploiting our schools, children, and their own workforce. Until they do, we will continue to stand with McDonald’s workers in their fight for a living wage and a safe workplace — and for teachers fighting for the funding their local schools need.

We encourage others to stand with us.

Cecily Myart-Cruz is a veteran teacher, activist, and the Vice President of the United Teachers Los Angeles/NEA.

This op-ed was distributed by OtherWords.org.

Our Veggie Gardens Won’t Feed us in a Real Crisis

Counterpunch - 8 hours 23 min ago

Massive flooding and heavier than normal precipitation across the US Midwest this year delayed or entirely prevented the planting of many crops. The situation was sufficiently widespread that it was visible from space. The trouble isn’t over yet: Hotter-than-normal temperatures predicted to follow could adversely affect corn pollination. Projections of lower yields have already stimulated higher prices in UN grain indexes and US ethanol. Additionally, the USDA is expecting harvests to be of inferior quality. Furthermore, the effects of this year could bleed into 2020; late planting leads to late harvesting which delays fall tilling, potentially until next spring, when who knows what Mother Nature will deliver.

Accuweather’s characterization of this as a “one-of-a-kind growing season” is literally true only in terms of its exact circumstances (given increasingly chaotic events) but not in its intensity (which will surely be exceeded). Prudence would dictate that we heed this year’s events as a warning and get serious about making preparations for worse years. Literal cycles of “feast or famine” have marked agriculture since its birth and sooner or later we will experience significant shortages here in the US, if not from the weather, than from war or lack of resources.

The Midwest floods and their possible repercussions for the food supply got some attention in the news (though not enough). One of the most common suggestions I saw on social media was: “Plant a garden!”

If only it were that simple.

I used to be a small-scale organic farmer so take it from me: totally feeding yourself from your own efforts is very, very challenging. Though some friends and I tried over multiple seasons, we never succeeded, or even came anywhere close.

First of all, consider what you eat. Yes, you. What do you eat at home? At work? When you go out? Okay, what percentage of that can be raised in the bioregion where you live? If you have trouble answering this question, don’t feel bad. I would guess that the proportion of the US population with practical agricultural knowledge is lower than in any other society in history.

Looking at the subset of your current diet that can be grown in your area, is it enough to live off of? Is it well-balanced and does it provide enough calories? If not, what will you add to fill it out? This is purely an exercise of course, but there’s the rough draft of the menu you’re going to survive on. How will that work? I mean logistically?

Let’s take carrots. They’re popular, they’re nutritious, and they can be grown all over the US without too much trouble. What’s a year’s worth of carrots look like? How many ten-foot rows would it take to produce that many? When are they best seeded? How much space, water and amendments do they require? What tools do you need? Are there diseases or insects to worry about and what’s the best way of dealing with them? When do you pick them? How long will the harvest keep?

Now go through all those questions for everything else on your list.

Then add it up: all the space, hours, and equipment.

Does it look daunting? If it doesn’t, you left something out.

Without going through all of the above, here’s what you’re probably not thinking of right now: The typical US American diet is only 10-20% fruits and veggies―like you might grow in your backyard―and the vast majority is made up of grains and proteins in one form or another.

What vegetable does nearly everyone grow in their home garden? Tomatoes. How do they eat them? Often enough, on a sandwich or in pasta. That’s wheat or rice or some other grains. How many people have ever planted rice or wheat in their back yards?

Meat is also grains because that’s what’s fed to animals. This includes the majority of grass-fed cows, who are “finished” (fattened up) on grains on a feedlot prior to slaughter. So if you want meat in your home-grown diet, you’ll need to plant for those mouths too. You might end up concluding that you don’t need as much as you thought you did. (BTW, historic paleolithic diets were supplemented by hunting meat but were dependent on gathering roots, seeds, berries, etc.)

When my friends and I tried the grow-all-your-own-food challenge, we quickly got educated about the difficulties of grains and other staple crops. I’m not just talking about planting and raising, which are hard enough, but harvesting and processing. Wheat, for example, is easy to grow, but there’s a number of steps from mature spikelets in the field to flour in the kitchen, including threshing and winnowing. In 2008, we attempted to harvest and process a third of an acre of wheat entirely by hand. Over two dozen people participated during a two week period. I kept careful notes and after all was said and done, each hour of labor produced 2.6 lbs of wheat berries, cleaned and ready to grind. To put that into perspective in the context of our current Capitalist mode, if you were paying people $15/hour, the labor cost of each pound would be $5.77.

We also experimented with quinoa, dry beans, flour corn, millet, buckwheat, flax, and other crops. Each one required its own set of techniques. Overall, our yields were much lower than we expected and the work much harder than we wanted. (For an accounting of our efforts, including tables of data, see this report.) Not to say I didn’t enjoy it; I did. But I also wasn’t actually depending on it.

When I think about the possibility of some kind of food supply crisis in the US, all I can do is shake my head. We do not have a safety net to catch us if we fall. If we want one, we needed to start working on it yesterday. Just putting in another raised bed in your backyard ain’t gonna do it. You can’t live off of spinach, cucumbers and green beans. (You can survive just on potatoes if you have to, but guaranteeing year round availability is tricky.)

I’m not saying we shouldn’t plant veggie gardens. We should put in as many as we can and fight to keep them when they’re threatened. But let’s not kid ourselves that a few heads of broccoli (or even a wheel barrow of zucchinis) will get us through an actual breakdown of the agricultural system. It won’t. If we want a shot at doing that, we need to put in some meaningful time and effort, and it will necessarily be outside the system.

I gave it a try for a few years with a bicycle-based urban farming operation in Portland, Oregon. It was a helluva lot of fun (see my book, Adventures in Urban Bike Farming), but had no lasting effect. Of the forty-some gardens we got going, only one remains that I know of.

I suspect that the warning we’ve received from Mother Nature this year about the vulnerability of our agricultural system will go unheeded. If we were smart, we would be reorganizing the whole kit and caboodle around small-scale operations in localized foodsheds. It wouldn’t be rocket science. But it wouldn’t be making Cargill, Tyson and Monsanto rich.

Which goes to show again: if we want to survive, we need a revolution.

A Homeless Rebellion – Mission Statement/Press Release

Counterpunch - 8 hours 26 min ago

Written by James Douglas, Matthew Vernon Whalan and homeless citizens of Brattleboro

Brattleboro, Vermont — James Douglas, a homeless citizen of Brattleboro, was arrested on July 11, 2019, at 12:30 a.m. for sleeping in Plaza Park downtown. People who sleep there at night do so because they have no other safe place to go. Now that park is no longer safe.

We in the homeless community feel that the police enforce and threaten to enforce the trespassing ordinances randomly – not consistently – and on public property, which, for the homeless, is like being terrorized; you never know when they will show up.

Due to the recent increase in arrests, no trespass citations, and threats of arrest toward homeless people by police, the homeless community of Brattleboro will be taking direct action in order to demand 3 basic concessions from the community at large.

These three demands are: 1) In the long-term, we demand housing. 2) In the short-term, we demand to be treated with dignity and respect – and no longer with prejudice – by the non-homeless community of Brattleboro. 3) Also in the short-term, we want consistent opportunities to publicly platform homeless voices on the subject of homeless life in the local democratic process – such as in selectboard, the local press, and other forums. The community at large will never understand the realities of homeless life unless homeless people are on the frontlines of information gathering and decision-making related to their lives.

The homeless community of Brattleboro and its allies will be participating in a series of demonstrations over the coming months themed around these three demands. The first of these demonstrations will take place on Monday, July 22, at 4:45 p.m., at which time homeless demonstrators and their allies will surround Plaza Park with Douglas, standing side by side and holding signs with messages themed around the three basic demands cited above – housing, dignity and respect, and a primary role in the political process. The goal is to perform the demonstration while the Amtrak Train is stopped at five p.m. so that those stuck in traffic nearby cannot drive past without noticing our protest.

Russia Offers Turkey Advanced Su-35 Jets Day After US F-35 Program Expulsion

Zerohedge (BFFBT) - 8 hours 37 min ago

Could NATO show Turkey the door in the near future? Things could easily reach this point considering the alliance's most easterly member is fast amassing significant Russian defense hardware. With reception of Russian S-400 anti-air components, and now blocked from the F-35 joint strike fighter program per Wednesday's White House announcement, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is said to be mulling a new Russian offer.

"Russia is ready to sell its super-maneuverable Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets to Turkey, the head of the Russian state conglomerate Rostec said Thursday," according to Turkey's English language Daily Sabah.

"If our Turkish colleagues express a desire, we are ready to work out the deliveries of the Su-35," Rostec CEO Sergei Chemezov said.

Russia's Sukhoi Su-35 fighter, via Russia Insider/Asia Times

Russia's TASS news agency also confirmed the offer, which a Turkish military source said was "premature" but noted that Erdogan will assess the proposal. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu had stated previously that Ankara stood ready to sign a contract for jet fighters with other countries should the US block transfers of the F-35.

After the White House statement confirming Turkey was booted from the program, Turkey urged the US to rectify its "mistake" while also calling it "unfair". 

The Su-35S is Russia's latest advanced fighter, a derivative of the Su-27 plane, having been in service with the army since 2015, as TASS describes further of its specs:

The Su-35S generation 4++ supersonic fighter jet performed its debut flight on February 19, 2008. The fighter jet is a derivative of the Su-27 plane. The Su-35S weighs 19 tonnes, has a service ceiling of 20,000 meters, can develop a maximum speed of 2,500 km/h and has a crew of one pilot. The fighter jet’s armament includes a 30mm aircraft gun, up to 8 tonnes of the weapon payload (missiles and bombs of various types) on 12 underwing hardpoints.

The first foreign purchasers of the Su-35 were China and Indonesia. Russia completed delivery of two dozen of the supersonic jets to China in November 2018 as part of a deal said to be worth about $2.5 billion.

Indonesia reportedly is awaiting delivery its own order of 11 Su-35s, expected by the end of 2019. 

Should at some future point Turkey actually possesses advanced Russian fighters in the air, with Russian air defenses on the ground, the mainstay of NATO leadership would certainly find it hard to stomach Ankara's continued membership in the alliance.  

Medics need miracles to stay alive in Gaza

Electronic Intifada - 8 hours 53 min ago
Muhammad al-Judaili died after being shot during the Great March of Return.

On The Brink Of World War 3: Here Are 5 Major Developments Within The Last 48 Hours...

Zerohedge (BFFBT) - 9 hours 22 min ago

Authored by Michael Snyder via The End of The American Dream blog,

Has a war between the United States and Iran become inevitable?  That is what some in the mainstream media seem to be claiming, but let us hope that is not true, because such a war would mean immense death and destruction.  If the Iranian regime felt that their survival was at stake, they would throw everything in their entire arsenal at the United States and Israel, and they would unleash Hezbollah to commit horrific acts of terror all over the globe.  That would include acts of terror inside the United States, and most Americans have absolutely no idea how nightmarish it would be to have Hezbollah terrorists striking soft targets all across the country.  And in order to quickly win a war against Iran, the U.S. would probably have to use nuclear weapons, and that is a line that we do not want to cross.  This wouldn’t be anything like our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but very few people seem to understand this.

And within the last 48 hours, such a conflict has gotten much, much closer.  Here are 5 of the most important developments…

#1 According to President Trump, the U.S. Navy shot down an Iranian drone over the Strait of Hormuz.  The following comes from NBC News

President Donald Trump on Thursday said that a U.S. Navy ship “destroyed” an Iranian drone over the Strait of Hormuz — the latest in a series of tense incidents between Washington and Tehran.

Trump told reporters at the White House on Thursday that the USS Boxer — a U.S. Navy amphibious assault ship — “took defensive action” against the Iranian drone that had “closed into a very, very near distance, approximately 1,000 yards.”

The drone was “threatening safety of the ship and the ship’s crew” and “was immediately destroyed,” he said.

#2 The Iranians denied that it was their drone.  So either the Iranians are lying (which is a very real possibility), or someone else may be trying to start a war between our two nations.  When asked about the drone, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif seemed to indicate that the drone which was shot down did not belong to them

“We have no information about losing a drone today,” Zarif told reporters at the United Nations before a meeting with Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

#3 But the Iranians have admitted that they have seized a Panamanian-flagged, UAE-based oil tanker.  According to Iran, the tanker was seized because it was illegally smuggling Iranian oil “to foreign customers”

The tanker was seized by Revolutionary Guard forces on July 14 after getting intercepted south of Iran’s Larak Island in the strategic Strait of Hormuz amid allegations that the tanker was smuggling fuel from Iranian smugglers to foreign customers.

It remains unclear to which country or company the tanker belongs but a tanker based in the United Arab Emirates disappeared earlier this week.

#4 The U.S. State Department has condemned Iran for seizing the tanker, and U.S. officials are demanding that they immediately release it

In a statement, a State Department spokesperson said the U.S. “strongly condemns the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy’s continued harassment of vessels and interference with safe passage in and around the Strait of Hormuz.”

“Iran must cease this illicit activity and release the reportedly seized crew and vessel immediately. We will continue to work closely with our allies and partners to ensure the Iranian regime’s extortion tactics and malign activities do not further disrupt maritime security and global commerce,” the spokesperson said.

#5 It has been announced that the U.S. is deploying 500 troops to Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia.  As tensions with Iran continue to rise, the number of troops being staged at this base is likely to increase dramatically.  The following comes from CNN

Five-hundred troops are expected to go to the Prince Sultan Air Base, located in a desert area east of the Saudi capital of Riyadh, according to US two defense officials. A small number of troops and support personnel are already on site with initial preparations being made for a Patriot missile defense battery as well as runway and airfield improvements, the officials said.

The US has wanted to base troops there for some time because security assessments have shown Iranian missiles would have a difficult time targeting the remote area.

I don’t know who is doing those “security assessments”, because the truth is that Iranian missiles can easily reach that base.

For a while there it seemed like things had cooled off a bit in the Middle East, and many were hoping that the threat of an imminent conflict had been averted.

Unfortunately, things are now more tense than ever, and a single mistake could set off a chain of events that nobody is going to be able to stop.

On Thursday, Iran’s foreign minister made the following very ominous statement

“We live in a very dangerous environment,” the Iranian foreign minister, Javad Zarif, said Thursday at the United Nations before news of the drone was made public.

“The United States has pushed itself and the rest of the world into probably the brink of an abyss.”

And once we plunge into that abyss, there is no turning back.

Of course most ordinary Americans aren’t really thinking about Iran at all.  They are just busy working hard, raising their kids and trying to build their lives.  Perhaps they have heard a little bit about tensions with Iran on the news, but most of them have absolutely no idea that we could literally be on the verge of an apocalyptic war in the Middle East.

If a full-blow war with Iran erupts, events are going to start escalating very rapidly and it will set the stage for many of the nightmare scenarios that I have been relentlessly warning about.

A lot of the talking heads on television seem to think that “the worst case scenario” would be having the U.S. dragged into another endless “quagmire” like we witnessed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

No, that is definitely not the worst case scenario.

The Iranians have been preparing for this conflict for decades, and they would hit us with everything that they have got.

In order to defeat them quickly, we would have to go beyond just using conventional weapons, and that is somewhere that we do not want to go.

Parallel Lives: Cheney and Ailes

Counterpunch - 9 hours 22 min ago

Still from The Loudest Voice (Showtime).

Two of the more infamous Republican Party operatives have become the subjects of biopics within the past year. In “Vice”, a 2018 film now available on Amazon streaming, Adam McKay portrayed Dick Cheney as a cynical opportunist who was both responsible for the “war on terror” and the extension of executive power that enabled the Bush White House to suspend habeas corpus. Currently running on Showtime, “The Loudest Voice” examines the life of Roger Ailes as a modern-day equivalent of Citizen Kane if Orson Welles had portrayed his fictionalized version of William Randolph Hearst as a monster straight out of his mother’s womb.

The two subjects have quite a bit in common. To start with, they were both products of an America that Norman Rockwell once painted but no longer exists. Growing up in Casper, Wyoming, Cheney enjoyed life in “The Oil City” that was ranked eighth overall in Forbes magazine’s list of “the best small cities to raise a family.” Ailes hailed from Warren, Ohio, a mid-sized city like Casper, that like the rest of the pre-Rust Belt region relied on manufacturing to provide the solid middle-class existence portrayed in Rockwell paintings. His father was a foreman in Packard Electronics, a subsidiary of General Motors. Just like Michael Moore, whose father worked for GM in Flint, Ailes idealized the Warren of his youth, seeing it as a place where motherhood, apple pie and the flag reigned supreme. Like Steve Bannon, Ailes’s right-populism revolved around the notion of making a new world of Warrens possible by keeping out immigrants and toughening up trade policies long before Donald Trump became President.

Both men also suffered from long-term health problems. After smoking 3 packs of cigarettes a day for 20 years, Cheney had to pay the piper. Nine major heart surgeries starting in 1988 culminated in a seven-hour heart transplant operation in 2012 that has left him on the sidelines politically, accentuated by the bad will his support for the invasion of Iraq had accrued. Even after everybody else had said their mea culpas, Cheney told Chuck Todd on a 2014 Meet the Press show that “Saddam Hussein previously had twice nuclear programs going. He produced and used weapons of mass destruction. And he had a ten-year relationship with Al Qaeda. All of these things came into play.”

Ailes’s health problems were congenital. Born a hemophiliac, he was browbeaten and even beaten by his father to not give an inch to the illness that would finally kill him in 2017 at the age of 77. After hitting his head in his Palm Beach home, he suffered a subdural hematoma that was aggravated by his hemophilia. Nobody seemed to miss his passing, especially all the women he victimized sexually at Fox News.

Turning now to the two biopics, my verdict is that “Vice” is the far inferior work suffering from a misplaced satirical intent that is mismatched to its subject matter. Like the 2017 “The Death of Stalin”, it tries to apply the SNL gloss on the surface of a nightmare that is continuing to this day. McKay probably wasn’t capable of anything more weighty since his CV is made up films like “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby”, “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy”, and seven episodes for SNL between 2000-2001. As I labored to stick with this jokey movie to the bitter end, I couldn’t help but think of it as an unintentional “Springtime for Hitler”.

With my press credentials for Showtime, I have been able to watch 5 episodes of “The Loudest Voice”, now queuing up for the 4th episode this Sunday. If you have Showtime, do not miss this scathing portrait of a true monster who is played to perfection by Russell Crowe. Or find a friend who does have Showtime since the 7-part series succeeds both as entertainment and social history. The conflict in the United States between the Trumpified Republican Party and those on the left has been gestating from the time that Ailes became the founding President of Fox News in 1996. Those who yelled “Send Her Back” at Trump’s rally in North Carolina yesterday are the prototypical Sean Hannity/Tucker Carlson viewer. It was Ailes’s intention from the moment he began Fox News to build a powerful movement based on racism, nativism and faux populism. Regrettably, his legacy continues in the Trump White House.

While this is not a determining factor in the quality of the two biopics, “Vice” made some unwise casting decisions, largely dictated by “star power”. While Christian Bale does a good job impersonating Cheney with makeup and a fat suit that probably took six hours each day to get right (as was the case with Russell Crowe as Ailes), you never stopped seeing an impersonation for a single second. With Bale being cast against type, you fixated on the transformation rather than the character. Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld was an even bigger mistake since he too was cast against type. If it was impossible to get Bale as Batman out of your mind, it was uber-impossible to not think of all the feckless comic losers Carell played in his entire career. Rumsfeld was scary; Carell as Rumsfeld was just senseless.

Turning now to the substance of the two films, “Vice” can best be described as the sort of satire Stephen Colbert employed when he played Bill O’Reilly. His writers wrote hyperbolic dialog for him that was intended to make the audience laugh at his stupidity even if it became somewhat obvious at a certain point that the show’s joke was a one-trick pony. McKay, who wrote and directed, makes no attempt to make Cheney and Rumsfeld say things they would have said in real life. He puts words into their mouth that are obviously a liberal’s attempt to mock those he views as the enemy. In essence, he is spoon-feeding liberal bromides to the audience who he does not trust as being able to distinguish good guys from bad.

The film is riddled with bogus dialog but probably none is more egregious than the scene outside of Kissinger’s office when Rumsfeld was a counselor to Nixon and Cheney was his aide. They are discussing plans to bomb Cambodia:

Rumsfeld: They’re going to bomb Cambodia.

Cheney: That’s impossible. That would have to be approved by Congress and I’m over there every day

Rumsfeld: Fuck Congress. Unless you’re in it. Then it’s the greatest deliberative body on earth. But we’re not, so fuck it.

Cheney: I thought the President campaigned on ending the war?

Rumsfeld: Shhhh. Listen to me…Because of the conversation Nixon and Kissinger are having right behind this door, five feet away from us… in a few days, 10 thousand miles away… (Script indicates a cut to a peaceful Cambodian Village going about its day to day life with a WHISTLING SOUND far above…) … a rain of 750 pound bombs dropped from B-52s flying at twenty thousand feet will hit villages and towns across Cambodia…thousands will die and the world will change either for the worse or the better.

(From the screenplay.)

Rumsfeld might have said any number of things if he had been chatting with Cheney outside of Kissinger’s office but the words in the script were not his, nor anything remotely similar. They were placed there for the actor to recite so the audience would be appalled by his inhumanity. Like CNN and MSNBC every night, the entire purpose of “Vice” was to reassure audiences that they had pure souls just like Adam McKay.

The creative team around “The Loudest Voice” was an all-star team. The Executive Producers included Tom McCarthy and Gabriel Sherman, who also co-wrote the first episode. McCarthy wrote the Academy Award-winning screenplay for “Spotlight”, a 2015 film about the Boston Globe’s reporting on the Catholic Church pederasty scandal. Sherman is the author of “The Loudest Voice in the Room”, a biography of Ailes that included interviews with 614 people but not the big cheese himself who tried in vain to squelch the book.

Sherman, a minor character in the series, becomes a lightning rod for Ailes’s hatred in episode 5 when he discovers that the veteran reporter has begun interviewing people for his book. He authorizes a “Brain Room” that functions like an intelligence agency researching every article Sherman has written and sending private detectives out to follow his every move. In keeping with the half-muted anti-Semitism of the Trump era, Sherman was characterized by Fox as a “Soros operative” because he was associated with the New America Foundation.

Roger Ailes started out innocently enough as the producer for The Mike Douglas Show in 1965, an afternoon variety program that was based on pop culture rather than racist demagogy. In 1967, Richard Nixon was a guest. After the show, Ailes told him that he needed a media advisor. So persuasive was Ailes that Nixon hired him on the spot.

After a successful stint as campaign adviser to Republicans like Reagan, Bush ’41, and Giuliani, Ailes returned to TV where “The Loudest Voice” begins. In 1995, Ailes was forced to resign from CNBC after it was bought by Bill Gates and NBC. After it was relaunched as MSNBC, Ailes went to work for Rupert Murdoch as head of the newly launched Fox News. In a key scene, Ailes meets with top management to give them their marching orders. Fox News would not bother trying to reach liberals. Instead, it would offer up red meat to Rush Limbaugh listeners who had made talk radio such a powerful institution. Let CNN and MSNBC have the liberals, he exclaimed. We’ll take the rest of the country and fuck everybody else—the watchword of the Trump administration.

Playing Ailes to perfection, Russell Crowe depicts a media mogul who demands total loyalty from his underlings, offers good jobs to women in exchange for a blow job, and sees his TV hosts as hitmen and women against everybody on the left—the left eventually defined as including Republicans like those who put out The Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine that went bankrupt because it refused to toe the Trump line. Crowe, like great actors of earlier generations such as Laurence Olivier and Spencer Tracy, could not be cast against type because he was never one-dimensional to begin with. Watching him throw paperweights against underlings who challenged his demands or cursing at Barack Obama on the TV set is more than watching an actor perform. It is like watching Roger Ailes’s avatar—simultaneously revolting and compelling, like a roadside crash.

In one of my favorite scenes in the series, which occurs in episode 3, Ailes is waiting to meet with leading Democrats to discuss a truce that will tamp down the vitriol Fox News has been directing at Barack Obama during the 2008 campaign. Sitting down and working on some prepared remarks, his old friend David Axelrod sidles in and greets him. They chat good-naturedly about old campaigns that they ran against each other’s candidates and then shake each other’s hand warmly. Their dialog:

Ailes: I was surprised about the Biden decision. He’s a good man but dumb as an ashtray.

Axelrod: He plays well for us where we need him to. The Catholics, the military, the union guys.

Ailes: He plays well with the whites.

Axelrod (grinning): It doesn’t hurt.

Big in the Bungalow of Believers

Counterpunch - 9 hours 46 min ago

Free tickets from a friend sent my companion and me to a production of the musical Big staged by the Berkeley Repertory Theatre on a sunny Sunday afternoon in July. My companion grew up in London and spent many an afternoon and evening in that greatest of theatre-city’s myriad venues seeing the greatest British actors of the later part of the twentieth-century. Never one to hold this lucky start in life against her partner or anyone else, she is no snob and embraces the live and the local from the West End to the East Bay.

Berkeley Rep has its home in the Julia Morgan Theatre, named after the famous Bay Area architect. The building is a half mile down College Avenue from Morgan’s alma mater, the University of California. Set on the gracious grid of streets gently inclining from the foot of the steep Berkeley Hills to the shores of the San Francisco Bay, the building was completed in 1910 as a Presbyterian church. The years following the 1906 earthquake marked a boom for Morgan’s still-young practice. In the aftermath of that catastrophe came a wave of immigration in the opposite direction from the Manifest Destiny: from west to east, from San Francisco to Berkeley and Oakland. Arts-and-Crafts houses and churches sprang up in what had been pasture-land and orchards.

The goodly Presbyterians of Berkeley moved to a new building on College Avenue in the 1970s and their original church became an arts center, then, a decade ago, a theatre. Morgan had designed a low-slung structure of redwood with stained-glass windows peering out from beneath rather ponderous eaves: a biggie-sized bungalow for believers.

The conversion to a theatre meant that the altar became a stage and that the windows Morgan had set off in contrast to the darkly stained wood were blocked out: when the muses displaced the apostles, the interior light would have to be artificial not natural. This makes her church-cum-theatre far more somber (one might even say more Presbyterian) than Morgan must have wanted, necessarily distorting her conception of the place. I’m all for repurposing churches, but such transformations can be more than a touch dissonant. I’ll never forget my first visit to the vast gothic reaches of the decommissioned St. Laurens’ Church in Alkmaar in The Netherlands in 1991 to practice for an organ competition. A rock-climbing competition was underway up the high whitewashed walls.

I’m not sure if Morgan would have felt honored or dismayed by having her name put to a theatre that she conceived of as a church.

Whatever the case, the place puts me in mind of an Adirondack hunting lodge. Entering the theatre offers a kind of rustic escape from the mellow urban climes of Berkeley, though why exactly one would want to seek refuge from a bright and breezy summer day is a bit of a mystery. The craziness of the world writ large can be happily be fled, a perfect afternoon in Northern California only with reluctance. Perhaps only the theatre can make good on that transaction.

Big the musical is based on the 1988 film of the same name—one of Tom Hanks’ early hits. It’s standard make-a-wish and suffer/enjoy the consequences stuff. A soon-to-be-teen boy frustrated with being condescended to and ordered about by adults—especially his cloying mother—can’t wait to be Big. Before you know it, little Josh has been turned into a physical adult by an automated carnival wizard at a northern New Jersey fun fair.

The overly sentimental treatment of these Oedipal themes of motherly love and resentment colliding with filial affection and disgust can be hard to take, though mom’s smotheringly maudlin effusions were delivered in Berkeley with terrifying and terrified commitment. Still, the gags about dirty socks and taking the garbage out got some laughs from the many kids in the audience.

But Josh becomes a man only on the outside. Inside he remains a child. Fleeing from home, he soon finds himself promoted to vice president at a faltering toy company run by corporate hacks with no regard for kids and, more fatally, no childish fantasy—no sense of fun. The most famous scene in the movie comes when Josh dances around on a giant floor piano keyboard, stomping out melodies, eventually in tandem with the toy company chief, in the showroom of FAO Schwartz on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

That tuneful set-piece and the pleasantly kid-friendly plot already made Big an alluring target for conversion to a musical, a retrofit that duly came in 1996 in the capable hands of composer David Shire and lyricist Richard Maltby (with book by John Weidmann). Their songs make abundant use of descending bass-lines above which melody lines strive upward towards independence (from parents and convention) and towards the fulfillments and disappointments of love. The composer/lyricist pair capably command an entertaining range of styles: perky teen tunes, lush Broadway solos and duets, exuberant production numbers, pseudo-Modernist choruses, a clever send-up of Mozartean classicism to capture the dreadful trial of a grown-up dinner party to which Josh’s new adult girlfriend (also an executive in the toy company) drags him to meet her awful friends.

The story revolves therefore around a boy on the threshold of puberty catapulted into a romance with a grown woman who is already in a sordid affair with yet another mid-level executive in the toy company. Sex is the elephant in the room. For an American family matinée this beast should be cuddly and cute rather than urgent and threatening. On the Berkeley boards, as on Broadway, it is fascinating to see how this confrontation is handled.

When Susan maneuvers her way into Josh’s apartment with a bottle of champagne in her purse and hopes of seduction in her heart, he eventually invites her to stay for a “sleep-over,” informing her matter-of-factly that he has “to be on top.” Josh then climbs to the upper bunk bed and flops down to sleep. Her later lessons in carnal knowledge, if any, are not imparted on stage. What Josh will do with that knowledge on his return to teendom and the girl he covets back in New Jersey is not broached either.

Especially in Berkeley, with its long tradition of social sensitivity, with many a #MeToo and Black Lives Matter placard in the mullioned arts-and-crafts windows, one has to wonder about a show like Big. Even if the Julia Morgan encourages escape and blots out the sun, the world has a way of seeping into the theatre—and not only because the news is full of Jeffrey Epstein and his depredations

(Im)mature Josh is the titular center of the entertainment, but Susan steals the limelight towards the end of the first of the musical’s two acts when her string of songs fills her with agency and desire. She knows what she wants: Josh. True, she has no idea that he is really just child, even if what attracted her to him is his guileless, juvenile behavior.

When the lights came up for intermission, my companion pointed out that, even without Epstein (and Clinton and Dershowitz and others) in the headlines, the gender roles could not have been reversed. Imagine the Berkeleyites delighting in a thirty-something man conniving his way under cover of song into the bunkbed of a thirteen-year-old girl inhabiting the body of a full-grown woman. Yet the other way around meets no resistance. My companion provided her own interpretation: women have always been infantilized, so to put one in the junior role would be not just creepy, but redundant. Even when they grow up, women are rarely allowed to be Big.

The Northern Spotted Owls’ Tree-Sit

Counterpunch - 9 hours 48 min ago

….based on a true story occurring in the Mattole Watershed, July 2019

One still June night, when the moon hung bright, and the wind blew a minor key

And the fog made a bridge across Rainbow Ridge from the redwoods to the sea

Two owls, gone astray from their range in Coos Bay where their nest in a fir had been felled

Floated down to a knoll near the blue Mattole, by sheer hunger and faintness compelled.

Well, they’d fasted a week, so each sharpened his beak, and searched through the darkness for prey,

And to their surprise they encountered the eyes of two tree voles not far away.

More astonishing yet, and causing upset, also thwarting their instinct to zoom in:

The voles took their ease on the angular knees of a beast unmistakably human.

These owls were not chicks and they’d studied the tricks of this species well known to be wily.

Was this a new study? Each looked at their buddy. The human regarded them shyly.

Though weary, these owls had got pluck in their bowels, also wit, self-assurance and poise.

And though prospects be dark, be there but a spark, they’d act without panic or noise.

So the owl who was bigger soon marshalled his vigor, saluting the being in that tree:

“What scientist sits in a tree in the mist, with such tasty young voles on their knee?”

“My name it is Rook. Turn around, take a look” said the human, with intake of breath:

Below they beheld what the chainsaw had felled: tree corpses moon-frozen in death.

“This tree they want too, so a road can push through to reach forests at further locations

But we know such plunder rips planets asunder. I’m here for unborn generations”.

The owls, much impressed, now the human addressed: “We’ve just made a strenuous portage

From habitat natal, where there is a fatal owl nesting and foraging shortage.”

The smaller owl, blinking, went on” We’ve been thinking of one generation that begs

To make an appearance. We need to find clearance. To speak more directly, my eggs.

Now, humans get queasy: it makes them uneasy when species like us go extinct

It reminds them that they might soon go the same way and the risk, to be plain, is distinct.

Our survival’s in doubt, so that gives us some clout. If they locate our nest, they’ll protect it!

We’ll search for a site in a tree that looks right, then build noisily so they detect it.”

The owls disappeared, and that day Rook was cheered by much squawking and owl exclamation

And soon a small horde of biologists roared to the ridge for site documentation.

And thus was begun a campaign that soon won the allegiance of Doctors of Science:

For if there is hope for our planet, the scope is a great interspecies alliance.

Save the owls! Save the trees! Save the whales! Save the bees! Save the birthright of fledgling and child

For while Empires crush, there’s an instant of hush when our hearts hear the call of the wild.

Russian Nuclear Reactors Taken Offline In 2nd Serious Incident In Under A Week

Zerohedge (BFFBT) - 10 hours 7 min ago

In a deeply worrisome development related to Russia's network of ten nuclear power plants nationwide, two of them suffered significant operating incidents in under only one week, causing multiple reactors to be take offline. 

Russia's TASS reported that a "transformer short circuit" at the Kalinin nuclear power plant (NPP) resulted in "a complete shutdown of two and a partial shutdown of another power unit in the Tver region" early on Thursday. In total 3 out of the 4 nuclear plant's reactors had to be unplugged

Cooling towers at the Kalinin nuclear power plant, via Russia Now/The Telegraph

Hours later, as evening fell, Reuters reported one or more of the units suffering shutdown were back online. Russia is well-known as among the world's largest producers of nuclear energy.

The Kalinin plant is north-west of Moscow in central Russia and has been operational since the mid-1980's, with the last major known accident in 2016, in which two workers were injured when a power unit short circuited. Its newest reactor, No. 4, went operational in 2011. 

Rosenergoatom, a subsidiary of state nuclear corporation Rosatom, issued a statement stressing there was no need for panic or alarm.

"The radiation level at the station and surrounding territory remains without change and is in line with normal background levels," the company said.

This latest incident follows a similar one which state media reported last Friday involving a a nuclear plant in the central Russian city of Beloyarsk.

A reactor there had to be disconnected when an automatic safety mechanism was triggered; however, it came back online Tuesday after an inspection found no issues. 

Trump Was [Selectively] Right About the Dollar

Naked Capitalism - 10 hours 16 min ago
Turns out Trump was not all wrong in saying the dollar was overpriced.

China: The Covert Credit Superpower

Naked Capitalism - 10 hours 32 min ago
An new working paper by Sebastian Horn, Carmen Reinhart and Christoph Trebesch on China’s foreign lending has some important findings, such as that China accounts for more than 40% of the external debt of 50 developing countries. We’ve embedded the document at the end of this post. The study is an ambitious undertaking, seeking to […]

US-Iranian Confrontation in the Persian Gulf. What Lies Ahead?

New Eastern Outlook - 10 hours 32 min ago

Tensions which have been escalating since May this year between the US and Iran in the Persian Gulf and Washington’s military intervention have been making headlines in the Middle East.

The Saudi newspaper “Asharq al-Awsat” describes how the US has recently been ramping up their military presence in the region as dangling the sword of Damocles over Tehran, which aims to prevent any “provocations or attempts to expand.”

Media outlets in the Arab world are drawing attention to the 9 foreign military bases located in the Gulf, five of which are American.  On top of that, there are 54 thousand US soldiers stationed at 12 bases in the Middle East.

News outlets in the Gulf countries blame the “regime of Iranian mullahs” for all the troubles and upheavals in the Arab world, as well as for increased regional tensions and toxicity.

Opinions may differ in Arabic media, but a common thread runs through them, the apprehension and fear of probable scenarios, fraught with dangers and risks, if conflict were to break out between the US and Iran. Journalists describe the situation as “balancing on the brink of war.” Former US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles was an advocate of brinkmanship in foreign policy when he was in office in the fifties. Bringing the world to threshold of confrontation, only the fear of mutual destruction saved the two nuclear powers from annihilation.

The media is narrating a foreboding scenario of war, with catastrophic consequences. Armed conflict could blow up between the two sides, its shell fragments could be thrown in all directions and hurt a lot of people in the region. Different allies on both sides may get drawn into the conflict, along with their agents in the region. The cost of a war would be great, and its death toll could be hundreds of thousands of people.

According to the predictions, there would be thousands of new refugees, some of whom might become militants and go on to fight against US occupying forces in the region for years.

Some political analysts believe that Baghdad runs the risk of paying the price of a war between Washington and Tehran, which would leave Iraq in an extremely harrowing situation. Iraq is tied up in very close relations with the two hostile countries.

Other observers in the region believe that it will not get that far, there will not be a war unless both sides get carried away. Attention is being focused on the two leaders heading the opposing sides, especially Donald Trump, who has announced he will run for a second term.

Observers in the Middle East highlight the fact that strikes on Iran would be similar to the missile attack on Syria in April 2018, as Donald Trump is not able to guarantee that Iran’s response will not draw America into another major war without any constraints. In order to secure a second term, Trump needs rhetoric to inspire his audience in America with his plans to make the United States prosper, and he does not want to look like he is losing on foreign policy. The American voters rejected leaders who waged a series of wars in the Middle East with questionable results, replacing them with other election candidates. This primarily hurt Barack Obama’s popularity.

A number of experts interpret Iran’s stubborn behavior as an act of provocation, to provoke an attack from the United States and then bring in the UN Security Council to deal with the situation. Iran’s goal is to bring the conflict out of the shadows and make it a topic for international discussion, in order to ultimately receive dividends and weaken the stranglehold of sanctions that Washington is trying to impose on Tehran.

In this regard, the neglected flywheel of US sanctions against Iran is being brought to the fore. The sanctions are meant to hurt the country, to worsen the situation in Iranian industries which provide employment for tens of thousands of citizens. The White House wants to fan the flames of mass discontent, based on the example of Poland’s Solidarity movement which took place in the seventies, led by Lech Wałęsa.

Some political scientists in the Middle East believe that this will eventually bring Tehran’s regime to its knees. Others argue that the Iranian authorities, who have endured decades of economic, commercial and other restrictions and limitations imposed on the country, will be able to stand its ground like Cuba did.

Regional media sources note that the US-Iranian confrontation in the Persian Gulf can be traced back 40 years, when the regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran was established. For all these years, the United States has been putting pressure on Iran, and although it has caused a great deal of damage to the country, it has not toppled the regime or led it to it abandoning its policy.

The US deliberately exaggerated Tehran’s military activity and the serious threat it poses to Washington’s allies, as well as to the peace and security in the region. According to experts, this was done in order to intimidate US allies – the Arab monarchies, to keep them dependent and “milk their wealth”.

Whether or not this is the case, concerns are growing among commentators, as there are fears that the campaign of threats the US is leading against Iran might accidentally blow up and cause a real explosion.

Yury Zinin, Leading Research Fellow at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”

England: Knife Crime Hits New Record High

Zerohedge (BFFBT) - 10 hours 52 min ago

Authored by Paul Joseph Watson via Summit.news,

Knife crime has hit a new record high in England and Wales, rising 8% on the previous year new figures show.

“The figures for police-recorded crime revealed there were 43,516 police-recorded offences involving a knife or sharp instrument, which is the highest since comparable records began in 2011,” reports Sky News.

As I have relentlessly argued, the causes of this epidemic are easily identifiable.

– The scaling back of “stop and search” because it’s “racist”.

– The ongoing emasculation of UK police forces who are being trained that mean words and ‘hate crime’ is more important than people dying.

– Fatherless black homes.

– UK street gangs becoming more violent to compete with immigrants from countries like Congo and Somalia.

– The ongoing mass importation of people from violent countries in general.

– Drill rap music that encourages young people to commit murder.

– Political leaders like Sadiq Khan refusing to even admit there’s a problem to protect their own pathetic legacies.

But instead of addressing any of these issues, the political establishment meekly argues that the lack of “youth clubs” for young people and racist police officers are the source of the problem.

Until that politically correct myopia ends, the carnage will continue.

*  *  *

There is a war on free speech. Without your support, my voice will be silenced. Please sign up for the free newsletter here. Donate to me on SubscribeStar here. Support my sponsor – Turbo Force – a supercharged boost of clean energy without the comedown.

Pages