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Updated: 3 hours 28 min ago

Will our domination be our downfall?

11 hours 40 min ago

For those of us who’ve been paying attention to the general state of the world and human society, it’s readily apparent that we as a species have sent ourselves hurtling into the depths of a global crisis that has the potential to wipe ourselves out along with many of our fellow Earthlings. So how exactly how has this happened?

It’s easy and certainly well justified to point our finger at the many harmful industries that have emerged from our society—fossil fuels, unsustainable agriculture, overfishing, mining, the military complex, etc. (have a look at this list of Harmful Practices Critiqued for a more extensive list). And yet what if there is a deeper cause that we can point to—a common “seed” that underlies all of these harmful industries and practices?

I believe that there is such a seed, one that is surprisingly simple to name and yet highly elusive, difficult for many of us to grasp. In a nutshell, I would say that this seed is a domineering attitude that appears to have increased in magnitude over the past 10,000 years or so of our evolution. In recent years, our collective eyes have begun to open to the great harm and even horror wrought by our ongoing efforts to dominate each other. But as the even larger horror of the accelerating global ecological collapse has become increasingly apparent, many of us have come to recognize that our domineering attitude is also probably the leading culprit.

I suggest that we drop down even one more level on this causal ladder and ask oursevelves, what is it that feeds humankind’s urge and sense of entitlement to dominate each other, our fellow Earthlings and the Earth? And I would say that just as the justification of one human group to dominate another is typically fueled by that particular group’s belief in their own superiority, so it is that humankind’s general belief in our superiority over other living beings fuels our ongoing desire and entitlement to dominate the Earth and our fellow species.

It’s readily apparent that pervasive among contemporary society is the strong belief that human beings are superior to other species, which in turn has spawned a number of closely related beliefs, such as: “The Earth belongs to us,” “We made it to the top and are entitled to do what we want,” “We are the most important/valuable species on this planet,” “We have dominion over the Earth and all of its creatures,” etc. This belief is so insidious that it even reveals itself within seemingly virtuous beliefs such as, “We are stewards of the Earth,” or “We need to work hard to manage the environment/ecosystems.” So strong is this belief in our superiority that I would say that very few people even regard it as a belief; rather, it is generally seen as simply a fact of life.

But let’s take a moment to scrutinize this belief more closely. In particular, let’s look at what I believe are the major core assumptions that maintain and reinforce it.

Assumption #1—We are the most intelligent species on the planet

Initially, this assumption may appear self evident. Certainly it’s true that we humans are an extremely inventive and productive species—the signs are everywhere, in our vast technology, our sprawling cities, our complex cultures and societies. If we define “intelligence” broadly as “the capacity to develop systems of knowledge and apply them to the meeting of our needs,” then at first glance, it would appear that we are indeed very intelligent when compared to most other species.

However, I feel that there are three serious problems with this reasoning that need to be addressed—I’ll call them problematic sublevel assumptions: (1) that because the products our own intelligence are so much more readily apparent to us than those of other species, then our own intelligence must be superior; (2) that we really are as intelligent as we generally consider ourselves; and (3) that superior intelligence (at least as we see it) must imply superior worth and a general sense of entitlement to dominate those species with less intelligence. Let’s take a moment to look at each of these in turn:

(1) Since the products our own intelligence are so much more readily apparent to us than those of other species, then our own intelligence must be superior.

Let’s approach this by first taking a more intuitive/spiritual tack…

Take a moment to remove the anthropocentric blinders off and look around at the world—I mean really look around at the world. Take in this incredible web of life composed of billions of complex living organisms living together in symbiotic harmony. Take in this complex dance of creativity and adaptation that has gone on continuously for billions of years, and which is far more complex than any human mind could ever fathom, let alone replicate. Think about it—with our vast knowledge and technology, we haven’t been able to replicate even the simplest single-celled organism.

So if this awesome intelligence and creativity hasn’t come from us, then where is it coming from? Some spiritual and philosophical traditions conjecture an omniscient, omnipresent source of intelligence and creativity simply inherent in the fabric of existence; others say that a more personal God or group of Gods/Goddesses play a prominent role; and still others say that an incredible stroke of “luck” has set the wheels/physics of the universe turning in just exactly the right way for this evolutionary flow of life to unfold.

Despite all of these differences, there is one answer to this question with which virtually all scientific and spiritual traditions agree—that this intelligence did not originate from humankind, but that rather humankind has originated from it. Philosopher Alan Watts offered the following helpful analogy: Let’s turn the word “apple” into the verb “to apple,” as in “An apple tree apples.” In this way, we can say that “the universe peoples.” The universe also “dogs,” “frogs,” “starfishes,”  “cockroaches,” “forests,” and “mountains.” This vast intelligence is the source of humankind’s much narrower intelligence. Certainly we have access to this intelligence, as it is our source after all, but we can say the same thing about every other living being on our planet and in our universe. From this perspective, how can we really say that our own intelligence is so superior, so special?

let’s move on now to the cutting edge of human science—don’t our latest discoveries in neuroscience and biology clearly reveal our superior intelligence?

Within the fields of these and related scientific traditions, it was initially postulated that intelligence is essentially correlated with the number of interconnections between the neurons of a brain. In the most simplistic and reductionistic terms, this theory says that a neuron functions more or less like a computer bit—it acts like a switch that either fires or doesn’t fire depending upon the signals it receives from its fellow neurons, which in turn determines the firing/not-firing of other neurons. And as more and more neurons are connected together in this way, an increasingly complex web of linear and circular causality forms and ultimately emerges into increasingly complex forms of intelligence. And since the human brain has more neural connections than the brain of any other species discovered on Earth (it’s estimated that we have approximately 100 trillion such neural connections), then we must therefore be the most intelligent species.

However, our understanding of this has evolved in recent years to embrace a much more complex picture. First of all, we now recognize that the intelligence (as defined above) of an organism is based on far more than simply the activity of the neurons of the brain (or more specifically, the cerebral cortex). As brought to the forefront by the pioneering work of Candace Pert among many others, we now understand that every cell in our bodies are individual living organisms in their own right, with each actively communicating with the other cells of the broader organism, and with each contributing their own intelligence to the overall intelligence of the entire organism.

We also now know that a number of other species have brains much larger than ours—both in size and in the number of cerebral cortical neurons and interconnections. For example, both the brain size and overall (full body) neural count of African elephants are about 3 times those of humans; and the long-finned pilot whale, a type of dolphin, has more than twice as many brain (cerebral cortex) neurons than humans, and likely a correspondingly far higher count of interneural connections.

So while the evidence mounts that an increase in intercellular connections does correlate with a general increase in intelligence (i.e., the capacity to gather knowledge and apply this to meet one’s needs), it is becoming well established that the neuron cell is not the only intelligence-generating cell in the game. All other living cells within an organism contribute to the intelligence of the whole, but with each kind of cell specializing in a particular kind of intelligence (i.e., retaining specialized sets of knowledge, developing specialized sets of skills, and applying these to specialized needs/functions essential to the organism).

Furthermore, we can say the same thing about the connections that exist between living organisms themselves—bee and ant colonies, flocks of birds, herds of deer, etc., clearly demonstrate much greater intelligence than can be found within any individual member of these groups. This concept is often referred to as swarm intelligence—a phenomenon that is very well established but the details of which we are only just beginning to grasp. And this brings us to a particularly profound concept within our exploration of intelligence within contemporary biology and evolution—what I believe is a real mind-bender, a game-changer, really.

So you know those simplest of all living organisms—the bacteria that we often think of as being little more than “germs”? They’re so simple that they don’t even have a nucleus, let alone anything remotely akin to what we tend to think of as a brain. Now let’s take a moment and expand our view backwards in time. Based on ever accumulating research, the bacteria (technically called prokaryotes, but the term “bacteria” suffices for this discussion) are the very first living organisms to have come into existence on the Earth, coming into existence over 4 billion years ago. They adapted and evolved over a vast amount of time, first converging to become nucleated single-celled organisms (protozoa, algae, etc.), with further convergences resulting in multi-celled organisms (fungus, plants and animals), which finally brings us to well… us.

Swarm intelligence demonstrated by leaf cutter ants (aboveEli Duke, CC BY SA-2.0) and a self-organizing flock of birds (below) [/caption]

Let’s now take a moment to look at our own bodies. The leading edge of our own science has brought us to quite a startling conclusion. Our entire body and every cell within it is essentially composed of an extraordinarily complex colony of bacteria culminating from a very long line of the Earth’s very first bacteria evolving ever more complex relationships with each other. This doesn’t even factor in the many trillions of “exotic” bacteria living within our gut, with whom we are also symbiotically engaged in order to digest our food among other essential processes to sustain our life. Let’s take a moment to let this seep into our sense of superiority for a moment.

Now let’s take a moment to look around—wherever we happen to be located, right here and now. Every single plant, insect, animal, mushroom, and other living form we see or can imagine shares this same basic feature with us. Just like us, they also are embodiments of what we think of as the most simple (“least intelligent”) living organisms having converged into more complex forms. The entire web of life, in other words, is the grand culmination of a mysterious universal life force emerging first into the simplest living cells (bacteria), and then spreading across the entire surface of the Earth, merging together and emerging into the extraordinary array of symbiotic communities of single-celled and multi-celled organisms that we call “organisms,” and ultimately forming the living ecosystems of the Earth.

Finally, let’s extend our view spatially across the surface of the Earth. In addition to the colonies of bacteria that have come together in various ways to form individual living beings, the entire surface of the Earth—the entire biosphere—is filled with these little guys. Actually, it’s more accurate to flip this statement around—this extensive web of bacterial life is itself the fundamental nature of the biosphere. Lynn Margulis, acclaimed microbiologist, puts it like this: “Bacteria initially populated the planet and never relinquished their hold.”

Now let’s weave back into this story the principle that intelligence emerges from the symbiotic interactions among living cells and living beings, and that greater interconnectedness generally results in greater intelligence. Firstly, there are untold trillions of bacteria hooked together in what is well established to be the far largest self-organized living system on the planet, what many refer to as the ultimate superorganism of the Earth; and secondly, we know that the bacteria communicate with each other very effectively, and even in ways that other kinds of cells can’t—such as being able to instantly (without sexual reproduction) share with each other bits of their genetic material and the information coded within them, and even doing so across bacterial species, genus and even family lines.

Many people, even many scientists with a particularly reductionistic bent, have come to recognize that this global bacterial superorganism is far more intelligent than we could ever imagine, and that it plays many crucial roles in maintaining the conditions for life on this planet. As the Gaia Theory has evolved (the well established theory that the entire biosphere acts as a unified and extraordinarily intelligent organism in her own right), a number of people have conjectured that it may be appropriate to consider this bacterial superorganism as being akin to Gaia’s “brain.”

One prominent lifelong bacterial geneticist, James Shapiro, has summarized this emerging understanding of our bacterial kin in this way:

The take-home lesson of more than half a century of molecular microbiology is to recognize that bacterial information processing is far more powerful than human technology….These small cells are incredibly sophisticated at coordinating processes involving millions of individual events and at making them precise and reliable. In addition, the astonishing versatility and mastery bacteria display in managing the biosphere’s geochemical and thermodynamic transformations indicates that we have a great deal to learn about chemistry, physics, and evolution from our small, but very intelligent, prokaryotic relatives”.1

Furthermore, in addition to this bacterial superorganism, there are other vastly intelligent living systems at play whose behaviours are still far beyond our own comprehension. For example, there are the myriad mycelial networks that facilitate the communication and exchange of essential nutrients among the plant and fungus life of most of the world’s terrestrial ecosystems; and there is the complex interplay among many other kinds of micro-organisms and inorganic elements that has successfully regulated the Earth’s temperature, oxygen, atmospheric composition and ocean salinity and pH levels for billions of years.

The mycelium of a fungus spreading through soil (outside) (Nigel Cattlin / Alamy); Microscopic view of mycelium — 1 square mm (inside). Bob Blaylock, CC BY-SA 3.0[/caption]

In summary, the more we begin to grasp the intelligences of other living organisms and living systems, the more clear it becomes just how limited (and un-superior) human intelligence actually is.

(2) Are we really as intelligent as we consider ourselves?

To answer this question, let’s return to our working definition of intelligence, but add one key emphasis: “The capacity to develop systems of knowledge and apply them to sustainably meet one’s needs.” Considering the key quality of sustainability and now being able to compare human intelligence with the much broader and much older intelligences found in living systems such as bacterial superorganisms and mycelial networks, challenging this particular assumption is relatively straightforward.

In contemporary society, it is well established that the Earth is entering its 6th largest extinction event (in the past billion years of complex life), and that it is we, the human species, who are causing it. Our behaviour is changing our climate in extremely dangerous and unpredictable ways, and we are decimating the Earth’s oceans and terrestrial ecosystems, due primarily to completely unnecessary eating habits and farming practices, along with other problematic behaviours. We consider it acceptable to generate energy by boiling water with extraordinarily concentrated radioactive materials (i.e., nuclear power), the leak of which we know will devastate the local environment for hundreds and even thousands of years. We have over 14,000 nuclear weapons ready to detonate, with the plan to continue making more, and with some countries actively threatening others who also possess such weapons. We continue to pour millions of tons per year of toxic chemicals into the environment and even onto our own food. And the list goes on…

So at first glance, observing that the human species has managed to inhabit nearly the entire planet, and that our population has grown over 1000-fold in the past 10,000 years, it may appear that we are indeed extremely intelligent. But when we consider the fact that it is very clear that we cannot continue to exist much longer with our present behaviours, and yet we persist with them anyway, this belief in our intelligence being so superior becomes very doubtful indeed.

(3) Superior intelligence (at least as we see it) must imply superior worth and entitlement.

Hopefully by now, the case has been made well enough that considering our intelligence to be so “superior” to that of other living species and living systems on this planet is highly problematic at best, which then makes this final argument in favour of humankind’s superiority moot.

But for those who still find themselves hanging on to the belief in our superior intelligence, I’ll say a few words about this final point—that superior intelligence must imply superior worth and entitlement. This argument is often used to justify our exploitation of other species and the Earth, in general, and even the exploitation of one human group by another (i.e., racism, sexism, slavery, etc.). Fortunately, human society has evolved quite a bit in recent years with regard to recognizing the problems inherent in exploiting other human beings (though it is certainly still a major problem!). Many of us have been able to see the enormous suffering that this attitude causes, both to those who are exploited and also to the exploiters’ own sense of integrity and ability to live in a peaceful society.

And now it’s beginning to dawn on many of us that the exploitation of other living beings and living systems is at least as problematic as the exploitation of other human beings. The living systems of the Earth are clearly collapsing, and if we maintain our course, we will certainly collapse right along with them. So let’s honestly re-evaluate this assumption: Is the global catastrophe taking place right before our eyes the result of the sense of entitlement by the intelligent; or is it a result of a sense of entitlement by the ignorant…?

Assumption #2—We represent the pinnacle and/or cutting edge of evolution

This second primary assumption that props up the belief of human superiority, particularly by those who believe in the theory of evolution, is that the human species represents either the pinnacle or the cutting edge of evolution.

From a purely anthropocentric perspective, this is certainly true. We are the latest “model” in our own particular evolutionary lineage. But for those of us who may believe we’ve reached some kind of a pinnacle (a kind of climax in our evolutionary journey), where is the evidence that our evolutionary lineage must stop with us? And why would the process of evolution on the Earth move along so persistently for billions of years, and then suddenly stop with us? (…unless, of course, we manage to wipe out all life on Earth, but that is another story.) And for those who believe we may not have reached such a pinnacle yet, but that we must certainly represent the cutting edge of the Earth’s evolution, let’s keep in mind that there are millions of other evolutionary lineages taking place within this vast Gaian tree of life, many of which are far older than our own particular branch, and many that will likely continue to evolve far after we are gone. What makes our particular branch so special?

Assumption #3—We are essential to manage/maintain life on Earth

From the perspective of Gaia theory, all living beings and living systems existing on the Earth are merely manifestations of her, merely different aspects of this one unified organism. So they all play important roles in some way at any given point of time in her evolution. However, just as with our own physical bodies, some parts are simply more vital than others.

For example, our physical body could lose a toe or even an entire leg and most likely continue to survive. But if we lose both of our lungs, then the loss would be too great and our body would certainly die. Likewise, Gaia has evolved to where she has become highly dependent upon terrestrial plant life (particularly tropical rainforests) and microalgae within the open ocean to generate the oxygen necessary to maintain her life. These essentially act as her “lungs” providing this essential nutrient to the other parts of her organism. If these systems were depleted enough, it is possible that Gaia could die, or would at least be forced to regress to a much more primitive state. On the other hand, if humankind were to go extinct, our loss would probably be much more akin to Gaia losing a little toe, or more realistically, only sustaining a small cut to her little toe—certainly not terminal to the organism. In the big picture of Gaia’s life, spanning over 4 billion years now (that’s 4,000,000,000+), humankind in its current form (Homo Sapiens) has emerged only about 200,000 years ago. To put this in perspective, if Gaia were 80 years old, humankind would have emerged onto the scene about 36 hours ago.

So it’s really impossible for us to make the case that Gaia needs us. Actually, at this point, the case is all too easily made that this “little toe” of humanity has become cancerous and is now acting as a direct threat against the life of the entire organism—of all life on Earth. If you were Gaia, would you not seriously consider cutting off that cancerous toe? (btw, I’m not advocating for the extermination of humankind—I’m just pointing out that as we broaden our perspective, we should naturally find ourselves moving towards a much more humble position).

Assumption #4—Our religious scriptures say that we are superior

Granted, I find it a bit more difficult to challenge this particular assumption than those above. When a person’s convictions are based solely upon what they have read or what somebody else has told them, and they have chosen to abandon critical thinking or deep personal reflection, then there’s not likely to be much potential for a paradigm shift. However, even within the religious scriptures and creation stories found within different cultures and spiritual traditions around the world, we find a very interesting theme that many (most?) of them share—and that is the recognition that our sense of superiority has gone hand in hand with our separation from our source of abundance and vitality.

In the West, this theme is probably most well known as illustrated in the Biblical story of Adam and Eve eating the fruit from the tree of The Knowledge of Good and Evil, which then led to their being banished by God from The Garden of Eden. Essentially, the story goes that Adam and Eve lived for many years as members of a thriving and abundant ecosystem. But then they became tempted to “eat the fruit” which shifted their paradigm from one of harmonious unity to one of disharmonious duality—the “knowledge of good and evil.” One way of interpreting this story is to see it as a metaphor that represents the moment when humankind replaced their value for living in harmony with the natural world (as merely one member of a thriving ecosystem) with a dichotomous value system—inferior/superior, better/worse, more/less valuable, more/less worthy, mine/yours, and of particular relevance to this article here, humans/nature.

For those who have studied the theory of human evolution, this theme has clear parallels to the historical moment when humanity abandoned its indigenous roots extending back hundreds of thousands of years. At this point of time, about 10,000 years ago, humankind is believed to have generally “stepped out of nature” to embrace a much more dualistic mindset—humans vs. nature, human superiority vs. other species’ inferiority, the Earth and other living beings as being ours to own as property and personally dominate, exploit, etc. And we can look around now and clearly see where this path has taken us—initially to enormous short term abundance and population explosion, but ultimately heading right off the cliff of our own extinction.

So even within scriptures that are often used to justify the superiority of humankind and our entitlement over other species, we find upon closer inspection this common core theme of a paradise lost, or of a deep ignorance having gripped us. As soon as humankind stepped out of their niche of living at one with the Gaian system, and attempted to instead place themselves outside of and superior to this heretofore unified living system, we ultimately lost our paradise.

So to Summarize…

Are we unique? Yes! Do we have unusual capacities and skills never before seen within the life of the Earth? Almost certainly. However, we can also say the same thing about every other species present and past.

As for our superior intelligence? Humankind does appear to possess a somewhat unusual form of intelligence combined with an upright posture and opposable thumbs, the combination of which makes all kinds of interesting technologies possible. However, considering the broad definition of intelligence as “the capacity to develop systems of knowledge and apply them to sustainably meet one’s needs,” humankind has clearly not demonstrated a degree of intelligence anywhere near as advanced as that of other living systems on the Earth. To the contrary, humankind, or at least in its present form as manifested within contemporary society, has demonstrated an unusually profound ignorance, having made the terrible choice of attempting to remove itself from the Gaian system, which, of course, is just as impossible and futile as a little toe attempting to sever itself from the larger body.

As for our general sense of superior worth and our associated sense of entitlement to do what we please with our fellow Earthlings and the Earth in general? Well, as discussed above, from the perspective of Gaia, there are clearly other species and living systems far more vital to her ongoing survival than the human species…

This leaves us then with the question of our own continued survival. If humankind is not as intelligent nor superior as we have come to believe, and if it is true that our attempt to leave the Gaian system has been a very bad one, then what does that mean for our own future? I believe that the answer to this question lies within a close reflection upon our past.

Looking historically, the evidence is quite compelling that our departure from living harmoniously with the Gaian system coincided with an intensification of the belief in our fundamental “superiority,” as well as our fundamental sense of entitlement to exploit other species and the environment to our own very narrowly perceived needs. And if we track our progress over the centuries since we have adopted this belief, what do we find? We do indeed see that we have been able to experience tremendous benefit initially, in the sense of an explosion of our population and the capacity to survive on most of the surface of the Earth. But in recent generations this short-term benefit is finally revealing the very serious long-term harm of this belief system and its associated behaviours. Though the ride may have been good to many (and hell for many others) while it lasted, the writing is becoming all too clear upon the wall:  We have been “superior”ing our way to our own demise.

So what to do? We may not be superior to other species, but like all species, we do have our own unique capacities. And as humans, we appear to have an unusually strong capacity for productivity (both creative and destructive), self-awareness and self-reflection. What would happen if we shift the focus of these attributes to the serious attempt to return to the “Garden of Eden,” to establishing a harmonious niche as simply one species among many on this diverse and abundant planet?

I like to think that this would be possible, though certainly very challenging. What if we take our capacity for self-awareness/reflection/transformation, and work on shifting our paradigm to…

(a) expanding our understanding of ‘the self’ to contain all other living beings and the entire Gaian system;

(b) cultivating an equal compassion/regard/respect for all living beings, beyond simply other human beings and companion animals who are personally close to us;

(c) humbling ourselves in the face of Gaia—recognizing that she has a wisdom far deeper, older, and broader than our much more limited personal minds could ever fully grasp…

…and closely related to this, (d) reorienting our efforts at personal and human surviving and thriving to be much more in line with Gaia’s wisdom and natural behaviours.

This would entail shifting our focus from “managing” the environment (Gaia has demonstrated that she can do this perfectly fine without us, thank you very much) to managing ourselves—(a) stopping our destructive behaviours, and (b) simply stepping back from as much of the Earth as we can, and making space for Gaia’s own capacity to heal and regenerate herself.

In summary, then, it appears that the more our limited human minds begin to grasp the much vaster and more intelligent minds at play on the Earth, the more apparent it becomes that we simply need to lose the superiority complex and graciously re-engage openly and compassionately with our fellow Earthlings.

In other words, isn’t it about time that we got over ourselves and re-join the party?

• You can learn more about Paris Williams’ latest work and the Centre for Nonviolence and Conscious living at cncl.info

  1. as quoted in Buhner, 2014.
Categories: Anti-War, Foreign Policy

Congressional Interns and Congress Redirections

13 hours 35 min ago

On a beautiful, breezy day last week, I spoke to a roomful of Congressional summer interns working in the House of Representatives. The subject was “Corporate Power, Congress and You.” (“You” referred to the interns as the citizenry).

I noted that they were a special group because they were willing to spend an hour listening to a talk about corporate power. I told them about how small groups of ordinary citizens became leaders in the nuclear arms control movements, the anti-tobacco drives, and consumer rights movement. I also talked about the expansion of equal rights and opportunities for people with disabilities. I took note that many of them in the room – women and people of color— would not be there if not for their predecessors’ tireless efforts to advance civil rights.

No more than one percent of Americans – sometimes far less – made the many advances in peace and justice take hold, backed by a growing public opinion.

In the 15,000 or 20,000 days these young people have, it will be their responsibility to stop the following omnicidal threats to humanity and the natural world:

  1. Climate crisis or climate disruption, which is already wreaking havoc. A student asked me about the ‘Green New Deal’, which urges dramatic action. I recommend that they make the strong case that we must plan ahead for the sake of the planet. It will cost trillions to solarize our economy and otherwise reduce greenhouse gases, but that pales in comparison to the trillions of dollars that will have to be spent on mitigating the effects of climate catastrophe, which would fundamentally damage our fragile planet. In fact, International Renewable Energy Agency research found that transitioning to renewable energy will save between “$65 trillion and $160 trillion [between now and] 2050.”  These costs would include spending to save coastal cities from ocean over-runs and all the other violent weather patterns and convulsions in habitat coming on this fragile planet Earth.
  2. A runaway nuclear arms race between countries, which threatens to cause untold destruction. A nuclear arms race can increase the risk of nuclear weaponry being used on innocents, whether intentionally or by accidental computerized launch. Donald J. Trump seems to think that ending our treaties with Russia (without Senate approval) regarding reduction of nuclear war heads will “make America great again.”
  3. Global pandemics caused by mutations of viruses and bacteria are a lethal threat. Malaria, dengue fever, and transmittable deadly avian flu are just a few of the diseases that have the potential to spread further because of habitat disruption, tourism, and travel. The U.S. is spending far too little money to protect its people from such invisible disease vectors. Less than a fourth each year of what one redundant aircraft carrier (largely obsolete except for purposes of Empire force projection) costs. While Americans today might not think much of this threat, millions of Americans died in the 1919-1920 flu pandemic.
  4. Endemic poverty and grave inequalities afflict billions of human beings. Roughly one in four children in the world suffers from chronic malnutrition, if not semi-starvation. Most will wither in pain and resignation. Some will be searching for vengeance using physical violence against the institutionalized violence of global corporations and corrupt governments taking their favors.
  5. The emerging corporate fascistic states are dispossessing the citizenry of their rights, remedies, and facilities to organize and express their voices. The U.S. is now a maturing corporate state. Wall Street owns more of Washington and turns our government against its own people while feeding privileges, immunities and gigantic freebies and tax escapes to demanding global companies. When commercial values are allowed supremacy over citizen values, societies decline relentlessly.

I continued my remarks about how corporations have been given by the Federal Courts the same rights as human beings. Even though, neither the words “corporation” or “company” ever appear in our Constitution. Add this corporate “personhood” to the expanding privileges and immunities of corporate power, in these times of corporate crime waves, and equal justice under law between U.S. citizens and Exxon/Mobil or Pfizer or Wells Fargo is a cruel mockery.

I told the students to look at the fine print contracts they sign or click on that have taken away their precious freedom of contract and sometimes their historic right to pursue wrongdoers in court.

What is worse, youngsters grow up ‘corporate’ rather than grow up ‘civic’ – think of all the corporate ads they are subjected to that are not contradicted. Young people don’t even realize what has been stripped away from their rightful protections.

Interns are spending the summer with Congress – the smallest yet most powerful branch of government in the Constitution – where some 1,500 corporations have undermined the peoples’ delegated power. These corporations rent or own a majority of the Senators and Representatives and tell them how to vote on many serious matters.

Yet, as Patti Smith sings, the people do have the power, if they wish to exercise it. People have formidable democratic tools – they are the sovereign power, they have the vote. They own the greatest wealth in the country (vast public lands, public airwaves, and trillions of dollars in pension and mutual funds, which own the stocks of large corporations).  The peoples’ tax dollars have led to government-sponsored research and development that have spawned the major industries of our times.

Led by one percent of active citizens in their communities the people – left and right – can achieve a living wage economy, full health insurance, law and order for corporations, a fair tax system, and organizing rights for workers, consumers, and small taxpayers. We can develop solar energy capabilities quicker. Our public budgets can be redirected to critical domestic public works infrastructure and away from costly Empire building abroad.

Students informed me of their focus on electoral reforms, the use of manipulative euphemisms, and opportunities for work in civic engagement. I was encouraged.

Most picked up our materials, including the card on how to reform Congress (see ratsreformcongress.org). They left the room, I hope, with higher civic expectations for themselves.

Categories: Anti-War, Foreign Policy

Provoking the Bear and the Dragon and Hoping for the Best?

18 hours 46 min ago

Peter Koenig, PressTV Interview Transcript
19 June 2019

Background

Moscow, June 18, 2019 (AFP)

Russia on Tuesday called for restraint to avoid escalation in the Middle East after the US said it was deploying additional troops due to heightened tensions with Iran.

“We are urging all the sides to show restraint,” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists in response to a question on the deployment. “We would prefer not to see any steps that could introduce additional tensions in the already unstable region.”

The United States said Monday it has approved the deployment of 1,000 additional troops to the Middle East. Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said the troops were being sent “for defensive purposes” as the US has blamed Iran for last week’s attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Tuesday that US plans to increase its troop presence in the Middle East were aimed at provoking armed conflict. Such actions “cannot be seen otherwise than as a deliberate course to provoke war,” Ryabkov told journalists, quoted by RIA Novosti news agency. He said that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo while visiting in Russia last month had stated that US troops were in the region not to start war but prevent it.

Pompeo said at a news conference with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on May 14 that “we fundamentally do not seek a war with Iran.”

“If that’s the case, the US should refrain from further reinforcement of its presence and from other steps, including dragging and pushing its allies in various parts of the world into stepping up pressure on Iran,” Ryabkov said. Tensions between Tehran and Washington have escalated since the US last year quit a multi-nation nuclear deal with Iran, a close ally of Russia.

Peskov said Tuesday that “our starting point is still that Iran will remain within the framework of the nuclear deal and will maintain adherence to its obligations.”

PressTV: Could you please comment on this?

Peter Koeing: What Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Tuesday that US plans to increase its troop presence in the Middle East were aimed at provoking armed conflict – is very true; and is very important to take note of.

To me it looks like the commando behind Trump has decided to put Venezuela on the backburner, that, for now, Iran is more important.

Controlling Iran, means basically controlling not only the entire Middle East with all its riches, but it’s also contributing to the Chosen People’s – Israel, the Zionists’ – overall goal to exert hegemony over the world’s finances – controlling the globe’s economy.

Domination of people by military power and domination of the economy by financial power, go hand in hand.

Let’s face it, to engage in war – or provoke war – were also the two ‘false flag’ attacks on the Norwegian and Japanese oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Only an absolute moron, or someone who has never lived on planet earth, would not understand that these were two flagrant “false flags”; and Pompeo’s immediate accusations without a shred of proof, were the usual “Pompeoisms” – lying, deceiving, stealing, – or as he said literally what they did at the CIA, “We lied, we cheated, we stole”. Well, these people do not change.

By engaging Iran in a war, Washington knows they would also engage Russia and China – and that’s what they want. The two super powers are their last stronghold to conquer.

And people who are narcissistic and full of themselves, as are the characteristics of neoliberals and neofascists, who want to run the show, they do not see their own limits – they see only their own power with impunity.

It’s like a drug for them. They act under addiction… addiction for power and dominance. They are even ready to destroy themselves for power and dominance.

If we analyze one particular incident on this globe, like the announcement to deploy a 1000 more troops to the Middle East – have they said where? – not that I know – then we always have to see the entire picture.

It’s part of a Chess game – a Chess game they – the US and the international handlers behind them – only are allowed to win. That’s why they never give up an objective. They may put it on the backburner for a while, like what they are likely doing with Venezuela, but in the long run, as the they see the Big Picture only, Full Spectrum Dominance, they will continue – until their collapse.

And why is the collapse the logical outcome? – Because such a war cannot be won. By nobody.

Categories: Anti-War, Foreign Policy

The War Hoax Redux

Wed, 2019-06-19 22:51

The Trump administration has a problem: How to start another war – this time with Iran – without having a justifiable reason for one.  No doubt members of Trump’s team, led by the war-thirsty and perdurable John Bolton, are working hard to solve this urgent problem.  If they can’t find a justification, they may have to create one.  Or perhaps they will find what they have already created.  Whatever the solution, Americans should feel confident that their leaders, together with their Israeli and Saudi bedfellows, are not sitting on their hands.  Crazy people do crazy things.

After the Gulf War in 1991 and the invasion of Iraq in 2003, it slowly became apparent what alternative media and war critics had insisted was the case before and during these wars: That the U.S. government had achieved a propaganda coup by tightly controlling the media access to the truth and by getting the mainstream media (MSM) to do their bidding.  This ex post facto revelation was, of course, not prime time or front page news, but was reported bit-by-bit by critics or was buried deep within the news reports.  While some of the truth arrived, it did so obliquely, and corporate media devotees went back to their gullible and comforting sleep.

Yet once again Americans are being played for fools by the government and MSM.  The open secret, the insider’s fact, is that the U.S. plans to attack Iran if they can seduce enough Americans that they are threatened.  The Trump people know this, the corporate media shills know it, for the Bush-Clinton-Obama scenario, written years ago, is to act as if it weren’t so, to act as if a peaceful solution were being seriously considered. Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, etc. all learned better.  The U.S. never seeks a peaceful solution.

As in 1991 and 2003, the MSM play along with Trump, who repeatedly says, or has his spokespeople say, that the decision hasn’t been made and that the U.S. wants peace. Within a few hours this is contradicted and confusion and uncertainty reign, as planned. Chaos is the name of the game. But everyone in the know knows the decision to attack has been made at some level, especially once the propaganda dummies are all in place.  But they pretend, while the media wait with baited breath as they anticipate their countdown to the dramatic moment when they report the incident that will “compel” the U.S. to attack.

The corporate media, however, always avoid the key question: How will the U.S. justify its fait accompli and what is its goal?  This question is too disturbing to broach, for it suggests that the fix is in, the show is rigged, something is rotten in the symbiotic relationship between a government intent on war and a media in that government’s service.

What could, in the eyes of the American people, justify a war against Iran, assuming the Trump administration even cares about justification?   Will Iran attack Israel?  No. Will Iran attack the United States?  No.  Of course, not, not least because it can’t, even if it wished to do so, which it clearly doesn’t.  Any such Iranian attack – absurd as such a suggestion is – would give the Trump administration ample justification for a war.

So what is the administration to do now that the news from so many quarters – Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. – is so bad?  What, if they are intent on a war with Iran, are they going to do about the absence of a cause for war?  It seems that they are in a dilemma.

“Seem” is the key word.  Logically speaking, if there is a war plan, if there is a Bolton/Pompeo/Israeli scenario, then the gun on the wall in the first act of this deadly play, must go off in the final act, no matter how long it takes.  The audience is being primed by the administration and their media mouthpieces to expect a “smoking gun.”  But what might it be?

“Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun, that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud,” George W. Bush said at a staged pseudo-event on October 7, 2002 as he set Americans up for the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.  It was all predictable,  blatant deception.  And the media played along with such an absurdity.  Iraq obviously had no nuclear weapons or the slightest capability to deliver even a firecracker on the U.S.

Now Iran is the Nuclear devil.  Now Iran must be stopped.  Despite clear evidence to the contrary, Iran has been and will be accused of developing nuclear weapons.  Saddam was said to have had them; Iran only developing them, yet both lies need no evidence, just rhetoric.

Nevertheless, it might be claimed that secret “evidence” must be withheld on “national security” grounds or for fear of endangering Iranian informers or their families.  Thus a preemptive attack could be justified on the grounds of preventing another “Ground Zero” (a misnomer when applied to the World Trade Center site, but conveniently evocative for stirring nuclear fears).

The American people, still severely shaken by the attacks of September 11, 2001, would surely be alarmed by such a “threat,” especially if it were linked to terrorism (on the high seas? In the air?), which has been the modus operandi of one administration after another.  Aren’t we at war with terror?    But it is a strategy – linking nuclear fears with terrorist fears – that the Trump administration may be hoping will cover its lack of evidence with emotional blackmail.  But it is a strategy that may not work, since, for some very odd reason, people may prefer facts to fictions.  I emphasize “may.”

Perhaps Trump’s neo-con henchmen’s  best option, therefore, is to promote or create a Tonkin Gulf incident, “unprovoked aggression against American forces,” as Lyndon Johnson put it when he lied to the world in order to get the war he wanted after JFK had been disposed of by the CIA.  It worked in 1964, so it might work again, especially with the help of our special “ally” in the region – Israel.  And today’s attackers won’t be aggressors, they will be terrorists, which seals the deal.  Bombs away!

It’s hard to say with certainty what justification the Trump war-crazies will settle on, but time is running out for them.  The news is bad from every corner, so something must be done.

Many years of secret American/Israeli planning for an attack upon Iran can’t be wasted.

The stage is set.  The charade continues.  The MSM keep preparing us for the “smoking gun.”  Something’s got to give, and propaganda geniuses are working overtime on delivering us an Oscar-winning justification.

Don’t buy it.

Especially since you’ve heard this before, and I’ve written it.  With a few minor changes and the substitution of Iran for Iraq, this column was published on the morning before George W’s infamous  (the 16 words about uranium from Niger) State of the Union Address on January 28, 2003,  fifty-one days before the invasion of Iraq, and one week before Colin Powell’s lies at the United Nations.

Shocked and surprised should be words eliminated from our vocabularies.

Categories: Anti-War, Foreign Policy

In the U.S. they are never called human rights violations

Wed, 2019-06-19 17:14

Trump’s 2020 budget proposal reflects another significant increase in military spending along with corresponding cuts in spending by Federal agencies tasked with the responsibility for providing critical services and income support policies for working class and poor people. Trump’s call for budget cuts by Federal agencies is mirrored by the statutorily imposed austerity policies in most states and many municipalities. Those cuts represent the continuing imposition of neoliberal policies in the U.S. even though the “A” word for austerity is almost never used to describe those policies.

Yet, austerity has been a central component of state policy at every level of government in the U.S. and in Europe for the last four decades. In Europe, as the consequences of neoliberal policies imposed on workers began to be felt and understood, the result was intense opposition.  However, in the U.S. the unevenness of how austerity policies were being applied, in particular the elimination or reduction in social services that were perceived to be primarily directed at racialized workers, political opposition was slow to materialize.

Today, however, relatively privileged workers who were silent as the neoliberal “Washington consensus” was imposed on the laboring classes in the global South — through draconian structural adjustment policies that result in severe cutbacks in state expenditures for education, healthcare, state employment and other vital needs — have now come to understand that the neoliberal program of labor discipline and intensified extraction of value from workers, did not spare them.

The deregulation of capital, privatization of state functions — from road construction to prisons, the dramatic reduction in state spending that results in cuts in state supported social services and goods like housing and access to reproductive services for the poor — represent the politics of austerity and the role of the neoliberal state.

This materialist analysis is vitally important for understanding the dialectical relationship between the general plight of workers in the U.S. and the bipartisan collaboration to raid the Federal budget and to reduce social spending in order to increase spending on the military. This perspective is also important for understanding the imposition of those policies as a violation of the fundamental human rights of workers, the poor and the oppressed.

For the neoliberal state, the concept of human rights does not exist.

As I have called to attention before, a monumental rip-off is about to take place once again. Both the Democrats and Republicans are united in their commitment to continue to feed the U.S. war machine with dollars extracted — to the tune of 750 billion dollars — from the working class and transferred to the pockets of the military/industrial complex.

The only point of debate is now whether or not the Pentagon will get the full 750 billion or around 733 billion. But whether it is 750 billion or 733 billion, the one sector that is not part of this debate is the public. The attention of the public has been adroitly diverted by the absurd reality show that is Russiagate. But this week, even though the budget debate has been disappeared by corporate media, Congress is set to begin debate on aspects of the budget and specifically on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Raising the alarm on this issue is especially critical at this moment. As tensions escalate in the Persian Gulf, the corporate media is once again abdicating its public responsibility to bring unbiased, objective information to the public and instead is helping to generate support for war with Iran.

The Democrats, who have led the way with anti-Iran policies over the last few decades, will be under enormous pressure not to appear to be against enhancing military preparedness and are likely to find a way to give Trump and the Pentagon everything they want.

Support for Human Rights and Support for Empire is an Irreconcilable Contradiction

The assumption of post-war capitalist order was that the state would be an instrument to blunt the more contradictory aspects of capitalism. It would regulate the private sector, provide social welfare support to the most marginal elements of working class, and create conditions for full employment. This was the Keynesian logic and approach that informed liberal state policies beginning in the 1930s.

The idea of reforming human rights fits neatly into that paradigm.

As seen, a state’s legitimacy was based on the extent to which it recognized, protected and fulfilled the human rights of all its citizens and residents. Those rights included not only the right to information, assembly, speech and to participation in the national political life of the nation but also the right to food, water, healthcare, education, employment, substantial social security throughout life, and not just as a senior citizen.

The counterrevolutionary program of the late 60s and 70s, especially the turn to neoliberalism which began in the 70s, would reject this paradigm and redefine the role of the state. The obligation of the state to recognize, protect and fulfill human rights was eliminated from the role of the state under neoliberalism.

Today the consequences of four decades of neoliberalism in the global South and now in the cosmopolitan North have created a crisis of legitimacy that has made state policies more dependent on force and militarism than in any other time, including the civil war and the turmoil of the 1930s.

The ideological glue provided by the ability of capitalism to deliver the goods to enough of the population which guaranteed loyalty and support has been severely weakened by four decades of stagnant wages, increasing debt, a shrinking middle-class, obscene economic inequality and never-ending wars that have been disproportionately shouldered by the working class.

Today, contrary to the claims of capitalism to guarantee the human right to a living wage ensuring “an existence worthy of human dignity,” the average worker is making, adjusted for inflation, less than in 1973; i.e., some 46 years-ago. 140 million are either poor or have low-income; 80% living paycheck to paycheck; 34 million are still without health insurance; 40 million live in “official poverty;” and more in unofficial poverty as measured by alternative supplemental poverty (SPM).  And more than half of those over 55 years-old have no retirement funds other than Social Security.

In a report, Philp Alston, the UN’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, points out that: the US is one of the world’s wealthiest countries. It spends more on national defense than China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, the United Kingdom, India, France and Japan combined.

However, that choice in public expenditures must be seen in comparison to the other factors he lays out:

  • US infant mortality rates in 2013 were the highest in the developed world.
  • Americans can expect to live shorter and sicker lives, compared to people living in any other rich democracy, and the “health gap” between the US and its peer countries continues to grow.
  • US inequality levels are far higher than those in most European countries
  • In terms of access to water and sanitation the US ranks 36th in the world.
  • The youth poverty rate in the United States is the highest across the OECD with one quarter of youth living in poverty compared to less than 14% across the OECD.

For African Americans in particular, neoliberalism has meant, jobs lost, hollowed out communities as industries relocated first to the South and then to Mexico and China, the disappearance of affordable housing, schools and hospital closings, infant and maternal mortality at global South levels, and mass incarceration as the unskilled, low-wage Black labor has become economically redundant.

This is the backdrop and context for the budget “debate” and Trump’s call to cut spendings to Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Education, Labor, Health and Human Services, the Environmental Protection Agency, and even the State Department.

The U.S. could find 6 trillion dollars for war since 2003 and 16 trillion to bail out the banks after the financial sector crashed the economy, but it can’t find money to secure the human rights of the people.

This is the one-sided class war that we find ourselves in; a war with real deaths and slower, systematic structural violence. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans can be depended on to secure our rights or protect the world from the U.S. atrocities. That responsibility falls on the people who reside at the center of the Empire to not only struggle for ourselves but to put a brake on the Empire’s ability to spread death and destruction across the planet.

Categories: Anti-War, Foreign Policy

Annexation: How Israel Already controls More than Half of the West Bank

Wed, 2019-06-19 07:49

A state of de facto annexation already exists on the ground in most of the occupied West Bank.

Almost two-thirds of the Palestinian territory, including most of its most fertile and resource-rich land, is under full Israeli control. About 400,000 Jewish settlers living there enjoy the full rights and privileges of Israeli citizens.

At least 60 pieces of legislation were drafted by right-wing members of the Knesset during the last parliament to move Israel from a state of de facto to de jure annexation, according to a database by Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights group.

Yesh Din points out that the very fact that some of these bills have passed as laws constitutes a form of annexation: “The Israel Knesset [now] regards itself as the legislative authority in the West Bank and the sovereign there.”

Paradoxically, many of those bills were opposed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, even though they were drafted from within his own ruling coalition.

Netanyahu argued that it would be wrong to pre-empt US President Donald Trump’s peace plan, implying that annexation is high on the agenda.

Leaked details suggest that Washington is now preparing to green-light the formal annexation of at least some of that territory as part of its deal-making, though Netanyahu’s political difficulties and his decision to call another election in September could mean putting details on ice once again.

The Golan precedent

Three recent developments have also brought the idea of Israel annexing parts or all of the West Bank onto the agenda.

In March, US President Donald Trump recognised Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, seized from Syria during the 1967 war and annexed by Israel in 1981 in violation of international law. The US decision suggested a precedent whereby it might similarly approve a move by Israel to annex the West Bank.

In April, in the run-up to Israel’s general election, Netanyahu said he would use the next parliament to “extend sovereignty” to all illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank, using a phrase preferred by Israeli politicians to “annexation”.

About 400,000 settlers live in the West Bank in 150 official settlements and another 120 so-called “unauthorised” outposts that have been covertly sponsored by the Israeli state since the 1990s. These settlements have jurisdiction over 42 percent of West Bank territory.

In early June, the US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, a stalwart supporter of the settlements and one of the architects of Trump’s supposed “deal of the century”, told the New York Times that he believed Israel was “on the side of God” and said: “Under certain circumstances, I think Israel has the right to retain some, but unlikely all, of the West Bank.”

Support in Israel growing

Support in Israel for annexation is growing, with 42 percent backing one of several variants in a recent poll, as opposed to 34 percent who were behind a two-state solution. Only 28 percent of Israelis explicitly rejected annexation.

Behind the scenes, debates about formally annexing the Palestinian territories have been rife in Israel since it occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza in 1967.

Successive Israeli governments, however, have demurred out of concern both that there would be strong international objections (most UN member states would be opposed to the annexation of territory recognised as illegally occupied in international law) and that Israel would be under pressure to give Palestinians in annexed areas citizenship, including the right to vote, that would undermine its Jewish majority.

Senior government ministers such as Moshe Dayan and Yigal Allon were among the early proponents of annexing parts of the West Bank. They drew up maps for a permanent settlement programme that would allow Israel to hold on to swathes of the West Bank, especially the most fertile land and the aquifers.

Through the late 1970s and 1980s, a justice ministry official, Plia Albeck, declared large areas of the West Bank “state land”, allowing the government to treat it as effectively part of Israel and build settlements.

Speeding tickets and police stations

Israel has applied its laws to the settler population and dozens of Israeli police stations located in the West Bank operate as if the territory has been annexed, issuing speeding tickets and enforcing other infractions on Palestinians. Palestinians’ ultimate recourse to adjudication on legal matters is Israel’s Supreme Court.

In 2011, that court decided that Israel was allowed to exploit more than a dozen quarries, one of the Palestinians’ key resources, because the occupation had become “prolonged” – a ruling that treated the West Bank as if it had been de facto annexed.

Since the Olso accords, Israeli leaders have tended to pay lip service to Palestinian statehood, at some distant future point. But in practice, they have encouraged the rapid expansion of the settlements. This policy is sometimes referred to as “creeping annexation”.

A number of variants have been advanced by the Israeli right, ranging from the annexation of all Palestinian territories, including Gaza, to annexation limited to certain areas of the West Bank.

How Oslo gave Israel control

The main framework for the Israeli debate about annexation is the Oslo process which temporarily carved up the occupied West Bank into Areas A, B and C as a prelude, it was assumed, to eventually transferring sovereignty to the Palestinian Authority.

Area C, 62 per cent of the West Bank, is under full Israeli control and where the settlements are located. It is also where most of the water, agricultural and mineral resources are to be found.

Area B, 20 percent, is under Israeli security control and Palestinian civil control. And Area A – mainly Palestinian built-up areas on 18 percent of the West Bank – is nominally under full Palestinian control.

The option favoured by most of Netanyahu’s Likud party involves the annexation of areas populated with settlers, or about 40 percent of the West Bank mostly located in Area C.

This option would keep West Bank Palestinians outside the annexed areas and make it easier to avoid conferring any residency or citizenship rights on them. The Palestinian Authority would be given “limited autonomy” – a kind of glorified municipal role – over the remaining fragments of the West Bank.

To the right of Likud, opinions range from annexing all of Area C to annexing the entire West Bank and Gaza, and the creation of Palestinian “Bantustans” modelled on South Africa’s racist apartheid system. Some propose a “salami” method, with Israel gradually slicing off more of the West Bank.

The Israeli centre-left fears formal annexation not only violates international law but will damage Israel’s image abroad by encouraging comparisons with apartheid-era South Africa. In the absence of a Palestinian state, a minority of Jews might soon be ruling over a majority of Palestinians.

The centre-left is also concerned about the costs of annexation. Commanders for Israel’s Security, a group of retired security officials, argue that annexation will lead to the inevitable collapse of the Palestinian Authority.

As a result, they believe Israel would incur annual costs of between $2.3bn and $14.5bn, depending on the extent of the West Bank area annexed. There would also be a loss of $2.5bn in foreign investments. Palestinian uprisings could cost Israel’s economy as much as $21bn.

Right-wing economists like Amatzia Samkai of the Caucus for Eretz Israel say Israel will benefit economically. If Area C is annexed, only a small number of Palestinians will be entitled to Israeli welfare payments, he says. Such costs, he adds, can be more than offset by an expanded labour force and a drop in real-estate prices after West Bank land is freed up for house building by Israelis.

Knesset ‘sovereign’ in West Bank already

Of the 60 pieces of draft annexation legislation brought before the Knesset, eight have passed into law.

The main laws that have been passed include:

  • annulling a special council overseeing higher education in West Bank settlements and transferring its powers to the main Israel Council for Higher Education.
  • approving retroactively the theft of private Palestinian land used to build settlements. The previous official position was that settlements should be built only on land Israel had declared state land because it was not owned by Palestinians.
  • extending benefits available in Israel – from tax exemptions and egg production quotas to renewable energy investments – to West Bank settlements.
  • unifying the criminal register used by police in Israel and the West Bank.
  • transferring powers to adjudicate matters involving the West Bank to lower courts in Israel.
  • prohibiting businesses from refusing to supply services to West Bank settlements.

In addition, Yesh Din notes, Israel has recently shifted its diplomatic position and legal arguments to the courts in relation to the West Bank.

It has rejected the West Bank’s status as being under occupation, asserted Israel’s authority to operate there and eroded the obligation to protect the rights and property of the Palestinian population.

Another significant piece of legislation Netanyahu is known to favour – chiefly for personal reasons because it could be used to protect him from corruption indictments – is an Override Law.

The measure is being aggressively promoted by settler groups because it would strip Israel’s Supreme Court of judicial review powers to block legislation annexing the West Bank.

Palestinian support?

On the Palestinian side, a tiny number, mostly business leaders, have backed annexation of the West Bank. They have been cultivated by the Trump administration as a potential alternative leadership to the Palestinian Authority. Most Palestinians consider them traitors or collaborators.

Hebron businessman Ashraf Jabari, for example, has entered into a partnership with settler counterparts in the “Judea and Samaria Chamber of Commerce”, using the settlers’ Biblical name for the West Bank.

The chamber promotes joint ventures such as shopping centres along West Bank main roads, tourism initiatives and infrastructure projects.

Jabari and others have consciously sought to package annexation on Israeli terms as similar to the one-state agenda of a growing section of the Palestinian population, especially those supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS).

“We have to think about this area as one entity, not two entities and two realities,” he told journalists recently.

Certainly, there are Palestinians who consider annexation and Israel’s direct re-occupation of the West Bank, unmediated by the PA, as a necessary condition for Palestinians launching a civil rights or anti-apartheid struggle to realise a genuine one-state solution.

• First published in Middle East Eye

Categories: Anti-War, Foreign Policy

Renewable Energy Is Not the Answer; Nuclear Is

Wed, 2019-06-19 07:37

“It’s always a good idea to start by asking about the facts.” So advises Noam Chomsky. “Whenever you hear anything said very confidently, the first thing that should come to mind is, ‘Wait a minute, is that true?’” De omnibus dubitandum—doubt everything—was Karl Marx’s motto and should be the motto of every thinking person. Question even or especially what the tribe most takes for granted.

In the era of climate change, when fossil fuels are known to be driving civilization straight into the ocean, the idea that liberal and left-wing tribes take most for granted is “Renewable energy!” It is shouted confidently from every public perch. Renewable energy, scaled up to replace fossil fuels and even nuclear, is declared the only possible salvation for humanity. It has such obvious advantages over every other energy source that the world has to go 100% renewables ASAP.

Obviously!

But wait a minute—is that true?

Let’s try to shed the religious thinking, look objectively at the facts, and come to a conclusion about this most important of subjects: how to power the future and hopefully save the world.

Renewable energy emits greenhouse gases

First, consider the claim that renewable energy has no carbon emissions. This is true, in a sense, for wind and solar farms (as it is for nuclear energy), which in themselves emit virtually no greenhouse gases. It isn’t true for hydropower, however, which in 2016 produced 71% of all electricity generated by renewable sources. According to one study, hydroelectric dams worldwide emit as much methane (a potent greenhouse gas) as Canada, from decaying vegetation and nutrient runoff. Another study concluded they produce even more carbon dioxide than methane.

“These are massive emissions,” one expert comments. “There are a massive number of dams that are currently proposed to be built. It would be a grave mistake to continue to finance those with the impression that they were part of the solution to the climate crisis.”

And yet in every scenario projected by renewables advocates, hydropower is absolutely essential. For instance, Stanford Professor Mark Jacobson’s famous—and deeply flawed—proposal to run the U.S. on 100% renewables by 2050 assumes the country’s dams could add turbines and transformers to produce 1,300 gigawatts of electricity, over 16 times their current capacity of 80 gigawatts. (According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the maximum capacity that could be added is only 12 gigawatts, 1,288 gigawatts short of Jacobson’s assumption.)

The International Energy Agency projects that by 2023, wind and solar together will satisfy a mere 10% of global electricity demand, while hydroelectric power will satisfy 16%. Nearly all the rest will be produced by fossil fuels and nuclear energy.

Burning biomass, too, which is a renewable energy source, releases large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. “It does exactly the opposite of what we need to do: reduce emissions,” says an expert in forest science and management.

Even leaving aside hydropower and biomass, the use of wind and solar dramatically increases greenhouse gas emissions compared to nuclear energy. This is because, given the intermittency and the diluted nature of solar and wind energy, a backup source of power is needed, and that source is natural gas. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., a guru of the renewables movement, himself acknowledges this fact:

We need about 3,000 feet of altitude, we need flat land, we need 300 days of sunlight, and we need to be near a gas pipe. Because for all of these big utility-scale solar plants—whether it’s wind or solar—everybody is looking at gas as the supplementary fuel. The plants that we’re building, the wind plants and the solar plants, are gas plants.

The burning of natural gas; i.e., methane, emits about half as much carbon dioxide as the burning of coal. So natural gas is better than coal, but not nearly good enough if we want to solve climate change. Even worse, many millions of tons of unburned methane are leaked every year from the American oil and gas industry—and methane is more than 80 times as potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide. So these leaks cancel out much of the environmental good that wind and solar farms are supposedly doing.

In other words, the fact that wind and solar farms typically operate far below their capacity (because of seasonal changes and the unreliability of weather) necessitates that a more reliable power source “supplement” them. In fact, as researchers Mike Conley and Tim Maloney point out, strictly speaking it is the renewable source that acts as a supplement for the oil or natural gas plants linked to the renewables. A solar farm with a capacity of one gigawatt, for instance, will on average operate at only about 20% of its capacity, which means that if a gigawatt of energy is really to be produced, the majority will have to be provided by the “backup” fossil fuel plant(s).

The upshot is that an anti-nuclear and pro-renewables policy means an increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

California is a good example. Like other states in the U.S and countries in the Western world, it has been closing its nuclear power plants—despite their safety, reliability, effectiveness, and environmental friendliness. The carbon-free nuclear plants have been replaced with renewables + natural gas, which is to say, they’ve been replaced mostly with natural gas (prone to methane leaks). After it closed the San Onofre nuclear plant in 2013, California missed its CO2 emissions targets as a result.

In New England, after the premature closing of the nuclear power plant Vermont Yankee in 2014, CO2 emission rates rose across New England, reversing a decade of declines. When Massachusetts’ last remaining nuclear plant, Pilgrim, closed last month, much more electricity generation was lost than the state generates with all its solar, wind, and hydropower combined. Several new fossil fuel plants and a couple of small solar and wind farms will take the place of Pilgrim, increasing carbon dioxide emissions.

In their new book A Bright Future: How Some Countries Have Solved Climate Change and the Rest Can Follow, Joshua Goldstein and Staffan Qvist give other examples. Between 1970 and 1990, due to its construction of nuclear power plants, Sweden was able to cut its carbon emissions by half even as its electricity consumption more than doubled. Germany, by contrast, emits about twice as much carbon pollution per person as Sweden despite using one-third less energy per person, because it has chosen to phase out its nuclear power while introducing renewables.

This means that Germany has simply substituted one (relatively) clean energy source for another, while doing virtually nothing to decarbonize. Its energy production remains dominated by coal, and greenhouse gas emissions are around a billion tons a year.

A more sensible policy would have been to build more nuclear plants and phase out coal. Or at least to let the existing nuclear plants continue to operate while adding renewables, which then would have displaced coal.

ExxonMobil likes renewable energy

The fact that renewable energy directly and indirectly causes far more greenhouse gas emissions than nuclear should already tell us it isn’t a solution to climate change.

Indeed, the willingness of the oil and gas industry in recent years to promote and invest in renewables is itself significant. Over the last three years, the five largest publicly traded oil and gas companies have invested over a billion dollars in advertising and lobbying for renewables. “Natural gas is the perfect partner for renewables,” ads say. “See why #natgas is a natural partner for renewable power sources,” Shell tweets.

By pretending to care about the environment, these companies not only burnish their reputations but also are able to associate natural gas with clean energy, which it very much is not. The formula “renewables + natural gas” thus serves a dual purpose. In fact, it serves a triple purpose: it also distracts from nuclear power, which, unlike renewables, is an immediately viable alternative to oil and gas.

Nuclear power, not renewable energy, is what the fossil fuel industry really fears. The reason is simple: the energy in nuclear fuel is orders of magnitude more concentrated than the energy in oil, gas, coal, and every other source. (Which is why nuclear reactors produce vastly less waste than everything from coal to solar.) If governments invested in a global Nuclear New Deal, so to speak, they could make fossil fuels largely obsolete within a couple of decades. Not even Mark Jacobson’s wildly unrealistic $15-20 trillion 100% renewables plan envisions such a fast transition.

Because of the diffuse and intermittent nature of wind and solar energy, all the world’s investment in renewables didn’t prevent the share of low-carbon power in generating electricity from declining between 1995 and 2017. Western countries’ shuttering of nuclear power plants in these decades was a disaster for the environment.

Another way to appreciate the disaster is to consider that global carbon emissions are actually rising, even as the world spent roughly $2 trillion on wind and solar between 2007 and 2016. (This is similar to the amount spent on nuclear in the past 55 years.) So much for the gospel of renewable energy!

Meanwhile, the fossil fuel industry has been smiling on the sidelines, giving millions of dollars to groups like the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Environmental Defense Fund, and many others that work to kill nuclear power and thus exacerbate climate change. (Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth are particularly active in the war on nuclear—and they refuse to disclose their donors. Could it be because they receive an unseemly amount from oil and gas companies?)

We have eleven years

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2018 special report, we have eleven years left to avoid potentially irreversible climate disruption.

António Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, has called on global leaders to “demonstrate how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent over the next decade and achieve net zero global emissions by 2050.” They’re supposed to meet in New York in September 2019 to answer this call.

The only conceivable way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on the scale called for is to aggressively embrace nuclear power. It is cost-competitive with all other forms of electricity generation except natural gas—although if you take into account the long-term environmental costs of using natural gas (or oil or even renewables), nuclear is probably the cheapest of all.

A worldwide rollout of nuclear power plants on the scale necessary to save civilization would certainly take longer than eleven years, but we can at least make substantial progress by then. If, that is, we pressure our governments to stop subsidizing oil, natural gas, and the renewables they go hand-in-hand with and instead massively invest in nuclear.

It’s time to stop doing the bidding of fossil fuel interests and get serious about saving the world.

Categories: Anti-War, Foreign Policy

Matters of Water: Dubious Approvals and the Adani Carmichael Mine

Tue, 2019-06-18 22:37

When a company wields such power that it can cause a Minister to rush an approval process, cut corners and make significant errors, it is cause for serious concern.

— Kelly O’Shanassy, Australian Conservation Foundation, June 12, 2019

While the proposal is of a diminished monster, the travails over Adani’s efforts to open up the Galilee Basin in Queensland to mining have yielded fruit. Brute corporate strength, and the customary cowering of politicians, has seen an Indian mining giant gain approval for the construction of the Carmichael mine.  Many a stick and carrot were procured in the endeavour, and the outcome of the ballot box in May, returning a pro-coal Coalition government, was always going to have some propulsion.

The environmental aspects of the case have been gradually sidelined and placed in storage.  Prior to the federal election, Queensland’s Labor government was expressing reservations, suggesting stonewalling and vacillation.  A divide between the metropolitan centre and the rural areas was being teased at the federal level: areas where a mining development might create jobs was touted as a drawcard; the metropolitan centre was deemed indulgently green, coffee-sipping and distant.

The drawcard aspect was trumpeted by the Queensland Resources Council: “The Adani Carmichael mine is one of six in the Galilee Basin that could create tens of thousands of jobs in construction and operation and deliver billions of dollars in royalties over their working lifespan.”  At the same time, there were concerns about irreversible environmental damage, the sort that could only be dealt with by means of management plans.  The versions, and delays, proliferated.

This left the state Palaszczuk government, despite a fear of wobbling, still keen to let the Queensland environmental regulator decide, a vain attempt to keep politics out of the equation.  The season was not a good one for the thorough minded. The federal government had essentially muzzled the then Environment Minister Melissa Price prior to the election, weighing upon her to approve aspects of the project.  It was then left to the state government to consider the water management plans.

All sense of permitting the regulator to engage in its quest unmolested were banished by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.  The electoral outcome at the federal level had unhinged her.  She was “fed up” at delays at both federal and state level. The Environment Department was given the due hurry up.  Last Thursday, the approval for Adani came through.  Queensland Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch, rather unconvincingly, suggested that the process had been robust and cognisant of “some of the most rigorous environmental protections in the country”.  Former general manager for water allocation and planning in the Queensland government Tom Crothers saw it differently.  “Science has been thrown in the bin for political expediency.”

Federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan, who remains cocooned by environmental denial and coal rich nirvana, was visibly delighted at this next stage in the Adani saga.  “It has been more than 50 years since a new coal basin has opened in Queensland, so this development is of huge importance to the economic future of Queensland.”

Adani Australia’s chief executive Lucas Dow expressed his “excitement” as well he might but seems to have put the cart well ahead of the horse in terms of the number of jobs promised.  A number he previously subscribed to was 1,500 direct jobs, to be made in north and central Queensland.  Another 6,750 indirect jobs would spring forth during “the ramp-up and construction phase”. But numbers, as they can in any induced fantasy, vary.

Deputy Nationals leader Bridget McKenzie has claimed that a hundred ongoing jobs could be assured while Federal Nationals MP Michelle Landry, despite championing the mine as a creator of votes in her seat of Capricornia, professes to having no idea about numbers.

Not all pro-coal voices have warmed to the decision.  Alan Jones, who rules the Sydney airwaves from the 2GB radio station made the obvious point that the Queensland Environment Department “would have been under massive political pressure to approve Adani’s groundwater management plan.”

There are, however, several knotting twists.  No actual digging of coal will take place till pipeline and railway matters are sorted out, though box cut mining may take place at the site itself.  Then comes the understanding that the mining company will do further work over the next two years to identify alternative sources of that most precious of resources: water.  Giving Adani approval to mine may be tantamount to sentencing the Permian aquifers (Colinlea) to extinction, a point that featured in the Queensland Environment Department’s order that the mining company install a new bore.  Further approvals will be needed regarding the impact on the Doongbulla Springs.

As Jones points out, “hydrogeochemical analysis of groundwater from different springs” will be undertaken, suggesting that approval, while it has been granted, has been done in circumstances of considerable ignorance: “no one seems to know what will happen to [the] groundwater.”  The new bores will also be subjected to isotopic analysis and air sampling.

The contingent nature of any such analysis has coloured the overall assessments, further suggesting the dangers in any continuation of the project. When the Queensland Environment Department consulted the scientific bodies of CSIRO and Geoscience Australia, it received little in the way of certitude.  Both “confirmed that some level of uncertainly in geological and groundwater conceptual models always exists.”

Another twist is a legal one. When Price had the federal portfolio, she decided, all too conveniently, to ignore the “water trigger” feature to the pipeline element of Adani’s proposal, one that would require 12.5 billion litres of water a year.  Deemed an essential feature in assessing the impacts of large coal and coal seam gas projects on water, Price avoided it altogether. This led to a challenge from the Australian Conservation Foundation in December 2018.

The case duly expanded to incorporate an additional dimension.  Wading through public submissions, especially in the order of 2,200, takes time, and expedient politics, by its nature, resists care and consideration.  One tends to rule out the other.

In an underreported feature of the approvals, last week’s legal victory of the ACF in the Federal Court against the assessment of Adani’s North Galilee Water Scheme shifted focus back to the federal government.  As ACF’s Chief Executive Kelly O’Shanassy put it, “The government conceded it did not properly consider more than 2,000 public submissions from Australians with concerns about the mine and the water scheme.”  Submissions had also gone missing. The environmental laws had been applied with carefree shoddiness.  The result is that the proposal will return for consideration by the new Environment Minister, Sussan Ley.

The road is a potted one, but the opening of the Galilee Basin will be, not merely an environmental crime but one inflicted with irresponsible futility.  Sensing that point, the banks and insurers have already ruled themselves out in funding the venture.  Indian demand for coal will diminish, however much it is being heralded now as a moral entitlement to development, and the white, albeit dirty elephant that is Adani’s mining project will remain a travesty of optimistic human barbarism.

Categories: Anti-War, Foreign Policy

Marta Harnecker, the Fighter

Tue, 2019-06-18 10:26

Marta Harnecker

Comrade Marta Harnecker passed away of cancer on June 15, 2019, in Canada.

A relentless fighter, comrade Marta Harnecker (1937 – 2019) made valuable contributions in the areas of theory related to revolution for socialism in the broader Latin American perspective.

Her struggle was for a humane world.

Marta Hernecker was not an adventurist-head and not an adventurist-voice, which made her a leading theoretician for people of her time. Rather, years of learning from struggles helped her take an approach linking to reality and perspective, alignment of classes and balance of power of hostile classes. This led her to say:

We need a left that realizes that being radical does not consist of raising the most militant slogan or carrying out the most extreme actions — with which only a few agree, and which scare off the majority — but rather in being capable of creating spaces for the broadest possible sectors to meet and join forces in struggle. The realization that there are many of us in the same struggle is what makes us strong; it is what radicalizes us. We need a left that understands that we must obtain hegemony, that is to say, that we have to convince instead of imposing. We need a left that understands that, more important than what we have done in the past, is what we will do together in the future to win our sovereignty — to build a society that makes possible the full development of all human beings: the socialist society of the twenty-first century.1

It’s a lesson to be taken into consideration.

“Radical […] raising the most militant slogan or carrying out the most extreme actions” mean nothing, but simply a juvenile effort to establish self as the “hero”, in real sense a zero, the character class enemies of the exploited prefer most.

The sociologist, political scientist, and activist from Chile was a close comrade of Hugo Chavez, the Bolivarian revolutionary leader of Venezuela and one of the most hated figures to the imperialists.

To Marta, today’s Venezuela is a laboratory of the Bolivarian revolution. By type of a number of works, she was also a journalist. But, none of her work took her away from the political fight of people for a humane world. She was not without any idea which is devoid of political action.

Marta writes:

In order for political action to be effective, so that protests, resistance and struggles are genuinely able to change things, to convert mass uprisings into revolutions, a political instrument capable of overcoming the dispersion and fragmentation of the exploited and the oppressed is required: one that can create spaces to bring together those who, in spite of their differences, have a common enemy; that is able to strengthen existing struggles and promote others by orientating their actions according to a thorough analysis of the political situation; that can act as an instrument for cohering the many expressions of resistance and struggle.2

It’s an essential line of approach today; because the bourgeoisie are fragmenting the exploited with different colors – the tact that weakens the exploited and strengthens the exploiters.

The theoretician was always at the front-line, from country to country.

She summarized lessons from successful revolutions:

The history of triumphant revolutions clearly demonstrates what can be achieved when a political instrument exists that is capable of raising an alternative national program to unify the struggles of diverse social actors behind a common goal […]3

And, she emphasized:

[…] actions be carried out at the right place and the right time, always seeking out the weakest link in the enemy’s chain.3

It’s the same lesson Lenin taught through the Great October Revolution: right place, right time, enemy’s weakest link.

Marta talks about political instrument:

The political instrument is like a piston in a locomotive which transforms steam power into the motion that is transmitted to the wheels, driving the locomotive forward, and with it, the whole train. Strong organizational cohesion does not alone provide the major objective capacity for acting, but at the same time, it creates an internal climate that makes possible energetic interventions into events, profiting from the opportunities these offer. It must be remembered that in politics, one does not only have to be right but one must also be timely and rely on strength to achieve success.

Her idea of political instrument of today is in the context of existing reality.

She admits:

This task needs time, research and knowledge of the national and international situation. It is not something that can be improvised overnight, much less so in the complex world in which we live. There are “heroes” who don’t have time to learn and research but have more than enough time for slogan-mongering, and have enough time to indulge in ignorance. But, Marx, emphatically said: Ignorance brings no good. Rather, ignorance compresses one into anarchism, and encourages to declining looking at social process. The bourgeoisie want super-production of ignorant “heroes” spewing only slogans, and no effort for spadework, and no humbleness to learn. For these “heroes”, the point Marta raises is a lesson, if they like.

Marta doesn’t ignore the question of political organization:

The initial preparation will always have to be done by the political organization […].

Political organization should take the lead. For spearheading people’s political struggle, whoever dreams of relying on NGOs, rights organizations and organizations submerged into marginal forces missing the class question should take into consideration Marta’s point – political organization.

There are questions of strategy and tactics. So, Marta writes:

The political instrument is necessary, not only to coordinate the popular movement and promote theoretical thinking, but also for defining strategy.

All successful revolutions correctly defined the question of strategy and tactics.

However, Marta doesn’t forget the aspect related to broader spectrum. She writes:

[…] I believe we must be very mindful that, as it progresses, this project should be enriched and modified by social practice, with opinions and suggestions from the social actors because, as previously stated, socialism cannot be decreed from on high, it has to be built with the people.

Therefore, there’s no scope for sectarianism.

Marta discusses the question of popular struggle with specific characteristics and specific context:

[…] at this time in our countries, the popular struggle is developing in very different circumstances from those of czarist Russia. But it is also obvious that Venezuela is not Cuba nor Nicaragua, nor is Bolivia the same as Ecuador. In each country, there are different circumstances that mediate the strategy and modify the forms of popular struggle. Consequently, I do not believe it is useful to propose a template with a formal structure that the revolutionary instrument would have to be.

Thus, it appears, she was free from dogma, free from the machine-made-theory approach for all countries.

Marta Harnecker participated in the revolutionary process of 1970-1973 in Chile. After studying with Louis Althusser in Paris, she returned to Chile in 1968, and joined the Socialist Party of Chile.

In 1973, after the overthrow of the government of president Salvador Allende by the US-backed coup d’état led by General Pinochet Marta was forced into exile in Cuba.

She has written extensively on the Cuban Revolution. She also lived in Caracas and was a participant in the Venezuelan revolution.

Marta Harnecker was the director of research institute Memoria Popular Latinoamericana (MEPLA).

In 2002, Marta interviewed Chavez for fifteen hours, the longest interview Chavez has given since 1997, before he was elected president.

One of her famous books is A World to Build: New Paths toward Twenty-First Century Socialism.

Marta’s Fidel: la estrategia política de la victoria (Fidel: The Political Strategy of Victory) discusses the revolutionary process in Cuba.

Marta was entrusted the editing and indexation of the booklet El nuevo mapa estratégico (The New Strategic Map), a collection of speeches by Chavez in November 2004. This booklet contains the condensed doctrine of the Bolivarian Revolution.

In Haciendo posible lo imposible: la izquierda en el umbral del siglo XXI (Making Possible the Impossible: the left on the threshold of the 21st century), initially published in Cuba and later in Chile, Colombia, México, Portugal and Spain, Marta presents a wide view of popular movements Latin America.

Marta discusses the question of hegemony of different types:

Popular movements and, more generally, the different social protagonists who to-day are engaged in the struggle against neoliberal globalization both at the international and national levels reject, with good reason, attitudes that aim to impose hegemony or control over movements. They don’t accept the steamroller policy that some political and social organizations tended to use that, taking advantage of their position of strength and monopolizing political positions, attempt to manipulate the movement. They don’t accept the authoritarian imposition of a leadership from above; they don’t accept attempts made to lead movements by simply giving orders, no matter how correct they are. Such attitudes, instead of bringing forces together, have the opposite effect. On the one hand, it creates discontent in the other organizations; they feel manipulated and obligated to accept decisions in which they’ve had no participation; and on the other hand, it reduces the number of potential allies, given that an organization that assumes such positions is incapable of representing the real interests of all sectors of the population and often provokes mistrust and skepticism among them. But to fight against positions that seek to impose hegemony does not mean renouncing the fight to win hegemony, which is nothing else but attempting to win over, to persuade others of the correctness of our criteria and the validity of our proposals.4

Her practical proposal was:

If we want to truly be radicals and not just radicals in name, we must immerse ourselves in the daily work of constructing a social and political force that permits us to bring forth the changes that we want. How much more fruitful would it be if those who spoke out were those who were committed to this daily militancy instead of those who practice their militancy from a desk. (“Interview with Marta Harnecker: In the laboratory of a revolution.5

Facebook “revolutionaries” – persons deluging Facebook with revolutionary slogans and undisciplined statements and arguments, and doing no elementary work essential for building up people’s organization and struggle – may learn from this statement: “immerse ourselves in the daily work of constructing a social and political force.”

On building up a counter-position to capitalism in Latin America, Marta said:

We are beginning a new cycle of revolutionary advancement and we must accelerate the construction of the subjective factors that circumvent new historical frustrations. Unfortunately, there are few countries where the social and political forces of the left work harmoniously reinforcing each other. Egoism and political ambition usually prevails among their leaders. They have not sufficiently understood that power is in unity and that unity is constructed by respecting each other’s differences. They have not sufficiently understood that the art of politics is to construct a political and social force capable of making that which appears impossible today, possible in the near future; that in order to construct political strength you must construct social strength.

Here is a statement that should be taken seriously:

We are beginning a new cycle of revolutionary advancement. However, there are a few theoreticians in the camp of the people, who only see rise of the right, only see a rightward tilt of the time – victory of neoliberalism. They miss the dialectics – people’s struggles are building up in countries, imperialism is finding its tactics are failing in countries at times, imperialism’s assessments are turning wrong at times, a few theories imperialism asserted with are turning outdated in regions.

So, with revolutionary spirit, Marta lives, lives in places far away from those timid scholars.

Marta Harnecker is author of more than 60 books that include:

– The Basic Concepts of Historical Materialism
– The Left after Seattle
– Hugo Chávez Frias: un hombre, un pueblo, Venezuela: Militares junto al pueblo and Venezuela: una revolución sui generis A World to Build (Monthly Review Press, 2015)
– Ideas for the Struggle, (Socialist Interventions Pamphlet Series, 2010)
– Haciendo posible lo imposible: La izquierda en el umbral del siglo XXI, (Siglo Veintiuno Editores, 429 Seiten, 1999)
– América Latina, izquerda y crisis actual: Izquierda y crisis actual, (Siglo Veintiuno Editores, 305 Seiten, 1990)
– La Revolución Social: Lenin y América Latina, (Siglo Veintiuno Editores, 307 Seiten, 1986)

Comrade Marta Harnecker’s march along people will not cease as the people are building up and intensifying their struggles in countries in Latin America, as political activists in countries go through her works to chart a respective path of revolution – the path to emancipation and freedom.

  1. “Latin America and Twenty-First Century Socialism: Inventing to Avoid Mistakes,” Monthly Review, July-August, 2010.
  2. “A Political Instrument Appropriate for Each Reality”, The Bullet, January 25, 2019, The Socialist Project, Toronto, Ontario.
  3. Ibid.
  4. “Ideas for the Struggle, pamphlet, Socialist Project, Toronto, Ontario, August 2010, notes omitted.
  5. Cuba Diglo XXI.
Categories: Anti-War, Foreign Policy

US Foreign Policy Exposed

Tue, 2019-06-18 09:20

Protest against US Foreign Policy in the Philippines (Source EPA)

In the last week, the realities of US foreign policy have been exposed by a leaked audio tape, a leak about a US attack on the Russian electrical grid, and US attempts to extradite Julian Assange. All the information points to a foreign policy that violates international law and standards, perpetrates wars and conflict and seeks to undermine press freedom in order to commit its crimes in secret.

This is not new information to those of us who closely follow US foreign policy, but these new exposures are broad and are in the mass media where many millions of people can view them and gain a greater understanding of the realities of US actions around the world. Join the People’s Mobilization to Stop the US War Machine this September.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addresses a closed-door meeting hosted by the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations on May 28, 2019 (Credit: Ron Przysucha/U.S. Department of State)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Exposes Himself To Jewish Leadership

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a foreign policy speech to the presidents of major Jewish organizations. The speech was remarkable because it shows the special attention this group receives. Very sensitive secrets of US foreign policy were provided to the audience. Thankfully, someone in the audience audio-taped the conversation, and as a result, millions of people in the US and around the world now know the truth about some critical US foreign policy issues. Here are some of the topics he discussed:

US Seeks To Stop Jeremy Corbyn Before He Is Elected:

The audio includesPompeo promising to do his “level best” to stop Corbyn from ever being elected as Prime Minister of the UK. Pompeo was responding to a question, “Would you be willing to work with us to take on actions if life becomes very difficult for Jews in the UK?” This was about the false claim that Corbyn is anti-Semitic because he favors the rights of Palestinians and criticizes Israel. Pompeo responded:

It could be that Mr. Corbyn manages to run the gauntlet and get elected. It’s possible. You should know, we won’t wait for him to do those things to begin to push back. We will do our level best. It’s too risky and too important and too hard once it’s already happened.

The Secretary of State describing how the US would attempt to influence British elections comes despite all the claims of Russia allegedly influencing US elections. A Labour spokesman responded: “President Trump and his officials’ attempts to decide who will be Britain’s next prime minister are an entirely unacceptable interference in the UK’s democracy.”

US Coup in Venezuela not going well

In another US interference in democracy, Pompeo discussed the US coup in Venezuela. Pompeo described the opposition to Maduro as divided and acting in their own self-interest. He said: “Our conundrum, which is to keep the opposition united, has proven devilishly difficult.” Pompeo said in the meeting, the image of unity was really only useful as a “public” facade.

Pompeo also admitted that he has been working on the coup in Venezuela “since the day I became CIA director.” He explained creating unity among the opposition “was something that was at the center of what President Trump was trying to do.” Pompeo became CIA director on January 23, 2017.

Despite the US saying in public that Juan Guaido was president of Venezuela, he admitted in the audio tape that Maduro was still president and he could not predict the timing of when he would leave, but he assured the audience that the economic war and other actions against the government and against the Venezuelan population would result in his leaving.

The efforts of the Embassy Protection Collective continue in court. The US is seeking to convict four protectors of federal crimes that could result in one year in prison and a $100,000 fine. The US has unlimited resources, we need enough resources to put on a strong defense. A jury verdict acquitting us of these charges will be another blow against the US coup in Venezuela. Donate here.

Kushner Peace Plan Unlikely, Iran Too Sensitive To Discuss

Pompeo told Jewish leaders that the Trump administration’s soon-to-be-released Middle East peace plan will be considered “unworkable,” and might not gain traction. Pompeo acknowledged the plan’s perceived favoritism to Israel and was not optimistic saying, “It may be rejected. Could be in the end, folks will say, ‘It’s not particularly original, it doesn’t particularly work for me.’”

Pompeo was about to get into other Middle East issues like Iran but expressed concern that someone might be taping the conversation and the information could be too sensitive.

An oil tanker burns after the attack on 13 June in waters between Gulf Arab states and Iran (Photograph Reuters)

Iran Threats Heat Up Based On Unproven US Allegation

On June 13, two outbound tankers in the Gulf of Oman suffered from explosions on the side facing international waters. Iranian rescuers rushed to assist the two oil tankers, transferring all 44 crew members to Iran’s southern shores.

The US is claiming the attacks came from mines placed on the boats by Iran. The president of Kokuka Sangyo Marine, (shipowners), Yutaka Katada, said: “there is no possibility of mine attack as the attack is well above the waterline” and the crew described a flying object hitting the tanker.

The US blaming Iran gives us a “Remember the Maine!”/Gulf of Tonkin feeling, examples of false claims that led to war. The US provided a grainy, hard to understand video of a boat allegedly removing a mine from a tanker hours later. The US claims it was the Iranian Revolutionary Guard removing evidence of Iran’s involvement. There are many problems with this theory that raise more questions than answers.

The attack against the Japanese-owned tanker came at the moment that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was meeting with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. The meeting was a historic one, the first Japanese leader to visit Iran since its revolution 40 years ago. Would Iran attack an oil tanker and sabotage its own meeting with the Japanese leader? This theory strains credulity. The US accusation against Iran seems designed to undermine Iran-Japanese diplomacy. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, said in a tweet, “Suspicious doesn’t begin to describe what likely transpired this morning.”

These attacks seem to be against the interests of Iran as they provide an excuse for escalation against Iran by the US and its allies. Neocons and US armed regimes who oppose Iran, including Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, would all benefit from this attack.

Even though much of the media repeated the allegations, the suspicion that this was a false accusation against Iran was so strong that many media outlets noted the lack of evidence; e.g., the New York Times,  CNN, and NPR. The Saudi media immediately amplified the US accusation. US intelligence experts questioned the claim, raised doubts about the video and noted the US history in “ginning up” attacks for political purposes. Japan has asked for more proof, European governments questioned the claim. The lack of evidence for the US claim and the reality of how it makes little sense for Iran to make such an attack seem to be exposing the US more than undermining Iran.

A heating power plant in Moscow (Credit Maxim Shemetov for Reuters)

US Cyberattack on Russian Electrical Grid

On June 15, the New York Times reported on interviews with military officials over the last three months that showed the US stepping up digital incursions into Russia’s electric power grid. The US has deployed computer code into the Russian electrical system for future cyber attacks. The actions are a warning to President Putin and a demonstration of how the Trump administration is using new authorities to deploy cybertools more aggressively, according to current and former government officials.

The Times reports the US “strategy has shifted more toward offense…with the placement of potentially crippling malware inside the Russian system at a depth and with an aggressiveness that had never been tried before.”

Last year, new authorities were granted separately by the White House and Congress to United States Cyber Command, an arm of the Pentagon, to conduct offensive online operations without receiving presidential approval. The Times reports that Trump has not been briefed on the details of these actions for fear of his reaction. Trump denies the report and accused the Times of “a virtual act of treason.”

It is not clear how far the US has gone into the Russian electrical system. Could it cripple Russia’s electrical system or shut down its military? This may not be known until it is activated. Attacks on power grids by the US are not new, as shown in the attack on the Venezuelan electrical system in March, but boring into a system in preparation for war seems to be new.

US Behind Conviction Of Lula and others in Brazil

Glenn Greenwald obtained thousands of pages of communications between the people involved in the conviction of Lula da Silva, a popular politician in Brazil. It appears now that Lula was falsely convicted to prevent him from winning the presidency in 2018 and that the US was behind it. Brazilian judges are now calling for the conviction of Lula and many others who were targeted to be thrown out and an investigation into the massive corruption. Greenwald says there is more to come.

Assange extradition protested at Westminster Magistrates Court June 2019 (Photo by Gareth Corfield)

Officials in the US government and leaders of transnational corporations are well-aware that they are violating or skirting international and domestic laws. When an official is caught on tape in a private meeting, leaks of documents are provided to the media or an off-the-record interview reveals US strategies for war, the government gets upset.

We do not have to look any further to see this than the attempt to extradite Julian Assange to face prosecution in the United States. The US has issued a formal request for the extradition of Assange on 18 charges, 17 of which are violations of the Espionage Act, that could incarcerate him for the rest of his life. The Magistrate’s Court scheduled a five-day extradition hearing beginning on February 24, 2020.

The video in this tweet shows the hatred prominent people have for Julian Assange for merely publishing the truth about US war crimes, State Department operations, the Guantanamo Bay Prison and corporate corruption.

Do you still believe that the US fights for peace, justice, truth & freedom?

Assange showed the crimes of the US elite and they accused him of terrorism.

Terrorism is the favorite word of the US, in this way they justify the murders. They accuse you of terrorism and then attack pic.twitter.com/2qOKl8BY46

— Enrique |#FreeAssange |

Categories: Anti-War, Foreign Policy

Zero Waste: The Global Plastics Crisis

Tue, 2019-06-18 02:07

Plastic pollution is everywhere. It litters beaches, clogs up oceans, chokes marine life, is ingested by seabirds that then starve to death, and has even been discovered embedded in Arctic ice. It’s in the air we breathe, the water we drink (bottled and tap), and last year plastic was found in human stools for the first time. Friends of the Earth report that, “recent studies have revealed marine plastic pollution in 100% of marine turtles, 59% of whales, 36% of seals and 40% of seabird species examined.”

According to the United Nations Environmental Agency the world produces around 300 million tons of plastic each year, half of which is single-use items, food packaging mainly. Of this colossal total a mere 14 per cent is collected for recycling, and only 9 per cent actually gets recycled; 12 per cent is incinerated releasing highly poisonous fumes.  The rest – nearly 80 per cent – ends up in landfill, or worse still, is illegally dumped or thrown into the oceans; around eight million tons of plastic finds its way into the oceans annually, and while some of the environmental damage plastics cause is clear the full impact on marine and terrestrial ecosystems is not yet apparent.

Plastic recycling rates are appalling and considerably lower than other industrial materials; recycling of steel aluminum, copper and paper; e.g., is estimated to be 50 percent, and plastic doesn’t disappear.  It just gets smaller and smaller, reducing over hundreds or even thousands of years into tiny micro-plastics and nano plastics.

A Wakeup Call

Levels of plastic waste vary from country to country; based on the 2018 report ‘Plastic Pollution’, daily per capita plastic waste in the United States, Germany, Netherlands, Ireland, Kuwait and Guyana is over “ten times higher than across countries such as India, Tanzania, Mozambique and Bangladesh.”

Unsurprisingly, given its huge population (1.3 billion) and large manufacturing sector, China produces the greatest amount of plastic waste in the world, 59.8 million tons per year. However, at just .12 kilograms (4 ounces) per capita per day, this equates to one of the lowest levels of per person plastic waste in the world. The USA (population 327 million – 25% of China) is responsible for 37.83 million tons per year, or .34 kilograms (12 ounces) per person per day, three times that of China. America also produces “more than 275,000 tons of plastic litter at risk of entering rivers and oceans annually.” Germany produces 14.48 million tons per year, which at .46 kilograms (just over a pound) per person per day is one of the highest levels in the world, but unlike the US, Germany has one of the highest recycling rates in the world – recycling an estimated 48% (US 9%) of its plastic waste.

Since the 1980s recycling has been regarded as the environmentally responsible way to deal with the colossal levels of rubbish humanity produces. Throughout developed countries collecting recyclable household waste has become widespread, but for decades the laborious job of actually recycling it has been exported, mainly to China. But on 31st December 2018, China announced it would no longer be the world’s garbage tip, stating, the Financial Times reports, “that large amounts of the waste were ‘dirty’ or ‘hazardous’ and thus a threat to the environment.” The “National Sword” policy introduced by the Chinese government has resulted in China and Hong Kong reducing plastic waste imports from G7 countries, from 60% in the first half of 2017, to less than 10% for the same period in 2018. Overall recovered plastic imports to China have fallen by 99%.

China now only wants waste that does not cause pollution and meets certain cleanliness criteria. It’s a massive change to the recycling model that was long overdue and has caused chaos on many countries in the west, with large amounts of waste that should have been recycled being burnt or stockpiled. Desperate to find an alternative distant dumping ground to China, huge amounts of plastic waste have been shipped to south-east Asia. Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia, where the largest quantity has gone; according to Greenpeace, imports of plastic waste to Malaysia increased from 168,500 tons in 2016 to 456,000 tons in the first six months of 2018, most of the rubbish coming from UK, Germany, Spain, France, Australia and US.

The influx of such large quantities of toxic waste into these countries has led to contaminated water, crop death and respiratory illnesses. In May the Philippines forced Canada to take back “69 containers containing 1,500 tons of waste that had been exported in 2013 and 2014,” The Guardian reported. Other countries have responded in a similar way, with outrage: Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam have all introduced legislation to stop contaminated waste arriving in their ports. The Malaysian environment minister, Yeo Bee Yin, said, “Malaysia will not be the dumping ground of the world. We will send back [the waste] to the original countries.” Containers of illegal rubbish from Spain have been returned and a further 3,000 tons of illegally imported plastic waste from US, UK, Australia, France and Canada has also been shipped back.

The steps China has taken and the understandable anger of south-east Asian countries should serve as a wake-up call to western states, whose complacency and arrogance is fueling the environmental crisis. It is time that developed countries stopped exploiting poorer countries and accepted responsibility for their own plastic (and other) waste. In addition to recycling their own rubbish, developed nations, who are largely responsible for the environmental crisis, need to be cooperating with poorer countries, where most mismanagement of waste occurs, helping them to design efficient waste management systems and financially supporting such schemes.

If plastic pollution is to be reduced and effective recycling systems established, cooperation is essential. Recycling needs to be recognized as an environmental necessity, a social imperative and funded by government accordingly. As a business it is conditioned by business methods and motives; corruption and illegal practices abound, profit becomes the primary considerations and costs as obstacles to environmental sanity; it is a great deal cheaper; e.g., to incinerate plastic waste, or dump it in a forest or the oceans, than it is to recycle it, which is labor intensive.

How to shop: Zero waste

The power to bring about fundamental changes through responsible policymaking, investment in green technologies and education rests with governments; they have a duty to act urgently and radically.

Certain fundamental steps need to be taken: drastically reduce plastic use; eliminate single-use plastics altogether; recycle more – 9% is shameful. Invest in high-tech recycling facilities/waste management systems; ensure plastic products can be recycled; introduce national recycling standards (in the UK; e.g., what local authorities will/will not accept varies) as well as worldwide agreements, with countries that lead the way on recycling, like Germany and Sweden being widely consulted.

In a positive move last year at the G7 summit, five countries – UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and the EU – signed the Ocean Plastics Charter. They pledged “to increase plastic recycling by 50% and work towards 100% reusable, recyclable or recoverable plastics by 2030.” The USA and Japan did not sign. Plastic is the third largest manufacturing industry in America, producing 19.5% of the world’s plastic. President Trump didn’t even attend the G7 climate change and environment talks.

Individuals also have a crucial part to play in dealing with plastic waste and making politicians enact the radical changes required.

We can all reduce the amount of waste we produce; aim at Zero waste, embrace simpler, environmentally responsible lifestyles, shop in Zero waste shops, where customers take their own containers and refill them from large dispensers. Western supermarket chains are responsible for colossal amounts of plastic waste and need to radically change the way their products are designed, packaged and sold. In the UK, Waitrose, which has 5% market share, has introduced a pilot scheme in an Oxford branch where food dispensers are being trialed, encouraging customers to use refillable tubs and jars, their own or those freely provided by the shop.

It is a common-sense move that all supermarket chains in western countries need to adopt, it is the environmentally right way to shop and, logically, products not sold in plastic should be less expensive. Zero waste shopping should be the aim, plenty of customers want it, and the environment is demanding it. Plastic pollution is one aspect of the global environmental crisis, a crisis rooted in consumerism and a socio-economic system championed by developed nations, which promotes greed, selfishness and division. Radical systemic changes are required together with changes in lifestyle and values if the environmental vandalism is to come to an end and the planet is to be healed.

Categories: Anti-War, Foreign Policy

Ottawa hires Hit Man to Overthrow Venezuelan Government

Mon, 2019-06-17 23:31

Meet the hired gun Ottawa is using to overthrow the Venezuelan government.

The brazenness of Ottawa’s intervention in the South American country’s affairs is remarkable. Recently Global Affairs Canada tendered a contract for an individual to coordinate its bid to oust President Nicolás Maduro. According to buyandsell.gc.ca, the Special Advisor on Venezuela needs to be able to:

Use your network of contacts to advocate for expanded support to pressure the illegitimate government to return constitutional order.

Use your network of civil society contacts on the ground in Venezuela to advance priority issues (as identified by civil society/Government of Canada).

Must have valid Government of Canada personnel TOP SECRET security clearance.

The “Proposed Contractor” is Allan Culham who has been Special Advisor on Venezuela since the fall of 2017. But, the government is required to post the $200,000 contract to coordinate Canada’s effort to overthrow the Maduro government.

Culham is a former Canadian ambassador to Venezuela, El Salvador, Guatemala and the Organization of American States. During his time as ambassador to Venezuela from 2002 to 2005 Culham was hostile to Hugo Chavez’s government. According to a WikiLeaks publication of US diplomatic messages, “Canadian Ambassador Culham expressed surprise at the tone of Chavez’s statements during his weekly television and radio show ‘Hello President’ on February 15 [2004]. Culham observed that Chavez’s rhetoric was as tough as he had ever heard him. ‘He sounded like a bully,’ said Culham, more intransigent and more aggressive.”

The US cable quotes Culham criticizing the national electoral council and speaking positively about the group overseeing a presidential recall referendum targeting Chavez. “Culham added that Sumate is impressive, transparent, and run entirely by volunteers”, it noted. The name of then head of Súmate, Maria Corina Machado, was on a list of people who endorsed the April 2002 military coup against Chavez, for which she faced charges of treason. She denied signing the now-infamous Carmona Decree that dissolved the National Assembly and Supreme Court and suspended the elected government, attorney general, comptroller general, and governors as well as mayors elected during Chavez’s administration. It also annulled land reforms and reversed increases in royalties paid by oil companies.

After retiring from the civil service in 2015 Culham described his affinity for another leading hard-line opposition leader. Canada’s current Special Advisor on Venezuela wrote, “I met [Leopoldo] López when he was the mayor of the Caracas municipality of Chacao where the Canadian Embassy is located. He too became a good friend and a useful contact in trying to understand the many political realities of Venezuela.” But, López also endorsed the failed 2002 coup against Chavez and was convicted of inciting violence during the 2014 “guarimbas” protests that sought to oust Maduro. Forty-three Venezuelans died, hundreds were hurt and a great deal of property was damaged during the “guarimbas” protests. Lopez was also a key organizer of the recent plan to anoint the marginal opposition legislator Juan Guaidó interim president

In his role as Canada’s ambassador to the OAS Culham repeatedly took positions viewed as hostile by the Chavez/Maduro governments. When Chavez fell gravely ill in 2013, he proposed the OAS send a mission to study the situation, which then Vice-president Maduro described as a “miserable” intervention in the country’s affairs. Culham’s comments on the 2014 “guarimbas” protests and support for Machado speaking at the OAS were also unpopular with Caracas.

At the OAS Culham criticized other left-of-centre governments. He blamed elected President Rafael Correa for supposedly closing “democratic space” in Ecuador, not long after a failed coup attempt in 2010. When describing the Honduran military’s overthrow of social democratic president Manuel Zelaya in 2009 Culham refused to employ the term coup and instead described it as a “political crisis”.

In June 2012, the left-leaning president of Paraguay, Fernando Lugo, was ousted in what some called an “institutional coup”. Upset with Lugo for disrupting 61-years of one-party rule, Paraguay’s ruling class claimed he was responsible for a murky incident that left 17 peasants and police dead and the senate voted to impeach the president. The vast majority of countries in the hemisphere refused to recognize the new government. The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) suspended Paraguay’s membership after Lugo’s ouster, as did the MERCOSUR trading bloc. A week after the coup Culham participated in an OAS mission that many member countries opposed. Largely designed to undermine those countries calling for Paraguay’s suspension from the OAS, delegates from the US, Canada, Haiti, Honduras and Mexico traveled to Paraguay to investigate Lugo’s removal from office. The delegation concluded that the OAS should not suspend Paraguay, which displeased many South American countries.

Four years later Culham still blamed Lugo for his ouster. He wrote:

President Lugo was removed from office for ‘dereliction and abandonment of duty’ in the face of rising violence and street protests (that his government was itself instigating through his inflammatory rhetoric) over the issue of land rights. Violence in both the countryside and the streets of Asuncion threatened to engulf Paraguay’s already fragile democratic institutions. Lugo’s impeachment and removal from office by the Paraguayan Congress, later ratified by the Supreme Court, launched a firestorm of protest and outrage amongst the presidents of Paraguay’s neighbours. Presidents Rousseff of Brazil, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Cristina Kirchner of Argentina, were the chief defenders of Lugo’s right to remain in office.

After retiring from the civil service Culham became more candid about his hostility to those trying to overcome extreme power imbalances in the hemisphere, decrying “the nationalist, bombastic and populist rhetoric that many leaders of Latin America have used to great effect over the last 15 years.” For Culham, “the Bolivarian Alliance … specialized in sowing its own divisive ideology and its hopes for a revolutionary ‘class struggle’ across the hemisphere.”

Culham praised the defeat of Cristina Kirchner in Argentina and Dilma Rousseff Brazil.

In a 2015 piece titled “So long, Kirchners” he wrote, “the Kirchner era in Argentine politics and economics is thankfully coming to an end.” (Kirchner is the front runner in the upcoming election.) The next year Culham criticized Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s bid to have UNASUR challenge her impeachment, which he celebrated as “a sign of change in Latin America”.

Culham denounced regional integration efforts. In a long February 2016 Senate foreign affairs committee discussion of Argentina, he denounced diplomatic forums set up by Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, Venezuela and others to break from US domination of the region. “Since I’m no longer a civil servant”, Culham stated, “I will say that CELAC [The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States] is not a positive organization within the Americas. Mainly because it’s built on the principle of exclusion. It purposefully excludes Canada and United States. It was the product of President Chavez and the Chavista Bolivarian revolution.” Every single country in the hemisphere except for Canada and the US were members of CELAC.

Culham criticized left-wing governments position at the US dominated OAS. Culham bemoaned the “negative influence ALBA [Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America] countries have brought to the OAS” and said Argentina “often sided with Bolivarian revolution members” in their “negative agenda” at the OAS, which he called “very close to my heart”.

In his comments to the Senate committee Culham criticized Kirchner for failing to pay the full price to US “vulture funds”, which bought up the country’s debt at a steep discount after it defaulted in 2001. He described Kirchner’s refusal to bow down to highly predatory hedge funds as a threat to the “Toronto Stock Exchange” and labeled a Scotia Bank claim from the 2001 financial crisis a “bilateral irritant” for Canada.

Canadian taxpayers are paying a hardline pro-corporate, pro-Washington, former diplomat hundreds of thousands of dollars to coordinate the Liberal government’s bid to oust Venezuela’s government. Surely, there is someone in the House of Commons willing to inquire about Canada’s Elliot Abrams?

Categories: Anti-War, Foreign Policy

Homo App-iens: Robot’s “Best Friend”?

Mon, 2019-06-17 18:17

Can you spare a moment?  (Me? I’ve got nothing but time, “free” time — and that’s the whole point, isn’t it?).  It’s just that I’m really excited: I’m now the first on the block to be living in a “Fully-Automated Home” (FAH)!  I’ll bet my neighbors are green with envy (though I’ve never actually seen them — they rarely come “outside”).  Just lately, most everyone has been thinking of making the final conversion, haven’t they — if they can afford it!  Sure, there are still a few “relics” around here, lumbering about with silly, “labor-saving” contraptions like leaf-blowers.  (Primitives, I’m told, even used a crude implement called a “rake”!).  Old geezers who are stuck in the past, like fossils-in-amber-reminiscing about pushing self-propelled lawn mowers, sweat dripping from their brows and all!  Can you imagine that?  Just yesterday I said, “Peona, cut the grass!” — and, presto! that was that.  Labor-saving, time-saving, allowing us to live the leisure-class lifestyle we deserve!  But you know all this.  What was it I wanted to mention…?

Oh yeah.  Remember the old days, when all this was a real novelty, exciting — remember that shivery thrill (frisson?) of empowerment?  It was a real “high” (at first): “Alexa, I feel like hearing some Muzak!”  I’d stretch out, lean back and relax, sipping my tasty “meal substitute” drink!  And most nights, if I’d been especially “good,” I’d treat myself to a deliciously munchable treat!

It was a soothing, soporific, halcyon time!  But that was just the beginning, wasn’t it, of this whole new age of domestic “restivity”!  You know, just this morning, lounging about on my lounger, I was wondering about ancient Rome — such as what “leisure services” the patrician-class might have enjoyed in those distant days.  “Biblia,” I commanded, “read something about ancient Rome — subtopic: services for the patrician-class.”  “Affluent people,” she promptly intoned, “were carried in a litter or a chair”.1  She started to read more — about banquets, the arena, chariot-racing — but I asked her to stop.  Not a bad life-style, no doubt, but, of course, primitive compared to ours!

Why, these days, if I feel like going out, I just say, “Mobilia, turn on, unlock” — and, in the-blink-of-an-eye (so to speak), off I go!  (“Not NOW, Mobilia; turn OFF; re-lock; CANCEL!”).  Sorry, I sometimes forget to de-activate, before I… oh, well, no sweat!  Now where was I?  Oh yeah, well, we’ll take a spin around Central Park — though, what with those “needle-skyscrapers” they put up years ago, it’s not much of a park anymore.  And then, well…we come back Home.  (I know, not much of an “excursion.”  But why go out anyway when I have everything I could want right here!)

Believe me, now that my FAH is up and running, I feel so liberated that I could just take a nap…right here on the sofa (…zzzz…).  What?  What’s that you said?  Sorry, I must have dozed off.  Anyway, I’m getting hungry: “Servilia, make me a bologna sandwich.”  You know, it’s almost like being a king, reclining here on my (well-padded) throne or, something.  A master-of-the-realm: I wish, I command, and then… (“NO mustard, Servilia!  How many times have I…!”).  Sorry.  Bit annoying how she sometimes does that, even though I’ve told her a thousand times… Oh, well, nothing’s perfect, and sorry for the distraction.  Where was I?

Of course, like everybody, I do get a little bored sometimes — that’s only “natural”!  Say I feel like some stimuli.  I just say, “Aphroditea!  Soft-porn — exotic setting!” (“No, not NOW, Aphroditea! De-activate, cancel!”). Sorry, again!  You can see that I haven’t, quite adjusted to the all-round, labor-saving convenience of a Fully-Automated-Home (FAH).  It takes time: you have to pay attention and exert effort, yes, and like any set of skills, practice!  Specific on-and-off commands, and also different vocalizationsm, for instance, (with deep intonation!): “Epsilonia, vacuum living room!” (“No, no — not NOW!  De-activate — Cancel!”).  What the FAH?!

Okay, okay.  I just haven’t yet mastered all the “whens-and-the-hows”!  But YOU try to deal with all these devices and commands!  You think it’s easy — try it!  Takes a lot of concentration, even alertness!  So don’t tell me that…!  Geez, what’s got into me? Sorry for “flying-off-the-handle” like that! (Is that what they used to call it?).  Guess I’ve been a little on-edge lately.  Odd, because my life these days couldn’t be better!

Anyway, you know, it’s getting late…I’m feeling a bit drowsy…time to stretch out on the sofa here.  So I’ll have to say so long, for now.  Oh yeah, almost forgot — tomorrow’s the scheduled pick-up day.  “Dronea!  Take out the garbage — now!”

  1. J. Balsdon, Life & Leisure in Ancient Rome, October 1969, p. 51.
Categories: Anti-War, Foreign Policy

For Israel, Annexation of the West Bank is a Long-established Goal

Mon, 2019-06-17 18:10

When Israeli prime ministers are in trouble, facing difficult elections or a corruption scandal, the temptation has typically been for them to unleash a military operation to bolster their standing. In recent years, Gaza has served as a favourite punching bag.

Benjamin Netanyahu is confronting both difficulties at once: a second round of elections in September that he may struggle to win; and an attorney general who is widely expected to indict him on corruption charges shortly afterwards.

Mr Netanyahu is in an unusually tight spot, even by the standards of an often chaotic and fractious Israeli political system. After a decade in power, his electoral magic may be deserting him. There are already rumblings of discontent among his allies on the far right.

Given his desperate straits, some observers fear that he may need to pull a new kind of rabbit out of the hat.

In the past two elections, Mr Netanyahu rode to success after issuing dramatic last-minute statements. In 2015, he agitated against the fifth of Israel’s citizens who are Palestinian asserting their democratic rights, warning that they were “coming out in droves to vote”.

Back in April, he declared his intention to annex large chunks of the occupied West Bank, in violation of international law, during the next parliament.

Amos Harel, a veteran military analyst with Haaretz newspaper, observed last week that Mr Netanyahu may decide words are no longer enough to win. Action is needed, possibly in the form of an announcement on the eve of September’s ballot that as much as two-thirds of the West Bank is to be annexed.

Washington does not look like it will stand in his way.

Shortly before April’s election, the Trump administration offered Mr Netanyahu a campaign fillip by recognising Israel’s illegal annexation of the Golan Heights, territory Israel seized from Syria in 1967.

This month David Friedman, US ambassador to Israel and one of the chief architects of Donald Trump’s long-delayed “deal of the century” peace plan, appeared to offer a similar, early election boost.

In interviews, he claimed Israel was “on the side of God” – unlike, or so it was implied, the Palestinians. He further argued that Israel had the “right to retain” much of the West Bank.

Both statements suggest that the Trump administration will not object to any Israeli moves towards annexation, especially if it ensures their favoured candidate returns to power.

Whatever Mr Friedman suggests, it is not God who has intervened on Israel’s behalf. The hands that have carefully cleared a path over many decades to the West Bank’s annexation are all too human.

Israeli officials have been preparing for this moment for more than half a century, since the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza were seized back in 1967.

That point is underscored by an innovative interactive map of the occupied territories. This valuable new resource is a joint project of the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem and Forensic Architecture, a London-based team that uses new technology to visualise and map political violence and environmental destruction.

Titled Conquer and Divide, it reveals in detail how Israel has “torn apart Palestinian space, divided the Palestinian population into dozens of disconnected enclaves and unravelled its social, cultural and economic fabric”.

The map proves beyond doubt that Israel’s colonisation of the West Bank was never accidental, defensive or reluctant. It was coldly calculated and intricately planned, with one goal in mind – and the moment to realise that goal is fast approaching.

Annexation is not a right-wing project that has hijacked the benign intentions of Israel’s founding generation. Annexation was on the cards from the occupation’s very beginnings in 1967, when the so-called centre-left – now presented as a peace-loving alternative to Mr Netanyahu – ran the government.

The map shows how Israeli military planners created a complex web of pretexts to seize Palestinian land: closed military zones today cover a third of the West Bank; firing ranges impact 38 Palestinian communities; nature reserves are located on 6 per cent of the territory; nearly a quarter has been declared Israeli “state” land; some 250 settlements have been established; dozens of permanent checkpoints severely limit movement; and hundreds of kilometres of walls and fences have been completed.

These interlocking land seizures seamlessly carved up the territory, establishing the walls of dozens of tightly contained prisons for Palestinians in their own homeland.

Two Nasa satellite images of the region separated by 30 years – from 1987 and 2017 – reveal how Israel’s settlements and transport infrastructure have gradually scarred the West Bank’s landscape, clearing away natural vegetation and replacing it with concrete.

The land grabs were not simply about acquisition of territory. They were a weapon, along with increasingly draconian movement restrictions, to force the native Palestinian population to submit, to recognise its defeat, to give up hope.

In the immediate wake of the West Bank’s occupation, defence minister Moshe Dayan, Israel’s hero of the hour and one of the architects of the settlement project, observed that Palestinians should be made “to live like dogs, and whoever wants to can leave – and we shall see where this process leads”.

Although Israel has concentrated Palestinians in 165 disconnected areas across the West Bank, its actions effectively won the international community’s seal of approval in 1995. The Oslo accords cemented Israel’s absolute control over 62 per cent of the West Bank, containing the Palestinians’ key agricultural land and water sources, which was classified as Area C.

Occupations are intended to be temporary – and the Oslo accords promised the same. Gradually, the Palestinians would be allowed to take back more of their territory to build a state. But Israel made sure both the occupation and the land thefts sanctioned by Oslo continued.

The new map reveals more than just the methods Israel used to commandeer the West Bank. Decades of land seizures highlight a trajectory, plotting a course that indicates the project is still not complete.

If Mr. Netanyahu partially annexes the West Bank – Area C – it will be simply another stage in Israel’s tireless efforts to immiserate the Palestinian population and bully them into leaving. This is a war of attrition – what Israelis have long understood as “creeping annexation”, carried out by stealth to avoid a backlash from the international community.

Ultimately, Israel wants the Palestinians gone entirely, squeezed out into neighbouring Arab states, such as Egypt and Jordan. That next chapter is likely to begin in earnest if Mr Trump ever gets the chance to unveil his “deal of the century”.

• First published in The National

Categories: Anti-War, Foreign Policy

Household Income, or Higher Planes of Consciousness?*

Mon, 2019-06-17 12:41

We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class, of necessity, in every society, to forgo the privileges of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks.

Woodrow Wilson, then president of Princeton University, said the following to the New York City School Teachers Association in 1909

The hubris, the lack of ground truthing, the faux academic natures, the overlord mentality, the star chamber blathering, and the oh so tight with capitalism persuasions of elites like Nick Hanauer, Founder of the public-policy incubator Civic Ventures, billionaire, Charter School aficionado, and one of those not-so-rare money grubbers who has so much to say about how we, the 80 percent, should live our lives in their strangling economic hell.

Allen, Gates, Bezos, Buffet, Walton, Nick, and on and on, the number of elites who are lecturing governors, policy makers, citizens, and business opportunists on what we, their poor trickled down subjects, should do to survive in their sacrifice zones of hellish capitalism.

Here’s Nick’s piece in that faux magazine, The Atlantic — Better Schools Won’t Fix America  — “Like many rich Americans, I used to think educational investment could heal the country’s ills—but I was wrong. Fighting inequality must come first.”

Long ago, I was captivated by a seductively intuitive idea, one many of my wealthy friends still subscribe to: that both poverty and rising inequality are largely consequences of America’s failing education system. Fix that, I believed, and we could cure much of what ails America.

This belief system, which I have come to think of as “educationism,” is grounded in a familiar story about cause and effect: Once upon a time, America created a public-education system that was the envy of the modern world. No nation produced more or better-educated high-school and college graduates, and thus the great American middle class was built. But then, sometime around the 1970s, America lost its way. We allowed our schools to crumble, and our test scores and graduation rates to fall. School systems that once churned out well-paid factory workers failed to keep pace with the rising educational demands of the new knowledge economy. As America’s public-school systems foundered, so did the earning power of the American middle class. And as inequality increased, so did political polarization, cynicism, and anger, threatening to undermine American democracy itself.

Taken with this story line, I embraced education as both a philanthropic cause and a civic mission. I co-founded the League of Education Voters, a nonprofit dedicated to improving public education. I joined Bill Gates, Alice Walton, and Paul Allen in giving more than $1 million each to an effort to pass a ballot measure that established Washington State’s first charter schools. All told, I have devoted countless hours and millions of dollars to the simple idea that if we improved our schools—if we modernized our curricula and our teaching methods, substantially increased school funding, rooted out bad teachers, and opened enough charter schools—American children, especially those in low-income and working-class communities, would start learning again. Graduation rates and wages would increase, poverty and inequality would decrease, and public commitment to democracy would be restored.

— Nick Hanauer

It goes downhill from there, which one would expect as the magazine gives this fellow broadsheet exposure as he lumbers along in an attempt to revamp his earlier theses about how education is the salvation for our society, our economy (sic) and in bringing people out of poverty.

You see, these billionaires play with words and ideas, and he comes off as all anti-trickle down, pro-bridging the gap in this New Gilded Age.

He sounds like a duck, quacks like a quack, though. No mention of taking capitalism down to its knees, at least. No mention of a decent single payer health care bill, no mention of a social security system paid for through the rich and not-so-rich paying above their $120,000 cap on wages that currently sets as the gold (rust) standard for taking out SS on wages. No discussion of ending the war economy, stopping rich entrepreneurs from moving technology from its current state of extinction event after extinction event into the isolation bunkers we put nuclear energy’s waste stream.

Like all good capitalists, Nick’s invested in making money from the “middle class” as it’s forced into a frantic hamster wheel services-goods-consumer-unnecessary-and-polluting-junk society which is a race to the bottom, for sure. Ramping up riderless cars, 200 mph exclusive trains, drone-delivered crap, and I am sure people-killing Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning devices — that’s their MOS. Starbucks on Mars. Netflix on the Moon. That’s their wet dreams.

Here’s his many times repeated foundation tooted throughout his piece:

By distracting us from these truths, educationism is part of the problem.

Whenever I talk with my wealthy friends about the dangers of rising economic inequality, those who don’t stare down at their shoes invariably push back with something about the woeful state of our public schools. This belief is so entrenched among the philanthropic elite that of America’s 50 largest family foundations—a clique that manages $144 billion in tax-exempt charitable assets—40 declare education as a key issue. Only one mentions anything about the plight of working people, economic inequality, or wages. And because the richest Americans are so politically powerful, the consequences of their beliefs go far beyond philanthropy.

A major theme in the educationist narrative involves the “skills gap”—the notion that decades of wage stagnation are largely a consequence of workers not having the education and skills to fill new high-wage jobs. If we improve our public schools, the thinking goes, and we increase the percentage of students attaining higher levels of education, particularly in the STEM subjects—science, technology, engineering, and math—the skills gap will shrink, wages will rise, and income inequality will fall.

Oh, god, so all my decades teaching in so many venues, even now, PK12, are worthless since I am a journeyman, ground truther, not in some academic elite group of book writers, or in the know with these elites who are the rich and the famous and the leeches who will spin multi-billions of our hard-earned money to play with educational curriculum.

Fact is, the jobs are pure crap, the unemployment rate is higher than the economists and their followers say, the type of jobs we have in the USA are asinine and foolishly tied to hyper consumption and hyper eating and hyper entertaining and hyper disposable (not) income based.

Old Nick goes on and on about how we need to bring people out of poverty and to pay more for those Walmart and Burger King jobs. He talks about the big job growth in low-wage jobs (low wage because we do not value bedpan cleaners, home health care workers, people that pick up the trash, do the social work, aid the teachers, teach, and do the work of paving roads, building day care centers, staffing day care centers, and on and on).

Our infrastructure in the USA is D- from the civil and other engineering societies’ POVs. We have people paying 250K dollars to be a doctor or veterinarian. We have student loan debt in the $1.5 trillion category. We have students who are homeless, part-time faculty who sleep in their cars (houseless) and millions upon millions of people with degrees from college making squat. Nick thinks the schools are great, that we are turning out highly educated folk from the colleges yet, however, we have so many jobs now that demand zero college but can’t be filled to assist the billionaires making more billions.

You know, warehouse jobs, food processing, delivery, etc. A true capitalist like Nick would never ever say we need BETTER schools, PK12, where the youth get real history on the crimes of the wealthy, the crimes of capitalism, the crimes of their own country. Never give young people ways to monkey wrench the oppressive systems that capitalism naturally invents and props up and hires militaries for to keep workers down and the rich up.

Our schools are crap, and the Chromebooks and standardized curriculum and the flat earth people around the South who hold sway on what is taught and what is read, well, we are an embarrassment. The students are losing their IQs every five years, and what is done in schools is an assault of the senses, antithetical to learning, and contrary to what we need to be teaching and having youth embrace so they can have the tools and collective wisdom and force to take Mr. Nick’s billions and take his messed up ideas and put themselves in the driver’s seat.

This addictive screen society, and the meaningless content delivered on line, and the anorexic history, and the childish stuff even in college, all of that, and more, demonstrate a true skills gap.  We need a moratorium on student debt, a jubilee, and we need major moratoriums on the power of capital and their Gilded Age masters.

He’s shocked that over the past 40 years there has been such a huge gap in the wealth of middle class people and the rich. Hmm, nothing about millions in investments making exponentially more than what most Americans consider big bucks with a few thousand in the bank. Interest rates down in the toilet for the investor class. Fee after fine after levy after penalty after tax after toll after add-on after compounded interest rate, sure, try that on $50 k a year. The cost of insurance on the vehicles, all that money stolen buying a house with more scum scoopers in the Real Estate Mafia, all those municipal and county and state government agencies adding more and more onto fees to pay for the business of democracy.

Because guys like Nick sound like a liberal, sound like a benefactor of the middle class, well, they get play in the Mainstream Mass Suicide Media like a rag such as the Atlantic. But get under the skin of this guy’s article and we find a plastic world of not-very-original ideas that are so divorced from what it takes to be a teacher and a staff and a student and a parent and a citizen of the public school system.

The teachers do not cross pollinate, and to be honest, so teachers never co-teach or cover a variety of subjects as a team. I’d say 70 percent of the people I teach with should not be teachers, though that might be hard to ferret out since I believe all PK12 education should be hands on, experiential, tied to community projects, with tons of book reading, outdoor gardening, real science in the fields and heavens, raising animals, doing arts and crafts that sell to the community, building, thinking entering the community as parachutists for day care, elderly care, animal care, park care.

School should be the end all for a community, and with national health care, a decent chance at some income at 62, with safety nets built in for illness, accident, mental health breakdown, and with housing that is built by the community, and affordable beyond affordable, tied to public transportation, tied to community farms, community civics, community art and music and democracy schools, all wrapped up in a big fat bow of retooling people to think like a tribe but act like a 21st century survivor of climate catastrophe.

Imagine taking all the additives and chemicals and toxins out of food, water, air and activities of daily living for our youth, from inception to college, and we’d be saving trillions on health care and worker depression and crime and suicide.

Yes, taking technology away, sending it to the dustbin of the waste storage facilities of the nuclear age, the chemical age, the bio-toxin age.

Nick can never ever criticize the War Machine, the Fossil Energy Machine, the Pharma Machine, the AI Machine, the Legal Machine, the Real Estate Machine, the Retail Machine, the Prison Machine, the Health Care Machine, and the other Machines that keep capitalism going strong like those gas chambers we have so much read about tied to WWII.

The Age of Dumb has morphed into the Age of Stupid, into the Age of Distraction and morphed further into the Age of Passionless Existence . . .  and then into the Age of Screen . . . and then further into the Age of I Wanna Be a You Tuber Star to this juncture,  into the Age of Fascism.

Old Nick, I am sure, loves them all — Boeing, Whole Foods, Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and a thousand other enterprises of the sick and famous.

Yes, we have a huge skills gap. The skills necessary to defend a community from toxins and Air B & B’s. A skills set to stop the cops murdering, and stop the school to prison pipeline. We lack the Pk12 skills to teach youth to question ALL authority, question ALL big businesses, question ALL governments, question ALL of the so-called Nicks of the world.

The entire systems created by the cancer of capitalism need to be scrapped, or chemo-therapied out of existence.

Here, John Steppling:

But…Mark Morford, a columnist for the S.F. Gate, talked to a high school teacher friend of his in Oakland….

But most of all, he simply observes his students, year to year, noting all the obvious evidence of teens’ decreasing abilities when confronted with even the most basic intellectual tasks, from understanding simple history to working through moderately complex ideas to even (in a couple recent examples that particularly distressed him) being able to define the words “agriculture,” or even “democracy.” Not a single student could do it. It gets worse. My friend cites the fact that, of the 6,000 high school students he estimates he’s taught over the span of his career, only a small fraction now make it to his grade with a functioning understanding of written English. They do not know how to form a sentence. They cannot write an intelligible paragraph.

Mark Morford, S.F. Gate, 2018

So this is not about measuring intelligence. IQ tests are, as I say, biased in dozens of ways. But I don’t think you can find a high school or university teacher who would not agree with the general decline in reading and writing skills. And I have noted, personally, a horrifying decline in curiosity. I rarely ever have found students curious enough to go look things up for themselves. The reasons for this are complex and beyond the scope of this article. (I have written about the evolution of visual processing and the creation of an ideal observer, on my blog. Jonathan Crary and Jonathan Beller both have profound books out on subjects inextricably linked to media and cognitive development, or lack thereof). The point here is that this loss of curiosity and literacy is not the result of a single simple thing. Nor is it a moral argument about values or some shit that Bill Bennett might have come up with. It is about a system of hegemonic control that has encouraged a surplus populace to a life spent on screens, distracted and stupified. And how this is tied into western capital and its insistence on social control and domination.

Yes, John brings in the “heavyweights” with their tomes and bibliographies and data-driven theses about media and cognitive slippage; however, again, the ground truthers have it, know it, say it, but we never are brought to the table to illuminate the elite and the powerhouse writers and thinkers to give them a real sense of the problem and the causation and the deeper issues tied to mental health slippage, physical deterioration, learning disabilities increasing, lower and lower bars for ethics, family ties, mentoring, love and respectfulness.

The bottom line is too few people have too much money, too much power, too much authority, too much control, too much say, too much ability to shape and reshape our communities. And just because everyone is doing it — oh, damn, that could be one of a thousand things consumer citizens and consumer workers and consumer neighbors are doing, but the bottom line is that many would be doing things so differently if we had agency and no overlords dictating every waking, sleeping, working, recreating, fornicating, eating, shitting, dying second — doesn’t mean it’s right or even what we want.

If Nick could just walk away from the Atlantic. If the Atlantic would just begin real journalism and real ground truthers writing vigorously and profanely and profoundly, each and every issue.

* The Six Planes of Higher Consciousness

1. Transcendence
2. Serene Knowledge
3. Universal Abundance
4. Your Vast Self
5. Integration
6. Creative Mind

Your journey through the stages of the heart, as it grows from the dark state to the clean, has been described in Stages of Mental/Emotional Awakening. It’s very important to keep these stages of mental/emotional awakening in mind as reliable guideposts of your voyage. However, it’s also very important to know the following levels of awareness which you will likely experience as you come home to your higher consciousness and become enabled to live in it as a new person.

Signing off with John Taylor Gatto:

First, though, we must wake up to what our schools really are: laboratories of experimentation on young minds, drill centers for the habits and attitudes that corporate society demands. Mandatory education serves children only incidentally; its real purpose is to turn them into servants. Don’t let your own have their childhoods extended, not even for a day. If David Farragut could take command of a captured British warship as a preteen, if Thomas Edison could publish a broadsheet at the age of twelve, if Ben Franklin could apprentice himself to a printer at the same age (then put himself through a course of study that would choke a Yale senior today), there’s no telling what your own kids could do. After a long life, and thirty years in the public school trenches, I’ve concluded that genius is as common as dirt. We suppress our genius only because we haven’t yet figured out how to manage a population of educated men and women. The solution, I think, is simple and glorious. Let them manage themselves.

Categories: Anti-War, Foreign Policy

US Cyber Attack on Russia’s Power Grid is an ‘Act of War’ (According to the US)

Mon, 2019-06-17 10:17

Russia and the US are engaging in tit-for-tat hacking of each others’ power grid, the New York Times is reporting, in what is really a kind of cyber “cold war” where the hackers from each country’s military and intelligence services load electronic “explosives” in the computer systems of critical infrastructure of the other, that in a crisis or war could be “detonated” to create chaos or bring down electric grids.

The Times article, the publication of which President Trump decried in a tweet as “close to treason,” was disturbing for a number or reasons. One was that sources told the Times the hacking by the US Cyber Command of Russia’s power grid had been conducted without the president’s knowledge, for fear that he might act to prevent it or might disclose it.

In other words, an action — the hostile hacking of another rival country’s essential infrastructure, which the US government has warned other nations would be viewed as an “act of war,” is being taken by the US military, without the President’s or Congress’s knowledge!

That should be enough to send shivers down the spine of any sane person. In fact, the  that could lead to a US “military response.”

If the Times is correct in both its articles, the current US hacking of Russia’s power grid is evidence of a US military establishment run amok.

Congress should be outraged and calling for immediate hearings to determine the chain of command that allowed this to happen. Either Trump is lying, and knows all about the hacking, or some high-ranking military officers who acted without his knowledge should be fired the way President Truman fired an insubordinate Gen. Douglas McArthur during the Korean War.

But of course that won’t happen. Trump might fire Gen. Jim Mattis as war secretary, and might fire Gen. H. R. McMaster, as National Security Advisor, but he’s not going to fire anyone for hacking Russia’s power grid, whether it’s Acting Secretary of “Defense” Patrick Shanahan or National Security Advisor John Bolton, the known war-mongerer who may well have been behind the order to do it. The Times itself didn’t even deign to run an editorial calling for heads to roll over the news of the dangerous provocation.

But the Times article was disturbing for another reason too. The lengthy investigative piece, while it talked all about the secret cyber war already being fought by the internet forces of the US and Russia, never mentioned Venezuela.

Recall that at the height of opposition militancy a few months ago, when middle-class Venezuelan backers of calls for President Nicolás Maduro’s resignation were taking to the streets of Caracas and confronting police and army soldiers, virtually the whole country was thrown into darkness and chaos by the collapse of its power grid.

Maduro’s government claimed to have solid evidence that the grid had been hacked by the US. Meanwhile the US, which was openly calling for a coup to oust Maduro, and seeking to build support for it by blocking food imports to Venezuela and oil exports from the country, squeezing its economy in every way possible, and working underground to try and persuade senior military leaders to turn on the government, denied that it was hacking the country’s power grid.

Many people probably assumed that the idea of the US using cyber tool to bring down a country’s power grid was science fiction, or a paranoid fantasy. But now we know it’s reality. If the Pentagon’s Cyber Command has the capability to plant remote-controlled cyber weapons in the software of Russia’s power grid computer systems, it certainly has the capability of using them to bring down the power grid of a Third World country like Venezuela.

But such an act of sabotage and war has deadly consequences. When Venezuela was out of electricity, hospitals were without power, street lights no longer functioned, frail old people were left in darkness where they were at risk of deadly falls, people in multi-story apartment buildings were without elevators and forced to use dark stairwells to go to and from their apartments, and water, which relies on pumps to reach faucets, became scarce. The list of risks to life and health are endless. If the victims of such an attack were added up, I’m sure it would be staggering.

Did the US bring down the Venezuelan power grid?

Given the depth of US involvement in the opposition movement against Maduro, which included creating and propping up the ludicrous self-proclaimed “legitimate President” Juan Guaidó (who self destructed in a fake “coup” attempt orchestrated by the US with help from the US media, when Guaidó was caught pretending to be in control of a “liberated” air force base when he was really with a handful of soldiers standing on a bridge outside the base), it seems harder to believe that the US was not behind the rid collapse than that it caused it.

How could the Times, which clearly had excellent sources inside the Cyber Command to have produced its current story of the successful if deadly risky hacking of Russia’s power grid, not have also mentioned the hacking of the Venezuelan grid, which many observers have already accused the US of being behind?  Surely it was relevant to the story. If the reporters left it out, why didn’t an editor say to ask about, and to include a reference to it?  If the reporters did their jobs and did ask about and try to include the Venezuela grid story in their piece and it was deleted by the editors, why didn’t the reporters complain publicly?

Well, we know the answer to that. The Times is a “responsible” news organization. It might take sides over a disputed issue within the foreign policy establishment, which surely is why the paper learned about, and decided to report on the hacking of the Russian power grid. The article even mentions that some government and military officials have opposed using cyber attacks on Russian infrastructure to counter alleged Russian hacking of US campaign related organizations and social media platforms. But as a “responsible” news organization, the paper would not publish any information about a cyber attack on a country that its editors agree is led by an “autocrat” who opposes US interests. US backing of a coup to oust the Maduro government, after all, has the backing of the whole US foreign policy establishment.

That, of course, is not real journalism. It’s propaganda.

It’s important to know, which we now do, that our country is at war with Russia in cyberspace. But we need to know too that cyberwars have real flesh-and-blood victims, and that the cyberwar the US almost certainly launched against Venezuela earlier this spring is also underway and killing innocent people.

Categories: Anti-War, Foreign Policy

Disinformation and False Accusations of Anti-Semitism

Mon, 2019-06-17 05:24

The smearing of George Galloway and widely reported disinformation that there was no evidence to support the claim that Viva Palestina delivered aid, raises serious concerns, not just in this case, but far beyond.

It is seriously disturbing how disinformation and lazy ‘cut and paste’ journalism has become common place within the monopoly media of the UK. One wonders where the professional and serious investigative reporting of old has gone.

With regard to the ‘possibly liable’ headlines of several national newspapers: Gaza charity ‘may have delivered no aid’ ‘no evidence of charitable activity’ and so forth…, as a participant of  the Viva Palestina Convoy 2009/10, I can confirm that not only was medical aid delivered to Gaza, there is significant evidence to support this. The medical supplies were, in fact, accurately documented as required and submitted to customs officials in the countries we passed through. So, why didn’t the charities commission, the government and the mainstream journalists find any evidence? Why didn’t they speak to any of the hundreds of witnesses who would likely be willing to testify in a court of law, were they called upon to do so.

My conclusion is that they didn’t look, which brings us to the more serious question: why didn’t they look?

It doesn’t take much imagination to consider why journalists and career politicians might have chosen not to look. It is frightening to consider how we have allowed ourselves to slide into this Orwellian condition of cognitive dissonance where investigative journalists and publishers are punished, criminalised and imprisoned for writing the truth, while the commonplace peddling of disinformation is rewarded.

To quote from George Orwell; “During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” Julian Assange understands this more than most.

I’m not an investigative journalist; however, as a concerned citizen, my first question would be: Who were the people within the Charities Commission that instigated ‘Viva Palestina’ (a campaigning group), to register as a charity.

I remember that none of the participants of the convoy considered what we were doing as charity. Palestinians are not looking for charity. They want a political solution that offers dignity, freedom and justice. It was this political solution we were attempting to achieve by driving the convoy of politically decorated ambulances overland to Gaza. The symbolism of taking medical supplies was the powerful message that drew people from their homes to wave their support as we drove by.

Further questions we should all ask: “What was the motive in forcing a campaigning group to register as though it were a charity? Were those behind this move politically motivated in any way?”

Given all the false charges of anti-Semitism directed against George Galloway and many other outspoken critics of Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians, it is credible to surmise that there ‘might’ have been political motives behind, not only forcing ‘Viva Palestina’ to fall under the power of the charities commission, but also the later investigation and false accusation – delivered ten years after the event: ‘of the probability that no aid was delivered’.

Seriously, such throw away meaningless phrases such as.., ‘may not have’ ‘high likely’ … whatever happened to evidence-based accusations?

The convoys of ambulances packed with medical supplies, (Viva Palestina 2009) grew out of an inspirational idea put forward by George Galloway. Both within the UK and indeed globally, individuals were/and continue to be shocked by the brutal attacks on a largely defenceless population living under siege in Gaza. The Israeli ‘Operation Cast Lead’ of 2008/9 left around 1,440 people dead and many more thousand injured. Ten years on, Gaza continues to face a slow genocide so the motivation to place blame on those who speak out about these outrageous war crimes and crimes against humanity, are well entrenched within the establishment and media.

The aims of Viva Palestina were threefold: besides delivering ambulances and medical supplies to Gaza by driving across Europe, Turkey, Syria, Jordan and Egypt in convoy, our aim was to raise awareness as to the desperate plight of the Gazan people. The medical supplies will have been used up long ago; however, our intended aim of  raising awareness and demonstrating love and solidarity toward the Palestinians is enduring.

Viva Palestina was not one person. It was an inspirational campaigning umbrella for more than a hundred and ten different groups that comprised around 500 people from an international collective of around 17 different nationalities. The largest contingent participating in the convoy came from UK, followed by Turkey, Malaysia, and Jordanian doctors.

I was one of four who represented the people of York. Besides contributing our own money we fundraised locally and were responsible for our own financial accounting. Although it’s credible to believe that £1M was around the total sum of aid delivered, other than the international groups none of the local UK groups would have individually met the threshold of the £25,000.00 that was the excuse to force charity status on us. Our first purchase was an ambulance for which we paid £6,000.00. Having acquired the ambulance money came in more readily and we were able to purchase medical supplies, a defibrillator, and a second hand dialysis machine. This we handed over personally to doctors from the Red Crescent in Gaza. However spurious claims that we might have handed over aid (aid that we supposedly didn’t have) to ‘the ruling government’ are misleading and disingenuous. Hamas is the democratically elected government of Palestine. Just like our government which has a financial responsibility toward the NHS, Hamas finances the main Al Shifa Hospital, along with a responsibility for the health services of the population of Gaza. Had we handed our ambulance and medical supplies over to them, as many did, this would have been absolutely legitimate.

In a report put out by the UK government based on the charity commissions findings, it is stated that trustees of Viva Palestina were found lacking in their assessment of the risks. I should add that all participants were aware that there were risks. It was discussed prior to departure of the convoy and during the journey on several occasions. Given the Egyptian military siege that took place in El Arish against all participants of the convoy, it would have been comforting to think our government thought well enough of us, to have made some diplomatic gesture toward protecting us. The only response I am aware of from them was: “You were advised not to go. You are on your own.” Maybe behind the scenes they said something, but we were certainly not aware of it.

In contrast it was evident that the Turkish Government, the Malaysian Government and others, did take diplomatic steps to offer assistance to their citizens and as a result the military confrontation and siege ended with few casualties. Sadly this was not the case at the Rafa borders where Palestinians gathered in protest of our coming under siege by the Egyptian military. One Egyptian soldier was killed and a Palestinian was shot in the legs. If a reminder were needed, this tragedy reflects the brutality of conflict in this area of the world and what Palestinians in Gaza face on a daily basis.

We have normalised wars waged against civilians as though this were a natural condition of being human. Gaza continues to face a slow genocide, so the motivation for Palestinians during this current ‘Great March of Return’ arrives out of a sense of despair as they witness their country being steadily stolen away. Trump’s declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel simply added fuel to an already simmering anger. This desperate act of resistance arises in the belief that it is better to die in dignity than to die slowly on one’s knees.

The courage of the Palestinians comes from the belief that their individual death might trigger a global outrage that will finally bring justice and freedom for the children of their community. The realisation of this belief is slow in coming; however, it’s this faith in our common humanity that gives them the courage to transcend fear. It was this same faith that persuaded us to undertake the long journey across Europe and beyond in hopes of stirring a conscious awakening of decent people to this injustice.

In contrast to our good will, disinformation and labels function as a way of de-legitimising genuine resistance to injustice, resistance to the theft of one’s land, the theft of one’s freedom, and resistance to the theft of many lives… resistance to all that is inherently wrong.

Palestinians and their democratically elected government, Hamas, are frequently described as terrorists by Israel, UK and its politically ideological Zionist supporters; however, when Israel bombs Gaza and drops white phosphorous on its civilian population, it is stated that Israel is defending itself.

Labels and calculated disinformation function as a way of diverting attention  from legitimate outrage. People are afraid of the slurs and negative labels that might be attached to them; in the case of supporting Palestinians one is charged with being anti-Semitic. We just have to look at how these attacks on Jeremy Corbyn, George Galloway and the participants of Viva Palestina, to see how labels, false charges and calculated disinformation have become weaponised.

Labels don’t need truth to stick. Like lies they just have to be said often enough and with enough force to be intimidating and carry the power to turn a contrived falsehood into a popularly held truth. A false label is like the smelly stuff that clings to the bottom of your shoe if you are unfortunate enough to walk on the wrong part of the pavement. Evidently, George Galloway, like Jeremy Corbyn and all those of us on the Viva Palestina Convoy, have trodden in the wrong place by our physical endeavour to demonstrate an ongoing injustice and an unpalatable truth into the reaches of power.

Categories: Anti-War, Foreign Policy

Trump and the Taiwan Gambit

Sun, 2019-06-16 10:56

Taiwan has become a new “eastern pivot” for Donald Trump. Against all international laws and UN charters, he is approaching Taiwan, as indicating to the world that regardless of the established world rules which make Beijing, the Peoples Republic of China (PRC), the official and legitimate Authority of China, with Taiwan being a part of China – the self-styled emperor, Mr. Trump, pretends he prefers dealing with Taiwan as an independent country. By doing so, he intends to invite others to do likewise. Trump wants to make Taiwan an ‘ally’ – dreaming of setting up a US base on the island, thus further encircling China. It is the old game, divide to reign. But he can’t be as ignorant as to believe it will actually work. It’s just one more thing to annoy PRC. Frankly, seen from a step back, it looks more like attempting to dump one of those primitive Trumpish ‘diplomatic’ bombshells on PRC’s back. Provoking the Dragon?

Dragons can be lethal, especially if exposed to nonstop strings of insults and debasement, attacks, and threats, sanctioned with trade wars, subjecting US$ 200 billion worth of Chinese exports into the US with 25% import tax, and, mind you, Trump just issued a new threat –raising the ante to US$ 300 billion, in case China refuses to attend the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan on 28-30 June 2019. Can you imagine the insolence, ordering President Xi to attend the G20 summit?!? The man has indeed no manners, diplomatic or otherwise.

Trump further bragged on Monday, 10 June, that China will make a deal with the United States “because they’re going to have to.” And what would be the deal? He never explained. He added, “China has lost trillions of dollars since he, Trump, was elected president.” Imagine this impunity in recklessness!  Well, surely, President Xi Jinping will not be duped or blackmailed by Trump.

On another front, Trump threatened Mexican’s new President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, AMLO for short, with a 5% tariff on Mexican agricultural exports to the United States, if illegal immigration to the US would not stop. AMLO approached President Trump with an open letter, saying that he seeks peace and not confrontation, dialogue not war, and that AMLO’s government will do whatever is in its power to stop illegal migration to the US.

He stated, correctly, that a trade war would do more harm than good to both nations. Trump then dropped the threat, with worldwide publicity, to make sure his ‘goodness’ is recognized the world over. However, just a few days ago, Trump threatened Mexico again with the 5% tax, in case AMLO’s promise doesn’t hold and poor Mexicans keep illegally crossing the border into the great Promised Land (no, not Israel, but the western extension of Israel).

Of course, this tariff has nothing to do with trade. It is punishment, a sheer demonstration of supremacy. And, never mind, Trump probably doesn’t understand that California’s agriculture thrives on the low-wage illegal Mexican and Central American immigrants.

It is nevertheless amazing that the (western) world stands by and dares say NOTHING. The threats of sanctions seem to be effective. Anybody, or any nation that refuses to go along with Washington’s thuggish criminal behavior, may be subject to punishment, be it by trade and/or financial sanctions, or outright military intervention. There is no international law, no rules of the community of nations, no political common sense that is respected by Trump and his handlers, and the world is afraid. Even though so far most of the threats have amounted to nothing more than ridiculous blabber and saber rattling.

More threats were thrown at Iran, with more sanctions and economic strangulations if Iran doesn’t “behave”.  Actually there are hardly any explanations given what “good vs. bad behavior” would mean for the US, other than Washington’s repeated empty accusations of Iran being a nuclear threat, disregarding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or nuclear deal signed in 2015, freeing Iran of any further accusation of wanting to become a nuclear power (which, by the way was a farce in the first place – the subject for another essay).

This so-called nuclear deal was signed by the 5 UN Security Council members, including the US. But as we know, under pressure from Netanyahu, Trump reneged last year from the deal – and since then horrendous sanctions of economic strangulations and foreign asset confiscations – outright theft, in clear text – were imposed by the US on Iran, with ongoing pressure on the EU to do likewise. According to Trump – and his two minion mouth-pieces, Pompeo and Bolton – more are to come.

To that, Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, stated that Iran will not be blackmailed and added the philosophical observation that Trump’s economic wars around the globe will eventually backfire. Well, yes. Trump’s reckless playing with tariffs, sanctions and other punishments around the globe will eventually drive everybody away from dealing and trading with the US, including away from the western monetary system. It’s the silver lining of the dark-dark US cloud. It’s economics 101.

Propelled by German business interests (but at the same time limited by Washington [and Brussels] on what he is allowed to say), German Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, visited Iran a few days ago to seek a compromise for Germany and other EU members to still hold on to the Nuclear Deal, because Germany’s economy wants to deal with Iran, yet, seeking concessions from Iran that may assuage Washington. But Iran’s Foreign Minister, Zarif, didn’t fall for it. The meeting ended in nothing. Good so, because there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that any ally (except Israel) could do to change the Bully’s mind on Iran.

Frankly, does Trump seriously believe he possesses all that power over other world leaders? Or is he, Trump, just a convenient lackey of a force much stronger behind him, a force that controls both the Pentagon and, more importantly, the western financial and banking system – the Zionist designed western dollar-based monetary system. This Ponzi scheme has been able for the last 100 years or so – and as we witness, every day more – to usurp the world, holding it hostage, with artificially created economic booms and busts, with economic sanctions, strangulations, confiscation, with the theft of nations’ foreign assets and even their reserve funds, if they don’t bend to the will of the self-proclaimed super power USA.

Yes, it’s a fading super power, but it still has control over its forced allies and vassals – many of whom, by now are sick and tired of their ally-cum-vassal status, as they realize what their losses are. They believed in economic, diplomatic and military privileges, but are gradually awakening to reality. Progressively they see the empire as what it is, a shiny, blustering, preposterous house of cards that may come crashing down at any time. Their anger and courage of Washington’s vassalic allies is slowly raising, and they will eventually break out from their repressive situation. When that happens – and Trump is hastening that moment with his erratic ‘sanction-prone’ behavior around the world – a grand geopolitical shift for the better may take place.

With this partial backdrop of what the globe is facing – Taiwan is just becoming the latest peon in the war for preparation of Washington’s big WAR – dominating China and Russia. Making Taiwan – which is legally and by all international rules part of PRC – a US ally and vassal, would further close the US power circle around the East Asian space. Trump may believe he is moving closer to ‘checkmate’, dominating the formidable Russia-China alliance.

With all the flattering and roses the leaders of Taiwan may get from Trump, do they realize that their role will just be that of one more enabler to enhance the empire’s dominion and increase the US’s wealth by helping it steal more of the world’s resources?

In the end, Taiwan may just become a mess, a chaotic island with lots of loose ends, with people pulling in different directions, as they realize that their government has been “bought” to give away their partial sovereignty and well-being, and they will raise up.

Taiwan, just look around the world! The latest example being Sudan. Orchestrated chaos is controlling Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria? And look what is being planned, so far without success, in Venezuela? Taiwan will just be another pawn on Zbigniew Brzezinski’s legendary Grand Geopolitical Chessboard.

The US has been fomenting worldwide hostility against China and Russia for the last 100 years, and especially since WWII, intensified by the fake and false Cold War, made possible thanks to an all-western-dominating AngloZionist lie-propaganda machine.

We know about “Russia Gate”, the never-ending bashing of President Putin and Russia. The more subtle US attempts to destabilize China have started soon after China had become fully self-sufficient and autonomous, when she gradually opened her borders to integrate into the world with exports and attracting foreign investments in the 1980’s. The so-called Nixon ‘ouverture’ to China, Nixon’s one-week trip in 1972 to Beijing, Hangzhou, and Shanghai, was perhaps the first attempt by Washington to use the huge Chinese market for US exports, and at the same time constraining China’s rapid and foreseeable economic growth. Indeed, China grew exponentially and in 1986 gained observer status at GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), a precursor to WTO, and started negotiating membership of the World Trade Center of which she eventually became a member in 2001.

Trade, Chinese highly competitive exports was then – and is today – a key issue for the US goal of world hegemony. In anticipation or rather to prevent China from becoming a world economic powerhouse, Tiananmen Square protests were introduced in 1989. The lead-up to the so-called massacre was a huge false flag. A student protest movement, funded by the US State Department, through the infamous NED (National Endowment for Democracy – an “NGO” specialized in “regime change” operations – see also Venezuela). The 4th of June crackdown had been prepared months before, guided by the bloody hands of US Secret Services, CIA, NSA, and most probably MI6. The “students” had no common cause for the protest, just a sudden desire for more “freedom”, “reforming the communist party” without citing specifics they wanted reformed.

The 4th of June 2019 anniversary of the ‘massacre’ 30 years ago, is used by the western media to propagate against Chinese “tyranny”. The news of the massacre was repeated every hour on the hour by almost all radio and TV stations throughout Europe, lest you might forget, and the too-young-to-remember – should learn and be prepared for the coming Chinese monster. That’s the goal of the corporate presstitute. And they may succeed, as sleeping people have no clue of the truth, nor are they interested in abandoning their comfort and facing the inconvenient truth.

Let’s just juxtapose the forced memory of Tiananmen Square with real atrocities being perpetrated by the west, as these lines go to press. Take Yemen, devastated by the west and its proxies, chiefly Saudi Arabia and Qatar, with weapons and funding from the US, the UK and France. Yemen is a non-aggressive peaceful country. Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the last 4 years of this atrocious war, most of them children and women, thousands from cholera and other water and improper hygiene related diseases; two thirds of the population suffer from famine. The related death toll is in the tens of thousands. This is exacerbated by the Red Sea Port of Hudaydah, the gateway for most of Yemen’s imports, being shut by Saudi and Qatari armed forces, so that not even emergency aid enters the country. The UN calls it the largest humanitarian crisis in recent history. You hardly hear anything in the western news about this western-funded and executed atrocious mass killing.

False flags from Tiananmen Square, to 9/11, to the Ukraine Maidan, to the sporadic string of terror killings in Europe and the United States, by ISIS / IS Al-Qada and associated groups –  all funded by the empire and its proxies and vassals – to the more recent ‘regime change’ or Color Revolution type protests in Hong Kong, the Umbrella Revolution of 2014 and street protests of the last week, with thousands of protesters in the street against a Beijing initiated extradition law to be introduced by Hong Kong’s legislation are all US / western instigated, funded and guided so as to provoke and destabilize China.  And foremost, demonize China in the eyes of the western world. Most western countries have extradition laws for criminals to be turned over to the jurisdiction of the country where they may have committed the crime. But that’s not mentioned by the corporate lie-propaganda.

These permanent aggressions against the world power China, a world power with a pacific non-expansive life philosophy, could badly backfire. Just imagine, Beijing may eventually get sick and tired of Washington and its vassal-allies meddling in PRC’s internal affairs, could easily repeal Hong Kong’s semi autonomy and incorporate the city fully into the territory of the PRC – complete with Chinese laws, obligations and benefits. As simple as that. What would Washington do? What would the west do?  Scream murder?  Well, they do that already, so it couldn’t be much worse. A military aggression on China?  Hardly. The West wouldn’t dare. Attacking China is attacking Russia. There is a strong alliance between the two countries, one that was made even stronger by several new agreements signed between Presidents Putin and Xi during the recent St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

Similar provocations are planned and take place with Taiwan. In April 2019 the US sent two destroyers into the Taiwan Straits, claimed by mainland China as their territorial waters. Germany, which according to their armistice status’ obligation of non-confrontation and non-aggression, is considering sending a war ship to join the US and French warships in an attempt to demonstrate to the world that these are international waters.

What if such provocations, rather than gathering more world recognition of Taipei’s self-styled autonomy, they prompt President Xi Jinping to close in on Taiwan and actually absorb the island as a PRC owned territory? This would just conform to what Taiwan nominally already is since 25 October 1971, when the UN General Assembly Resolution 2758 declared The Peoples Republic of China as the sole legal China.

Switch to another corner of the world with a different but very much connected scenario. Early this morning, 13 June, in the Strait of Oman, about 25 km from the coast of Iran, a Japanese-owned and a Norwegian oil tanker (the owner of which is an old friend of Iran’s) were attacked. Explosions and fire broke out, some seamen were injured, and 44 were actually rescued in the Gulf of Oman by Iranian ships. As of now, it is not clear what happened and who the perpetrators were. Never mind, Pompeo immediately accused Iran for the attacks – and keeps doing so, stating falsely that video evidence – never offered to be seen by the public – showed it was Iran. Why would Iran attack a Japanese oil tanker, while Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, is visiting Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran on Thursday, the very day of the attacks, for talks to maintain the treaties of the Nuclear Deal?

World! Let’s face it. Only an idiot will believe that Iranians are so idiotic as to attack foreign vessels in the Gulf, clients and friends of Iran. If this smells like a false flag – it is a false flag. Carried out by whom? Could be the Saudis, Israel, the Emirates, Mossad, the CIA, MI6… any one of the puppet allies of the emperor.

People, where are we going? As a result of this incident oil prices rose immediately by up to 4% for fear that worse might happen, namely that Iran might close the Strait of Hormuz through which about 25% of the world’s hydrocarbon are shipped. A closure could have oil prices jump to USD$ 200 / barrel or more – and sink the world in the worst recession of recent history. In the meantime, Wall Street bankers, notably Goldman Sachs, who have ample experience with oil price manipulation, are already playing with oil futures which under such a scenario could bring them hundreds of billions while the rest of the world goes belly up.

On another, but very much related topic: Many, especially unaligned countries, are losing trust in the US and especially in the US-dollar. They are quietly switching their reserves to Chinese yuans and / or gold. Trump’s handlers know about it. They may be contemplating as a last resort a new kind of gold standard. Losing out on dollar hegemony is one of the reasons they are pushing The Donald into a trade war with China. The (US) expectation is that a trade war with China would debase the Chinese currency, thereby discredit it and make it unattractive as a reserve money.

Creating a conflict between PRC and Taiwan, might, from a US point of view, have the same effect, degrading the yuan, in addition to bringing other Asian countries on board, those who are themselves worried about their territorial waters; i.e., the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia.

And yet, in an opposite corner of the world, namely in the swamp of Washington, the same Pompeo who just found another reason to increase sanctions on Iran, is utterly upset that his plans in Venezuela didn’t work out, because the stupid opposition cannot unite, cannot be trusted. That would leave only the ‘military option’ on the table – but that military option is too risky with Venezuela being supported by her strong allies, Russia and China.

Friends – what you must be aware of – all the dots of conflicts, wars, threats, harassments, false flags, sanctions and otherwise punishments, lies and lies and lies around the world, are dots that must be connected. Only then will you get the Big Picture – and to understand the Big Picture is crucial. It is at once hilarious for the phantasy it portrays and catastrophic for the danger it presents. For the owners of this Big Picture, the Washington Swamp and Israel, it represents the illusion and desire to achieve the US-Pentagon-Banking plan within the PNAC (), a wishful thinking of Full Spectrum Dominance.

This Big Picture is best portrayed by Chris Black’s latest master piece: This Outlaw Power: America’s Intent is to Dominate China, Russia and the World.

• First published by the New Eastern Outlook.

Categories: Anti-War, Foreign Policy

Trump Enjoys Bipartisan Support for His Plan to Eradicate the Palestinian Cause

Sun, 2019-06-16 10:15

The White House’s prolonged financial bullying of the Palestinian Authority (PA), the Palestinians’ government-in-waiting, has reached the point where there are now credible warnings that it is close to collapse. The crisis has offered critics further proof of the administration’s seemingly chaotic, often self-sabotaging approach to foreign policy matters.

Meanwhile, US officials charged with resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have demonstrated ever more blatant bias, such as the recent claims by David Friedman, the ambassador to Israel, that Israel is “on the side of God” and should have the “right to retain” much of the West Bank.

Again, critics view the Trump administration’s approach as a dangerous departure from the traditional US role of “honest broker”.

Such analyses, however common, are deeply misguided. Far from lacking a strategy, the White House has a precise and clear one for imposing a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – President Donald Trump’s so-called “deal of the century”. Even without publication so far of a formal document, the plan’s contours are coming ever more sharply into relief, as its implementation becomes observable on the ground.

Repeated delays in announcing the plan are simply an indication that Trump’s team needs more time to engineer a suitable political environment for the plan to be brought out of the shadows.

Further, the Trump administration’s vision of the future for Israelis and Palestinians – however extreme and one-sided – has wide, bipartisan support in Washington. There’s nothing especially “Trumpian” about the administration’s emerging “peace process”.

Choking off aid

Paradoxically, that was evident last week, when leading members of the US Congress from both sides of the aisle introduced a bill to boost the ailing Palestinian economy by $50m. The hope is to create a “Partnership Fund for Peace” that will offer a financial fillip to Israelis and Palestinians seeking to resolve the conflict – or, at least, that is what is being claimed.

This sudden concern for the health of the Palestinian economy is a dramatic and confusing U-turn. Congress has been an active and enthusiastic partner with the White House in choking off aid to the PA for more than a year.

Mohammad Shtayyeh, the Palestinian prime minister, told the New York Times last week that the PA was on the brink of implosion. “We are in a collapsing situation,” he told the newspaper.

The PA’s crisis comes as no surprise. Congress helped initiate it by passing the Taylor Force Act in March 2018. It requires the US to halt funding to the PA until it stops paying stipends to some 35,000 families of Palestinians jailed, killed or maimed by Israel.

On the brink of collapse

Previous US administrations might well have signed a waiver to prevent such legislation from going into effect – just as presidents until Trump blocked a congressional law passed in 1995 demanding that the US move its embassy to Jerusalem.

But the Trump White House is not interested in diplomatic face-saving or reining in the pro-Israel zealotry of US legislators. It fervently and explicitly shares the biases that have long been inherent in the US political system.

In line with the Taylor Force Act, the White House has cut off vital funds for Palestinians, including to UNRWA, the United Nations’ refugee agency for Palestinians, and to hospitals in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem.

The decision by Congress to throttle the PA has had further repercussions, leaving Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu exposed domestically. Not daring to be seen as less anti-PA than US legislators, Netanyahu implemented his own version of the Taylor Force Act earlier this year.

Since February, he has withheld a portion of the taxes Israel collects on behalf of the PA, the vast bulk of its income, equal to the stipends transferred to the Palestinian families of prisoners and casualties of Israeli violence – or those who Israel and the US simple-mindedly refer to as “terrorists”.

That, in turn, has left Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, in an impossible position. He dare not be seen accepting an Israeli diktat that legitimises withholding Palestinian money, or one that defines as “terrorists” those who have sacrificed the most for the Palestinian cause. So he has refused the entire monthly tax transfer until the full amount is reinstated.

Now, just as these various blows against the PA finally threaten to topple it, the US Congress suddenly prepares to step in and bail out the Palestinian economy with $50m. What on earth is going on?

‘Money in return for quiet’

The small print is telling. The PA, the Palestinians’ fledgling government, is not eligible for any of the US Congress’s promised largesse.

If the legislation passes, the money will be handed to “Palestinian entrepreneurs and companies”, as well as non-governmental organisations, willing to work with the US and Israel on “people-to-people peace-building” programmes and “reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians”.

In other words, the legislation is actually designed as another strike against the Palestinians’ existing leadership. The PA is being bypassed yet again, as the US and Israel try to bolster an alternative economic, rather than political, leadership.

This move by US representatives is not occurring in a vacuum. Since the effective collapse of the Oslo accords nearly two decades ago, Washington has sought to downgrade a national conflict that needs a political solution into a humanitarian crisis that needs an economic one.

It is a variation on Netanyahu’s long-standing goal to smash the Palestinian national struggle and replace it with so-called “economic peace”.

Where once the goal of peacemaking was “land in exchange for peace” – that is, a Palestinian state in return for an end to hostilities – now the aim is “money in exchange for quiet”. The US is now formally supporting Israel’s efforts at economic pacification.

Outrage at new elections

The Trump administration has devised a two-stage process for neutralising Palestinians.

Firstly, Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has been tasked with winning over Arab states, particularly those in the oil-rich Gulf, to stump up money for pacifying Palestinians and their neighbours.

This is the aim of an investment conference due to be held in Bahrain later this month – the lynchpin of the “deal of the century”, not simply a prelude to it.

That was why Trump himself was so visibly outraged at the delay caused by Netanyahu’s decision to dissolve the Israeli parliament last month, a reflection of his political weakness as he faces imminent corruption trials. The new elections in Israel, Trump grumbled, were “ridiculous” and “messed up”.

The intention of the Bahrain conference is to use tens of billions of dollars raised by Washington to buy off opposition to the Trump deal, chiefly from Egypt and Jordan, which are critical to the pacification programme’s success.

Any refusal by the Palestinians to surrender, either in Gaza or the West Bank, could have major repercussions for these neighbouring states.

Search for alternative leaders

Secondly, Friedman is at the centre of efforts to identify recipients for the Gulf-funded handouts. He has been seeking to forge a new alliance between the settlers, with whom he is closely aligned, and Palestinians who may be willing to help in the pacification project. Late last year, he attended a meeting of Palestinian and Israeli business leaders in the West Bank city of Ariel.

Afterwards he tweeted that the business community was “ready, willing and able to advance joint opportunity & peaceful coexistence. People want peace and we are ready to help! Is the Palestinian leadership listening?”

Friedman has made no bones about where his – and supposedly God’s – priorities lie, throwing his weight behind the growing clamour in Israel to annex much of the territory that was once seen as integral to creating a Palestinian state. With that as the administration’s lode star, the task is now to find a Palestinian leadership prepared to stand by as the finishing touches are put on a Greater Israel ordained by God.

Concerns in Washington about the PA’s unwillingness to comply were voiced last week by Kushner, though he dressed them up as doubts about the Palestinians’ ability to govern themselves. He said of the PA: “The hope is that they, over time, will become capable of governing.” He added that the real test of the administration’s plan would be whether Palestinian areas became “investable”.

“When I speak to Palestinian people, what they want is they want the opportunity to live a better life. They want the opportunity to pay their mortgage,” he said.

Washington is therefore looking to influential families in the West Bank that could potentially be recruited with bribes to serve as an alternative, compliant leadership. In February it was reported that around 200 businesspeople, Israeli mayors and heads of Palestinian communities met in Jerusalem “to advance business partnerships between Israeli and Palestinian entrepreneurs”.

Corrupt tribal fiefdoms

It has been natural for the Trump administration to look to a business elite – one that, it hopes, will be prepared to forgo a national solution if the economic environment is liberalised enough to allow for new regional and global investment opportunities.

These individuals belong to extended families that dominate the West Bank’s major cities. Such powerful families may be prepared to assist in the elimination of the PA, in return for a corrupt patronage system allowing them to take control of their respective cities.

Palestinian analysts, like Samir Awad, a politics professor at Bir Zeit University near Ramallah, have told me that the Israeli and US vision of Palestinian “autonomy” may amount to little more than a system of tribal fiefdoms, reminiscent of Afghanistan.

There are already a few Palestinian partners emerging, such as Hebron businessman Ashraf Jabari, who is reportedly planning to attend the Bahrain conference.

He and other business leaders have been quietly developing ties with counterparts in the settler movement, such as Avi Zimmerman. Together, they have set up a joint chamber of commerce covering the West Bank.

It is precisely such initiatives that are being promoted by Friedman and would be eligible for grants from the $50m fund the US Congress is currently legislating.

Ultimately, these Palestinian business “partners” could form an elite to serve as an ostensible national address for the international community in its dealings with the Palestinian people.

Sword over PA’s head

The PA doesn’t have to be discarded for the Trump plan to progress. But alternative national and local leaderships need to be cultivated by Washington to serve both as a sword hanging over the PA’s head, to encourage it to capitulate, and as an alternative ruling class, should the PA fail to submit to the “deal of the century”.

In short, Washington is playing a game of chicken with Abbas and the PA. It is determined that the Palestinians will blink first.

Deeply implicated in Washington’s vision, even if largely out of sight, are the Arab states, whose role is to strong-arm whatever Palestinian leadership is required for the Greater Israel “deal of the century” to be implemented.

The burden of managing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will shift once again. When Israel occupied the Palestinian territories in 1967, it became directly responsible for the welfare of Palestinians living there.

Since the mid-1990s, when the Palestinian leadership was allowed to return under the Oslo accords, the PA has had to shoulder the task of keeping the territories quiet on Israel’s behalf. Now, after the PA has refused to sign off on Israel’s ambitions to take for itself East Jerusalem and much of the West Bank, the PA is increasingly seen as having outlived its usefulness.

Instead, Palestinian expectations may have to be managed via another route – through the key Arab states of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan. Or, as Palestinian analyst Hani al-Masri recently noted, the Bahrain conference “foreshadows the beginning of abandoning the [Palestine Liberation Organization] as the Palestinians’ representative, thereby opening the door … for a new era of Arab patronage over the Palestinians to take hold.”

Years of imperial overreach

Under Trump, what has changed most significantly in the US approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the urgency of Washington’s efforts to set aside the Palestinian national struggle once and for all.

Since the Six-Day War of 1967, US administrations – with the possible exception of Jimmy Carter’s – had only a marginal interest in forcing a settlement on Israelis and Palestinians. Aside from lip service to peace, they were mostly content to leave the two sides to engage in an asymmetrical struggle that always favoured Israel. This was sold as “conflict management”.

But after 15 years of US imperial overreach in the Middle East – and faced with major foreign policy setbacks in Iraq and Syria, and Israel’s related failures in Lebanon – Washington desperately needs to consolidate its position against rivals and potential rivals in this oil-rich region.

Russia, China, Turkey, Iran, and even Europe, are jostling in different ways for a more assertive role in the Middle East. As it tries to counter these influences, the US wishes to bring together its main allies in the region: Israel and the key Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia.

Although secret ties between the two sides have been growing for some time, unresolved tensions remain over Israel’s demand that it be allowed to maintain regional superiority in military and intelligence matters. That has been obvious in current power battles playing out in Washington.

The Trump administration last month declared extraordinary measures to bypass Congress so that it could sell more than $8bn in weapons to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan. In retaliation, Congressional leaders close to Israel vowed they would block the arms sales.

Splinter in region’s windpipe

In the White House’s view, little further progress can be made until the Palestinian splinter stuck deep in the Middle East’s windpipe is removed.

Most Arab leaders care nothing for the Palestinian cause, and have come to bitterly resent the way the Palestinians’ enduring struggle for statehood has complicated their own dealings in the region, especially with Iran and Israel.

They would enthusiastically embrace a full partnership with the US and Israel in the region, if only they could afford to be seen doing so.

But the Palestinians’ struggle against Israel – and its powerful symbolism in a region that has experienced so much malign Western interference – continues to serve as a brake on Washington’s efforts to forge tighter and more explicit alliances with the Arab states.

Serious case of hubris

As such, the Trump administration has concluded that “conflict management” is no longer in US interests. It needs to isolate and dispose of the Palestinian splinter. Once that encumbrance is out of the way, the White House believes it can get on with forging a coalition with Israel and most of the Arab states to reassert its dominance over the Middle East.

All of this will likely prove far harder to achieve than the Trump administration imagines, as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo intimated last week in private.

But it would be wrong nonetheless to assume that the strategy behind Trump’s “deal of the century”, however unrealistic, is not clear-sighted in both its aims and methods.

It would be similarly misguided to believe that the administration’s policy is a maverick one. It is operating within the ideological constraints of the Washington foreign policy elite, even if Trump’s “peace plan” lies at the outer margins of the establishment consensus.

The Trump administration enjoys bipartisan backing from Congress both for its Jerusalem embassy move and for economic measures that threaten to crush the PA, a government-in-waiting that has already made enormous compromises in agreeing to statehood on a tiny fraction of its people’s historic homeland.

No doubt the Trump White House is suffering from a serious case of hubris in trying to eliminate the Palestinian cause for good. But that hubris, however dangerous, we should remember, is shared by much of the US political establishment.

• First published at Middle East Eye.

Categories: Anti-War, Foreign Policy

US Blames Iran for Tanker Attack: Let’s Talk Facts!

Sun, 2019-06-16 10:08

Caleb Maupin is a widely acclaimed speaker, writer, journalist, and political analyst. He has traveled extensively in the Middle East and in Latin America. He was involved with the Occupy Wall Street movement from its early planning stages, and has been involved many struggles for social justice. He is an outspoken advocate of international friendship and cooperation, as well 21st Century Socialism.

Categories: Anti-War, Foreign Policy

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