Saturday, January 31, 2015

Half a World in Resistance: Joining the Kashmiri Intifada

Half of Humanity Now Forms the ‘Resistance’

by Andre Vltchek - CounterPunch

A day before leaving Srinagar, in the ‘Indian administered Kashmir’, my comrades asked me to address a small gathering of local as well as progressive visiting Indian intellectuals. They mainly wanted to hear about the state of the resistance against Western imperialism. And Western imperialism is what India is now trying to join so eagerly and shamelessly.

It was dark outside, literally and metaphorically. Kashmir has been bleeding horrifically. At least 80,000 people have died, most of them from the terror spread by the fascist Indian state. The victims have been mainly civilians. At least 8,000 people have been “disappeared”. There have been countless, predominantly unreported, rapes and cases of beastly, unimaginable torture. Much of it has happened in just the last two decades.

I am going to write about this, soon, next week. But before I do, let me tell this story.

During that dark night, several men and women were gathered in a cramped room, asking me one simple and essential question: “Could the brutality of the Empire be prevented, and if not prevented, could it be stopped?”

I replied that “Yes!” And “Yes!” again.

Because no matter how dark the night appears to be, no matter how hopeless the struggles seems to be, the world had changed in the last several years; and it had changed profoundly.


When I stood in the middle of the street on 26th January 2015, just with my camera, right between stone-throwing youth and heavily armed Indian security forces, I was the only person willing to report the event. Later a Kashmiri human rights activist explained to me: “Foreigners don’t dare to do this, local reporters would be, as always, beaten up by the Indian security forces, and if Indians were to dare and come, they would encounter the wrath of those indignant stone-throwing youth.”

And so I was alone there.

But was I really?

Behind me – not visibly behind – but psychologically not too far away, stood a comrade who has been working for a huge international press agency. He couldn’t be here with me, but before I went, he offered his support, contacts, and expertise. Without his help and backing, my work would be next to impossible, or at least much more dangerous than it already was.

The struggle for justice, for true freedom, and above all, for the survival of humanity, is becoming increasingly broad, joined by countries located on all the continents and by individuals from all walks of life.

Kashmiri Intifada

Two decades ago we lived in a totally different world. The lackeys of the West, with Boris Yeltsin leading the pack, boozed the Soviet Union out. Eastern Europe was mostly led by the children of former elites, such as Vaclav Havel. China was still very far from reversing its moderately toxic pro-market ‘reforms’ introduced by Deng Xiaoping. And Latin America: it was in total disarray, either engaged in civil wars and conflicts, recovering from monstrous pro-Western dictatorships, or run by the market-fundamentalists, or all the above. In Africa and in the Middle East, right-wing dictatorships were consolidating their power, and in many Asian nations, the elites were busy re-grabbing power, applauded by their own private press, as well as by the Western mainstream media.

Language and terminology, the linguistics, had been totally perverted or at least confused. Fascism was called ‘democracy’. Terms like ‘socialism’ and ‘communism’ were determinedly and constantly smeared.

What a world it used to be!

But no more: everything has totally changed.


In Kashmir, I told my friends about the new and powerful media; that of Latin America, in Russia, in China, and Iran. It is not ‘alternative’, anymore. In a way it is ‘mainstream’, because in many parts of the world, exposing the crimes committed by the West, by its Empire and by its ‘client states’ like India, Indonesia, Kenya, Rwanda or Uganda, has become something that is considered absolutely natural, something that is to be expected and demanded by the people.

But above all, I explained that just a few years ago, maybe just one decade back, I only had a few close people like Noam Chomsky, ‘covering my back’. Now there are many, from all classes, professions and continents!

One of the greatest international lawyers, Chris Black from Toronto, Canada, and a former World Bank economist, Peter Koenig, are now writing a book with me. Both understood and turned around to confront fascism. Both are overflowing with practical knowledge, because they used to work ‘inside the system’.

Just two months ago I was invited to Eritrea, a great and brave African country that is fighting the direct intimidation and embargos of the Empire. The lady who hosted me, used to work in South Sudan, for the World Bank. She got so disgusted with what she was expected to do – destroying her fellow African people – that she left her highly paid job, just a year ago, in order to set up her own progressive organization, defending the Horn Of Africa. She set up its headquarters in the capital of her native Eritrea, Asmara. Since then she has been courageously fighting for her people, and for those in this totally abused and tortured part of the world.

I have met and worked with countless staff-members of the United Nations: educators and statisticians, academics, economists and other professionals. Some are just lamenting about how the dream of the “World Government” degenerated and gone to the dogs. But others are actively fighting, often behind the scene, breaking countless rules and regulations.

Some quit, unwilling to compromise.

I have to mention my deceased friend, Australian lawyer Michael Hourigan, a former UN genocide investigator from ICTR, who managed to identify those who shot down the airplane carrying the Presidents of Rwanda and Burundi, in 1994. He was forced to fly to The Hague, and literally ordered to shut up, by a high UN official. That was because all the evidence was pointing at the Rwandan President Paul Kagame and his Tutsi army, RPF. Kagame has been a brutal Western implant, responsible for millions of dead people in the plundered Democratic Republic of Congo.

The shooting down of the Presidential ‘Falcon’ jet triggered the epic 1994 violence, and terrible inter-tribal bloodletting.

Michael Hourigan resigned, in disgust, and returned to his native Adelaide in Australia. He passed the evidence on to me, during the filming of my feature documentary, “Rwanda Gambit”.

Another horror story I was asked to tell to the world, was by Ms. Masako Yonekawa, a former UNHCR head in Goma, perhaps the most tattered and terrorized part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and of Africa in general.

Ms. Yonekawa resigned from the UN, and then went on record, testifying in my film, about the brutality of the RPF, about the Western support for the RPF, and about the UN staff, particularly the Indian peacekeepers, who had been involved in the smuggling of raw materials from the DRC.

There were others, many others, who managed to identify the genocide in the DR Congo, particularly those UN staff members who wrote and consequently ‘leaked’ the reports (including the ‘Mapping Report’) on the involvement of both Rwanda and Uganda in the genocide in Goma and other parts of the DRC.

Two UN statisticians helped me, when I was writing my book on the horrors of modern, post-Suharto Indonesia, “Indonesia – Archipelago of Fear.”

Not everyone has the guts to ‘go public’, or to resign. But I know: whenever great matters are at stake, there are thinkers and teachers, doctors and pilots, UN experts, economists, lawyers, even some government officials and soldiers, who are ready to risk their careers, and support me, or people like me, and therefore directly or indirectly joining the struggle.

These days I never feel desperate or hopeless. Some of the greatest individuals are on our side.

Just look at the “BRussells Tribunal”! Or look at the ‘composition’, the list of those who are writing for The Counterpunch or The Greanville Post.

Of course, the journey, the process, is not without those who betray it. There are always people who put their petty fears and interests above the great struggles. They betray individuals, the fighters, and they also betray entire concepts. But nothing is, or should be ‘perfect’.

Those who betray will, one day, face their own conscience, if they have any at all. They will not be at peace with themselves. As for the honest fighters, traitors will certainly hurt them, but after a while, they will get up, straighten themselves again, and march forward.


There is great hope, everywhere. And not too see it, not to sense it, would take truly great ‘discipline’.

Russia got up from its knees and confronted the Empire. China did the same, in many ways returning to Socialist, even Communist designs. Both big nations are increasingly ‘internationalist’ when it comes to their foreign policy. Both are also deeply concerned with the lives of their people.

Latin America broke the shackles of Western imperialism and of the racist ‘Monroe Doctrine’. Each one of these great nations: Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil, is going its own way, but in brilliant solidarity with each other, and as a bloc. Each one is also forging closer and closer links with China and Russia.

Those nations that have been overrun by the West, recently: Paraguay and Honduras are seen clearly as scarecrows. Nobody in their sane mind would like to follow their ‘examples’.

Africa, the most injured continent on Earth, is standing tall at least at its two extremes: South Africa and Zimbabwe in the South, and Eritrea in the north.

As complex as the situation is there, North Korea, Vietnam and Laos are still in the camp of the rebels, and have to be taken seriously.

Were India not to betray the BRICS, were it not to jump into an horrific embrace of the West and Israel, as well as its own grotesque religious and cast-driven nationalism, at least one half of the planet would now be standing firmly against the Empire and its sinister design to fully control the world.


I spoke to my Kashmiri friends about all of this.

But Kashmir is bleeding, from torture and rape, from extra-judicial killings. There, India is conducting joint exercises with both the US and Israel. It is learning how to massacre, control and torture, and it is often outdoing its gurus.

The victims of the bestiality committed by the Empire and its client states are our allies. We will not hide the facts! We will not maneuver. We will speak openly and clearly. If we have any ‘ideological differences’, we will take care of them later. But our message, for now, is clear: enough of torture, enough of rape, enough of genocides.

I told them, to my friends: “Kashmir is not alone. We will stand by you, we will struggle with you, and if needed, we will risk our lives for you!”

The era of cowardice is over. A new age of solidarity has arrived.

As Indian guns were pointed at me, I felt calm. “If anything happens to me, many others will take my place”, I thought. I am not a hero, I don’t believe in heroism, but I am not a coward, either. And after learning what has been taking place in Kashmir, every pore of my body was supporting the victims.

In Kashmir I felt that Leningrad and Beijing, Caracas, Havana, Asmara and Quito are behind me. The songs of resistance from Srinagar were the songs of resistance of the Russian, Chinese, African and Latin American people.

We are all connected. And that is why I was standing there, in the middle of the road, in Srinagar, facing the soldiers of the Indian state – those lackeys of the Empire.

“He is really coming with us!” one of the boys said, in disbelief.

“Yes!” I said, squeezing my camera. As always, I wanted to survive. I wanted to survive so much! But not by all means! Not as a slave, not as a lackey.

“Half of humanity is now with us”, I thought, as the bandits, those security forces of India, trained openly by US and Israeli began closing in on us, firing teargas canisters, not into the air but directly at people’s heads. “And many more will be joining, soon.”

Andre Vltchek is a novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. His critically acclaimed political revolutionary novel Point of No Return is now re-edited and available. Oceania is his book on Western imperialism in South Pacific. His provocative book about post-Suharto Indonesia and market-fundamentalist model is called “Indonesia – The Archipelago of Fear” (Pluto). He just completed feature documentary “Rwanda Gambit” about Rwandan history and the plunder of DR Congo. After living for many years in Latin America and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides and works in East Asia and Africa. He can be reached through his website.

Sleepwalking the World into Another Grand War

‘Group-Thinking’ the World into a New War

by Robert Parry - Consortium News

If you wonder how the lethal “group think” on Iraq took shape in 2002, you might want to study what’s happening today with Ukraine. A misguided consensus has grabbed hold of Official Washington and has pulled in everyone who “matters” and tossed out almost anyone who disagrees.

Part of the problem, in both cases, has been that neocon propagandists understand that in the modern American media the personal is the political, that is, you don’t deal with the larger context of a dispute, you make it about some easily demonized figure. So, instead of understanding the complexities of Iraq, you focus on the unsavory Saddam Hussein.

This approach has been part of the neocon playbook at least since the 1980s when many of today’s leading neocons – such as Elliott Abrams and Robert Kagan – were entering government and cut their teeth as propagandists for the Reagan administration. Back then, the game was to put, say, Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega into the demon suit, with accusations about him wearing “designer glasses.” Later, it was Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega and then, of course, Saddam Hussein.

Instead of Americans coming to grips with the painful history of Central America, where the U.S. government has caused much of the violence and dysfunction, or in Iraq, where Western nations don’t have clean hands either, the story was made personal – about the demonized leader – and anyone who provided a fuller context was denounced as an “Ortega apologist” or a “Noriega apologist” or a “Saddam apologist.”

So, American skeptics were silenced and the U.S. government got to do what it wanted without serious debate. In Iraq, for instance, the American people would have benefited from a thorough airing of the complexities of Iraqi society – such as the sectarian divide between Sunni and Shiite – and the potential risks of invading under the dubious rationale of WMD.

But there was no thorough debate about anything: not about international law that held “aggressive war” to be “the supreme international crime”; not about the difficulty of putting a shattered Iraq back together after an invasion; not even about the doubts within the U.S. intelligence community about whether Iraq possessed usable WMD and whether Hussein had any ties to al-Qaeda.

All the American people heard was that Saddam Hussein was “a bad guy” and it was America’s right and duty to get rid of “bad guys” who supposedly had dangerous WMDs that they might share with other “bad guys.” To say that this simplistic argument was an insult to a modern democracy would be an understatement, but the propaganda worked because almost no one in the mainstream press or in academia or in politics dared speak out.

Those who could have made a difference feared for their careers – and they were “right” to have those fears, at least in the sense that it was much safer, career-wise, to run with the herd than to stand in the way. Even after the Iraq War had turned into an unmitigated disaster with horrific repercussions reaching to the present, the U.S. political/media establishment undertook no serious effort to impose accountability.

Almost no one who joined in the Iraq “group think” was punished. It turns out that there truly is safety in numbers. Many of those exact same people are still around holding down the same powerful jobs as if nothing horrible had happened in Iraq. Their pontifications still are featured on the most influential opinion pages in American journalism, with the New York Times’ Thomas L. Friedman a perfect example.

Though Friedman has been wrong again and again, he is still regarded as perhaps the preeminent foreign policy pundit in the U.S. media. Which brings us to the issue of Ukraine and Russia.

A New Cold War

From the start of the Ukraine crisis in fall 2013, the New York Times, the Washington Post and virtually every mainstream U.S. news outlet have behaved as dishonestly as they did during the run-up to war with Iraq. Objectivity and other principles of journalism have been thrown out the window. The larger context of both Ukrainian politics and Russia’s role has been ignored.

Again, it’s all been about demonized “bad guys” – in this case, Ukraine’s elected President Viktor Yanukovych and Russia’s elected President Vladimir Putin – versus the “pro-Western good guys” who are deemed model democrats even as they collaborated with neo-Nazis to overthrow a constitutional order.

Again, the political is made personal: Yanukovych had a pricy sauna in his mansion; Putin rides a horse shirtless and doesn’t favor gay rights. So, if you raise questions about U.S. support for last year’s coup in Ukraine, you somehow must favor pricy saunas, riding shirtless and holding bigoted opinions about gays.

Anyone who dares protest the unrelentingly one-sided coverage is deemed a “Putin apologist” or a “stooge of Moscow.” So, most Americans – in a position to influence public knowledge but who want to stay employable – stay silent, just as they did during the Iraq War stampede.

One of the ugly but sadly typical cases relates to Russia scholar Stephen F. Cohen, who has been denounced by some of the usual neocon suspects for deviating from the “group think” that blames the entire Ukraine crisis on Putin. The New Republic, which has gotten pretty much every major issue wrong during my 37 years in Washington, smeared Cohen as “Putin’s American toady.”

And, if you think that Cohen’s fellow scholars are more tolerant of a well-argued dissent, the Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies further proved that deviation from the “group think” on Ukraine is not to be tolerated.

The academic group spurned a fellowship program, which it had solicited from Cohen’s wife, Katrina vanden Heuvel, because the program’s title included Cohen’s name. “It’s no secret that there were swirling controversies surrounding Professor Cohen,” Stephen Hanson, the group’s president, told the New York Times.

In a protest letter to the group, Cohen called this action “a political decision that creates serious doubts about the organization’s commitment to First Amendment rights and academic freedom.” He also noted that young scholars in the field have expressed fear for their professional futures if they break from the herd.

He mentioned the story of one young woman scholar who dropped off a panel to avoid risking her career in case she said something that could be deemed sympathetic to Russia.

Cohen noted, too, that even established foreign policy figures, ex-National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, have been accused in the Washington Post of “advocating that the West appease Russia,” with the notion of “appeasement” meant “to be disqualifying, chilling, censorious.” (Kissinger had objected to the comparison of Putin to Hitler as unfounded.)

In other words, as the United States rushes into a new Cold War with Russia, we are seeing the makings of a new McCarthyism, challenging the patriotism of anyone who doesn’t get into line. But this conformity of thought presents a serious threat to U.S. national security and even the future of the planet.

It may seem clever for some New Republic blogger or a Washington Post writer to insult anyone who doesn’t accept the over-the-top propaganda on Russia and Ukraine – much as they did to people who objected to the rush to war in Iraq – but a military clash with nuclear-armed Russia is a crisis of a much greater magnitude.

Botching Russia

Professor Cohen has been one of the few scholars who was right in criticizing Official Washington’s earlier “group think” about post-Soviet Russia, a reckless and mindless approach that laid the groundwork for today’s confrontation.

To understand why Russians are so alarmed by U.S. and NATO meddling in Ukraine, you have to go back to those days after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Instead of working with the Russians to transition carefully from a communist system to a pluralistic, capitalist one, the U.S. prescription was “shock therapy.”

As American “free market” experts descended on Moscow during the pliant regime of Boris Yeltsin, well-connected Russian thieves and their U.S. compatriots plundered the country’s wealth, creating a handful of billionaire “oligarchs” and leaving millions upon millions of Russians in a state of near starvation, with a collapse in life expectancy rarely seen in a country not at war.

Yet, despite the desperation of the masses, American journalists and pundits hailed the “democratic reform” underway in Russia with glowing accounts of how glittering life could be in the shiny new hotels, restaurants and bars of Moscow. Complaints about the suffering of average Russians were dismissed as the grumblings of losers who failed to appreciate the economic wonders that lay ahead.

As recounted in his 2001 book, Failed Crusade, Cohen correctly describes this fantastical reporting as journalistic “malpractice” that left the American people misinformed about the on-the-ground reality in Russia. The widespread suffering led Vladimir Putin, who succeeded Yeltsin, to pull back on the wholesale privatization, to punish some oligarchs and to restore some of the social safety net.

Though the U.S. mainstream media portrays Putin as essentially a tyrant, his elections and approval numbers indicate that he commands broad popular support, in part, because he stood up to some oligarchs (though he still worked with others). Yet, Official Washington continues to portray oligarchs whom Putin jailed as innocent victims of a tyrant’s revenge.

Last October, after Putin pardoned one jailed oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, neocon Freedom House sponsored a Washington dinner in his honor, hailing him as one of Russia’s political heroes. “I have to say I’m impressed by him,” declared Freedom House President David Kramer. “But he’s still figuring out how he can make a difference.”

New York Times writer Peter Baker fairly swooned at Khodorkovsky’s presence. “If anything, he seemed stronger and deeper than before” prison, Baker wrote. “The notion of prison as cleansing the soul and ennobling the spirit is a powerful motif in Russian literature.”

Yet, even Khodorkovsky, who is now in his early 50s, acknowledged that he “grew up in Russia’s emerging Wild West capitalism to take advantage of what he now says was a corrupt privatization system,” Baker reported.

In other words, Khodorkovsky was admitting that he obtained his vast wealth through a corrupt process, though by referring to it as the “Wild West” Baker made the adventure seem quite dashing and even admirable when, in reality, Khodorkovsky was a key figure in the plunder of Russia that impoverished millions of his countrymen and sent many to early graves.

In the 1990s, Professor Cohen was one of the few scholars with the courage to challenge the prevailing boosterism for Russia’s “shock therapy.” He noted even then the danger of mistaken “conventional wisdom” and how it strangles original thought and necessary skepticism.

“Much as Russia scholars prefer consensus, even orthodoxy, to dissent, most journalists, one of them tells us, are ‘devoted to group-think’ and ‘see the world through a set of standard templates,’” wrote Cohen. “For them to break with ‘standard templates’ requires not only introspection but retrospection, which also is not a characteristic of either profession.”

A Plodding Pundit

Arguably, no one in journalism proves that point better than New York Times columnist Friedman, who is at best a pedestrian thinker plodding somewhere near the front of the herd. But Friedman’s access to millions of readers on the New York Times op-ed page makes him an important figure in consolidating the “group think” no matter how askew it is from reality.

Friedman played a key role in lining up many Americans behind the invasion of Iraq and is doing the same in the current march of folly into a new Cold War with Russia, including now a hot war on Russia’s Ukrainian border. In one typically mindless but inflammatory column, entitled “Czar Putin’s Next Moves,” Friedman decided it was time to buy into the trendy analogy of likening Putin to Hitler.

“Last March, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was quoted as saying that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine, supposedly in defense of Russian-speakers there, was just like ‘what Hitler did back in the ‘30s’ — using ethnic Germans to justify his invasion of neighboring lands. At the time, I thought such a comparison was over the top. I don’t think so anymore.”

Though Friedman was writing from Zurich apparently without direct knowledge of what is happening in Ukraine, he wrote as if he were on the front lines: “Putin’s use of Russian troops wearing uniforms without insignia to invade Ukraine and to covertly buttress Ukrainian rebels bought and paid for by Moscow — all disguised by a web of lies that would have made Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels blush and all for the purpose of destroying Ukraine’s reform movement before it can create a democratic model that might appeal to Russians more than Putin’s kleptocracy — is the ugliest geopolitical mugging happening in the world today.

“Ukraine matters — more than the war in Iraq against the Islamic State, a.k.a., ISIS. It is still not clear that most of our allies in the war against ISIS share our values. That conflict has a big tribal and sectarian element. It is unmistakably clear, though, that Ukraine’s reformers in its newly elected government and Parliament — who are struggling to get free of Russia’s orbit and become part of the European Union’s market and democratic community — do share our values. If Putin the Thug gets away with crushing Ukraine’s new democratic experiment and unilaterally redrawing the borders of Europe, every pro-Western country around Russia will be in danger.”

If Friedman wished to show any balance – which he clearly didn’t – he might have noted that Goebbels would actually be quite proud of the fact that some of Hitler’s modern-day followers are at the forefront of the fight for Ukrainian “reform,” dispatched by those Kiev “reformers” to spearhead the nasty slaughter of ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine.

But references to those inconvenient neo-Nazis, who also spearheaded the coup last February ousting President Yanukovych, are essentially verboten in the U.S. mainstream media. So, is any reference to the fact that eastern Ukrainians have legitimate grievances with the Kiev authorities who ousted Yanukovych who had been elected with strong support from eastern Ukraine.

But in the mainstream American “group think,” the people of eastern Ukraine are simply “bought and paid for by Moscow” – all the better to feel good about slaughtering them. [See’s “Seeing No Neo-Nazi Militias in Ukraine.”]

We’re also not supposed to mention that there was a coup in Ukraine, as the New York Times told us earlier this month. It was just white-hat “reformers” bringing more U.S.-sponsored good government to Ukraine. [See’s “NYT Still Pretends No Coup in Ukraine.”]

In his column, without any sense of irony or awareness, Friedman glowingly quotes Natalie Jaresko, Ukraine’s new finance minister (leaving out that Jaresko is a newly minted Ukrainian citizen, an ex-American diplomat and investment banker with her own history of “kleptocracy.”)

Friedman quotes Jaresko’s stirring words: “Putin fears a Ukraine that demands to live and wants to live and insists on living on European values — with a robust civil society and freedom of speech and religion [and] with a system of values the Ukrainian people have chosen and laid down their lives for.”

However, as I noted in December, Jaresko headed a U.S. government-funded investment project for Ukraine that involved substantial insider dealings, including $1 million-plus fees to a management company that she also controlled.

Jaresko served as president and chief executive officer of Western NIS Enterprise Fund (WNISEF), which was created by the U.S. Agency for International Development with $150 million to spur business activity in Ukraine. She also was cofounder and managing partner of Horizon Capital which managed WNISEF’s investments at a rate of 2 to 2.5 percent of committed capital, fees exceeding $1 million in recent years, according to WNISEF’s 2012 annual report.

In the 2012 report, the section on “related party transactions” covered some two pages and included not only the management fees to Jaresko’s Horizon Capital ($1,037,603 in 2011 and $1,023,689 in 2012) but also WNISEF’s co-investments in projects with the Emerging Europe Growth Fund [EEGF], where Jaresko was founding partner and chief executive officer. Jaresko’s Horizon Capital also managed EEGF.

From 2007 to 2011, WNISEF co-invested $4.25 million with EEGF in Kerameya LLC, a Ukrainian brick manufacturer, and WNISEF sold EEGF 15.63 percent of Moldova’s Fincombank for $5 million, the report said. It also listed extensive exchanges of personnel and equipment between WNISEF and Horizon Capital.

Though it’s difficult for an outsider to ascertain the relative merits of these insider deals, they involved potential conflicts of interest between a U.S.-taxpayer-funded entity and a private company that Jaresko controlled.

Based on the data from WNISEF’s 2012 annual report, it also appeared that the U.S. taxpayers had lost about one-third of their investment in WNISEF, with the fund’s balance at $98,074,030, compared to the initial U.S. government grant of $150 million.

In other words, there is another side of the Ukraine story, a darker reality that Friedman and the rest of the mainstream media don’t want you to know. They want to shut out alternative information and lead you into another conflict, much as they did in Iraq.

But Friedman is right about one thing: “Ukraine matters.” And he’s even right that Ukraine matters more than the butchery that’s continuing in Iraq.

But Friedman is wrong about why. Ukraine matters more because he and the other “group thinkers,” who turned Iraq into today’s slaughterhouse, are just as blind to the reality of the U.S. military confronting Russia over Ukraine, except in the Ukraine case, both sides have nuclear weapons.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and You also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Senators, Scumbags, and Cuba: Media "Alternatives" Fail to Stray from Mainstream Messaging

Sen. John McCain is 'low-life scum': And NPR Is Not Reporting the

by Dave Lindorff  - This Can't Be Happening

Shortly after hearing a snippet of the chatter during a fund-raising campaign by my local NPR station in which it was asserted that NPR listeners appreciated that they were getting the full story instead of just headlines and soundbites, I heard a report about the latest developments in US-Cuba relations: Cuban President Raul Castro’s assertion that diplomatic relations would not be possible until the US returned Guantanamo Bay, site of a huge US naval base and of the 13-year-old internment and torture center for captives in the US “War on Terror,” and until the US paid Cuba reparations for the half-century embargo and blockade of Cuba.

In that report, it was stated as fact that the US base was “leased” from Cuba on a permanent basis, as a result of an “agreement” between the two governments of Cuba and the US.

John McCain, the war-loving Republican senator from Arizona, on Thursday kicked out from his Senate Armed Forces Committee hearing protesters who had been calling for the arrest of witness Henry Kissinger on charges of war crimes for his authorization, as Nixon’s national security council chief, of the 1972 carpet bombing of North Vietnam, including dikes, hospitals and schools. He called the protesters -- whom he threatened to have arrested -- “low-life scum.” This blowhard Senate fossil also weighed in on the Cuba issue, joking in the NPR report that Guantanamo was legally a possession of the US, and that those like Fidel and Raul Castro, would be “going to meet Karl Marx” before that base would be turned over to Cuba.

Nowhere did NPR, which claims to give “the whole story” in its reports, bother to point out that the eternal lease that Cuba signed with the US back in 1901 was signed under considerable duress by a country that had just won its independence from a grudging United States, which had initially hung onto the island after winning the 1898-9 Spanish-American War, only giving it its independence after realizing that it would have an insurrection on its hands if it didn’t (Cuban independence fighters inspired by the late José Martí had nearly succeeded in ousting their Spanish colonial overlords by the time the US sparked a war against Spain).

Cuba President Raul Castro, Sen. John McCain, prisoners at GITMO, 
and a view of Guantanamo Bay Naval Station

Here’s what NPR didn’t mention to listeners: When the US military which had occupied Cuba since the end of the Spanish-American War, began to withdraw from the island in early 1901, it was on the basis of something passed as part of the Congressional Army Appropriations Act called the Platt Amendment. That amendment was an imperialist document if ever there was one, considering that in 1901 Cuba was already considered an independent country. The amendment declared that Cuba would never transfer any land to any power other than the US, that the US would always have the right to intervene militarily in Cuba and even to occupy Cuba whenever the lives, rights or properties of American citizens there were deemed to be threatened, and Guantanamo Bay was to be ceded to the US Navy under terms of a lease that could only be revoked by mutual agreement of the two countries’ governments.

This amendment was presented as a treaty to the new Cuban Constituent Assembly with the demand that it be “approved fully and without changes” and added to the new country’s constitution. It was signed in 1903 at a time that the US still had troops occupying the island -- in otherwords, under the gun.

To give you a sense of the outrageousness of this “agreement,” General Leonard Wood, the military governor of the island before it’s “independence” even admitted at the time that "Little or no independence had been left to Cuba with the Platt Amendment.”

As well, before presidential elections for Cuba’s first president in December, 1901, one of the two candidates, General Batrolome Maso, quite the race, in part over the terms of the Platt Amendment, leaving only Tomás Estrada Palma, a US citizen living in the United States at the time of the campaign.

To argue that the Guantanamo lease, signed under such imperialist conditions, provides any kind of legal justification for the US to continue to occupy Cuban territory is simply farcical and ahistorical.

Of course the US should return the Guantanamo Bay territory to Cuba (a gesture which would have the added benefit that it would eliminate the GITMO torture detention center that has made the US a hated object of ridicule around the globe).

As for Raul Castro’s other pre-diplomatic recognition demand that the US should pay reparations to Cuba for its 50-year embargo, that too is logical. Reparations would be a sound basis for renewed relations between the two estranged countries. The embargo -- still in effect -- has been an illegal act of war by the US against the Cuban people from the beginning, and by some estimates has cost the island as much as $1 trillion in lost development and economic growth over that time. Perhaps expecting the US to repay $1 trillion is too much to hope for, but an acknowledgement of the abusiveness of the embargo, and some kind of no-strings financial aid as recompense for that abuse, would be appropriate. While it's at it, the US should also pay Cuba reparations for the illegal "Bay of Pigs" invasion it sponsored in 1960.

In any case, unless it wants to drop its claim to be reporting the news differently and more fully than the corporate media, NPR should at least be giving its listeners the whole story about Guantanamo and about America’s history of bulling and war-mongering against the people and government of Cuba.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

TREWS!? Establishment Riddled With Paedophiles?

Is The Establishment Riddled With Paedophiles? 

by Russell Brand - The Trews (E244)

Reaction to the delay in Parliament's child abuse inquiry, the allegations of child abuse against former politicians and the recent allegations against Prince Andrew.
Subscribe Here Now: and send links to video news items of topical stories that you'd like me to analyse.

Produced directed & edited by Gareth Roy.
Trews Theme by The Rubberbandits
Thanks to Jimi Mackay: @jimimackay
and Urban Nerds: 
for our creative services.

Looking the Trojan Hearse in the Mouth: Greece Defies Euro-Masters

Trojan Hearse: Greek Elections and the Euro Leper Colony

by Greg Palast for το χωνί (Greece)

[updated January 26, 2015] 

Europe is stunned, and bankers aghast, that the new party of the Left, Syriza, won Sunday's parliamentary elections in Greece.

Syriza won on the promise that it will cure Greece of leprosy.

Oddly, Syriza also promises that it will remain in the leper colony. That is, Syriza wants to rid Greece of the cruelty of austerity imposed by the European Central Bank but insists on staying in the euro zone.

The problem is, austerity run wild is merely a symptom of an illness. The underlying disease is the euro itself.

For the last five years, Greeks have been told that, if you cure your disease—that is, if you dump the euro—the sky will fall. I guess Greeks haven’t noticed, the sky has fallen already. With unemployment at 25%, with doctors and teachers eating out of garbage cans, there is no further to fall.

In 2010, when unemployment was a terrible 10%, a year into the crisis, the “Troika” (the European Central Bank, European Commission and the International Monetary Fund) told the Greeks that brutal austerity measures would restore their economy by 2012.

Ask yourself, Was the Troika right?

There is a saying in America: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Can Greece survive without the euro? Greece is already dead, but the Germans won’t even bother to bury the corpse. Greeks are told that if they leave the euro and renounce its debts, the nation will not be able to access world capital markets. The reality is, Greece can’t access world markets now: no one lends to a corpse.

There’s a way back across the River Styx. But it’s not by paddling on a euro.

There’s Life after Euro

Many nations do quite well without the euro. Sweden, Denmark and India do just fine without the euro—and so does Turkey, which had the luck to be excluded from the euro-zone. As long as Turks stick to the lira, even Turkey’s brain-damaged Islamo-fascist President Tayyip Erdoğan cannot destroy their economy.

Can Greece just dump the euro? They have happy precedents to follow. Argentina was once pegged to the US dollar much as Greece is tied to the euro today. In 2000, Argentines, hungry and angry, revolted. Argentina ultimately overthrew the dollar dictatorship, the IMF diktats and the threats of creditors, and defaulted on its dollar bonds. Free at last! In the decade since, the Argentine economy soared. Yes, today, Argentina is under attack by financial vultures, but that is only because the nation became so temptingly wealthy.

I was in Brazil when its President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva told the IMF to go to hell—and rejected privatization of the state banks and the state oil company, rejected cutting pensions and thumbed his nose at the rest of the austerity nonsense. Instead, Lula created the bolsa familia, a massive pay-out to the nation’s poor. The result: Brazil not only survived but thrived during the 2008-10 world financial crisis. Despite pressure, Brazil never ceded control of its currency. (It is a sad irony that Brazil is only now faltering. That’s the fault entirely of Lula’s successor, President Dilma Rousseff, who is beginning to dance the austerity samba.)

Austerity: Religion, Not Economics

The euro is simply the deutschmark with little stars on it. Greece cannot adopt Germany’s currency without adopting Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, as its own.

And Schäuble has determined that Greece must be punished. As my homey Paul Krugman points out, there is no credible economic theory that says that austerity—that is, cutting government spending, cutting wages, cutting consumer demand—can in any way help a nation in recession, in deflation. That’s why, in 2009, Obama ordered up stimulus, not a sleeping pill.

But austerity has nothing to do with economics. It is religion: the belief by the stern Lutheran Germans that Greeks have had too much fun, spent too much money, and spent too much lazy time in the sun—and now Greeks must pay a price for their sins.

Oddly, I hear this self-flagellating nonsense from Greeks themselves: we are lazy. We deserve our punishment. Nonsense. The average Greek works more hours in a year than any other worker in the 34 nations of the OECD; Germans the least.

The Euro’s Father Describes his Little Bastard

Alexis Tsipras, the leader of Syriza, would like to pretend that austerity and the euro are two different things, that you can marry the pretty girl but not invite her ugly sister to the wedding. Apparently, the Syriza chief is blissfully ignorant of the history of the euro. The horror of austerity is not the consequence of Greek profligacy: it was designed into the euro’s plan from the beginning.

This was explained to me by the father of the euro himself, economist Robert Mundell of Columbia University. (I studied economics with Mundell’s buddy, Milton Friedman.) Mundell not only invented the euro, he also fathered the misery-making policies of Thatcher and Reagan, known as “supply-side economics” – or, as George Bush Sr. called it, “voodoo economics.” Supply-side voodoo is the long-discredited belief that if a nation demolishes the power of unions, cuts business taxes, eliminates government regulation and public ownership of utilities, economic prosperity will follow.

The euro is simply the other side of the supply-side coin. As Mundell explained it, the euro is the way in which congresses and parliaments can be stripped of all power over monetary and fiscal policy. Bothersome democracy is removed from the economic system. “Without fiscal policy,” Mundell told me, “the only way nations can keep jobs is by the competitive reduction of rules on business.”

Greece, to survive in a euro economy, can only revive employment by reducing wages. Indeed, the recent tiny reduction in unemployment is the sign that Greeks are slowly accepting a permanent future of low wages serving piña coladas to Germans on holiday cruises.

It is argued that Greece owes Germany, the IMF and the European Central Bank for bail-out-billions. Nonsense. None of the billions in bail-out funds went into Greek pockets. It all went to bail out Deutsche Bank and other foreign creditors. The EU treasuries swallowed 90% of its private bankers’ bonds. Germany bailed out Germany, not Greece.

Nevertheless, Greece must pay Germany back, Mr. Tsipras, if you want to continue to use Germany’s currency, that is.

Greece: Goldman Sacked

Greece’s ruin began with secret, fraudulent currency swaps, designed a decade ago by Goldman Sachs, to conceal Greek deficits that exceeded the euro zone’s 3%-of-GDP limit. In 2009, when the truth came out, Greek debt holders realized they had been cheated. These debt buyers then demanded usurious levels of interest (or, if you prefer, a high “spread”) to insure themselves against future fraud. The compounding of this interest premium brought the Greek nation to its knees. In other words, the crimes committed to join and stay in the euro, not Greek profligacy, caused the crisis.

The USA, Brazil and China escaped from depression by increasing their money supply and government spending and taking control of currency exchange rates—crucial tools Greece gave up in return for the euro.

Worse, once the Trojan hearse of the euro entered Athens, tourism, Greece’s main industry, drained to Turkey where hotels and souvenirs are priced in cheap lira. This allowed Dr. Mundell’s remorseless wage-lowering machine, the euro, to do its work, to force Greece to strip all its workers of pensions and power.

Greece fell to its knees, with no choice but to beg Germany for mercy.

But there is no mercy. As Germany’s Schäuble insists, democracy, this week’s vote, means nothing. "New elections change nothing in the accords struck with the Greek government,” he says. “[Greeks] have no alternative.”

Ah, but they do, Mr. Schäuble. They can tell you to take your euro and shove it up your Merkel.

* * * * * *

Investigative reporter Greg Palast's book, Vultures' Picnic, with the no-BS inside story of the financial collapse, will soon be released in a Greek edition by Livanis.

Support the Palast Investigative fund with a tax-deductible donation and get a signed copy Vultures' Picnic or or simply make a tax-deductible contribution to keep our work alive!

Greg Palast is also the author of several New York Timesbestsellers includingThe Best Democracy Money Can Buy andBillionaires & Ballot Bandits.

Palast is a Puffin Foundation Fellow for Investigative Reporting.

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Demand Forecasting Spells Reversal in Oil Prices

Increasing Demand For Refined Products Will Increase Oil Prices

by Dan Steffens -

In last week's article I posted a chart from the International Energy Agency'srecent Oil Market Report that shows global demand for refined products catching up to supply by the 3rd quarter of this year. My opinion is that all of the analysts who are now blaming the sharp drop in oil prices on a "glut" of supply could change their tune quickly as consumers adjust to lower fuel costs.

Just as higher costs reduce demand for any commodity, lower costs will increase demand. This is especially true for a commodity that has a direct impact on standard of living, like oil does.

When the price of gasoline plunged below $1.00/gallon in 1986, demand for motor fuels and other refined products increased by almost 5% within twelve months. Today, world demand for hydrocarbon based liquid fuels (including biofuels) is over 92.5 million barrels per day. You can go to the IEA website and see for yourself that normal seasonal demand is expected to push demand over 94.0 million barrels per day within six months. I think both the IEA and our own Energy Information Administration (EIA) are grossly underestimating the price related demand increase that is already starting to show up in the data.

Last week's EIA report confirms that demand is already surging in the United States. Granted, part of the year-over-year increase in gasoline consumption may be a result of the harsh winter weather we had last year, but I think this story is going to play out. If gasoline prices remain low until this summer, we should see a sharp increase in the number of Americans that decide to take long driving vacations this year. We do love our SUVs.

Today's low crude oil price is blamed on Saudi Arabia's decision not to reduce supply even though the world is oversupplied by an estimated 1.5 million barrels per day. If gasoline under $2.00/gallon increases global demand for motor fuels by half of the amount it did back in 1986 (2.5%), demand for oil will increase by 2.4 million barrels per day and today's "glut" will soon fade from memory.

Gasoline prices in Texas are now under $1.75/gallon at many discount stations.

It is going to take a while to work off the build-up in both crude oil and gasoline inventories, but if the IEA and EIA start reporting that demand is catching up with supply the NYMEX strip price for crude oil will adjust quickly. The December, 2015 futures contract for WTI crude oil closed at $53.12/bbl on Friday, January 23 ($7.83/bbl above the front month contract). By the way, this has a lot to do with why crude oil inventories are building.

Keep in mind that oil production is also going to drop in response to lower prices. The U.S. active drilling rig count dropped by another 43 for the week ending January 23, 2015 to 1,633. Based on the upstream companies' capital budgets that I'm seeing, I expect the active rig count to drop below 1,000 by the end of May. We will soon have less than 700 rigs drilling for oil in this country and that means U.S. oil production will be on decline by the 4th quarter. In the last three years, only the U.S., Canada and Brazil have increased production. The rest of the world's oil production has been in decline despite previous $100/bbl oil prices.

Even before the sharp decline in oil prices, global demand for oil was growing at a rate of 1 million barrels per day per year. In my opinion, within six months the rate of demand growth will accelerate to over 2 million barrels per day. Demand could go even higher if consumers adjust their driving habits like they did back in 1986.

The upstream oil & gas producers will soon be reporting 4th quarter results, including updated reserve reports. Now is the time to add the best oil producers and MLPs to play the coming rebound in oil prices.

 For more on this topic see:

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Syria's Diaspora in the Making: A Letter From One Refugee to Another

Dear Syria: From One Refugee to Another

by Ramzy Baroud - Middle East Eye

Whenever the word ‘refugee’ is uttered, I think of my mother. When Zionist militias began their systematic onslaught and ‘cleansing’ of the Palestinian Arab population of historic Palestine in 1948, she, along with her family, ran away from the once peaceful village of Beit Daras.

Back then, Zarefah was six. Her father died in a refugee camp in a tent provided by the Quakers soon after he had been separated from his land. She collected scrap metal to survive.

My grandmother Mariam, would venture out to the ‘death zone’ that bordered the separated and newly established state of Israel from Gaza’s refugee camps to collect figs and oranges. She faced death every day. Her children were all refugees, living in shatat – the Diaspora.

My mother lived to be 42. Her life was tremendously difficult. She married a refugee, my dad, and together they brought seven refugees into this world - my brothers, my sister and myself. One died as a toddler, for there was no medicine in the refugee camp’s clinic.

No matter where we are, in time and place, we carry our refugee ID cards, our undefinable nationalities, our precious status, our parents’ burden, our ancestors’ pain.

In fact, we have a name for it. It is called waja’ - ‘aching’ - a character that unifies millions of Palestinian refugees all across the globe. With our refugee population now dominated by second, third or even fourth generation refugees, it seems that our waja’ is what we hold in common most. Our geographies may differ, our languages, our political allegiances, our cultures, but ultimately, we meet around the painful experiences that we have internalized throughout generations.

My mother used to say – ihna yalfalastinieen damitna qaribeh – tears for us Palestinians are always close by. But our readiness to shed tears is not a sign of weakness, far from it. It is because throughout the years we managed to internalize our own exile, and its many ramifications, along with the exiles of everyone else’s. The emotional burden is just too great.

We mask the unbearable aching somehow, but it is always close to the surface. If we hear a single melody by Marcel Khalifeh or Sheikh Imam, or a few verses by Mahmoud Darwish, the wound is as fresh as ever.

Most of us no longer live in tents, but we are reminded of our refugee status every single day, by the Israeli occupation, by the Gaza siege and the internally-displaced Palestinians in Israel, by the Iraq war and the displacement of the already displaced Palestinians there, by the despicable living conditions of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, and throughout the Middle East.

But for us, Syria has been our greatest waja’ in years. Aside from the fact that most of Syria’s half a million Palestinian refugees are on the run again, living the pain of displacement and loss for the second, third, or even fourth time. Nine million Syrian refugees are now duplicating the Palestinian tragedy, charting the early course of the Palestinian Nakba, the catastrophe of 1948.

Watching the destitution of the Syrian refugees is like rewinding the past, in all of its awful details. And watching Arab states clamor to aid the refugees with ample words and little action feels as if we are living Arab betrayal all over again.

I watched my grandparents die, followed by my parents and many of my peers. All of them died refugees, carrying the same status and the same lost hope of return. The most they ever received from the ‘international community’ was a few sacks of rice and cheap cooking oil. And of course, numerous tents.

With time our refugee status morphed from being a ‘problem’ to an integral part of our identities. Being a ‘refugee’ at this stage means insisting on the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees as enshrined in international law. That status is no longer just a mere reference to physical displacement but also to a political, even a national identity.

Political division may, at times, dominate Palestinian society, but we will always be united by the fact that we are refugees with a common cause: going home. While for the Palestinians of Yarmouk near Damascus, being a refugee is a matter of life and death – often by starvation – for the larger Palestinian collective, the meaning of the word has become more involved: it has been etched onto our skin forever.

But what can one say by way of advice to the relatively new refugees of Syria, considering that we are yet to liberate ourselves from a status that we never sought?

There can be only reminders and a few warnings:

  • First, may your displacement end soon. May you never live the waja’ of displacement to the extent that you embrace it as a part of your identity, and pass it on from one generation to another. May it be a kind of fleeting pain or passing nightmare, but never a pervasive everyday reality.
  • Second, you must be prepared for the worst. My grandparents left their new blankets in their village before they fled to the refugee camps because they feared they would have been ruined by the dust of the journey. Alas, the camps became home, and the blankets were confiscated as the rest of Palestine was. Please remain hopeful, but realistic.
  • Third, don’t believe the ‘international community’ when they make promises. They never deliver, and when they do, it is always for ulterior motives that might bring you more harm than good. In fact, the term itself is illusory, mostly used in reference to western countries which have wronged you as they have us.
  • Fourth, don’t trust Arab regimes. They lie. They feel not your pain. They hear not your pleas, nor do they care. They have invested so much in destroying your countries, and so little in redeeming their sins. They speak of aid that rarely arrives and political initiatives that constitute mostly press releases. But they will take every opportunity to remind you of their virtues. In fact, your victimhood becomes a platform for their greatness. They thrive at your expense, thus will invest to further your misery.
  • Fifth, preserve your dignity. I know, it is never easy to maintain your pride when you sleep in a barren street covered in cardboard boxes. A mother would do whatever she can to help her children pass into safety. No matter, you must never allow the wolves awaiting you at every border to exploit your desperation. You must never allow the Emir, or his children or some rich businessman or sympathetic celebrity to use you as a photo-op. Do not ever kneel. Don’t ever kiss a hand. Don’t give anyone the satisfaction to exploit your pain.
  • Sixth, remain united. There is strength in unity when one is a refugee. Don’t allow political squabbles to distract you from the greater battle at hand: surviving until the day you return home, and you will.
  • Seventh, love Syria. Yours is an unparalleled civilization. Your history is rife with triumphs that were ultimately of your own making. Even if you must leave to distant lands, keep Syria in your hearts. This too shall pass, and Syria shall redeem its glory, once the brutes vanquish. Only the spirit of the people shall survive. It is not wishful thinking. It is history.

Dear Syrian refugee, it has been 66 years and counting since my people’s dispossession began. We are yet to return, but that is a battle for my children, and their children to fight. I hope yours ends soon. Until then, please remember the tent is just a tent, and the gusts of cold wind are but of a passing storm.

And until you return home to Syria, don’t let the refugee become who you are, as you are so much more.

Ramzy Baroud – - is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of He is currently completing his PhD studies at the University of Exeter. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London).

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

White House Down: The Drones Come Home (sort of)

Word Association: White House Threatened By Drones

by Chris Floyd - Empire Burlesque

WASHINGTON The White House faces a serious threat from drones, administration officials said today, after a recent incident in which a small, private drone crashed on the lawn near the president’s home. This episode, though minor, has alerted the White House to a wider problem, the official said.

“The drone campaign conducted by President Obama in countries all over world threatens to make the term ‘White House’ synonymous with murder, destruction, violence, terror and cowardly sneak attacks that have claimed hundreds of innocent lives,” said the official.

“Even now, there are many people who, when they hear the words ‘White House,’ immediately think of wedding parties blown to bits, of sleeping children eviscerated by flying shards of burning metal, of farmers in their fields atomized by missiles fired by comfortable suburban soldiers sitting in a wadded armchair ten thousand miles away, wolfing down Doritos while they push a button to kill someone. And hey, we don’t want people thinking that.”

The official said this risk from drones is compounded by the fact that President of the United States actually sits in his office in the White House and goes through checklists of people who are to be murdered that week by imperial fiat, with no charges, no judicial process, no defense, “not shriving time allowed,” he added, apparently making some kind of literary reference.

This association was particularly unfair, the official said. “Some of the people on White House death lists aren’t even murdered by drones! Guns, knives, garrottes, poison, defenestration, old-fashioned, non-robotic bombs and missiles — the White House murders people in many different ways all over the world, week after week. I think we should get more credit for this variety, and not have it all reduced to ‘drone attacks.’ Not only does that put the White House at risk of being identified solely as the center for a particularly hideous technology-driven evil of our times, it also does a disservice to the skills and inventiveness of our death squads.”

The official said the White House is taking urgent steps to protect itself from its association with the murderous state terror of the drone campaign. “We’re going to be stepping up the number of happy, peppy events we have at the White House,” he said, “and making sure they all have a very prominent ‘White House’ label. In the next few weeks, we’ll be having the White House Sweet Ole Granny Quilting Bee, featuring photogenic grannies from all over the country, and the White House ‘Smores and More Weekend, where the President and Mrs. President will gather with kindergarten kids from across this great land of ours to make some simple, tasty picnic treats.

“That will be followed by the White House Gala of Goodness at the White House, a celebration of all that is good and wholesome and right about America. The real coup of that one is that Clint Eastwood is going to be the guest host, and we have a really funny skit with Clint and the President and a chair, in the White House. The week after that we’ll have the White House Shout-Out to Brooklyn and Portland, where the nation’s hipster elite will gather at the White House to trade self-deprecating drollery with the Hipster-in-Chief. I’m not supposed to say anything about Lena Dunham being there, so you didn’t hear it from me!”

The official said the White House was confident these measures will help defend the White House from being attacked by drone associations. “I think we’re pushing at an open door,” the official said. “Look at the boffo box office for American Sniper. The American people want — and the American people deserve — to feel good about the murders being done in their name. A few marshmallow roasts, a few poetry readings or ceremonies with national champions of something or other, and the words ‘White House’ will go back to what they’ve always been: a synonym for good, clean fun.”

Counting the Costs and Opportunities of the Oil Price "Collapse"

Oil Price Collapse Hurting Some More Than Others

by Nick Cunningham -

U.S. oil and gas rig counts dropped to their lowest level in over four years, falling by an additional 74 units for the week ending on January 16. The lower count provides fresh evidence that low oil prices are forcing drillers to pare back operations and slash spending.

While that may soon begin to cut into actual production figures, a new Wood Mackenzie report finds a lot of nuance in the oil patch, painting a complex picture of what to expect in 2015. The report identifies several trends beyond the simple narrative that low prices will force a cutback in drilling.

First, Wood Mackenzie estimates that at $40 per barrel, many producing Wells could be shut in. In fact, about 1.5 million barrels per day of production would be "cash negative" meaning it wouldn't even make sense to continue pumping at the most marginal wells, which tend to have extremely low-output. These "stripper wells," which only produce 15 barrels of oil per day or less, have high costs given their level of production.

Wells producing such a tiny flow of oil may seem like a nonissue, but with hundreds of thousands of them dotting the country, they collectively account for about one-tenth of the nation's production. As these wells become unprofitable, production should start declining.

Elsewhere, larger projects face a complicating set of factors that could slow drilling, but not as fast as some think. That's because slowing activity is also pushing down the rental rates that drillers pay for rigs. With weak demand, drillers can negotiate down rig prices. This leads to lower costs, helping drillers stay in the game.

Another interesting twist occurring from lower oil prices is the fact that the economics of natural gas production have been relatively enhanced. To be sure, natural gas prices are also low, but over the last several years, the revenues generated from a barrel of oil were so much greater than the equivalent form of energy in natural gas. That pushed companies to focus on wet gas and oil.

For the equivalent amount of energy, natural gas priced at $3 per MMBtu is equal to about $17 to $20 per barrel of oil. That is still significantly lower than the $50 oil is trading for now, but the disparity is not nearly as severe as when oil was trading for $100.

With that said, the fact is that oil and gas are often produced in tandem, so a drilling cutback could hurt the gas patch as well. Nevertheless, the composition of drilling could change in favor of more gas-rich areas relative to before.

Another intriguing trend forecasted by Wood Mackenzie is the resilience of offshore oil in the Gulf of Mexico. 

Offshore wells are much more expensive, but have much longer production lives. They also have long lead times, making cutbacks less feasible in the short run. And unlike shale wells, production is steady and can last decades, so the current period of low oil prices won't worry corporate executives who take a long-term view. As a result, while rigs start vanishing from shale regions, they should remain steady in the Gulf.

Still, it is not as if American shale will suddenly go into decline. Oil production across the U.S. continues to rise. In the first full week of January, oil production ticked up by an additional 60,000 barrels per day to 9.19 million barrels per day, according to the latest EIA data. Wood Mackenzie predicts that the industry will continue to consolidate and focus on the most profitable areas while finishing up projects still in the pipeline. That means the Eagle Ford in South Texas first and foremost, which remains one of the lowest cost shale basins in the country.

The thousands of oil wells across the United States are not uniform. The collapse in oil prices is hurting pretty much everyone, but some areas - core shale regions, and the Gulf of Mexico - will weather the storm better than others.

Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, Dahr Jamail, Robert Wintner, Janine Bandcroft Jan. 28, 2015

This Week on GR

by C. L. Cook -

Victorians may wonder what the distant rumbling sound heard day and night is. That mechanized thunder is none other than the US Navy's EA-18G Growler warplane; and if you think it sounds menacingly loud now, it may be coming nearer soon to just about everywhere you are.

Dahr Jamail is an Olympic peninsula-based freelance journalist and author, whose book titles include: 'The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan,' 'Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Iraq,' and the contributed chapter, "Killing the Intellectual Class" for the anthology, 'Cultural Cleansing in Iraq: Why Museums Were Looted, Libraries Burned and Academics Murdered.' Jamail is also a Truthout staff reporter, and his latest book, 'The Mass Destruction of Iraq: Why It Is Happening, and Who Is Responsible' is co-written with Truthout founding editor, William Rivers Pitt.

Listen. Hear.

Among Dahr’s many journalism awards are: the 2008 Martha Gellhorn Award for Journalism, The Lannan Foundation Writing Residency Fellowship, the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism, the Joe A. Callaway Award for Civic Courage, and four Project Censored awards. His work has appeared at Truthout, Inter Press Service, Tom Dispatch, The Sunday Herald in Scotland, The Guardian, Foreign Policy in Focus, Le Monde, Le Monde Diplomatique, The Huffington Post, The Nation, The Independent, Al Jazeera, and at his own website,

Dahr Jamail in the first half.

And; Robert Wintner is an environmental defender, author, and the wildly successful entrepreneur behind Hawaii's Snorkel Bob's reef outfitter company. He is also the engine behind the Snorkel Bob foundation, whose many charitable projects help to bring the appreciation of the oceans and all its inhabitants to humans who would otherwise remain ignorant of the workings of the Planet's single-most essential biosphere.

Some of Robert Wintner's book titles include: 'In a Sweet Magnolia Time', 'Toucan Whisper, Toucan Sing', 'The Modern Outlaws', and his latest, '1969 and Then Some.' Snorkel Bob is also the author of several reef photography books. Just out is 'Reef Libre: An In-Depth Look at Cuban Exceptionalism & the last, Best Reefs in the World' and its companion DVD, Reef Libre, the Movie.

Getting down, way down, with Snorkel Bob in second half.

And; Victoria Street Newz publisher emeritus and CFUV Radio broadcaster, Janine Bandcroft will be here at the bottom of the hour to bring us up to speed with some of what's good to do in and around our town and beyond. But first, Dahr Jamail and a distant rumble growing nearer. 

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, airing live every Wednesday, 1-2pm Pacific Time. In Victoria at 101.9FM, and on the internet at: And now heard at Simon Fraser University's . He also serves as a contributing editor to the web news site, Check out the GR blog at:
G-Radio is dedicated to social justice, the environment, community, and providing a forum for people and issues not covered in the corporate media.

Who Loves the Sniper's Tale - and why?

Why Do US Critics Love American Sniper?

by Jonathan Cook

I watched American Sniper the other night and it really is the most puerile propaganda imaginable. It is not even as though it is simply unfair to the “enemy” – that is, mostly ordinary Iraqis, who are shown to be ruthless and heartless killers filled with irrational hatred for the American soldiers sent to liberate them from … well, in this re-write of history it is seemingly from al-Qaeda. It is equally unfair to the US soldiers there, presenting them either as good guys being heroes or as good guys being traumatised by their exposure to the natives’ savagery.

And, of course, it also massively distorts the truth about Chris Kyle – a man who at best was so blinkered by his own childish jingoism that, by his own account, he never entertained a doubt about killing “Arabs”, even women and children, and at worst was a psychopath whom the US army gave a licence to go on a killing spree.

But even if one ignores the movie’s politics and its absolute failure to grasp documented facts about the invasion of Iraq and instead assesses it purely on its technical aspects, it’s a pedestrian affair at most. The romantic scenes, for example, are cliched and poorly written.

In other words, the only reason audiences could be raving about American Sniper, ensuring it becomes one of the biggest-grossing films in history, is that it closely aligns with the mood of self-pity that currently dominates in the US: the sense that those dark-skinned foreigners we tried to liberate were not only evil but, worse, ungrateful too.

Matt Tabibi has a good piece in Rolling Stone that sums up my feelings about the film. But one thing he doesn’t address is this: why, if it’s so clearly a mediocre film that soft-soaps the central character, ignores or deceives its audience on the context that brought soldiers like Kyle to Iraq, and has a plot that ought to embarrass a Walt Disney production, do 83% of “top critics” on a review aggregator site like Rotten Tomatoes give it the thumbs up?

In practice, “top critics” means the 50 or so film reviewers who work for the most prestigious US media outlets. So almost all of the US media’s supposedly finest critical minds are in agreement in lavishing praise on this dud. It is apparently “breath-taking”, “gripping” and “emotionally complex”. Or it is if the only complexity that interests you is whether Kyle gets to save another US soldier from the dark-skinned bad guys before he succumbs to post-traumatic stress disorder.

Reading the US reviews of American Sniper is a good way to remind ourselves not only of the critical role Hollywood plays in popularising lies about the West’s recent history and in sanitising our crimes, but also of the vital role the mainstream media play in giving these simplistic and duplicitous fables an aura of ethical complexity and intellectual respectability.

Jonathan Cook is a Nazareth- based journalist and winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism -

Monday, January 26, 2015

Joining the Empire of Chaos: Canada Completes Quisling Transformation

Canada leaps into the empire of chaos

by Jim Miles - The Miles Report - Axis of Logic

To Members of Parliament, Canada:

Canada has always been a part of U.S. imperial ambitions, in spite of our pretensions otherwise. Locked in as we are to the U.S. economy and our dollar only relevant in comparison to the US$. Until the Harper regime, Canada was able to maintain that pretense. Our NATO political alignment, the NAFTA trade agreement, the North American Aerospace Defence Command - formerly NORAD - are a few big ticket acronyms that have kept us united and generally subordinated.

After achieving majority power in the last election, the Harper neoConservatives have been open advocates for causes that support U.S. imperial interests. That is not surprising when the history and roots of the Reform Party/Alliance Party/born-again-Conservative Party is examined. The strong attachments that the neoCons have to the U.S. Republican party has been well covered recently (see Party of One, Michael Harris, Viking, 2014; The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, Yves Engler, Fernwood Publishing, 2009; among many others). The neoCons share the Republican fundamentalist, right-wing, ‘might is right’, less government, corporate power agenda - and the electoral methodologies used to gain and stay in power.

Now that the U.S. has increased the ‘arc of instability’ and made it into its ‘empire of chaos’, Canada is either front running the hubris leading this, or is a perfectly willing assistant to creating chaos. A series of recent events highlights this in the financial world as well as in the military geopolitical world.

King Abdullah, “proponent for peace”

Yes, our great ally Saudi Arabia, has lost its monarch. So sad. The Saudis and our relationship to them are the height of hypocrisy and double standards.

This is the country that supported Bahrain in violently crushing the peaceful demonstrations by the majority Shia against their absolutist monarchy. Saudi Arabia is a country that is itself a monarchy, a fundamentalist autocratic tribal fiefdom writ large on the Arabian peninsula, supported by the reactionary fundamentalist Sunni Wahabi sect.

Rule of law is Sunni sharia law with no written “rule of law”, which is something the Canadian neoCons always tout as being one of the requirements of a country with whom they have good relationships. Misogyny, torture, beheadings, stonings, whippings, amputations, and death (well, obviously for beheading) are traits of their “legal” system. “Freedom” and “democracy” have little application in Saudi Arabia.

The events of 9/11 have the Saudi name written all over them, yet nothing was done concerning those incriminating liaisons. Al-Qaeda and the Taliban - associated further back with U.S. efforts to militarize the mujaheddin freedom fighters in Afghanistan against Soviet forces - are products of U.S. geopolitical interests. The oil interests of the U.S. have protected the House of Saud in the arc of instability and allowed the free flow of dollars between the oil country and the military corporations and investment houses of the U.S. (see House of Bush - House of Saud, Craig Unger, Scribner, 2004)

Two other events are occurring that add more hypocrisy and double standards to the mix, both tied in with the empire of chaos. The first is a feature of war; the second is a feature of financial predation, another part of war in itself.


Harper’s hatred of Islam is obvious, his concerns for its peaceful members superficial. His coinage of the pejorative term “Islamicism” to denigrate all that is Islam clearly reveals his attitude.

Yet the current transformation of violent reactions to the continued imposed violence on the arc of instability - the region of the Middle East including Iraq, Israel, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon - has morphed into the more general empire of chaos with the violence spreading through to northern Africa, the Sahel, the Horn of Africa - well, to be honest, just about all of Africa. It has spread the chaos through the former Yugoslavia, created the encroachment of NATO into eastern Europe against the promises of President Clinton (yeah, like anybody should believe a U.S. promise), and now is doing its best to destabilize the Ukraine with its neoNazi coup-installed government; and then on into destabilizing Russia as per the Brzezinski “grand chessboard”.

But it is the current iteration of Islamic reaction to this ongoing petrodollar colonialism that has attracted most of Harper’s current concern. ISIS is seemingly an amalgam of reactionary Syrians, unforgiving Iraqi sunnis, and many other people wanting to combat the empire. Yet for the nature of ISIS there are questions about its origins. It is an organization that apparently draws support from Saudi Arabia, and has been supplied with U.S. weapons, either through Saudi Arabia or indirectly through covert and profiteering actions.

All was well with ISIS until they came too close to Irbil, the main Kurdish city with many international energy corporations seeking profits there. Then the U.S. decided it had to do something. Harper of course, realizing the ability to use this arena to foster his own anti-Islamic interests and create more domestic fear of the ‘other’ domestically, climbed aboard the USS Chaos. Fortunately for Harper, two lone wolf attacks, carried out in the name of ISIS, helped reinforce that fear of the ‘other’, without any discourse or awareness as to how and why ISIS came into existence. It really doesn’t matter, because as Harper said, “We’ll just kill them.”

And boots on the ground?

Well certainly. Anytime a country sends in its special ops forces, there will obviously be boots on the ground, well trained boots, boots able and willing to enter conflict, to kill or be killed. A combat mission? If it looks like combat, acts like combat, then it's combat.

Canada’s petrodollar and financial chaos

Harper boasted early on about Canada becoming a super-star energy state. Well, how is that working out for you?

Oil is a commodity; it is also a geopolitical weapon. Canada’s financial situation has become dependent on its oil revenues to provide the neoCon government the ability to cut taxes (and social services) and proclaim its achievement of a balanced budget (in spite of an increase in the overall debt to 1.8 trillion dollars!).

What is happening internationally with oil prices is arguable. It cannot be supply and demand, otherwise someone would cut supply to increase the dollar demand - it is not a free market situation.

It could be a Saudi-U.S. alliance to attempt to destabilize Russia. If so, it is not working out so well, as domestic Russian prices remain stable, except for some imports which can easily be covered with Russia’s large foreign reserves.

It could simply be Saudi intransigence. Perhaps they are demonstrating that they are still too important to be done away with - or perhaps signalling that maybe they can simply sell most of their oil to energy hungry China without western interference.

Whatever the cause, the consequences are widespread. Canadian pundits proclaim the benefits of the extra oil dollars in the consumers' pocket. Yet the average Canadian consumer is already over 160 per cent of annual income in debt. What little is to be gained from those extra pennies will be lost as the dollar loses value compared to other currencies - the US$ in particular - and the rising cost of imports which for Canada, especially in winter, includes most everything.

Then there is the added feature of the decrease in drilling, the loss of direct oil employment, and the loss of related support workers in many diverse fields servicing the oil sector. First to go will be the expensive sectors - fracking first, and tar sands second. Another added feature is that much of the financing for some of the riskier, more difficult projects depends on borrowed money - which, if the dollar and oil continue to slide in value, could have even more serious repercussions on the whole financial sector as bills default and loans go unpaid.

So what are the Harper neoCons doing about it? Nothing - oh, we’re waiting until April, and we are going to decrease the prime bank rate as well. The latter will allow more speculative spending, most of which will go to the stock market, giving it an artificial boost without productivity gains similar to that of the U.S. quantitative easing boost, another hazard on the path to financial decay.

Well done, Minister of Finance! Well done PM Harper (who, if you didn’t know, has a Masters degree in economics from U. of Calgary, Canada’s right-wing republican think tank university). But then, economists are not held in much esteem by some (yours truly included):

“Lacking empirical testing and measurement, economics narrows into a mock science of abstract assumptions without much regard as to whether its axioms are historically grounded….To the extent that the discipline uses mathematics, the spirit is closer to numerology than to natural sciences. Indeed, astrology also is highly technical and mathematical, and like economics it deals with forecasting.”

“Political economy, therefore, reasons from assumed premises - from premises which might be totally without foundations in fact.” [J.S. Mills]

“ need not be committed unduly as to the relation between reality and these assumptions.” [Nobel prize winner Paul Samuelson]

From Michael Hudson
“The Bubble and Beyond”, 2013.

Electioneering - 2015

These broad three items - the economy, oil, ISIS - with the addition of the upcoming Senator Mike Duffy trial, narrow down to a focus towards the end of April.

The neoCons have already delayed the budget and then hinted there might be an emphasis on the manufacturing sector. Does that mean that NAFTA will be reopened, and that the trade agreements pending between Europe and China will be put on hold in order to protect our ‘other’ industries? There is also room to approach the failed U.S. monetary policy of ZIRP which, along with massive QE, has boosted the stock market without doing anything for productivity or the working person. The Canadian dollar is dropping, and unlike some other currencies, there is no gold to support it, as is evident with the current efforts by several European countries to repatriate their gold. Petro dollar - reliant only on oil.

Then there is oil. The big question concerns how low and for how long will the price continue to drop. In the meantime, the government’s only response so far has been to accept the Bank of Canada’s overnight lending rate change. Canada’s dollar is a petrodollar, and like many other dollars, petro or not, it is declining compared to the U.S. dollar. The U.S. dollar is rising not because of intrinsic strength in the U.S. economy, but because the U.S. has one advantage that other currencies don’t - it is the world’s reserve currency, and as such can print as many dollars as they want and still maintain their top position, regardless of whether the economy, except for the top .1 percent, has improved - which in spite of Obama’s state of the union address, it has not.

Next is ISIS. This serves more as the ‘fear factor’, the ability to direct the anger of the population at something other than the ineptitude of the politicians/economists and an economy hanging on the brink of deeper and longer recession. The front page argument will be all about extending Canada’s mission in Iraq and on into Syria. Sure it will go before parliament, but with a dictatorial majority, the neoCons will assuredly continue their war-mongering in support of the empire of chaos.

Finally, the Mike Duffy trial is scheduled to begin April 7 and the court has set aside 41 days for the hearings. Who knows what wonderful stories and denouements will rise from this continuing affair.

All four of these items focus on one thing - Harper's ability to be re-elected in the fall. I would be sort of surprised if the election were to be changed to the spring, as these four items would then become great political cannon fodder for attacks on the neoCon position.

Certainly the neoCons will be obtaining information from their Republican advisors as to how to proceed with all this, and will be obtaining indirect financing from the Koch brothers to swamp the public in disinformation, innuendo, and lies.

Within the empire of chaos, there is some looming chaos in the Canadian sector. The neoCons, and the rest of Canada, are waiting until April to see what overall effect this chaos will have.