Yikes! It’s real!
Published on 28 Feb 2017
Published on 28 Feb 2017
Where I live, Victoria, BC, Canada, the average price for a room, a room, not a bachelor, is $700 per month. This is insane.
If you make minimum wage, you can’t afford to live on your own in virtually any Canadian city, a new study says.
According to a report released Thursday by a leading research institute, the Canadian Centre For Policy Alternatives (CCPA), if you’re looking for a two-bedroom, you’d be shut out of 97 percent of the 795 neighbourhoods where rental information is publicly available. You’re shut out of 91 percent of cities if you’re looking for a one-bedroom.
Given that one-third or 4.7 million households across the country, rent rather than own, the “affordability crisis” highlighted in the data is significant. According to the report’s author, renters are often low-income earners, millennials and Gen Z, or newcomers to the country.
“There’s a big group of people who don’t make a lot but are working full-time and they can’t afford to rent in big cities. The people who live in downtown Toronto are not just bankers. They’re also the people that staff lunch counters, people that drive in the food, clean those offices,” said CCPA senior economist David Macdonald. “They might be throwing up their hands because they’re being pushed out of the downtown on the real estate side and the rental side.”
The study honed in on “rental wage,” meaning the hourly wage a person needs to make in order to be able to rent a place using no more than 30 percent of their pre-tax income, which is the widely-used threshold for housing affordability. The national rental wage for an average-priced one-bedroom apartment is $20.20 per hour, which works out to $42,016 annually. That’s significantly higher than minimum wage anywhere in the country.
The rental wage climbs in the most expensive markets. It’s highest in Vancouver at $35.43, or $73,695 annually. Framed another way, that means someone making minimum wage of $13.85 an hour in Vancouver, would have to work 84 hours a week to afford the average-priced one-bedroom apartment, or in the case of a single-parent or single-earner household, 112 hours a week for a two-bedroom apartment.
Rental wages are also steepest in Toronto ($33.70 hourly or $70,096 annually), Calgary ($26.97 hourly or $56,098 annually) and Ottawa ($26.08 hourly or $54,247 annually). For context, it’s important to consider that 25 percent of workers earn within $3 of minimum wage.
This issue disproportionately affects young, low-income workers who can’t afford to buy into many Canadian housing markets, and are feeling the rental squeeze in most urban cities. The federal Liberals’ 10-year National Housing Strategy includes increasing the supply of rentals—boosting supply is expected to bring rental costs down. But based on the current trajectory, the majority of those rental units won’t open their doors until the late 2020s.
In the meantime, the details of a new rent supplement for low-income tenants are being worked out and they’ll average about $2,500 a year. Based on Macdonald’s calculations, that brings down rental wages by about $4 an hour. That initiative has a maximum budget of $750 million, which means it will only extend to about 12 percent of renters struggling with affordability—but many millennials aren’t likely to be eligible.
“The budget cap on this program is tight and it’s being negotiated right now with the provinces. What will likely happen is strict criteria will be put on who accesses it. In some cases, it will be based on who is very low income, who has children and seniors. And everybody else would be cut out,” said Macdonald.
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Damn you US puppet politicians! The Crimean population voted 94% to rejoin Russia. Stop spreading American lies Canada!
Earlier this month, Canada hosted the third Ukraine Reform Conference, a gathering of diplomats and officials from over 100 countries aimed at bringing Kiev even more directly under the geopolitical and economic domination of the western imperialist powers.
After meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on the conference sidelines, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vowed “to stand with Ukraine against Russian interference and aggression,” and to support it in the struggle to end Russia’s “illegal annexation” of Crimea.
Trudeau’s portrayal of Russia as the aggressor in Ukraine and Eastern Europe turns reality on its head. It conceals the fact that Canada played a major supporting role in the US-orchestrated, fascist-spearheaded February 2014 coup that chased Ukraine’s elected president from power and brought a far-right, pro-western regime to power in Kiev; and that the 2014 coup was the continuation of a longstanding US-led, Canadian-backed drive to expand NATO to Russia’s borders and harness Ukraine to the West.
Moreover, Canadian imperialism has been playing a leading role in the subsequent US-NATO war drive against Russia. This includes supporting Washington’s withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia; taking command and providing the bulk of the troops for one of NATO’s four new “forward deployed” battalions in Poland and the three Baltic states; and deploying 200 Canadian Armed Forces personnel to Ukraine since 2015 to help prepare its army and National Guard to, in Trudeau’s words, “liberate” Ukrainian territory.
But Canada’s intimate alliance with far-right Ukrainian nationalists did not begin in 2014, or even Dec. 1991, when Canada became the first western country to recognize Ukraine as a sovereign state. In the decades following World War II, Canada became a haven for far-right Ukrainian nationalists, many of whom had collaborated with the Nazis both in their drive to find “lebensraum” (living space) through the conquest of the Soviet Union and their genocidal “final solution to the Jewish problem.”
Under conditions of the postwar US-led military-strategic offensive against the Soviet Union—what euphemistically came to be known as the Cold War—these ultra-reactionary political forces came to be seen as useful allies due to their virulent anticommunism and hostility to anything and anyone associated with the Soviet Union.
In the immediate postwar period, Canada’s then Liberal government, working in close cahoots with US and British intelligence, opened Canada’s doors to Ukrainian Nazi collaborators. These included members of the infamous 14th Grenadier Division of the Waffen SS, also known as the Galicia Division.
Among the beneficiaries of this policy was Mikhail Chomiak, the grandfather of current Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland. Chomiak served as editor of a pro-Nazi Ukrainian nationalist newspaper during the war, Krakivs ’ ki Visti, which used publishing equipment commandeered by the Nazis from a Jewish newspaper they had shut down. Chomiak emigrated to northern Alberta after fleeing to Vienna in late 1944 in the face of the advancing Red Army (see: Canadian media denounces exposure of foreign minister’s grandfather as Nazi collaborator).
The scale of the influx of Nazi collaborators only became public knowledge in the 1980s. A comprehensive study carried out by Alti Rodal on behalf of the federal government-appointed Deschênes Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals in Canada uncovered records proving that US intelligence agents in Europe had funneled Nazi collaborators from Eastern Europe through the Canadian immigration system using false papers. Rodal revealed that large numbers of identically typed applications were received by Canada’s immigration department from one address in West Germany. On closer inspection, this address turned out to be a US military base.
The Progressive Conservative government of Brian Mulroney established the Deschênes Commission in 1985, in response to a mounting public outcry over exposures of Nazis and Nazi accomplices who had found a safe haven in Canada and tasked the inquiry with identifying Nazi war criminals residing in Canada.
Around the same time, the Simon Wiesenthal Center estimated that upwards of 2,000 Nazis and Nazi collaborators emigrated to Canada in the years after the war. A quarter-century later, in 2011, it would give Canada an “F minus” in its annual report ranking countries on their efforts to prosecute war criminals. This placed Canada on a par with Ukraine and the former Baltic republics, i.e. countries where the right-wing, nationalist regimes that have emerged since the Stalinist bureaucracy’s dissolution of the Soviet Union openly venerate the ultranationalists who aligned with the Nazis when they invaded the USSR.
A significant number of those who made their way to Canada were members of the Nazi SS’s Galicia Division, which was made up of Ukrainian nationalist volunteers who fought on the side of the Wehrmacht against the Red Army during the Nazis’ war of annihilation against the Soviet Union. This preplanned onslaught—launched in June 1941 when a 3 million-strong force comprised of German troops, their Axis allies and fascist volunteers invaded the Soviet Union—led to the deaths of 27 million Soviet citizens and the Holocaust.
In waging war, suppressing the population, and pursuing the annihilation of the Jews, across Eastern Europe and above all in the USSR, Hitler’s Wehrmacht and SS shock troops relied on the loyal collaboration of ultraright-wing, anti-Semitic forces. Among the Ukrainian nationalists, in both occupied Poland and the USSR, the Nazis found eager collaborators. The Galicia Division was formed in 1943 out of a faction of the Stepan Bandera-led Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists Bandera (OUN-B) and fought with the Nazis against the Red Army throughout 1944.
Massacres perpetrated by the division against Polish and Jewish civilians have been well documented, including at Huta Pieniacka, Podkamien, and Palikrowy. At Podkamien, 100 Polish civilians were massacred in a hilltop monastery, and at least a further 500 in surrounding villages as the Red Army approached the German-occupied area in March 1944.
Members of the Galicia Division were initially prohibited from entering Canada due to their membership in the SS. But in 1950, Britain made an appeal to the Commonwealth for volunteers to accept a total of 9,000 division members who were at that time residing in the UK after being disarmed by British troops at the war’s end.
When Canada’s External Affairs Department, prompted by complaints from the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC), raised concerns about the division’s ties to the Nazis and role in Nazi atrocities, the British government insisted that it had carried out background checks. “While in Italy these men were screened by Soviet and British missions and neither then nor subsequently has any evidence been brought to light which would suggest that any of them fought against the Western Allies or engaged in crimes against humanity,” claimed the British Foreign Office. “Their behaviour since they came to this country,” added London, “has been good and they have never indicated in any way that they are infected with any trace of Nazi ideology.”
With this letter serving as political cover, Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent and his cabinet declared that Galicia Division members would be permitted to immigrate to Canada unless it could be proved that they had personally committed atrocities against civilian populations based on “race, religion or national origins.” Simply having been a Galicia Division member would not be considered a valid reason to prevent entry, even though after the war all Waffen-SS members had been deemed complicit in war crimes.
The immigration of Nazi and Nazi-allied war criminals continued for more than a decade after the war and was a significant factor in Canada’s emergence during the Cold War as a political-ideological centre of far-right Ukrainian nationalism.
Speaking to a CBS “60 Minutes” programme in 1997, Canadian historian Irving Abella, who is currently Professor for Canadian Jewish history at York University, bluntly summed up the political climate of the time. “One way of getting into postwar Canada,” he said “was by showing the SS tattoo. This proved that you were an anti-Communist.”
Ottawa carried out this policy in close collaboration with US authorities, who similarly permitted ex-Nazis to settle in the US and recruited hundreds to act as spies against the Soviet Union and the Soviet-allied regimes in Eastern Europe. According to investigative reporter Eric Lichtblau, up to 1,000 former Nazis were made use of by the CIA in Europe, within the US itself, the Middle East, and in Latin America.
The open-door policy towards Nazi collaborators stood in stark contrast to the cold shoulder given by Canada to Jews desperately fleeing persecution. Abella coauthored a well-known book, None is Too Many: Canada and the Jews of Europe, which was published in 1983 just prior to the establishment of the Deschênes Commission. Abella and Harold Troper detailed how Canada accepted a mere 5,000 Jewish refugees between 1936 and 1945. Most infamously, Canada was among the countries to refuse to provide asylum to the 900 Jewish refugees on the ship the MS St Louis, which sailed from Hamburg for the Americas in April 1939. Canada’s refusal to accept any of the refugees forced the St. Louis to return to Europe, where over 200 of its passengers later died in the Holocaust.
Due to the continued high-level protection members of the Galicia Division enjoyed from the government and other establishment circles, the Deschênes commission granted the Brotherhood of Veterans of the First Division of the Ukrainian National Army (Galicia Division) special intervener status in its hearings. This meant it was able to cross-examine testimony from witnesses, as well as make use of the standard right to submit legal documents and provide its own testimony.
The Nazi War Criminals commission also refused Soviet offers to gather testimony in the USSR, on the purported grounds that Moscow had refused to allow Canadian officials to interrogate witnesses in accordance with Canadian rules of evidence.
Outrageously, the Deschênes commission exonerated the Galicia Division of any wrongdoing in its December 1986 final report. Its most important findings in this connection read: “The Galicia Division (14 Waffengrenadierdivision der SS [gal. Nr. 1]) should not be indicted as a group,” and “Charges of war crimes against members of the Galicia Division have never been substantiated, either in 1950 when they were first preferred, or in 1984 when they were renewed, or before this Commission.”
The commission also summarily dismissed the charge that hundreds, if not thousands, of Nazi and Nazi-allied war criminals had immigrated to Canada, declaring these figures to be “grossly exaggerated.”
Another Ukrainian nationalist outfit given special representation rights before the Deschênes commission was the Ukrainian Canadian Committee (UCC), which has since renamed itself the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. In 1950, the UCC had successfully campaigned for the lifting of the ban on Galicia Division veterans entering the country.
The UCC continues to uphold the legacy of the Galicia Division. On Remembrance Day in 2010, the organisation saluted Ukrainian veterans of the Waffen SS as fighters for “freedom of their ancestral Ukrainian homeland.” The press release came from Paul Grod, the current head of the UCC. Grod has accompanied both Trudeau and his predecessor, Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, on their trips to the Ukraine.
Nobody should believe that the Canadian ruling elite’s defence of pro-Nazi war criminals is a thing of the past.
In 2015, Vladimir Katriuk, a Ukrainian and member of the SS during World War II, died in Quebec at the age of 93. His personal fate exemplifies how the Canadian state actively connived to ensure Nazi war criminals escaped justice.
Katriuk, who came to Canada under a false name in 1951, was accused of war crimes, the most documented of which was his participation in a the Khatyn massacre, carried out in what is now Belarus, in early 1943. In the last years of Katriuk’s life, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre placed his name near the top of its list of the ten most-wanted war criminals.
Katriuk’s case first came to prominence in 1999, when a federal court ruled that he had gained Canadian citizenship on false pretenses, because he had neglected to inform Canadian immigration officials about his Nazi past. After a lengthy period of deliberation, the Conservative government decided in 2007 that it would not revoke Katriuk’s citizenship and claimed there was insufficient evidence for him to be charged with war crimes.
Katriuk, who later joined the SS, was identified by multiple sources as being a machine gunner at the Khatyn massacre, which occurred on 22 March 1943. A total of 149 villagers were either burnt alive or shot by members of Battalion 118, a volunteer auxiliary police battalion of which Katriuk was a member, with the support of a Waffen SS unit. Evidence of his participation in other lesser known crimes has also been documented, as mentioned in a 2012 article by Swedish academic Per Anders Rudling.
Even in the last weeks of his life, when a Russian extradition request was submitted for the Ukrainian-born Katriuk, a spokeswoman for the Conservative government justified Canada’s refusal to allow Katriuk’s extradition to face trial on the basis of the political situation in Russia and its alleged “aggression” against Ukraine. “While I cannot comment on any specific extradition request, to be clear, we will never accept or recognize the Russian annexation of Crimea or the illegal occupation of any sovereign Ukrainian territory,” a spokeswoman for then Justice Minister Peter McKay declared.
Nothing has changed under Justin Trudeau’s Liberals. Anxious to cover up the ultraright-wing character of the forces Ottawa and Washington have allied with in their drive to harness Ukraine to western imperialism and these forces’ ties to the Ukrainian nationalist collaborators with the Nazis, Foreign Minister Freeland has denounced the revelations of her grandfather’s ties to the Nazis as Russian-orchestrated “disinformation.”
When Trudeau visited Ukraine in 2016, he was accompanied by a strong UCC delegation and members of the Army SOS group, set up to procure military equipment for the pro-Kiev volunteer militias, which are drawn overwhelmingly from far-right, fascistic groups.
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The killing of three people at the Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California captured headlines across America, but the corporate media has sought to suppress or downplay its most important aspect: its politically motivated character.
Nineteen-year-old Santino William Legan opened fire with an AK-47 assault rifle inside the festival late Sunday afternoon. He killed three people—a six-year-old boy, a 13-year-old girl, and a 25-year-old man—and wounded at least 15 others before being shot to death by local police.
The three people he killed were Hispanic or African-American. This was apparently not an accident. Legan’s internet postings indicate he was motivated by racist and white-supremacist views. The most important indication was a piece of text urging, “Read Might is Right by Ragnar Redbeard,” followed by a complaint about “hordes of mestizos” (mixed-race people) allegedly crowding into towns in the Gilroy area.
The book Legan praises is Might is Right or The Survival of the Fittest, a social Darwinist, white supremacist screed first published in 1890, inspired by, among others, the reactionary German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. One passage in the book denounces the Declaration of Independence for the “degrading, self-evident lie” that “all men are created equal.” This is followed by imprecations against blacks, Asians, Jews and the poor, as well as those who live in “noxious” urban centers like London, Liverpool, New York, Chicago and New Orleans—language whose modern equivalent is Donald Trump’s denunciations of “rat-infested,” crime-plagued Baltimore.
Despite this clear evidence of Legan’s political sympathies, local police and the national media claimed that the motive for his attack was a mystery and that it was just one more “senseless killing” of the type which has become commonplace in the United States over the past three decades.
Not a single prominent media pundit or newspaper columnist made the obvious connection between Legan’s mentality and the fascistic hatred of immigrants and minorities promoted by the president of the United States, using mass rallies, comments to the media and tweets directed to a Twitter audience of more than 50 million.
The media cover-up only gained a certain plausibility because the Gilroy attack was one of ten instances of mass shooting across the United States over the past weekend. The casualty toll showed 15 deaths and 52 wounded.
The slaughter continued after the beginning of the workweek. Tuesday morning at a Walmart in Southaven, Mississippi, a suburb of Memphis, Tennessee, a gunman shot two Walmart workers to death and wounded a policeman before he was himself shot and arrested.
The media response to these tragedies has been twofold: using them to disguise the specifically political aspects of the Gilroy, California attacks; and holding them up as proof of the need for stepped-up repressive measures, including not only the usual liberal calls to restrict gun ownership but stepped-up police powers as well.
Particularly noteworthy was an editorial in the Washington Post, owned by billionaire Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, which made no mention of the fascistic beliefs of the gunman and declared that the Gilroy shootings were “an indictment of our gun laws.” The editorial went on to note the heavy security presence of police during the Gilroy attack, and their quick response, shooting Legan to death one minute after he opened fire. The implication was clear: quicker and more massive police repression was in order.
In the two decades since the Columbine massacre made “mass shootings” a recognized category of events in the United States, the World Socialist Web Site has sought to develop a critical understanding of what is typically dismissed as “senseless violence” in America.
As we noted in a recent commentary, the two decades since Columbine coincide with the decomposition of American society under the impact of mounting social inequality and endless imperialist war:
It has also been two decades, more or less, since the declaration of the “war on terror” and the invasions of Afghanistan and later Iraq, two decades since the hijacking of a national election and the repudiation of any concern by the American bourgeoisie for democratic norms, two decades of mounting social inequality and two decades of unrelenting attacks on workers’ conditions of life…
American capitalist society is disintegrating. Mad, individual anti-social acts such as the one that occurred at Columbine will not be halted by the pious wishes, much less the indifference, of the powers that be.
There has been a change in the general category of “mass shootings,” which have increasingly acquired a political character.
Of course, the event that to a certain extent triggered the wave of mass killings, the Columbine murders, had an element of this. It was planned for Hitler’s birthday and the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombings. Now, however, such politically-motivated massacres happen with regularity, including the attack by a fascist gunman against a synagogue in Poway, California in April of this year and the Tree of Life synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh in October 2018.
And as the example of the Gilroy, California attack demonstrates, far from “pious wishes” about an end to such violence, the current American government is deliberately inciting such atrocities. President Trump is pursuing a definite political strategy, politically facilitated by the Democrats, of stoking violence and creating the conditions for ever more authoritarian measures.
The capitalist system as a whole is responsible. The bitter disappointment in Obama, the fascist incitement of Trump, in combination with the economic hardships and endless war, have encouraged or produced a new phenomenon, the openly righty-wing mass shooter.
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Fascist gunman attacks California synagogue
[29 April 2019]
Americans are the most over-entertained, uninformed citizens on planet earth — despite around 80% of US households having Internet access, making it easy to stay informed with minimal effort.
Manipulated by the power of state-sponsored and go-along establishment media propaganda, Americans are ignorant about geopolitical and other major issues affecting their lives and welfare.
It’s why both right wings of the US war party get away with ravaging one country after another — while the FBI and police nationwide operate with impunity as enforcers for powerful interests, grievously breaching the rights of ordinary people.
Reality is clear. The US already is a police state because of repressive laws overwhelmingly passed by Congress, supported by the executive and federal courts.
Based on events post-9/11 at home and abroad, things in the US are heading toward full-blown tyranny and ruin.
Perhaps it’s another major state-sponsored false flag away, wrongfully blamed on elements having nothing to do with it, followed by martial law and suspension of the Constitution on the phony pretext of sacrificing fundamental rights for greater security, losing both in the process.
Polls consistently show Americans are out-of-touch with reality.
Earlier polls showed most Americans favor war on North Korea if diplomacy fails. Other polls showed around half of Americans believe war on Iran is coming.
Both countries are viewed as threats to the US despite their nonbelligerent agendas. Iran hasn’t attacked another country in centuries.
Nor has North Korea throughout its entire post-WW II history — while the US wages forever wars against invented enemies, its ruling class hostile to world peace.
Annual Gallup polls since 1989 showed from 79 – 87% of Americans view Iran as “mostly (or) very unfavorabl(y).” Throughout this period, they viewed the Islamic Republic from 5 to 17% favorably.
North Korean nukes, ballistic missiles, and other weapons are solely for defense — to deter the legitimate threat of US aggression.
Iran’s nuclear program has no military component, repeatedly confirmed by nuclear watchdog IAEA monitors.
Since joining the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) nearly half a century ago, Iran fully complied with its provisions.
According to Nukewatch co-director John LaForge,
“(t)he United States is perhaps the principle nuclear weapons proliferator in the world today, openly flouting binding provisions of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).”
Nuclear armed and dangerous Israel never signed NPT, the world community doing nothing to challenge its menace to regional and world peace.
According to a new Fox News poll, around 60% of Americans view Iran and North Korea as threats to US security — a questionable source, but here are the results anyway.
Asked if North Korea “pose(s) a real national security threat to the US, 60% of respondents said “yes,” only 27% saying “no.”
Results to the same question on Iran are identical, pollster Daron Shaw saying:
“Despite changes in the partisanship of the White House and shifts in geopolitics, the percentage of Americans who see Iran and North Korea as threats has been quite consistent.”
Over half of respondents (53%) support military action to prevent Iran from developing nukes its leadership abhors, doesn’t seek, never did, and wants eliminated everywhere to remove the threat these WMDs pose to planet earth and all its life forms if detonated in enough numbers.
A higher percentage (57%) favor attacking North Korea militarily to prevent expansion of its nuclear weapons program.
Most respondents also disapprove of how Trump is dealing with both nations.
Beacon Research and Shaw & Company conducted the poll on July 21 – 23 “with 1,004 randomly chosen registered voters nationwide who spoke with live interviewers on both landlines and cellphones.”
Like other polls on major geopolitical and other issues, results show an ignorant electorate.
Lincoln reportedly said: “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time…”
Most Americans are easily fooled time and again — no matter how many times they were duped before, especially on issues of war and peace.
Notably, it’s true about nations threatening no one like Iran and North Korea.
Throughout the post-WW II era, no nations threatened US security.
All US post-WW II wars were and continue to be waged against nations threatening no one — threats invented to justify what’s illegal and unjustifiable.
Award-winning author Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at email@example.com. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG)
His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
A senior Chinese official has called for Tehran and Beijing to join forces in confronting US pressures as he stressed that China’s resolve to develop relations with Iran was unwavering.
Iran has come under the most draconian sanctions after President Donald Trump withdraw the US from the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran, while China is embroiled in a trade war with the United States.
Head of the Communist Party’s International Department Song Tao lashed out at the unilateral sanctions and “American bullying” as he met senior Iranian officials in Tehran to discuss the most pressing issues facing the two countries.
“China’s resolve to develop relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran and implement agreements between the two countries will not change,” he said, adding the two countries can share their experiences to counter US pressure.
Beijing is Tehran’s largest oil customer, with total imports last year averaging 585,400 barrels per day (bpd).
China has pushed back against the US after the Trump administration ended waivers which allowed Iran’s eight biggest buyers to continue importing limited volumes.
The Asian powerhouse says its cooperation with Iran is legitimate under international law and should be “respected”.
Chinese energy groups have invested in Iran’s oil projects, some of which are facing challenges as a result of the US sanctions, Song said.
“I hope that through negotiation, we can find appropriate methods to resolve problems and speed up the implementation of projects,” the senior Chinese diplomat said.
Companies such as Sinopec and China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) have invested billions of dollars in Iranian oil fields and recoup their money by sending oil from the fields to China.
One major project facing difficulties is China’s participation in phase 11 of South Pars.
Iran has rejected a request by CNPC to suspend operations in the project where the Chinese company has currently an 80-percent share of investment.
CNPC became the dominant investor in plans for expansion of South Pars, the world’s largest gas field, after France’s Total withdrew from the project under increasing pressure from the United States.
The state-owned Chinese company, however, has decided to continue investing in the North Azadegan and Masjid-i-Suleiman (MIS) oilfields.
Some of Chinese refineries are also configured to process Iranian grades which yield better margins than those supplied by other exporters such as Saudi Arabia, according to China’s refinery officials.
Last Tuesday, China strongly denounced US sanctions on energy company Zhuhai Zhenrong Co Ltd for allegedly violating unilateral American sanctions on Iran’s oil industry.
Zhuhai Zhenrong has strong links to Iran and accounts for more than 60% of China’s trade with the Islamic Republic, according to its website.
The company, which is already under US sanctions for supplying gasoline to Iran in 2012, has little overseas exposure.
Two and a half months after the White House banned the purchase of Iran’s oil, the nation’s crude is continuing to be sent to China where it’s being put into what’s known as “bonded storage”.
According to Bloomberg, tankers are offloading millions of barrels of Iranian oil into storage tanks at Chinese ports, creating a hoard of crude sitting on the doorstep of the world’s biggest buyer.
In his talks with Song on Monday, Iranian Vice President Es’haq Jahangiri called on China and other countries friendly with Iran to buy more Iranian oil.
“Even though we are aware that friendly countries such as China are facing some restrictions, we expect them to be more active in buying Iranian oil,” he said.
Jahangiri said Iran is also ready to pipe its gas to China through Pakistan which is sitting on a project to complete a pipeline designed for receiving Iranian natural gas.
While Iran has completed its part of the pipeline with a total investment of over $2 billion, Pakistan has fallen short on taking delivery of gas, initially scheduled for 2014.
“Gas is the most important future energy resource in the world, and Iran has the largest gas reserves in the world, and we are ready to export gas to China via Pakistan’s transmission line,” Jahangiri said.
Addressing the Chinese diplomat’s call for sharing experiences to confront US sanctions, Jahangiri touched on Iran’s “economy of resistance” which has helped to ensure “economic and social stability despite US sanctions”.
“The US thinks it can bring our oil sales down to zero through putting pressure on the countries buying oil from Iran and lead to the collapse of the Iranian economy. But fortunately, a year after the American oil sanctions, Iran’s economic situation remains reasonably stable,” he said.
Jahangiri said, “The overall policies of the resistance economy seek to rely on domestic capacities, develop relations with neighboring and friendly countries such as China, reduce reliance on oil revenues and develop a knowledge-based, popular economy.”
He said a delegation from Iran’s ministry of economic affairs and finance and the central bank will travel to China next week.
“I hope there will be constructive negotiations on a financial exchange mechanism between the two countries.”
Germany says it has rejected a proposal by the United States to set up a military coalition in the Persian Gulf to counter what it calls the “Iran threat” as tensions mount between Washington and Tehran.
“The US recently presented its concept of a naval observation mission in the Persian Gulf to a number of its allies, including Germany, and asked them to participate.
“The government took note of the proposal, but made no promises. Foreign Minister [Heiko] Maas has repeatedly stressed that, in our opinion, priority must be given to reducing tensions, and to diplomatic efforts. We are in close consultation with France and the UK. Participation in the US strategy of ‘maximum pressure’ is ruled out for us,” the German Foreign Ministry said in a statement received by Russia’s Sputnik news agency.
The statement came on the same day that German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said his country was working closely with France and Britain amid tensions in the Persian Gulf.
“The goal of all responsible politicians must be to observe the situation very soberly and carefully, and not to sleepwalk into an even bigger crisis,” Scholz said in an interview with the Funke group of newspapers.
“De-escalation is the order of the day,” he pointed out.
Earlier on Tuesday, the United States stepped up diplomatic pressure on Germany, and officially asked the Western European country to join its maritime mission in the Persian Gulf against what it alleged as “Iranian aggression.”
“We’ve formally asked Germany to join France and the UK to help secure the Strait of Hormuz and combat Iranian aggression,” Tamara Sternberg-Greller, a spokeswoman for the US Embassy in Berlin (shown in the picture below), said in a statement.
She added, “Members of the German government have been clear that freedom of navigation should be protected… Our question is, protected by whom?”
Many German politicians have reportedly expressed grave reservations about any naval mission, and fear that any such move – particularly one orchestrated and led by the United States – could increase the risk of a military aggression on Iran.
US President Donald Trump regularly criticizes Germany for what he considers its insufficient contribution to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
US Marine General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on July 9 that the US was proceeding with plans to assemble the coalition purportedly aimed at ensuring freedom of navigation in waters off Iran and Yemen.
The US military’s top general says Washington has engaged in talks with a number of countries to form an international military coalition to deter what it calls Iran’s threat to shipping in the Persian Gulf region.
“We’re engaging now with a number of countries to see if we can put together a coalition that would ensure freedom of navigation both in the Straits of Hormuz and the Bab al-Mandab,” Dunford said.
“And so I think probably over the next couple of weeks we’ll identify which nations have the political will to support that initiative and then we’ll work directly with the militaries to identify the specific capabilities that’ll support that,” he added.
Washington has lately adopted a quasi-warlike posture against Tehran, and intensified its provocative military moves in the Middle East, among them the June 20 incursion of advanced US-made RQ-4 Global Hawk into Iranian airspace over territorial waters off the coastal province of Hormozgan.
The UK has also joined the US in fueling tensions with Iran by seizing an Iranian-owned supertanker in the Strait of Gibraltar on July 4 in an apparent act of “maritime piracy.”
Two weeks later, a British-flagged tanker failed to stop after hitting an Iranian fishing boat — as is required by international law — in the Strait of Hormuz. Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) impounded the ship after its unsafe maneuver.
“All of the imperial powers amassed by Barack Obama and George W. Bush—to kill American citizens without due process, to detain suspects indefinitely, to strip Americans of their citizenship rights, to carry out mass surveillance on Americans without probable cause, to suspend laws during wartime, to disregard laws with which they might disagree, to conduct secret wars and convene secret courts, to sanction torture, to sidestep the legislatures and courts with executive orders and signing statements, to direct the military to operate beyond the reach of the law, to operate a shadow government, and to act as a dictator and a tyrant, above the law and beyond any real accountability—were inherited by Donald Trump.”
JULY 31, 2019
“But these weren’t the kind of monsters that had tentacles and rotting skin, the kind a seven-year-old might be able to wrap his mind around—they were monsters with human faces, in crisp uniforms, marching in lockstep, so banal you don’t recognize them for what they are until it’s too late.”
― Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Enough with the distractions. Enough with the partisan jousting.
Enough with the sniping and name-calling and mud-slinging that do nothing to make this country safer or freer or more just.
We have let the government’s evil-doing, its abuses, power grabs, brutality, meanness, inhumanity, immorality, greed, corruption, debauchery and tyranny go on for too long.
We are approaching a reckoning.
This is the point, as the poet W. B. Yeats warned, when things fall apart and anarchy is loosed upon the world.
We have seen this convergence before in Hitler’s Germany, in Stalin’s Russia, in Mussolini’s Italy, and in Mao’s China: the rise of strongmen and demagogues, the ascendency of profit-driven politics over deep-seated principles, the warring nationalism that seeks to divide and conquer, the callous disregard for basic human rights and dignity, and the silence of people who should know better.
Yet no matter how many times the world has been down this road before, we can’t seem to avoid repeating the deadly mistakes of the past. This is not just playing out on a national and international scale. It is wreaking havoc at the most immediate level, as well, creating rifts and polarities within families and friends, neighborhoods and communities that keep the populace warring among themselves and incapable of presenting a united front in the face of the government’s goose-stepping despotism.
We are definitely in desperate need of a populace that can stand united against the government’s authoritarian tendencies.
Surely we can manage to find some common ground in the midst of the destructive, disrupting, diverting, discordant babble being beamed down at us by the powers-that-be? After all, there are certain self-evident truths—about the source of our freedoms, about the purpose of government, about how we expect to be treated by those we appoint to serve us in government offices, about what to do when the government abuses our rights and our trust, etc.—that we should be able to agree on, no matter how we might differ politically.
Disagree all you want about healthcare, abortion, and immigration—hot-button issues that are guaranteed to stir up the masses, secure campaign contributions and turn political discourse into a circus free-for-all—but never forget that our power as a citizenry comes from our ability to agree and stand united on certain principles that should be non-negotiable.
For instance, for the first time in the nation’s history, it is expected that the federal deficit will surpass $1 trillion this year, not to mention the national debt which is approaching $23 trillion. There’s also $21 trillion in government spending that cannot be accounted foror explained. For those in need of a quick reminder: “A budget deficit is the difference between what the federal government spends and what it takes in. The national debt is the result of the federal government borrowing money to cover years and years of budget deficits.” Right now, the U.S. government is operating in the negative on every front: it’s spending far more than what it makes (and takes from the American taxpayers) and it is borrowing heavily (from foreign governments and Social Security) to keep the government operating and keep funding its endless wars abroad. Meanwhile, the nation’s sorely neglected infrastructure—railroads, water pipelines, ports, dams, bridges, airports and roads—is rapidly deteriorating.
Yet no matter how we might differ about how the government allocates its spending, surely we can agree that the government’s irresponsible spending, which has saddled us with insurmountable debt, is pushing the country to the edge of financial and physical ruin.
That’s just one example of many that shows the extent to which the agents of the American police state are shredding the constitutional fabric of the nation, eclipsing the rights of the American people, and perverting basic standards of decency.
Let me give you a few more.
Having been co-opted by greedy defense contractors, corrupt politicians and incompetent government officials, America’s expanding military empire is bleeding the country dry at a rate of more than $15 billion a month (or $20 million an hour)—and that’s just what the government spends on foreign wars. The U.S. military empire’s determination to police the rest of the world has resulted in more than 1.3 million U.S. troops being stationed at roughly 1000 military bases in over 150 countries around the world. That doesn’t include the number of private contractors pulling in hefty salaries at taxpayer expense. In Afghanistan, for example, private contractors outnumber U.S. troops three to one.
No matter how we might differ about the role of the U.S. military in foreign affairs, surely we can agree that America’s war spending and commitment to policing the rest of the world are bankrupting the nation and spreading our troops dangerously thin.
All of the imperial powers amassed by Barack Obama and George W. Bush—to kill American citizens without due process, to detain suspects indefinitely, to strip Americans of their citizenship rights, to carry out mass surveillance on Americans without probable cause, to suspend laws during wartime, to disregard laws with which they might disagree, to conduct secret wars and convene secret courts, to sanction torture, to sidestep the legislatures and courts with executive orders and signing statements, to direct the military to operate beyond the reach of the law, to operate a shadow government, and to act as a dictator and a tyrant, above the law and beyond any real accountability—were inherited by Donald Trump. These presidential powers—acquired through the use of executive orders, decrees, memorandums, proclamations, national security directives and legislative signing statements and which can be activated by any sitting president—enable past, president and future presidents to operate above the law and beyond the reach of the Constitution.
Yet no matter how we might differ about how success or failure of past or present presidential administrations, surely we can agree that the president should not be empowered to act as an imperial dictator with permanent powers.
Increasingly, at home, we’re facing an unbelievable show of force by government agents. For example, with alarming regularity, unarmed men, women, children and even pets are being gunned down by twitchy, hyper-sensitive, easily-spooked police officers who shoot first and ask questions later, and all the government does is shrug and promise to do better. Just recently, in fact, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals cleared a cop who aimed for a family’s dog (who showed no signs of aggression), missed, and instead shot a 10-year-old lying on the ground. Indeed, there are countless incidents that happen every day in which Americans are shot, stripped, searched, choked, beaten and tasered by police for little more than daring to frown, smile, question, or challenge an order. Growing numbers of unarmed people are being shot and killed for just standing a certain way, or moving a certain way, or holding something—anything—that police could misinterpret to be a gun, or igniting some trigger-centric fear in a police officer’s mind that has nothing to do with an actual threat to their safety.
No matter how we might differ about where to draw that blue line of allegiance to the police state, surely we can agree that police shouldn’t go around terrorizing and shooting innocent, unarmed children and adults or be absolved of wrongdoing for doing so.
Nor can we turn a blind eye to the transformation of America’s penal system from one aimed at protecting society from dangerous criminals to a profit-driven system that dehumanizes and strips prisoners of every vestige of their humanity. For example, in Illinois, as part of a “training exercise” for incoming cadets, prison guards armed with batons and shields rounded up 200 handcuffed female inmates, marched them to the gymnasium, then forced them to strip naked (including removing their tampons and pads), “bend over and spread open their vaginal and anal cavities,” while male prison guards promenaded past or stood staring. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the entire dehumanizing, demoralizing mass body cavity strip search—orchestrated not for security purposes but as an exercise in humiliation—was legal. Be warned, however: this treatment will not be limited to those behind bars. In our present carceral state, there is no difference between the treatment meted out to a law-abiding citizen and a convicted felon: both are equally suspect and treated as criminals, without any of the special rights and privileges reserved for the governing elite. In a carceral state, there are only two kinds of people: the prisoners and the prison guards.
No matter how we might differ about where to draw the line when it comes to prisoners’ rights, surely we can agree that no one—woman, man or child—should be subjected to such degrading treatment in the name of law and order.
In Washington, DC, in contravention of longstanding laws that restrict the government’s ability to deploy the military on American soil, the Pentagon has embarked on a secret mission of “undetermined duration” that involves flying Black Hawk helicopters over the nation’s capital, backed by active-duty and reserve soldiers. In addition to the increasing militarization of the police—a de facto standing army—this military exercise further acclimates the nation to the sight and sounds of military personnel on American soil and the imposition of martial law.
No matter how we might differ about the deference due to those in uniform, whether military or law enforcement, surely we can agree that America’s Founders had good reason to warn against the menace of a national police force—a.k.a. a standing army—vested with the power to completely disregard the Constitution.
We labor today under the weight of countless tyrannies, large and small, disguised as “the better good,” marketed as benevolence, enforced with armed police, and carried out by an elite class of government officials who are largely insulated from the ill effects of their actions. For example, in Pennsylvania, a school district is threatening to place children in foster care if parents don’t pay their overdue school lunch bills. In Florida, a resident was fined $100,000 for a dirty swimming pool and overgrown grass at a house she no longer owned. In Kentucky, government bureaucrats sent a cease-and-desist letter to a church ministry, warning that the group is breaking the law by handing out free used eyeglasses to the homeless. These petty tyrannies inflicted on an overtaxed, overregulated, and underrepresented populace are what happens when bureaucrats run the show, and the rule of law becomes little more than a cattle prod for forcing the citizenry to march in lockstep with the government.
No matter how we might differ about the extent to which the government has the final say in how it flexes it power and exerts its authority, surely we can agree that the tyranny of the Nanny State—disguised as “the better good,” marketed as benevolence, enforced with armed police, and inflicted on all those who do not belong to the elite ruling class that gets to call the shots— should not be allowed to pave over the Constitution.
At its core, this is not a debate about politics, or constitutionalism, or even tyranny disguised as law-and-order. This is a condemnation of the monsters with human faces that have infiltrated our government.
For too long now, the American people have rationalized turning a blind eye to all manner of government wrongdoing—asset forfeiture schemes, corruption, surveillance, endless wars, SWAT team raids, militarized police, profit-driven private prisons, and so on—because they were the so-called lesser of two evils.
Yet the unavoidable truth is that the government has become almost indistinguishable from the evil it claims to be fighting, whether that evil takes the form of terrorism, torture, drug trafficking, sex trafficking, murder, violence, theft, pornography, scientific experimentations or some other diabolical means of inflicting pain, suffering and servitude on humanity.
No matter how you rationalize it, the lesser of two evils is still evil.
So how do you fight back?
How do you fight injustice? How do you push back against tyranny? How do you vanquish evil?
You don’t fight it by hiding your head in the sand.
We have ignored the warning signs all around us for too long.
As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the government has ripped the Constitution to shreds and left us powerless in the face of its power grabs, greed and brutality.
What we are grappling with today is a government that is cutting great roads through the very foundations of freedom in order to get after its modern devils. Yet the government can only go as far as “we the people” allow.
Therein lies the problem.
The consequences of this failure to do our due diligence in asking the right questions, demanding satisfactory answers, and holding our government officials accountable to respecting our rights and abiding by the rule of law has pushed us to the brink of a nearly intolerable state of affairs.
Intolerable, at least, to those who remember what it was like to live in a place where freedom, due process and representative government actually meant something. Having allowed the government to expand and exceed our reach, we now find ourselves on the losing end of a tug-of-war over control of our country and our lives.
The hour grows late in terms of restoring the balance of power and reclaiming our freedoms, but it may not be too late. The time to act is now, using all methods of nonviolent resistance available to us.
“Don’t sit around waiting for the two corrupted established parties to restore the Constitution or the Republic,” Naomi Wolf once warned. Waiting and watching will get us nowhere fast.
If you’re watching, you’re not doing.
Easily mesmerized by the government’s political theater—the endless congressional hearings and investigations that go nowhere, the president’s reality show antics, the warring factions, the electoral drama—we have become a society of watchers rather than activists who are distracted by even the clumsiest government attempts at sleight-of-hand.
It’s time for good men and women to do something. And soon.
Wake up and take a good, hard look around you. Start by recognizing evil and injustice and tyranny for what they are. Stop being apathetic. Stop being neutral. Stop being accomplices. Stop being distracted by the political theater staged by the Deep State: they want you watching the show while they manipulate things behind the scenes. Refuse to play politics with your principles. Don’t settle for the lesser of two evils.
As British statesman Edmund Burke warned, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men [and women] to do nothing.”
“Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, meanwhile, serves the 99% rather than the 1% domestically. Globally, it promotes peace and mutually beneficial development.”
JULY 31, 2019
Hong Kong, with its Sino-Western heritage, lies on the fault line of the intensifying confrontation between the Western Empire and China. The conflict is likely to be the defining international affair of our time. That’s a fundamental reason the former British colony and current Chinese special administrative region has been wracked by turmoil the past two months.
In a fundamental way, Hong Kong is undergoing a crisis of values. The contest is between the Empire’s ideology of Freedom, Democracy & Human Rights (FDHR), which has been instilled for 155 years by British rulers, and Socialism with Chinese Characteristics. Unfortunately, the systematic inculcation of FDHR in Hong Kong has focused solely on the dogma’s ideals, not their application in the real world.
There, FDHR has largely sacrificed the interests of the 99% majority for those of the 1% elites at home. Abroad, it is a spearhead of the Western imperium’s predatory domination of the world — and a beachhead for influencing, subverting and even regime-changing governments that the West doesn’t like. Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, meanwhile, serves the 99% rather than the 1% domestically. Globally, it promotes peace and mutually beneficial development. But nobody told Hong Kong’s FDHR admirers about any of that. And most don’t have the minimal intellectual curiosity and capability needed to find out for themselves.
Indeed, many Hong Kongers have embraced the West’s Freedom, Democracy and Human Rights with a religious fervor. As “Absolute Truth,” it is beyond challenge via rational debate. Worse, it confers on many acolytes an overweening sense of self-righteousness. With God-is-on-my-side conviction, they feel they can do no wrong. Wrongdoings and crimes are understandable, even acceptable if committed in the name of FDHR. These transgressions range from lying incessantly, rioting and violent vandalism to trashing people and property and damaging the livelihood of others. All are excused if they are committed to advance the cause of Free, Democracy and Human Rights.
It is this collapse of good sense and ethical bearings that’s perhaps the most nefarious feature of Hong Kong’s continuing turmoil. When so many minds have been poisoned by an aggressive faith in a false god, it is hard to be optimistic about a community. That’s especially so when most of the believers remain willfully ignorant about realities in their motherland, as well as about Socialism with Chinese Characteristics. Instead, they grasp tightly China’s image as the repressive ogre depicted by the omnipresent Western propaganda machinery and their anti-Beijing peers and mentors in the special administrative region.
The conflict in Hong Kong is, in fact, a microcosm of the one the world will be facing in the decades ahead. Led by the United States, the Western Empire is pushing countries to choose between itself and China — the Western way or the Chinese way. That is not a choice Beijing is obliging anyone to make, however.
Alert, forward-looking individuals and nations can see that the predatory, zero-sum paradigm of the Western Empire is headed for the dustbin of history. For Hong Kong as for all humanity, the only viable way forward in the 21st century is peace, mutual understanding and cooperation, and win-win. China is blazing that particular path.
Britain’s new Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vowed to “unite the nation” and usher in a “golden age” of prosperity and technological progress.
The hardline Brexiteer-in-chief says he is going to pull Britain out of the European Union by October 31 – with or without a divorce deal with Brussels. Most likely that means a “hard Brexit” after which Britain is to become a separate nation reliant on trading with the rest of the globe under World Trade Organization rules.
Of course, that’s what hard Brexiteers like Johnson and his followers in a minority section of the Conservative party always wanted. They want Britain to be a free-trading sole entity divorced from any links to the EU, such as a transitional soft option involving some trade concessions over a period of years.
In his first parliamentary speech as new PM, Johnson declared: “Our mission is to deliver Brexit on October 31, to re-energize the United Kingdom, and to make it the greatest place on Earth.”
He talked up his premiership as the beginning of a “new golden era” and of a “fantastic new agenda for our country.”
Indeed, everyone should be encouraged to think big. But usually it is advisable to have some reasonable basis for ambition.
Johnson outlined various seeming grand improvements for British society. He said he would boost police force numbers to curb skyrocketing street crime. He announced big investment ideas for transport and communications infrastructure. And he said he would prioritize increased government spending on schools and education.
That’s all very well in theory. But notably, Johnson left out much financial detail about what exactly his government was actually going to invest, and secondly, how they were going to pay for it.
In typical Johnson fashion, his incoming speeches as the new occupant of 10 Downing Street were mostly bluster and bombast without convincing substance. This is the same politician who campaigned for Brexit in the referendum in June 2016 by claiming that money saved from ending Britain’s membership of the EU would result in £350 million per week being instead spent on the British National Health Service. That claim later turned out to be a fiction.
Johnson is a shameless waffler who has a knack for concealing his intellectual vacuity with a posh accent and upper-class elitism.
What should be alarming is the way Johnson has immediately packed his new Cabinet with hardline Conservative Brexiteers who invariably share a gung-ho neoliberal ideology on economic policy as well as hawkish foreign policy. His new foreign secretary is Dominic Raab, who like Johnson, suffers from rabid Russophobia and delusions about the Skripal saga as a Putin-ordered assassination plot.
In his bid to become new prime minister to replace the hapless Theresa May, Johnson said he was committed to raising tax breaks for the rich and to lowering corporation tax. This is the same failed economic policy that has resulted in massive inequality and poverty in countless other nations over many decades. No more so than in the US and Britain, where rising poverty levels are reversing previous historic progressive gains in those societies.
The flaw in the new British government is that it seems to be seduced by romantic notions of restoring a presumed “greatness”. For fervent British nationalists, there is a common view that the Victorian era spanning most of the 19th Century was a “golden age”. This was when Britain underwent a roaring industrial revolution and built an empire of colonies that spanned some quarter of the planet’s landmass. With pride, it was said, “the sun never sets on the British Empire”, because of the far-flung territories under London’s dominion.
The Victorian era was also notorious for social poverty in Britain, the scourge of child workers employed in factories, mines and chimneys, as the great novelist Charles Dickens documented with searing pathos.
For Johnson and his privileged ilk, the past of the British Empire will always be seen as a time of “greatness” when “Britannia Ruled the Waves”. Their view of history is the view of victors and the privileged.
Johnson thinks he can project a shimmering future of renaissance and success. But the contradiction is that the Brexiteer vision is based on a fundamentally backward and false reminiscence of former perceived glories.
The only way that a Brexit from Europe would work would be if British politics and economics became dramatically democratized based on the priorities of working people and their families. The neoliberalism of the EU (albeit softer than that of the US or Britain) is worthy of contempt and repudiation. It is understandable why a majority of Britons voted to leave the EU.
But what they will get under a Boris Johnson “independent” Britain is an elitist country geared to attract foreign capital at any cost with tax breaks for the rich and corporations. Public investment promises can be taken with a pinch of salt. The new hardline Conservative government under Johnson will pay for wealth incentives by hammering the wider working population with even more vicious economic austerity.
It’s not going to be pretty for Britain in the next few years. Already disturbing signs of social breakdown (homelessness, poverty, in-work misery, crumbling education and health, and crime) will become magnified as Johnson and his Neo-imperialists in government chase after their illusory plan to “Make Britain Great Again” – à la Trump.
Ironically, Johnson on his first day in office promised to “unite” the United Kingdom. Flippantly and glibly, he referred to the constituent nations of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as the “awesome foursome”.
Nearly 60 per cent of Britons disapprove of Johnson, according to polls. Over 50 per cent of Britons repudiate his “hard Brexit plans”. The Scots are clamoring for independence more than ever. The people of Northern Ireland are alarmed by his cavalier indifference to ensure a borderless connection post-Brexit with the Republic of Ireland.
PM Boris Johnson is a delusional twit.
Donald Trump, the great grifter of American politics, is again playing the media for all its worth. He’s having a field day pulling the yoyo of headlines from one assertion to a follow-up denial and then a bellicose rejoinder. And it’s working.
The artful conman keeps popular attention off his innumerable failures, both domestic and international, by focusing on emotional issues that embolden his hardcore base and inflame everyone else.
Trump’s most recent target are four Congressional Democrats — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), and Ilhan Omar (D-MN). He insisted that they “go back” to the “crime infested places from which they came.” He intentionally forgot – or simply didn’t know – that all four women are American citizens and only one, Omar, is a naturalized citizen, born in Somali and arriving in the U.S. at 10 years of age.
In a follow-up campaign rally in Greenville, NC, Trump picked up his attack on the four Congresswomen, with special vehemence targeted at Omar. As he ranted, the crowd chanted, “Send her back.” Soon after, he told the audience, “if they don’t love it, tell them to leave it.” As criticism mounted to his role in fostering the chant, he quickly sought to distance himself from the chant – only to further his attack on Omar.
The story drew more drama when CNN’s Anderson Cooper argued that Trump’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, had “primed” the crowd during her warm-up speech prior to the president’s appearance at the NC rally.
The Trump forces are priming the pump for the 2020 reelection campaign. The “send her back” chant may well serve the same role as the infamous “lock her up” chant played in his 2016 campaign against Hillary Clinton. And he won!
Gone unasked is whether Trump needs to be sent back to where he came from?
Trump’s grandfather, Friedrich Trump, Sr., was born Friedrich Drumpf (1869-1918) and emigrated to the U.S. from Germany in 1885 at age 16. After first disembarking in New York, he traveled west, making it to California, then journeying to Seattle and to British Columbia where he reportedly ran a restaurant, bar and brothel. After bouncing back to Germany, he was ordered to leave Bavaria as punishment for refusing mandatory military service – something his son and grandson would also do. He settled in Woodhaven, Queens, working as a barber and restaurant manager.
David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer-Prize winning reporter who has exhaustively examined Trump’s life and business practices for nearly three decades, is the author of two revealing studies of the president, The Making of Donald Trump(2016) and It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America (2018).
Johnston pulls no punches in his assessment of Trump’s family lineage. “He comes from a family of criminals,” he explains. “His grandfather made his fortune running whorehouses in Seattle and in the Yukon Territory. His father, Fred (1905-1999), had a business partner named Willie Tomasello, who was an associate of the Gambino crime family. Trump’s father was also investigated by the U.S. Senate for ripping off the government for what would be the equivalent of $36 million in today’s money.” Following the family line, Johnston notes, “Donald got his showmanship from his dad, as well as his comfort with organized criminals.”
On Memorial Day 1927, New York faced a series of riots by reactionary groups that challenged the meaning of nation’s core beliefs in “equality,” an issue the nation has fought a bloody civil war over. On that day, in the Bronx, sympathizers of Mussolini and the Italian fascist movement along with supporters of Ku Klux Klan held a rally. In Queens, Pres. Drumpf’s father, Fred, along with six other fascists, was arrested as 1,000 white-robed Klansmen marched through his Jamaica neighborhood.
Grandpa Drumpt’s decedents lived in Jamaica Estates, a well-to-do and all-white neighborhood, with up-market homes set back on tree-lined streets. Fred was a real-estate a strict father, a stern, formal man with a thick mustache and hair combed back who insisted on wearing a tie and jacket while at home. The senior Trump forbade his children from cursing, calling each other by nicknames or – for the girls — wearing lipstick. Fred was a conservative Republican who admired Barry Goldwater.
In his 1987 memoir The Art of the Deal, Trump looked back nostalgically to his childhood. “We had a very traditional family,” he wrote. “My father was the power and the breadwinner, and my mother was the perfect housewife.” In a chapter titled “Growing Up,” he recounted a story in which he allegedly punched his second-grade music teacher in the face because he “didn’t think he knew anything about music.” The purpose of the story was to show how the boy nurtured the man to come.
During the 2016 campaign, The Washington Post ran a revealing story, “Confident. Incorrigible. Bully: Little Donny was a lot like candidate Donald Trump.” Based on interviews with some of Trump’s neighborhood friends, teachers and others, it offers an insightful profile of the future president as a youth. The authors’ thesis is simple: “Donald J. Trump left an indelible impression in the prosperous Queens neighborhood where he evolved from a mischievous, incorrigible boy into a swaggering young man.”
One of the people interviewed, Ann Trees, 82, taught at Kew-Forest School where Trump was a student through the 7th grade. “He was headstrong and determined,” Trees stressed. “He would sit with his arms folded with this look on his face — I use the word surly — almost daring you to say one thing or another that wouldn’t settle with him.”
At school, young Trump was among a group of boys who pulled girls’ hair, passed notes and talked out of turn. “We threw spitballs and we played racing chairs with our desks, crashing them into other desks,” he recalled. The article includes interviews with two childhood neighbors who said Trump could erupt in anger, pummeling another boy or, playing baseball, smash a baseball bat if he made an out. It claimed, “He had a reputation for saying anything that came into his head.” One interviewer claimed, “Donald was known to be a bully.”
Drumpt the boy from Queens became the huckster he is in Manhattan. One of his first apartments was the penthouse on a swank East 65th Street building and he was driven around town in a silver Cadillac limo with “DJT” emblazoned on the license plates. He was introduced to the world of Manhattan high-flyers by no less an authority of immorality than Roy Cohn.
Cohn gained initial notoriety as the lead prosecutor in the 1951 espionage trials of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg; they were convicted and executed, the only Americas civilians to be put to death, electrocuted, as victims of a political show-trial. In the mid-50s, he served as Sen. Joe McCarthy’s (R-WI) principle assistant in his anticommunists witch-hunts.
During the ‘70s, Cohn was a Big Apple lawyer for big-money interests, including Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. He was also a mob consigliere for Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno, boss of the Genovese crime family, the most powerful mafia group in New York, and mafia boss Carlo Gambino and Paul Castellano, head of what was said to be the second largest family, the Gambinos.
In ’73, Drumpt-the-younger met Cohn at Le Club, a Manhattan nightspot for the rich, famous and those on the make. Cohn and the Drumpts, father and son, joined forces that year and represented Trump-senior in a case brought by the Justice Department housing discrimination against black and other minority tenants. In this, and other cases, Cohn defended Trump-senior and became Trump-the-younger’s consigliere.
As Johnston points out, “with Cohn as his lawyer, Trump apparently had no reason to personally fear Salerno or Castellano — at least, not once he agreed to pay inflated concrete prices.” He notes, “What Trump appeared to receive in return was union peace. That meant the project would never face costly construction or delivery delays.”
And now Donald Drumpt is president. Should he be sent back?
Obviously, the chant “send her back” is a provocation, a simple, declarative assertion intended to rally support among Trump’s followers by invoking difference. The slogan seeks to separate “us” from “them.” In more “normal” times such obviously mean-spirited political ranting would be rejected as an almost Nazi-like incantation to race or antisemitic hatred. Today, it’s a political slogan for a reelection campaign. However, if Trump’s campaign falters and he gets more desperate, the slogan could foretell –like what happened in Charlottesville, VA, in 2017 – a lot worse to come.
Trump — like the four Congresswomen he attacked – is an American and neither him nor the courageous Congresswomen are going anywhere. He is playing to his crowd and they are, unfortunately, eating it up. The only way to really counter his mean-spirit and racist provocations is to send him back to Queens where Alexandria Ocasio Cortez is one of the Representatives.
*(Top image credit: history.com)
By Paul Craig Roberts
ICH, July 27, 2019
“The President of the United States
is nothing but the punk two-bit vassal of Zionism.”
— Paul Craig Roberts
The Democrats are even more insane than I thought.
The Trump-hater Nadler had a press conference with other Trump-hating Democrats and claimed, despite the absence of any evidence from Mueller, that Trump is a criminal. Reassured by this certitude, the Democrats will continue their impeachment investigation, says Nadler.
Among the most crazed elements of the Democrats, Mueller is no longer the hero. Mueller sold out to Trump in order to protect himself, as Trump was going to have Mueller assassinated if Mueller did not clear him. This conspiracy theory comes from those who ridicule skeptics of the official 9/11 story and various of the school shootings. The dastardly Mueller, more concerned with protecting himself than with cleansing the government of the Trump evil, suppressed the evidence of Trump’s guilt in order to save his own ass.
In other words, the Democrats, deserted by their hero, cannot let go of the orchestration we call “Russiagate.”
It is enough to drive a person to despair that among the abundant evidence of American election interference, no attention is given by Democrats to interference by the Israel Lobby, the pharmaceutical lobby, the oil lobby, the Wall Street Lobby, the military/security complex lobby.
Sheldon Adelson, a single individual with a fortune from casino gambling of $33 billion, 300 million dollars, has more clout on the outcome of US presidential elections than Putin. These few lobbies mentioned above have resources between them in excess of the GDP of Russia. It is totally impossible for Russia to outbid them.
Assume that Russia, whose Gross Domestic Product is overshadowed by the resources of the Forbes 400, would try to compete with, for example, the Israel Lobby, in determining US foreign policy. If Russia could compete with the Israel Lobby in controlling American political outcomes, would the Middle East have been destroyed by Washington, with millions of displaced and dispossessed refugees overrunning all Western countries? Surely not. Is Russia happy that the destabilization of the Middle East threatens the Muslim provinces of the Russian Federation with jihadists? Obviously not. Nevertheless, the instability that Washington has introduced into the Western world serves the rise of Russia and China, not America and its empire.
One has to wonder how it serves the image and power of the United States to be portrayed, as it is portrayed, as fighting Israel’s wars for domination of the Middle East.
How does the world avoid seeing the US of A as a two-bit vassal of Zionist Israel?
Doesn’t Trump’s national security advisor, John Bolton, and Trump’s Jewish son-in-law make this perfectly clear every day? The President of the United States is nothing but the punk two-bit vassal of Zionism.
The US Department of State formerly was in the hands of “Arabists.” Today it is in the hands of Zionists.
Washington in its total incompetence has aligned with a tiny percentage of the population against the majority in the Middle East.
This will come to no good result.
(ZH) — For years, New York State has lagged behind its progressive-minded peers in the area of marijuana prohibition. As states like California, Massachusetts, Vermont and even Maine passed bills legalizing the drug, members of the New York State legislature simply haven’t been able to overcome minor differences in ideology to pass a legalization bill of their own, leaving New York with some of the most draconian marijuana laws in the northeast.
But that’s all about to change – sort of. On Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill decriminalizing marijuana use a little over one month after the legislature failed to reach an agreement on a bill that would have legalized sales. But the decrim bill is the next best thing, supporters insist, arguing that it will help eliminate the racial disparities in arrests and sentencing, since it eliminates the hated “public view” loophole (which allows a cop to arrest a suspect who willingly takes a bag of marijuana out of his pocket, placing it in “public view”) while also making possession of anything up to one to an ounce punishable by a max fine of $50. Possession of between one and two ounces will be punishable of a fine up to $200, eliminating the possibility of jail time, regardless of an individuals criminal record.
The state assembly and Senate passed the decrim bill more than a week and a half ago.
Proponents of legalization still see decrim as insufficient, since users still wouldn’t have a legal source for marijuana, allowing criminal organizations to still profit off it.
Ten states and Washington, DC, have legalized marijuana, though DC and Vermont don’t allow sales.
Illinois will become the 11th state to legalize once Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker signs the recently passed legalization bill into law. Another 14 states have only decriminalized.
After signing the bill, Cuomo praised the legislation for helping to eliminate a source of discrimination against communities of color, according to NBC New York. Proponents estimate that as many as 600,000 New Yorkers will benefit from the legislation (which also provides for expunging past marijuana convictions).
“Communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by laws governing marijuana for far too long, and today we are ending this injustice once and for all,” Cuomo said.
“It’s not legalization,” he said on public radio previously. “But it is decriminalization and it’s a major, major accomplishment.”
The law will take effect 30 days from Monday.
(TMU) — NASA’s latest planet-hunting satellite has discovered three new worlds, including an entirely new alien planet with characteristics unseen within our own solar system.
The strange new exoplanets, which means they are outside of our solar system, are a part of the TOI-270 star system.
The new system, which revolves around a neighboring star, includes a rocky super-Earth that is slightly larger than our planet, as well as two other gaseous planets twice the size of Earth. Researchers claim that the planets are a “missing link” that sits between the smaller rocky worlds, including our Earth and Mars, and much larger gaseous planets such as Saturn and Jupiter.
The discovery, which is detailed in the latest issue of scientific journal Nature Astronomy, was made possible by NASA’s Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), which was launched into space in 2018 and has since scanned the universe for stars and planets capable of supporting alien life.
The smaller super-Earth lies within the habitable zone, meaning that it lies within the range of distance from a Sun-like star that makes it temperate enough to allow for liquid-water oceans. It is also a “quiet” planet, meaning that it has fewer flares and scientists will be able to observe it and its neighboring planets with greater ease.
However, researchers believe that its atmosphere is so thick and dense that the planet is extremely hot, potentially making the surface too warm to support the type of life found on our planet.
Stephen Kane, a UC Riverside associate professor of planetary astrophysics and member of UCR’s NASA-funded Alternative Earths Astrobiology Center, said in a press release that the discovery is exactly what NASA’s satellite was designed to find.
“We’ve found very few planets like this in the habitable zone, and many fewer around a quiet star, so this is rare. We don’t have a planet quite like this in our solar system.”
With a distance of only 73 light years away, the exoplanets are also among the closest ever found.
“The diameter of our galaxy is 100,000 light years, and our galaxy is just one of millions of galaxies … So, 73 light years means it’s one of our neighboring stars.”
Researchers hope that the “missing link” solar system will shed greater light on why so few worlds exist at that size.
Lead researcher Maximilian Gunther from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said:
“TOI-270 will soon allow us to study this ‘missing link’ between rocky Earth-like planets and gas-dominant mini-Neptunes, because here all of these types formed in the same system.”
Continuing, Gunther said:
“TOI-270 is a true Disneyland for exoplanet science, and one of the prime systems TESS was set out to discover.
It is an exceptional laboratory for not one, but many reasons – it really ticks all the boxes.”
Indeed, the researchers are hopeful that other planets within this solar system are waiting to be found.
The planets link together in what researchers describe as a “resonant chain,” meaning that their orbits line up in neat, whole integers—giving them a “resonance” with one another that gives researchers a method to discover more planets. Within our own solar system, the moons of Jupiter also line up in a “resonant” formation.
“For TOI-270, these planets line up like pearls on a string.
That’s a very interesting thing, because it lets us study their dynamical behavior. And you can almost expect, if there are more planets, the next one would be somewhere further out, at another integer ratio.”
The team remains hopeful that additional planets will be discovered in the neighboring solar system. And while the smaller planet is unlikely to host life due to its dense atmosphere, those planets lying at a greater distance from the star could be cooler and more capable of allowing water to pool on their surface.
By Roxane, Paris 2016.
Before the predictable howling begins, let me assure you that is not a cheap, rhetorical shot. Despite America’s military prowess, used to impose its catastrophic imperial designs, and potent economic clout built on a Ponzi-scheme-like $21.5 trillion debt, a sizeable share owned by China and Japan – my unflattering appellation is demonstrably true.
Slowly, inexorably, this essential truth has revealed itself, particularly since Donald Trump and Melania boarded the down escalator – figuratively and literally – to announce his candidacy for president on June 16, 2015.
From that portentous moment, the US has descended into an imperious state – where the rule of law has become a quaint, disposable anachronism – led by a benighted henchman, who, like all benighted henchmen, considers the rule of law a quaint, disposable anachronism.
Enabled by a stacked, ideologically amicable Supreme Court and surrounded by obsequious family and sycophants – all familiar staples of a banana republic – Trump sits on his leather throne in the Oval Office, content as a purring cat, sure of his impunity.
He knows that, in spite of having committed a ceaseless carousel of outrages, Trump hovers above the law like an angry puppeteer who pulls all the strings when his mercurial mood or whims demand – untouchable, unaccountable and, of course, unindictable.
Confident that he is immune from impeachment, let alone perjury or a solitary count of obstruction of justice, Trump keeps prodding, mocking and defaming Democrats at will using the 21st century equivalent of the presidential bully pulpit – Twitter.
Trump was busy feeding his 280-character addiction again while special prosecutor Robert Mueller reluctantly testified on Capitol Hill last week, claiming, once more, political and personal vindication over his apoplectic “enemies” inside and outside Congress.
To add lunacy to fantasy, Trump later declared that Article 2 of the constitution affords him carte blanche to “do whatever” he wants as president, without any legal repercussions at any time, from any quarter. This is also, undeniably, the modus vivendi of the omnipotent leader of a banana republic.
Meanwhile, the Democrats’ faltering white knight missed seizing his last, likely final, opportunity to rebut in plain, firm language Trump’s assertion that he is more strongman than president, who, with his administration, treats the constitution, the “equal” branches of government and his report’s damning findings with gleeful contempt.
Instead, Mueller, looking spent and sounding disinterested, was cryptic and kept referring congressmen and congresswomen to his report like a bureaucrat’s answering machine.
If there was one exchange that typified America’s devolution into banana republic domain it was Mueller’s pitiful response to Democratic Representative Sean Patrick Maloney’s simple, but urgent question about the man at the nexus of his probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election: Why didn’t you subpoena Trump?
Mueller’s rambling reply amounted to this: He wanted to interview Trump, but the president refused; then, in effect, ran out the clock and submitted sworn, written replies to a list of questions limited to the Russia probe the special prosecutor ultimately (and unsurprisingly) considered “incomplete”, “imprecise”, and “inadequate”.
Mueller insisted he hadn’t “flinched”. But he had – in not only failing to get Trump to testify under oath, but also in delivering the convoluted conclusion that while he had not exonerated Teflon Don, he was prevented by legal precedent from charging a sitting president with obstruction of justice.
Ah, there is always the prospect, Mueller agreed, that Trump might belatedly be charged when President Trump becomes citizen Trump.
That would happen in a real republic, not a banana republic, Mr Mueller.
Still, Mueller provided ample evidence of an executive branch compromised to the core. Trump’s campaign welcomed Russia’s help to leverage the outcome of the 2016 election in its favour. To achieve that goal, Russia, Mueller said, committed crimes and engineered an elaborate cyber-infrastructure to sway the vote Trump’s way.
The possible dividends of this non-collusion collusion not only included the presidency, but the starry allure of money.
While candidate Trump was pursuing a potentially lucrative Trump Tower deal in Moscow, his former campaign manager turned convicted felon, Paul Manafort, was sharing campaign information and internal polling data with alleged Russian “intelligence operative”, Konstantin Kilimnik, hoping to cash in – courtesy of Russian or Ukrainian oligarchs.
Not done, Mueller warned that Russia was engaged in a “sweeping” and “systematic” effort to impact the 2020 election. “They’re doing it as we sit here,”Mueller said.
Now, a mature, responsible “republic” that deems the integrity of presidential elections to be sacrosanct would try to stop that from happening again. Right?
Trump’s confederate, Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell – dubbed “Moscow Mitch” by US television personality and former Republican congressman, Joe Scarborough – blocked election security legislation only hours after Mueller’s marathon testimony.
“He (McConnell) is aiding and abetting Vladimir Putin’s ongoing attempts to subvert American democracy…and Moscow Mitch won’t even let the Senate take a vote on it. That is un-American,” Scarborough shouted, as American TV pundits are apt to do.
Well, Mr. Scarborough, it is reflective of a banana republic, too. Agreed?
So, when millions of Americans turned to La Resistance among the Democratic leadership to save the “republic” from a racist, rule-of-law-allergic authoritarian who will not protect the constitution he swore to uphold, Nancy Pelosi, like Mueller, flinched.
The Democratic House Leader’s stubborn political calculus is that Trump’s impeachment would be a fruitless, imprudent exercise since it lacks bipartisan support and would be defeated in the Republican-controlled Senate, anyway.
Without even a credible threat of impeachment, Trump understands that Pelosi’s huffing and puffing about the “rule of law” and “sanctity” of national elections is limp, hollow posturing.
When the appalling times and circumstances required it, rather than confronting Trump with the full, punitive measure of constitutional powers she and her caucus enjoy, Pelosi chose political expediency over principle.
With Mueller gone and Pelosi equivocating, a vengeful and vindictive Trump will become more emboldened to complete the transformation of America into his autocratic image during this or, odds are, a second, disfiguring term.
The views expressed in this article are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.
This article was originally published by GR in November 2017.
For almost 2 decades, the US pursued a list of ‘enemy countries’ to confront, attack, weaken and overthrow.
This imperial quest to overthrow ‘enemy countries’ operated at various levels of intensity, depending on two considerations: the level of priority and the degree of vulnerability for a ‘regime change’ operation.
The criteria for determining an ‘enemy country’ and its place on the list of priority targets in the US quest for greater global dominance, as well as its vulnerability to a ‘successfully’ regime change will be the focus of this essay.
We will conclude by discussing the realistic perspectives of future imperial options.
Prioritizing US Adversaries
Imperial strategists consider military, economic and political criteria in identifying high priority adversaries.
The following are high on the US ‘enemy list’:
1) Russia, because of its military power, is a nuclear counterweight to US global domination. It has a huge, well-equipped armed force with a European, Asian and Middle East presence. Its global oil and gas resources shield it from US economic blackmail and its growing geo-political alliances limit US expansion.
2) China, because of its global economic power and the growing scope of its trade, investment and technological networks. China’s growing defensive military capability, particularly with regard to protecting its interests in the South China Sea serve to counter US domination in Asia.
3) North Korea, because of its nuclear and ballistic missile capability, its fierce independent foreign policies and its strategic geo-political location, is seen as a threat to the US military bases in Asia and Washington’s regional allies and proxies.
4) Venezuela, because of its oil resources and socio-political policies, challenge the US centered neo-liberal model in Latin America.
5) Iran, because of its oil resources, political independence and geo-political alliances in the Middle East, challenge US, Israeli and Saudi Arabia domination of the region and present an independent alternative.
6) Syria, because of its strategic position in the Middle East, its secular nationalist ruling party and its alliances with Iran, Palestine, Iraq and Russia, is a counterweight to US-Israeli plans to balkanize the Middle East into warring ethno-tribal states.
US Middle-level Adversaries :
1) Cuba, because of its independent foreign policies and its alternative socio-economic system stands in contrast to the US-centered neo-liberal regimes in the Caribbean, Central and South America.
2) Lebanon, because of its strategic location on the Mediterranean and the coalition government’s power sharing arrangement with the political party, Hezbollah, which is increasingly influential in Lebanese civil society in part because of its militia’s proven capacity to protect Lebanese national sovereignty by expelling the invading Israeli army and helping to defeat the ISIS/al Queda mercenaries in neighboring Syria.
3) Yemen, because of its independent, nationalist Houthi-led movement opposed to the Saudi-imposed puppet government as well as its relations with Iran.
Low Level Adversaries
1) Bolivia, because of its independent foreign policy, support for the Chavista government in Venezuela and advocacy of a mixed economy; mining wealth and defense of indigenous people’s territorial claims.
2) Nicaragua, because of its independent foreign policy and criticism of US aggression toward Cuba and Venezuela.
US hostility to high priority adversaries is expressed through economic sanctions military encirclement, provocations and intense propaganda wars toward North Korea, Russia, Venezuela, Iran, and Syria.
Because of China’s powerful global market linkages, the US has applied few sanctions. Instead, the US relies on military encirclement, separatist provocations and intense hostile propaganda when dealing with China.
Priority Adversaries, Low Vulnerability and Unreal Expectations
With the exception of Venezuela, Washington’s ‘high priority targets’ have limited strategic vulnerabilities. Venezuela is the most vulnerable because of its high dependence on oil revenues with its major refineries located in the US, and its high levels of indebtedness, verging on default. In addition, there are the domestic opposition groups, all acting as US clients and Caracas’ growing isolation within Latin America due to orchestrated hostility by important US clients, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico.
Iran is far less vulnerable: It is a strong strategic regional military power linked to neighboring countries and similar religious-nationalist movements. Despite its dependence on oil exports, Iran has developed alternative markets, like China, free from US blackmail and is relatively safe from US or EU initiated creditor attacks.
North Korea, despite the crippling economic sanctions imposed on its regime and civilian population, has ‘the bomb’ as a deterrent to a US military attack and has shown no reluctance to defend itself. Unlike Venezuela, neither Iran nor North Korea face significant internal attacks from US-funded or armed domestic opposition.
Russia has full military capacity – nuclear weapons, ICBM and a huge, well-trained armed force – to deter any direct US military threat. Moscow is politically vulnerable to US-backed propaganda, opposition political parties and Western-funded NGO’s. Russian oligarch-billionaires, linked to London and Wall Street, exercise some pressure against independent economic initiatives.
To a limited degree, US sanctions exploited Russia’s earlier dependence on Western markets, butsince the imposition of draconian sanctions by the Obama regime, Moscow has effectively counteredWashington’s offensive by diversifying its markets to Asia and strengthening domestic self-reliance in its agriculture, industry and high technology.
China has a world-class economy and is on course to become the world’s economic leader. Feeble threats to ‘sanction’ China have merely exposed Washington’s weakness rather intimidating Beijing. China has countered US military provocations and threats by expanding its economic market power, increasing its strategic military capacity and shedding dependence on the dollar.
Washington’s high priority targets are not vulnerable to frontal attack: They retain or are increasing their domestic cohesion and economic networks, while upgrading their military capacity to impose completely unacceptable costs on the US for any direct assault.
As a result, the US leaders are forced to rely on incremental, peripheral and proxy attacks with limited results against its high priority adversaries.
Washington will tighten sanctions on North Korea and Venezuela, with dubious prospects of success in the former and a possible pyrrhic victory in the case of Caracas. Iran and Russia can easily overcome proxy interventions. US allies, like Saudi Arabia and Israel, can badger, propagandize and rail the Persians, but their fears that an out-and-out war against Iran, could quickly destroy Riyadh and Tel Aviv forces them to work in tandem to induce the corrupt US political establishment to push for war over the objections of a war-weary US military and population. Saudi and Israelis can bomb and starve the populations of Yemen and Gaza, which lack any capacity to reply in kind, but Teheran is another matter.
The politicians and propagandists in Washington can blather about Russia’s interference in the US’s corrupt electoral theater and scuttle moves to improve diplomatic ties, but they cannot counter Russia’s growing influence in the Middle East and its expanding trade with Asia, especially China.
In summary, at the global level, the US ‘priority’ targets are unattainable and invulnerable. In the midst of the on-going inter-elite dogfight within the US, it may be too much to hope for the emergence of any rational policymakers in Washington who could rethink strategic priorities and calibrate policies of mutual accommodation to fit in with global realities.
Medium and Low Priorities, Vulnerabilities and Expectations
Washington can intervene and perhaps inflict severe damage on middle and low priority countries. However, there are several drawbacks to a full-scale attack.
Yemen, Cuba, Lebanon, Bolivia and Syria are not nations capable of shaping global political and economic alignments. The most the US can secure in these vulnerable countries are destructive regime changes with massive loss of life, infrastructure and millions of desperate refugees . . . but at great political cost, with prolonged instability and with severe economic losses.
The US can push for a total Saudi Royal victory over the starving, cholera-stricken people of Yemen. But who benefits? Saudi Arabia is in the midst of a palace upheaval and has no ability to exercise hegemony, despite hundreds of billions of dollars of US/NATO arms, trainers and bases. Colonial occupations are costly and yield few, if any, economic benefits, especially from a poor, geographically isolated devastated nation like Yemen.
Cuba has a powerful highly professional military backed by a million-member militia. They are capable of prolonged resistance and can count on international support. A US invasion of Cuba would require a prolonged occupation and heavy losses. Decades of economic sanctions haven’t worked and their re-imposition by Trump have not affected the key tourist growth sectors.
President Trump’s ‘symbolic hostility’ does not cut any ice with the major US agro-business groups, which saw Cuba as a market. Over half of the so-called ‘overseas Cubans’ now oppose direct US intervention.
US-funded NGOs can provide some marginal propaganda points but they cannot reverse popular support for Cuba’s mixed ‘socialized’ economy, its excellent public education and health care and its independent foreign policy.
A joint US-Saudi economic blockade and Israeli bombs can destabilize Lebanon. However, a full-scale prolonged Israeli invasion will cost Jewish lives and foment domestic unrest. Hezbollah has missiles to counter Israeli bombs. The Saudi economic blockade will radicalize Lebanese nationalists, especially among the Shia and the Christian populations. The Washington’s ‘invasion’ of Libya, which did not lose a single US soldier, demonstrates that destructive invasions result in long-term, continent-wide chaos.
A US-Israeli-Saudi war would totally destroy Lebanon but it will destabilize the region and exacerbate conflicts in neighboring countries – Syria, Iran and possibly Iraq. And Europe will be flooded with millions more desperate refugees.
The US-Saudi proxy war in Syria suffered serious defeats and the loss of political assets. Russia gained influence, bases and allies. Syria retained its sovereignty and forged a battle-hardened national armed force. Washington can sanction Syria, grab some bases in a few phony ‘Kurdish enclaves’ but it will not advance beyond a stalemate and will be widely viewed as an occupying invader.
Syria is vulnerable and continues to be a middle-range target on the US enemy list but it offers few prospects of advancing US imperial power, beyond some limited ties with an unstable Kurd enclave, susceptible to internecine warfare, and risking major Turkish retaliation.
Bolivia and Nicaragua
Bolivia and Nicaragua are minor irritants on the US enemy list. US regional policymakers recognize that neither country exercises global or even regional power. Moreover, both regimes rejected radical politics in practice and co-exist with powerful and influential local oligarchs and international MNC’s linked to the US.
Their foreign policy critiques, which are mostly for domestic consumption, are neutralized by the near total US influence in the OAS and the major neo-liberal regimes in Latin America. It appears that the US will accommodate these marginalized rhetorical adversaries rather than risk provoking any revival of radical nationalist or socialist mass movements erupting in La Paz or Managua.
A brief examination of Washington’s ‘list of enemies’ reveals that the limited chances of success even among vulnerable targets. Clearly, in this evolving world power configuration, US money and markets will not alter the power equation.
US allies, like Saudi Arabia, spend enormous amounts of money attacking a devastated nation, but they destroy markets while losing wars. Powerful adversaries, like China, Russia and Iran, are not vulnerable and offer the Pentagon few prospects of military conquest in the foreseeable future.
Sanctions, or economic wars have failed to subdue adversaries in North Korea, Russia, Cuba and Iran. The ‘enemy list’ has cost the US prestige, money and markets – a very peculiar imperialist balance sheet. Russia now exceeds the US in wheat production and exports. Gone are the days when US agro-exports dominated world trade including trade with Moscow.
Enemy lists are easy to compose, but effective policies are difficult to implement against rivals with dynamic economies and powerful military preparedness.
The US would regain some of its credibility if it operated within the contexts of global realities and pursued a win-win agenda instead of remaining a consistent loser in a zero-sum game.
Rational leaders could negotiate reciprocal trade agreements with China, which would develop high tech, finance and agro-commercial ties with manufacturers and services. Rational leaders could develop joint Middle East economic and peace agreements, recognizing the reality of a Russian-Iranian-Lebanese Hezbollah and Syrian alliance.
As it stands, Washington’s ‘enemy list’ continues to be composed and imposed by its own irrational leaders, pro-Israel maniacs and Russophobes in the Democratic Party – with no acknowledgement of current realities.
For Americans, the list of domestic enemies is long and well known, what we lack is a civilian political leadership to replace these serial mis-leaders.
JULY 29, 2019
Debts that can’t be paid, won’t be. That point inevitably arrives on the liabilities side of the economy’s balance sheet.
But what of the asset side? One person’s debt is a creditor’s claim for payment. This is defined as “savings,” even though banks simply create credit endogenously on their own computers without needing any prior savings. When debts can’t be paid and debtors default, what happens to these creditors?
As President Obama showed, banks and bondholders can be bailed out by new Federal Reserve money creation. That is what the $4.6 trillion in Quantitative Easing since 2008 was all about. The Fed has spent the last few years supporting stock market prices (and holding down gold prices) by manipulating the forward option markets.
But this artificial life support to keep the debt overhead afloat is nearing the reality of the debt wall. The European Central Bank has almost run out of available euro-bonds to buy. The new fallback position to keep the increasingly zombified U.S. and Eurozone financial markets afloat is to experiment with negative interest rates.
Writing down savings by a few percentage points helps bring the glut of creditor claims marginally back towards balancing bank deposits with the ability of debtors to pay. But such marginal moves are rarely sufficient. A quantum leap is needed.
Governments have long followed a basic guideline when faced with a need to devalue their currencies (for instance, as the dollar was devalued against gold in 1933). Nothing is worse for a politician or central banker than to be overly shy when it comes to devaluation. The motto is, “Always depreciate to access.” That means at lest 25 percent, often a third when a basic structural adjustment is needed.
The recent experiment in negative interest rates writing down savings as a necessary compliment to the inevitable debt writedowns means that financial policy makes are beginning to fact the hitherto unthinkable fact that many zombie companies and debtors have no foreseeable means of paying the amounts that they owe on paper.
The tendency of debts to grow exponentially at rates in excess of the economy’s ability to create an economic surplus to pay creditors has been known for nearly 5,000 years. My book “… and forgive them their debts” describes how ancient Near Eastern rulers recognized the inherent tendency of financial dynamics to cause instability, leading to debt bondage and forfeiture of land to creditors.
To prevent this rising indebtedness from tearing their realms apart, rulers started their first full year on the throne by clearing away the overhang of arrears that had been accruing on personal and agrarian debts. The aim was to restore an idealized “mother condition” in which bondservants were liberated, able to start with a Clean Slate with their self-support land returned to them, in balance with regard to their income and outgo.
An analogy would be the idyllic condition that the U.S. economy would achieve if we could restore the financial situation that existed in 1945. The end of World War II left an economy in which most families were almost debt-free. Families and businesses and were rife with cash, as there had not been much opportunity to spend during the wartime years, and the Great Depression had wiped out substantial debts. Returning soldiers were able to start families and buy homes by committing to pay only 25 percent of their income for 30 years. This era was as close as the United States came to a Clean Slate. Today it seems an unrecoverable golden age – as the ancient Near East seemed to be to debt-wracked imperial Rome.
Germany’s Economic Miracle consisted of its Allied Monetary Reform of 1948 – a Clean Slate erasing most personal and business. That debt cancellation was fairly easy because most debts were owed to Nazis, and the Allies were glad to see their savings claims for payment wiped out.
Fast forward to today: Indebted students graduate with an obligation to pay so much education debt that they cannot qualify for mortgages to buy homes of their own. Marriage rates are down, U.S. homeownership is plunging, and rents are rising. Automobile debt also has soared, leading to rising default rates second only to student debt defaults. The overhang of junk-mortgage debts that crashed the economy in 2008 remains on the books of families who managed to survive the ten million foreclosures under the Obama bailout of Wall Street. (His constituency turned out to be his Donor Class, not the junk-mortgage victims among his voters. He characterized them as “the mob with pitchforks” to the banksters he invited to the White House to celebrate his bailout.)
By driving down interest rates, the Fed’s policy of Quantitative Easing has subsidized an enormous debt buildup without increasing the interest burden proportionally. This has enabled corporations to carry much higher debt and even indulge in leveraged buyouts and stock buyback programs.
This QE policy has made financial engineering much more enriching than industrial engineering. But it has painted the U.S. and European economies into a corner. At some points, interest rates will inevitably begin to rise back up. Some countries will have to increase rates in order to borrow to stabilize their exchange rates when their balance of trade and payments falls into deficit. Other countries will simply see that the game is over and will give up the pretense that the personal, corporate and public-sector debt overhead can be paid.
It is to prepare for this inevitable eventuality that Europe is experimenting with its trial run of negative interest rates. Once the technique is established, it will prepare the way for the inevitable step of writing down national savings in line with the economy’s ability to pay.
That ability is shrinking much more than at any time since the 1920’s, which gave way to the Great Depression despite the many debt writedowns of 1931-32. The exponential mathematics of compound interest have created more and more claims on personal income and corporate cash flow, leaving less and less to be spent on goods and services.
Until a debt write-down occurs, storefronts will continue to close, arrears will mount, students will continue to postpone marriage and family formation, high-risk bonds will begin to give way and default.
That should be what economic theory is all about. But for the past generation, economic models have pretended that banks and creditors act responsibly enough not to make bad loans. Pension fund managers pretend that they can provide for future retirement by corporate or public employees by earning 8 percent annually ad infinitum, doubling every 7 years, as if this is really possible in an economy not really growing outside of the Finance, Insurance and Real Estate (FIRE) sector (and even so, growing at only 1 or 2 percent). How then can the economy pay its debts without imposing financial austerity much like Third World countries subjected to IMF austerity programs?
Today’s economic orthodoxy denies that this debt problem can exist. Debt dynamics and the exponential growth curve of compound interest does not exist in the parallel academic universe that somehow has been situated in the social science department instead of the literature department as science fiction.
Perhaps someday a revamped economics curriculum will include the study of history to see how earlier societies have coped with the inherent tendency of debts to increase faster than the ability to be paid. It is a long history with many examples. Western civilization has failed to solve the financial problem that Near Eastern societies were able to cope with by intervening from “outside” the economy.
But these formative debt experiences are as repressed today as sexual drives repressed academically before the work of Freud. Academic economists are financial prudes. Debt cancellation is historically the solution. Quantitative Easing and bailouts of the One Percent can only be a temporary substitute. We should think of them as “abstinence” from recognizing the need to write down bad loans (“savings”) along with the bad debts.