Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Applause as the Sound of Desertion




Today, French President Emanuel Macron laid out detailed plans for avoiding a climate disaster at the current session of the international organization devoted to that goal, which the US has abandoned. When Macron mentioned that US dues to the climate organization known as COP (Conference of the Parties, referring to the countries that signed the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) would be met by increased contributions from the other member countries, in particular Europe, enthusiastic applause broke out among the participants.
Normally, requests for money for international projects are met with silence, even on the part of countries that will eventually loosen their purse strings. Today, the spontaneity and length of the applause at the twenty-third COP conference (COP 23) was a stunning reflection of Europe’s new-found independence from the US.  Not that Europe has become richer, like an adolescent who now has a job and can afford to dispense with parental aide, on the contrary. But after seventy-five years of playing junior partner to the US, Europeans are actually relieved to be expected to pick up the tab, as they become part of a more egalitarian Eurasian geo-political community.

Friday, November 3, 2017

The Chicken-Littles Come Home to Roost


The other day, Ari Melber, beady eyes flaming, re-enacted Congress’s grilling of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerman over ‘Russian interference in the 2016 election’, pairing his own questions with Zuckerberg’s videoed responses, condemning him like a religious inquisitor.
The next day I received an e-mail from the self-proclaimed ‘revolutionary theorist’ Micah White, whose book on protests I had reviewed favorably. I could hardly believe that he now accuses himself and the entire American left of inadvertently selling out to the Russians!
While Melber’s tone is aggressive, White’s claim that Russia used an internet repairman to gain access to his computer is paranoid, as is his belief that the pro-Black website an interviewer worked for is  — according to an anti-Putin Russian source one of many Russian sights set up to swing the US election. Here is some of White’s ‘evidence’:
“The interview with Yan Big was immediately uncomfortable. The phone quality was terrible: it sounded like he was calling interna-tionally through a distant internet connection. He had a strange accent and an unusual way of phrasing questions. He was obviously not a typical American. I rationalized that he must be an African immigrant living in America and that was why he was interested in protesting against racism and police brutality. His attempts at flattery set off more alarm bells. I finished up the interview as quickly as possible and got off the phone.“
Beware of bad phone quality, and let flattery get you nowhere!
“I hinted at the situation by adding a section to my book, The End of Protest, warning activists to beware of front groups. And, above all, I learned to trust my intuition—if someone gave me a tingly sense then I stayed away. That is why I almost ignored the interview request from Yan Big Davis.”
Until recently, American activists would have welcomed help from the international activist community, and in his book, White extolls the virtues of Italy’s Five Star Movement whose support he welcomes. Today, however, many activists are totally ignorant of Vladimir Putin’s political views: the media tells them that he is an ‘authoritarian’, but never specifies what he uses his authority to do, giving the left no tools with which to combat Russophobia.  Climbing on the anti-Russian bandwagon, White unabashedly repeats the mantra that Vladimir Putin interfered in our (so-called) democracy. If White is any example, the left can only be accepted by the mainstream if it makes crystal clear that its policies have NOTHING TO DO with any that Vladimir Putin might approve!  White continues:
“Yan Big posted the interview on the Black Matters website and for the next few months he emailed me to ask for help promoting protests in America against the continued incarceration of the MOVE 9 and Jerome Skee Smith. I never replied again.” 
White doesn’t condemn these campaigns, so why did he withhold his support?  Must all political work stop in order for activists to avoid being associated with Russia?  Here’s his mea culpa:
“As a revolutionary American activist I’d been on guard against domestic intelligence agencies, not foreign governments, and Russia exploited that posture.” (Frankly, I doubt that Putin even knows that White exists.)  …“Russia’s efforts are part of a larger shift in the nature of war in which activists are becoming the pawns of superpowers. We are witnessing the advent of social movement warfare: the deployment of social protest as an effective alternative to conventional military conflict.“  
Activists are people who in earlier times would have enlisted in the army? In my book, most are pacifists, so what does White mean?
“Russia’s attempts to foment, stage and manage social protest in Western democracies is a strategic response to allegedly (sic!) American-funded “color revolutions” like the Rose, Orange and Tulip revolutions against Russian-allied governments in Georgia (2003-2004), Ukraine (2004-2005) and Kyrgyzstan (2005) along with, arguably, the Arab Spring (2010-2012) and Euromaidan Revolution (2013-2014).“
Apparently, White never heard of Clinton’s Assistant Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland, who first distributed cookies on the roiling Maidan, then discussed who would replace the pro-Russian president it deposed in a tapped phone call with the US Ambassador to Ukraine. Not to mention that when a foreign ‘regime’ ‘misbehaves’ the US often takes it out by dropping bombs….)
How could someone with White’s interesting academic credentials arrive at this point? The race riots of the sixties and the anti-war movement of the seventies failed to birth an openly socialist movement. Vietnam war resisters and demonstrators who knew that the Communists there were fighting a French colonial regime, haven’t a clue today about Putin’s Russia. (Those who do know something, either from reading the blogs of Americans living there, or those of political analysts who make it their business to know what’s going on, know that Washington’s accusations haven’t a leg to stand on.) 
A hundred years after the Russian Revolution, journalists fearful for their jobs are joined by ‘revolutionaries’ with slick websites who don’t want anything to interfere with their careers. If they have to condemn a Russian President who encourages entrepreneurship while making sure that everyone’s basic needs are met, and implements the basic socialist commitment to resolving differences through negotiations rather than war, so be it! (A week ago, Putin convened a meeting in Astana, the capital of Kyrgystan, between representatives of the Syrian government and delegations from Iran, Russia, Turkey and a U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary of State, but our press doesn’t care who goes to Moscow or to the capital of one of its allies. 
When President Putin decided that the risk of Hillary Clinton becoming president, with her commitment to American hegemony, was too great, he chose peaceful means for combatting that outcome, as opposed to those routinely employed by Washington. He may not have anticipated the extent of Donald Trump’s unsuitability for the job of President, but like any responsible leader, he prefers abetting the enemy’s domestic chaos to allowing World War III to happen. (Even Masha Gessen, in a recent on-line contribution https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/russian-interference-in-the-2016-election-a-cacophony-not-a-conspiracy dismisses the Russian ‘intervention’ as ‘a cacophony not a conspiracy’….) 
After more than half a century of anti-nuclear protests, the sadder irony is that politicians and journalists condemn President Trump for wanting to have peaceful relations with the other nuclear superpower!  And a special investigator is looking into the shocking possibility that he may have let them know about his intentions even before being elected!  The least one can say is that the Melbers and the Whites who cry “The Sky is Falling!”, like the nursery rhyme’s “Chicken Little”, having exchanged independent thinking for a permanent lunch ticket.





























Monday, October 30, 2017

While the US Dithers at Home and Abroad, Russia Acts

As all US channels were rehashing the ‘breaking news’ that someone related to the Trump presidency was going to be indicted this morning that one of the reasons why the American public knows little or nothing about what’s going on in the world is that ‘panels’ of talking heads replace foreign news!  What is officially twenty-four news is really a set where anchors along with ‘guests’ — paid by the networks — go round in circles about what is happening on the domestic front.
Though it may sound far-fetched, this is an apt lead into the news that struck me today as I glanced over some of the many news sources that land in my inbox.  This one is from the Middle East’s Al-Monitor, and its titled Putin Resets Iraqi Energy landscape as Barzani Steps Aside:  https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/10/russia-putin-reset-iraq-energy-landscape-pmu-syria.html?utm_campaign=20171029&utm_source=sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=Daily%20Newsletter.
While CNN and MSNBC — and even Fox News — continue to seek needles in the Mueller Investigation haystack with which to fill the slots accorded to ‘news’ in between ads, they blithely ignore this real news:
“Russian President Vladimir Putin repositioned himself as a key broker of Iraqi energy politics last week, while US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was scolded by the Iraqi government for his comments about Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU).”
I remember wincing when I saw Tillerson deliver this order on tv…..It was a picture-perfect example of why the world is increasingly turning away from the US, and it made me suspect that our Secretary of State is tone-deaf. (Or maybe he’s mouthing his assigned role while deciding when to separate himself from the Trump administration — or any US administration, for that matter.)
The Al-monitor article admits that it would be a reach to suggest that Russia could be outflanking the US in the Middle East, but notes:
“The United States limits its options by seeing every Iranian move as adversarial and in zero-sum terms, which only serves to frustrate Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who prefers that the United States and Iran not play out their hostility in Iraq.  Al-Abadi referred to the country’s “Popular Mobilization Units (PMU, a Shiite militia) as ‘Iraqi patriots’, while signing an ‘expansive energy and economic protocol with Russia.”
Kurdish female fighters - Ghetty image
In addition, Rosneft announced that it would begin exploration and pilot production of fields in Iraqi Kurdistan. Baghdad needs foreign investments to revive the territories damaged in the war against ISIS, so it certainly won't pressure Moscow to choose between Baghdad and Erbil.
Whether or not the expansive interpretation of the Iraq-Russia relationship is on target, there’s likely to be a ‘there there’ when Al-Monitor notes:
Iraq “highly values that Russia respects its domestic and foreign policies, never demanding that Iraq should work with certain countries and not others. Moscow and Baghdad have the same opinion on both the fight against terrorism and the Syrian civil war. They navigate between the two Middle Eastern power centers — Tehran and Riyadh — in the same way, seeking to avoid controversy.”
Interestingly, this comment comes on the same day as a long article in consortiumnews.com by 9/11 widow turned activist Kristen Breitweiser, that deconstructs US efforts to shift the blame for the 2001 attack from Iraq to Iran. As the Trump administration seeks to somehow disappear an international agreement on Iran’s nuclear activities to which four European countries are also signatories, it repeats Israeli-inspired accusations that Iran sponsors terrorism when it supports the Lebanese militia of the political party Hezbollah. Significantly absent from news reports about Lebanon is the existence of the Christian  ‘Phalange’ militia founded in 1937 and whose Kateb Party is still active. This confusion is facilitated by American ignorance of the fundamental difference between revolutionary Shia Iran and Sunni Wahabbi extremism: that the former is part of the worldwide left, while the latter is part of the Muslim Wahabbi right (which I do not want to confuse with the American religious right…).
Tonight I just witnessed the ultimate example of a journalistic expediency: Ari Melber on MSNBC almost ran out of breath describing how Paul Manafort succeeded in modifying the Republican Party platform with respect to Ukraine: it originally called for sending arms to Kiev to combat the ‘Russian invasion’, and Manafort got the plank scrapped, as if Ukraine was still government by the pro-Russian against whom the US carried out a coup in 2014! In reality, during the presidential campaign, the Kiev government the Republicans were set to send arms to was the anti-Russian government the US put in power in 2014 via a coup directed by Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland.
To his credit, Manafort was on the side of the pro-Russian regime which the US swept aside with the help of Neo-Nazi militias who still call the shots in Kiev — as European elections return far-right victories one after the other. To simplify for a largely ignorant audience, the media doesn't even bother to get the details right. 



Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Alt Right and the Arithmetic of Race

First, a propos yesterday's transcript of the Valdai Discussion Club final session, if you read it you know first-hand what President Putin's position on the Catalan independence movement that is currently playing out with very big stakes for both Spain and Europe.
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This past week one of the leaders of the Alt-Right, Richard Spencer was scheduled to give a speech at the University of Florida in Gainesville, and I wondered why the only reports stated that the governor of Florida had called a state of emergency beforehand and that shots were fired afterwards. When the Los Angeles Times wrote that Spencer gave a two-hour speech, I watched a video of the event on-line. In fact, Spencer was systematically prevented from giving a speech by well-organized protesters that made up most of the audience.  During more that an hour he tried to convince them to desist, alternately appealing to their democratic convictions and taunting them, until finally a few people broke from the crowd to question him.
Spencer emotionally made the point that whites in the US are increasingly treated as a minority, preference for education and jobs often given deliberately to non-whites who have been discriminated against for centuries. Those facts are correct, but Spencer failed to note that this is not a specifically ‘American’ problem: white people, known as Caucasians, constitute only 16% of the world’s population.
For years I have been writing that the Caucasians’ best policy is to cooperate with the 74% rather than try to dominate it. http://www.otherjones.com/2015/03/in-europe-arithmetic-of-otherness-and.html, http://www.otherjones.com/2015/08/scandinavia-joins-crowd.html, and Europe’s migration crisis graphi-cally illustrates what happens when dark-skinned people show up amongst white people who have not done the math. But Spencer’s attitude is at best a childish “I’m not going to play with you anymore,” and at best unrealistic.
Spencer and his followers want to create a “white ethno-state” after ‘peacefully’ transferring non-whites to their countries of origin: Latinos to the southern hemisphere, black people presumably shipped back to Africa. (As Muslims become the dominant population on the old continent, would Europeans who want to live in a white ethno-state be welcome in North America? Probably only if they qualify as ‘truly white’, like Germans or Scandinavians…. 
Once separated into truly ‘national’ — or ethnic — nation-states, would the world no longer be in a constant state of war?  It sounds good on paper, but I remember when the developed (i.e., ‘superior’) world sincerely believed that democracies don’t make war on each other, which ‘justifying’ America’s commitment to bring ‘democracy’ everywhere. (Never mind that leaders of democracies who are not on the same page as the US, are toppled thanks to US support for their adversaries.)   
To gain broad support, Spencer’s Alt-Right would have to at least convince a majority of Americans that the ‘redistribution’ of non-white populations he envisages would be non-violent. That is hard to do when every public appearance of the Alt-Right evokes violence, as when armed men march with torches shouting ‘’You will not replace us! Jews will not replace us!”, as they did in Charlottesville. And even more so, when people are aware that the torchlight parades of Neo-Nazi militias in Ukraine (who support the government the US created after toppling the elected president), are paying tribute to forefathers who helped Hitler kill Jews, Roma and Russians.
In Gainesville, Spencer, whose friends occasionally relayed him at the mike, was one man facing a largely hostile (though disciplined) crowd, thus he could not threaten, but only cajole, taunt — or claim unconvincingly that the deaths in Charlottesville were not the Alt-right’s fault. 
Based on Europe’s crisis over African and Middle Eastern migrants and refugees, like Marine Le Pen in France and other far-right European leaders gaining in polls, President Putin believes that ‘multiculturalism’ doesn’t work. Unlike the European far-right concerned only with their own back yard, he advicates a world in which each nationality is at home alone, cooperating with others on an equal basis to ensure a peaceful world. The Russian President would not endorse the Alt-Right’s agenda of ‘peaceful relocation’, because he knows that even with good-will on both sides, this would inflict severe psychic and physical damage, as shown when newly independent Hindu India carried out a massive population exchange with Muslim Pakistan.  
World development goals encourage people to remain in their own country rather than seeking a ‘better’ life among strangers. But as long as the developed world fails to bring a better life to its ‘periphery’ so that people no longer seek it elsewhere, Spencer’s idea of relocating ‘non-Whites’ could only be accomplished by force. 
Gainesville students demonstrating against Richard Spencer

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Transcript of Closing Session of Valdai Discussion Club

During this week I've signalled the International Festival of Youth and Students taking place in Sochi Russia, http://www.otherjones.com/2017/10/winning-friends-and-influencing-people.html  pointing out that Russian President Valdimir Putin has developed a very effective way of 'making friends and influencing people"; but I did not know until yesterday that he has brilliantly pulled off a two-fer, by scheduling the twice yearly Valdai Discussion Club meeting during the same week and in the same city as the youth festival.  As a result, young people from around the world, whose media never report on the Valdai discussion group, have become aware of it and of the discussions themselves, while the high-powered people (heads of state, business and cultural leaders) members of the Valdai Club have discovered the existence of a long-standing, progressive international youth program that has been organizing meetings since 1947!

I have just spent an hour and a half reading the English language transcript of the closing session of the Valdai meeting, and I encourage my readers to do the same by clicking on the link below.  They will have access to an hours-long dialogue between the Russian president and several dozen foreign participants which, better than any news story reveals how he and they think, what they believe in and where they hope the world will go http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/transcripts/55882.  The difference between these participants and America's first and fourth estate makes clear that the US's anti-Russia hysteria is intended to prepare citizens for the inevitability of World War III.


Valdai Discussion Club Meeting, February 2017

Friday, October 20, 2017

US Media 'Discovers' US Ruled by Generals

It wasn't until President Trump's Chief of White House staff General John Kelly insulted a Democratic Congresswoman on national television that American journalists suddenly discovered that the United States runs the risk of being run by the military.  Until today, they couldn't praise those that President Trump refers to as 'my generals' enough.  They were all that stood between the country and total chaos, caused by an ignorant and unpredictable president.

Secretary of Defense 'Mad Dog' James Mattis and National Security Advisor General H.R. McMaster, along with White House Chief of Staff Kelly, are arguably the most powerful men in the United States, whose constitution demands deference of the military to civilian rule.  The only comparable moment MSNBC's Ari Melber could come up with -- for good reason -- was the decision by post World War II President Harry S. Truman to relieve the hero of the Pacific General Douglas MacArthur of his command, for telling European governments that he would widen the Korean War to China, sending shock waves across the country.

Some eighty years later, the press has only two talking points: bashing Russia and the man they helped put in the White House by their total commitment to sensationalism.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Today's Two-Fer: 'Me-Tarzan-You-Jane' Is Forever

The United States has had a long history of being ridiculed in Europe -- and perhaps in other parts of the world -- for its childish attitudes toward sex, especially in relationship to politics.  In nineteenth century Europe, an entire theatrical genre (theatre de boulevard) was built around veiled wives sneaking into their lovers' apartments and husbands hiding parlor maids in the bedroom closet.  America, at the time, was known for its Puritan ethic.

I was still living in France during the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky saga and never heard anyone agree that law-makers should have something to say about it.  That was in the mid-nineties, almost twenty years ago. Hillary Clinton lost the last presidential election, but affirmed yesterday to a major television channel that she was glad she stuck with her man -- from who she'd 'learned so much' (although not how to win an election).  However good Hillary is at indignation, in her personal drama she bowed to the reality of marital philandering.

The earth-shattering, life-threatening events the world is currently witnessing shouldn't leave the slightest crack in the news for testiminies of women who have taken the supine position (or whichever) on Harvey Weinstein's bed -- or casting couch.  The only difference between him and the rest of the male population, after all, is that he plays with bigger non-biological toys.

As the hysteria over Harvey Weinstein threatens to surpass Russiaphobia (sex probably being the only thing that could achieve that),  I can't decide whether the country is congenitally blind or whether the uproar  -- like the figurative lynching of black comedian Bill Cosby  -- is a case of Puritan reflux disease.  The heavyweights in the womens' liberation movement, which, to its credit, has inspired women across the globe to assert that they are different but equal, seem to think that although equality does not extend to biology itself, it does to the way it works.  Rape -- as well as semi-consensual sex -- will probably be the last thing to definitively separate us from apes -- and that may not happen until we become 'trasnshumans', wired with implants that make us half-human half machine.

While rape is a  crime,  the line  between consensual and non-consensual sex is often blurred, I  wonder why women today appear to have allowed the line that separates the 'no' that means 'yes'  from refusal to become blurred.  Shouldn't sexual liberation have eliminated that ambiguity?  It's really difficult to believe that so many women who have successfully climbed the corporate or entertainment ladder never had to contend with the advances of an older, influential man.   Whether they 'went along to get along' or successfully fended them off, they have remained silent until Bob Weinstein gave them a chance for displaced revenge.  As for the NewYork Times' Michelle Goldberg, who accuses Weinstein of only 'pretending' to back women's rights,  I'm not alone in considering that good sex is one of those rights.  The 'crime' of Weinstein and his ilk is that they are llikely to be failed purveyors of such.