Thursday, September 21, 2017

Rachel Maddow - And Hollywood — Rewriting the News

When Rachel Maddow reports on the latest details of the US government’s investigation into whether candidate Donald Trump conspired with the Russians in order to win the election, she almost pees in her pants with glee.  

As background to the investigation she blithely states that Russia ‘invaded Ukraine and Crimea’.  (If Crimea were really part of Ukraine, why mention it separately? Crimea only became part of Ukraine on a whim of Khruschev in 1954, meaning that it was only part of that country for sixty years. It was Catherine the Great who tore it away from the Turks. building a mighty fleet in Sebastopol.)

When I googled ‘Russian invasion of Ukraine’, this is what I found:

“On November 14, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued its preliminary findings that ‘there exists a sensible or reasonable justification for a belief that a crime [my italics] falling within the jurisdiction of the Court ‘has been or is being committed’ within the Crimean and Donbas territories of Ukraine. “

Once upon a time, the job of journalists was to report facts.  Now, the ‘freest press in the world’ rewrites them.  In the following paragraph, Russia’s military, by treaty legally stationed at the Russian naval base in Sevastopol, are referred to as ‘little green men’ because they are wearing green, that is, khaki  uniforms without insignias, like all military the world over when off-duty. 

According to the Forbes narrative: “In the early hours of February 27, 2014, armed and uniformed individuals wearing no identifying insignia (“green men”) seized control of the Crimean parliament and admitted pro-Russian deputies, who appointed a new prime minister (a local gangster) and called for a referendum on the status of Crimea.”

The activities of the Russian military are enumerated without their historical context, altering the meaning of the facts:

  1. Fact one: 90% of Crimeans are ethnic Russians, however their parliamentarians are referred to by Forbes as ‘pro Russian’.
  2. Fact two: The Russian soldiers (or sailors) entered the Parliament before the representatives, most of whom are obviously pro-Russian, arrived, ensuring their access.
  3. As ethnic Russians whose language is Russian, their pride goes to the Russian Army that liberated Russia and Ukraine from Hitler’s Nazi forces.  When thanks to US dollars and advice, overseen by Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary for Eastern Europe and Russian Affairs (once Europe had been reunited, between 1989 and 1991 (when Germany was reunited — why should there still be an ‘Eastern European and Russian desk’ at the State Department?) pro-Nazi militias who had been training for months in Western Ukraine were brought to Kiev to provide the truncheons and muscle to Maidan Square filled with pro-democracy citizens, ushering in a Right-Wing government whose leaders, such as Julia Timoshenko (she with the beautiful braids wound around her head), proclaimed that the Russian language would be banned and that ‘cockroaches (Russians and Jews) should be exterminated’.  

4)    Eastern Ukraine, also known as the Donbass, which is rich in coal mines and borders Russia,  has historically been inhabited by ethnic Russians, who are viscerally allergic to Nazis, due to the fact that the grand- fathers of contemporary Neo-Nazi militiamen were allied with Hitler, killing thousands of Poles, Jews, Gypsies and Russians in World War II.  

Anyone who doubts the veracity of this account of Neo-Nazi militias could, at one time, find it on the web, in the February 4, 2014 Time which published an interview with one of their leaders who subsequently became a member of the Kiev cabinet, Dimitri Yaros.  http://time.com/4493/ukraine-dmitri-yarosh-kiev/

Now, however, it took me nearly an hour to track down this article on the internet. When I googled Dmitri Yaros I got a long list of references in what looked like Vietnamese.  The incriminating English language article has been wiped off the net, including Time’s website.  You have to scroll through hundreds of articles under the name of the article’s author, Simon Shuster, who writes for Time from Berlin and is referred to as a muck-racker, to find it here https://muckrack.com/simon-shuster

Back now to the Forbes article:
“The Russian narrative praises the pro-Russian people of Crimea for organizing their own annexation and the endangered East Ukrainians as the people’s republics organized armed volunteers to fight off the extremist rapists and crucifiers sent by the illegal Kiev junta.” (When did governments installed via a coup become ‘legal’?  Apparently, when the US says so.)

“Russia, of course, could not prevent patriotic Russian fighters from volunteering for duty on the Ukrainian field of battle, some during their vacation leaves. Russian soldiers killed or captured in Ukraine had, after all, signed papers separating themselves from the Russian army. 

“As an innocent bystander, Russia has earned a place as a peacemaker in the Minsk negotiations, but claims it has limited influence over the separatist forces. The Russian narrative claims that innocent bystander Russia wants a prosperous and peaceful Ukraine on its borders but with the peoples’ republics having a veto over Ukraine’s foreign policy. The narrative does not state that such an arrangement would spell the end of an independent Ukraine.”

The ‘alternative facts’ are that the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk want to separate themselves, not from Kiev’s foreign policy, but from its domestic policies, such as forbidding the Russian language and murdering anti-Nazi citizens.

It never seems to occur to America’s foremost journalists that if Russia had invaded Ukraine, it would have reached its capital, Kiev, on the opposite side of the country, in a day.  Real invasions by the US cannot boast such success because they encounter well-founded resistance on the part of the population and the governments they topple.

The Russian hacking story, though it is consuming millions of dollars in lawyers fees, is very fragile, so in order to keep it going, journalists like Rachel Maddow have to keep repeating that ‘Russia invaded Ukraine and took over Crimea’. Never mind that after groups of Italian and French lawmakers recently visited Crimea to ascertain for themselves that being part of Russia AGAIN was the dream of most inhabitants.  A recent Amazon search for book titles about Russia revealed only one that sounded positive, Dan Kovalik’s The Plot to Scapegoat Russia

Meanwhile, Hollywood has entered the fray.  As I tweeted yesterday, Rob Reiner (who played the ‘lefty’ son of Archie Bunker back when, then directed several progressive sounding movies), announced to valiant warrior Chuck Todd that he has organized a group of Hollywood celebrities to campaign against Russia. This morning, it was Morgan Freeman’s turn to pick up the anti-Russian cudgel.


We are truly witnessing amazing times.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Trump Revealed at the UN

As the pundits parse Trump’s speech to the UN, I fear they are missing the fact that he has hit a two-fer: appeasing his White Nationalist backers while echoing Vladimir Putin.
It is silly to claim that Russia’s president backs neo-Nazis, as some, in their ignorance, have done recently. As I wrote in an earlier blog, otherjones.com/Sebastian, Vladimir Putin’s support for European nationalists campaigning against the Islamization of their lands is tactical, part of a much bigger concept: that the world has swung too far from tradition in its determination to conquer all.  
The me generation could not have happened without a society based on consumption, consumption eventually led to globaliza-tion (everyone must become a consumer and all must consume the same things, financed, created and marketed by global entrepreneurs). The me generation created anything goes, including every imaginable sexual identity (divorce at will birthed women’s lib, which birthed a myriad of other liberation movements (women still birthing…) and all these separate selves have their own must-have items, which inevitably loosened the bonds between self and nation. On the other hand, liberation movements eventually led the planet’s eight billion and growing population conclude that decentralization is the only practical framework for democracy.
Coinciding with the recognition that national parliamentary democracy is an irremediable farce, Caucasians — appalled by irrefutable evidence of their minority status — have sought comfort from strong leaders, wanting to believe they possessed the power to alter the composition of the human race.  They call themselves ‘white supremacists’. Arrayed against them are multiculturalists, convinced that different colored human beings, who worship different Gods, can live happily together.
The inevitable outcome of this dichotomy is a small but growing cohort that favors a sensible mean: perhaps multiculturalism is too big a lift for twenty-first century man, however each segment of humanity is equal to each other, and is entitled to its own place on the map.  In order to achieve this, the two hundred disparate nations that presently elbow each other aside for a place in the sun need to be guided by strong leaders, who will respect and cooperate with his peers across the globe, speaking with one voice for his people, while they, as conglomerates of individuals, settle the mundane issues of daily, local life in decentralized, democratic communities.
It goes without saying that this template rejects war and is dedicated to cooperation, through the United Nations and its affiliates, and in other international fora — such as those that regulate trade.  
While America’s fanatic judiciary hones in on the question of whether some or all of Donald Trump’s acolytes cooperated with Russia to bring him to the White House, Americans hearing or reading Trump’s maiden UN speech should breathe a sigh of relief: their president agrees with the main lines of the Russian President’s worldview, and this is what matters. Pompous references to ‘our democracy’, which the Russians — rather than money — destroyed, make many Americans wince.
Trump’s challenge will be to navigate the White Supremacist spiderweb that seeks to draw him in even as those ever fearful of ‘the Other’ — especially the ‘foreigner’ — try to expel him from his seat in the Oval Office.
P.S. US-Soviet cooperation against Nazism was but a brief moment on the universal clock, while McCarthyism is almost as old as the Russian Revoution. The Russians have moved on from Communism, while American society still struggles with racism. The United States is the quintessential multi-cultural society, while the Russian Federation is generally considered to be a successful template for cooperation among different peoples.  As far as North Korea is concerned, Trump needs to be told that it has a valid gripe: since 1953 it has been condemned to pariah status, due to our failure to agree a treaty at the end of the Korean War. ‘Rocketman’ is an apt moniker, for North Korea’s young leader is like an ostracized student.  

As for Iran, when it comes to financing ‘terrorists’ these are not Hezbollah, but ISIS, and Israel, however much we want to see it as a ‘democracy’, its Arab citizens would not agree — nor has it done us any favors as with our big boots, we try to wade through the Middle East quagmire.



UN General Assembly by Jen




Monday, September 18, 2017

America First — or the First American — at the UN

Suddenly, it’s upon us. Our President, considered by most educated Americans to be “unfit for the job”, makes his debut in the world’s premier forum tomorrow morning.  The US media has been so focused his tweets, his approval numbers, the ‘Russia did it’ investigation, that this once-a-year event seems to have snuck up on them.  Or, no, wait a minute, it’s not that: it’s that the UN counts for beans in the minds of America’s news stalwarts.  In fact, they now refer to the United Nations General Assembly off-handedly as ‘UNGA’, which, when uttered, sounds like someone trying to talk through gritted teeth.
The Russian President will not be attending the opening of the UN season, which for most heads of state is a unique occasion to be heard. Vladimir Putin is heard by most of the world on many occasions (although not in the US), and he probably decided that his presence in New York would feed speculation about a possible meeting with Trump, which in turn would stir up speculation about Russia’s so-called interference in America’s so-called democracy.
Did President Putin deliberately choose this period to hold joint exercises with Russia’s neighbor and ally Belarus?  In any case, they are grist to NATO’s claim that Russia poses a threat to its neighbors, whom it ‘protects’ with troops and tanks stationed on their soil.
The news this morning is of the US and South Korea holding joint bombing drills in response to North Korea’s latest missile launch. What difference could there conceivably be between that exercise and Zapad, the Russian/Belarus drill? 
This brings me by a circuitous route, to the debut, last night, of Ken Burns’ series on the Vietnam War.  Burns is perhaps the most admired American documentarist and he has focused on American history. Burns could be said to have done it again, were it not for his failure to mention the Yalta Agreement between Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin which, at the end of World War II, divided Europe into two zones of influence, the East being allotted to the Soviet Union, the West to the US and fig-leaves Great Britain and France.
Flying in the face of these facts, Burns alleges that the Soviet Union ‘took over’ Eastern Europe, posing a threat to the Western half as well. In reality, the Soviet Union took all its troops home from the Eastern countries when Europe was reunited starting in 1989, while the US now has bases not only in Western but in Eastern Europe as well.  According to a 2012 Heritage Foundation report: “Today, the U.S. has approximately 80,000 military personnel in 28 main operating bases in Europe, primarily in Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Spain.” Since then it has opened NATO bases across Eastern Europe, while even historically neutral Sweden is drawing closer to NATO, as it beefs up its military, causing President Putin to issue a warning last June.
Coming back to the UN, President Trump invited other leaders to a meeting to discuss reforms to the creaky but indispensable organization. According to a statement by National Security Advisor HR McMaster, Trump will seek to promote America, as well as ‘accountability and sovereignty’. Accountability clearly refers to the US demand that other countries contribute more money to the UN, while ‘sovereignty’ if it has any meaning at all in the UN context, can only be a sop thrown to the Russian President, for whom it is a basic principle. (Russia justifies its presence in Syria, at President Assad’s request, as a commitment to the country’s sovereignty, which is under attack by an (uninvited) foreign power, the US, as well as by ISIS and other terrorist groups.)

This afternoon MSNBC is speculating that contrary to every rational expectation, exposure to the premier legislative body in the world is moving Trump toward a more traditional presidency. That would only be a positive development if the American President had the power that theoretically goes with the office, as opposed to the deep state, and if Trump had not had the ill-advised idea of surrounding himself with generals.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Merkel Fourth Term Goes Unquestioned


As the American media continues to accuse Vladimir Putin of being an autocratic ruler who is reelected under questionable circumstances,  it finds nothing to criticize in the fact that Angela Merkel is about to be reelected for a fourth term. The subhead to a recent Politico article http://www.politico.eu/article/germany-election-angela-merkel-journey-from-madchen-to-mutti/ admits that “it’s getting hard to imagine Germany and Europe without her.”
Vladimir Putin won his first presidential election in 2000, after being chosen by an ailing Boris Yeltsin to replace him. Is a difference of five years in power all that meaningful?  Russophobes will retort that it isn’t only a question of time but of system. And yet, while accusing Putin of being an authoritarian — if not an outright dictator (dictators as defined by the US having been known to win elections…), even America’s brightest pundits would be hard pressed to define Merkel’s power. This would require knowing not only how the German system works officially, but the ins and outs of its backstage. The Politico article, like a New Yorker piece several years ago, does not hide its admiration for a woman who rose from being an East German chemistry Ph.d to head Europe’s most powerful country, finishing off a trail of unhappy male counterparts along the way. 
In March of this year the same journal http://www.politico.com/story/2017/03/mccain-rand-paul-is-now-working-for-vladimir-putin-236106 reported with obvious glee that Senator John McCain was accusing Rand Paul of ‘working for Vladimir Putin’ when the Senator from Kentucky tried to foil a vote on Montenegro joining NATO.  (That tiny Balkan country was the only piece of European real estate remaining outside of NATO with the exception of Sweden, Monaco and Lichtenstein, even though President Reagan’s Jim Baker had promised Gorbachev that in exchange for him allowing Germany to be reunited, NATO would not move one inch beyond that country’s eastern border…)
Angela Merkel did not even try to prevent NATO from engulfing continental Europe, yet she is (rightly) seen as indispensable.  As for Vladimir Putin, polls taken around the world indicate that a majority of citizens view him as the only adult in the room when it comes to international affairs. Simultaneously, the evidence in a newly released poll, from Pew, http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-08-07/us-greatest-threat-peace-world-today-new-poll-findsclearly suggests that the percentage of people in the 65 nations that WIN/Gallup had polled in 2013 who saw the US as being ‘the greatest threat to peace in the world today’ would be even higher today.”
To round off this comparison, it is indispensable to mention that Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin may be the only two world leaders to be fluent in each other’s language. As was usual in the past, the two leaders could take advantage of their ease in communicating to conspire against their neighbors; but times have changed: together, Merkel and Putin are slowly but surely pulling Europe away from the Atlantic, toward being a full member  of Eurasia. 
For Politico to be without bias, it would have to confess that ‘it’s hard to imagine the world without these two leaders.

IF YOU HAD BEEN WATCHING:
Today, France 24's technical editor presented an automobile whose energy is symbiotic with that of the owner's home, while RT's documentary today focuses on the ways people get into debt.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

BRICS Under the US Radar

As the ninth annual BRICS gathering, held this year in China, comes to an end, it’s time to point out that this acronym, which stands for five nations that represent some 23% of the world’s economy and 43 % of its population, is almost totally absent from the Western media. Yet the very fact that 43% of the world’s population only accounts for 23% of its wealth should make the ‘developed world’ take notice.
In what may seem like a contradiction, the reason why it has not done so in the eleven years since the organization’s founding, is that the BRICS embody the world’s challenge to American hegemony.  Most Americans have never heard of the word, let alone being aware that it stands for Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa.  
Coincidentally, as I write this, Peter Lavelle’s Crosstalk on RT is discussing this very issue and specifically, who stands to gain from the US refusal to acknowledge the growing list of international economic organizations centered around Russia and China. Dmitry Babich commented that the US doesn’t even notice the Eurasian Economic Union, while Marc Svoboda asserted that Russians and their allies actually want to be decoupled from the West.  Svoboda also mentioned that Iran and Egypt had both accepted invitations to the BRICS meeting, foreshadowing the possibility of a gradual healing of the Sunni-Shia rift. (For a discussion of this issue see my http://www.otherjones.com/search?q=Sunni-Shia, http://www.otherjones.com/2013/07/the-us-chooses-capitalist-muslims.html and http://www.otherjones.com/2017/08/sooner-or-later-donald-trump-will-have.html.)
Dare I suggest that when Emanuel Macron, France’s new under-forty president invites the two Libyan heads of government to meet in Paris, he is following Vladimir Putin’s example? The problem with that initiative was that it was done without Italian involvement, despite the fact that, as one diplomat put it, Italy is the “European member state that has the most granular understanding of the situation on the ground.” Apparently, Macron needs to be more attentive to the Putin style.
For decades the US dictated the behavior of the world community but since Vladimir Putin acted on the socialist principle of non-interference in Syria by assisting the government under attack by the US and its proxies, the US is no longer seen as the ‘indispensable nation’, as Obama liked to say, and that in fact, it is responsible for much of what is wrong with the world.  
As populations increasingly notice how differently from their American counterpart the Russian and Chinese Presidents interact with the world, the BRICS, the Eurasian Economic Union, the Shanghai Development Bank and the various other ‘peripheral’ international institutions will become household words. (As I was writing this, Kiril Dmitriev, the head of Russia’s Direct Investment Fund was telling RT’s Lindsey Graham about deals with Japan and South Korea….)



Photo Xinhua



P.S. Thursday, September 7: On the heels of the BRICS meeting in China, Russia, China, India etc., are meeting with hundreds of world business and political representatives at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok — including representatives of both Koreas. Discussion of the Korean crisis was headlined.

Meanwhile, the White House announced that President Trump has invited a group of countries —  minus Russia! — to discuss reforming the UN.  He should have had a look at the General Assembly’s voting record: it seems unlikely that the world will accept even greater US leadership of the organization.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Korean Spiderweb

How do you take the most powerful country in the world to war with a tiny but obstreperous country on the other side of the world without informing the public of the reasons for that nation’s ‘misbehavior’?
The American media has failed to note that the North Korea crisis just happens to coincide with the meeting of the BRICS in Xiaman, a resort island in Southern China, in the same general geographic vicinity.
Further, no mention is made of China’s One Belt One Road infrastructure project which will link Asia to Europe: surely China doesn’t need a nuclear showdown with a participating country. 
For the first time, today MSNBC has acknowledged that North Korea’s goal is to head the reunification of the peninsula. But it still has not yet mentioned the fact that the Korean War ended without an armistice, the North, since 1953, considered an outlaw regime in the West, although it is recognized by the former ‘Soviet camp’ and is a UN member.  
The conventional wisdom that Kim Jong Un is developing nuclear technology in order to not end up like Saddam Hussein or Ghaddafi is only half the story.  As sabers begin to rattle in Washington, this lack of information is unlikely to be remedied. The Korean leader may be acting like a spoiled child: in reality, he is a child who has decided that the only way to get attention is to pee in the sand pile.
The danger is that President Trump and his generals may not be inclined to pass up the opportunity to impress China with their latest weapons and strategies, aware that together with Russia, it poses a threat to American hegemony.





Saturday, September 2, 2017

France’s Controversial New President

French voters accuse President Emanuel Macron of a plethora of crimes ranging from spending tax payer euros on make-up and ordering extra large frames for the official portraits that hang in government offices all over the country. But biting scorn has greeted his claim to be ‘Jupiterian’.
I no longer live in France — where I spent about thirty years in several tranches — and I condemn Macron’s subservience to neo-liberal anti-labor dogma. But I believe the French should applaud Macron’s ‘Jupiterian’ efforts to tackle problems that threaten the future, not only of France, but of Europe.
He can be gently chided for believing that he will succeed where others gave up before trying (one can almost hear a Trumpian ‘I alone can fix this’) when he convenes Mediterranean leaders to hammer out a policy on immigrants (instead of criticizing the Schengen Agreement’s open borders), but I applaud his efforts with Angela Merkel to give the European Union a finance minister and budget. (The failure of the Euro is ascribed, among other things, to the fact that each country has its own economic rules.)
Scarcely noticed by the French press, Macron initiated his tenure by inviting the leaders of the two nuclear powers that have a say over Europe on state visits. He showed his acumen by welcoming the Russian President to Versailles, which on the occasion of the 300th year anniversary of Peter the Great’s visit, and by displaying to the American President the tomb of Napoleon at Les Invalides, where he was given full military honors. 
Macron came out firmly in favor of the Iran nuclear treaty, which it signed, but which Trump opposes, and has also made climate change a priority. (Americans are hoping that the hurricane disaster in Houston, Texas, convinces Trump that climate change is real, causing him to rejoin international efforts to mitigate its effects, as Macron plans a first follow-up meeting on the first anniversary of the Paris Climate Agreement in December.)
Macron is likely to get Trump’s support (however formal) in  his efforts to convince other European leaders that the influx of Africans and Middle Easterner poses a real threat to Europe,  http://www.otherjones.com/2015/03/in-europe-arithmetic-of-otherness-and.html and http://www.otherjones.com/2015/06/is-europe-imploding-or-relocating.html The French President wants to put a High Commissioner for Refugees in charge of asylum requests,  iin order to distinguish between economic migrants and refugees, believing that another 800,000 people are ready to embark from Libya.

The French President also believes in talking to both Assad and his opponents, but refuses to take sides between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and specifically between Sunnis and Shias — http://www.otherjones.com/2017/08/sooner-or-later-donald-trump-will-have.html or between Israel and Palestinians.  However, he will not visit the Middle East until next spring.

Seeing France “in the (Jupiterian) center” of Vladimir Putin’s “multipolar” but unstable world, he would continue the country’s existing alliances without ruling out “circumstantial cooperation”.  Finally, aware of the danger that the EU could implode due to citizen dissatisfaction, he wants to organize ‘democratic conventions’ during which they would be asked for input.


France’s ‘little Jupiter’ may have bit off more than he can chew (partly due to the fact that his counterparts in Europe are mostly dinosaurs), but at this point in his brand-new presidency, one has to give him a chance: the last time France had a Jupiterian leader was under Charles de Gaulle, whom many have emulated but none have successfully followed.