Sunday, August 14, 2016

OUCH! More Posts from July!

Killings Plus Political Conventions Equal Chaos (July 10)
Over and over again, those of us who keep watch over the world from unofficial cathedra in the belly of the beast, wonder where it all will end, knowing our voices are heard by too few to change the drift toward war and/or climate catastrophe.
As the NATO Summit met in Warsaw we were haunted by the nineteen-thirties, realizing that for all our ‘freedoms’ — and even our alternative press, like the Germans of that time, we are powerless. Today it is Americans who bear the heaviest responsibility for what is happening in the world, yet increasingly, the system of government we would foist upon others degenerates from a laughing stock to a disaster.
Later this month, Hillary will become the Democratic Candidate at a Convention in Philadelphia, the city in which the Declaration of Independence was signed, and shortly thereafter, Donald Trump will be anointed as the Republican candidate in Cleveland, home of a once famous automobile industry. Hillary risks indictment for having an email server in her basement, while Donald Trump flirts with White supremacists.  Yet in the last few days, events have taken uncertainty to a new level.  After two black men were shot by white police officers in different places for no reason, a lone shooter in yet another city killed five of their colleagues. In a hideous close-up, Donald Trump declared that the police stand between civilization and “complete chaos”. Yet many of his followers own guns and some have announced they plan to appear at the convention carrying them.
Hillary will perhaps not be indicted, however it is extremely likely that Donald Trump will make new converts after the damning testimony by the head of the FBI concerning her ‘carelessness’ in leaving classified information open to discovery by the entire world. The Republican Convention precedes the Democratic one by just a few days, and although they will be held in separate cities, both could be disrupted, Trump’s by Black Lives Matter activists confronting armed militias, Hillary’s by Bernie supporters.
We haven’t seen ‘long, not summers’ since the race riots of the sixties, but these will  probably be seen as piddling compared to what could happen during the last ten days of  Independence month.

US/NATO/Europe/Russia (JULY 12)
While the US media, only about a century late, suddenly pays attention to the racial divide, our generals, via NATO, are inching us closer than we have ever been to World War III. Surely the former is happening partly because of the latter, which the US is not anxious to publicize.
The Republican Convention is sneaking up on a country distracted by the details of who shot whom and why.  As if American civilians had never been shot before, the race war makes the headlines while US troops train to attack Russia.
While police chiefs oozing good will paraded across our tv screens, UN-led NATO forces sealed off Russia’s Western borders, from the Baltic to the Black Sea, in a grim repeat of Hitler’s strategy.
According to a recent article by Russia analyst F. William Engdahl, Russia failed to definitively rid itself of the plague of the Yeltsin years, when Geoffrey Sachs was helping it unload precious national resources to eager oligarchs. And it would seem that the NATO exercises are intended to send a signal to Vladimir Putin, that he had not interfere as Dmitry Medvedev and the head of the Central Bank Elvira Nabiullina continue the neo-liberal policies dictated by Wall St.
According to Engdahl writing in New Eastern Outlook:
What I experienced in my discussions at the (St.Petersburg) conference–this year with record attendance of more than 12,000 business people and others from around the world–was a sense that there coexist two Russian governments, each the polar opposite of the other. Every key economic and finance post is firmly occupied at present by monetarist free-market liberal economists who might be called “Gaidar’s Kindergarten.” Yegor Gaidar was the architect, along with Harvard’s Jeffrey Sachs, a Soros-backed economist, of the radical “shock therapy” that was responsible for the economic hardships that plagued the country in the 1990s resulting in mass poverty and hyperinflation.”
It seems that Nabiullina first imposed a ridiculously high central bank interest rate of 17% for a year after the fall in the oil price, finally only bringing it down to 10.5%, although the price of oil had risen by 60%. This makes “the job virtually impossible of reviving credit flows to fuel genuine real investment in urgently needed infrastructure across the vast land expanse of Russia,” which is what President Putin is calling for.
The key to this disconnect is the Russian constitution of the Yeltsin years, under which “economic policy is the portfolio responsibility of the Prime Minister and his various ministers of Economics, Finance and so forth. The Russian President is responsible for defense and foreign policy.”
It’s no wonder many Russians say there’s a fifth column inside the govern-ment: the policies of Dmitry Medvedev are dictated by the US, which uses NATO to make sure they continue, by keeping Vladimir Putin busy worrying about military encroachment.  A similar plan as the one used to bring down the USSR, by bogging it down in Afghanistan and forcing it to keep up with an arms race.

 The New Migration (July 10)
During the Vietnam War, hundreds of young Americans moved to Canada to avoid the draft. During the fifty-four years when Cuba and the US had no diplomatic relations, hundreds of Americans travelled to Cuba by hook or by crook, to witness socialism up close and bring supplies that the US blockade kept out.
While this was going on, Soviet Jews were leaving for Israel, whence many continued their journey to the US or Europe, and a few artists such as the dancer  Mikhail Baryshnikov, defected while on tour here.
While most American intellectuals who travelled to the Soviet Union in the years between the Russian revolution and the start of World War II, labelled as “fellow travelers”, did so out of a conviction that something momentous was taking place there, often ending up so disappointed that they became fervent anti-Communists, currently, another migration to Russia is taking place, this time  among journalists who are not wanted in the American mainstream media. Unable to concur in the way US policy toward Russia is reported and interpreted in their own press, they (often relatives of those who emigrated to Canada or travelled to Cuba) go to work for Russian English language television or news sites Their ideological motivation is less stark than their predecessors of a hundred years ago: the ideological differences between Putin’s Russia and Washington are more subtle than in the past: what motivates these expats is their refusal to countenance their country’s bellicose attitude toward the rest of the world, its determination to remain top dog, deciding which policies are acceptable and which are to be condemned, and, if necessary, defeated.
In a reversal of what went on during the Cold War, when The Voice of America or Radio Liberty disseminated propaganda mainly to listeners behind the Iron Curtain - Americans increasingly appreciate how other countries see the news, watching not only the BBC, but Japanese, French or Russian English language broadcasts.  (This latter known petulantly in government spheres as ‘Putin’s Bullhorn’.)
While few Americans appear to have been interested in joining the staff of France 24, increasing numbers have jobs at RT.  This current list may be incomplete: Thom Hartmann, Jesse Ventura, Tyrel Ventura, Sean Stone, Tabatha Wallace, Ed Schultz, Larry King, and most recently, former New York times Middle East bureau chief and prolific progressive author, Chris Hedges.  It does not include the half dozen or so anchors, or the hosts of stock market shows, most prominently Stacy Herbert and Mark Keiser.
This rundown doesn’t include the growing number of American political figures who agree to be interviewed on RT, often extensively.  In recent months I’ve seen Larry Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, former CIA agent Ray MdGovern as well as members the  Ron Paul Institute. 
Like the American whistleblower Edward Snowden, these renegade journalists are hardly alone in Moscow. They are among 40,000 other Americans, businessmen, students, teachers, translators, husbands or wives of Russian citizens, many of whom live in the backwaters of this vast country, and are often present on-line.
The irony of representatives of America’s fabled ‘fourth estate’, the so-called ‘government watchdog’, whose Golden Rule is ‘objectivity’, having to expatriate themselves in order to be able to earn a livelihood in agreement with their conscience, should be lost on no one.
Since this post was written two more prominent Americans have appeared on RT, Lt Gen Mark Hertling, and Republican rep Dana Rohrabacher.

P.S. Other favorite destinations for American expat journalists are Berlin and Iceland.

No Wonder NATO is Frantic!(July 12)
While a first sight, NATO’s phenomenal buildup in Europe, intended to counter Russia’s so-called ‘aggression’, is a deadly threat to the world, a closer look may reveal a different story. 
NATO is an ‘alliance’ of many countries with different priorities, each of which dangles on strings pulled in Washington.
Its alleged enemy, the Russian Federation, is a vast country with a small population whose huge casualties in WWII make it determined to defend itself.
Soviet domination of Eastern Europe lasted from 1945 to 1990, while US domination of Western Europe, though perhaps less visible, has lasted from 1945 to the present, a quarter of a century longer.
Due to several centuries of Ottoman rule, the countries of Eastern Europe, having historically lagged behind those of the West, were determined, in 1990, to make up for their lack of clout by being more European than Western Europe. 
In reality this meant being more pro-American, and never more so than in attitudes toward Russia! During the Cold War, when Soviet troops were (unobtrusively) stationed in Eastern Europe, Western Europe ‘welcomed’ NATO troops who would prevent  a Soviet conquest.
The fact that no such thing was ever contemplated in Moscow in no way prevents today’s Eastern European leaders from loudly joining the US claim that  Russia is an enemy!
This accusation is facilitated by the following facts:  Not only is Russia by far the largest country in the world, spanning nine time zones, it backs up to China, the most populous country in the world. Although one is Caucasian while the other is Oriental, between then these two countries have a formidable military determined to defend a common socialist ethos that privileges negotiations and sharing over conquest and plunder. 
In 1989 my book ‘A Different Europe, a Different World, (Une autre Europe, un autre monde) was published in France. It anticipated Europe’s reunification and suggested that Europeans should replace the Atlantic Alliance with full participation in the Eurasian Community, in which the Soviet Union, far from being a threat, was simply one of five giants, the others being India, China, the Middle East and Europe, each of equal weight.
It has taken twenty-five years for the leaders of Western Europe to arrive at a similar conclusion. The problem is that those of Eastern Europe, always decades behind, are trying to prevent them from turning words into deeds, dismissing as irrelevant the fact that Soviet domination stemmed from Eastern Europe’s location between the West and Russia, through which attacks have repeatedly been carried out.
The crucial question for the European Union is whether Eastern Europeans will finally catch up with reality and realize that the twenty-first century sun rises in the East, enabling a carefully constructed but flawed union to be transformed into something more durable — and peaceful.

A Mystery Wrapped in an Enigma (july 18)
This is how one of the most astute leaders of the 20th century, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Winston Churchill famously described the Soviet Union during World War II, when Joseph Stalin became an indispensable ally against Hitler. Ironically, this appraisal came a century after two members of the French nobility wrote “travel books” on the US and Russia. 

Americans are familiar with the work of Alexis de Tocqueville, who traveled to the United States in 1831 and was astonished to discover a country organized around individualism. Democracy in America, published in 1835 is still assigned to college students today. But while Tocqueville was traveling West, another French nobleman, the Marquis de Custine, travelled East, publishing Empire of the Czar: A Journey Through Eternal Russia in 1839.  In the 1970’s, this work inspired the Hungarian historian Tibor Szamuely, who had lived in the Soviet Union, to write The Russian Tradition, tracing Russia’s history of authoritarianism to four hundred years of rule by the Mongol Golden Horde.

Seventy years ago, the small countries of Europe were fighting for their survival with the decisive help of the countries these books describe. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, in 1941, as bombs rained on London, the United States entered the war against both Japan and Germany. Germany had invaded the Soviet Union in June, bringing that country into the war alongside Britain and France. (Stalin had signed a non-aggression pact with Hitler in 1939, in order to gain time to prepare for war.)

Hitler’s rise in Germany was directly linked to the Russian Revolution that, in 1917, had overthrown the Tsarist regime, threatening the international one-percent. Notwithstanding Stalin’s internal purges of the 1930’s, the Western allies had no choice but to cooperate with him in the fight against Nazism, which was an extreme form of capitalism. Churchill’s remark that Russia was a mystery was a way of rationalizing the alliance with one dictatorship in order to defeat the other.

Fast-forward to 1991 and the implosion of the Soviet Union. Boris Yeltsin comes to power with the blessing of the United States, allowing American ‘advisors’ to reshape his country’s economic system to the benefit of foreign investors and local oligarchs, literally driving its economy into the ground.

Vladimir Putin succeeded Yeltsin in 2000, and has been alternately President and Prime Minister since then, in tandem with Dmitry Medvedev, raking up the highest ratings of any national leader. In 2001, Protestant born-again President George W Bush, son of a former CIA director, looked into Putin’s eyes and saw a former KGB officer who had embraced his nation’s Orthodox Christianity. He failed to imagine that he would want Russia to take back its economic sovereignty, opposing US domination of the world financial system.

Meanwhile, Washington’s Neo-Conservatives refuse to abandon the objective enunciated in 1997 by Zbignieuw Brzezinski: ensuring that the United States remains forever the most powerful nation on earth. In order to achieve that objective, it must neutralize Russia, where the greatest trove of resources are located, and China, the country with the world’s largest population.  Both China and Russia having abandoned Communism, a new reason had to be found to turn them into enemies.

Custine’s and Szamuely’s books enabled the US to discount that Putin’s high ratings, which merely confirmed that Russians took authoritarian rule for granted. In turn, however, the Russian President notes that Tocqueville’s individualism led American voters to surrender their freedom to gadgets that engage their separateness, leaving government free to wreck havoc at home and abroad.

Tackling Russia on the Sports Field  (July 20)
Americans like to say: ‘if you can’t beat them, join them,’ but this advice has been forgotten by the pointy heads in Washington. The last thing they want is to join Russia  in solving the world’s dire problems. Since that makes them look pretty bad, they are looking for every possible way to peel support away from a country they claim is America’s enemy.
Currently the airways are full of talk about the possibility that Russia would be banned from taking part in the up-coming Olympic Games in Brazil, on the pretext that the IOC has ‘definitive proof’ — in the words of a spokesman — that the Putin government was complicit in the doping of its athletes going back to 2013.
Two things strike me as strange: the first is the fact that the Russian doctor and former lab head who apparently faked test results now lives in California, were he heads a laboratory.  
The second thing is that sports fans are less likely than other people to be up on foreign news and international politics, while they are passionate about sports news..  These people are bound to make up a sizable portion of any electorate, so someone in President Obama’s foreign policy team probably decided to target them instead of consumers of hard news. Sports fans have probably not followed the Ukraine coup, or even the NATO buildup on Russia’s borders, much less recently trotted out claims that Russia ‘invaded’ Georgia in 2008, when in reality it was the Georgians who shot at Ossetians across the border, forcing Russia to intervene, and providing an excuse for NATO to move its tanks right up to Russia’s  borders.
I will be very surprised if it does not eventually turn out that the Russian doctor who heads a lab in California, is not just being rewarded for his cooperation but was actually recruited by US agents. Sports fans constitute a significant percentage of the public. If the US can get them riled up, they will back a US attack on Russia.

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