Feature

Making Nazis Afraid Again


gc2smFrom the keyboard of Surly1
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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on October 17, 2017

“There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part…  And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels…upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop! ”

 ― Mario Savio, 1964  

 


They say that history runs in cycles. If so, it's fascism's turn at the top of the wheel after an 80-year absence. And in the same way that fascism in the 1930s elicited a counter-reaction, it elicits one today in the form of antifa.

In reports of the recent Catelan bid for independence, one hears echoes of an 80 year old conflict. Catalonia was once a key anarchist/republican hub during the Spanish Civil War, and a locus of anti-Franco sentiment. (For an analysis of the current state of things in Catalonia, see Pepe Escobar here.)

Images of the Catelan election, of bully cops assaulting women, then firefighters protecting voters, remind how Franco pressed fascism on Spain 80 years ago. With nationalism and nativism at high tide, we watch citronella Nazis march with tiki torches in Charlottesville, and remember Father Coughlin and the "America Firsters" of the 1930s. The New Fascism is emboldened by the most baldly authoritarian "president" ever, bolstered by a cabinet full of white supremacists and Goldman Sachs vampires.

No one should be surprised: it's been decades in coming.  Whether it's wealth transfer via  regressive ("trickle-down") economic policies, or via a tireless insistence on empire,  or bottomless spending on "defense," authoritarianism has marched into American life. All endorsed by fully a third of our fellow citizens. Never forget that even as Richard Fucking Nixon boarded the helicopter to eternal disgrace, he still had the backing of 24 per cent of the public.

The self-described "alt-right" is old swill sold in a new bottle. This dark streak of conservatism has been part of the American psyche ever since Nathaniel Bacon's uprising drove Governor Berkeley and his hangers-on to the swamps of Virginia's Eastern Shore. The current flavor pulls together neonazis, republiconfederates, evangelicals, skinheads, white separatists, nationalists, sovereign citizens, klansmen, culture warriors, Christian Identity fuckwits, anti-LGBTs, anti-immigrants, holocaust deniers and haters of all stripes into a fetid hellbroth. They are rebranded and hip, sporting Macklemore "Hitler Youth" fade haircuts, white polos, beige Dockers, and  carefully-crafted language, the better to shun the Nazi tag while hewing to the ideology.

When these people announce their gatherings, opponents gather themselves. Enter antifa. Antifa (short for antifascist or Anti-Fascist Action) can be defined as the confrontational response to fascist groups, rooted in militant left-wing and anarchist politics. I first become aware of antifa on Inauguration Day, when a masked activist punched white-supremacist leader Richard Spencer in the face, an act which spawned many memes and remixes. 

 

You don't sign up for Antifa at the local strip mall. The movement’s secrecy makes tracking its activities difficult, but antifa’s power is growing, as evidenced by social media posts from pearl-clutching right wingers whining and complaining about them. The young people who make up antifa remind me of the brave souls who comprised the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, who saw the threat of fascism early on and tried to stop it in the Spanish Civil War.   

Disclaimer: I have no personal experience with Antifa as a member or participant. At this point, I am sufficiently gimpy as to not be able to take part in any street action, and felt fortunate to limp along with Occupy. Many of the tactics of Antifa seem to have sprung from the anarchist or "black bloc" members of Occupy, who were among some of its most committed members.

Antifa traces its roots to the 1920s and ’30s, when militant leftists battled fascists in the streets of Germany, Italy, and Spain. In 1936, nationalist rebels under General Francisco Franco staged an uprising designed to topple the Spanish government.  The Spanish army split, some supporting the Republican (government side), but most supporting Franco.  Soon Spain was plunged into an open civil war, one that would rage for three years and ultimately lead to a Nationalist dictatorship under Franco.

The Abraham Lincoln Brigade were Americans who volunteered to fight the fascists in Spain. In an interview with James Fernandez, professor at New York University and member of the the board of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archive, Jeremy Scahill has some light on this little remembered episode of history still relevant today:

Fernandez: The horrors of World War II have totally eclipsed our memory of Spain. But in 1936, ’37, ’38, Spain was Syria, Spain was the place on the map where it looked like the future of the planet was being played out. And all thinking people were talking and thinking and worrying about Spain, in their literature and newsreels and radio broadcasts.

And there were vast communities of intensely mobilized folks that started mainly as pacifists they were, they were, “Against War and Fascism” was the organization and slogan of a lot of these folks up until ’36, let’s say, but once things evolved some more, they realized that the only way to put down fascism was to, in this case, they kind of put brackets around being against war, and actually taking the war to the fascists in Spain.

The volunteers that went is almost 3,000, we think 2,800 is our best guess now. And like I said, they came mostly from intensely mobilized communities all over the United States. A lot of them were immigrants or children of immigrants, most of them were from large cities, they were trade unionists, a lot of them were members of the Communist Party, the socialists, anarchists, but generally leftist folk who saw the menace of fascism and took the incredible step of trying to do something about it.

And they did. Many remember this period today through the lens of Ernest Hemingway's writing. For Whom the Bell Tolls is Hem's opus, set in 1937 with the Spanish Civil War in full swing. Robert Graves, a lantern-jawed Anglo Saxon, was not representative of the thousands who answered the call. Most were immigrants, active leftists, organized. A far cry from Hemingway's hero.

The Lincoln Brigade made up a small part of the International Brigades which included about 45,000 volunteers. Relatively speaking, the Americans were a drop in the bucket. Of the 2800 or so that served in Spain, almost 1/3 lost their lives.  Included were dozens of black Americans, many of whom saw in Spanish Nationalism a reflection of the Jim Crow racism they themselves had experienced in the US.  At a time of legal segregation in the US as a result of the Plessy decision forty years earlier, these black Americans found acceptance as comrades in arms in Spain.  

They engaged the fascists for several years, but the numbers (and war materiel from Germany) proved too difficult to resist. When the war ended with a Franco victory in 1939, Americans who had served in Spain were seen as radicals and troublemakers. The post WWII anti-communist sentiment led to a narrative erasure of these men and their sacrifice.So when elements of "antifa" erupt in response to fascist demonstrations, I take heart. Antifa gives me faith that the upcoming generation has grabbed the baton, and that the will to resist remains strong.

For those who want to read more about antifa, I recommend Natasha Lennard's magnificent article in The Nation here. It inspired the title of the article.

…the history of anti-fascism (antifa) is not one of presuming the good faith of state power. It is not one of asking. It is a history of direct and confrontational intervention—the sort of which is itself often not protected by a rights framework.

We are, to take some liberties with the words of Inglourious Basterds’ inimitable Lt. Aldo Raine, in the fightin’-Nazis business. Antifa is a promise to neo-Nazis and their bedfellows that we will confront them in the streets; we will expose them online and inform their place of employ. We are not asking venues to deny space to far-right events; we are vowing that all far-right events will be bombarded and besieged.

When I read that "Antifa is planning civil war on Nov.4, or "Antifa is planning to kill Christians," I smile, secure in the knowledge that what bullies fear most is the brave soul willing to stand up and call their bluff. Our next generation seems ready and willing. As I remain secure that the great arc of history bends towards justice.

Resist!


banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, screeds and spittle-flecked invective here and elsewhere. He lives in Southeastern Virginia with his wife Contrary, and is working to be featured on an enemies list compiled by the administration of Dolt 45.

The Great Eclipse of 2017


gc2smFrom the keyboard of Surly1
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Composite Eclipse August 21, 2017 Copyright Impact Photography 2017

Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on August 27, 2017


"I've seen a total eclipse from every continent – including Antarctica. And it's been a wonderful way to see the world. The eclipses take you to really unusual, off-beat places that you might not normally plan a vacation to, but they're wonderful places to go."
–Fred Espenak​, Goddard Scientist Emeritus, and retired NASA astrophysicist
 


The Great Eclipse of 2017, the first total eclipse visible in the continental U.S. in over 38 years, first intruded upon my awareness toward the end of last year. 

It was only during the spring that my plans began to crystallize. Photography being both my avocation and a part-time job, it occurred to me that if I did not make a good faith effort to get inside the zone of totality with a camera, I would regret it for the rest of my days. What kind of real photographer would not try? The die was cast.

So how do you photograph the sun? You need a filter and a long lens, plus a tripod. I read articles to learn how.

You have to start with a solar filter. Even if 99% of the sun is covered by the moon, the remaining 1% is dangerous to view with the naked eye and can  damage eyes or cause blindness, no matter what Orange Twitler did.

There are several options, including cheap filter sheets. Full-aperture solar filters are preferred because the filter completely covers the front of the lens. Even though  expensive, I decided to suck it up and purchase a 77mm solar filter, an "ND100000," which refers to the neutral density filter factor in play. Welder's visor, indeed. It fit perfectly on my Nikkor 70-200mm lens.

Totality is the only time it is safe to look directly at the event. So when shooting an eclipse it is important to remember that at totality you must REMOVE the filter to make exposures of the sun's corona.

Yes, my lens was only a 200mm. The smart kids or those with deeper pockets recommend shooting at focal lengths from 900mm (for a Nikon DX camera) to 1400mm for an FX (full frame sensor) camera. Longer lenses with good optics are hellishly expense, and someone who weighs whether or not to drop $100 on a filter will clearly balk at a four-figure purchase that will likely get limited use in the future. I even weighed purchasing a Nikkor teleconverter at the time I ordered the solar glasses and filter, but Jefferson on the nickel in my pocket shrieked and clung desperately. Later, when I decided to pull the trigger, none were to be had, all on backorder. So the disk images I would gather would be small.

Thus equipped, we drive to South Carolina. I had hoped to catch Lucid Dreams and Gypsy Mama since we were at least in the same state, but they had relatives visiting and were not available. So we made our way to Fort Mill, SC, near where Contrary's son and family live.

I-85 south was being "improved,"  with traffic restricted to one lane in either direction. We had the opportunity to stand for several hours in this unmoving mess, and as we inched forward, we eventually learned why. Three large SUVs and trucks, all late model, were wedged up against the jersey wall amidst a shower of fiberglass, fenders, torn tires, and broken dreams, an evident case of jockeying for some imaginary advantage due to testosterone poisoning. When we eventually arrived in Fort Mill after the ninth hour of our six hour ride, our hotelier made us welcome with effusive good humor, for which one weary traveler was grateful.

The next day, Contrary's son Adam joined us so the boys could swim in the hotel pool and we could enjoy a civilized cocktail. My original plan, informed only by looking at maps, was to head toward Columbia, nearly dead center in the zone of totality. It dawned on me that I might not be the only person to have that thought, and that the highways might offer a Mad Max traffic scenario. So we determined to head southwest, which would put us more quickly in the zone of totality and might relieve us from some of the crowds. Adam determined that Laurens County in rural SC had a park which might offer a good place to view. A park is important for old people because bathrooms. Also because kids need something to do while waiting. A plan unfolded.

The next day we got there about five hours ahead of the eclipse, and a number of people were already ensconced under tarps and in chairs. We were able to commandeer a picnic table under a large tree, offering shade and proximity to those all-important bathrooms. We unloaded our gear, set up and wait. 

An eclipse is a slow motion phenomenon as the disc of the moon slowly nibbles at the solar orb. I brought the camera out and found myself wrestling with it. One has to point it alost straight up in the air, a position which makes framing problematic. I tried to solve this my using the "live view" (video display) mode on the back of the camera. Viewing an LCD screen in bright sunlight while wearing a white shirt is virtually impossible. So I attempted to re-rig the tripod to shoot in a seated position, a position which worked except for the unfortunate tendency of the tripod to tip backwards towards me at all times. SO I held the tripod in place with one hand, while triggering my remote shutter release with the other. And I made a few images.

One of the things the experts will tell you is the importance of bracketing your exposures. Writing for Nikon, Fred Espenak recommends:

Shoot the mid-day sun at a fixed aperture, (choose an aperture between f/8 and f/16) using every shutter speed from 1/4000 second to 1/30 second. Looking at the exposures, choose the best shutter speed/aperture combination and use them to photograph the partial phases of the solar eclipse. Your camera’s histogram function is an excellent way to evaluate the best exposure. 

And so I did.

Diamond Ring 1 Copyright Impact Photography 2017

 

Near totality Copyright Impact Photography 2017

Totality 8-21 Copyright Impact Photography 2017

The Laurens County location proved a good choice, but on the drive home as we joined a major northbound highway, traffic looked like the road out of Kuwait after the first Gulf War. Siri took us off the beaten path on some old bootlegger roads and around the press of traffic. Contrary and I were having a celebratory toddy before dinner when her son called. He was ahead of us in traffic, and still stuck. They took another 90 minutes to get home. Had the good sense to engage and listen to our onboard AI.

In the scheme of things, a minor adventure and a successful short trip.


So aside from some decent images, what did it all mean? This tally from Inc.:

Travel

Besides the 12 million people who already live in the path of totality, many people were expected to travel to those areas with the best viewing. Estimates in advance of the eclipse were that between 1.8 and 7.4 million people would travel to the eclipse zone. There was concern that this interest would create massive traffic problems.

Overall, the travel industry came out on top as winners. There was a spike in the hotel and other tourism businesses.

Certainly the case for us.

Viewers

Even if you couldn't make it in person, you were able to view the total eclipse as it made its way across the country. This was due to a live broadcast from NASA. According to their reports, as many as 40 million people tuned in on TV or online to watch the event.

Some estimates had 70 million travelers moving in and out of the zone of totality. It seemed that half of them were on the roads in SC.

Eclipse Glasses

It is estimated 207,000 pairs of these glasses were sold just through their network of Amazon sellers. That would mean almost seven million eclipse glasses were sold just through Amazon alone.

SellerCloud also reported the average selling price for each unit was over $7. However, in the days leading up to the eclipse, the price increased due to demand and product scarcity.

I had the good sense to order several sets of eclipse glasses early, enough for us and our family, plus a supplemental paper set for my employees who would be viewing a partial eclipse back home. Am glad I did. In spite of rumors that some were substandard, ours worked fine. 

Scientific Research

The eclipse was also a great opportunity for scientists. This eclipse was the only chance to view the sun's corona, also known as the outer layer. Thousands of scientists traveled to the eclipse path to photograph the sun during totality. This opportunity required billions of dollars' worth of equipment.

Cameras, telescopes, balloons, and supersonic jets were used to conduct experiments and gather data during the few minutes of total darkness.

This bonanza of data gathered will keep scientists busy for years to come.

Future Eclipses

The next visible eclipse in the U.S. is seven years away. It will occur on April 8, 2024. The path of that eclipse will span Texas to Maine, crossing through the South, Midwest, the Great Lakes, and New England.

There will be even people along its path as it crosses major metropolitan areas, such as Dallas, Cleveland, and Buffalo.

Assuming I'm still alive and able to walk, Contrary and I will be in Buffalo in April for the next one.

In speaking with those who stayed home, there is a profound difference from viewing a total eclipse.  In totality the temperature drops, the disc is totally up obscured, and at long last the corona of the sun is visible as the moon blocks old Sol. Even though it only lasts for two minutes and 40 seconds, it is an experience unlike any other. Animals behave oddly; crickets begin chirping in earnest; odd light phenomena occur, and the horizon is lit as if in sunset, but without sunset colors.

A total eclipse is a bucket list item as as moving as it Is ephemeral. If you have the opportunity in 2024, don't miss it.


banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, screeds and spittle-flecked invective here and elsewhere, and was active in the Occupy movement. He lives in Southeastern Virginia with his wife Contrary. He will have failed if not eventually blocked by Twitler.

This Week in Doom, April 9, 2017


That-Was-The-Week-That-W-That-Was-The-Week-473964gc2smFrom the keyboard of Surly1
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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on April 9, 2017

“We see these beautiful pictures at night from the decks of these two U.S. Navy vessels in the eastern Mediterranean. I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen: ‘I am guided by the beauty of our weapons.’”

 ― Brian Williams, MSNBC anchor  


It's been a week in which we took several steps toward our own Appointment in Samarra. We are expected to believe that the nation's Chief Executive, who heretofore has demonstrated absolutely no empathy for anyone, reversed his own stated foreign policy based on news pictures of children, ostensibly suffering from a Syrian government gas attack. Just the week before, said executive's Secretary of State had affirmed a new policy in which the US would be content to let the destiny of Bashar Al-Assad be settled by the Syrian people.

And who exactly are we fighting in Syria? Is it ISIS? Al Qaeda? Jabhat al Nusra? But Assad purchased oil from ISIS, yes? How did that work? And now we're bombing Assad? All of the Jihadis in opposition to Assad are Sunni, whereas Assad's regime belongs to the Alawite sect of Islam, related somehow to the Shia branch of Islam. One needs a scorecard…

As difficult as this might be to sort out, when the newest atrocity pictures appeared on FOX News, they hit our non-reading president right in the feels. And like Xanadu, a military action was decreed. Meanwhile, trump's legions of right-wing zealots were discomfited that he had bombed Syria and thus had gone "full neocon." Great was the hue and cry therefrom. Meanwhile, in the West Wing, Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon wrestled for primacy. If you're not the president's son-in-law, I don't like your chances. Mitch McConnell got clean away with the heist of a Supreme Court seat, and, oh yes, in spite of the Trump administration's decision to ban the phrase "climate change", the Arctic north is melting and we are awash in icebergs. Can global sea level rise be far behind?


The Rockets' Red Glare

We are told the short-fingered vulgarian "became president" by sending a volley of Tomahawk missiles, costing $1-1.5 million the each, to light up a Syrian airstrip, the assets of which had been moved by previously-alerted Russians and Syrians who, unlike Congress, had received prior notice. The air show on a virtually deserted airstrip avoided most of the runways, such that Syrian planes are reported to be flying missions as I write. Thus the US spent about $93,810,000, blowing up very little in order to show them that "we mean business."

The Palmer Report estimates that Donald Trump's ineffective Syria attack could have fully funded Meals on Wheels through 2029.

 The MSM, hot on the trail of #trumpRussia connections, were captivated. On MSNBC, which we are constantly reminded is the "left" news network, fake news parolee Brian Williams waxed rhapsodic about the beauty of the rocket launches, if not the tumescence of the manhood which unleashed them. CNN's Fareed Zakaria proudly asserted Trump’s missile strike in Syria shows him emerging from the chrysalis and displaying the same bloodthirsty qualities as America’s past leaders. Friday morning on CNN’s “New Day," I stood openmouthed in astonishment as Zakaria said

“I think Donald Trump became president of the United States last night. I think this was actually a big moment.”

Making this Zakaria's Van Jones moment, and exposing him as another to-be-ignored careerist. Neocon Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham swooned, and were observed to have rare swellings in their crotches at the audacity of dope. If these last for more than four hours, they should call a doctor. Or a Capitol Hill reporter.

Leading papers published opinions like "Trump’s Chance to Step Into the Global Leadership Vacuum," "Trump Has an Opportunity to Right Obama’s Wrongs in Syria," "Syrian Opposition Leader: Trump Has a Chance to Save Syria" and "Syria Missile Strike Could Lead to Political Solution"–but no pieces opposing an unauthorized military attack against a sovereign nation. Dan Rather had a few choice words.

"War must never be considered a public relations operation. It is not a way for an Administration to gain a narrative," Rather continued. "It is a step into a dangerous unknown and its full impact is impossible to predict, especially in the immediate wake of the first strike."

On other news, Raytheon, the company that makes the Tomahawk missiles used in the air strikes, was rising in early stock trading Friday. In related news, Lockheed Martin, helps Raytheon make the Javelin missile launcher system, gained nearly 1%. We may be headed for the End Times, but we're creating some beautiful opportunities for profit in arms.


Pepe nonplussed

Trump's troll army was not pleased, and the alt-right crowd broke with the president over his perfidy. The web-savvy, anti-establishment "alt-right" neo-nazis at the passionate core of Trump’s online support last year, have become apoplectic over the strikes. This "America First" wing, which includes Milo Yiannopolis, Mike Cernovich, Ann Coulter, and the famously punched-in-the-face Richard Spencer, (he of the memes), as well as those basement dwellers on The_Donald subreddit and the /pol/ section of 4Chan, warn of a slippery slope to intervention in Syria.

As recently as last week, they believed Trump would keep the country out of unnecessary wars. Last Thursday on a trip to Turkey, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, the “longer-term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people.” And then came the news pictures of Syrian children being gassed. Whereupon, we are told, the president decided to "follow his heart."

Leaving aside for a moment the notion of how a Republican Congress or the American public would react did if a female president had decided to "follow her heart," and launch 59 Tomahawk missiles, we are left to marvel at 180° whipsaw-like change in the direction of American foreign policy.

Meanwhile, about those pictures, and who was responsible for them. Many on the fascist fringe scream that Trump has been duped into a war a "false flag" operation. "The Syrian gas attack was done by deep state agents," tweeted alt right agitator and Pizzagate auteur Mike Cernovich. And other marginal voices, including Alex Jones and Paul Joseph Watson, as well as Ron Paul, Scott Adams and Michael Savage, have upped the ante, blamed the attack on George Soros, and condemned Trump for surrendering to "Republican hawks."

Plus, Julian Assange, believed to have sole control of the WikiLeaks Twitter account,  shared a video from a Syrian activist in Germany on Thursday that said Islamist extremists were probably behind the chemical attack, not the Syrian government. Even left-wing observers have opined that the chemical strikes may have originated with Syrian rebels. Assessing the truth is to walk in a hall of mirrors.

Speaking of a hall of mirrors, Tina Nguyen of Vanity Fair does exemplary reporting on all things Trump, and made the following salient observation:

The missile strike came only hours after Bannon, the de facto representative of the alt-right in the White House, had been removed from the National Security Council Principals Committee, cutting off his access to military decision-making. His supporters quickly, and not without logic, blamed the Syria situation on the same people they believed were responsible for Bannon’s ouster and diminishing stature in the West Wing: Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and the leader of what a White House source described to Politico as the “West Wing Democrats.”

Few things gladden my heart more that a right wing circular firing squad, as headlines broke on Friday that Bannon had called Kushner "a cuck" and a "globalist." What the Bannon-Kushner tussle portends for the future, and for Trump's relationship with the reclusive Mercer family (which bankrolled his electoral victory)  is anyone's guess. 

 


It Stays Stole

Mitch McConnell and wife in a rare tender moment.

In 2016, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said: "One of my proudest moments was when I told Obama, 'You will not fill this Supreme Court vacancy,'" and in 2017, he said, "Apparently there's yet a new standard now, which is not to confirm a Supreme Court nominee at all. I think that's something the American people simply will not tolerate."


This week, McConnell invoked a parliamentary maneuver to end the filibuster opposing the nominee, Neil Gorsuch, for the stolen Supreme Court seat, thus clearing the way for Gorsuch to occupy said stolen seat. This legislative coup will ratify the primacy of the corporate state for the next 30 years.

In a related story, hypocrisy stocks were up 12 percent this week.

 


Global melting

A meltwater stream on Greenland’s ice sheet. And in climate change news, which we no longer count anymore because trump, we learn that Greenland’s coastal ice has passed a critical “tipping point,” according to a new study. Which doesn’t bode well for the rest of the island’s ice.

The Greenland ice sheet, which covers about 80 percent of the island’s surface, is the second-largest ice body in the world after the Antarctic ice sheet. The same processes that have caused the accelerated melting of Greenland’s coastal ice bodies could also influence the island’s massive ice sheet — with devastating results, lead study author Bryce Noël said.

“For now, the ice sheet is still safe,” he said. “Its tipping point hasn’t been crossed yet. But if warming continues, it’s very likely that it will be crossed.”

If the entire Greenland ice sheet were to melt, it would cause a global sea level rise of more than 20 feet. 

 

In a related story, The Guardian tells of a swarm of more than 400 icebergs that have drifted into the North Atlantic shipping lanes over the past week, unusually large for so early in the season. 

Most icebergs entering the North Atlantic have “calved” off the Greenland ice sheet. Michael Mann, director of the earth system science center at Pennsylvania State University, said it was possible climate change was leading to more icebergs in the shipping lanes, but wind patterns were also important.

US Coast Guard Commander Gabrielle McGrath, who leads the ice patrol, said she had never seen such a drastic increase in such a short time. Adding to the danger, three icebergs were discovered outside the boundaries of the area the Coast Guard had advised mariners to avoid, she said.

Another week in which we incrementally slip towards the doom which awaits us for our fecklessness and irresponsibility for failing to summon the will to be good stewards of what we have inherited.


banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, screeds and spittle-flecked invective here and elsewhere, and once quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be active in the Occupy movement. Where he met the woman who now shares his old Virginia home and who, like he, is grateful that he is not yet taking a dirt nap, and like he, will be disappointed to not be prominently featured on an enemies list compiled by the incoming administration.

Political correctness demands diversity in everything but thought

From the Keyboard of William Blum
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the future doesn't like us

Published originally in williamblum.org August 12, 2016


For 50 years I’ve been painstakingly cataloguing the brutal militarism and human-rights violations of US foreign policy, building up in the process a very loyal audience.

To my great surprise, when I recently wrote about the brutal militarism and human-rights violations of the Islamic State, I received more criticism from my readers than I’ve gotten for anything I’ve ever written. Dozens of them asked to be removed from my mailing list, as many as I’d normally get in a full year. Others were convinced that it couldn’t actually be me who was the author of such words, that I must have been hacked. Some wondered whether my recent illness had affected my mind. Literally! And almost all of the Internet magazines which regularly print me did not do so with this article.

Now why should this be?

My crime was being politically incorrect. The Islamic State, you see, is composed of Muslims, and the United States and its Western allies have bombed many Muslim countries in the recent past killing thousands of Muslims and causing widespread horror. Therefore, whatever ISIS and its allies do is “revenge”, simple revenge, and should not be condemned by anyone calling himself a progressive; least of all should violence be carried out against these poor aggrieved jihadists.

Moreover, inasmuch as ISIS is the offspring of religion, this adds to my political incorrectness: I’m attacking religion, God forgive me.

Totally irrelevant to my critics is the fact that the religious teachings of ISIS embrace murderous jihad and the heavenly rewards for suicide bombings and martyrdom. This, they insist, is not the real Islam, a religion of peace and scholarly pursuits. Well, one can argue, Naziism was not the real Germany of Goethe and Schiller, of Bach and Brahms. Fortunately, that didn’t keep the world from destroying the Third Reich.

We should also consider this: From the 1950s to the 1980s the United States carried out atrocities against Latin America, including numerous bombings, without the natives ever resorting to the repulsive uncivilized kind of retaliation as employed by ISIS. Latin American leftists took their revenge out on concrete representatives of the American empire: diplomatic, military and corporate targets, not markets, theatres, nightclubs, hospitals, restaurants or churches. The ISIS victims have included many Muslims, perhaps even some friends of the terrorists, for all they knew or cared.

It doesn’t matter to my critics that in my writing I have regularly given clear recognition to the crimes against humanity carried out by the West against the Islamic world. I am still not allowed to criticize the armed forces of Islam, for all of the above stated reasons plus the claim that the United States “created” ISIS.

Regarding this last argument: It’s certainly true that US foreign policy played an indispensable role in the rise of ISIS. Without Washington’s overthrow of secular governments in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and – now in process – Syria, there would today be no ISIS. It’s also true that many American weapons, intentionally and unintentionally, have wound up in the hands of terrorist groups. But the word “created” implies intention, that the United States wanted to purposely and consciously bring to life the Frankenstein monster that we know and love as ISIS.

So, you wonder, how do we rid the world of the Islamic State? I’m afraid it may already be too late. The barn door is wide open and all the horses have escaped. It’s not easy for an old anti-imperialist like myself, but I support Western military and economic power to crush the unspeakable evil of ISIS. The West has actually made good progress with seriously hampering ISIS oil sales and financial transactions. As a result, it appears that ISIS may well be running out of money, with defections of unpaid soldiers increasing.

The West should also forget about regime change in Syria and join forces with Russia against the terrorists.

And my readers, and many like them, have to learn to stop turning the other cheek when someone yelling “Allahu Akbar” drives a machete into their skull.


Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.

William Blum is an author, historian, and renowned critic of U.S. foreign policy. He is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II and Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, among others.

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.

 

The Days After Tomorrow 5: None So Blind

gc2smFrom the keyboard of Thomas Lewis

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Bill-Gates-768x548

Think the days of arrogant white ignorance are over? Consider that just a few weeks ago, American Geek-in-chief Bill Gates grandly offered to give Bolivia, which he referred to as a poverty stricken country, 100,000 chickens. (Sort of a “Let them eat eggs” statement — or, with a little extra trouble, cake.) Bolivia, it turns out, has a thriving economy, exports 36 million chickens a year, produces nearly 200 million. But thanks anyway, Great White Father.

 

Published on The Daily Impact on July 7, 2016


This is one of a series of meditations on what we might have learned, and might still learn, from the history of Native Americans about how to live without modern technology and industry, which we may have to do in the near future.]

One cannot answer a question that has not been asked (if you are a parent, you know exactly what I mean). And one cannot ask a question of which one cannot conceive. Thus does ignorance remain locked in place. Before we can learn anything useful from or about any other culture, we have to remove any blinders that prevent us from conceiving of questions: things like bigotry, racism, intolerance, delusions of superiority and exceptionalism, convictions of a special and exclusive relationship with God.

Fellow white Europeans, we have some work to do. The toxic brew that characterizes our relationships with others races did not begin with our contact with Native Americans, but it sure reached a kind of an apex before our mutual story was done. We can’t atone for that behavior, of course. But it would be good if we would stop it.

Columbus set the bar by mistakenly calling the first people he saw on the west side of the Atlantic Ocean “Indians,” because that’s what he was looking for, and in his culture, believing was seeing. That was just the beginning of the ignorance.  As European traders, explorers and then settlers began moving inland, they would get to know a tribe, eventually become aware of another tribe some distance away, and would ask their hosts, “Who are they?” “Oh, you’d better steer clear of them,” would come the reply, “they are rattlesnakes, (pronounced Iroquois).” Or, “You mean those people out west? They are cutthroats (Sioux). The ones down south? Cannibals (Mohawk).” Almost all the names assigned to the tribes of North America were in fact vile pejoratives, often words from a language other than their own. (And today, the PC Police get overwrought about the Washington “redskins.”)

Anyone who cared could find out that each tribe referred to itself as “The People,” perhaps with some modifier. The “Iroquois” were the People of the Longhouse (Haudenosaunee); the “Sioux” were just the People (Lakota); and the “Mohawks” were the True People (Ongwe Honwe). But who cared?

Is there any right more fundamental to human dignity than the right to be called by your own name, in your own language? Is there any worse insult than refusing to do that? But wait, there’s more.

Every Native American had an identity with two parts; asked for it, he or she would offer a name and a clan. One’s clan membership was as vital to knowing who a person was, as our last names are, to us. Clan membership determined who one could and could not marry. It was the clan that defined and preserved and passed on the behaviors and beliefs that comprised the character of its members. Hardly any white people knew then, or know to this day, that the clans even existed.

Moreover, most of the clans in North America were matrilineal, meaning:

  • when a couple married, they went to live with the wife’s clan;
  • when a child was born, it was born into its mother’s clan;
  • when a person died, any possession or title that could be inherited —  not many could — went to daughters, not sons.
  • a child was taught the ways of the clan, i.e. virtually everything about life, from how to hunt to how to cook to how to dress, by aunts or uncles who were fellow clan members. Fathers, who were not,  had little to do with their progeny, but had major responsibilities for their sisters’ offspring.

Think what this means for the Europeans’ attempts to establish religious and political authority by invoking — as they did constantly for centuries — to the presumed authority of a “great white father” residing somewhere overseas, or in Washington, or in heaven. If you ever come across a carefully done transcript of an exchange of views between whites and natives, you will note that when the natives wish to convey respect they use the appellation “uncles.” And their responses to the notion that they are in the care of a “great white father” fairly drip with sarcasm.  

“Hey, lighten up,” I can hear someone calling. “Why are you so down on your ancestors for not knowing enough about Indians? They didn’t have Google.”

Well, I am down on them, and the culture they bequeathed us,  not only because its baked-in bigotry enabled one of the most evil episodes of genocide in the history of the world — but because the habit of racist condescension is still here, still killing people, still poisoning relations among people of color and white people everywhere..

We fought and lost a terrible war in Vietnam convinced that the people of Vietnam were allied with the people of China against us; in fact, they had been mortal enemies for a thousand years. We fought our longest war, in Afghanistan, and our dumbest, in Iraq, with little knowledge of the religious sects and familial clans that are central to life in those countries.

If we can’t change our own culture’s nature, change its tendencies to racism, violence, exploitation and greed, we have no hope of a better future. Because bound as we are by chains of traditional ignorance, we can’t even see the multitude of paths that could lead us to a better place.

Fortunately, the ignorance I’ve been describing was then and is now dominant, but not universal. There is another thing that happened during our early history with Native Americans that is virtually unknown, and has immense significance for our present inquiry. We’ll get to that, next time.

 


Thomas Lewis is a nationally recognized and reviewed author of six books, a broadcaster, public speaker and advocate of sustainable living. He also is Editor of The Daily Impact website, and former artist-in-residence at Frostburg State University. He has written several books about collapse issues, including Brace for Impact and Tribulation. Learn more about them here.

Peak History

gc2smFrom the keyboard of Thomas Lewis

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history

Published on The Daily Impact on June 14, 2016


We live in a country whose citizens — make that residents — are increasingly averse to complicated thought, indifferent to veracity, and reductionist in their thinking (every thing and every thought and every person is and must be either one kind of thing, or another kind of thing, no additional choices allowed). In such a country history has few friends.

History is too hard. You have to find out what happened, and then you have to figure out the context of the events — what led up to them and what followed — so you can tease out their significance for your time and place, and even after doing all that it may not be clear. Far easier to decide first what history means, and look up a few facts to “prove” it. Works for Fox News. And what they have made of journalism, we are making of history.

The stories of contemporary history are short and punchy, crafted for an audience suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder; their lessons are simple and obvious, as befits an audience capable of obeying rules, not of evaluating them — you know, nine-year-olds. (Soon we will have a population of adults who will not cross the street without holding a grown-ups hand, because, you know, that’s the rule.)

A recent case in point: the American Civil War. It is now almost universally spoken of as a war that was about only one thing, slavery. Knowing that, as all right-thinking folks do, it follows that everyone who fought for the Confederacy was fighting to maintain slavery. Period. Because they were wrong to do so, a very popular line of “thinking” goes, we should scrub from our history and our world every vestige of their existence, eliminating their flag from our sight, rooting out and destroying their statues from our county seats and capitals (you know, like ISIS is doing in the cradle of civilization) and reducing their biographies to simplistic diatribes.

Now we could see in this an evil hand, an intent to make sure that our children never learn that good people fight in bad wars for good reason,  that bad people support good wars for bad reasons, that causes and outcomes are complicated, and can be both good and bad at the same time. Because if they do learn that, they are far less likely to allow some tinhorn president to fight any damn war he wants to for trumped-up reasons.

But the reality is probably dumber than that. While I was trying to figure out how to express my view of it, Ken Burns did it better, not the first time that has happened. He delivered the commencement speech to this year’s graduates of Stanford University (damn him, he still looks too young to be a graduate, let alone advise them). Most of the news coverage hyperventilated over his blistering condemnation of Donald Trump. But mostly he talked about history and our misuses of it:

… we live in an age of social media where we are constantly assured that we are all independent free agents. But that free agency is essentially unconnected to real community, divorced from civic engagement, duped into believing in our own lonely primacy by a sophisticated media culture that requires you—no—desperately needs you—to live in an all-consuming disposable present, wearing the right blue jeans, driving the right car, carrying the right handbag, eating at all the right places, blissfully unaware of the historical tides that have brought us to this moment, blissfully uninterested in where those tides might take us.

We are, in other words, in the grip of a terminal case of cultural Alzheimer’s Disease, increasingly unaware of the people around us, unable to remember where we came from and who we are, deprived, in other words, of the resources we need to set a rational course, we are reduced again to children who can only follow orders. So we grasp the nearest grown-up’s hand and await instruction.  


Thomas Lewis is a nationally recognized and reviewed author of six books, a broadcaster, public speaker and advocate of sustainable living. He also is Editor of The Daily Impact website, and former artist-in-residence at Frostburg State University. He has written several books about collapse issues, including Brace for Impact and Tribulation. Learn more about them here.

Kill List: Smashing the ‘B’ in BRICS

From the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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BRICS

Originally published in Sputnik on June 7, 2016

 


The stakes could not be higher. Not only the future of the BRICS, but the future of a new multipolar world is in the balance. And it all hinges on what happens in Brazil in the next few months.

Let’s start with the Kafkaesque internal turmoil. The coup against President Dilma Rousseff remains an unrivalled media theatre/political tragicomedy gift that keeps on giving. It also doubles as a case of information war converted into a strategic tool of political control. 

From left in front row: Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Chinese President Xi Jinping walk for a plenary session during the summit in Ufa, Russia, Thursday, July 9, 2015

© AP PHOTO/ IVAN SEKRETAREV

Brazil’s Dilma Faces Coup: ‘Say Goodbye to BRICS, Say Hello to Washington’

A succession of appalling audio leaks has revealed that key sectors of the Brazilian military as well as selected Supreme Court justices have legitimized the coup against aPresident that has always protected the two-year-old Car Wash corruption investigation. Even Western mainstream media was forced to admit that Dilma did not steal anything but is being impeached by a bunch of thieves. Their agenda; to stifle the Car Wash investigation, which may eventually throw many of them in jail.

The leaks also unveiled a nasty internecine carnage between Brazilian comprador elites — peripheral and mainstream. Essentially the peripherals were used as lowly paperboys in Congress for the dirty work. But now they may be about to become road kill – along the illegitimate, unpopular, interim Michel Temer “government”, led by a bunch of corrupt-to-the-core PMDB politicians, the party that is heir to the sole opposition outfit tolerated during the 1960s-1980s military dictatorship.  

Meet the vassal chancellor

An insidious character in the current golpeachment scam is the interim Minister of Foreign Relations, senator Jose Serra of the PSDB party, the social democrats turned neoliberal enforcers. In the 2002 presidential election – which he lost to Lula — Serra had already tried to get rid of peripheral Brazilian oligarchies. 

Yet now he’s incarnating another role — perfectly positioned not only to retrograde Brazilian foreign policy to some point around the 1964 military coup, but mostly as the Beltway’s point man inside the coup racket.

Exceptionalistan’s key ally in Brazil is the oligarchy in Sao Paulo, the wealthiest state and home to the financial capital of Latin America. This is Brazil’s A-list. It’s from their ranks that an eventual “national savior” may eventually spring up.   

Once the peripherals are history, then no holds would be barred to criminalize – and imprison – an array of leftist leaders, Lula included, as well as manufacture a fake election legitimized by a noxious Supreme Court justice, Gilmar Mendes, a PSDB stooge.

It all hinges on what happens in the next two months. The prosecutor general finally asked the Supreme Court to throw three top peripherals in jail; they are all accused of plotting to derail the Car Wash investigation — an extremely complex juridical-political-police network of myriad concentric/parallel circles.   

 

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff delivers a speech on May 8, 2015, during a ceremony at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia to mark the 70th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany during World War II

© AFP 2016/ EVARISTO SA

Leaked Tapes Expose Coup Plot Against Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff

Meanwhile, the final judgment of Dilma’s impeachment at the Senate is bound to happen on August 16 – 11 days after the start of the Olympic Games. The coup plotters suffered a heavy blow as they were trying hard to accelerate the proceedings. As it stands, the outcome is uncertain; after the leaks, four to five senators are already wavering, as the leaks also implicate Temer personally. The “leader” of a zero-credibility, corruption-crammed scam, he’s among the targets of several corruption investigations and has just been banned from running to political office for the next 8 years.  

The Brazilian mainstream media monopoly (five families) – popularly referred to as PIG, the Brazilian acronym for Pro-Coup Media Party – has changed its anti-left tune and is now also going after selected members of the Temer racket.

According to the constitution, if both the Presidency and Vice-Presidency are vacated in the last two years of a given term, it’s up to Congress to elect the new President.

This implies two possible scenarios. If Dilma is not impeached, it’s increasingly likely she will call for new presidential elections before the end of the year.

If she is impeached, the PIG will tolerate the stooge-crammed Temer interim racket until January 2017 at the most. The next step would be what Serra and about-to-be-jailed Senate leader Renan Calheiros are campaigning for; the end of direct presidential elections and the onset of Brazilian-style parliamentarianism.

 

Michel Temer joined by allies Renan Calherios, Romero Juca, and Henrique Meirelles

© AP PHOTO/ ERALDO PERES

'The Great Destruction': Brazil's New Elite Drowning in Graft Allegations

The man best positioned to be the national savior in this case is former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso – also former “Prince of Sociology” and a major star (during the 1960s and early 1970s) of the dependency theory, then metamorphosed into an avid neoliberal. Cardoso is a very close pal of both Bill Clinton and Tony Blair. The Beltway/Wall Street axis loves him. Cardoso would be “elected” mostly by the pack of Congress hyenas who got the Dilma impeachment rolling on April 17.  

The hard node of golpeachment goes way beyond peripheral Brazilian elites. It is comprised of a political party (the PSDB); the Globo media empire; the Federal Police (very cozy with the FBI); the Public Ministry; most of the Supreme Court; and sectors of the military. Only the Beltway/Wall Street axis has the means and the necessary pull to regiment all these players – by hard cash, blackmail or promises of glory.  

And that ties in with key unanswered questions regarding the recent audio leaks. Who taped the conversations. Who leaked them. Why now. Who profits from a nation in total political/economic/juridical chaos, with virtually all institutions totally discredited.  

Neoliberalism or chaos

Those were the days when Washington could mastermind, with impunity, an old-fashioned military coup in its backyard – as in Brazil 1964. Or as in Chile during the original 9/11 – in 1973, as seen through crack Chilean film maker Patricio Guzman’s moving documentary about Salvador Allende.

History, predictably, now repeats itself as farce as the 2016 coup has turned Brazil – the 7th largest economy in the world and a key Global South player – into a Honduras or Paraguay (where recent US-supported coups were successful).  

I have shown how the coup in Brazil is an extremely sophisticated Hybrid War operation going way beyond unconventional warfare (UW); four generation warfare (4GW); color revolutions; and R2P (“responsibility to protect”), all the way to the summit of smart power; a political-financial-judicial-mainstream media soft coup unveiled in slow motion. This is the beauty of a coup when promoted by democratic institutions.   

 

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro (C) speaks during a meeting against imperialism in Caracas, in this March 25, 2015 handout picture provided by Miraflores Palace

© REUTERS/ MIRAFLORES PALACE

First Brazil, Next Venezuela: Will the World See a Coup in Caracas?

Neoliberalism may have failed, as even the IMF research wing has concluded. But its rotten corpse still encumbers the whole planet. Neoliberalism is not only an economic model; it surreptitiously takes over the juridical realm as well. In another perverse facet of shock doctrine, neoliberalism cannot prevail without a juridical framework.

When constitutional attributions are redirected to Congress that keeps the Executive under control while generating a culture of political corruption. Politics is subordinated to economics. Companies engage in campaign financing and buy politicians to be able to influence the political powers that be.

That’s how Washington works. And that’s also the key to understand the role of former leader of the Brazilian lower house Eduardo Cunha; he ran a campaign financing racket out of Congress itself, controlling dozens of politicians while profiting from proverbially fat state contracts.

The Three Stooges in what I called the Provisional Banana Scoundrel Republic are Cunha, Calheiros and Temer. Temer is a mere puppet while Cunha remains a sort of shadow Prime Minister, running the show. But not for long. He’s already been suspended as the speaker in Congress; he bagged millions of US dollars in kickbacks for those fat contracts and stashed the loot in secret Swiss accounts; now it’s a matter of time before the Supreme Court has the balls – it’s not a given — to throw him in the slammer.

NATO vs. BRICS, all across the spectrum

And that brings us once again to The Big Picture, as we proceed in parallel with an analysis by Rafael Bautista, the head of a decolonization study group in La Paz, Bolivia. He’s one of the best and brightest in South America who’s very much alert to the fact that whatever happens in Brazil in the next few months will drive the future not only of South America but the whole Global South.

Exceptionalistan’s project for Brazil is no less than the imposition of a remixed Monroe doctrine. The main target of a planned neoliberal restoration is to cut off South America from the BRICS – as in, essentially, the Russia-China strategic partnership.

It’s a short window of opportunity after all those years under the Bush-Obama continuum where Washington was obsessed with MENA (Middle East/Northern Africa), a.k.a. the Greater Middle East. Now South America is back in a starring role in the geopolitical (soft) war theatre. Getting rid of Dilma, Lula, the Workers’ Party, by all means available, is only the start. 

It all comes back to the same, defining 21st century war; NATO against the BRICS; the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO); and ultimately the Russia-China strategic partnership. Smashing the “B” in BRICS carries with it the bonus of smashing Mercosur (the South American common market); Unasur (the political Union of South American Nations); ALBA (the Bolivarian Alliance); and South American integration as a whole, compounded with integration with key emerging Global South players such as Iran.

The ongoing destabilization of “Syraq” fits the Empire of Chaos; when there’s no regional integration, the only other possibility is balkanization. And yet Russia graphically demonstrated to Beltway planners they cannot win a war in Syria while Iran demonstrated after the nuclear deal that it won’t become a Washington vassal. So the Empire of Chaos might as well secure its own backyard.

A new geopolitical framework had to be part of the package. That’s where the concept of “North America” fits in, backed by the Council on Foreign Relations and devised mostly by former Iraq surge superstar David Petraeus and former World Bank honcho Bob Zoellick, now with Goldman Sachs. Call it a mini who’s who of Exceptionalistan.

You won't see it enounced in public, but the Petraeus/Zoellick concept of “North America” presupposes regime changing and gobbling up Venezuela. The Caribbean is seen as a Mare Nostrum, an American lake. “North America” is in fact a strategic offensive.

It implies controlling the massive oil and water wealth of the Orinoco and the Amazonas, something that would forever guarantee Exceptionalistan’s preeminence south of the border.

The Caribbean is already a done deal; after all Washington controls CAFTA. South America is a tougher nut to crack, roughly polarized by what’s left of ALBA and the US-driven Pacific Alliance. With Brazil falling to a neoliberal restoration, it’s over as a promoter of regional integration. Mercosur would eventually be absorbed into the Pacific Alliance – especially with a man like Serra as Brazil’s top diplomat. So, politically, South America must be annulled at all costs. 

What’s left for South America would be its aggregation — as marginal players, part of the US-driven Pacific Alliance — to those NATO on trade deals, the TPP and TTIP. The “pivot to Asia” – of which TPP is the trade arm — is the Obama doctrine’s push for containment of China, not only in Asia but also across Asia-Pacific. Thus it’s natural that China (Brazil’s number one trade partner) should also be contained in the hegemon’s backyard, South America.

From the Atlantic to the Pacific, and beyond

It’s never enough to stress the geo-economic importance of South America. The only way South America can be fully integrated to the multipolar world is by opening up to the Pacific, boosting its strategic connection with Asia, especially China. That’s where the Chinese push to invest in a massive high-speed rail project uniting the Brazilian Atlantic coast with Peru in the Pacific fits in. That’s South American interconnectivity in a nutshell. If Brazil is politically annulled, none of this will ever happen.

Looking ‘Beyond South America’: Brazil Hopes to Become True Global Power

So every coup is now literally allowed in South America; indirect attacks to the Brazilian currency, the real; bribing local comprador elites with the backing of the global financial system; a concerted attempt at the implosion, simultaneously, of the top three economies: Brazil, Argentina andVenezuela. SOUTHCOM went so far as to produce a report on “Venezuela Freedom” earlier this year, signed by commander Kurt Tidd, which proposes a “strategy of tension”, complete with “encirclement” and “suffocation” techniques and allowing to mix street action with a “calculated” use of armed violence. Echoes of Chile 1973 do apply.   

South America is now arguably the prime geopolitical space where Exceptionalistan is laying the bases to restore its unrivalled hegemony — as part of a multi-dimensional, geo-finance war against the BRICS bent on perpetuating the unipolar world. 

All previous moves have lead to this geostrategy of imploding the BRICS and reducing South America to an appendix of North America.

Wikileaks revealed how the NSA spied on Petrobras. In 2008 Brazil came up with its own National Defense Strategy, focused on two key areas; the South Atlantic and the Amazon. This did not sit well with SOUTHCOM. Unasur should have developed it to a continental level, but they didn’t. 

Lula decided to award to Petrobras the prime exploitation of the pre-salt deposits – the largest oil discovery of the 21st century. Dilma’s administration gave a firm push to the BRICS’s New Development Bank (based on the Brazilian BNDES) and also decided to accept Iranian payments bypassing the US dollar. Anyone involved in South-South trade bypassing the US dollar enters a kill list.

Hillary Clinton is the presidential candidate of Wall Street, the Pentagon, the industrial-military complex and the neocons. She is the Goddess of War – and in a Bush-Obama-Clinton continuum she will go to war against any player in the Global South that dares to defy Exceptionalistan.

So the die is cast. We will know for sure by the time there’s a new US President — and arguably a new, unelected Brazilian President — in early 2017. The geostrategic game though remains the same; Brazil must fall so BRICS-led integration must fall, and Exceptionalistan may concentrate all its firepower in an all-out confrontation against Russia-China. 


PepePepe Escobar  is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia Times Online. Born in Brazil, he's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Even before 9/11 he specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central and East Asia, with an emphasis on Big Power geopolitics and energy wars. He is the author of "Globalistan" (2007), "Red Zone Blues" (2007), "Obama does Globalistan" (2009) "Empire of Chaos" (2014),and "2030" (2015), all published by Nimble Books. 

Lies, Damned Lies, and News Reports

gc2smFrom the keyboard of Thomas Lewis

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cell-phone-news

An earlier, more temperate report on cell phones and cancer has supposedly been eclipsed by a newer, better one. But wait.

 

Published on The Daily Impact on June 1, 2015

 


“U.S. Leads Globe in Oil Production for Third Year.”

“Major New Study Reveals Cellphone Radiation Causes Cancer.”

These are just two examples of headlines that circled the world in the past week, subtracting from the sum total of human knowledge. Of course there were others: the “violent, chair-throwing riot” at the Nevada Democratic convention that turned out to have involved no violence, no chair-throwing and no riot; the long, dumbfounded pause when a group of pro-gun people were asked a hard question by Katie Couric, a pause that in reality was neither long nor dumbfounded. And on and on.

How are we to fulfill our responsibilities as informed citizens  (I know, it’s a quaint concept) when the information we get is consistently wrong and/or incomplete? For starters, it helps to understand the nature of the problem — in this case the dumbness and dumberness of American journalism. First Rule: when something is happening either because of stupidity or a conspiracy, always assume stupidity. These people aren’t smart enough to maintain a conspiracy.

Consider, for example, “U.S. Leads Globe in Oil Production for Third Year.” Anyone who has paid any attention at all to the oil industry in recent years knows that can’t be true. So how can a slick website like Climate Central,  “researching and reporting the science and impacts of climate change,” join the knuckle-draggers who published and believed it?

Hard to say. The Energy Information Administration report to which these articles referred had a slightly different headline: “United States remains largest producer of petroleum and natural gas hydrocarbons,” which does not mean, it turns out, that the US is biggest in both petroleum and natural gas, but is biggest when you add petroleum and natural gas hydrocarbons together. Moreover, “petroleum,” as used in the EIA reporting, is not the same thing as “crude oil,” although the reporting assumes it is: “Government estimates show that crude oil production has continued to grow across the country, from nearly 8 million barrels of oil per day in 2008 to about 15 million in 2015.”

In fact, government estimates show nothing of the kind. According to the EIA, the same agency being quoted in these pieces, crude oil production in the United States has been declining sharply and steadily for a year and a half — from a high of less than 10 million barrels per day. Saudi Arabia and Russia are both pumping slightly more than 10mgd, meaning that the US is in third place, right where it’s been for years. Moreover, says EIA, world crude oil production has been declining since last November.

The only way you get the happy numbers used in these puff pieces is to change the definition of oil, to include things like biofuels, and suspend your critical faculties. Not what we want our journalists to be doing.  

Now to the other journalistic atrocity, “Major New Study Reveals Cellphone Radiation Causes Cancer.” No, actually, it did not. It revealed that if you bombard rats with the radio frequencies cellphones use for nine hours a day, the male rats in the group irradiated at an intensity 75 times the maximum allowed human exposure from cellphones had a slightly elevated chance of developing two types of cancerous tumors.

The study did not receive the peer review that is normal before publication,perhaps because the first few peers to look at it had serious problems with it. It had no explanation, for example, for the fact that the irradiated rats lived far longer than the control group, who received no RF radiation at all. Or for why none of the female irradiated rats developed tumors.  

Frankly, I smell a rat, and so should every journalist writing and reader reading about this travesty of science, or about the oil business. .


Thomas Lewis is a nationally recognized and reviewed author of six books, a broadcaster, public speaker and advocate of sustainable living. He also is Editor of The Daily Impact website, and former artist-in-residence at Frostburg State University. He has written several books about collapse issues, including Brace for Impact and Tribulation. Learn more about them here.

The Days After Tomorrow 2: Mourning the Montagnais

gc2sm

Off the keyboard of Thomas Lewis

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Montagnais

The way it used to be for the Montagnais, circa 1550; hide clothing, wood and hide canoes, stone-tipped weapons and tools. Thanks to the French fashion trade, things were about to get a lot better for them. And then, way, way worse. (Photo by Ben Christi/skyrock.com)

Published on The Daily Impact on May 19, 2016


[This is one of a series of meditations on what we might have learned, and might still learn, from the history of Native Americans about how to live without technology and industry, which we may have to do in the near future.]

In North America in the 16th Century, the people known as the Montagnais (the French called them that, “Mountaineers,” the tribe called themselves “Innu,” the People) were among the first to fall before the European juggernaut. Their story became a template for almost all the other tribes on the continent, and in some important respects is eerily like our own unfolding story.

The Montagnais lived in Quebec, north of the lower St. Lawrence River. They were hunter-gatherers whose life of seasonal hunting, trapping, fishing and gardening had been unchanged for many thousands of years when they saw the first French ocean-going ship, hove to in the Gulf. Beyond the initial, mutual astonishment, relations were for many years casual and infrequent. The French were fishermen who stayed in the area only as long as they had to, to fill their hulls and assure their profits. They needed nothing from “the savages” they saw on shore, and had no reason to be in conflict with them.

For a hundred years the fleets of Europe hauled in their catches on the Grand Banks, occasionally camping on the shores of the mighty St. Lawrence. They amused themselves by trading trinkets for items of Montagnais life, and the People were amused by the things the French would trade for, such as the skins of dead beaver. Then, in the mid-1500s, someone discovered that beaver pelts yielded a superior felt for hat making; some dandies at the French court began to wear them, the fad spread across Europe and the fate of the Montagnais was sealed.

Now the French visitors wanted something from the Montagnais — beaver pelts — and they wanted it badly. The profit margin for a cargo of skins delivered to Paris was on the order of a thousand per cent. Problem was, the French traders didn’t have anything the Montagnais wanted — at first. But on being shown the advantages of an iron cooking pot over a deerskin water bag laboriously heated with hot rocks; of steel knives and hatchets over implements with stone edges; of woven cloth over deer hides; the People were soon happily delivering tons of beaver pelts, which had virtually no value to them.

In this way, also, the People were introduced to alcohol. And the French, to tobacco. A kind of mutually assured destruction.

The passion for beaver hats in Europe was to drive this frenzied new North American industry for nearly two hundred years. For part of that time the Montagnais prospered beyond any dreams they would have been able to articulate. Life became easier for everyone, especially after guns, bullets and powder joined the roster of trade goods available. Until the middle 1600s, when the beaver ran out.

Just in the lower St. Lawrence River country. Farther inland, farther north, even farther south, there were plenty of beaver. So that, of course, is where the French traders went. And the Montagnais made a dismaying discovery.

During the decades they had enjoyed their new technology thanks to the beaver trade, they had forgotten how to live without it. Nobody remembered,or had any interest in, how to hunt with a bow and arrow, how to cook with hot stones, how to scrape a hide with a stone scraper. They had been shown a better way to live, had instantly adopted it, had become utterly reliant on it, and then it had been snatched away from them.

They had been proud, self-reliant people for thousands of years. In a few decades they had been turned into destitute, incompetent alcoholics dependent for their survival on the charity of people who held them in contempt.

How is this similar to our own story? We too were a proud, self-reliant people who grew, raised and hunted our own food, built our own houses, made our own clothes, lived in tight-knit communities. Then strangers came to offer engines to do our work for us, trains and cars and then planes to whisk us around the country and the world at our whim, electric generators to heat us, cool us, entertain us, cheaply and without much effort.

We enjoyed it. And we totally forgot how to live without it. So that when it is suddenly whisked away, we are likely to be left at the side of history’s road, destitute, incompetent alcoholics to the end.

There is another, amazing aspect of the Montagnais story that we need to understand; they way they were when the French found them. Nobody cared who they were then, and few care now, but we accidentally have a rare eye witness who left a careful record. And what he had to says casts a very unusual light on the subject of human nature.

Next time.


Thomas Lewis is a nationally recognized and reviewed author of six books, a broadcaster, public speaker and advocate of sustainable living. He also is Editor of The Daily Impact website, and former artist-in-residence at Frostburg State University. He has written several books about collapse issues, including Brace for Impact and Tribulation. Learn more about them here.

This Week In Schaudenfreude


That-Was-The-Week-That-W-That-Was-The-Week-473964gc2smFrom the keyboard of Surly1
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Ken Starr Voodoo Dolls002

Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on May 25, 2016

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

 ― Martin Luther King, Jr.  

 


I wish I were a better person. I'm just not. Let me explain. 

This morning, my wife, the redoubtable Contrary, brought an irrestistable news nugget to my attention . Baylor President and Chancellor Kenneth Winston "Ken" Starr, yes THAT Ken Starr, had been sacked by the school’s board of regents amid mounting pressure over how the school handled reports of rape and assault by football players.

Sports Illustrated reports that the Baylor board of regents fired school president Ken Starr Tuesday amid the sexual assault scandal, this, according to HornsDigest.com, a Baylor fan site.

Karma comes to Waco. Read the original source report here. Many of us do not follow organized sports because, quite frankly, we have better things to think about. I confess to being a lifelong sports fan, although my attention to sports has waned with age, diminishing interest, lack of time, and the lure of other pursuits. Yet I was enough of a casual fan to recognize that Baylor has developed quite a sports empire, and with it the sort of exuberances and indiscretions that money, power and privilege bring,

Baylor, the largest private Baptist school in the country, has become a burgeoning sports powerhouse in football and basketball. Allegations surround whether Starr, football coach Art Briles and others in the chain of command at Baylor ignored allegations of assaults by players, two of whom were later convicted of sexual assault. Reports of Starr and Briles being on the hot seat have crept into ESPN and other sports reporting enough to apparently discomfit members of the Board.

The Baylor assault scandal exploded last year, when a football player was convicted of sexually assaulting a former Baylor soccer player. The came reports that Baylor ignored repeated allegations of assault against a former player who was convicted of sexual assault in 2014. Other reports of assault allegations surfaced, such that more than 200 Baylor students, faculty and alumni kept a candlelight vigil outside of Starr's Waco residence last February. And if that weren't enough, Baylor now faces a federal lawsuit from a former student claiming the school was "deliberately indifferent" to rape allegations before the playerwas ultimately convicted of assaulting her. A mess.

Starr, of course, was the special prosecutor who investigated the Whitewater development deal gone bad, which mushroomed into a $70 Million bag of insufficient evidence to indict– the original nothingburger. The Clintons themselves were never prosecuted, despite three separate inquiries that found insufficient evidence linking them with the criminal conduct of others related to the land deal. The term Whitewater  often conflates other controversies from the Clinton administration, especially TravelgateFilegate, and the circumstances surrounding Vince Foster's death  investigated by the tireless Whitewater independent counsel. Ending up, of course, with the investigation of Bill Clinton's sexual relationship with Monica Lewinski, complete with articles of impeachment. These, comically, were solemnly marched from the House to the Senate by pear-shaped archhypocrite Henry Hyde, himself an example of conduct unbecoming ("It was a youthful indiscretion," said Hyde of his own previous affair with a married woman while in his forties.)

The net result of the many investigations was not only a monumental waste of taxpayer dollars but a lasting fog of shadiness that has bedeviled the Clintons ever since, but that's another subject for another time. Although the Trumpenkrieg has been doing its best to resuscitate these charges with new life.

Starr has been Baylor president since 2010. He reportedly enjoyed the perks of office and the successful sports programs. Reports say he "often ran onto the field with student fans in pregame ceremonies before home games and had become one of the leading voices in the Big 12 as the league considers whether to expand." Indeed, who wouldn't? Riding high in April, etc.

If the Horns Digest report is to be believed, we'll need not pass the hat for Starr: 

One source said Starr, an attorney and former judge, would be reassigned to a new role in the Baylor law school. Starr was the dean of Pepperdine's law school when Baylor hired him six years ago.

But it was unclear early Tuesday if Starr would want the new law school post on the Waco campus or if he'd simply want a financial settlement and to part ways, sources said.

A source close to the situation said Starr arrived at his meeting with regents on Tuesday morning "lawyered up" and may not go quietly. A source close to Starr raised questions about how much of the complaints against BU football players actually got to the president's desk versus being handled underneath him without his knowledge.

A source close to the regents board said Starr was removed as president because he was in a position to review associate dean of student conduct Bethany McCraw, who fielded many of the rape and assault complaints from female Baylor students, and Starr took no action. 

Apparently the school will not comment further and has issued a statement that they won't have a full report until June 3. And ultimately, most of us won't care. The immense amount of money, power, and prestige that go with a big-time football program will carry the day, Art Briles will probably go on undisturbed as a coach of a national powerhouse. and Ken Starr will be paid handsomely wherever he lands. But the fact remains that the man whose Congressionally-sanctioned pecksniffery resulted in nothing more than a stained dress and a waste of resources is now on the hook for the institutional covering up of sex crimes is just one of those delicious moments of karma that cannot go unremarked.

Barkeep, pour me a double schadenfreude and another for my wife.


UPDATE: The New York Times reports the demotion of Ken Starr from President to Chancellor, and the dismissal of football coach Art Briles. 

Mr. Starr was stripped of his title as university president but will remain Baylor’s chancellor and a professor at the law school. The chancellor position is “centered around development and religious liberty,” a regent said on a conference call Thursday afternoon, adding that Mr. Starr’s “operational responsibilities have been removed.”

Mr. Starr’s demotion delivered a twist to the biography of a man whose reputation was built on what many considered an overzealous pursuit of allegations of sexual transgressions by Mr. Clinton. Now he is being punished for leading an administration that, according to a report by an outside law firm commissioned by the university’s governing board, looked the other way when Baylor football players were accused of sex crimes, and sometimes convicted of them.

The Baylor Athletic Director was also put on probation. Whether the University's actions go far enough is a matter for debate. The world we live in: one in five women entering college will be subject to some kind of sexual assault. We also know that only one in eight reports it. We are reminded once again that ESPN reporting affirmed that some female rape victims didn't speak out simply because they already knew Baylor would not do anything about it. 

Many of us non-Texans forget that over a decade ago, Baylor was part of another scandal involving murder and drugs, and received some of the harshest penalties ever issued by the NCAA. Now this. The decisions released Thursday 5/26 confirmed their fears. Big-time, big-money Power Five Conference football is far more important than common, human decency. Like the Penn Stte scandal of several years ago, another lesson is what happens when people have access to nearly unlimited money and power without meaningful oversight.

Should you read it, the last sentence of the NYT report is instructive:

The report released on Thursday found that Baylor’s religiously informed outlook on drug use, alcohol and premarital sex made accusers fearful of coming forward.

That Baylor would use its non-transparent status as a private religious institution to intimidate victims should make anyone associated wit this scandal retire immediately from public life. One is reminded of the old saw asking why Baptists frown on premarital sex: because it might lead to dancing.

 


banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, and quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be active in the Occupy movement. He shares a home in Southeastern Virginia with Contrary in the triumph of hope over experience, and is grateful that he is not yet taking a dirt nap.

Lower Away!

elephant-donkey-boxinggc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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elephant-donkey-boxing

 

Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation  May 23, 2016

 


I hope you’re enjoying these horse latitudes of the political year, when the seas suddenly turn glassy and the Berning sun begins to roast all the diverse and inclusive hands on Hillary’s deck, who wait in anxiety for the first sign of a fresh breeze to push them toward landfall. Meanwhile, full fathom five below the dead calm waters the leviathan Trump waits in his comfortable darkness, circling forward, circling back, solitary, malevolent, content in his bulking grievances, patiently awaiting his moment to rise and smash his rival.

Things go eerily quiet and still before the California primaries. At this stage, the two major parties have discredited themselves so thoroughly that a necrotic stink wafts around the election of ’16. Who put that road-kill possum in Hillary’s podium? Why does Donald look every week more and more like a lurching Golem? The parties are rudderless. Their leaders range the decks like wailing revenants. It’s as if the mortal remains of Millard Fillmore and James Buchanan have come from the grave to eat the brains of Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Reince Priebus. The rectified essence of every zombie fantasy churned out of Hollywood seeps through the capillaries of the dying political establishment, as it stews and ferments and waits to be loaded on the garbage barge of history.

Hillary threw a “hail Mary” after the Oregon debacle, proposing that husband Bill would become some kind of economic czar in her inevitable “turn” at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. That’s when you knew her crusade was doomed. It raised such a snickering in the media that the sick tropes of HBO’s Veep show looked like press releases from Proctor & Gamble’s PR office in comparison. Bill did such a great job at repealing the Glass-Steagall Act, maybe this dynamic duo of lawyers (“two for the price of one!”) can work on eliminating the anti-trust laws, the First Amendment, and the writ of habeas corpus — and then America can become a fullblown banana republic.

Trump has evidently been working on that smile of his: the slitty eyes, the weird horizontal lip stretch under that baleen of head-gear, the perfect expression of his white whale-hood. The crew from the ghostly GOP Pequod still doesn’t know what the heck to do about him. They rock above the depths in their flimsy dinghies, harpoons drooping, waiting for the sea to boil below them and their boats to splinter.

That will precede a more general splintering to come of the republic, first by demographics, then by territory. The most exceptional thing about the US has been the rapidity of its rise and now fall in the roll-call of empires. We barely had time to put together a coherent culture that historians of the future (enjoying ratatouille with fresh rat by firelight) could identify, and now it’s all percolating into a dreadful maelstrom in which one catches glimpses of the Kardashians, PT Barnum, Betsy Ross, Davey Crockett, and Eleanor Roosevelt amid the detritus of broken Tupperware and flapping pages of the Affordable Care Act. What a goddamned mess we’ve left to posterity.

Something is in the air that tells me Hillary will be dumped by the convention in Philadelphia in favor of Uncle Joe Biden, biding his time practically next door in Wilmington. Speaking of turns, isn’t it Delaware’s turn for a president? He’ll be a respectable place-holder, and he might even get elected, though the party will dissolve before he’s done, just in time for Texas to secede from the Union and set the tone for California, Oregon, and Washington State. Before you know it, the political map will look like 1861 again.

Donald Trump will be forgotten before Thanksgiving. He will leave a bizarre mental imprint on the life of the nation-that-was, something like a bad acid trip. And then the people of North America may actually have to start grappling with the problems induced by a failed banking system, population overshoot, climate instability, and the lost boundaries of social behavior.

 


James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

Dilma out: Brazilian plutocracy sets 54mn votes on fire

Dilma2gc2smFrom the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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Dilma2

Originally published in Russia Today on May 12, 2016


Never in modern political history has it been so easy to “abolish the people” and simply erase 54 million votes cast in a free and fair presidential election.

Forget about hanging chads, as in Florida 2000. This is a day that will live in infamy all across the Global South – when what was one of its most dynamic democracies veered into a plutocratic regime, under a flimsy parliamentary/judicial veneer, with legal and constitutional guarantees now at the mercy of lowly comprador elites.

After the proverbial marathon, the Brazilian Senate voted 55-22 to put President Dilma Rousseff on trial for “crimes of responsibility” – related to alleged window dressing of the government’s budget.

This is the culmination of a drawn-out process that started even before Rousseff won re-election in late 2014 with over 54 million votes. I have described the bunch of perpetrators of what Brazilian creativity has termed ‘golpeachment’ (a mix of coup – “golpe” in Portuguese – and impeachment) as Hybrid War hyenas.

Sophisticated golpeachment – supported by what amounts to an Electoral Inquisition College – has propelled Hybrid War to whole new levels.

 

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff. © Ueslei MarcelinoHybrid war hyenas tearing Brazil apart – Pepe Escobar

Hybrid War as applied to Brazil exhibited classic elements of a color revolution. Of course there was no need for no-fly zones or humanitarian imperialism to “protect human rights” – not to mention provoking a civil war. But considering the high resistance level of the victim state, where civil society is very dynamic, Hybrid War designers in this case bet on a mix of capitulation – and betrayal – of local elites, mixed with “peaceful protests” and a relentless mainstream media campaign. Call it ‘Civil War Light.’

That carried with it a fabulous cost-benefit ratio. Now the (immensely corrupt) Brazilian political system and the current executive/legislative/judiciary/mainstream media alignment can be used by the usual suspects for their geopolitical agenda.

Welcome to regime change light – politics, in a nutshell – as war by other means on the BRICS. A new software, a new operating system. Carrying a pathetic corollary; if the US is the Empire of Chaos, Brazil has now gloriously reached the status of Sub-Empire of Scoundrels.

Scoundrels galore

Rousseff may be accused of serious economic mismanagement, and of being incapable of political articulation among the shark pool that is (immensely corrupt) Brazilian politics. But she is not corrupt. She made a serious mistake in fighting inflation, allowing interest rates to rise to an unsustainable level; so demand in Brazil dramatically dropped, and recession became the norm. She is the (convenient) scapegoat for Brazil’s recession.

She certainly may be blamed for not having a Plan B to fight the global recession. Brazil essentially works on two pillars; commodity exports and local companies relying on the teats of the state. Infrastructure in general is dismal – adding to what is described as the “Brazilian cost” of doing business. With the commodity slump, state funds dwindled and everything was paralyzed – credit, investment, consumption.    

The pretext for Rousseff’s impeachment – allegedly transferring loans from public banks to the Treasury in order to disguise the size of Brazil’s fiscal deficit – is flimsy at best. Every administration in the West does it – and that includes Clinton’s, Bush’s and Obama’s.

The Operation Car Wash investigation, dragging on for two years now, was supposed to uncover corruption in the Brazilian political system – as in the collusion of oil giant Petrobras executives, Brazilian construction companies, and political campaign financing. Car Wash has nothing to do with the golpeachment drive. Yet these have been two parallel highways converging to one destination: the criminalization of the Workers’ Party, and the definitive – if possible – political assassination of Rousseff and her mentor, former President Lula. 

When golpeachment reached the lower house of Congress – an appalling spectacle – Rousseff was eviscerated by Hybrid War hyenas of the BBC variety; “BBC,” in English, stands for “bullet,”“bible” and “cattle,” where “bullet” refers to the weapons and private security industry, “bible” to pastors and evangelical fanatics, and “cattle” to the powerful agribusiness lobby.

The “BBC” hyenas are members of almost all Brazilian political parties, paperboys for major corporations, and – last but not least – corruption stalwarts. They all benefited from millionaire political campaigning. The whole Car Wash investigation ultimately revolves around campaign financing, which in Brazil, unlike the US with its legalized lobbies, is a Tarantino-worthy Wild West.    

The Brazilian Senate is not exactly an “upper” – as in more polished – house. Eighty percent of members are white men – in a country where miscegenation rules. A staggering 58 percent is under criminal investigation – linked to Car Wash. Sixty percent hail from political dynasties. And 13 percent – as alternates – were not elected at all. Among those favoring impeachment, 30 out of 49 are in trouble with the law. Charges include mostly money laundering, financial crimes and outright corruption. Renan Calheiros, the president of the Senate – who oversaw today’s impeachment vote – is the target of no fewer than nine separate money laundering/corruption Car Wash lines of investigation, plus another two criminal probes. 

Meet the three Banana Republic amigos 

Rousseff is now suspended for a maximum 180 days while a Senate committee decides whether to impeach her for good. Enter President-in-Waiting Michel Temer – a dodgy, shady operator – who has been branded a “usurper” by Rousseff. And usurper this provincial Brutus certainly is – according to his own words. On March 30 last year, he was tweeting that,“Impeachment is unthinkable, it would create an institutional crisis. There is no judicial or political basis for it.” 

His administration is born with the original sin of being illegal and massively unpopular; his approval rating floats between an epic 1 percent and 2 percent. He was already fined last week for violating campaign finance limits. And, predictably, he’s drowning in a corruption swamp – named in two Car Wash plea bargains and accused of being part of an illegal scheme of ethanol buying; he may become ineligible for the next eight years. Almost 60 percent of Brazilians also want him impeached – on the same charges leveled against Rousseff. 

Members of Brazil's Senate react after a vote to impeach President Dilma Rousseff for breaking budget laws in Brasilia, Brazil, May 12, 2016. © Ueslei Marcelino

Members of Brazil's Senate react after a vote to impeach President Dilma Rousseff for breaking budget laws in Brasilia, Brazil, May 12, 2016. © Ueslei Marcelino / Reuters

Brutus 1 (Temer) would not bask in the glow of his 15 minutes of fame without the shenanigans of Brutus 2 (Brazil’s number one crook, former speaker of the lower house Eduardo Cunha, facing charges of bribery and perjury, holder of illegal Swiss accounts, and now finally sidelined by the Supreme Court). It was Brutus 2 who fast-tracked impeachment as pure vengeance; the Workers’ Party did not cover his back as he was facing a tsunami of corruption charges. Brutus 2 used all his vast powers – he runs a campaign financing scam inside Congress – to obstruct the Car Wash investigation. His replacement, the interim speaker, is also under investigation for bribery. 

So meet Temer, Cunha, Calheiros; these three amigos are the true stars of the Banana Republic of Scoundrels/Crooks. 

As if the Supreme Court would be rascal-free. Judge Gilmar Mendes, for instance, is a lowly plutocrat vassal. When an attorney for the government entered a motion to suspend impeachment, he quipped, “Ah, they can go to heaven, to the Pope, or to hell.” Another pompous judge received a request to sideline Cunha as early as December 2015. He only examined the request over four months later, when the whole golpeachment scam was in its decisive phase. And still he argued, “there’s no proof Cunha contaminated the impeachment process.” 

Finally, complementing the whole scam, we find Brazilian mainstream media, with the toxic Globo media empire – which lavishly profited from the 1964 military coup – at the forefront. 

All hail the neoliberal restoration  

Wall Street – as well as the City of London – could not hide its excitement with golpeachment, believing Brutus 1 Temer will be an economic upgrade. Arguably, he might dare to tweak Brazil’s Kafkaesque tax code and do something about the enormous hole in the pension system. But what that mythical entity – the “markets” – and myriad “investors” are salivating about is the prospect of fabulous rates of return in a reopened-for-speculation Brazil. The Brutus 1 game will be a neoliberal feast, actually a restoration, with no popular representation whatsoever.   

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff. © Adriano Machado

Brazil senators vote to impeach President Rousseff for breaking budget laws

The golpeachment gang gets really incensed when they are identified as coup plotters. Still, they could not give a damn about the OAS, Mercosur, Unasur – all of them condemned the coup – not to mention the Holy Grail: the BRICS. Under Brutus 1, the Foreign Ministry, to be led by a sore loser senator, is bound to sink Brazil’s key role in BRICS cooperation, to the benefit of Exceptionalistan. 

All one needs to know is that neither Nobel Peace Prize-winner Barack “kill list” Obama nor Queen of Chaos Hillary “We came, we saw, he died” Clinton condemned the ongoing regime change light/golpeachment. That’s predictable, considering Exceptionalistan’s NSA spied on Petrobras and Dilma Rousseff personally – the genesis of what would develop as the Car Wash investigation. 

White House spokesman Josh Earnest limited himself to the proverbial platitudes: “challenging moment”“trust in Brazilian democratic institutions”; or even “mature democracy.” Yet he added, significantly, that Brazil is “under scrutiny.” 

Of course, the current stage of a very sophisticated Hybrid War strategy has been accomplished. But there are countless cliffhangers ahead. The Car Wash investigation – currently in slow motion – will pick up speed as a rash of dodgy plea bargains is already in store to create the conditions to criminalize for good not only Dilma Rousseff but the key piece in the chessboard: Lula. 

Game over? Not so fast. The anti-golpeachment front does have a strategy: to imprint especially in “deep Brazil,” the vast masses of the working poor, the notion of illegality; to rebuild Rousseff’s image as the victim of a profound injustice; to re-energize the progressive political front; to make sure the Brutus 1 government will fail; and to create the conditions for the man who will come in from the cold to win the 2018 presidential elections. 

Brazilian House of Cards? Bets could be made this may even end up as Anaconda, with Lula immobilizing the Hybrid War hyenas in a cobra clutch.


PepePepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

Border Lines

Transgender+Bathroomgc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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Transgender+Bathroom

 

Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation  May 16, 2016

 


If the Obama Justice Department was really honest about its “guidance” on transgender bathrooms, it would have stated clearly a requirement to provide a new, separate, third category of bathroom or changing room for people identifying themselves as transgender. This would have given such persons a safe, private place to perform their necessary bio-functions without making the other two categories of people, male and female, uncomfortable.

Actually, such a third option already exists in many public places: the handicapped bathroom. These could easily be relabeled “Handicapped and Transgender” — the main feature of them being that they allow for one-person-at-a-time occupancy, obviating any effect on others. And it wouldn’t require expensive renovation of public buildings.

But no, Mr. Obama’s DOJ decided to antagonize large numbers of males and females by coercing them to consort with transgender people, threatening to take away federal school funding if they didn’t allow persons of ambiguous sexuality to use whichever bathroom they felt like.

This reveals the fantastic smug certainty of the political Left in assuming that such matters as the nature of transgender behavior are adequately understood and settled — for instance, that transgender is actually a real sexual category rather than a psychological disturbance, a developmental problem, an extreme fashion statement, or a fantasy. I’m not at all persuaded that this is settled, despite the pervasive wishful thinking of the social justice corps that it were so.

It should be clear after some years of social justice hysteria in this country that coercion is now the method of choice on the Left side of the culture war battlefield: you must believe what we believe, or face punishment. As a Vietnam-era registered Democrat I hugely resent this oppressive political approach. I resent even more the supposed public intellectuals and thought leaders in government, academia, and the media who go along with this despotic conduct — which includes ruining the livelihoods and careers of respectable colleagues among them.

Though I am not generally sympathetic to the extreme political Right, especially its evangelical arm which adopted coercive and punitive tactics well before the Left did, I think the governors of North Carolina and Texas have a case in this new transgender bathroom dispute, though I hope their lawyers argue it on some basis besides scripture and sheer boobish obstinacy.

You may have noticed that more and more we live in a society where anything goes and nothing matters. We got there through the incremental eradication of boundaries, especially in social categories and behaviors. Some people find this exhilarating and others find this disturbing. I happen to believe that the elimination of boundaries is not altogether a good thing. We would probably benefit, I think, from more and firmer boundaries than squishier and fewer of them.

Despite the fact that a lot of people I associate with are arty types of what used to be called liberal inclination, I was not in favor of gay marriage, and said so — and was scalded with censorious opprobrium for it . Considering what I know, for instance, about the unintended consequences and diminishing returns of technology, I did not consider it a small thing to meddle with social institutions that are truly older than history. We don’t know what the eventual effects of gay marriage on the social order will be anymore than we knew that the consequences of “Atoms for Peace” would be Chernobyl and Fukushima. Things happen in history because they seem like a good idea at the time. Then time passes and we find out differently.

I was in favor of civil unions for gay couples, since the disposition of chattels and property is not a small matter in a broken partnership, as are medical issues and the care of children entailed in these partnerships, and some method of adjudication was obviously needed. But it was not necessary to call it marriage. Why make the distinction? For the basic reason that not all things and conditions of things are exactly the same. That is exactly the problem with the sort of extreme relativism that reigns on the Left these days. Anything goes.

In fact, I suspected then and still do that the crusade for gay marriage was more a seeking of official state approbation for homosexual behavior as much as a legal issue. In other words, it was about feelings — which has become the basis of argument for practically everything in our politics these days. Anyone disagreeing with those feelings was labeled a “homophobe,” and their ideas on the matter could be simply dismissed as a phobia, a terrible fear, a bad feeling rather than a reasoned position about the workings of society. I was not phobic or fearful about people who identified as gay. But I didn’t then and still don’t believe that we completely understand that behavior, and that it is a settled matter — contrary to the shibboleths of the moment.

The case is similar with transgender. We only pretend to know what it’s about because doing so affords comfortable feelings of superiority — that we are better people for going along with it because the transit of human progress is ever upward, and we are on the cutting edge of that journey to utopia. I don’t happen to buy that story, anymore than I believe that an “installation” of plastic vomit on the floor of the Whitney Museum is as much a work of art as Edouard Manet’s Luncheon on the Grass.

America has a boundary problem and boundary problems are disturbing both to individuals and societies. A common feature of societies in decline is a preoccupation with sexual freakishness, which is on display incessantly in this Republic of Twerking and in the much-valorized “sexual subversion” celebrated in the arts. The Obama government does a huge disservice to this dangerously declining nation by provoking even more dissolution of social boundaries at a time when we have so many other converging problems of polity to contend with.

This is the great contradiction, by the way, of Donald Trump. He has captured the attention of so many voters by invoking the case of our “broken border” with Mexico — a political boundary that is simple enough for most citizens to understand. But Trump himself actually operates by smashing the boundaries erected by his own party for acceptable political conduct. Thus, Trump perfectly personifies the nation’s essential predicament: America has a borderline personality. It is a danger to itself and others.

 


James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

The Days After Tomorrow 2: The Thunderbird Lesson

Thunderbird-Sitegc2smOff the keyboard of Thomas Lewis

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Thunderbird-Site

 

A 1985 on-site reconstruction of the oldest known human habitation on the North American continent, used by Paleo-Indians in what is now the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. What they were doing there, for 12,000 years, could be a lesson for us all. (Photo by Douglas Campbell/Flickr)

 

Published on The Daily Impact on May 3, 2016


When we talk about re-ordering human life to suppress the sicknesses that have brought the planet to the brink of destruction — greed, heedless exploitation of limited resources, and so on — the discussion often founders on claims that these traits are fixed in human nature or to put it in more modern techno-jargon, they are “hard wired” in our brains and/or in our genes. So it doesn’t matter, it is argued, \ how we try to organize society, human nature will assert itself and a few years after the total crash of industrial society someone will invent a futures market and away we go again. One of the reasons that I will never buy that argument is that I have been to the Thunderbird Site.

****

If you were to drive 70 miles straight west of Washington D.C. on Interstate 66, over the Blue Ridge to the town of Front Royal, Virginia, and then south for about five miles on Route 340, not far past the entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway, you’d be there. Not that you’d know it, there’s nothing to be seen in the area except a junkyard. Find the two-track dirt road that leads down toward the South Fork of the Shenandoah River.

There’s a shallow part of the river there, it was used as a ford back in the day, and you should pick your way across the river (on foot, dammit, park that BMW) and on the opposite bank walk downriver, north, maybe half a mile, and there you will be. Standing on the site of the oldest known human habitations on the North American continent. On a site that appears to have been used continually for 12,000 years.

Interesting enough, as is the story of its discovery in the 1960s by amateur archaeologists, its ratification and excavation in the 1970s by teams led by Dr. William Gardner of Catholic University, of the opening of the Thunderbird Museum as a window into the life of North American Paleo-Indians not long after they crossed the land bridge from Mongolia. The glaciers of the Ice Age were still in Pennsylvania when they started to use this site.

But for our purposes, the truly fascinating thing is why they were using this site, and how. The technology that made their lives possible was based on stone — stone that could be not only shaped, but sharpened, into arrow and spear points, knives, scrapers, choppers and drills. Only certain rock, with a high content of quartz, can be worked to form a lasting, cutting edge. Jasper, like flint, was one of those rocks and just across the river from the site of the shelters is a large, easily accessible outcrop of jasper. There were only about half a dozen of them in what is now Virginia. Knowing where they were, and getting to them at least once a year, was essential to the survival of the People.

Probably once a year, and probably in the winter, the bands would come to the Thunderbird Site so their stoneworkers could pore over the jasper outcrop, seeking cobbles suitable for working into the tools of their life. When they had replenished their materials, they left.

Let’s review. The jasper outcrop was the source of all the tools needed for the survival of all the people living in a big chunk of what is now Virginia. It was used by the people from 9,500 BC to 1760 AD. And the outcrop is still there!

Don’t get ahead of me. The fact that they did not exhaust the jasper is not due to any high-mindedness on the part of the people. They took what they needed and left the rest, true, but most likely because they could not carry any more rock away than they did.

No, what electrified me about the jasper outcrop is that for 12,000 years people sustained their lives with that rock and in all that time there is no evidence that any one group of people tried to claim it and to deny it or sell it to others. You know what would have happened if any group of French, Spanish or English explorers had stumbled on the jasper and had understood its value to the people. (It’s hard to estimate which event is less likely, since they recognized only silver and gold as valuable and didn’t think of the natives as people.) Overnight you would have had a palisade, an armed guard, and we would be commemorating the site of the very first payday loan store in North America.

Please don’t try to convince me that humans are incapable of valuing something without exploiting it, without converting it to “money” in order to profit from it, without claiming it for their group and denying it to others. I know better. I’ve been to the Thunderbird Site.

 


Thomas Lewis is a nationally recognized and reviewed author of six books, a broadcaster, public speaker and advocate of sustainable living. He also is Editor of The Daily Impact website, and former artist-in-residence at Frostburg State University. He has written several books about collapse issues, including Brace for Impact and Tribulation. Learn more about them here.

The New Normal: Cold War 2.0

New Normalgc2smFrom the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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New Normal

Originally published in Sputnik on May 6, 2016

 


We are all living in Hybrid War time. From R2P (“responsibility to protect”) to color revolutions, from currency attacks to stock market manipulations.

From judicial-financial-political-media enabled “soft” coups – as in Brazil – to support for “moderate” jihadis, multiple stages of Hybrid War now cross-pollinate and generate a vortex of new mutant viruses.

 

From left, Norwegian support vessel Valkyrien, Belgian mine-hunter Belis, Norwegian minesweeper Otra, Dutch mine-hunter Makkum and Estonian mine-hunter Admiral Cowen form a convoy during a NATO deployment in the Baltic Sea along the German Coast, Tuesday, April 22, 2014

© AP PHOTO/ GERO BRELOER

Hybrid War, a Beltway concept, has even been turned upside down by the conceptualizers. NATO, affecting puzzlement at the very existence of the concept, interprets the Russian “invasion” of Ukraine as Hybrid War. That serves prime Hybrid War purveyors such as the RAND corporation to take it further, peddling war game scenarios of Russia being able to invade and conquer the Baltic states — Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — in less than 60 hours.

And that, in turn, foments even more Western military hysteria, encapsulated by the new NATO commander, a.k.a. Dr. Strangelove; Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, who made sure he would come up with a stage entrance worthy of his predecessor, Philip Breedlove/ Breedhate. 

Slightly amused at the whole conceptual circus, Russians respond with actions. Extra deployments in our Western borderlands? No problem; here’s your asymmetrical answer. And say hello, soon, to our new toy: the S-500s.

What Hillary wants

The notion that Moscow would have any interest at all to capture Baltic states is ludicrous in itself. But with the evidence of direct occupation of Afghanistan (the Taliban will never quit) and R2P in Libya (a failed state devastated by militias) spelling miserable failure, NATO badly needs a “success”. Enter warmongering rhetoric and conceptual manipulation – and this when it’s actually Washington that is deploying Hybrid War all across the chessboard.

US Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti U.S. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti

© AP PHOTO/ CAROLYN KASTER, FILE

Reality occurs beyond NATO’s looking glass. Russia is way ahead of the Pentagon/NATO in A2AD — anti-access/area denial; Russian missiles and submarines may easily prevent NATO fighter jets from flying in Central Europe and NATO ships from “patrolling” the Baltic Sea. For the “indispensable nation”, that hurts – so bad.

Relentless rhetorical hysteria masks the real high-stakes game in play. And that’s where US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton fits in. Throughout her campaign, Clinton has extolled “a major strategic objective of our transatlantic alliance”. The major “strategic objective” is none other than the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – a NATO-on-trade complementing political and military NATO.

The fact that TTIP, after the latest Dutch leaks, now runs the risk of being mired in Walking Dead territory may be a temporary setback. The imperial “project” is clear; to configure NATO, which already mutated into a global Robocop (Afghanistan, Libya, Syria), into an integrated political-economic-commercial-military alliance. Always under Washington’s command, of course. And including key peripheral vassals/contributors, such as the Gulf petromonarchies and Israel.

The imperial “enemy”, of course, would have to be the only authentic project available for the 21st century: Eurasia integration – which ranges from the Chinese-led New Silk Roads to the Russia-led Eurasia Economic Union; BRICS integration, which includes their New Development Bank (NDB), in tandem with the Chinese Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB); a resurgent, still independent Iran – Eurasia-connected; and all other independent poles among Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) nations. 

 

Activists stage mock talks as they demonstrate against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and the USA outside the European Parliament at Luxembourg Place in Brussels on February 24, 2016.

This is the ultimate, ongoing 21st confrontation that will keep generating multiple, localized hybrid warfare forms – as it takes place not only across Eurasia but across the whole Global South. It’s all interlocked – from Maidan to the secret TTIP negotiations; from provoking China in the South China Sea to an oil price war and an attack on the ruble; from the NSA spying on Petrobras feeding a slow motion, legalistic regime change process in Brazil to an EU ravaged by twin plagues; a refugee crisis ultimately provoked by NATO’s wars (and instrumentalized by Turkey) coupled with Salafi-jhadi terrorism also spawned by the same wars. 

Even with France and Germany still dithering – as in paying too heavy a price for sanctions on Russia — Washington’s “project” counts on a ravaged EU being a perpetual hostage of NATO. And ultimately, a hostage of NATO on trade – because of those US geostrategic imperatives against Eurasia integration. 

This implies another necessity; the conceptual war – it’s the evil Russians who are waging Hybrid War, not us! —  must be won at all costs, by instilling constant fear into the average EU citizen. In parallel, it’s also essential to put on a show; thus one of the most massive US-designed military operations on European soil since the end of the Cold War – complete with Navy and Air Force displaying nuclear capability. 

This is the new normal; Cold War 2.0, 24/7.  

 


PepePepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

McFarland, USA

Anthony-Freda_empty-kingdomgc2sm From the keyboard of Morris Berman
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Anthony-Freda_empty-kingdom

Published on Dark Ages America on January 9, 2016


It occasionally bothered me that I had lived for a number of years in Mexico and had published several books, none of which were about the country in which I was living. Indeed, I had spent 2011-14 sweating over a long, fairly complicated cultural analysis of Japan. Recently, I was asked to give a talk to the sales personnel at the book chain Gandhi, in Mexico City (Mexico’s equivalent of Barnes & Noble), about my work, and in the question-and-answer period that followed one member of the audience asked me how it was that I hadn't written about my adopted country. I felt somewhat guilty. 

"You're right," I replied; "I have no excuse. After all, I've been here for nine years. Maybe next year I'll move to Tokyo and write a book about Mexico."

Ha ha. Everybody laughed. But it may not be all that funny, and the question, as in the past, nagged at me. It might have been that I felt I had nothing new to say about Mexico, about which so much has been written. I mean, was I seriously going to rehash Cortés, sincretismo, Lázaro Cárdenas, and the emergence of the modern state? It didn't really appeal.

And yet, thinking I had nothing new to say didn't stop me in the case of Japan (and as it turned out, I was wrong); and in that case, I couldn't even read the language. So what was the problem? I kept scratching my head until, quite by accident (or synchronicity?), I happened to see a Kevin Costner film called McFarland, USA, released in the United States early in 2015. While not a documentary, the film is a true story, about a football coach named Jim White who accepted a position at the local high school of a dreary, 100%-Hispanic town in the Central (San Joaquin) Valley of California in 1987. He hated it, and took the job only because he had no other options. His students typically got up at 4:30 a.m. and worked as fruit and vegetable pickers—backbreaking labor for miserable wages—after which, at around 8 a.m., they went off to school. All Jim White wanted was the American Dream: to get out of this low-paying job and move up the socioeconomic ladder. The tension in the story, and its central theme, revolves around the Mexican/Chicano vs. US value-systems, i.e. warmth (the traditional Hispanic family structure and culture) vs. power (the go-go world of US capitalism).

But this tension, I realized, was an old theme for me, going back to 1981: The Reenchantment of the World, a study of the collapse of the magical tradition in Western Europe and the concomitant rise of modern science. Much of my book on Japan, for example, is an exploration of the conflict between the ancient Zen craft tradition and the imposition of modern US values that had eventually turned the country into an economic powerhouse at the cost of driving the Japanese people somewhat crazy (hence the title, Neurotic Beauty). Was Mexico so different? As the film ended, I recalled the words of Porfirio Díaz, that Mexico's problem was that it was tan cerca de los Estados Unidos, i.e. too close to the United States, and also a study by Professor William Vega at the University of California, Berkeley, which revealed that the rate of mental illness among Mexicans living in the US was almost exactly twice that of Mexicans living in Mexico. The theme of modernity vs. tradition is a very rich one, representing a conflict with no easy answers, and which is not likely to get resolved any time soon. Was it perhaps time for me to be examining it in a Mexican context? Had I finally found the topic of my "Mexico book"? Let me, then, talk a bit about the Costner movie, and the questions that I think it raises.

Of course, "Mr. White" is a rather ironic name for an American who moves into an all-Hispanic town, and in fact his students take to calling him "Blanco." Everything is alien to the White family: the language, the food, the entire way of life. Upon arriving at the house they have rented, they find a mural painted on the wall of the living room, of a beautiful indígena woman, a Mother Earth archetype, holding out a platter of fruit and vegetables and surrounded by flowers—a symbol of nurturing, sustenance, female wisdom. White's reaction is, "Paint store, first thing tomorrow!" Going to the only diner in town, they don't know what chorizo is, or what enchiladas are, and play it safe with tacos, which they presumably are familiar with from Taco Bell. And so on. It's as though they are walking across the surface of the moon.

White, in any case, discovers that while the football team is basically useless, not having won a game in decades, the school has a number of kids who can run like the wind, and so persuades the principal to launch a cross-country running team. In a series of endearing adventures, he whips his charges into shape, until they actually win the first annual cross-country state championship. (In real life, White coached his teams to victory 9 out of 14 times between 1987 and 2001.) He also gets the boys to start thinking about college, so that they don't have to remain pickers for nothing wages all their lives; and in fact all 7 of the boys (on the 1987 team) went on to graduate college and become teachers, coaches, policemen, and so on—solid middle-class jobs. The dirt-poor Chicanos, with White's help, thus make it into El sueño americano, the American Dream.

The impact White has on these kids is actually quite significant. For what was the alternative to the American Dream, if not stagnation, poverty, or worse? As one of the other teachers says to White, pointing to the building next door to the school, "That's the town prison. Handy, no?" But a few months later, she comes to White's office to read him a poem written by one of his runners, José Cárdenas (who later became a writer for the Los Angeles Times): 

"We fly like blackbirds through the orange groves/floating on a warm wind./When we run, we own the earth;/the land is ours./We speak the birds' language,/immigrants no more./Not stupid Mexicans./When we run, our spirits fly./We speak to the gods./When we run, we are the gods."

"Welcome to McFarland, Blanco," she says to White.

White takes the boys to the ocean for the first time in their lives, and he gives them a sense of pride. "You kids have the biggest hearts I've ever seen," he tells them. And they begin to see themselves that way as well, and to open their minds to the wider world.

It's all very moving, and perhaps a bit too romantic—the film was made by the Disney Corporation, after all—and falls into the very successful Hollywood category known as the "White Savior" genre. Kevin Costner is hardly new to this role, having played it brilliantly many years ago inDances with Wolves, in which he protects a branch of the Sioux Indians from an American Army intent on destroying them, and from which he deserted. (In the wake of the film, the Sioux Nation adopted him as an honorary member of the tribe.) The criticism of this genre is that it is patronizing: in order for the "natives" to be saved, a white male (usually) figure has to come in from the outside and organize/liberate them, since (the implication is) they would not be able to do this for themselves. (See also The Last Samurai, Avatar, and a whole host of American inner-city schoolteacher films.) However, a crucial element in most of the White Savior films is that the Savior himself gets saved, gets liberated in the process. Thus at the same time that Jim White's students enter the American Dream, he himself finds reason to reject it in favor of the lifestyle and values of traditional Mexican society. To my mind, this redeems the film (as well as White), and highlights the conflict of traditional vs. modern cultures. Let's look at a few examples from the movie.

-The mural of the Great Mother painted on the wall, which White said he would paint over. When he finally gets around to doing it, several weeks later, entering the room with two buckets of paint, his younger daughter tells him, "Don't even think about it." Clearly, the image has begun to percolate through the family's consciousness. (Compare this with the Starbucks computer-generated logo of the Great Mother archetype, which is nothing more than an empty corporate image. Sad to say, many Mexicans have bought into this trendy US lifestyle, sitting in cafés that have spread across Mexico like a cancer, hypnotically staring into their laptops, and drinking bad, overpriced coffee. Progress?)

-The town embraces the White family. A neighbor gives Jim a chicken. The Díaz family has him over to dinner, stuffs him with enchiladas, and gives him food to take home. "You are not family unless you eat with them," Sra. Díaz tells him. (Do even 10% of US families eat together anymore?)

-Over and over we see the town engaged in group rather than individual activities, such as a combination car wash and tamale sale, that the White family is drawn into.

-The town makes a quinceañera (coming-of-age party for girls) for Julie, Jim's older daughter, which overwhelms him, emotionally. "Gracias por todo," he tearfully announces in Spanish, to all who attended the event.

-Meanwhile, Jim comes to the attention of a rich white high school in Palo Alto, which offers him a coaching job. One of his runners finds out (from Julie, who is not happy about this), and confronts him about it: "Were you going to even tell us?" he asks, "or were you going to just run off into the sunset with those country club kids? We all get it: This is America. Gotta go bigger. Nicer place, better pay; everyone's always gonna go for the better everything. There ain't nothing American Dream about McFarland."

Jim says to his wife, regarding the job offer: "This is the situation we've always dreamed about." His wife replies: "Think of everything the town has done for us. They have protected Julie like family. You think we are going to find that in Palo Alto, or anywhere else [in the US] for that matter? Nowhere I've ever lived has felt this much like home."

-Then come the state playoffs, and Jim leads the opening cheer for the team—in Spanish: "Uno, dos, tres, McFarland!" he cries. After the match, he tells the recruiter from Palo Alto that he won't be taking the job. Jim White lives in McFarland to this day.

The psychologist Fritz Perls liked to tell the story of a Mexican farm worker who swam across the Rio Grande in search of work. Come Christmas, he swam back to visit his family, who wanted to know all about life in the mythical United States. "Well," he tells them, "the gringos are actually very nice people. There is only one thing that gets them angry: they don't like to be reminded that they are corpses."

And so the flip side of the White Savior, who breaks open a closed, dead-end life for his students, so that they can enter the American Dream, is that Jim himself becomes disenchanted with that super-individualistic, alienating dream, in which people are turned into the walking dead. He becomes, in other words, a human being.

Of course, a lot of Mexican life gets omitted from this picture. My neighbors across the street from me in Mexico are cold and rude, and used to toss their garbage off their balcony down to my front door, until a series of hostile exchanges put an end to it (more or less). In terms of being supportive as regards success, a Mexican friend told me that the society is like a pot of crabs: if one of them manages to get to the top and tries to climb out, the others pull him back down. (One of the runners' fathers in the film reacts to his son's desire to go to college by telling him, "No one needs a book in the fields".) ReviewingMcFarland, the New York Times wrote that places like McFarland are often "nightmares of crime and dysfunction," and that the film is really "a slick and safe Disney version of a fascinating and complicated reality." If the movie expresses an important truth in terms of a conflict of values, it also papers over the dark side of traditional societies as well.

As for the American Dream: it works, in this film, but by and large it is a con, as Mexicans coming up to the US (legally or illegally) eventually find out. There is the study by William Vega, mentioned above, which surely says a lot about how psychologically damaging US culture is for Mexican immigrants. And what jobs are available to them, in any case? I am reminded of that song from West Side Story, "America," in which the Puerto Ricans say that now they are free—"to wait tables and shine shoes." It goes on:

"Skyscrapers bloom in America/Cadillacs zoom in America/Industry boom in America/Twelve in a room in America!" (Etc.)

In fact, it turns out that a rather heavy reverse migration has set in, such that between 2005 and 2010, 1.4 million immigrants moved backto Mexico from the US, and 90% of these voluntarily. According to Alysa Hullett, an American reporter living in Oaxaca, these folks are lonely and miss their own culture. One immigrant she interviewed in Washington State complained that it took him eight months to meet his neighbors, whereas in Mexico City, “the whole street piles into one house for dinner.” Clearly, things have changed. A 2014 Pew Research Center survey discovered that 65% of Mexicans say they would notmove to the US if they had the means and opportunity to do so.

Surely, values must have a lot to do with this. At around the same time that Jim White was coaching his cross-country team in McFarland, Kevin Conway, owner of one of the largest farming operations in the San Joaquin Valley, was telling the American anthropologist Daniel Rothenberg:

“We’re in business to make money and bankrupt our competitors. That’s why we exist. We don’t exist for the benefit of the farming community. We don’t give a damn about the farming community. We don’t believe in promoting agriculture in general, so that all may benefit. We believe in promoting our label.”

A pretty good summary of the American ethos, it seems to me: life is about me, myself, and I; about making money, and not much else. This is the stark reality that the Mexican immigrant encounters.

As Rothenberg documents it in his book With These Hands, Mexican workers come up to the United States with images in their head of the country as a type of paradise: they are going to make a fortune up north and then return home and live like kings. It’s not a total fantasy: material life has improved for many towns in Mexico, as a result of migrant labor. But what most migrants typically get caught up in is a system of brutal exploitation—among the worst faced by the American working class. They often live in shantytowns, work 14 to 16 hours a day, make very little money, have their wages stolen from them, and are frequently subject to severe physical violence. Over the years there has been a lot of legislation attempting to curb these abuses, but as Rothenberg notes, given the “floating” nature of the farm labor system, these laws are very difficult to enforce.

There is also a heavy social and psychological cost in terms of value systems, according to Rothenberg. In Michoacán, Rodolfo Gutierrez, a student at a local university, told him: “I know a lot of guys from here who’ve gone north and returned really different, really cholo. They change—their personalities, their ideas, their clothes—their whole way of being. When they come back, they don’t show their parents the same respect.”

Also in Michoacán, Alberto Mosquera, a priest-in-training, said of the migrants that they “often lose their sense of community obligation. Their goals become individualistic and their attitudes become characteristic of North American culture. The men invest in their homes, but not in their community.”

The larger picture is that the imposition of neoliberal economics, and the American Dream, on traditional societies—whether we are talking about India, or Mexico, or Japan—allows a certain sliver of the middle class to rise to near-elite status, but at the expense of the rest of the population, and this then tears at the fabric of those societies. During the first two years of President Peña Nieto's sexenia (2012-14), 2 million more Mexicans fell below the poverty line, and Carlos Slim's personal wealth is equal to something like the combined wealth of the bottom 17 million people. This is the real upshot of the "meritocratic society," that the gap between rich and poor gets greater, not less, despite all the hype. Social mobility is largely an illusion, and certainly in the United States, which has nearly the lowest rate of social mobility among all the industrialized nations in the world, if not actually the lowest.

As for tradition vs. modernity, Oxford professor Terry Eagleton has this to say in his brilliant essay, The Illusions of Postmodernism:

"'Traditional' or pre-modern societies have a great many merits which our own set-ups lack…On the whole they have a richer sense of place, community and tradition, less social anomie, less cut-throat competition and tormented ambition, less subjection to a ruthlessly instrumental rationality and so on. On the other hand…they are often desperately impoverished, culturally claustrophobic, socially hidebound and patriarchal, and without much sense of the autonomous individual. Modernity has precisely such a sense of free individual development, with all the spiritual wealth that this brings with it; it also begins to hatch notions of human equality and universal rights largely unknown to its forebears. But we also know that this is the more civilized face of a barbarous uncaring order, one which sunders all significant relations between its members, deprives them of precious symbolic resources and persuades them to mistake the means of life for the ends of it." (Italics mine)

All I can conclude, at this point in time, is that too much traditionalism—what anthropologists call "hypercoherence"—leads to stagnation, and too much individualism and enterprise leads to chaos and alienation. Balance is finally the issue, which is one thing I took away fromMcFarland. In terms of values, Jim White was living at one extreme, his students at another. The collision of the two ways of life modified both, for the better. The real question is what this might mean on a larger political scale. For surely to have nearly half the country stuck in poverty while a small elite pursues the American Dream, can in no way be called "balance." It is, in fact, a disaster, and confronts us with a question that I, as a foreigner who has made Mexico his home, think about quite often: What would true success for Mexico be, and how is it to be achieved?

©Morris Berman, 2015


Morris Berman is well known as an innovative cultural historian and social critic. He has taught at a number of universities in Europe and North America, and has held visiting endowed chairs at Incarnate Word College (San Antonio), the University of New Mexico, and Weber State University. During 1982-88 he was the Lansdowne Professor in the History of Science at the University of Victoria, British Columbia. Berman won the Governor’s Writers Award for Washington State in 1990, the Rollo May Center Grant for Humanistic Studies in 1992, and the Neil Postman Award for Career Achievement in Public Intellectual Activity (from the Media Ecology Association) in 2013. He is the author of a trilogy on the evolution of human consciousness–-The Reenchantment of the World (1981), Coming to Our Senses (1989), and Wandering God: A Study in Nomadic Spirituality (2000)–and in 2000 his Twilight of American Culture was named a “Notable Book” by the New York Times Book Review.

Welcome to ‘Walking Dead Europe’

Migrantsgc2smFrom the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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Migrants

Migrants wait to board buses to take them onwards to the train station, from the border crossing in Nickelsdorf, Austria.

© Srdjan Zivulovic / Reuters

Originally published in RT on April12, 2016

 


Citizens of the EU – as in vibrant civil society manifesting in an array of nations – are increasingly keen on ditching the political EU, whose only functioning trait remains its status as a giant market.

The rest is chaos: The euro is now synonymous with massive unemployment; Europeans aged 18-34 qualifying themselves as a “lost” or at least “sacrificed” generation; European “values” diluted by the rise of the populist extreme-right; “pacifism” transmuted into hot and cold war – from Syria to Russia; and European cities, from Paris to Brussels, under Salafi-jihadi assault.

Call it Walking Dead Europe

Walking Dead Europe manifests itself in myriad ways – from a “No” to a referendum in the Netherlands to the creeping possibility of Brexit. Now add to this the ultimate insult a stark fact: What could the EU possibly offer to the world as a vision when it subcontracts the security gates of Fortress Europe to the wily, carpet-dealing antics of Turkey’s Sultan Erdogan?

Even avowed Europeanists such as Le Monde – a former great newspaper turned Empire of Chaos-cheerleading rag – are now distilling long essays about the malaise.

As much as the fascination with declining empires may still hold sway (it’s so chic to digress about it, Death in Venice-style, sipping Cristal and eating Iranian caviar), seasoned veterans at the European Commission (EU) in Brussels cannot but avow their perplexity when confronted to the EU machine’s death wish.

It’s always easy to forget that the EU project was born in May 1950 as a common market; common coal and steel rendering impossible a new war between France and Germany, everything guaranteed by the American protector. This de facto American security protectorate implied NATO, from the start, was the real deal – much more than the budding mini-EU expanding under the aegis of Pax Americana and the largely manufactured fear implicit in the Cold War.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the EU incrementally opened its doors to virtually every European newcomer. The official spin was the dissemination of “peace” and those Enlightenment “values”. In practice, it meant NATO expansion coupled with zillions of euros to “rebuild” and “modernize” mostly Eastern Europe.

The expansion dementia even reached Turkey and Ukraine – everything micromanaged under NATO’s Mob-style protection racket, of course, which now imposes the official Brussels narrative that the New Cold War was launched by“Russian aggression”.

And what about those “values”? Germany has just demonstrated, instructively, how they now lie in a funeral pyre – as Chancellor Merkel first opened the doors to the refugee flood unleashed by Ankara just to abruptly close it by de facto killing the right of political asylum.

Cynics are right to argue whether this is in any way any different from Donald Trump and his Wall of Mexico.

Hop on the Thalys to doom

The enlightened debate – say, in Brussels, Berlin and Paris – is whether the Brussels supranational institutions have been rendered terminally inefficient by unruly nation-states. Yet the next minute blame is apportioned en masse to the Eastern Europeans – especially Hungary, Poland and Slovakia – and their practice of “illiberal democracy”. Wealthy liberal Western Europe is of course spared.

A practical consequence of this logic, sooner rather than later, would be Berlin deciding to curb aid to Eastern Europe; 15 billion euros a year for Poland alone.

What Eastern Europeans know for sure is that they’d rather go down, but the last thing they want is to leave the EU. In the Polish case, for instance, it would be unrivaled masochism to want to be immolated in a rack controlled, on each side, by historical enemies Germany and Russia.

So the dream of a federal Europe may be dead; what is the EU good for, apart from allowing a proliferation of EasyJets to Club Med destinations? It’s true that the system of production in Europe is now too integrated; unraveling it would be immensely costly. Every morning the Thalys trains from Paris continue to be crammed with players who come to do business with the EC. Yet even if the EU survives – two-speed, even three-speed – the euro is a different proposition. If the euro collapses the common market would be destroyed.

According to the Maastricht Treaty, every member-nation pledged to police its own finances. It’s not exactly what happened. Now the EU is trying Maastricht upside down – from a creaky banking union to the European Central Bank (ECB) addicted to “massive interventions”.

Sharp minds in Brussels admit the euro is on a Catch 22. Without a federal budget, and without “massive aid” from more flush members, austerity – not diamonds – is forever; and the victims will always be the poorest members. So even as Europe cannot get rid of the euro – European banks would be incapable of setting up a rational dissolution – the only way out, that is, further integration, is paralyzed.

Sleepwalking to mediocrity

The tragic Greek financial crisis demonstrated that the troika could impose what amounted to welfare and education“reforms” with absolute impunity over a sovereign state. That represented, in practice, some form of “integration” – but always under the aegis of the troika’s “enlightened” despotism. In consequence, Brussels could not but lose even more of its political legitimacy.

Sharp minds at the EC, off the record, admit that the battle over Europe will be, in fact, juridical. The EC is now immersed in a Dadaist make-believe exercise of convincing everyone the Schengen rules still apply. Even if they don't. Even if there’s no free circulation inside Schengen anymore. Even if Hungary and Slovakia, for instance, directly contested the decision by the Council of Europe dividing migrants among member states.

And further trouble looms ahead if Germany decides against further eurozone integration in case the German taxpayer must carry an“out of proportion” burden.

Former European commissioner Pascal Lamy is among those deeply vexed by the EU’s loss of influence, the erosion of those prized“values”, the loss of identity face to face with Americans, Russians and Chinese.

Well, for the War Party in the Beltway, Europe is irrelevant anyway; a sweet and pliable Venus unable to influence Mars. As for the Russians and Chinese – now embarked in a strategic partnership – what matters is to do plenty of good business with Europe, assuming Europeans still know how to identify a win-win. Usually they can’t because of many reasons, including ideological myopia, mediocrity and/or plain stupidity displayed by the EU’s political leadership.

What lies ahead is not pretty. There is an element of The Sleepwalkers – Christopher Clark’s masterful account of how Europe marched to war in 1914. But mostly, a low-budget American show gave away the game. This is Walking Dead Europe.


PepePepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

The Mystery Revealed

smoke and mirrors freda gc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler

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                                                                     Anthony Freda                        

Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation April 11, 2016

 


The mystery is at last revealed: why does the field of candidates for president score so uniformly low in trust, credibility, likeability? Why are there no candidates of real substance, principle, and especially of real charm in this scrim of political basilisks? (Surely there are many people of substance and principle elsewhere in America — they just don’t dare seek the job at the symbolic tippy-top of this clusterfuck of faltering rackets.) The reason is that the problems are unfixable, at least not within the acceptable terms of the zeitgeist, namely: the secret wish to keep all the rackets going at all costs.

This is true, by the way, of all parties concerned from the 0.001 percent billionaire grifter class to the deluded sophomores crying for “safe spaces” in their womb-like “student life centers” to the sports-and-porn addled suburban multitudes stuck with impossible mortgage, car, and college loan debts (and, suddenly, no paying job) to the deluded Black Lives Matter mobs who have failed to notice that black lives matter least to the black people slaughtering each other over sneakers and personal slights. None of these groups really want to change anything. They actually wish to preserve their prerogatives.

The interests of the 0.001 percent are obvious: maintain those streams of unearned, rentier, notional wealth as long as possible and convert them as fast as possible into hard assets (Caribbean islands, Cézanne landscapes, gold bars) that will theoretically insulate them from the wrath of history when the center no longer holds. The poor (and ever-poorer) formerly middle class suburban debt serfs, for all their travails, can’t imagine living any other way or putting less of their dwindling capital into the Happy Motoring matrix. The Maoist Social Justice Warrior students are enjoying the surprising power and thrills of coercion, especially as directed against their simpering professors and cringing college presidents anxious to sustain the illusion that something like learning takes place in the money laundering operations of higher ed. The Black Lives Matter crowd just wants to be excused from their failure to follow standards of decent behavior and to keep mau-mauing the other ethnic groups of America for material and political tribute.

It must be obvious that the next occupant of the White House will preside over the implosion of all these arrangements since, in the immortal words of economist Herb Stein, if something can’t go on forever, it will stop. So the only individuals left seeking the position are 1) An inarticulate reality TV buffoon; 2) a war-happy evangelical maniac; 3) a narcissistic monster of entitlement whose “turn” it is to hold the country’s highest office; and 4) a valiant but quixotic self-proclaimed socialist altacocker who might have walked off the set of Welcome Back Kotter, 40th Reunion Special. These are the ones left standing halfway to the conventions. Nobody else in his, her, it, xe, or they right mind wants to be handed this schwag-bag of doom.

On Saturday, the unstoppable Democratic shoo-in Hillary lost her 7th straight contest to the only theoretically electable Vermont Don Quixote, Bernie Sanders. This was a week after it was reported in The Huff-Po that her campaign crew literally bought-and-paid for the entire 50-state smorgasbord of super-delegates who will supposedly compensate for Hillary’s inability to otherwise win votes the old-fashioned way, by ballots cast. Wonder why that didn’t make nary a ripple in the media afterward? Because this is the land where anything goes and nothing matters, and that’s really all you need to know about how things work in the USA these days.

The Republican mandarins are apparently delirious over loose cannon Donald Trump’s flagging poll numbers in the remaining primary states. Should Trump fall on his face, do you think they’ll just hand Ted Cruz the Ronald Reagan Crown-and-Scepter set? (They’d rather lock Ted in the back of a Chevy cargo van with five Mexican narcos and a chain saw.) The GOP establishment insiders are already lighting cigars in preparation for the biggest smoke-filled room in US political history, Cleveland, July 20. But what poor shmo will they have to drag to the podium to get this odious thing done? Who wants to be the guy in the Oval Office when Janet Yellen comes in some muggy DC morning and says, “Uh, sir (ma’am)… that sucker you heard was gonna go down…? Well, uh, it just did.”

As for the Dems: they are about to anoint the most unpopular candidate of our lifetimes. The BLM mobs have promised to deliver mayhem to the streets of the party conventions and don’t think they will spare Hillary in Philary, no matter how many chitlins she scarfed down last month in Carolina. The action in Philly will unleash and reveal all the deadly power of President Obama’s NSA goon squads when the militarized police put down the riots, and Hillary will be tagged guilty by association.

And that is how Kim Kardashian gets elected president.


James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

Dance to the Panama Papers ‘Limited Hangout’ Leak

putin gc2smFrom the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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putin

Originally published in Telesur on April 5, 2016


Calling out around the world; time to put on your made in Ecuador Panama hat and frantically start dancing to the ultimate limited hangout leak.

And if you believe in the purity of intentions of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) at the center of the leak, I’ve got a made in Shenzhen Panama hat to sell you (disclosure: I never was, and never will be, a member of the ICIJ).

The Washington-based ICIJ gets its cash and its "organizational procedure" via the Exceptionalistan-based, Orwellian-named Center for Public Integrity. The funds flow mostly from the Ford Foundation, the Carnegie Endowment, the Rockefeller Family Fund, the Kellogg Foundation and the George Soros-owned Open Society.

Then there is Eastern Europe-based partner organization OCCRP, an even more Orwellian outfit self-styled as playing some sort of progressive, alternative media role. OCCRP is funded by Soros and USAID.

And finally there’s this fictional land named Panama – a certified U.S. vassal. Absolutely nothing of real substance happens in Panama without a green light by the United States government. Or, as an international tax lawyer told me, “you have to be an idiot to stash money in Panama. You cannot flush a toilet there without the Americans knowing about it.”

This sets the scene for the Panama Papers leak – a massive hoard of 11.5 million documents allegedly leaked from someone inside offshore heavies Mossack Fonseca to the center-left, NATO-friendly Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper in Munich and then shared by the ICIJ with selected mainstream media partners.

Even without a smoking gun, a case can be made this alleged most massive leak ever was obtained by – what else – U.S. intel. This is the kind of stuff the NSA excels at. The NSA is able to break into virtually any database and/or archives anywhere; they steal “secrets;” and then selectively destroy/blackmail/protect assets and “enemies,” according to USG interests.

Absolutely nothing of real substance happens in Panama without a green light by the United States government.

That’s the essence of a limited hangout sold to public opinion as a serious corruption investigation. And that’s where Western corporate media enters the scene, protecting whatever 0.00000001 percent honcho is caught in the net, as well as sacrificing some disposable pawns.

So we have over 300 reporters pouring over hundreds of thousands of document/files for over an interminable year with, miraculously, no leaks whatsoever; just for a bunch of corporate mainstream media hacks meticulously cherry picked stories and decide what is “newsworthy." Western alternative media would have investigated the data without sparing anyone; but it would be out of the question to grant them access.

What’s already certain is that the full extent of the Panama leak will never be known. Even the by now exceedingly pathetic The Guardian admitted, on the record, that "much of the leaked material will remain private". Why? Because it may – inadvertently and directly – implicate a gaggle of Western 0.00000001 percent multibillionaires and corporations. All of them play the offshore casino game (although not necessarily in Panama.)

So the Panama Papers, stripped to the bone, may reveal themselves essentially as an infowar operation by the NSA – targeted mostly against “enemies” (as in the BRICS nations) and selected disposable pawns; a weaponized psyops posing as an 'activist leak', straight from the Hybrid War playbook.

Step on the Monster Truck

A who’s who of wealthy/powerful players has been directly targeted in the Panama Papers, from the – demented – King of Saudi Arabia to former Fiat/Ferrari stalwart Luca de Montezemolo, from Lionel Messi to (unnamed) Chinese Communist Party officials and the brother-in-law of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Extra-juicy element is provided by the presence of Alaa Mubarak – the son of the deposed Egyptian snake; Ayad Allawi, the butcher of Fallujah and former U.S. occupation prime minister; Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (a Saudi protégé, so he must get offshore advice as well); and Dov Weisglass, the butcher of Gaza and former advisor to Israeli Prime Ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert (this one already convicted of corruption.) These are all disposable.

We find in the list not only Middle Eastern racketeers but also the token “respectable” European – from Iceland’s Prime Minister (already forced to resign) to David Cameron’s father Ian. And some players that might be considered Exceptionalistan’s friends, such as vulture fund-friendly Argentina President Mauricio Macri and chocolate heavyweight cum Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who has a lot of funds parked in the British Virgin Islands.

Predictably, particular emphasis is on BRICS members – from those mysterious Chinese to Indian companies. As far as Brazil is concerned, there may be a healthy counterpoint; the presence of notoriously corrupt leader of the lower house Eduardo Cunha; his Swiss accounts had surfaced after the HSBC leaks, now some more showed up on the Panama Leaks.

Still to be explained is a juicy Brazilian-related angle; whether the Panama Leaks are directly related to the fact that Ramon Fonseca, 50 percent of Mossack Fonseca, was dismissed as president of the Panameñista Party last month because of Operation Car Wash – which targets mostly the ruling Workers’ Party in Brazil. The Panama Papers are in fact a Monster Truck, global version of Car Wash.

Lula, predictably, is not on the Panama list – to the despair of the Exceptionalistan-supported regime changers in Brazil, many of them (media barons, bankers, businessmen) featured on the previous HSBC leaks. Regime-Changers-in-Chief, the Globo media empire, are also not on the Panama leaks, although they profit from a certified offshore racket.

Syria was always bound to be a key target. Much of Western corporate media “newsworthy” stories now focus on “Assad’s fixer” Rami Makhlouf, described in U.S. diplomatic cables as Syria’s “poster boy for corruption” and under U.S. sanctions since February 2008. Such a convenient target. Yet “poster boy” happened to be quite sheltered by HSBC as well.

Putin Did It

And so we finally get to the key target of Monster Truck (in Brazil’s Car Wash they are Lula and President Rousseff). It’s got the requisite BRICS angle and it’s a dream spin; cue to virtually every major Western corporate media headline blaring that Vladimir Putin has stashed US$2 billion offshore.

The problem is he didn’t. Putin is guilty by association because of his “close associates” Arkady and Boris Rotenberg’s alleged ties to money laundering. Yet three “incriminating” emails in the files happen not to “incriminate” them, or Putin.

And then there’s cellist Sergey Roldugin, a childhood friend of Putin’s. Here’s the – politically filtered – spin by the ICIJ:

“The records show Roldugin is a behind-the-scenes player in a clandestine network operated by Putin associates that has shuffled at least US$2 billion through banks and offshore companies. In the documents, Roldugin is listed as the owner of offshore companies that have obtained payments from other companies worth tens of millions of dollars. … It’s possible Roldugin, who has publicly claimed not to be a businessman, is not the true beneficiary of these riches. Instead, the evidence in the files suggests Roldugin is acting as a front man for a network of Putin loyalists – and perhaps for Putin himself.”

What about rephrasing it as, “the evidence in the files suggests Lionel Messi is acting as a frontman for a network of football loyalists trying to evade the rape of Argentina by U.S. hedge fund vultures friendly to new President and offshore account holder Mauricio Macri”?

The juiciest bit is that Moscow knew all along another Hybrid War offensive chapter was imminent, days if not weeks before Panama went viral.

Make America Great Again

Offshore bank accounts are not intrinsically illegal. Quite a few though involve dodgy money, or at least provide the euphemistic “low-tax environment” fundamental to the very wealthy.

It’s not an accident that the Panama Papers unveil connections to several dozen firms and individuals who are prominently featured in U.S. sanctions blacklists. That configures the Panama Papers as even more of a limited hangout; the real Papers would be the Cayman Papers or the Virgin Island Papers. That’s where most of the in-the-know park their money (not to mention Luxembourg). Adding to the hilarity factor, David Cameron suddenly woke up to the need to stop British overseas territories – and Crown dependencies – being used by the wealthy to park their untaxed fortune.

It’s never going to happen. The so-called international banking/financial system is a demented casino. It’s not only 8 percent; Hong Kong players tell me as much as 50 percent of global wealth may currently be parked, undisturbed, in untaxable offshore havens. If a fraction of these astonishing funds would be taxed, governments right and left would be paying their debts, investing in infrastructure, launching round after round of sustainable growth, and a productive spiral would be in motion.

And that leads us to the cherry in the corruption cake; how come there are no Americans in this limited hangout leak? Of course there are none. Panama is for suckers. Too obvious. Too rakish. Too crude. Ergo, forget about The Cayman Papers.

As for foreigners in-the-know, we just need to go back a mere three months ago to this Bloomberg piece, where Andrew Penney, Managing Director of Rothschild & Co., spells it all out; the U.S. “is effectively the biggest tax haven in the world.”

The circle is finally squared; Panama is revealed as the patsy – mere collateral damage in this limited hangout Monster Truck operation. Domestic tax haven providers, such as Rothschild, are the real deal. Make America great again? It already is – as the top tax shelter for hardcore dodgy money had to be…a monster Panama: Exceptionalistan itself. Now dance, suckers.


PepePepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

An Unfiltered Mind

trump gc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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March 9, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes)

 

Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation April 4, 2016


“He says what he really thinks.” That is the standard explanation for the astounding political rise of Donald J. Trump. Somehow the news media have missed the meaning of this: that the rest of political America refuses to say what it really thinks. Why is that and how can it be?

The simple answer: they’re afraid of how it will play on television. One error of the mouth and you’re politically crucified. You’re done. Taken out with the trash. Trump’s secret is that every error of his unfiltered mouth — and the hypothetical mind connected to it — emphasizes and celebrates his liberation from that fear. Trump is like the fabled Honey Badger of YouTube fame: he doesn’t give a shit. He just forges ahead through all the biting, stinging, snapping, yapping, odious, poisonous opposition in his dogged journey to the prize. As Trump might say: they love him and he loves them (for that).

The less simple answer is that America has become a matrix of rackets based on fraud, swindling, and extortion that can only support itself on lies, which form the armature that enables all the racketeering. That explains one of the central mysteries of Mr. Obama’s double term in the White House: why his Department of Justice never prosecuted (possibly never even dared to investigate) criminal misconduct in banking after the 2008 mortgage bond debacle. The Holy Trinity of Bank Fraud: Rubin, Geithner, and Summers paid him a call after election day and said, “Look here, fucker: one false move out of you in the direction of our friends doing ‘God’s work,’ and this whole house of cards comes fluttering down.” Hence, Obama appointed the trio to positions of authority and counsel, and the racketeering resumed without hindrance — to the greater affliction upon the common weal.

The issues at stake were apparently too abstruse for the public to grasp, so they just rolled with it clear to the statute of limitations and beyond. Of course, the trouble with operations based on lies is that sooner or later reality intrudes with all its implacable wrath and you get a mighty correction impossible to ignore. That is likely to be fate’s parting gift to Barack Obama. He will go out the way he came in: amidst financial maelstrom.

As only one example of the collateral damage to all this filtering of what’s real, note a consequence of zero interest rates (a swindle designed to prop up Too Big To Fail banks): ordinary people past their working years can’t earn any income from all the traditionally safe ways of doing this: savings accounts, certificates of deposit, and bonds. Due to my advanced age, I get vast and constant rafts of mailings from an outfit called AARP pretending to be the American Association of Retired Persons. (I don’t pretend to have any intention of retiring, by the way.) Not one of these incessant messages mentions the harm being done by zero interest rates to people of modest means beyond their earning years desperate to get by. If they happen to have, say, thirty-eight thousand dollars of savings, they can’t generate enough income off it to pay for their yearly ration of ibuprofen. That’s because AARP doesn’t represent the stakes of this group. AARP is an insurance racket. AARP is a charade designed for asset-stripping the hapless.

It’s most ironic, of course, that the perceived antidote to the pandemic of lying in America is this arguably crooked real estate developer and gambling casino tycoon Trump. The grand entrance of Trump, with his unfiltered mouth, into the political arena becomes a preliminary argument for sweeping away the accumulated sclerotic political baggage of four generations lucky enough to have lived in a world that briefly allowed fantasy to override the laws of physics and human nature. What we really ought to worry about is what follows in the foul wake of Trump, both in awful circumstance and the as-yet-unknown cast of characters who will have to grapple with it.

 


James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

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Quote from: Eddie on October 15, 2017, 08:58:25 PM [...]

I haven't had a chance to listen to the video [...]

Quote from: agelbert on October 15, 2017, 07:38:28 [...]

Quote from: RE on October 15, 2017, 06:20:12 PMQuo [...]

Quote from: agelbert on October 15, 2017, 05:19:46 [...]

The extinction crisis extends far beyond rare and [...]

Young people holding signs spelling the word “demo [...]

Across the country, people who committed no crimes [...]

Quote from: azozeo on October 17, 2017, 04:55:28 A [...]

https://www.silverdoctors.com/gold/gold-news/peak- [...]

Earth girls are easy.... [...]

Quote from: Golden Oxen on October 17, 2017, 03:47 [...]

Quote from: azozeo on October 17, 2017, 12:40:39 P [...]

Quote from: Golden Oxen on October 17, 2017, 12:50 [...]

It would take more than a skinny prick to get that [...]

QuoteREMOVE THIS POST !your killin' me man... [...]

Getting back to the 1st & foremost topic, RE [...]

Alternate Perspectives

  • Two Ice Floes
  • Jumping Jack Flash
  • From Filmers to Farmers

Small Town Mountain Living by Cognitive Dissonance   I'm a small town boy. Born and bred small [...]

An Act of Pure Evil By Cognitive Dissonance   This is being written the day after the mass shooting [...]

This and That Vol. 2 – Talking Your Book By Cognitive Dissonance   I don’t know what’s going on in y [...]

Of Harvests and Hurricanes By Cognitive Dissonance   Aside from the planting and harvesting of vario [...]

The American Way: Mindless Pursuit By Cognitive Dissonance   It’s actually embarrassing if I’m to be [...]

Event Update For 2017-10-15http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

Event Update For 2017-10-14http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

Event Update For 2017-10-13http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

Event Update For 2017-10-12http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

Event Update For 2017-10-11http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

Don't look now James, but that's not just a monkey on your back! (unadulterated photo via [...]

Cary Fowler in front of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault during its construction in 2007 (photo by Bai [...]

With a bit of ice on the floor depositers could almost ride the seeds right on in (photo by Global C [...]

Well, at least it was made sure that the Svalbard Global Seed Vault looks real pretty (photo courtes [...]

Daily Doom Photo

man-watching-tv

Sustainability

  • Peak Surfer
  • SUN
  • Transition Voice

Giving Ethical Murder Its Due"Trying to sell scenarios based on degrowth or frugal living is like trying to sell your Elvis [...]

The Open Door"We have before us two roads"It was two years ago, in the bookstore at Pleasant Hill Shake [...]

A Man Who Planted Trees"Jean Giorno’s fictional character, Elzéard Bouffier, picked up acorns, sorted them and planted [...]

Stirring the Pot"Are we ready now to admit that by tampering with weather we have been poking the hornet’s nest [...]

Is Apple Acing Chemistry but Flunking Biology?"It used to be that half of all heart patients first report their condition to their physician [...]

The folks at Windward have been doing great work at living sustainably for many years now.  Part of [...]

 The Daily SUN☼ Building a Better Tomorrow by Sustaining Universal Needs April 3, 2017 Powering Down [...]

Off the keyboard of Bob Montgomery Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666 Friend us on Facebook Publishe [...]

Visit SUN on Facebook Here [...]

Americans are good on the "thoughts and prayers" thing. Also not so bad about digging in f [...]

In the echo-sphere of political punditry consensus forms rapidly, gels, and then, in short order…cal [...]

Discussions with figures from Noam Chomsky and Peter Senge to Thich Nhat Hanh and the Dalai Lama off [...]

Lefty Greenies have some laudable ideas. Why is it then that they don't bother to really build [...]

Democracy and politics would be messy business even if all participants were saints. But America doe [...]

Top Commentariats

  • Our Finite World
  • Economic Undertow

US debut has a long way to go ... before it matters... Rogoff was wrong - This Time is Different.... [...]

US has been the host entity for global financial reserve system for past ~century, therefore debts d [...]

"IC must have oil, of course." That doesn't answer to Greg's question. It doesn [...]

Please refrain from writing nonsense... Just the Commonwealth Bank's loan book is 98% of Austra [...]

Yup. Why not 50 trillion? I think it can be done and will be done. So sayeth the Kurt. [...]

Dan said: "Peak oil due to EROEI will be masked as “peak demand.” I’m curious for others’ thoug [...]

Expect more along these lines in the future, even in the absence of natural disasters http://www.the [...]

What a brave man - a few like him in every generation to set an example for the rest of us. The pipe [...]

I'm not sure why this comment was held up, it does not bide well for 'Artificial Intellige [...]

Reading the latest nuclear report is eye opening. The French section is electric! I used to be such [...]

RE Economics

Going Cashless

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Simplifying the Final Countdown

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Bond Market Collapse and the Banning of Cash

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Do Central Bankers Recognize there is NO GROWTH?

Discuss this article @ the ECONOMICS TABLE inside the...

Singularity of the Dollar

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Kurrency Kollapse: To Print or Not To Print?

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SWISSIE CAPITULATION!

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Of Heat Sinks & Debt Sinks: A Thermodynamic View of Money

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Merry Doomy Christmas

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Peak Customers: The Final Liquidation Sale

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Collapse Fiction

Useful Links

Technical Journals

In Finnish Lapland, reindeer herders’ activity is strongly dependent on the surrounding natural envi [...]

Urban air quality in most megacities has been found to be critical and Kolkata Metropolitan City is [...]

Nepal has an extreme altitudinal range from 60–8850 m with heterogeneous topography and distinct cli [...]

Indian summer monsoon (ISM) plays an important role in the weather and climate system over India. Th [...]