August 28, 2014


Business leaders (including financial sector CEOs) and crony capitalist, David Cameron, tell Scots to vote no in independence referendum; even more business leaders tell Scots to vote yes & Better Together campaign video patronizes female Scots nationalists

Scotland must look outwards to the world of opportunity that awaits us. A Yes vote is the business and jobs opportunity of a lifetime for this and future generations.” - From the open letter signed by 200 leaders of some of Scotland’s most productive companies

Business leaders tell Scots to vote no in independence referendum
Martin Williams Guardian UK August 27, 2014

Yes campaign placards in Fenwick, Scotland. Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

More than 120 business leaders have urged Scotland to vote no in next month’s referendum, saying the economic case for independence has not been sufficiently made.

In an open letter published in the Scotsman newspaper, they write: “As job creators, we have looked carefully at the arguments made by both sides of the debate. Our conclusion is that the business case for independence has not been made.”

Signatories include HSBC chairman Douglas Flint and Co-operative Bank CEO Niall Booker, as well as dozens of Scottish CEOs from business ranging from fish and whisky to technology and finance.

The letter says: “Uncertainty surrounds a number of vital issues including currency, regulation, tax, pensions, EU membership and support for our exports around the world; and uncertainty is bad for business.

“Today Scotland’s economy is growing. We are attracting record investment and the employment rate is high. We should be proud that Scotland is a great place to build businesses and create jobs – success that has been achieved as an integral part of the United Kingdom.

“The United Kingdom gives business the strong platform we must have to invest in jobs and industry. By all continuing to work together, we can keep Scotland flourishing.”

However, former Royal Bank of Scotland chairman Sir George Mathewson, has claimed that financial services in Scotland would flourish with independence. “There is nothing to suggest that being part of a smaller country hinders a financial services industry,” he said.

“Switzerland, for example, has – in Geneva and Zurich – not one, but two of the world’s top 10 financial centres. Singapore, with five million people, is ranked fourth. Investment is an increasingly global business, where success depends much more on people than on borders.”

Scottish referendum: David Cameron makes plea to voters
Nicholas Watt, Libby Brooks and Simon Goodley Guardian UK August 28, 2014

David Cameron will plead with Scottish voters on Thursday not to abandon one of the “oldest and most successful single markets in the world”, after the home secretary, Theresa May, highlighted nerves in the pro-union campaign, warning that it needed to redouble its efforts.

As the referendum campaign enters its final stage the prime minister will seek to warn wavering voters of the dangers of separating from the UK by raising the prospect that Scotland’s financial services could lose 90% of their business if voters endorsed independence on 18 September.

Cameron will acknowledge that questions over the economy lie at the heart of the referendum campaign when he says that key Scottish industries are underpinned by membership of the UK.

In a speech to the CBI Scotland conference in Glasgow, he will say that 90% of Scottish financial services’ customers live in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, while Scotland’s computer gaming industry and its “cutting-edge sub-sea technology” benefit from selling across the UK without transaction costs.

His arrival comes as the Scottish first minister, Alex Salmond, receives a boost from 200 business leaders who have signed a letter supporting independence. The signatories include Ralph Topping, the former chief executive of William Hill, and Tom Barrie, managing director of the logistics company Currie European.

Details of the letter emerged a day after 130 prominent business leaders, including the HSBC chairman Douglas Flint, signed an open letter warning that the case for Scottish independence had not been made.

Cameron will tell his audience: “This is one of the oldest and most successful single markets in the world. Scotland does twice as much trade with the rest of the UK than with the rest of the world put together – trade that helps to support one million Scottish jobs.

“For some industries, the proportion of trade with the rest of the UK is even higher – 90% of Scottish financial services’ customers are in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Then there’s the world-famous gaming industry, cutting-edge subsea technology and life-saving biomedicine – all selling far more outside Scotland than inside.

“This success doesn’t happen by accident. It happens because of the skill of people in Scotland and the opportunities that come from being part of something bigger, a large domestic market, underpinned by a common currency, common taxes, common rules and regulations, with no borders, no transaction costs, no restrictions on the flow of goods, investment or people. Ours really is an economy of opportunity.”

But Salmond will seek to build on momentum in the yes camp after the Better Together leader, Alistair Darling, struggled in their final televised debate on Monday night to name job-creating powers that Westminster would be prepared to devolve to Holyrood. The first minister will outline a range of such powers – including control over air passenger duty and employment policy – that would be guaranteed by independence, as he calls on the prime minister to make clear what powers Westminster is prepared to guarantee.

The first minister, who described Darling as “a frontman for the Conservative party”, will say: “Scotland is one of the richest countries in the world – wealthier per head than the UK, France and Japan, so we are more than capable of being an economically successful independent country …

200 business leaders sign up to say Yes to independence
Herald Scotland Scotland August 28, 2014

You can read the list from the link on this page.

A total of 200 business people have backed independence in an open letter that aims to counter warnings by 130 industry leaders the plans would be bad for trade.

Stagecoach chairman Sir Brian Souter, who has donated £1million to the Nationalists in the run-up to the referendum, engineering tycoon Jim McColl, the chairman and chief executive of Clyde Blowers, and Ralph Topping, the Scottish-based former chief executive of William Hill, lead the list of signatories to the document, which is published in today’s Herald.

Read the list here

Other high-profile figures on the list include the Michelin-starred Gleneagles-based chef Andrew Fairlie.

It declares that independence would give the country the powers “to give our many areas of economic strength even more of an advantage in an increasingly competitive world.”

It adds they would provide “more opportunities for our talented and determined young people to stay and succeed.”

Female indy supporters: New BT ad was patronising to women
Herald Scotland Scotland August 27, 2014

Female nationalists have criticised an “insulting” Better Together campaign video which they claim depicts Scottish women as “daft ditherers” who do not understand enough about the independence referendum.

The YouTube video features an actress voicing concerns about independence which Better Together say was drawn from the verbatim comments of women in focus groups and doorstep canvassing.

Better Together urges women to vote No not only for “the love of our country” but for “the love of our families”.

But Women For Independence say “the implication that a No vote is the only choice a mother should be making for her children is insulting”.

A spokeswoman said: “We think it’s disappointing that Better Together decided to portray Scotland’s women in this way.

“The narrative suggests that women who are still making up their minds how to vote don’t understand enough about the issues to arrive at an informed decision. That is not our experience.

“Women for Independence have spent the last two years listening to women, discussing what matters to them. They are thoughtful, intelligent and articulate.

“The polls show that when they do get helpful information they understand that this is our one opportunity to change their lives, and all our lives, for the better. That’s why more and more are moving to voting Yes.”

Kirsty Strickland, first-time mother to six-month-old Orla, has said: “The Better Together referendum broadcast was an absolute embarrassment.

“It portrayed women voters as daft ditherers who don’t understand the magnitude of the decision they have to make.

“The implication that a No vote is the only choice a mother should be making for her children is insulting.”

Launching the video yesterday, Better Together campaign director Blair McDougall said: “The key factor for people isn’t the love of our country – as both Yes and No voters love Scotland. The key factor is the love of our families.”

He added: “The words spoken in the film are taken verbatim from conversations on doorsteps with undecided women voters and from the opinion of women in dozens of focus groups around the country.

“With so many unanswered questions, more and more of us are coming to the decision that it is just too big a risk to take with our kids’ future.”

Posted at: August 28, 2014 - 3:54 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

New front opened in Ukraine’s civil war? It seems likely and militarily logical

It’s not yet all-out war between Russia and Ukraine, but there is no doubt that Ukrainian forces are now in direct combat with Russian troops on several fronts. Russia still officially denies all this, of course, but its denials are not meant to be believed. - Gwynne Dyer, a London-based independent Canadian journalist, syndicated columnist and military historian. He is a former senior lecturer at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. Dyer writes a column on international affairs which is published in over 175 papers in at least 45 countries. In 2010, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Jim comment: In both Russia and Ukraine there is growing civil unrest and even signs of outright rebellion because of this war. Why is there next to none in Western Axis countries? The Axis precipitated this war and is fanning the flames of the horrific inferno. Many are dying; even more are suffering. Overmuch every day, eastern Ukraine looks like Dante’s Inferno. Come winter, so will western Ukraine.

Map: Population centers on the Sea of Azov. The Sea of Azov is a sea in southeastern Europe. It is linked by the narrow (about 4 km or 2.5 mi) Strait of Kerch to the Black Sea to the south and is bounded in the north by mainland Ukraine, in the east by Russia, and in the west by the Crimean Peninsula. The Sea of Azov is the shallowest sea in the world, with the depth varying between 0.9 meters (2 ft 11 in) and 14 meters (46 ft). Abundant plankton results in unusually high fish productivity. The sea shores and spits are low; they are rich in vegetation and bird colonies. Mariupol is a city in southeastern Ukraine, situated on the north coast of the Sea of Azov at the mouth of the Kalmius river. With a population of 492,176, it is the tenth-largest city in Ukraine and the second largest in the Donetsk Oblast. In Mariupol there are 56 industrial enterprises under various patterns of ownership. The industry of the city is diverse, among which the city’s heavy industry is dominant. Mariupol is home to major steel mills (including some globally important) and chemical plants; there is also an important seaport and a railroad junction.

It’s not yet all-out war between Russia and Ukraine—but it’s close
Gwynne Dyer Georgia Straight British Columbia Canada August 27, 2014

It is quite possible for soldiers to cross a frontier “by accident on an unmarked section,” and that is how Moscow explains the capture of a group of Russian paratroopers on Ukrainian territory last weekend.

Poor lambs, they just wandered across the border by mistake. When they get home, they’ll have to be sent on a refresher course in cross-country navigation.

The flaw in this story is that the 10 captured Russian soldiers, from the 331st Regiment of the 98th Guards Airborne Division, were caught in a group of unmarked vehicles 20 kilometres inside Ukraine.

That’s a third of the way from the Russian border to the besieged rebel city of Donetsk, and it’s really hard to explain away as a navigational error.

Besides, there is plenty of other evidence (though no other video interviews with captured Russian troops) to show that there is now a three-pronged Russian offensive underway in eastern Ukraine.

There are probably fewer than a thousand Russian regular army troops on Ukrainian territory at the moment, but their purpose is clearly to stop the collapse of the pro-Russian rebels and reverse the momentum in the ground war.

Last week the Ukrainian forces finally cut the last remaining road from Russia to the besieged city of Luhansk, shortly after a large convoy of Russian trucks violated Ukrainian sovereignty and drove up that road to deliver “humanitarian” aid to the city. The rebel forces have now launched a counter-offensive to reopen the road, and Russian self-propelled artillery units have entered Ukraine in the Krasnodon area to support their attacks.

Another Russian force, including tanks, crossed the border on August 24 50 kilometres south of Donetsk, the capital of the other rebel province, and is trying to open a corridor to that city. (The captured paratroopers were part of that force, which is currently stalled near Ilovaisk.) And on August 25 a column of Russian armour crossed into Ukraine well to the south, heading west along the coast of the Sea of Azov towards the port city of Mariupol.

Ukraine says Russian forces lead major new offensive in east
New York Times/CNBC USA August 27, 2014

NOVOAZOVSK, Ukraine — Tanks, artillery and infantry have crossed from Russia into an unbreached part of eastern Ukraine in recent days, attacking Ukrainian forces and causing panic and wholesale retreat not only in this small border town but a wide swath of territory, in what Ukrainian and Western military officials are calling a stealth invasion.

The attacks outside this city and in an area to the north essentially have opened a new, third front in the war in eastern Ukraine between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists, along with the fighting outside the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Smoke rises during shelling in the town of Novoazovsk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014. Photo: Sergei Grits/AP

Exhausted, filthy and dismayed, Ukrainian soldiers staggering out of Novoazovsk for safer territory said Tuesday that the forces coming from Russia had treated them like cannon fodder. As they spoke, tank shells whistled in from the east and exploded nearby.

Some of the retreating Ukrainian soldiers appeared unwilling to fight. The commander of their unit, part of the 9th Brigade from Vinnytsia, in western Ukraine, barked at the men to turn around, to no effect. “All right,” the commander said. “Anybody who refuses to fight, sit apart from the others.” Eleven men did, while the others returned to the city.

Others were in a full, chaotic retreat: a city bus load of them careened past headed west, purple curtains flapping through windows shot out by gunfire.

Putin’s stealth war causes retreat by Ukrainian soldiers
Douglas Ernst The Washington Times USA August 27, 2014

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Russian President Vladimir Putin’s stealth war of attrition may be paying off. As evidence mounts that pro-Russian separatists are being supplied with new weapons from across the border, some Ukrainian soldiers are now refusing to fight.

In Novoazovsk, a Ukrainian unit staring down tanks, artillery and infantry personnel responded to shelling by sitting down, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

The newspaper said that the presence Russian troops in the northern border town of Novoazovsk constitutes a “third front” in the battle for control over eastern Ukraine.

“Russia is clearly trying to put its finger on the scale to tip things back in favor of its proxies,” a senior American official told The Times. “Artillery barrages and other Russian military actions have taken their toll on the Ukrainian military.”

‘No Russian troops in Ukraine’: Moscow’s OSCE rep responds to Kiev’s claims
RT Russia August 28, 2014

The OSCE was told there was no Russian presence spotted across the Ukraine border, refuting Thursday’s claims that a full-scale invasion was underway. Both the Ukrainian monitoring team head and Russia’s representative have given a firm ‘no.’

The chorus of allegations about Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine had President Poroshenko calling for an emergency meeting of the country’s security and defense council, while Prime Minister Yatsenyuk on Thursday called for a Russian asset freeze.

No actual evidence has been given by either foreign governments or the media, apart from claims that photographs exist that someone had “seen.”

The Russian representative to the OSCE Andrey Kelin, meanwhile, has given a firm response to the allegations, saying that “we have said that no Russian involvement has been spotted, there are no soldiers or equipment present.”

Below: Shades of the International Brigades? The International Brigades were military units made up of volunteers from different countries, who traveled to Spain to fight for the Second Spanish Republic against the fascist rebel forces in the Spanish Civil War between 1936 and 1939.

Only Russian volunteers fighting with anti-Kiev forces – Donetsk Republic leader
RT Russia August 28, 2014

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About 3-4,000 Russian citizens joined anti-government fighters during Kiev crackdown in Ukraine’s east, says the leader of Donetsk independent republic, noting that self-defense fighters have never concealed this fact.

“They [Russian volunteers] are among us, people of Donbass [Region, eastern Ukraine] because we are blood brothers,” said the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Aleksandr Zakharchenko, in an interview to Russian media.

“There is no secret that among the volunteers from Russia there are many military men. They are fighting together with us because they understand that it’s their duty,” he added.

According to the Donetsk PM, some of the volunteers returned home to Russia, others stayed in eastern Ukraine.

“Unfortunately, some of [the Russian volunteers] were killed,” said Zakharchenko.

He explained why he thinks Russian volunteers are joining self-defense forces in eastern Ukraine.

“I think that only among Russians is there a heightened feeling of sorrow and human misfortune, only they are able to travel to any part of the world, die, fight for the independence and freedom of people.”

Pryazovia is a geographic area and a historical region in southeastern Ukraine. It consists of southern part of Donetsk Oblast, Zaporizhia Oblast, eastern part of Kherson Oblast. The western part of Rostov Oblast in Russia could also be claimed as a part of broader Northern Pryzovia. There is a large number of Greek-speaking people in Mariupol and many Greek-speaking villages in the region. Below two dispatches from today’s wire:

15:01 GMT:
Greece has decided to temporarily relocate its general consulate in Ukraine from Mariupol to Dnepropetrovsk due to “the worsening of security in the city,” the Greek Foreign Ministry said.

The ministry also stressed that it remains “in constant communication with the Foreign Ministry of Ukraine in order to ensure the safety of the representatives of the Greek Diaspora living in the country,” the Itar-Tass news agency reports.

Mariupol is currently under the control of government troops, who are preparing to take on the advancing anti-Kiev forces.

14:36 GMT:
The UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting at 14:00 New York time (18:00 GMT) on Thursday over claims that Russian troops “have been brought” into Ukraine.

Russia will be asked to explain why its soldiers are in Ukraine, said Mark Lyall Grant, Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations.

Grant said that he personally has no doubts that reports of over 1,000 Russian troops fighting on the side of the anti-Kiev forces in eastern Ukraine are true.

Posted at: August 28, 2014 - 9:09 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

August 27, 2014

In the offing? Maybe, but a Saudi-Iranian thaw will take time

The interpretation that comes readily to mind regarding the visit to Riyadh by the Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Amir Abdollahian to Riyadh and his talks on Tuesday with the Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal would be that a thaw is in the offing in the ties between the two countries.

Saudi-Iranian thaw will take time
M K Bhadrakumar Indian Punchline India August 27, 2014

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The interpretation that comes readily to mind regarding the visit to Riyadh by the Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Amir Abdollahian and his talks on Tuesday with the Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal would be that a thaw is in the offing in the ties between the two countries.

The time for a thaw may appear propitious. The surge of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant [ISIL] is a matter of concern to both Tehran and Riyadh and, arguably, they have a shared interest in countering the tidal wave of extremism and terrorism sweeping Iraq and Syria.

Certainly, Iran played a key role in the replacement of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, which also happened to be a long-standing Saudi demand — although Tehran had its own weighty reasons to promote the transition in Baghdad.

Most certainly, Iran is working hard for a national unity government in Baghdad, which is inclusive and would accommodate Sunni aspirations and preserve Iraq’s unity and territorial integrity, as the recent visit to Iraq by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to Iraq testifies. The Saudis have been clamoring for an inclusive approach in Iraqi politics.

Again, make no mistake, Iran aspires to be a factor of stability in Iraq. Zarif’s consultations in Iraq displayed the spectacular reach of Iranian influence in Iraq — be it in Erbil, Baghdad, Najaf or Karbala.

Thus, it may come as no surprise that the Iranian account of Abdollahian’s consultations with Faisal is on a manifestly positive note, highlighting their commonality of interests on the grave issues buffeting regional security in the Middle East today. IRNA says the two diplomats “stressed the importance of opening new page in the political relations between the two countries.” (here).

However, there is no word in the report about the languishing invitation from Faisal in May to Zarif to visit Saudi Arabia. Zarif has been extensively touring the Gulf Cooperation Council region but has studiously sidestepped Saudi Arabia so far. (Zarif is currently in Ankara on his second visit to Turkey in, perhaps, as many months.)

Indeed, the Saudi-Iranian tango is never quite visible to the naked eye. What is extremely significant is that even as Faisal was holding Abdollahian’s hand in Riyadh, Tehran let it be known in a characteristically roundabout way quoting ’sources’ that the Israeli spy drone that Iran shot down on Monday had only flown from a Saudi air base.

A senior Iranian commander from the Revolutionary Guards claimed, here, that Tehran spotted the spy drone even as it took off but deliberately let it cross the border with a view to monitor its flight path and identify the ‘targets’ that would excite the Israeli engagement. (The prime ‘target’ turned out to be Iran’s Natanz nuclear enrichment centre.)

Of course, Tehran has threatened Israel with retaliation — but then, it has ignored Israel’s Saudi partner as unworthy of such high consideration. The Iranian reaction has been very sharp — “Our response to this aggression will not be diplomatic, we will retaliate in the battlefield, but will not necessarily announce it. The enemy will see and understand it.” (here).

What could it be? Quite possibly, Iran may now upgrade the transfer of missile technology to Hamas and bring it on par with the Hezbollah so that a kind of ’strategic parity’ is reached in Palestine, too — like on the Lebanon-israel front.

There is no suggestion in the media reports that Abdollahian had any word with Faisal specifically regarding the Saudi complicity in the affair of the ill-fated Israeli spy drone. Simply put, it is not the Iranian style to be blunt — unlike the Gulf Arabs.

The intricate pantomime playing out in Tehran and Riyadh only goes to show that an enduring ‘thaw’ is hard to achieve in a short term between the two ancient adversaries. There is a fundamental contradiction in the Saudi-Iranian relationship insofar as Iran’s rise as regional power, its normalization with the Western world, its integration with the world community, its full-fledged entry into the world energy market that is imminent, its economic and technological regeneration that will follow once the sanctions are lifted, its support of the stirrings of the ‘Arab Spring’ — all these are antithetical to Saudi interests. Put differently, Iran’s rise ‘diminishes’ Saudi Arabia — its clout as America’s number one regional ally — and Iran’s emergence as an Islamic democracy rattles the Saudi nerves.

The collaboration with Israel on a dangerous intelligence operation directed against vital Iranian nuclear installations only goes to show the Saudi intentions to try a little bit harder to ‘contain’ Iran despite the collapse of the US’s 3-decade old containment strategy as such.

So, why did Abdollahian undertake the mission to Riyadh? Clearly, yesterday’s Saudi-Iranian consultations were scheduled in advance. The curious part is that Faisal, who is reputed to be an implacable hardliner on Shi’ite Iran, would most certainly have known about the invasive flight by the Israeli spy drone into the Iranian air space on the very same day Abdollahian emplaned from Tehran to meet him in Riyadh.

Posted at: August 27, 2014 - 2:44 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

US flags China as a maritime outlaw

The latest government-linked think tank report out of Washington adds the legal justification to the doctrinal imperatives and operational tactics already in place in the argument that Beijing must be confronted as an outlaw in its dispute over Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone. Taken together, these elements signal that real muscle will be flexed sooner than later in the South China Sea.

China as an EEZ outlaw in the South China Sea
Peter Lee China Matters Canada August 22, 2014

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A think tank called CNA recently issued a 140 page report titled “China versus Vietnam: An Analysis of the Competing Claims in the South China Sea” authored by Raul (Pete) Pedrozo. It provides a further legal rationale for growing US efforts to inject itself into South China Sea EEZ disputes on behalf of Vietnam and against the PRC.

A few reasons why attention should be paid.

First, the institution.

CNA is described as a non-profit corporation. A fuller description would be a “US Navy analytic division dating to 1942 that works exclusively for and is funded exclusively by the US government but was corporatized in the 1990s so it could dip its beak into non-DoD government work through a division called the Institute for Public Research”.

You could say that “CNA” stands for “Center for Naval Analyses”, the name of its antecedent organization. But you’d be wrong, according to CNA, in a “note to reporters and editors”: CNA is not an acronym and is correctly referenced as “CNA Corporation, a non-profit research and analysis organization located in Arlington, VA.”

So, consider CNA a meaningless collection of letters for a center that does analyses for the Navy and Marine Corps, whose main job is studying systems, tactical, and strategic issues for the USN and USMC. It has one unique regional focus, a “China Studies” division of 20 or so in-house analysts buttressed by “an extensive network of subject-matter experts from universities, government, and the private sector from around the world”.

Second, the author, a “subject-matter expert”, Captain Pedrozo:

Captain Raul (Pete) Pedrozo, U.S. Navy (Ret.). Former Professor of International Law, U.S. Naval War College; Staff Judge Advocate, U.S. Pacific Command; and Special Assistant to the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy.

Fans of PRC maritime disputes are or should be quite familiar with the work of Captain Pedrozo.

When the PRC harassed the US naval survey vessel USNS Impeccable in 2009 and tried to assert that military surveillance inside the PRC EEZ was a violation of the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea, Captain Pedrozo produced highly important opinions, Close Encounters at Sea: the USNS Impeccable Incident and Preserving Navigational Rights and Freedoms: The Right to Conduct Military Activities in China’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

In these documents, Captain Pedrozo made a point of declaring that the USNS Impeccable was not engaged in any sort of anodyne mapping exercises, but was actually [conducting] military surveillance against PLAN subs, thereby exempting the Impeccable from any UNCLOS obligations to butt out of the PRC EEZ. This argument, judging by the recent dispatch of a PLAN surveillance into the US EEZ during RIMPAC, has apparently won the PRC’s acceptance.

Captain Pedrozo’s arguments that the PRC was improperly threatening legal military (not commercial) activities inside the PRC EEZ provided the basis for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s declaration at ASEAN in 2010 that the US had a national interest in protecting freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, and got the whole “pivot to Asia” ball rolling.

Captain Pedrozo, it is safe to say, is a big gun in the anti-PRC lawfare arsenal. In passing, it should be noted he is no friend of the PRC or its maritime pretensions.

Rather amusingly, in 2012 he recommended against against the US government concluding a agreement with the PRC to guard against collisions of naval vessels, largely on the novel grounds that it would encourage what might be termed “excessive Chinese uppitiness”:

[A]lthough an INCSEA [Incidents at Sea] agreement could, in theory, reduce the possibility of miscalculation during un-alerted sea encounters between U.S. and Chinese naval and air forces, there are many reasons that the United States should not pursue such an arrangement. First, unlike the Soviet Navy, the PLA Navy is not a “blue water” navy with global reach and responsibilities. Elevating the PLA Navy to such a stature would not be in the best interests of the United States… [A]n INCSEA agreement with the PRC would significantly enhance the stature of the PLA Navy by suggesting it was a naval power on par with U.S. and former Soviet Navies . It would also force the U.S. Navy to treat the PLA Navy as an equal, something which it clearly is not.

Rather less amusingly and, I suppose, considerably more significantly, lack of an INCSEA agreement also will increase US Navy latitude in peremptorily brushing aside PLAN ships during the maritime confrontations that, if advocates of a more forward US military posture in PRC’s maritime sphere prevail, will becoming more and more common in the upcoming years.

So, despite US government policy of not taking sides in SCS sovereignty issue, US government think tank tasks top Navy lawyer to investigate the issue, and he comes up with his own revisionist take on the dubious issue, assigning sovereignty to the Vietnamese for islands the PRC “will never leave”.


In any case, elements within the US government/think tank universe have developed 1) the legal justification (the Pedrozo analysis) 2) the doctrinal imperative (what I call the Whitehouse Doctrine) and 3) the operational tactics (“paramilitarization”) to confront the PRC as an EEZ outlaw in the South China Sea.

How and when this strategy is implemented is now a matter of speculation only. But, as PRC strength waxes and the US government sees its window of opportunity for effective rollback inexorably closing in the South China Sea, I think something will happen sooner rather than later.

Posted at: August 27, 2014 - 2:03 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

Harper again raises spectre of Russian threat in speech to troops & NATO chief eyes more bases in E. Europe to confront Russia

Six CF-18 Hornets from 425 Tactical Fighter Squadron take off from Bagotville, Quebec on April 29, 2014 to fly to Romania as part of Canada’s contribution to NATO’€™s reassurance measures in order to ‘promote security and stability’ in Eastern and Central Europe. Photo: NATO

Harper again raises spectre of Russian threat in speech to troops
Steve Rennie CP/National Newswatch Canada August 26, 2014

BAFFIN ISLAND, Nunavut – An emboldened Russia is a threat to it neighbours in the Arctic and Canada must be ready to respond to any Russian incursions in the region, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Tuesday as he ended his yearly tour of Canada’s North.

In a chest-thumping address to troops who took part in a series of military manoeuvres off the coast of Baffin Island, Harper spoke of how Canada must never drop its guard in the face of growing Russian aggression.

“In Europe, we see the imperial ambitions of Vladimir Putin, who seems determined that, for Russia’s neighbours, there shall be no peace…,” Harper said.

“And because Russia is also Canada’s neighbour, we must not be complacent here at home.”

The prime minister told military personnel they would always be needed to fend off threats to Canada in an increasingly dangerous and uncertain world.

“As we look at the world around us today, we see growing threats in a growing number of places and the growing strength of people who disdain democracy, despise modernity and kill people who don’t share their religion,” Harper said.

“People who, given even a sliver of a chance, would destroy everything that we, as Canadians, hold dear and have repeatedly fought to protect.”

Related: Below: Renee Parsons was a staffer in the U.S. House of Representatives and a lobbyist on nuclear energy issues with Friends of the Earth. in 2005, she was elected to the Durango City Council and served as Councilor and Mayor. Currently, she is a member of the Treasure Coast ACLU Board.

NATO – New York Times convoy fabrications
Renee Parsons CounterPunch USA August 25, 2014

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On Saturday, the entire humanitarian convoy of 227 trucks crossed back into Russia without incident after having successfully delivered its contents to the Luhansk distribution center. The unwavering round trip project from Russia surmounted considerable bureaucratic delays and political obstacles including wild assertions that the convoy’s true purpose was to ‘smuggle weapons’ to the east Ukraine rebels.

Amidst a multitude of frenzied claims from the Kiev government and its western allies that the convoy was intent on fomenting violence and escalating the conflict as it constituted an ‘illegal incursion” and ‘violated the sovereignty of Ukraine,” the trucks peacefully avoided any confrontation with Ukraine military forces by taking advantage of back roads.

Given the very urgent need to provide immediate medical relief and other life necessities to Ukraine citizens, what has been especially noteworthy during the ten day period in which the Russian convoy was stalled at the border is the extent to which the Kiev government and its EU/US/NATO partners would go to impede a convoy carrying humanitarian supplies.

Now that the mission has been successfully completed without any of the predicted dire consequences, the considerable amount of egg on the collective public faces of its opponents who deliberately provoked an unnecessary combative situation would normally be cause for considerable public embarrassment; yet will be easily overlooked by an obedient submissive media. Obviously, the leaders of the western triumvirate were fully conscious of the fact that the convoy was totally dedicated for humanitarian purposes but sought to use the convoy as part of the larger goal of sowing the seeds of distrust and hostility toward Russia and toward Vladimir Putin in particular. Deepening public enmity towards Putin and eroding his reputation as a world leader is essential for the next chapter in Ukraine – that is the take-back of Crimea, after the defeat of the east Ukraine rebels.

With an irresponsible pen more committed to reiterating the Obama Administration’s public relations campaign than journalism, the New York Times again failed in its role as guardian of the truth allowing inaccurate exaggerations and entirely false anecdotes to masquerade as news.

While relying on the usual unnamed, unspecified vague “intelligence reports from several alliance members,” the Times categorically stated that “Russia … escalated tensions with Ukraine…, sending more than 200 trucks from a long-stalled aid convoy and, NATO said, conducting military operations on Ukrainian territory.”

Curiously, the Times article is a somewhat odd, overlapping mixture of reference to the humanitarian convoy interwoven in a story about an alleged Russian military incursion as if the existence of the convoy somehow confirms that a military intrusion has occurred while strangely suggesting that “200 trucks” had something to do with ‘conducting military operations’.

According to the Times “NATO officials said that the Russian military had moved artillery units inside Ukrainian territory in recent days and was using them to fire at Ukrainian forces” and yet the Times reporters did not cite any of NATO’s proof that such artillery movement had occurred or how NATO could confirm that the artillery was firing at Ukrainian forces. In other words, NATO could say that the Moon is made of blue cheese and the Times would run the news in their Food section.

The basis for the assertions were a series of quotes from their favorite prattler NATO Secretary General Rasmussen who insisted (despite a total lack of verification) that “There has been “a major escalation in Russian military involvement in eastern Ukraine since mid-August, including the use of Russian forces” and “Russian artillery support — both cross-border and from within Ukraine — being employed against the Ukrainian armed forces.” Again, the amazingly-incurious Times reporters dutifully wrote whatever they were told with no independent confirmation or analysis.

So as the Times not only included unsubstantiated, circumstantial quotes as fact but Mr. Rasmussen’s acknowledgment that he “did not say how many Russian artillery pieces had moved into Ukraine or where they were located, but one [unidentified] Western official said the number of Russian-operated artillery units was “substantial.”

Until finally, buried at the end of the lengthy article “There were no signs of Russian military vehicles or any other indications of an armed escort by Russian troops.”

NATO chief eyes more bases in E. Europe to confront Russia
RT Russia August 27, 2014

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Photo: Laurent Dubrule/Reuters

Under the pretext of an ‘overt’ Russian threat, NATO is pushing for a ‘readiness action plan’ that will bring the Cold War military bloc closer to Russian borders than ever – even despite objections from some NATO members.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the 28-nation military bloc, which meets next week in Cardiff, Wales, would attempt to overcome internal opposition and agree to the deployment of military bases near the Russian border.

Amid the ongoing Ukrainian conflict, which is fracturing the country along east-west ideological lines, NATO is preparing to install for the first time military “reception facilities” in Eastern European countries, including Poland and the three Baltic countries: Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia.

“We have something already called the NATO response force, whose purpose is to be able to be deployed rapidly if needed,” Rasmussen said in an interview with several European newspapers. “Now it’s our intention to develop what I would call a spearhead within that response force at very, very, high readiness. In order to be able to provide such rapid reinforcements you also need some reception facilities in host nations. So it will involve the pre-positioning of supplies, of equipment, preparation of infrastructure, bases, headquarters.”

British Foreign Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs William Hague (L) and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen (R) unveil the logo for the upcoming NATO summit in Wales during a family photo of NATO Foreign Affairs ministers at the NATO headquarters in Brussels on June 25, 2014. Photo: AFP

The bottom line, according to the NATO chief, is that there will be “a more visible NATO presence in the east.”

Asked whether there would be permanent NATO presence in Eastern Europe, he said, “The brief answer is ‘yes’. To prevent misunderstanding, I use the phrase ‘for as long as necessary’. Our eastern allies will be satisfied when they see what is actually in the readiness action plan.”

Rasmussen, whose term expires on September 30, said the new NATO forces in Eastern Europe could be “deployed within hours.”

Needless to say, NATO’s militarization of the region will not sit well with Moscow, which has watched with increasing alarm since the collapse of the Soviet Union – despite pledges from the Western military bloc not to expand further east – as NATO continues its march towards Russia’s western border.

Currently, the Polish port city of Szczecin, which military experts anticipate will serve as one of NATO’s new “reception facilities,” represents NATO’s easternmost military presence.

Ironically, NATO’s latest enlargement plans are being opposed not just by Russia, but by its very members, some of whom do not see the point in aggravating tensions with Moscow.

It should come as no surprise that the United States and the United Kingdom, distant as they are from any potential fireworks on the European-Russian border, favor a military escalation in Eastern Europe. Other major NATO members, however, including France, Spain and Italy, have expressed serious reservations to the plans.

Meanwhile, Germany, NATO’s second strongest member, remains uncommitted to the expansion plans.

This should come as no surprise considering the recent deterioration in relations between Washington and Berlin.

Two NATO warships heading to Black Sea – report
RT Russia August 26, 2014

The guided-missile destroyer USS Ross. Photo: US Navy/AFP

A US Navy destroyer and a French frigate are expected to enter the waters of the Black Sea next week, a diplomatic and military source said.

“Two NATO warships at once will arrive in the Black Sea on September 3. They are US Navy’s destroyer USS Ross and frigate, Commandant Birot, of the naval forces of France,” the unnamed source told RIA-Novosti news agency.

There’s currently one NATO ship present in the Black Sea, with French surveillance ship, Dupuy de Lome, expected to remain in the area until September 5.

USS Vella Gulf, which was patrolling the black Sea since August 7, recently left for its port of commission.

The maintenance of the operational rotational presence of NATO ships does not promote stability in the Black Sea region in any way, the source noted.

According to the Montreux Convention of 1936, warships of non-Black Sea states can stay in the Black Sea for no more than 21 days.

But, earlier this year, the convention was violated by American frigate USS Taylor, which exceeded the authorized time limit by 11 days, the source said.

In July this year, the grouping of NATO ships in the Black Sea reached nine units, setting a record for the post-Soviet period.

Russia’s Putin says military escalation won’t solve Ukraine crisis
Alexei Anishchuk Thomson Reuters Canada/UK August 26, 2014

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with high-ranked officials representing Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and the European Union in Minsk, August 26, 2014. Photo: Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin/RIA Novosti/Reuters

MINSK (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday the crisis in Ukraine could not be solved by a further military escalation or without dialogue with representatives of the country’s Russian-speaking eastern regions.

“We are convinced that today, (the Ukraine crisis) cannot be solved by further escalation of the military scenario, without taking into account vital interests of the south-eastern regions of the country and without a peaceful dialogue with its representatives,” Putin said.

Posted at: August 27, 2014 - 8:37 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

August 26, 2014

Extractivism – B.C. as third world economy. The end result of extractivism is “high levels of underemployment, unemployment and poverty, while the distribution of income and wealth [becomes] even more unequal”

Extractivism generally refers to an economic model centred on the large-scale removal (or “extraction”) of natural resources for the purposes of exporting raw materials. The term usually covers industrial-scale agriculture, forestry and even fishing, along with more traditional extractive industries such as mining and hydrocarbons.

…extractivism is not a new phenomenon. It emerged as “a mode of accumulation” with the colonization of the global South (Africa, Asia and Latin America) and “has been determined ever since by the demands of the metropolitan centres of nascent capitalism.”

…“extractivism has been a mechanism of colonial and neocolonial plunder and appropriation.”

- Federico Fuentes, August 2014

Extractivism – B.C. as third world economy
Norman Farrell Northern Insight British Columbia Canada August 15, 2014

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Examining British Columbia’s natural resource sector, I was surprised that public returns had declined although produced quantities increased and values rose exponentially. Not long ago, British Columbia thrived on resource based industries. Today, involved individuals do well but the public — putative owner of natural resources — gains little for its assets, except incidentally, through personal income and sales taxes paid by individuals employed.

In fiscal year 2001, the BC government earned $4 billion from natural resources, which is more than $5 billion in today’s dollars, double the revenues in each of the last two years. Non-government resource revenues recently are a multiple of values private companies enjoyed at the turn of the century.

Resource returns in BC have similarities to those of third world nations. We are like Bolivians, except that South American country is governed by people not in the pockets of industrialists so it is trying to improve values realized from national assets. In Canada’s westernmost province, the opposite objective is in place.

After spending time in Bolivia a few years ago, I’ve followed that country’s political situation and the David and Goliath situation that it is. One writer that I follow is Fedrico Fuentes, author of the blog Bolivia Rising. Following are excerpts from a recent work. There are points that British Columbians should ponder: …

Related: Quail & Worth practices in the fields of labour and employment law, energy and regulatory law, criminal defence, privacy and access to information, administrative and constitutional law, WCB and disability.

Your bi-monthly donation to Imperial Metals
Quail & Worth’s Law Blog British Columbia Canada August 25, 2014

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The BC Hydro Northwest Transmission line is now powered up and operating, delivering under-priced bulk electricity to mining companies and under-priced delivery services for private power generators. Not only did they over-run the capital cost of building the line, but BC Hydro goofed in its design of the rate structure to recoup construction cost from the users and left out about $100 million. The electricity they deliver to the mines will be priced far below its cost. The electricity they deliver from the power producers will be priced far above its value. Hydro customers will pay directly for every deficiency in this set-up.

We tried to warn Hydro and the Utilities Commission about the $100 million error but the government, Hydro and the Commission all took the position that the BCUC had no choice to approve whatever Hydro came up with, even if it was contrary to law.

Next time you pay your BC Hydro bill, you might want to think about the involuntary donation you are making to Imperial Metals (who brought us the Mount Polley tailings disaster). Part of your payment to BC Hydro will help subsidize their profits for the new Red Chris mine they are building along the new transmission line.

You might also wish to contemplate that Imperial, in turn, makes hefty donations to the governing BC Liberal party who oversee their environmental standards and forced Hydro to build the white-elephant transmission line.

I am quoted briefly in this article from the Vancouver Sun about the line, with a rather pathetic effort by the Minister to respond.

Posted at: August 26, 2014 - 1:39 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

Old grudges never die. Celebrating the White House burning; trying to stifle Scotland’s differing vision of what a society should be

“Commemorating the 200th anniversary of burning the White House. Only sparklers this time!” Source: British Embassy in Washington, DC

The 1814 burning of the White House was the only time that the US capital was ever invaded, and forced then-President James Madison to flee his home with his wife, Dolley.

US protests led the Deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy in Washington, Patrick Davies . to grovel.

Torch of friendship
Patrick Davies Huffington Post USA August 22, 2014

Washington, D.C. Late August, after sunset. A brigade of foreign troops marches unhindered down Pennsylvania Avenue, leaving the U.S. Capitol in flames at their backs. When they reach the White House, the soldiers break in to find a lavish banquet laid out on the dining table. As they devour the feast, one of them sneaks upstairs to the master bedroom and steals one of the president’s shirts. Their dinner consumed, the soldiers pile the expensive dining chairs on the table, retreat outside, smash the windows and throw in burning torches. The resulting column of flame and smoke can be seen for miles around.

The plot of White House Down 2? Perhaps these events would indeed make a great movie, but it would have to be a documentary, because the incident I just described really took place. What’s more, the troops in question marched under the British flag, the Union Jack.

Of course, all this happened a long time ago. Two hundred years ago on Sunday, August 24, to be precise, at the height of the War of 1812. The redcoats who set fire to many of Washington’s public buildings in August of 1814 soon moved north to lay siege to Baltimore’s Fort McHenry, an event now immortalized in America’s national anthem.

After Fort McHenry, the War of 1812 dragged on for four more inconclusive months. Eventually, both sides were exhausted. They made peace, and within a few years became friends and then allies. The rest is history — the history of one of the most important alliances ever forged between two nations.

In 1823, no less a person than Thomas Jefferson wrote to President James Monroe: “Great Britain is the nation which can do us the most harm of any one, or all on earth; and with her on our side, we need not fear the whole world.”

Nowadays, we still count on each other to help keep our two countries safe. In carrying out that task, we are closer today than ever. Far from fighting each other, our soldiers, sailors and airmen train together, deploy together and recuperate together. British warships form part of American carrier task groups. U.S. and UK Rivet Joint aircraft cooperate in the skies over Iraq to provide intelligence in the fight against ISIL terrorism. Soon, U.S. planes will be able to fly from UK aircraft carriers, and vice versa. American and British wounded warriors have competed together at the Warrior Games in Colorado, and will do so again in a few weeks at the Invictus Games in London.

Needless to say, we’ve put the events of August 1814 far behind us. So much so, in fact, that when the British prime minister, David Cameron, visited the White House two years ago, he and President Obama, fresh from watching a March Madness basketball game together, traded wisecracks about the burning. The redcoats “made quite an impression,” Obama said. “They really lit the place up.”

“I can see you’ve got the place a little better defended today,” Cameron replied. “You’re clearly not taking any risks with the Brits this time.”

Related: Opponents of Scottish independence ‘bluffing’ on currency scare, says economist Stiglitz
RT Russia August 26, 2014

Better Together leader Alistair Darling (L) and First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond debate over Scottish independence at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow August 25, 2014. Photo: David Cheskin/Reuters

Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz said the anti-Scottish independence campaign is “bluffing” in its scaremongering over the nation’s currency. His comments underscore a resounding pre-referendum debate victory for Scotland’s pro-independence leader.

Stiglitz said the main question for the referendum should be about differing visions of society, not merely confined to the currency question or North Sea oil resources.

“There is a vision on the yes side that I see: what would an independent Scotland be like? What could it do that it can’t do now?” he said.

He approved of Scotland’s enthusiasm for free higher education as a route to addressing inequality. “I think that’s illustrative of a divide in a vision of society,” he said. “For the notion of equality, access to higher education is really vital.”

Stiglitz also cited post-independence support for NHS services and renewable energy to promote innovation and protect the environment.

Posted at: August 26, 2014 - 1:19 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

August 25, 2014

Employing both military art and science: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the theory and practice of jihad

Gary Anderson is a retired Marine Corps Colonel who has been a civilian advisor in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is an adjunct professor at the George Washington University’s Elliott School of international Affairs.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the theory and practice of jihad
Gary Anderson Small Wars Journal USA August 12, 2014

Now that Americans are dropping bombs on the forces of al Baghdadi’s Caliphate, it may be appropriate to examine his warfighting style.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is not a formally trained military commander. However, he is not illiterate or a common thug such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi who led al Qaeda in Iraq until his death in 2006. Al-Baghdadi holds a doctorate in theology from a theological seminary and appears to be a keen student of American tactics as they were passed on to the Iraqi Army, as well as the military practices of his Syrian Baathist opponents. Whether he is a military prodigy or merely a very talented student and practitioner of military art is irrelevant. To date, he has shown himself to be a very effective commander.

Like the prophet Mohammed from whom he claims descent, al-Baghdadi sees himself as a soldier-Imam and recognizes no difference between fighting, governing, and religion. This allows him to flow seamlessly between mediums. If we write him off as a mere terrorist, we make the mistake of underestimating him. He is generally considered to be a crackpot by serious Islamic scholars, but he controls a tract of land that includes most of al-Anbar province, much of eastern Syria, and Iraq’s second largest city; that makes him a serious player in the region. However, we should also beware of making him out to be ten feet tall. If we are going to deal with him, we need to understand how he fights and governs as well as his strengths and weaknesses.

There is both military art and science behind al-Baghdadi’s recent successes. His approach is different from western military leadership practices, but it is not unique in history. He seems to have borrowed some elements of the warfighting styles of the Prophet Mohammed and Genghis Khan as well as some [of the] political-strategic approaches of Lenin and Hitler. Whether these were adopted from a study of history or the serendipitous outcome of pure talent is somewhat irrelevant. To date, al-Baghdadi has achieved significant results. We can’t fully understand his thought process but we can study his methods and the principles he employs. These are discussed below.

Posted at: August 25, 2014 - 3:44 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

The disease of North American democracy: We have to establish a new countervailing power. Our own jihad?

In Arabic, the word jihād translates as a noun meaning “struggle” or “resisting”.

Below: Robert B. Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written thirteen books. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause. His new film, Inequality for All, is now available on Netflix, iTunes, DVD, and On Demand.

The disease of American democracy
Robert Reich Robert Reich blog USA August 18, 2014

Americans are sick of politics. Only 13 percent approve of the job Congress is doing, a near record low. The President’s approval ratings are also in the basement.

A large portion of the public doesn’t even bother voting. Only 57.5 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots in the 2012 presidential election.

Put simply, most Americans feel powerless, and assume the political game is fixed. So why bother?

A new study scheduled to be published in this fall by Princeton’s Martin Gilens and Northwestern University’s Benjamin Page confirms our worst suspicions.

Gilens and Page analyzed 1,799 policy issues in detail, determining the relative influence on them of economic elites, business groups, mass-based interest groups, and average citizens.

Their conclusion: “The preferences of the average American appear to have only a miniscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”

Instead, lawmakers respond to the policy demands of wealthy individuals and monied business interests – those with the most lobbying prowess and deepest pockets to bankroll campaigns.

Before you’re tempted to say “duh,” wait a moment. Gilens’ and Page’s data come from the period 1981 to 2002. This was before the Supreme Court opened the floodgates to big money in “Citizens United,” prior to SuperPACs, and before the Wall Street bailout.

So it’s likely to be even worse now.

But did the average citizen ever have much power? The eminent journalist and commentator Walter Lippman argued in his 1922 book “Public Opinion” that the broad public didn’t know or care about public policy. Its consent was “manufactured” by an elite that manipulated it. “It is no longer possible … to believe in the original dogma of democracy,” Lippman concluded.

Yet American democracy seemed robust compared to other nations that in the first half of the twentieth century succumbed to communism or totalitarianism.

Political scientists after World War II hypothesized that even though the voices of individual Americans counted for little, most people belonged to a variety of interest groups and membership organizations – clubs, associations, political parties, unions – to which politicians were responsive.

“Interest-group pluralism,” as it was called, thereby channeled the views of individual citizens, and made American democracy function.

What’s more, the political power of big corporations and Wall Street was offset by the power of labor unions, farm cooperatives, retailers, and smaller banks.

Economist John Kenneth Galbraith approvingly dubbed it “countervailing power.” These alternative power centers ensured that America’s vast middle and working classes received a significant share of the gains from economic growth.

Starting in 1980, something profoundly changed. It wasn’t just that big corporations and wealthy individuals became more politically potent, as Gilens and Page document. It was also that other interest groups began to wither.

Posted at: August 25, 2014 - 3:42 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post


Behind the U.S.-backed coup that ousted the democratically elected president of Ukraine are the economic interests of giant US corporations which see Ukraine as a potential “gold mine” of profits from agricultural and energy exploitation

We don’t have a goal of developing GM products here or to import them. We can feed ourselves with normal, common, not genetically modified products. If the Americans like to eat such products, let them eat them. We don’t need to do that; we have enough space and opportunities to produce organic food. - Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, see Russia postpones planting of GMOs, April 22, 2014

At the present time, China is the largest foreign holder of agricultural land in Ukraine. Last week, China also pulled the plug on GMO crops. See, China pulls plug on genetically modified rice and corn, August 20, 2014. Public skepticism about the benefits of GM crops is growing in China. Dennis Normile reports in part:

Why the ministry allowed the certificates to lapse is in dispute. Some environmentalists say public worries about GM crops played a decisive role. “We believe that loopholes in assessing and monitoring [GM] research, as well as the public concern around safety issues are the most important reasons that the certifications have not been renewed,” writes Wang Jing, a Greenpeace official based in Beijing, in an e-mail to ScienceInsider.

Others believe agricultural economics also influenced the decision. China has nearly reached self-sufficiency in producing rice using conventional varieties, so the ministry has decided there is no need to commercialize Bt rice in the near future, says Huang Jikun, director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy. He says that with commercialization off the table, there was no point in renewing the certifications. Huang says “rising public concerns [about the] safety of GM rice” likely also played a role.

Whatever the reason, the decision marks an abrupt change in fortunes for transgenic rice in China.

Below: Joyce Nelson is an award-winning Canadian freelance writer/researcher and the author of five books, including Sultans of Sleaze: PR & the Media (1992). William A. Toolen wrote earlier this year (February), “This is a very intelligent and well written book about the media. It is even more true today then when it was written. If you are tired of the BS the media hands you every day disguised as legitimate ‘news’ you will love this book as i did. highly recommended.”

Monsanto and Ukraine
Joyce Nelson CounterPunch USA August 22-24, 2014

Visit this link for its appended links.

Finally, a little-known aspect of the crisis in Ukraine is receiving some international attention. On July 28, the California-based Oakland Institute released a report revealing that the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), under terms of their $17 billion loan to Ukraine, would open that country to genetically-modified (GM) crops and genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) in agriculture. The report is entitled “Walking on the West Side: the World Bank and the IMF in the Ukraine Conflict.” [1]

In late 2013, the then president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, rejected a European Union association agreement tied to the $17 billion IMF loan, whose terms are only now being revealed. Instead, Yanukovych chose a Russian aid package worth $15 billion plus a discount on Russian natural gas. His decision was a major factor in the ensuing deadly protests that led to his ouster from office in February 2014 and the ongoing crisis.

According to the Oakland Institute, “Whereas Ukraine does not allow the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in agriculture, Article 404 of the EU agreement, which relates to agriculture, includes a clause that has generally gone unnoticed: it indicates, among other things, that both parties will cooperate to extend the use of biotechnologies. There is no doubt that this provision meets the expectations of the agribusiness industry. As observed by Michael Cox, research director at the investment bank Piper Jaffray, ‘Ukraine and, to a wider extent, Eastern Europe, are among the most promising growth markets for farm-equipment giant Deere, as well as seed producers Monsanto and DuPont’.” [2]

Ukrainian law bars farmers from growing GM crops. Long considered “the bread basket of Europe,” Ukraine’s rich black soil is ideal for growing grains, and in 2012 Ukrainian farmers harvested more than 20 million tonnes of corn.

On December 13, 2013, Monsanto’s Jesus Madrazo, Vice President of Corporate Engagement, told the U.S.-Ukraine Conference in Washington, D.C. that the company sees “the importance of creating a favorable environment [in Ukraine] that encourages innovation and fosters the continued development of agriculture. Ukraine has the opportunity to further develop the potential of conventional crops, which is where we are currently concentrating our efforts. We also hope that at some point biotechnology is a tool that will be available to Ukrainian farmers in the future.” [6]

Just a few days before Madrazo’s remarks in Washington, Monsanto Ukraine had launched its “social development” program for the country, called “Grain Basket of the Future.” [7] It provides grants to rural villagers so they can (in Monsanto’s words) “start feeling that they can improve their situation themselves as opposed to waiting for a handout.”

Actually, the real “handout” is the one going to Big U.S. Agribusiness through the terms of the IMF/World Bank loan, which besides opening the country to GM crops, will also further lift the ban on the sale of Ukraine’s rich agricultural lands to the private sector. [8]

As Morgan Williams, president and CEO of the U.S.-Ukraine Business Council, told International Business Times in March, “Ukraine’s agriculture could be a real gold mine.” [9] But he added that there are “many aspects of the [Ukraine] business climate that need to be changed. The major item would center around getting the government out of business…”

In August 2011, WikiLeaks released U.S. diplomatic cables showing that the U.S. State Department has been lobbying worldwide for Monsanto and other biotechnology corporations like DuPont, Syngenta, Bayer and Dow. The U.S. non-profit Food & Water Watch, after combing through five years of these cables (2005-2009), released its report entitled “Biotech Ambassadors: How the U.S. State Department Promotes the Seed Industry’s Global Agenda” on May 14, 2013. [10] The report showed the U.S. State Department has “lobbied foreign governments to adopt pro-agricultural biotechnology policies and laws, operated a rigorous public relations campaign to improve the image of biotechnology, and challenged commonsense biotechnology safeguards and rules – even including opposing laws requiring the labeling of genetically-engineered (GE) foods.”

On April 15, 2014 Toronto’s The Globe & Mail newspaper published an op-ed piece by [Hill + Knowlton Strategies] assistant consultant Olga Radchenko, [13] The piece railed against Russian President Vladimir Putin and “Mr. Putin’s PR machine” and stated that “Last month [March 2014 - a month after the coup], a group of Kiev-based PR professionals formed the Ukraine Crisis Media Centre, a voluntary operation aimed at helping to communicate Ukraine’s image and manage its messaging on the global stage.”

Meanwhile, Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev stated in April: “We don’t have a goal of developing GM products here or to import them. We can feed ourselves with normal, common, not genetically modified products. If the Americans like to eat such products, let them eat them. We don’t need to do that; we have enough space and opportunities to produce organic food.” [15]

Hill + Knowlton, with its Kuwait “incubator babies atrocities” falsehood, was instrumental in getting the American public to back the first Gulf War on Iraq in the early 1990s. Now the company is involved in fomenting a Cold War 2 or worse, and on behalf of Monsanto – recently voted the “most evil” corporation on the planet. That’s something to recall in the midst of the extensive mainstream media demonizing of Putin.

Related: Behind the U.S.-backed coup that ousted the democratically elected president of Ukraine are the economic interests of giant corporations – from Cargill to Chevron – which see the country as a potential “gold mine” of profits from agricultural and energy exploitation, reports JP Sottile.

Corporate interests behind Ukraine putsch

JP Sottile USA March 16, 2014

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On Jan. 12, a reported 50,000 “pro-Western” Ukrainians descended upon Kiev’s Independence Square to protest against the government of President Viktor Yanukovych. Stoked in part by an attack on opposition leader Yuriy Lutsenko, the protest marked the beginning of the end of Yanukovych’s four year-long government.

That same day, the Financial Times reported a major deal for U.S. agribusiness titan Cargill.

Despite the turmoil within Ukrainian politics after Yanukovych rejected a major trade deal with the European Union just seven weeks earlier, Cargill was confident enough about the future to fork over $200 million to buy a stake in Ukraine’s UkrLandFarming. According to Financial Times, UkrLandFarming is the world’s eighth-largest land cultivator and second biggest egg producer. And those aren’t the only eggs in Cargill’s increasingly-ample basket.

On Dec. 13, Cargill announced the purchase of a stake in a Black Sea port. Cargill’s port at Novorossiysk — to the east of Russia’s strategically significant and historically important Crimean naval base — gives them a major entry-point to Russian markets and adds them to the list of Big Ag companies investing in ports around the Black Sea, both in Russia and Ukraine.

So, why was Big Ag so bullish on Ukraine, even in the face of so much uncertainty and the predictable reaction by Russia?

The answer is that the seeds of Ukraine’s turn from Russia have been sown for the last two decades by the persistent Cold War alliance between corporations and foreign policy. It’s a version of the “Deep State” that is usually associated with the oil and defense industries, but also exists in America’s other heavily subsidized industry — agriculture.

Morgan Williams is at the nexus of Big Ag’s alliance with U.S. foreign policy. To wit, SigmaBleyzer touts Mr. Williams’ work with “various agencies of the U.S. government, members of Congress, congressional committees, the Embassy of Ukraine to the U.S., international financial institutions, think tanks and other organizations on U.S.-Ukraine business, trade, investment and economic development issues.”

As President of the U.S.-Ukraine Business Council, Williams has access to Council cohort — David Kramer, President of Freedom House. Officially a non-governmental organization, it has been linked with overt and covert “democracy” efforts in places where the door isn’t open to American interests — a.k.a. U.S. corporations.

Freedom House, the National Endowment for Democracy and National Democratic Institute helped fund and support the Ukrainian “Orange Revolution” in 2004. Freedom House is funded directly by the U.S. Government, the National Endowment for Democracy and the U.S. Department of State.

David Kramer is a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs and, according to his Freedom House bio page, formerly a “Senior Fellow at the Project for the New American Century.”

That puts Kramer and, by one degree of separation, Big Ag fixer Morgan Williams in the company of PNAC co-founder Robert Kagan who, as coincidence would have it, is married to Victoria “F*ck the EU” Nuland, the current Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs.

Interestingly enough, Ms. Nuland spoke to the U.S.-Ukrainian Foundation last Dec. 13, extolling the virtues of the Euromaidan movement as the embodiment of “the principles and values that are the cornerstones for all free democracies.”

Nuland also told the group that the United States had invested more than $5 billion in support of Ukraine’s “European aspirations,” meaning pulling Ukraine away from Russia. She made her remarks on a dais featuring a backdrop emblazoned with a Chevron logo.

Also, her colleague and phone call buddy U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt helped Chevron cook up their 50-year shale gas deal right in Russia’s kitchen.

Although Chevron sponsored that event, it is not listed as a supporter of the Foundation. But the Foundation does list the Coca-Cola Company, ExxonMobil and Raytheon as major sponsors. And, to close the circle of influence, the U.S.-Ukraine Business Council is also listed as a supporter.

Which brings the story back to Big Ag’s fixer — Morgan Williams.

Posted at: August 25, 2014 - 12:52 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post