November 21, 2014


The crisis over California’s water. Let’s stop calling it a drought: The lack of water isn’t temporary, it’s the new norm

Jim comment: I harvested the last Honey Boat squash from the garden today. Seeds are all saved for next year. But to my point: I was in the produce section of my grocery store to pick up one stick of celery for my Beef Mushroom and Barley Soup tonight. One month ago, one stick of celery cost me 23 cents. Ten days ago one stick cost me 41 cents. Today one stick was 92 cents. If a British Columbian purchased a bundle of fresh fruits or vegetables recently, there’s nearly a 50 percent chance they were grown in California. And while we’ve become accustomed to paying very little for such goods, that may soon change. The garden will be expanding in area and variety of crops next year.

The crisis over California’s water
Joshua Frank CounterPunch USA November 21-23, 2014

The following article appeared last August in the CounterPunch print edition, Volume 21, Number 7.

“Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting over.”
– Mark Twain

It doesn’t take long once you’ve left the greater Los Angeles area, away from all the lush lawns, water features, green parkways and manicured foliage to see that California is in the midsts of a real, and potentially deadly water crisis. Acres and acres of abandoned farms, dry lake beds, empty reservoirs—the water is simply no longer there and likely won’t ever be back.

What’s happening here in California is far more than a ‘severe drought’ as the media has dubbed the situation. The word ‘drought’ gives the impression that this is all short lived, an inconvenience we have to deal with for a little while. But the lack of water isn’t temporary, it’s the new norm. California’s ecology as some 38 million residents know it is forever changing—and climate change is the culprit. At least that’s the prognosis a few well-respected climatologists have been saying for the last two decades, and their predictions have not only been accurate, they’ve been conservative in their estimates.

UC Santa Cruz Professor Lisa Sloan co-authored a 2004 report in which she and her colleague Jacob Sewall predicted the melting of the Arctic ice shelf would cause a decrease in precipitation in California and hence a severe drought. The Arctic melting, they claimed, would warp the offshore jet stream in the Pacific Ocean. Not only have their models proved correct, Prof. Sloan recently told Joe Fromm of ThinkProgress she believes “the actual situation in the next few decades could be even more dire” than their study suggested.

As they anticipated ten years ago, the jet stream has indeed shifted, essentially pushing winter storms up north and out of California. As a result, snowpack in the Sierra Nevadas, which feeds water to most of Southern California and the agricultural operators of the Central Valley, have all but disappeared. Winters are drier and springs are no longer wet, which means when the warm summer months roll around there’s no water to be cultivated.

The Los Angeles basin is a region that has long relied on snowmelt from mountains hundreds of miles away to feed its insatiable appetite for development, but that resource is rapidly evaporating. It is, perhaps, a just irony for the water thieves of Southern California that their wells are finally running dry. Prudence and restraint in water usage will soon be forced upon those who value the extravagant over the practical. It’s the new way of the West as climate change’s many impacts come to fruition.

Perhaps there is a reason why people don’t understand how bad the water crisis really is—they’re daily lives have yet to be impacted. Unless the winter and spring of 2015 bring drench- ing rains, California only has 12-18 months of reserves left. Even the most optimistic of forecasts show a rapid decline in water reserves in the state in the decades to come. To put it in perspective, California hasn’t seen this drastic of a decline in rainfall since the mid-1500s.

“This is a real emergency that requires a real emergency response,” argues Jay Famiglietti, a senior water scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “If Southern California does not step up and conserve its water, and if the drought continues on its epic course, there is nothing more that our water managers can do for us. Water availability in Southern California would be drastically reduced. With those reductions, we should expect skyrocketing water, food and energy prices, as well as the demise of agriculture.”

While it’s clear that the decline in the state’s water reserves will have a very real economic and day-to-day impact on Californians in the near future, it’s also having an inexorable and devastating effect on the environment.

Rigid conservation and appropriate resource management may act as a bandaid for California’s water crisis, but if climate models remain accurate, the melting of Arctic ice will continue to have a severe impact on the Pacific jet stream, weakening winter storm activity in the state.

It’s a precarious situation, not only for millions of people and the nation’s largest state economy—but it could be the death knell for much of California’s remaining wildlife and iconic beauty as well.

Posted at: November 21, 2014 - 3:34 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post


This is their vaunted democracy? The one they are trying to impose worldwide through their paid operatives and military? Well, they may forment civil unrest or eventually a war here too. Corporations, courts and police usurp public lands in British Columbia

The people belong to the land. Conquest and settlement invert this relationship, create property, and then assert exclusive rights over that property. - Paul Woodward

B.C. outdoorsmen risk criminal records in David vs. Goliath battle to keep lakes public
CBC News Canada Last updated November 21, 2014

Nicole Valley Fish and Game Club member Rick McGowan says he’s done nothing wrong because you can’t bar access to a public road. Photo: CBC

A group of outdoorsmen near Merritt, B.C., say they’re being threatened with criminal charges and accuse the RCMP of taking sides in a dispute over access to lakes on a massive cattle ranch owned by a U.S. billionaire.

The Douglas Lake Cattle Company is trying to restrict access to more than 30 lakes on a spread the size of Luxembourg.

CBC first reported two years ago on the David and Goliath battle between the ranch, said to be the largest working cattle ranch in Canada, and the Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club.

But now the fight, reminiscent of an old-fashioned western, is heating up again as members of the fish and game club risk criminal charges by cutting locks on gates across roads that were once public.

“These locked gates are significant because we are trying to keep them open for future generations of the public to get in here and they keep locking ‘em on us, and we are going to keep unlocking them until somebody does something about it,” the club’s Rick McGowan told CBC News.
Ranch officials say the land on their more than half-a-million acres is private. That includes the roads to the popular fishing and hunting grounds near Stoney and Minnie lakes.

Those who force their way in are getting more than just threats. They’re facing criminal charges.

“It’s like a great big schoolyard bullying game they are playing. And they figure well, if we charge a few people, kick a few butts, then everybody will stay out of here,” said McGowan.

So far, billionaire Stan Kroenke is saying little. Kroenke owns the St. Louis Rams, is the largest shareholder of Arsenal in the English Premier League, and is married to Ann Walton, daughter of the founder of Wal-Mart.

Kroenke has earned the nickname “Silent Stan” for his shrewd business deals and general lack of comment.

​Kroenke’s historic ranch is no stranger to standoffs.

B.C.’s first train robber, the famed “gentleman bandit” Bill Miner, who allegedly coined the phrase, “hands up,” once hid out at Douglas Lake Ranch back in 1905 before being arrested at the ranch following a manhunt.

Years later a movie about the saga, The Grey Fox, was filmed in these same dusty foothills.

Ranch manager Joe Gardner said people who cut locks are trespassing on private land.

“It doesn’t really matter how much money owner Stanley Kroenke has,” Gardner told CBC back in 2011. “What matters is our legal right.”

McGowan said he’s not broken any laws.

“They are threatening to charge us with public mischief and our point of view is — this is what’s illegal,” he said. “These are public roads and you have to have a permit to lock a public road. They have no permit.”

McGowan and other members of the Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club were recently summoned to the Merritt Community Corrections office, where they were shown documents that offered them a compromise.

If they signed the “adult alternative dispute resolution” agreement it meant they admitted to mischief, agreed to community supervision, but would avoid criminal court.

So far, members have all refused and every chance they get, they continue to cut locks.

“There is not a chance I am going to do it,” said club member Kim Robinson. “If I sign this and say I’m responsible and I did this, it can come back and bite me in the ass.”

The RCMP say the men could end up in court.

“This is the exact thing we don’t want happening,” said RCMP Sgt. Norm Flemming. “Could he be charged for that? Absolutely. [This person is] expressing their frustration and they are going about it in the wrong way.”

The property dispute is winding its way through B.C. Supreme Court, which will consider whether the roads in question, and the land around the lakes, are public or private.

In the meantime, the RCMP have said they will arrest and charge anybody who damages locks, because the locks are ranch property — whether the road is or not.

So the standoff may end up in criminal as well as civil court. If so, it won’t be the first time Douglas Lake is the backdrop for a wild western-style showdown.

Related: ‘This is going to be a war,’ says Burnaby mayor as 26 pipeline protesters arrested (with video)
Dan Fumano The Province British Columbia Canada November 21, 2014

Visit this page for its related links.

As pipeline protesters clashed with police on Burnaby Mountain — leading to 26 arrests — Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said his government was ready for a “war” in the courts.

“This is going to be a war, and it’s going to be one that carries on for a number of years,” Corrigan said of the legal challenges his city has mounted in various levels of court, in attempts to stop Kinder Morgan’s work on Burnaby Mountain.

“The bigger argument that needs to be fought is: How much can the federal government impose its will on local governments and the ability of people to make local decisions? That’s really the quintessential issue that takes this beyond a merely local situation to being one that attracts interest from municipalities right across Canada.”

What had been a peaceful protest early Thursday became tense later that afternoon as officers ordered the crowd of over 100 chanting demonstrators to move back.

Police arrived on the scene Thursday at around 8:30 a.m. to enforce last week’s B.C. Supreme Court injunction ordering protesters to clear encampments blocking surveyors from doing work for the proposed expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

By Thursday evening, police confirmed 26 protesters were arrested, including five in custody.

Those released were done so on the condition that they no longer interfere or obstruct work being carried out by Trans Mountain, a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan.

Later in the day, Corrigan encouraged protesters not to put themselves in a situation where they could be arrested or hurt, and said his government was ready to take on Kinder Morgan and Canada’s National Energy Board in their own way.

Corrigan, a former criminal lawyer who grew up in East Vancouver, told The Province on Thursday that he and his city’s staff are well-prepared for the battles ahead.

“I didn’t look for the fight. But like any good east end boy, if it comes to me, I’m not going to back down,” said Corrigan, recently re-elected to a fifth term as mayor of Burnaby. “This came to our doorstep. We didn’t go looking for this fight … but this will likely turn into a case that will have implications for cities right across Canada for a long time.

“This is a fight that’s been a long time coming. We’ve been dealing with 21st-century problems using a 19th-century statute.”

While Corrigan expressed gratitude and respect for the police, he said he was “very disappointed” people were being arrested Thursday, and that RCMP had to enforce the court order before the city’s legal appeal had been resolved.

BREAKING: SFU scientist Lynne Quarmby arrested in Kinder Morgan protest at Burnaby Mountain
Jenny Uechi and Mychaylo Prystupa Vancouver Observer British Columbia Canada November 21, 2014

Simon Fraser University molecular biology department chair Lynne Quarmby waving to supporters during her arrest on Burnaby Mountain on Friday. Photo: Mychaylo Prystupa. Visit this page for its embedded and related links and video (1:11).

Scientist Lynne Quarmby — the chair of SFU’s molecular biology and biochemistry department, and face of public opposition against pipeline giant Kinder Morgan — has just been arrested at Burnaby Mountain.

“The reason we’re in this predicament here in Burnaby has to do with the Conservative Harper government and what they did at the end of 2012 in the omnibus bill that stripped environmental regulations,” she said in a speech minutes before her arrest.

“The NEB process is now a sham…We have a process that does not allow consideration of climate change…at a time that climate change is the biggest problem facing humanity. It’s unethical. The new NEB Act is written as requested by the oil industry.”

“At the end of the day when you’re dealing with unjust law and abusive power, the last resource we have is civil disobedience. It’s done in full respect of the rule of law. But it’s also done with serious responsibility with being a citizen in this country,” she said, as cheers erupted.

“So now, I’m going to turn around and walk up this hill — and be the best citizen I can be.”

Soaked by a heavy downpour of rain, the scientist then turned her back to the crowd and walked calmly toward the police lines on Burnaby Mountain.

As the scientist approached, an RCMP officer asked her if she knew that what she was doing could get her arrested. Quarmby responded she was fully aware of her actions as a citizen.

Apparently reluctant to have to cuff her, police linked their arms and shook their heads, insisting she could not pass. Undeterred, Quarmby quietly walked around the police line and set foot in the injunction zone. At that moment, her wrists were cuffed.

She raised her hands above her head as the crowd cheered and sang in support. Quarmby peacefully entered the police van, along with Voters Taking Action against Climate Change spokesman Kevin Washbrook and another young woman who were also detained.

Quarmby said previously said she is ready to be arrested for her criticism of Kinder Morgan, and that she discussed it with her family yesterday.

“I have a 27-year-old son. I had a conversation with him last night,” she said. “He, of course, will be impacted (by the arrest). He understands all the risks I’m taking. But he supports me 100 per cent and is very, very proud of what I’m doing.” She said he has also been flooded by messages of support.

She said youth were on her mind as she spoke out against Kinder Morgan — a Texas-based pipeline giant founded by Rich Kinder, a former executive at Enron.

Kinder Morgan is currently proposing to twin the existing Trans Mountain pipeline by running a pipeline through Burnaby Mountain to triple bitumen capacity from Alberta’s tar sands to 890,000 barrels per day.

The project has sparked heavy citizen opposition, in part because it would multiply the number of oil tankers through Burrard Inlet seven-fold if approved.

“This is only the beginning of a very long process — we’ll just have to see how it all plays out.”

She said both her family and her community at SFU have provided “tremendous love and support”.

Quarmby has repeatedly asserted that she — and others who have protested Kinder Morgan — are “not radicals”, but merely citizens concerned about the impact on the environment if the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion goes through.

Quarmby is among five citizens (including fellow SFU professor Stephen Collis and an SFU administration worker) against whom Kinder Morgan has filed a multi-million dollar law suit last month. The company’s lawyer cited her op-ed in the case against her, and said her opposition had cost Kinder Morgan upwards of $5 million in losses.

“I am not going to let Kinder Morgan take away my freedom of speech,” she said.

When the courts granted Kinder Morgan an injunction against protesters last week, over 800 citizens — many of them Burnaby residents — showed up on Burnaby Mountain on Monday to support the protest against the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion.

SFU has expressed strong support for both Quarmby and others who Kinder Morgan sued this month. Over 300 faculty, staff and students signed a letter in support of two professors facing court actions by Kinder Morgan.

Michael Hale, a farm owner in Chilliwack and spokesperson for citizen group Pipe Up Network, said people are concerned about Kinder Morgan’s “heavy-handed tactics” and that what was happening to Burnaby Mountain and critics like Quarmby was a ‘litmus test’ for every other community along the pipeline expansion route.

“There are many parks in B.C. along the proposed pipeline route that Kinder Morgan is going to be working in,” he said. “What’s happening in Burnaby is what will happen everywhere else. Kinder Morgan made a big deal about how they’re going to listen to people. Is this their idea of consulting?”

Federal MP Kennedy Stewart, who flew in from Ottawa last night and was at Burnaby Mountain this morning, said Kinder Morgan was being “completely irresponsible,” and that he saw Burnaby constituents and business owners on the mountain today to oppose the pipeline expansion, despite the police arrests yesterday.

More Kinder Morgan protesters arrested on Burnaby Mountain
CBC News Canada November 21, 2014

Visit this page for its related links and nine picture slideshow.

Burnaby RCMP say a total of 34 anti-pipeline protesters have been arrested and charged with civil contempt since police began arresting people Thursday morning for defying a court injunction to stay clear of Kinder Morgan’s worksite.

Twenty-six people were arrested Thursday and eight today.

The protesters vowed to continue their fight to block geo-technical survey work by Kinder Morgan, even after their arrests. First Nations and environmental groups held a morning news conference to annonunce their continued defiance.

Burnaby RCMP Staff Sgt. Maj. John Buis said all but five of the protesters that were arrested have been released, All have been charged with civil contempt of court. The five people who remain in custody were to make court appearances today.

Kinder Morgan is proposing to bore a tunnel under the mountain for the rerouting and expansion of its existing Trans Mountain pipeline.

Meanwhile, Kinder Morgan spent the night moving heavy equipment to its work site on Burnaby Mountain, as police continued to block public vehicle access to the area at the bottom of Centennial Way.

Faith Notheisz was one of the protesters arrested and released yesterday.

“Honestly … I don’t feel afraid at all because I know I’m in the right,” she said on Thursday after her release.

Fellow protester Jeff Wang, who is originally from Shanghai, questioned why protesters were being arrested in a country that lectures China on human rights.

“This is democracy? It’s ridiculous,” said Wang.

From the archives: To whom does land belong? Private hunting reserves, pipelines and illegal settlements; no intergenerational justice
Salt Spring News British Columbia Canada November 18, 2014

Seven links.

Posted at: November 21, 2014 - 3:31 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

November 20, 2014

Modern accounts are instruments of deception: The Western Axis financial and economic system has become distorted beyond belief

The financial and economic system has become distorted beyond belief by artificially low interest rates, excessive leverage and countless fast-buck hedge fund operations sustained by the financial bubble. The costs of these distortions have been enormous. - Martin Hutchinson. Martin Hutchinson covers emerging markets and economic policy, drawing on 25 years of experience as an international merchant banker. He ran derivatives platforms for two European banks, before serving as director of a Spanish venture capital company, advisor to the Korean conglomerate Sunkyong and chairman of a US modular building company. In Zagreb he established the Croatian debt capital markets and set up the corporate finance operations of Privredna Banka Zagreb. Since 2000 he has been a financial journalist.

Modern accounts are instruments of deception
Martin Hutchinson The Prudent Bear, The Bear’s Lair blog USA November 17, 2014

One of the courses I took at business school was “Analysis of Financial Reports,” in which we learned to deconstruct all the scam accounts that had proliferated in the late 1960s boom. Most of these companies, undone by negative cash flow, went bust after 1970. We were informed by the professor that the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), set up in 1973, was introducing new and more rigorous accounting principles, so that pretty soon all the accounting scams of the late 1960s would become impossible. Accounts would become readily comprehensible, with few differences in approach between those of different companies.

Well, that didn’t last long!

Since the 1970s, not only has finance become vastly more complicated, but so has accounting. The principle of “mark to market,” originally introduced only to value properly the trading portfolios of securities brokerages, has been extended again and again until it has made accounts incomprehensible to the ordinary investor. Combine this technique with the complexities of modern finance, in which derivatives are used to “hedge” all imaginable operations, and we saw perfectly simple, “vanilla” companies suddenly record huge profits or losses for no conceivable reason. We also witnessed banks recording large, spurious profits in 2008, as their credit quality collapsed and the “mark-to-market value” of their liabilities declined commensurately.

Add to that the skewed incentives produced by a decade of negative real interest rates and the ethical decay of managements who know that the regulators are plodding along at least five years behind them, and you have accounting visibility below that of the South Sea Bubble days. Needless to say, the prospects for mass fraud and chicanery are even grimmer than in 1720.

The purpose of accounting is to reflect to shareholders a realistic picture of the company’s operations and its assets. There will always be distortions. For example, in the inflationary 1970s, buyout artists were always on the lookout for companies whose headquarters or main plant had been recorded at cost in say 1926 and not revalued since. However “market to market” of fixed assets in particular destroys the historical record of how the company has been built, and makes all subsequent earnings and asset figures both meaningless and impossible to relate to either reality or competitors’ operations. For example, [the iron and coal mining company Cliffs Resources’] operations will show an artificially low depreciation charge in future quarters, making it impossible to determine its true costs compared to competitors.

The financial and economic system has in the last 20 years been distorted beyond belief by artificially low interest rates, excessive leverage and countless fast-buck hedge fund and private-equity fund operations sustained by the financial bubble. The costs of these distortions have been enormous and will need to be paid for decades to come. Accountants have contributed greatly to this mess. The profession needs to get its house in order, fast.

Posted at: November 20, 2014 - 3:17 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

Stonewalling: Kiev won’t negotiate with Donbass separatists & Dutch government refuses to reveal ‘secret deal’ into MH17 crash probe

Uncooperative, obstructive, and evasive—no wonder they’re our puppets, er, pals.

Ukraine rules out direct negotiations with rebels to end war
Jason Ditz News USA November 19, 2014

Visit this page for its embedded link.

Underscoring exactly why the eastern Ukrainian Civil War still hasn’t been resolved, the Ukrainian government today reiterated that it will never directly negotiate with the eastern rebels.

The comments were a response to Russian FM Sergey Lavrov urging the two sides to hold talks to reach “mutually acceptable agreements.” As usual, they included angry condemnations of Russia.

Ukrainian Premier Arseniy Yatsenyuk insisted the call for talks amounted to Russia trying to push Ukraine into recognizing the rebels’ legitimacy, saying it was tantamount to ‘legitimizing terrorists.’ He went on to condemn the rebels as “Russian mercenaries.”

Lavrov said that talks without the rebels were “counterproductive” and criticized Ukrainian hawks looking to exclude them from any potential peace deal.

Dutch government refuses to reveal ‘secret deal’ into MH17 crash probe
RT Russia November 20, 2014

The Dutch government has refused to reveal details of a secret pact between members of the Joint Investigation Team examining the downed Flight MH17. If the participants, including Ukraine, don’t want information to be released, it will be kept secret.

The respected Dutch publication Elsevier made a request to the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice under the Freedom of Information Act to disclose the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) agreement, along with 16 other documents. The JIT consists of four countries – the Netherlands, Belgium, Australia and Ukraine – who are carrying out an investigation into the MH17 disaster, but not Malaysia. Malaysian Airlines, who operated the flight, has been criticized for flying through a war zone.

Despite the air crash taking place on July 17 in Eastern Ukraine, very little information has been released about any potential causes. However, rather than give the public a little insight into the investigation, the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice is more worried about saving face among the members of the investigation.

“I believe that this interest [international relations] is of greater importance than making the information public, as it is a unique investigation into an extremely serious event,” the Ministry added, according to Elsevier.

Other reasons given for the request being denied included protecting investigation techniques and tactics as well as naming the names of officials who are taking part in the investigation. The Ministry said it would be a breach of privacy if they were revealed. “If the information was to be released then sensitive information would be passed between states and organizations, which would perhaps they would be less likely to share such information in the future,” said the Ministry of Security and Justice.

Malaysia is the only country to have directly negotiated with the anti-Kiev militias in the East of Ukraine, while the country’s Ambassador to the Netherlands said he was unhappy that Malaysia had not been included within the JIT. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte flew to Kuala Lumpur on November 5, but Malaysia says it still did not receive an invitation to join.

“We must first be included in the JIT, otherwise it would be hard for us to cooperate in the investigation. The parties inside the investigation must include us in the team, right now we are just a participant,” said the Malaysian Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday, which was reported by the New Straits Times.

A preliminary report by the Dutch Safety Board, which was released September said the MH17 crash was a result of structural damage caused by a large number of high-energy objects that struck the Boeing from the outside.

Dutch investigators added that “there are no indications” that the tragedy was triggered “by a technical fault or by actions of the crew.”

Related: Noted on the news wires,

The provocative statements made by Latvia’s President Dalia Grybauskaitė directed at Russia over the Ukrainian crisis complicate the conflict’s settlement, said Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Aleksandr Lukashevich. “In her remarks Grybauskaite surpasses even the most extremist statements made by radical nationalists in Kiev,” he added. “Sensible politics of most countries that are not trying to please marginals, and are really concerned about the situation in Ukraine and the state of affairs in Europe and the world, are guided by a different, responsible approach.” According to the ministry’s website, Grybauskaite called Russia a “terrorist state” in an interview to a local radio station. She also urged support for the Kiev government, including providing military aid.

Posted at: November 20, 2014 - 2:40 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

How will radical change occur, and what will it look like? You’ll get an inkling from what is happening on Burnaby Mountain today: “These are really good people who are really the leaders of our society…They’re leading the way for the society we need to go, and they’re being arrested”

Nick Filmore is an award-winning investigative reporter and a founder of the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ). Nick was a news editor and producer with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for more than 20 years. One of the founders of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), he was involved in helping press freedom organizations in developing countries for several years. Nick blogs here. Acclaimed U.S. journalist, author, radical and Pulitzer Prize winner Chris Hedges is one of the great moral voices of our age. He has the rare combination of decades of experience reporting from conflict zones in Central America, the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans and the erudition one would expect from a student of Christian ethics and the classics at Harvard University.

How will radical change occur, and what will it look like?
Nick Filmore A Different Point of View Canada November 19, 2014

Visit this page for its embedded links.

Journalist Chris Hedges is one of my favourite rabble-rousers. This article is re-printed from Truthdig.

By Chris Hedges
TORONTO—I met with Sheldon S. Wolin in Salem, Ore., and John Ralston Saul in Toronto and asked the two political philosophers the same question. If, as Saul has written, we have undergone a corporate coup d’état and now live under a species of corporate dictatorship that Wolin calls “inverted totalitarianism,” if the internal mechanisms that once made piecemeal and incremental reform possible remain ineffective, if corporate power retains its chokehold on our economy and governance, including our legislative bodies, judiciary and systems of information, and if these corporate forces are able to use the security and surveillance apparatus and militarized police forces to criminalize dissent, how will change occur and what will it look like?

Wolin, who wrote the books Politics and Vision and Democracy Incorporated, and Saul, who wrote Voltaire’s Bastards and The Unconscious Civilization, see democratic rituals and institutions, especially in the United States, as largely a facade for unchecked global corporate power. Wolin and Saul excoriate academics, intellectuals and journalists, charging they have abrogated their calling to expose abuses of power and give voice to social criticism; they instead function as echo chambers for elites, courtiers and corporate systems managers.

Neither believes the current economic system is sustainable. And each calls for mass movements willing to carry out repeated acts of civil disobedience to disrupt and delegitimize corporate power.
“If you continue to go down the wrong road, at a certain point something happens,” Saul said during our meeting Wednesday in Toronto, where he lives. “At a certain point when the financial system is wrong it falls apart. And it did. And it will fall apart again.”

“The collapse started in 1973,” Saul continued. “There were a series of sequential collapses afterwards. The fascinating thing is that between 1850 and 1970 we put in place all sorts of mechanisms to stop collapses which we can call liberalism, social democracy or Red Toryism. It was an understanding that we can’t have boom-and-bust cycles. We can’t have poverty-stricken people. We can’t have starvation.”

“The reason today’s collapses are not leading to what happened in the 18th century and the 19th century is because all these safety nets, although under attack, are still in place. But each time we have a collapse we come out of it stripping more of the protection away. At a certain point we will find ourselves back in the pre-protection period. At that point we will get a collapse that will be incredibly dramatic. I have no idea what it will look like. A revolution from the left? A revolution from the right? Is it violence followed by state violence? Is it the collapse of the last meaningful edges of democracy? Is it a sudden decision by a critical mass of people that they are not going to take it anymore?”

This devolution of the economic system has been accompanied by corporations’ seizure of nearly all forms of political and social power. The corporate elite, through a puppet political class and compliant intellectuals, pundits and press, still employs the language of a capitalist democracy. But what has arisen is a new kind of control, inverted totalitarianism, which Wolin brilliantly dissects in his book Democracy Incorporated.

Inverted totalitarianism does not replicate past totalitarian structures, such as fascism and communism. It is therefore harder to immediately identify and understand. There is no blustering demagogue. There is no triumphant revolutionary party. There are no ideologically drenched and emotional mass political rallies. The old symbols, the old iconography and the old language of democracy are held up as virtuous. The old systems of governance—electoral politics, an independent judiciary, a free press and the Constitution—appear to be venerated. But, similar to what happened during the late Roman Empire, all the institutions that make democracy possible have been hollowed out and rendered impotent and ineffectual.

Wolin and Saul, echoing Karl Marx, view unfettered and unregulated capitalism as a revolutionary force that has within it the seeds of its own self-annihilation. It is and always has been deeply antagonistic to participatory democracy, they said. Democratic states must heavily regulate and control capitalism, for once capitalism is freed from outside restraint it seeks to snuff out democratic institutions and abolish democratic rights that are seen—often correctly—as an impediment to maximizing profit. The more ruthless and pronounced global corporate capitalism becomes, the greater the loss of democratic space.

Wolin and Saul said they expect the state, especially in an age of terminal economic decline, to employ more violent and draconian forms of control to keep restive populations in check. This coercion, they said, will fuel discontent and unrest, which will further increase state repression.

Resistance, Wolin and Saul agreed, will begin locally, with communities organizing to form autonomous groups that practice direct democracy outside the formal power structures, including the two main political parties. These groups will have to address issues such as food security, education, local governance, economic cooperation and consumption. And they will have to sever themselves, as much as possible, from the corporate economy.

Wolin and Saul … agreed that creating a class devoted full time to radical change was essential to fomenting change.

There must be people, they said, willing to dedicate their lives to confronting the corporate state outside traditional institutions and parties. Revolt, for a few, must become a vocation. The alliance between mass movements and a professional revolutionary class, they said, offers the best chance for an overthrow of corporate power.

“It is extremely important that people are willing to go into the streets,” Saul said. “Democracy has always been about the willingness of people to go into the streets. When the Occupy movement started I was pessimistic. I felt it could only go a certain distance. But the fact that a critical mass of people was willing to go into the streets and stay there, without being organized by a political party or a union, was a real statement. If you look at that, at what is happening in Canada, at the movements in Europe, the hundreds of thousands of people in Spain in the streets, you are seeing for the first time since the 19th century or early 20th century people coming into the streets in large numbers without a real political structure.

“These movements aren’t going to take power. But they are a sign that power and the respect for power is falling apart. What happens next? It could be dribbled away. But I think there is the possibility of a new generation coming in and saying we won’t accept this. That is how you get change. A new generation comes along and says no, no, no. They build their lives on the basis of that no.”

But none of these mass mobilizations, Saul and Wolin emphasized, will work unless there is a core of professional organizers.

Related: Police arrest a dozen Kinder Morgan protesters on Burnaby Mountain
Jenny Uechi and Mychaylo Prystupa Vancouver Observer British Columbia Canada November 20, 2014

Brigette DePape, a Vancouver-based activist, is among 12 protesters against Kinder Morgan getting arrested on Burnaby Mountain. Photo: Mychaylo Prystupa. Visit this page for its embedded links.

RCMP arrested 12 protesters on Burnaby Mountain this morning and are enforcing Kinder Morgan’s injunction against pipeline opponents. According to protesters, Kinder Morgan has now arrived on site.

“I’m really sad. I’ve been fighting tears all morning,” said Lynne Quarmby, an SFU scientist who is one of six citizens that Kinder Morgan has filed a multi-million dollar civil suit against.

“The injustice of it all. I know police are doing what they need to do. It’s just the whole process is unjust.”

“These are really good people who are really the leaders of our society…They’re leading the way for the society we need to go, and they’re being arrested,” she said.

Below: UBCIC is a NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

UBCIC stands in support of those arrested at Burnaby Mountain
News release Union of BC Indian Chiefs British Columbia Canada November 20, 2014

(Coast Salish Territory/Vancouver, BC – November 20, 2014) Earlier today the Burnaby RCMP entered unceded Coast Salish Territories on Burnaby Mountain, enforced an injunction and arrested twenty-four protectors that were there to safe-guard public parklands from Kinder Morgan’s proposed expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline.

“The Union of BC Indian Chiefs stands in solidarity with those that have been arrested and we will continue to stand in support with those on the Mountain to uphold and defend Indigenous rights, land rights and human rights,” stated Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. “It is infuriating and beyond frustrating that we are faced with this provocative and heavy handed approach by the RCMP when at this time the City of Burnaby’s court proceedings have not even been completed. Kinder Morgan is despoiling the Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area to brazenly push ahead with their proposed expanded pipeline in the face of massive opposition.”

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip concluded “The Union of BC Indian Chiefs stands with those on the Mountain protecting this area from further development and we call on the provincial and federal governments to reject the Kinder Morgan proposal and to respect the laws and authority of the Coast Salish to protect their respective territories, land, fisheries and surrounding ecosystem from the very real potential and increased risk of oil spills and increased coast tanker traffic travelling the Salish Sea.”

Posted at: November 20, 2014 - 2:07 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

Eight foods you’re about to lose due to climate change: A list of the foods to enjoy now – while they’re comparatively plentiful

As worsening drought and extreme weather devastate crops, you may begin seeing climate change when you open your fridge.

Eight foods you’re about to lose due to climate change
Twilight Greenaway Guardian UK October 29, 2014

Drink up: Coffee is on the endangered foods list affected by climate change. Photo: David Levene/Guardian. Visit this page for its embedded links.

What does climate change taste like?

It’s an odd question, but an increasingly pertinent one. After all, as temperatures rise and extreme weather becomes the norm, many food production systems are becoming threatened. As that trend increases, it’s worth asking which foods consumers will have to cut back on – or abandon entirely.

According to David Lobell, deputy director of the Center on Food Security and the Environment at Stanford University, “The general story is that agriculture is sensitive. It’s not the end of the world; but it will be a big enough deal to be worth our concern.”

One major issue is carbon dioxide, or CO2. Plants use the gas to fuel photosynthesis, a fact that has led some analysts to argue that an increase CO2 is a good thing for farming. Lobell disagrees, noting that CO2 is only one of many factors in agriculture. “There’s a point at which adding more and more CO2 doesn’t help,” he says. Other factors – like the availability of water, the increasing occurrence of high and low temperature swings and the impact of stress on plant health – may outweigh the benefits of a CO2 boost.

Lobell has already noticed the effect of climate change on some crops. For example, he says, yield data from corn and wheat production suggests that these two staples are already being negatively affected by the changing climate. Similarly, fruit and nuts are also showing the impact of climate change. Fruit trees require “chilling hours”, or time in cold, wintry environments, for optimum production. If they don’t hit their required number of cold, wintery days, their production – and quality – drop. These reduced yields, Lobell explains, lead to more frequent price spikes in many foods.

Here’s a list of the foods to enjoy now – while they’re comparatively plentiful.

Related: Climate change and declining ocean health: Acidic ocean deadly for Vancouver Island shellfish industry & Sea star wasting disease likely caused by virus; warming ocean temperature suspected as a causative factor. (On the surface, climate-induced sea ice conditions threatening Polar Bears)
Salt Spring News British Columbia Canada November 19, 2014

Five links. The deteriorating health of B.C.’s oceans is impacting not only the province’s marine life, but also its economy.

Posted at: November 20, 2014 - 12:17 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

British Columbia ferry traffic drops to lowest level since 1991. Latest chapter in the slow but steady destruction of an essential ferry system and, with it, the economies of ferry-dependent communities

Intro: Strangling a province: The British Columbia Liberal Party (also referred to as the BC Liberals) was elected to government in 2001 under Gordon Campbell. It is not affiliated with the Liberal Party of Canada. The party is commonly described as a “free enterprise coalition”. It is, in fact, a clique of crony capitalists. Its de facto economic corporatism is used to reduce opposition and reward political loyalty. In “The Discovery that Business Corrupts Politics” (1981), Richard McCormick posited that crony capitalism arises when business cronyism and related self-serving behavior by businesses or businesspeople spills over into politics and government, or when self-serving friendships and family ties between businessmen and the government influence the economy and society to the extent that it corrupts public-serving economic and political ideals.

During the Liberal years the provincial debt and other hidden “taxpayer obligations” – which are a debt, just by another name – have more than quadrupled! Secondly, I want a government of people for people, not political hacks governing for the few. During the Liberal era, we’ve seen the privatization of BC Ferries, the giveaway of BC Rail and the essential bankruptcy of BC Hydro. - Rafe Mair, April 9, 2013. Rafe Mair’s political career began in 1975, when he was elected as a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) of the British Columbia Social Credit Party representing the riding of Kamloops. He held that seat until retiring from politics in 1981. Mair served as a cabinet minister in the government of Premier Bill Bennett under a variety of portfolios including health and education. During the patriation of the Constitution of Canada, he was BC’s chief delegate on constitutional matters.

Item: Ferry traffic drops to lowest level since 1991
Stephen Hume Vancouver Sun British Columbia Canada November 18, 2014

There has been a steep decline in traffic on the BC Ferries system since a policy of big fare hikes and reduced route services began. Photo: Mark van Maren.Vancouver Sun. Visit this page for its related links.

The latest traffic numbers are in and they paint a gloomy picture for BC Ferries and its owner, the province, which clings to the fiction that somehow it has nothing to do with any of this.

It’s what this trend says about overall health in the coastal economy that we should worry about.

The post-2004 decline completely reversed a half decade of vigorous growth — and the economic buoyancy that the activity indicated — which helps explain the painful contractions now reported in so many coastal communities by municipal and regional economic reports.

Last spring, for example, the Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities tabled reports that showed population declines in almost all smaller coastal communities to which ferry services had been cut and to which fares were raised steeply to compensate for shrinking ferry traffic.

The association reported that more than six out of 10 respondents had warned that draconian service reductions announced by B.C. Transportation Todd Stone in late 2013 would have yet more serious negative effects on employment and business activity.

It presented evidence of rapidly eroding property values in 14 sample communities such as Comox, Powell River, Bowen Island and others.

All had showed healthy growth before enactment of the province’s reduced service and higher fares policy. But by 2014, double-digit growth had reversed into double-digit declines in value. Losses averaged 10 per cent. In some communities they were 20 per cent.

The latest portent was Monday’s report from the Cariboo Regional District, the Northern Development Initiative Trust, Community Futures B.C. and the West Chilcotin Tourism Association. It said economic activity in the mid-coast and northern Vancouver Island region’s tourism sector had cratered in the 12 months following Route 40 service reductions and fare increases on the heavily promoted Discovery Coast Circle Tour.

[Todd Stone, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure for British Columbia,] danced the hornpipe of denial in response. He blew off the study as inaccurate, simplistic and over-stated, as he did an earlier study for the Union of B.C. Municipalities.

From the archives: Collective punishment: British Columbia’s ferry-dependent coastal communities not only have to combat false and misleading statements from the corporatist B.C. government but also from some members of the media & BC Ferries austerity program is based on false assumptions
Salt Spring News British Columbia Canada August 10, 2014

Two links. From one of those links:

BC Ferries was conceived by [Premier] WAC Bennett as an extension of the highway system and it remains that today.

By the way, remember the federal subsidy mentioned earlier? The primary reason for this is that B.C. was able to convince Ottawa that the ferry route between Horseshoe Bay and Nanaimo is an essential link in the Trans Canada Highway. That’s right — HIGHWAY.

I feel compelled to write this as I am fed up with hearing distortions of the truth and just plain falsehoods. We in ferry-dependent communities having nothing to apologize for. We pay, at the fare box, much more than our fair share of the cost of supplying and maintaining transportation infrastructure in B.C.

The problem is we have been ever so quiet and ever so reasonable for far too long. We have been lectured about “lifestyle choices” and scolded for siphoning away hard-earned tax money from the folks up north. We have to fight back. Arm yourselves with the facts and confront people who play fast and loose with the truth on ferry issues.

Unfortunately, the propaganda machine has done a remarkable job of reinforcing the myth that people in ferry-dependent communities are excessively subsidized freeloaders. The blunt truth is that a great many British Columbians have bought into that nonsense and have very little sympathy. And, given the shape of the electoral map, getting tough on ferry users comes at a very low political cost.

So ferry users, get active and stay active. Get the message to our fellow B.C. citizens that we are definitely not the parasites we have been described as, and demand fairness from the government of B.C.

Posted at: November 20, 2014 - 10:07 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

November 19, 2014

Eurasian consolidation and India’s policy

Sustaining a balance between the Atlantic and Eurasian worlds has become an ingrained feature of Indian foreign policy practice, but the contemporary alignment of Russia and China and prospects of a stronger global East complicate India’s position. The strategic elite may welcome a test of Western dominance, but the regional challenge China poses is still difficult to pin down. Zorawar Daulet Singh is a research scholar at King’s College London. Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Singh concludes: “India needs a more sophisticated outlook and domestic conversation on global and regional affairs, and, the skill and poise to work constructively with a variety of great powers who appear unlikely to get along with each other for the foreseeable future.”

Eurasian consolidation and India’s policy
Zorawar Daulet Singh Asia Times Online, Speaking Freely Hong Kong November 14, 2014

Since English geographer and geopolitician Halford Mackinder’s published a Russia containment strategy disguised as a grand theory in 1904, the Eurasian heartland has been perceived by the Anglo-American world as a threat to its global position.

Ironically, as Mackinder was writing his paper, the heartland power, czarist Russia, was in its death throes – Japan’s 1904-1905 naval victories in the Pacific had removed all illusions about Russia’s status as a first-rate power.

Yet, within three decades, a revolutionary and industrializing Russia was emerging as a potential superpower. Stalin’s crushing, albeit costly, annihilation of Hitler’s Third Reich established the Soviet Union as the second global pole. China’s own revolution, inspired and financed by Stalin’s Russia, produced the first major consolidation of the Eurasian heartland.

Led by America, the West initiated a sustained grand strategy of countering this new force in world politics. Nicholas Spykman offered a theoretical precursor to this strategy in his 1942 book, America’s Strategy in World Politics, which argued for America to project its strategic influence on the “Rimland” regions around the Soviet periphery.

Middle powers like India located on the Eurasian Rimland, however, reacted differently and consciously chose an approach that sought to maintain friendly and constructive ties with both these formidable blocs.

Despite some material costs, the overall developmental and security advantages of such an independent approach has never been credibly challenged. Indeed, this notion of sustaining a balance between the Atlantic and Eurasian worlds became an ingrained feature of Indian thinking and foreign policy practice.

During the interlude between 1991 and the resurgence of the Eurasian powers in the last decade, any notion of a balance between the two worlds became irrelevant. But the dramatic revival of the Eurasian world, and, its ongoing second phase of consolidation since the 1940s and 1950s, has revived the logic of balance in global geopolitics.

How should India view the contemporary alignment of Russia and China?

First, US policies have played an important part in driving Russia away from the West. But China’s new post-Dengist identity as a great power seeking to improve its own bargaining equation with the US is also a factor in Beijing’s outreach to Moscow.

As Gilbert Rozman of Princeton University perceptively notes, “Moscow and Beijing have disagreements about the future order they envision for their regions. But they agree that the geopolitical order of the East should be in opposition to that of the West.”

Unlike the US, India has absolutely no problem with a stronger Russia, and, a Moscow buttressing its Asian identity. A Moscow-Beijing alignment, however, poses some challenges – although not nearly as serious as this development is for America’s global position.

What are the implications of this global triangular development for India?

Posted at: November 19, 2014 - 1:12 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

The keyword is Khurasan: Af-Pak a frontline against IS goals & Commentary on IS’s November 4 attack inside Saudia Arabia’s eastern province

The Islamic State’s efforts to obliterate nation states to create the Khurasan caliphate as a Sunni heartland is likely to culminate in a showdown in Afghanistan, especially at the Pakistan border. Afghanistan could emerge, together with Shi’ite Iran and the Central Asian countries, as a torchbearer in halting the militants’ territorial ambitions. Rajeshwari Krishnamurthy is research officer and member of the editorial board of the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies in India and a member of the advisory council of the Research Institute for Women Peace and Security in Afghanistan. Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say.

Af-Pak a frontline against IS goals
Rajeshwari Krishnamurthy Asia Times Online, Speaking Freely Hong Kong November 17, 2014

Early in October, six leaders of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a terrorist group based in northwestern Pakistan, announced their allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) and to the self-declared Caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. While this was yet another indication of the steady percolation of IS into terrorist groups based in Pakistan, the implications will not be limited to national security alone.

The porous borders, historical narratives, and ideological leanings of the group will ensure that the effects will cut across social, economic, and humanitarian lines, unless there is an understanding of the IS’s perspectives towards the region. Pakistan is more vulnerable to that risk than other countries.

The IS believes that all territories historically ruled by Muslims and later conquered by non-Muslims and/or allegedly non-Islamic forms of governance were wrongfully taken from them; and intend to reclaim it. When the IS unilaterally declared a “Caliphate” in Syria and Iraq, it also released a map highlighting the territories it aims to control in future.

The present-day territories of Afghanistan and Pakistan form the heart of the historical Greater Khurasan region highlighted in the map, which includes parts of modern-day Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and parts of western China.

Given the IS’s specific ideological leaning and approach, today’s nation-states are irrelevant for the group. The IS views the region only as Khurasan and will try to replicate precisely what it has done in Iraq and Syria: to undo modern political borders that separate countries in the region.

Already, IS propaganda material and declarations of allegiances have begun to crop up in various parts of Pakistan, with the latest being wall-chalking supporting the group, not too far from Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Lahore residence.

However, the IS is not the only group that has its eyes set on the coveted Khurasan. The new TTP chief, Mullah Fazlullah, who fancies himself as the father of the Khurasan movement in Pakistan, and the relatively unknown group, Jaish-e-Khurasan, among others in Pakistan and Afghanistan, are also reclaiming Khurasan in their agendas.

Although the Pakistani military launched Operation Zarb-e-Azb to flush out militants from the country’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas earlier this year, the result has been to bring closer together the militants with like-minded counterparts in the bordering Afghan provinces of Kunar, Khost and Nuristan.

These provinces and the region along the Durand Line will become the epicenter of the turf war between these groups and the IS in the attempt to reclaim and control the historical Khurasan. While it is unlikely that the scale of breakdown of law and order will be on the lines of what is unraveling in Iraq and Syria, other implications will threaten to rip the very fabric of society in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the neighboring Central Asian countries.

Afghanistan is the linchpin that has the potential to play decision-maker, as the fight for Khurasan is likely to culminate in a showdown in the country, especially at the Af-Pak border along the Durand Line. If all regional countries work together in conjunction with Kabul to ensure the stability in Afghanistan post the withdrawal of Western troops, the region will be better guarded to fight the new threat.

The Khurasan narrative is extremely central to dealing with this menace, for, the terrorists view the region from the point of view of a single construct, and their planning will be on similar lines. Therefore, if the Khurasan narrative is studied and understood thoroughly, and if planned well, Afghanistan could, together with Iran and the Central Asian countries, be the torchbearer in halting the eastward advance of the IS.

Related: Viktor Titov’s analysis of the recent “trained in Syria” Sunni takfiri warriors coming home to Saudi Arabia to shoot Shias down in cold blood with no coalition drones and fighter bombers to worry about. The Saudi-backed terror coming home to Poppa had just been a matter of time. When you keep major terror operations like IS going on for year after year, that they would spin out of control eventually seemed a certainty. Viktor Titov holds a Ph.D in Historical Sciences. He is a political commentator on the Middle East

ISIL attacked Saudi Arabia
Viktor Titov New Eastern Outlook Russia November 11, 2014

Saudi Arabia has recently witnessed the aggression that should have happened sooner or later due to its short-sighted policy in Syria, Iraq and Iran. As an old saying goes: “If you dig a hole for others, you’re sure to fall in it yourself.”

A few days ago the Saudi town of al-Dalwa, situated in the oil-rich Eastern Province, suffered an attack of a group of armed Sunni terrorists, which resulted in seven civilian deaths. Most of the attackers were citizens of the kingdom. The prompt response of the local security forces allowed the servicemen to detain 20 members of an underground terrorist group, consisting mainly of those who had previously fought under the black banner of ISIL in Iraq and Syria. Law enforcement agencies of Saudi Arabia have managed to capture the head of the armed group, his name is kept secret. The only information that has become available to journalists is that this commander has recently returned from Syria where he was fighting against the pro-Assad forces.

Riyadh is now facing a harsh dilemma: on the one hand, the House of Saud is actively oppressing its Shia citizens, on the pretext of their disloyalty and their alleged attempts to undermine the national security of the kingdom due to the “evil Iranian influence.” On the other – Sunni terrorists, that Saudi Arabia is fighting today alongside with its closest ally – the US, have assaulted Shia civilians on the Saudi soil, and the latter were virtually enjoying the same rights as the rest of the population, including the right for protection. It is now official: Saudi citizens motivated by religious hatred are commiting manslaughter of their fellow citizens.

The only question is how Riyadh may react when the Sunni terrorists that it had trained and funded will unleash a wave of terror against the Shia population of KSA (Kingdom Saudi Arabia)? A similar course of events has already taken place in the neighboring Bahrain back in 2011, but Saudi regular troops were fast to cross the border in an attempt to prevent the violence from spreading.

It is no coincidence that the events in the city of al-Dalwa are completely ignored by the international media. Should this fact become widely known then the Saudi authorities will be forced to recognize the threat ISIL poses to Saudi Arabia along with acknowledging the underlying instability of Saudi society that can endanger the ruling Wahhabi regime.

Now that the Shia population of the Eastern Province is buzzing with discontent, the House of Saud has found itself in a tight corner. Should the authorities fail to prosecute terrorists, a violent unrest of the Shia population, similar the one that shook Saudi Arabia in 2011 -2012, in the wake of the above mentioned events in Bahrain, will be quick to follow. But if the terrorists are to be punished to the fullest extent of the Sharia law, then the Wahhabis and Salafis will accuse the royal family of “betrayal” of the Sunnis. This course of events will end no better, with a massive wave of violent terrorist attacks, carried out by ISIL militants all across Saudi Arabia. Now that ISIL thugs have faced harsh resistance in Syria and Iraq, they will be eager to move south to start a “sacred struggle against the corrupt pro-American reign of Al Saud family“. As for the Iraqi Shia population, they can only welcome this U-turn in their ongoing struggle against Islamists. Moreover, it is possible that the indignation of the Saudi Shia population of the Eastern Province will find some form of support in Tehran and Baghdad. This means that the fate of the kingdom’s territorial integrity will be put to the test. The nightmares of the Saudi ruling family seems to be coming true — Saudi Arabia can be split into several parts, which were joined together to create the kingdom back in 1929. This trend can be accelerated by the fact that a couple of weeks ago the Shia Houthis rebels seized power in Yemen, on the south-western borders of KSA.

When Riyadh joined the US “anti-terrorist” coalition back in October, along with a number of NATO and GCC countries, political analysts predicted the imminent revenge of ISIL.

So the events of November 4 may only be the first steps. On top of all, Saudi authorities have yielded to the US demands of dumping oil prices in an attempt to undermine Russia’s economy. This led to the narrowing scope of social initiatives being implemented in the Kingdom, since money have suddenly become scarce in the royal treasury.

By agreeing to support the US global ambitions, the House of Saud has clearly shot itself in the foot. Especially now, when Washington has displayed its willingness to sign an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program in two weeks time. This step will force Saudi Arabia to kiss it oil monopoly goodbye along with the role of the main strategic partner of the US in the region. At this point Riyadh couldn’t care less about the US military adventures in Iraq and Syria, it going to try to save its skin

It is clear that the coming days will put the Al-Saud dynasty’s survival skills to the test. Should the KSA authorities fail to keep the situation in the Eastern Province under control — the kingdom is doomed. With each passing day the Shiite arc becomes more apparent on the political horizon of the Middle East, just like the US miscalculations.

Every time Washington is trying to project its influence in the region, Arab regimes are beginning to crumble and fall apart. One can recall the revolutions in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, along with the civil wars in Syria and Iraq to illustrate this statement.

It is now safe to say that Obama has screwed everything up again by putting its strategic partner in danger. It seems that the defeat in the US midterm elections was a failure all right, yet he never stops to surprise his followers. And it is unlikely that the Republicans will be fascinated by the sight of Saudi Arabia going down in flames.

Posted at: November 19, 2014 - 12:57 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

Living with insanity: Harper, Abbott, and Cameron at the Brisbane G-20

Below: John Chuckman is former chief economist for a large Canadian oil company. He has many interests and is a lifelong student of history. He writes with a passionate desire for honesty, the rule of reason, and concern for human decency. John regards it as a badge of honor to have left the United States as a poor young man from the South Side of Chicago when the country embarked on the pointless murder of something like three million Vietnamese in their own land because they embraced the wrong economic loyalties. He lives in Canada. John’s writing appears regularly on many Internet sites. He has been translated into at least ten languages and has been regularly translated into Italian and Spanish. Several of his essays have been published in book collections, including two college texts. We received the following submission Tuesday afternoon.

Harper, Abbott, and Cameron at the Brisbane G-20

By John Chuckman

Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, is reported by a spokesman, to have had the following exchange with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin during the Brisbane G-20 summit: “Well, I guess I’ll shake your hand, but I only have one thing to say to you: you need to get out of Ukraine.” Putin is said to have replied, “Impossible. Since we are not there.”

A graceless bit of diplomatic crudity from a truly graceless man, Stephen Harper, someone Canadians know has a history of underhanded practices at home, from introducing ugly personal-attack campaign advertising, using secretive and bullying tactics in parliament, failing to deal with corrupt practices by subordinates especially an American-style election scandal of robo-calls which sent some voters to the wrong polls, to having appointed several unbelievably incompetent and corrupt ministers. He is known for a ferocious temper in private, a very controlling man who grants his political associates absolutely no freedom of expression, and is reported by insiders as having on at least one occasion thrown a chair in a meeting. His silencing of Canadian government scientists from offering their opinions on issues in areas of expertise has been a simmering international scandal, as has his complete suppression of environmental issues.

Before Harper, Canada enjoyed for many decades a reputation for fairness and decency and intelligence in international affair with statesmanship and openness exhibited by figures like Lester Pearson or Jean Chretien or Paul Martin. Harper has destroyed a great deal of that as he pursues a single-minded role as American junior partner in almost all things.

He completely abandoned Canada’s traditional policies of fairness and balance in the Middle East, literally shocking many Canadians at times with fervent outbursts about Israel, including suggestions that Canadian critics of Israel are anti-Semitic. He does this, as any astute political observer recognizes, to solicit increased campaign funds from Canada’s financially successful Jewish community, taking his cue from Republicans in the United States such as Newt Gingrich who alone received $18 million dollars from one wealthy supporter of Israel for his last nomination campaign in exchange for inserting into his speeches that there was no such thing as a Palestinian, an utterly insincere and ridiculous statement. Since Israel is no admirer of President Putin’s, he being too independent-minded and opposed to the American exceptionalism Israel tightly embraces and by which it prospers, this activity of Harper’s puts him in an anti-Russian frame of mind from the start.

Harper has made an annual photo-op journey to Canada’s North, always trying to appear to voters as the man most concerned with a future there of melting ice creating free access through the Northwest Passage. Ironically, he periodically mentions Russia as the nation he is most concerned about, but Canada’s recent history couldn’t make it clearer that it is the United States which represents the great threat to our Northern waters and shore. Everything from unauthorized American atomic submarine prowling to a giant American oil tanker passing to published American charts showing this future open water as international tells a pretty harsh story. But in every detail, Harper only pretends America is a great and non-threatening friend.

Harper is the single most obsessed leader in Canada’s history with pleasing, almost fawning over, the United States. Had the history of Canada, which included a great deal of disagreement and contention with the United States over its many imperialistic behaviors, included many leaders of Harper’s character, there quite likely would not be a county called Canada today.

So here are the demonstrated qualities of the man performing as Canada’s diplomatic ass at the G-20 in Brisbane. He demonstrates a genuinely anal-retentive temperament, is intolerant of differences of opinion, and embraces a wilful blindness to the world’s greatest threat to peace, the United States in its self-appointed role as imperial arbiter among nations.

In case you wonder why a man like Harper even holds office in Canada, it is because the effective opposition was split with internal battles and because the last leader they selected in desperation following those battles was a man of no political intelligence or even experience and a totally unattractive personality to the public, Michael Ignatieff, someone who managed to do almost everything wrong. It also reflects a democratic deficit in our parliamentary structure where a party with just over 39% of the vote can be a parliamentary majority. So despite Canadians consistently being about 60% or higher inclined to somewhat progressive parties, Harper has had a free run at pole-axing the country’s traditional international reputation. Every day we come to be seen as a bit more like the deceptive and brutal American colony in the Middle East he embraces so closely.

We unfortunately live in a time utterly lacking statesmen in the West. I don’t know the detailed backgrounds of those other aggressive fools at the G-20, Abbott of Australia and Cameron of Britain, but I know they are both men who have lied exceedingly and been intimately involved with such nasty business as favors for the unsavory Rupert Murdoch empire. I can think of nothing which recommends either of them as statesmen. Indeed, they both, quite literally, kowtow to America.

Putin is head and shoulders above these men in intellect and focus, readiness to communicate clear views to the world, someone demonstrating considerable patience, and, from all evidence, someone notably free of the blowhard ideology which virtually characterizes Harper, Abbott, and Cameron.

Putin’s moves in Ukraine seem to me appropriate for dealing with a deliberately-induced crisis in an important neighboring country, and one with a long history of connections and associations. He has not invaded Ukraine, something which he could easily do were he so inclined. I suspect he has supplied weapons to East Ukraine, but that is something the United States does all the time, including supplying weapons to some of the most brutal groups and governments on earth, as it is right now doing in Syria, with secret night cargo flights out of Turkey to terrorist cutthroats. Just ask yourself what America would do about a comparable situation in Mexico: patience simply would not exist, and Mexico City would be quickly overrun by tanks.

The people of East Ukraine, Russian in background and sympathies, deserve protection as much as they deserve the huge amounts of emergency supplies Russia has supplied in a conflict owing its origin entirely to the covert acts of America. Had the coup-established government of Ukraine originally offered protection of Eastern interests, including language rights they openly tried suppressing, the story might have been different, but they did precisely the opposite, passing unfair laws, making threat after threat, and attacking their own citizens. Who wouldn’t rebel in that environment, including any of the states of the United States? How easily people forget past rebellions in the United States, the greatest of which was the Civil War, still the bloodiest war Americans ever experienced.

It is quite clear that the United States is responsible for destabilizing Ukraine. Its CIA funds have been invested into many unsavoury projects, perhaps most disturbing is its paying support to a collection of neo-Nazi groups ranging from extremist parties to violent militia forces, some of the very groups who have committed atrocities such as murdering many hundreds of civilians and some of whom actually march under swastika-like flags. It does seem more than a bit strange that men like Harper, Abbott, and Cameron implicitly support that kind of filthy work while charging Putin with dark acts, dark acts which are stated ambiguously and certainly never proved.

It is also clear that the United States has pressured all authorities involved to delay and obscure the investigation into the destruction of Flight MH17, and the only explanation for that can be America’s preventing, for as long as possible while the new coup-created government of Ukraine consolidates its position, the highly embarrassing finding that Ukraine in fact shot it down. The United States has said over and over it has evidence about the crash, yet it has never produced a scrap of it. Just as it never produced evidence for so many past claims from what actually happened on 9/11 to the assassination of a President.

The great irony of the G-20 summit in Brisbane is that its only substantial agreement concerned doing everything possible to promote growth in a world whose economy is dangerously stagnating, yet it wasted time and energy on America’s fantasy stories about Russia and Ukraine, insulted Russia’s President, and threatened in some cases further growth-suppressing sanctions. Nothing could be more contradictory and unproductive or, frankly, just plain stupid.

Related: Contrasting levels of maturity. Putin says that there is a “good chance of resolution” in the Ukraine conflict, outlines how & Gorbachev despairs as Obama once again puts Russia on the list of the greatest threats to the world
Salt Spring News British Columbia Canada November 17, 2014

Three links. From one of those links:

Moscow will not allow the defeat of … rebels in eastern Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned, arguing that both sides need to make concessions for a floundering peace deal to succeed.

Putin’s statement in an interview with German ARD television came as European Union foreign ministers met in Brussels to discuss a response to the continuing fighting in Ukraine and German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared that the conflict was not just about Ukraine but about peace across Europe.

Obama remains high-handed—and wrong—about Ukraine
William Pfaff Truthdig USA November 19, 2014

For a man who had taken a stunning electoral blow two weeks earlier, Barack Obama completed his Asian trip with an air of unperturbed leadership of the world—whatever the Republicans at home thought about who was in charge of what now will happen in the United States

The nation and its politicians have since the Cold War been so confident of American supremacy over the whole of Western civilization that not only allies have ceased to count but enemies. Americans are the leaders who make the decisions on how the world should work, even when this clearly is not what experience teaches, as one might think had been learned in recent years in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

The president signed a carbon emissions agreement with China. He went to Myanmar hoping to bestow a gold star for merit on Aung San Suu Kyi but found it necessary to chide the generals in power in the country that they must do better in matters of human rights—at a moment when a scandalous forced expulsion of a Burmese Muslim minority was taking place. Another time for Madame Aung San Suu Kyi.

In Brisbane for the G20 discussions, the president oversaw David Cameron of Britain (who has become the new Tony Blair) reiterating the State Department script, and issuing a lordly warning to Vladimir Putin that he must do as he is told concerning Ukraine or there will be still more sanctions.

Stephen Harper, the Canadian Prime Minister, presented to the Russian president, insulted him by saying: “I guess I’ll shake your hand but I have only one thing to say to you. You need to get out of Ukraine.” The other members of what in espionage circles are known as the Five Ears (not a new band, but the U.S., U.K., Canada, New Zealand and Australia) gave a version of the same speech. Mr. Obama was pleased. Stars for all!

President Obama’s final words to Mr. Putin set the pattern for hypocrisy: “(We are) very firm on the need to uphold core international principles, and one of those principles is you don’t invade other countries or finance proxies … to break up a country that has mechanisms for democratic elections.”

Is it possible that no one in his own government has yet worked up the courage to tell Mr. Obama that it was his own United States State Department that arranged a public uprising in Kiev last February, against a democratically elected (if corrupt) president of Ukraine, and sponsored the coup d’etat that made Arseniy Yatsenyuk (known as “Yats” in the department) prime minister? The Washington-sponsored coup occurred before there were any Russian troops in Ukraine, and before either government had as yet dreamed that Mr. Putin would annex Crimea in retaliation.

Obama, had he wished, could have read the whole story of the affair in a recent issue of the journal Foreign Affairs, written by the noted historian John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, or by Princeton’s Russia expert Stephen Cohen in other current publications.

Or he could have read an interview, published on the website Nov. 9, with Ray McGovern, a retired 27-year CIA veteran, who was the agency’s presidential daily briefer during the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. McGovern explained how the affair was initiated at the NATO meeting in Bucharest in April 2008, which resolved to make Ukraine and Georgia NATO members (despite assurances to the contrary given by two American presidents; the Georgia attempt was made but failed in 2008). The president could even have read the inside story in this column, but I am certain did not.

As the West European members of NATO surely gave their agreement to this secret effort to overthrow and replace the Ukrainian government, it strikes me as not only hypocritical but dishonorable for them to have continued at Brisbane to berate Vladimir Putin for Russia’s supposed aggression against Ukraine.

Fortunately, many of the other Europeans, led by Angela Merkel, seemed aware of the story behind the Ukraine affair, and dealt with Vladimir Putin as if they preferred peace with Russia rather than war.

The host himself, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, greeted the Russian president with the accusation that he was attempting “to recreate the lost glories of czarism or of the Soviet Union.” On his departure, Mr. Putin replied that Prime Minister Abbott had been “an excellent moderator and professional partner,” and thanked the people of Brisbane for “having welcomed him with such hospitality.”

Unfortunately, too many NATO members in Brisbane seemed to share what Dimitri K. Simes of the Center for the National Interest in Washington and Robert Blackwill of the Council on Foreign Relations say is the mood in Washington: to treat the Russian leader as if he were Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein or Moammar Gadhafi. Writing in the issue of The National Interest just out, the authors recognize that the crisis in Ukraine must be resolved in a manner that respects the dignity and national concerns and interests of both sides. Hasn’t anyone told Barack Obama?

Posted at: November 19, 2014 - 11:44 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post