March 2, 2015

The book “The Management of Savagery” by Abu Bakr Naji gives insight into Islamic State’s strategy

The Management of Savagery: The Most Critical Stage Through Which the Umma Will Pass by Abu Bakr Naji. Translated by William McCants. Published May 2006.

112-page PDF. Funding for this translation was provided by the John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies at Harvard University, and any use of this material must include a reference to the Institute.

[Translator’’s Note: Numbers in brackets refer to the page number in the original text. My comments in brackets are meant to clarify obscure passages or allusions in the text. Generally, Naji’’s parenthetical statements are set off by em-dashes, as they are in the original text, although sometimes I have put them in parentheses. When rendering some sentences, I have added phrases in parentheses to make them more readable in English. The differences between Naji’’s parenthetical statements and my own additions will be very obvious. Finally, the reader will please excuse any infelicities in my translation of the text. I have not had the time to carefully check it against the Arabic original or to polish the English prose. Any feedback from readers will be most welcome. –– W.M., May 2005]

Introduction (3) Preface: The order that has governed the world since the Sykes-Picot era (5)

The Illusion of power: The centrality of the superpowers as a function of their overwhelming military power and deceptive media halo (7)

First Topic: Definition of ““the management of savagery”” and an overview of its historical precedents (11)

Second Topic: The path for establishing an Islamic state. (15)

Third Topic: The most important principles and policies for implementing the plan of action and achieving, in general, the goals of the stage of ““the power of vexation and exhaustion””; and, in particular, the goals of the stage of ““the management of savagery.”” (by the permission of God) (23)

Section One: Mastery of the art of management (23)

Section Two: Who leads, who manages, and who authorizes the fundamental administrative decisions? (25)

Section Three: Using the time-tested principles of military combat (28) Section Four: Using violence (31) Section Five: Achieving power (34)

Section Six: Properly understanding the rules of the political game of our opponents and their fellow travelers, and striking a balance between confrontation and cooperation in accordance with sharia politics (37)

Section Seven: Polarization (46) Section Eight: The rules of affiliation (50)

Section Nine: Mastering the security dimension: Surveillance and infiltrating adversaries and opponents of every kind (52)

Section Ten: Mastering education within the movement just as it was in the first age of Islam (54)

Fourth Topic: The most important problems and obstacles that we will face, and ways of dealing with them (62)

(1) The problem of the decreasing number of true believers (62)

(2) The problem of the lack of administrative cadres (63)

(3) The problem of loyalty to elements in the preceding administration (65)

(4) The problem of infiltration and spies (67)

(5) The problem of secession or sudden about-face of individuals, groups, or regions who completely change their loyalty (How do we make sense of it and how do we deal with it?) (68)

(6) The problem of excessive zeal and the problems that accompany it (71)

Fifth Topic: Conclusion: Are there other solutions that are easier than this solution? (73)

First Article: The battle of patience (81)

Second Article: The struggle between the human soul and the Sunna of God in missionary activities (86)

Third Article: Our men and enemy soldiers under fire (90)

Fourth Article: Universal laws adhered to by the elect and others (95)

Fifth Article: Our method is a mercy to all beings (101) Sixth Article: Crisis of terms……”benefit” and “harm” as examples (106) Seventh Article: Polarization and wealth (110)

Related audio: “The Management of Savagery” gives insight into ISIS’ strategy
“The Current” CBC Radio One Canada March 2, 2015

The Management of Savagery, written by an al-Qaeda strategist was translated into English by Brookings Institution fellow Will McCants. The book gives insight into tactics being used by extremist groups. Photo: Brookings Institution. Visit this page for its embedded links. You can listen to this interview (22:00) from a pop-up link on the page.

ISIS, Boko Haram, al-Shabab and al-Qaeda have all shown themselves to be brutally effective in their campaigns in the name of furthering their view of an extremist Islamic jihad. The resulting violence in places such as Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and Nigeria is brutal and bloody.

To some degree, each of the groups has been using similar tactics but ISIS in particular seems to be following the teachings of a book published a decade ago called The Management of Savagery. The book offers a kind of blueprint for militants committed to building a caliphate.

Will McCants has translated the text into English. He’s a fellow with the Brookings Institution and the director of the Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World. He is also the author of the forthcoming book, The ISIS Apocalypse: The History, Strategy, and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic State. Will McCants was in Washington, DC.

Related commentary: 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 yesterday afternoon.

ISIS 101
By John Chuckman

What’s really terrifying about this threat

ISIS certainly is not what a great many people think that it is, if you judge what they think by what our corporate press proclaims incessantly.

Judging by what ISIS actually does and whom its acts benefit, its clandestine associates, and the testimony of some witnesses, ISIS is a complex intelligence operation. Its complexity reflects at least in part the fact that it serves the interests of several countries and that it has more than one objective. Its complexity reflects also the large effort to reinforce a false image with disinformation and staged events such as a video of a beheading which could not have been a beheading unless they’ve discovered a bloodless method until now unknown to science.

The subject of ISIS is not without brief glimmers of humor. The image of bands of men, swathed in Arabic robes and bumping their way around the desert in Japanese pick-up trucks with Kalashnikovs raised in the air for every picture has elements of Monty Python. The idea of modern, trained and well-armed military units turning and running from them resembles a war scene in a Laurel and Hardy comedy such as the one with Hardy stuck upside down in a WWI tank turret kicking his legs the whole time Laurel drives towards the German positions managing accidentally to round-up a whole trench-full of prisoners with some wire fencing that becomes snagged on the tank.

Despite the tiresome stupidities we see and hear about it, ISIS unquestionably does kill people and destroy things, that being its purpose, and there is no humor in that.

ISIS appears to have served several tasks so far. First, it frightened Iraq’s Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, out of office in Iraq, a man America and Israel grew very much to dislike owing simply to his good relations with Iran, one of the unintended consequences of America’s invasion of Iraq being expanded Iranian influence in the region. No doubt al-Maliki was terrified not so much by ISIS approaching in their pick-up trucks as he was by his own military’s tendency, as if on cue, to turn and run from ISIS, often leaving weapons behind. The message was clear: you won’t be protected.

Second, America’s highly selective “air war” against ISIS somehow manages to attack infrastructure targets inside Syria with the feeble excuse that they are facilities helping ISIS. We’ve seen what American bombing can do when it’s undertaken seriously, and somehow I have a hard time imaging the men in Japanese pick-ups lasting long when faced with what hit the Taleban in Afghanistan or Gadhafi’s forces in Libya. The air strikes are partly a show for the world – after all, how can America be seen not to be fighting such extremely well-advertised, super-violent terrorists, guys putting out videos regularly from a studio trailer they must haul around with one of their pick-up trucks?  The air strikes’ main purpose appears to be a way of hurting Assad and assisting those fighting Syria’s army without coming into conflict with Russia, as they would with a large, direct campaign. They likely also punish elements of ISIS which have exceeded their brief and serve as a reminder to the rest of what could happen to them if they stray too far from their subsidized purpose once the war comes to an end.

Three, in some of the ground fighting in Iraq where we’ve read of Iraqi units fighting ISIS, the units are often Kurdish, and sometimes the press uses expressions like “Iraqi and Kurdish troops.” But the Kurdish region is still part of Iraq legally, although it has been given a good deal of autonomy by the central government. The Kurdish region of Iraq is the country’s prime oil-producing area, and in the estimation of many observers, an area both the United States and Israel would very much like to see severed from Iraq in the way Kosovo was severed from Serbia after America’s devastating air war there. This would not only permanently assure Iraq’s weakness, it would create a rather grateful and more willing oil supplier.

Where does ISIS get its technical equipment and the know-how to produce videos and run Internet sites? These are not qualities commonly found among fanatical fundamentalists anywhere; indeed most true radical fundamentalists tend to eschew technology. A supply of advice, technical assistance, and equipment comes from somewhere. Where does ISIS get the money for food, gasoline, clothes, ammunition, and Japanese pick-up trucks? And I wonder, did one of those wild-looking jihadi types just show up one day at an Iraqi car dealership and order a fleet of Japanese pick-ups? Were they delivered out on the desert or did a gang of jihadists march in, waving their Kalashnikovs, to drive them away?

The effort to destroy the Syrian government, whether by means of ISIS or anyone else, is warmly and generously supported by Saudi Arabia and its buddy Qatar – another oil-rich, absolute monarchy where political parties are banned – both these counties’ primary interest being the defence of their immensely privileged situations against creeping threats of all progressive developments such as equal human rights or democracy or indeed against revolt led by external forces. The payments we now know the Saudi royal family long made to Osama bin Laden before 9/11 were simply bribes to keep him and his anti-establishment work out of the country. They really didn’t care a lot about what the money bought elsewhere, but since 9/11 and its many Saudi connections – 15 of the perpetrators plus the past financing plus the many members of the royal family and bin Laden family secretly flown out by American officials at the time – the Saudi authorities were genuinely fearful of how America might respond and have become far more responsive to what America wants in the Middle East and now apply their money to such projects. What America wants in the Middle East is, invariably, what Israel wants, so there is now extensive, secret cooperation where once there was complete official hostility.

We have reports from plane-spotters in the region of daily flights of mysterious planes from Israel to Qatar. We have several eye-witness reports and photographs of supply bundles dropped from unknown planes into ISIS territory. Maybe ISIS has its own air force now? We know Turkey has served both as an entry point for countless terrorists into Syria and as a place of retreat and refuge when fighting with the Syrian army becomes too hot for them, the volumes of such activity having been too great to keep secret. We have reports of Turkish supply flights. A Jordanian official recently told a reporter that ISIS members were trained in 2012 by American instructors working at a secret base in Jordan.

If ISIS is what our corporate news pretends that it is – a fanatical Muslim extremist group that sprang suddenly from the desert sands much like Jack’s bean stalk – one blindingly obvious question is, why does it not attack Israel or Israeli interest? Isn’t that what one would expect from such a cast of characters? But it has not done so, undoubtedly because Israel is an important covert benefactor and supplier.

We might equally ask why ISIS has not attacked Saudi Arabia or its interests, for although the Saudi royal family officially professes a strict and conservative form of Islam, Wahhabism, in fact many of them are very worldly people who spend a good deal of time and money at the world’s great pleasure palaces. Perhaps even more damning for a genuine fanatical fundamentalist, the Saudis now often secretly cooperate and make plans with Israel where mutual interests exist.

No, there is something highly suspicious about Islamic fundamentalist terrorists who avoid such interests while managing to brutally kill poor Syrian soldiers just doing their jobs along with the odd foreign journalist or aid worker who may just have seen something they shouldn’t have seen. Of course, we have Edward Snowden himself having described ISIS as an operation intended to protect Israel. Despite the fact that some news sources have said the interview in which this was revealed never took place, my instincts tell me it likely did. Snowden has never refuted it, and the news sources saying it did not are highly suspect on such a subject.

The way ISIS serves Israeli and American interests is by providing a focus point for extremists, attracting them from various parts of the world so that they can be recorded and kept track of. Also the tracks back to the various countries from which they come provide security services with leads to places where there might be some festering problems. In the meantime, ISIS serves the interest of helping to bring down President Assad, a goal dear to the hearts of Israelis. Please remember that black operations, even the ones about which we know, show little consideration for lives or property. Just think of Israel’s attack on an American spy ship in the Mediterranean during the Six Day War, its pilots knowingly shooting up and bombing for two hours the well-marked ship of its ally and benefactor, no explanation worth hearing ever having been offered.

Just read conservative mainline sources (pretty much a redundant pair of adjectives) about the harm Snowden has done: claims of everything from his revelations about American intelligence having served to help ISIS avoid detection (!) to his revelations having set up the United States for another 9/11! You might think intelligent people would be ashamed of making such asinine public statements, but, no, there are almost no limits to trying to discredit those revealing murderous, dark operations.

We’ve had many reports of officials in various countries, including Canada as I write, concerned about the odd individual or small group running off to join ISIS. Now why should that be a concern? A few flaky people going abroad just removes them from your country, something I should have thought was a complete gain from a security point of view. Even if they were ever to return in future, you would know exactly who they are. Where is the basis for serious concern? But the psychological advantages of noise and hype to scare people about obscure dangers and “lone wolves” and “home-grown terrorists” outweigh completely good sense and intelligence.

Finally, there are numerous reports that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (a nom de guerre, not his real name), the leader of ISIS, is a Western intelligence asset. What little we can learn about him makes that entirely plausible. The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, has said that the man is a Mossad agent, a claim supported supposedly by documents revealed by Edward Snowden. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is by all accounts a secretive man who speaks directly with few people, and even his birth place, given as Samarra, Iraq, is not sure. Records of his past, as those from his period of American captivity (always a great opportunity to “turn” someone to serving two interests), are not available. He was once reported killed but is still alive. He is said to have received intensive training from Mossad and the CIA, and some sources give his real name as Simon Elliot (or, Elliot Shimon), but few details can ever be certain in such dark operations.

The truly terrifying aspect of ISIS and other forces fighting with it in Syria is that the United States and Israel have approved and supported such wanton destruction in so beautiful and formerly-peaceful a place as Syria. Millions of lives destroyed and countless historic places damaged as though they were all nothing more than a few pieces moved on a geopolitical chessboard. I think it fair to describe that as the work of psychopaths.

Posted at: March 2, 2015 - 11:33 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

Ukraine’s war. “Russian spring”: The struggle for democratic rights and social justice

Born in the Lugansk Region, Pavel Gubarev is a former businessman. He is now a Novorossian political and public leader. Below, he writes about the genesis of Ukraine and Ukrainians and of Maidan as a bifurcation point of “nation-building”.

“Russian spring”: The struggle for democratic rights and social justice
Pavel Gubarev NOVOROSSIA TODAY Donbas/Novorossiya March 2, 2015

Ukraine is a vast – in European terms – multiethnic country. Situated on the line of the civilizational joint of Western and Russian civilizations, it produced a number of sub ethnic groups and identities, concocted on the basis of admission or rejection of certain cultural and civilizational elements of the neighbouring nations. Before 1939 Ukrainians existed as ethnic minorities of the adjoining states and were often subjected to repressions on religious, ethnic and cultural grounds, and the ultimate unification of the Ukrainian lands took place only in composition of the Ukrainian SSR. At that time the self-appellation “Ukrainians” was not widely known. This ethnonyme became well-known only in the Soviet period of the history of Ukraine.

The territories, in which Ukrainians constituted ethnic minorities, were also included in composition of Ukraine, particularly, Donbas and the Crimean Peninsula. The emergence of Ukrainian statehood, which was formed on the basis of Soviet ideology – the principles of internationalism, equality and social justice coincided with the process of unification of Ukraine. Thus, controversies between the ethnic groups and sub ethnic groups had been muted, and differences in life styles did not have great impact on the lookout of the Ukrainians. The concept of “brotherly nations” implying Russians, Byelorussians and Ukrainians had been developed in Soviet science. Domestic clashes of regional clans did occur, of course; nevertheless, they did not stem from the issue of national identity.

Things changed after the breakdown of the SSSR under the influence of caused by centrifugal tendencies growth of Ukrainian nationalism.

The ideology of independent Ukraine came out to be inherent for the western regions only as well as for Kiev, the city taking its lead from global informational and political trends. In consequences of these processes a new line of controversy between the regions appeared in Ukraine as well as their classification as first-rate and second-rate.

Nationalism, staked against not as much ethnic minorities as against the bearers of the past-time ideology, became the ideology of Ukrainian bureaucracy. At that western regions due to their nationalist and anti-Communist inclinations were declared “cultural elite”, and industrial regions (predominantly Russian and Russian-speaking) – the second-rate citizens. Reforms aimed at granting the regions certain level of independence could have deadened the conflict. However the ideology of the establishment of a “new Ukrainian” hindered it by forcing a single-language-and-unified-identity system onto the population. Ukraine was presented with the example of unified by Bismarck Germany, and the objections concerning the danger of repetition by Ukraine of certain stages of nation establishment Germany underwent were not viewed seriously.

Maidan in Kiev became the final result of more than twenty-year-long process of materialization of the citizen of a “new type”. It was turned into a giant vessel, in which a prototype of the Überukrainian, having implemented the ideals of the Unitarian project, was to be born. The inhabitants of Donbas and the Crimea found this uniform Ukrainian unacceptable as a means of extermination of their regional sub-ethnic and ethnic identity. Anti-fascist rebellion in Donbas was directed against this “Überukrainian”, and not against Ukrainian people, their culture and statehood, and as a consequence of this rebellion new Novorussian identity was born.

Transformation of the Soviet society in the post-Soviet time was carried out under the slogans of democracy and civil rights. Nevertheless, in reality these processes had nothing in common either with people power or with struggle for human rights, and the problem was not only in the loss of fundamental civil rights, which the citizen was provided with in the Soviet society, like the right to labour and social guarantees. In the post-Soviet society the bearers of the “wrong ideology” continued to be persecuted – only “right” and “wrong” ideologies changed places.

Global human rights movement has been displaying weird behaviour in the course of the recent events in Ukraine. Ukrainian and international human rights activists defended the right of the Maidan militants to attack riot police, use combustibles, capture administrative buildings and even equip torture rooms in them. All these actions – to the extent of capture of police stations and plunder of arms rooms – had been presented as peaceful protest, and every attempt of the authorities to administer force caused outrage of the human rights defenders and was viewed as cases of violation of civil rights. Yet, the forces that seized power in Kiev on that very day obtained a carte blanche for all kinds of violence in the South-East. European and American politicians and mass-media that only a day before had been lamenting the use of force against armed with flash bang grenades and traumatic guns “children”, suddenly stopped noticing real war crimes – artillery shelling of schools, hospitals and residential areas of Donbas.

Human rights community has got a long history of ignoring the facts of violation of civil rights justified by statist practicality in Ukraine. It all started with the Language Law, by which the Ukrainian language was declared a single official language in a de-facto bilingual country. At the moment the status of Ukrainian as the official language was merely nominal, as the Constitution of Ukraine and the Language Law guaranteed factual equality of the two languages. The Russian language alongside with Ukrainian should have been used in all spheres of life: in record keeping, education, media and in courts. Nevertheless the Law was ignored in practice. Ukrainian lawmakers with the obstinacy of a maniac cranked out anti-constitutional laws and acts aimed at the limitations of the Russian language sphere of usage, first of all in education and paperwork. This way Ukrainian authorities had forced out of the process of state management the representatives of the industrial regions and at the same time enforced the institute of inequality. The Russian language in Ukraine is the language of the medium class and the language of the workers from the suburbs of the big cities – that is, the language of the most competitive part of masses.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian human rights movement totally ignored the humanitarian and social aspects of the language problem, viewing the struggle of Russian-speaking population for their rights exclusively in the context of irredentism and separatism. Russian irredentism in the Crimea and Donbas was the direct result of this policy. Actualization of the “Novorossiya project” was the response to the long-term discrimination. Notably, Donbas and Novorossiya as a whole remains a multiethnic region. We are absolutely aware of the presence in Novorossiya of a strong Ukrainian component and consider the protection of its rights one of the first-rate tasks in the process of establishment of the new state.

Donbas and greater Novorossiya are traditional working regions, and their history is inseparably connected with the history of working class struggle for social equality and social justice. Existence in composition of independent Ukraine was fraught for industrial Novorossiya not only with discrimination on the language grounds, but predominantly with the collapse of the social state. It was Donbas that became the center of protest activity in reaction to the establishment and consolidation of the institutes of social injustice in post-Soviet Ukraine at the early stages of Ukrainian independence. Rejection of socialist economic model led to real catastrophe for the region, as decline and closure of unprofitable enterprises, plundering and selling for scrap of plants, factories and mines had been unprecedented and they lowered the life standards of the population to the level of those dating back to the predatory capitalism of the 19th century.

As a result the criminal oligarchic model that had formed in Donbas created strong political clans. These clans in the process of their struggle for influence in Kiev acquired a habit of using the people of Donbas as a cover, to speak on their behalf. Local elites intimidated the population of the region by the growth of nationalism in Kiev, presenting themselves as protectors of the people’s interests. Nevertheless, as the events of the last year had shown, oligarchs and politicians from Donetsk failed their electorate. They betrayed their people for the sake of retaining a part of their assets, having surrendered power to radical nationalists without resistance. Consequently, the miners, metallurgists and the unemployed of Donetsk had to defend their rights and freedoms themselves with arms in their hands.

The managerial class demonstrated its inability to defend the people’s interests. Thus, the return of this class to Donbas alongside with the return of the old way of life is senseless in our opinion. Hence, Donbas acquired a unique chance of establishment of a state of a new type – the state based on the principles of social justice and equality.

Posted at: March 2, 2015 - 10:53 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

Is Nemtsov’s murder a replay of Sergey Kirov’s? Putin needs this crime to be solved. He needs to watch his back. The entire Russian nation may be shaken by what happens next

This is a serious crisis for Putin in terms of how he will be perceived by the political and security elite (who never speak to the western press and whose views and fears are almost never reflected in the West) because it is symbolic of control. He needs this crime to be solved. - An unnamed source within Russia, cited by Jack Matlock

Below: Jack Matlock is a career diplomat who served on the front lines of American diplomacy during the Cold War and was U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union when the Cold War ended. Since retiring from the Foreign Service, he has focused on understanding how the Cold War ended and how the lessons from that experience might be applied to public policy today. Matlock has occasionally joined with other experts to criticize U.S. government policy. One of the books he has written is Autopsy on an Empire: The American Ambassador’s Account of the Collapse of the Soviet Union (1995). Here is a description of the book from Jack Matlock’s website:

As the United States ambassador to Moscow during the Gorbachev period and Ronald Reagan’s full-time go-between with the Soviet leadership, Jack Matlock couldn’t have been in a better position to observe the collapse of the Soviet Union. A career diplomat, fluent in Russian, with a scholarly grasp of Russian history and culture, Matlock served in the USSR for much of his career and knew the men in the Kremlin well. He had traveled widely in the Soviet Union—more widely, perhaps, than most Soviet officials—and had seen firsthand the discontent in the captive republics. Matlock was uniquely placed to anticipate and interpret the process as it unfolded. Yet, even he was surprised by the speed and finality with which the rickety empire gave way.

Though Matlock writes that a definitive version of these events may never be told, it is unlikely that a more intimate and knowledgeable account of the rise and fall of Gorbachev and the collapse of the Soviet empire will ever be written. A first-rate historian and a powerful writer, Matlock offers new insight into the contrasting policies and personal approaches of President Reagan, who dreamed of changing the Soviet Union, and President Bush, who witnessed a collapse he tried to prevent. Drawing on frequent private meetings, he explains the agenda behind Reagan’s “evil empire” speech and describes how Gorbachev developed his program for reform, and why he failed.

Autopsy on an Empire contains many new revelations—details of the plot to oust Gorbachev in August 1991 (including Bush’s inadvertent impact on the plotters’ timing), accounts of infighting within the politburo, and insight into the true positions of American policy makers. It is a monumental work of observation and scholarship, arising from vast personal experience and more than thirty years of reflection. Matlock is a superb writer, and Autopsy on an Empire will be the classic account of the fall of Soviet communism.

Sergey Kirov was a prominent early Bolshevik leader in the Soviet Union. Kirov rose through the Communist Party ranks to become head of the party organization in Leningrad. On December 1, 1934, Kirov was shot and killed by a gunman at his offices in the Smolny Institute. Some historians place the blame for his assassination at the hands of Joseph Stalin and believe the NKVD organized his execution, but any evidence for this claim remains lacking. Kirov was buried in the Kremlin Wall necropolis in a state funeral, with Stalin personally carrying his coffin.

Is Nemtsov’s murder a replay of Kirov’s?
Jack Matlock NOVOROSSIA TODAY Donbas/Novorossiya March 2, 2015

Responding to the shock of the gang-style execution of Nemtsov in Moscow, Duma Deputy Ilya Ponomarev, speaking at Tufts University yesterday, said that it reminded him of the Kirov assassination, and predicted that the effect on Russian politics might be of comparable magnitude. I did not have the opportunity to question him directly about what precisely he had in mind, but I gathered from his other remarks that he believes the crime was prompted by a struggle for power within the Putin regime. After all, Stalin used the Kirov murder to launch the infamous purges that reached their height in the trials of 1938 and is widely suspected of having arranged the murder himself.

Russian politics for some time has resembled the proverbial dog fight under a rug, despite the image promoted by the regime of a seamless and efficient “vertical of power.” In some important respects, the killing of Nemtsov does not resemble the killing of Kirov. Kirov was one of Stalin’s closest associates and, in effect, his viceroy in Leningrad. Nemtsov was, on the other hand, a prominent and active oppositionist. A direct point-by-point comparison of the two murders would be absurd. Vladimir Putin does not need to arrange the murder of a prominent oppositionist in order to purge elements he considers unreliable in his own government.

Many persons at the Tufts symposium assumed, upon hearing the shocking news, that Putin himself ordered the assassination and did so as a stern warning to other would-be oppositionists. This was a natural reaction for anyone who assumes that Putin exercises the sort of total control of Russia that Stalin once did of the Soviet Union. It identifies a motivation that cannot be dismissed out of hand.

Still, there is something missing in that knee-jerk reaction. Isn’t it a goal of any authoritarian government to persuade the people it governs that it is in complete control? Does not much support of authoritarian governments come from the belief that they provide order and security? One of the reasons the Putin regime has sustained its popularity is that it brought order to the chaos of the 1990s. A contract killing of a prominent person within the shadow of the Kremlin does not comport with the image of a government in complete control.

I have received privately an analysis of the situation by an observer of the Russian scene who was in Moscow last week. I found the observations important and have been given permission to share them here. [Note: Italic section is in the original.]

I do not think Putin was behind this. The reason is that a murder in the center of Moscow literally at the walls of the Kremlin discredits him and the security apparatus. The Kremlin Walls and the Bekhlimishevskaya Tower frame the scene with St. Basil’s to the right. It is simply difficult to imagine a location that could include more symbols of the Russian state. It looks like a frame up. I can’t help remembering how in the 1990′s, one way to get an adversary to capitulate in a fight over a company was to show him his security had been breached. (This is one of the reasons that Yanukovich fled when he did–because he could no longer count on the loyalty of the people providing physical protection.) This may be unfair. After all, road and pedestrian traffic are not checked in the area. Everything is filmed and there are certainly many police nearby, but no one is going to stop you if you bring arms into the area and try to murder someone. How would they know? So it may be unfair, but that’s the way it’s going to be perceived–as a highly symbolic breach of security. It’s hard for me to imagine that there won’t be personnel changes over this.

This is a serious crisis for Putin in terms of how he will be perceived by the political and security elite (who never speak to the western press and whose views and fears are almost never reflected in the West) because it is symbolic of control. He needs this crime to be solved.

State television has been covering the events with a minimum of propaganda. They have been almost complimentary about Nemtsov’s role in Russian history. People all over the political spectrum are clearly shocked. I believe it is significant that a funeral march in the center of the city was allowed quite quickly–after all the trouble the authorities when to to relocate the opposition demonstration to the outskirts of Moscow (note to the Western Mass Media: opposition demonstrations in Moscow are still permitted, including those opposing the Ukraine War–does anyone remember the USSR?).

There’s no way to know who was behind this and we’ll probably never find out (polling shows that 90% of Russians feel that the people behind the murder will never be identified).

1) Conceivably Putin could be in a position analogous to that of Gorbachev, with hardliners pushing policies that he has to go along with when presented with the fact they’ve been done. This could relate to a desire to prosecute the Ukraine war more overtly and crack down more harshly on domestic dissent. I don’t think Putin wants to run a true dictatorship, but there may be people around who think that’s a viable alternative for the country (it isn’t), so it’s just possible this was done by a faction trying to get him to go along with a harder line. This is not a likely explanation–but it’s possible.

2) A slightly more likely scenario is that ultra nationalists (with crime links and some support from inside the state) went after Nemstov (and indirectly Putin) for many of the reasons mentioned in Scenario 1.

3) A third (somewhat less likely but quite possible) scenario is that the the Ukrainian far right went after Nemtsov in hopes Putin would get blamed, western arms and money would come faster, and political disintegration might start in Russia.

No matter what happens, Putin is going to get blamed. Because even if by some miracle they catch the perpetrators (how can they not given all the surveillance mechanisms in place and the fact that Nemtsov himself was presumably being watched closely?) many people will not believe the explanation.

The people who benefit most are those who: a) want to spook/crack down on the democratic opposition; b) worsen the relationship with the West and disrupt moves toward a truce in Ukraine; c) do political damage to Putin. He needs to watch his back.

Maybe you can think of other plausible explanations. If so, please put them on the comment line. So far nothing is absolutely clear about this tragedy except that an able politician and fine man was gunned down in cold blood. The entire nation may be shaken by what happens next.

Posted at: March 2, 2015 - 10:48 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

March 1, 2015


Murder in Moscow. The investigation is looking into five possible motives behind the high-profile, well-planned assassination of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov

Jim comment: Suddenly last summer, Vladimir Putin, formerly once a decent enough Russian leader (with a few unsettling quirks), turned into a malevolent, almost demonic, force. Congratulations to the Western Axis’ propaganda system for putting over this remarkable metamorphosis. Regarding the following links on the assassination of Boris Nemtsov, two years ago, February 2012, Putin was warning Russians about exactly the kind of false flag we just may have seen happen with the murder of Nemtsov. Putin warned that some within and without Russia were looking to turn someone into an involuntary martyr. In that commentary Putin used the Russian word provocatsiia. The word is often translated as “provocation” which is not incorrect as long as you are aware (I was informed by a Russian-speaking friend) that in Russian “provocation” can mean “false flag”. Friday’s shooting brought Putin’s two-year-old comments back into my mind. Had Putin foreseen and warned about a false flag “sacrifice”?

Nemtsov murder: Russian investigators probing provocation, Charlie Hebdo links
RT Russia Februry 28, 2015

A murder scene of politician Boris Nemtsov, who was shot dead on Moskvoretsky bridge. Photo: Iliya Pitalev/RIA Novosti. Visit this page for its related links.

The assassination of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov in Moscow was well-planned, investigators said. Versions of the crime range from a political provocation to a revenge killing by radical Islamists.

“There is no doubt that this crime was carefully planned. The location and timing of the killing indicated that as well. The investigation found out that Boris Nemtsov was going with his female friend to his apartment, which is located close to the murder scene. The organizers and the executers apparently knew his route,” Vladimir Markin, spokesman for the Investigative Committee, told journalists.

Markin said the best detectives and forensic experts are involved in the case, which is considered a top priority by law enforcement authorities.

Preliminary results show that the politician was killed from a Makarov pistol. Experts found six 9-mm cartridge cases at the scene, Markov said. The cartridges were produced by several different manufacturers, he added.

At the moment the investigation is focused on questioning the eyewitnesses and studying mobile traffic data in the immediate area of the crime, which may provide an insight into communications of the criminals. Footage from CCTV cameras is also being studied.

The investigation is looking into five possible motives behind the high-profile assassination, Markin said.

“The murder could be a provocation to destabilize the political situation in the country. Nemtsov could have been chosen as a sort of ‘sacral sacrifice’ by those who don’t hesitate to use any methods to reach their political goals,” he said.

“There are reports that Nemtsov received threats due to his position over the shooting of Charlie Hebdo staff in Paris,” Markin said, adding that a possible link to the Ukrainian civil war was also being investigated.

“It’s no secret that both sides of that conflict have among their ranks very radical figures who take no orders from any authority,” he said.

Other versions voiced by Markin involve Nemtsov’s business interests and a possible assault related to his personal life.

Later in the day, the car allegedly used in the attack was discovered not far from the scene of the crime. Russian media reported that it had Ingushetian license plates. [Note: The Republic of Ingushetia is a federal subject of Russia located in the North Caucasus region. Ingushetia is one of Russia’s poorest and most restive regions.]

Breaking news: FALSE FLAG IN MOSCOW!
“The Saker” Vineyrd of the Saker USA February 27, 2015

Right: Nemtsov with Viktor Yushchenko. Following the ‘Orange Revolution’ (November 2004 to January 2005), Yushchenko was the third President of Ukraine from 2005 to 2010. Visit this page for its embedded links.

Boris Nemtsov has been shot dead in Moscow. He was one of the most charismatic leaders of the “liberal” or “democratic” “non-system” opposition in Russia (please understand that in the Russian context “liberal” and “democratic” means pro-US or even CIA-run, while “non-system” means too small to even get a single deputy in the Duma). He was shot just a few days before the announced demonstration of the very same “liberal” or “democratic” “non-system” opposition scheduled for March 1st.

As I have already explained many times on this blog, the “liberal” or “democratic” “non-system” opposition in Russia has a popular support somewhere in the range of 5% (max). In other words, it is politically *dead* (for a detailed explanation, please read “From Napoleon to Adolf Hitler to Conchita Wurst”). In the hopes of getting a higher number of people to the streets the “liberal” or “democratic” “non-system”opposition allied itself with the ultra-nationalists (usually useful idiots for the CIA) and the homosexual activists (also useful idiots for the CIA). Apparently, this was not enough.

And now, in *perfect* timing, Nemtsov is murdered.

We all know the reaction of the AngloZionists and their propaganda machine. It will be exactly the same as for MH-17: Putin the Murderer!!! Democracy Shot!! Freedom Killed!! etc. etc. etc. etc.

There is no doubt in my mind at all that either this is a fantastically unlikely but always possible case of really bad luck for Putin and Nemtsov was shot by some nutcase or mugged, or this was a absolutely prototypical western false flag: you take a spent politician who has no credibility left with anyone with an IQ over 70, and you turn him into an instant “martyr for freedom, democracy, human right and civilization”.

By the way if, as I believe, this is a false flag, I expect it to be a stunning success in the West and a total flop in Russia: by now, Russians already can smell that kind of setup a mile away and after MH-17 everybody was expecting a false flag. So, if anything, it will only increase the hostility of Russians towards the West and rally them around Putin. In the Empire, however, this will be huge, better than Politkovskaya or Litvinenko combined. A “Nemtsov” prize will be created, a Nemtov statue will be place somewhere (in Warsaw?), the US Congress will pass a “Nemtsov law” and the usual combo package of “democratic hagiography” will be whipped-up.

What worries me most is that the Russian security services did not see this one coming and let it happen. This is a major failure for the FSB which will now have a lot at stake to find out who did it. I expect them to find a fall-guy, a patsy, who will have no provable contacts with any western services and who, ideally, might even have some contacts with the Russian services (like Andrei Lugovoi).

As for the “liberal” or “democratic” “non-system” – it will probably re-brand the upcoming protests as a “tribute to Nemtsov” thereby getting more people into the streets.

‘Opposition is necessary…but we wouldn’t vote for them,’ most Russians hold
RT Russia February 27, 2015

Visit this page for its related link, “No Solidarity as opposition split over licensed Spring March in Moscow”.

Over half of all Russians agree that an opposition is a necessary part of the political system, but very few agreed with the current demands of opposition politicians or said that they would like to see those people in power one day.

According to the latest research by independent pollster Levada Center, the proportion of Russians who agreed with the statement that an opposition is a necessary part of the political system was 58 percent. At the same time, only 19 percent of respondents said an opposition was necessary to ensure the timely replacement of state authorities.

Some 22 percent of respondents opposed the very existence of opposition movements in the country, saying it only atomizes the community by causing unnecessary conflicts. In addition, most who hold that view see all such efforts as futile – only 15 percent said they thought that opposition activities were obstructing the authorities’ work aimed at solving the problems that stand before the society.

Politicians that are considered ‘non-system opposition’ claimed even fewer supporters – only 3 percent of those polled said they sympathized with persons from the Solidarity Coalition and a further 12 percent said they sympathized with some parts of the Solidarity agenda. It should be noted, that the term ‘non-system’ was used more due to inertia of public perception as most of the personalities behind the coalition – such as Boris Nemtsov or Aleksey Navalny – already have registered political parties and participate in elections.

Levada Deputy Head Aleksey Grazhdankin said in comments to Kommersant that the current state of public mood could be explained by the absence of genuine opposition in the country and the great effort of the authorities to discredit any dissent in the eyes of the broader public. However, he did not delve into defining a ‘real’ opposition and pointing out its differences from projects that currently bear this name in Russian politics.

In the same poll, Levada asked the public about their attitude to the slogans proposed for the forthcoming major opposition event – the ‘Spring March’ scheduled for March 1. The most popular ideas were “passing laws against illegal enrichment of civil servants” with 32 percent of supporters and “ensuring the fairness of elections” with 30 percent. The ‘Stopping the war in Ukraine’ slogan claimed 18 percent of supporters.

Other demands garnered almost negligible support. The call to cancel the alleged censorship in mass media was shared by only 5 percent of Russian citizens, and “decentralization of power” and “release of all political prisoners” claimed 2 percent of supporters each.

However, one of the organizers of the rally, Leonid Volkov, explained the lack of support by the fact that the slogans had been developed on the basis of requests of those who regularly attend protest rallies rather than the broad public.

‘Nemtsov’s death a tragedy for opposition, Russia – and Putin’
RT Russia February 28, 2015

Visit this page for its related link and video.

The assassination of Boris Nemtsov is a tragedy for Russia, its people and Vladimir Putin, says Aleksandra Nerozina, a London-based journalist, adding that, like any other president, Putin needs opposition – or he simply cannot build a democratic society.

RT: There’s been reaction to the killing from around the world – the UK Foreign Office also said earlier it was saddened and appalled by the murder. Tell us more about the reaction in Britain.

Aleksandra Nerozina: The reaction here is quite understandable. It’s a world support for the family member who lost their loved one and a friend. That’s the number one. The second line is base line which has been projected recently quite strongly that somehow it is bad thing for Russia where things like that should be looked from this point of view whatsoever. This is a murder which all Russians are appalled by because it is clearly not something that is savoury by any means.

I can base it on my experience with similar events happening in the past and clearly every time used in accordance not to condemn the situation but rather to put the finger on Russia. Unfortunately it’s an uprising voice of Putin and the Kremlin, which is an absolute nonsense from all points of view. You all remember the famous death of Berezovsky who himself – and I knew him personally well enough – he was saying to me numerous times: “I will never ever be destroyed or killed by the Kremlin.”

t’s nobody’s business at the moment to judge what happened. We have to wait for the investigation to take the place first to see what will actually be found but all the scenarios are possible. What we should abstain from is using this situation to blame Putin and Russia.

What I will say to Russian people who are stronger and who know what is happening exactly. It will unite them even more against such a violent act. Imagine, you have the Kremlin; you have one of the members of the opposition who was absolutely harmless.

Mind me, don’t forget who Putin is. If he wanted to take somebody out, it would have been taken with so many ways without it being such a public display which is quite ridiculous. What is upsetting is that when I look through at what is already the voices raising quietly but sharply, a voice of disappointment, yet again point at Russia for something that Russia is actually upset with the west. I won’t be surprised if some proof will be found with some western counterparts, whether it would be Ukraine involved or CIA, or MI6, MI5. It could be anybody’s game if we play the blame game. We should not be doing that.

We should be waiting for the results. We should wait what is happening exactly rather than speculate in such this absolutely disgusting manner and I want for the world to remember that it’s Russia’s loss, not theirs, and they should be given condolences to Russian people, to Russian president, to support him.

Because, as any other president, Putin needs opposition. And that’s one of the known facts in politics. Every politician requires and needs to have an opposition without which they simply cannot be a democratic society. Nemtsov, however harmless he was, he was an oppositionist with very few votes [for] him – as you know, Russians overwhelmingly support Putin.

And again coming and comparing it to Berezovsky I can only state that Berezovsky at his time – he was saying that he would never be touched because “Putin needs me. He needs that opposition. He needs that devil on the other side for west to pet somebody who will open opposition.”

Good news out of Russia – even the “non-system” opposition refuses to blame the Kremlin
“The Saker” Vineyrd of the Saker USA February 28, 2015

Honestly, I never thought the day would come where I would have anything good to say about the Russian “liberal” or “democratic” “non-system” opposition but apparently this day has come today. To my surprise, all the leaders of this opposition have so far made very moderate and reasonable statement and all those which I have heard have apparently dismissed the notion that the Kremlin was behind the murder. Now this might be self-evident for most of us, but for the Russian “liberal” or “democratic” “non-system” opposition this is quite a change of tone. Many have even said that this murder was a “provocation” (which in this context means “false flag”!) to destabilize Russia and create a crisis. Even Irina Khakamada, normally a real crackpot, has said that this was either a “provocation” or the action of a small group of extremists.

Maybe they are aware that the Russian public will not “buy” it, maybe MH17 was too clearly a false flag, or maybe they simply had a momentary moment of decency, but as far as I know nobody pointed the finger at Putin (okay, somebody somewhere probably did, I am just not aware of it). Again, this is quite remarkable.

Everybody, pro and anti Kremlin, agree that it is absolutely essential that this crime be solved. Since I personally believe that this was a US/UK organized false flag, I fully expect that somebody will be found and, as we say in Russian, that the “(trail) end will end in the water” meaning that there will be no proof of western involvement. If fact, even if the FSB *does* come across such proof, the Russians will most likely not make it public but use it behind the scenes. As for those who organized it, they also need somebody to get caught because if nobody ever gets caught, then this looks way too professional, but if a small cell of, say, rabid anti-Semitic nationalists, does get caught, then that exculpates all other possible suspects. Considering that the crime happened 200m away from the Kremlin, and that the city center is laced with cameras, I fully expect an arrest in the next 48 hours, a week max.

The bottom line is that in Russia this false flag is already a clear failure, not even the notorious Russian “liberal” or “democratic” “non-system” opposition wants to touch this thing. This is very good news indeed. In the West, of course, this is a different story, the AngloZionist will use that to a max, no doubt here at all.

Everything will be done to punish those behind ‘vile’ murder of Nemtsov – Putin
RT Russia February 28, 2015

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Boris Nemtsov. Photo: Vladimir Fedorenko/RIA Novosti. This page contains a 48-second audio link, a statement by Presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov on the Nemtsov murder.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has promised that everything will be done to punish those responsible for the organization and execution of the murder of opposition politician, Boris Nemtsov.

“Everything will be done for the organizers and executors of this vile and cynical murder to receive the punishment they deserve,” the statement on the Russian President’s official website said.

Boris Nemtsov, a veteran opposition figure in Russia, was gunned down in a drive-by attack in central Moscow overnight Friday.

The murder, which happened just away from the Kremlin, triggered worldwide condemnation and calls to bring the killers to justice.

Previously, Putin expressed his condolences to Nemtsov’s mother and said that he shared her grief.

“Please, accept my deepest condolences on this irreparable loss. I sincerely share your grief,” a telegram by the President, posted on the Kremlin’s website, said.

Boris Nemtsov “left his mark in the history of Russia – in its political and public life. He occupied on important positions in the difficult transition period of our country. He stated his point of views in an honest and straight forward manner and always defended his stance,” Putin stressed.

Moscow city authorities meanwhile have given permission to Russian opposition leaders to hold a march to commemorate Nemtsov after they canceled a planned protest rally due to the murder. The Sunday rally will cross the Bolshoy Moskvoretsky Bridge where the politician was shot dead.

Nemtsov, 55, gained popularity as a governor to Nizhny Novgorod region, staying in the office from 1991 to 1997. He served as energy minister and deputy prime minister under former President Boris Yeltsin. After 1998 he participated in the creation of several liberal movements and parties, serving as a Member of Parliament. Since 2012, he had co-chaired the liberal party RPR-PARNAS (Republican Party of Russia – People’s Freedom Party), being more involved in business than politics.

Reflections on the murder of Boris Nemtsov
Eric Kraus Russia Insider Russia February 28, 2015

The crime is horrific. But there is something a little too convenient for Washington in all of this.

Politically, Mr Nemtsov was a spent force – he had a real following in the 1990s, where he was briefly a major player. Unlike Navalny, who is opportunistic, smart and frankly dangerous, Nemtsov’s following was largely limited to foreign journalists and a small group of Russian liberals.

Had the Kremlin wanted him out of the way there were other ways – especially in Moscow. A car crash. An (induced) heart attack. Poisons. Why do a public hit within sight of St. Basel’s Cathedral on Red Square so as to provide a public feast for the foreign press picture editors?

The timing is equally suspicious. Perfectly timed to draw maximum attention to the upcoming opposition March which had risked falling flat. The March itself is no conceivable threat to Mr Putin – who now enjoys the sort of popularity common to wartime leaders in any country – but it is the best shot the West has, knowing that any political murder in Moscow will be systematically attributed to the Kremlin by the tame Western press – whether of a Putin opponent (Politkovskaya) or a fervent supporter (Paul Klebnikov, Forbes). By some odd coincidence, several of these killings took place immediately before President Putin was to address some particularly high-profile international meeting.

The fact that this horrific murder is most beneficial to the anti-Russian factions does not, of course, prove that Washington was in any way involved. It suggests it – which is a very different matter…

There is another – less conspiratorial – theory. The Kiev regime – openly supported by Mr Nemtsov and his followers – is genuinely very unpopular in Russia. Live television coverage of the savage bombardment of Lugansk and Donetsk has evoked some strong passions. There is a hardline, nationalist faction, and Russia can be a violent place. It is entirely possible that someone decided to take revenge for the people of Novorossiya, answering one barbaric crime with another.

There is only one certainty: this murder will be exploited by the Western press which will largely not even bother to formally attribute it to the Kremlin – but simply do a quick montage – Red Square, Putin opponent lying dead. It’s an easy sell.

We can only hope that the murderers will be found and punished – and that political violence – in Moscow as in Lugansk – will be universally condemned.


Posted at: March 1, 2015 - 1:40 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post


Canada’s proposed anti-terrorism act (C-51), an assessment

Craig Forcese is a law professor teaching national security law at the University of Ottawa and a participant in the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society.

Kent Roach teaches at the University of Toronto law faculty and worked with both the Arar and Air India commissions.

Canada’s proposed anti-terrorism act, an assessesment
Craig Forcese and Kent Roach Canada ongoing

Visit this site for its embedded links.

About the project

We are trying something we have never done before: legal scholarship done in “real time” in a highly politicized environment, in which fundamental decisions about the shape of law are being made.

We are responding to Bill C-51, the government’s controversial anti-terror law proposal.

We will be publishing a book with Irwin Law on this topic as soon as humanly possible, and hopefully before the bill is a “done deal” (assuming it is not, already). Here, our objective is to make available chapters and sections in draft form, as they are prepared. These materials will continue to be edited up until final publication. They are dynamic, working documents. But our hope is that early open-source draft posting will assist those working in this active and developing area.

We cannot deal with every aspect of the bill simultaneously, although you will find our current thinking on many items if you search the web for our opeds, or visit one of us (Forcese) at

We will develop the ideas and conclusions we present. If you disagree with the legal opinions we express, tells us. More generally, we welcome (and very much encourage and need) feedback, critiques, suggestions and observations from other lawyers, legal scholars and other interested persons with expertise to contribute (whether practical, legal, scholarly). We are, in other words, calling for a “crowdsourced” response to Bill C-51. (But please, no rhetoric and conspiracy theories or political commentary. That is not what the project is about.)

Useful Documents

Consolidated CSIS Act (unofficial) with Bill C-44 and Bill C-51 amendments

Irwin Law Books by Roach & Forcese

Recent Posts

Bill C-51 Backgrounder #5: Oversight and Review: Turning Accountability Gaps into Canyons? February 27, 2015
Bill C-51 Backgrounder # 4: The Terrorism Propaganda Provisions February 23, 2015
Bill C-51: Brief Explainer Video February 20, 2015
Bill C-51 Backgrounder # 3: Sharing Information and Lost Lessons from the Maher Arar Experience February 16, 2015
Bill C-51 Backgrounder #2: The Canadian Security Intelligence Service’s Proposed Power to “Reduce” Security Threats through Conduct that May Violate the Law and Charter February 12, 2015

Archive – February 2015

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Related audio: Defending and dissecting Bill C-51
“The House With Even Solomon” CBC Radio One Canada February 28, 2015

You can listen to the entire program (49:59) from a pop-up link on this page or you can choose to listen to selected episodes:

Steven Blaney discusses radicalization and anti-terrorism legislation

In light of recent stories of alleged radicalization of young Canadians, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney talks about the impact Bill C-51 would have had on those cases. Blaney also answers some of the key criticisms of the anti-terrorism bill. (15:16)

Craig Forcese dissects Bill C-51

Associate Professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa Craig Forcese is in the middle of an ongoing analysis of the government’s proposed anti-terrorism legislation. He highlights a number of legal issues with the bill. (14:26)

Perry Bellegarde on missing and murdered indigenous women, Bill C-51

Was Friday’s national roundtable on missing and murdered indigenous women a success or a failure? The National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Perry Bellegarde, says a lot more needs to be done. (7:11)

In House panel – February 28

In House panelists Mark Kennedy and Tasha Kheiriddin tackle the debates over proposed anti-terrorism measures and new end-of-life legislation. (6:28)

Posted at: March 1, 2015 - 11:41 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post


The war on understanding cancer: Deceit and greed the hallmarks of a century-long sham & Raising a stink over getting Pinked

Devra Davis’ book, The Secret History of the War on Cancer, traces sickening, century-long pattern of public relations deceit, academic timidity and media collusions that have kneecapped scientific research and promoted public confusion about this disease.

The war on understanding cancer
Geoff Olson Common Ground British Columbia Canada February 2015

On a cold, grey day in December, I dropped into a North Shore hospice to visit a friend. As he reclined in a wheelchair in the common room, a violin quintet played holiday standards. I slid into a free chair between him and his father to take in the remainder of the performance. In a quiet voice, my sick friend began to sing along to Hark, The Herald Angels Sing.

My friend and neighbour was both a gentleman and a gentle man. A high school science teacher and father of two, he raised bees and drove an electric car quieter than a sewing machine. He didn’t smoke, drink to excess or even use a cell phone. He was all about healthy living, sustainability and helping out his neighbours. Thanks to him, my wife and I were able to grow our own vegetables after he built an extra garden plot for us in his backyard.

I have lost a disturbing number of friends and acquaintances in the past year and a half to cancer. Two had been diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, the most malignant form of brain tumour.

Cancer is not of recent vintage, as indicated by fossil evidence of a dinosaur that suffered from a bone tumour 150 million years ago. If you manage to survive other age-related ailments, there’s a good chance that some form of the disease will get you in the end; it is a predictable, if ironic, result of life extension.

Yet my neighbour was only 33 when he was diagnosed with cancer. Over the past 20 years, there has been a 22% increase in brain tumours in the US population, according to statistics from the National Cancer Institute. And here is the kicker: in the last 20 years, the incidence of brain tumours has reportedly increased by 35% in children younger than 15.

The Lancet predicts a global increase in overall cancer rates by more than 75% by 2030.

Devra Davis, PhD, was the founding director of the Center for Environmental Oncology, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute and a professor of epidemiology at the Graduate School of Public Health (2004-2010). Her 2007 book, The Secret History of the War on Cancer, traces a sickening, century-long pattern of public relations deceit, academic timidity and media collusion that has kneecapped scientific research and promoted public confusion about this disease.

Davis details how the “astonishing alliances” between academics and people with vested interests in selling potentially carcinogenic materials have kept the public in the dark about risks to their health.

Related: Breast cancer, “the poster child of corporate cause-related marketing campaigns.”

Raising a stink over getting Pinked: Will “Boob Bombing” really prevent breast cancer?
Alan Cassels Common Ground British Columbia Canada March 2015

Visit this page for its embedded links.

Rarely, if ever, has a disease colonized a colour, but that’s precisely what you can say about the corporate fundraising behemoth around breast cancer. It’s audacious, sometimes crass and very hard to miss. And did I say, it’s very, very pink?

The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation’s Get Pink Campaign kicks things off on March 12, urging you to “recruit your co-workers or classmates to join your Get Pink’d! team…” You could go one step further and “Shop for the Cure,” choosing from 35 corporate or community partners to spend money on to raise money for the cause. Or you could send a “Boob Bomb,” touted as “a fun and cheeky way to help remind your friends that they should check their breasts regularly.” While you’re at it, download the free Don’t Forget to Check app so you can learn how your breasts look and feel.

Ok, go ahead, call me a curmudgeon, but is all this saucy pinkification of our lives and all the touchy feely – literally speaking – stuff about breasts likely to make any difference?

I can understand how people get infected with the urge to jump aboard the breast cancer bandwagon. Those who’ve had a close brush with breast cancer or lost a loved one to the disease are likely to find great comfort in a likeminded community that somehow wants to contribute back.

The foundation’s Don’t Forget to Check program sounds benign and fun, but like many aspects of breast cancer advocacy, there is the obvious gap between the research around what they’re promoting and the marketing hype. One message – that women should carry out routine breast self examinations – is the opposite of what you hear from evidence-based sources, such as the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), which says breast self-examination shouldn’t be done – probably because there is no evidence it helps and may even cause harm.

In the two trials where it’s been studied, it led to more imaging procedures and biopsies than for control patients without changing the length or quality of those women’s lives. You should definitely talk to your doctor about any suspicious changes to your breasts, but the push to carry out routine breast self examination is not endorsed by the World Health Organization, the American Academy of Family Physicians or the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care (CTFPHC).

As for full-blown mammography, there is also a contrast between the advocates and the cautious experts. Those who review screening as part of Canada’s Task Force on Preventive Health Care don’t recommend that women start mammography in their 40’s, but recommend doing it every two to three years starting at age 50. The USPSTF agrees with this and says women should only do it every two years until age 74. By contrast, the American Cancer Society says women should be getting a mammogram every year starting at 40, “continuing as long as a woman is in good health.” The American College of Radiology has the most zealous pro-screening position, claiming, “By not getting annual mammograms starting at age 40, you increase your chances of dying from breast cancer and the likelihood that you will experience more extensive treatment for any cancers found.”

So who is right? Why do some groups recommend having mammograms twice as often as another group? Does this have anything to do with the science-based orientation of some groups (like the USPSTF or the CTFPHC) versus the advocacy, fundraising and professional goals of other groups?

Posted at: March 1, 2015 - 10:39 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

February 28, 2015

Weekly Headlines

Click on a headline below to go to that news item

Thursday, February 26, 2015

World News

Two brave, defiant governments: Icelandic bankers sentenced to prison & The Greek tragedy


Is the junk-food era drawing to a close? & Help end ‘real food’ waste


The pressing need to restore agriculture to sanity, that is to say, based on reason and good judgment. The task is huge, but the tools are there

National News

Canada’s First Nations issues: Settler communities are awakening to the many atrocities of the past, and learning how to move forward in solidarity with indigenous people

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


The grand illusion behind which operates a a pug-ugly bully

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


Eurasia dispatches: Turkey goes a step too far? & Turkmen pipeline nears completion

Science & Technology

Drone warfare: Life on the new frontline. No armies and militias fighting house to house here, but from a comfortable seat far away, you can get the pictures

World News

Ukraine: As the Western Axis’ drive for regime change continues, any increase in US military assistance to Kyiv/Kiev should be tied to a commitment to dissolve the volunteer battalions

Monday, February 23, 2015

Science & Technology

U.S. wants to hack your phone because it doesn’t have real spies it needs


War, terror, security: Blowing the whistle on Harper’s dirty politics


Are we witnessing the dawn of feudalism 2.0? Who owns Stephen Harper? Most likely the new ‘nobility’, the brazen entitled

Sunday, February 22, 2015


Are we becoming morally smarter?

World News

On 50th anniversary of his assassination, Malcolm X’s legacy continues to evolve


Stephen Harper’s metastasizing enemies’ list is beginning to rival Dick Nixon’s infamous ledger & Harper’s scary new terror bill needs oversight

Posted at: February 28, 2015 - 7:01 am -- Posted by: SSNews -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

February 27, 2015

Why Bashar Assad won’t fight ISIS

Why Bashar Assad won’t fight ISIS
Aryn Baker TIME USA February 26, 2015

Visit this page for its related link.

The regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad has long had a pragmatic approach to the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), says a Syrian businessman with close ties to the government. Even from the early days the regime purchased fuel from ISIS-controlled oil facilities, and it has maintained that relationship throughout the conflict. “Honestly speaking, the regime has always had dealings with ISIS, out of necessity.”

The Sunni businessman is close to the regime but wants to remain anonymous for fear of repercussions from both ISIS supporters and the regime. He trades goods all over the country so his drivers have regular interactions with ISIS supporters and members in Raqqa, the ISIS stronghold in Syria, and in ISIS-controlled areas like Dier-ezzor.

The businessman cites Raqqa’s mobile phone service as an example of how there is commerce between the regime, Syrian businesses, and ISIS. The country’s two main mobile phone operators still work in Raqqa. “Both operators send engineers to ISIS-controlled areas to repair damages at the towers,” he says. In addition, there are regular shipments of food to Raqqa. “ISIS charges a small tax for all trucks bringing food into Raqqa [including the businessman’s trucks], and they give receipts stamped with the ISIS logo. It is all very well organized.”

The businessman has a driver who lives in an ISIS-controlled area near Dier-Ezzor. “My driver is always telling me how safe things are at home. He can leave the door to his house unlocked. ISIS requires women to veil, and there is no smoking in the streets. Men can’t wear jeans either. But there are no bribes, and they have tranquility and security. It’s not like there are killings every day in the streets like you see on TV.”

And, he notes, ISIS pays well — slightly less than the pre-war norms but a fortune in a war-torn economy: engineers for the oil and gas fields are paid $2,500 a month. Doctors get $1,500. Non-Syrians get an expatriate allowance, “a financial package that makes it worthwhile to work for ISIS,” says the businessman.

Assad does not see ISIS as his primary problem, the businessman says. “The regime fears the Free Syrian Army and the Nusra Front, not ISIS. They [the FSA and Nusra] state their goal is to remove the President. But ISIS doesn’t say that. They have never directly threatened Damascus.” As the businessman notes, the strikes on ISIS targets are minimal. If the regime were serious about getting rid of ISIS, they would have bombed Raqqa by now. Instead they bomb other cities, where the FSA is strong.” That said, the businessman does not believe that the regime has a formal relationship with ISIS, just a pragmatic one. “The more powerful ISIS grows, the more they are useful for the regime. They make America nervous, and the Americans in turn see the regime as a kind of bulwark against ISIS.”

Posted at: February 27, 2015 - 1:18 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post


Diary: ‘Iammmmyoookkraaanian’ & Chinese diplomat lectures West on Russia’s ‘real security concerns’ over Ukraine

Recently, at yet another conference, I was asked whether, given that I was born in Kiev, I should be introduced as Russian or Ukrainian. In my many hyphenated identities I had never thought of myself as Ukrainian. I was nine months old when my family emigrated from Kiev. I knew real Ukrainians, and recognised their complicated search for nationhood, but it was never my search. My parents speak Russian; they brought me up on Russian literature; I had always been ‘the Russian’ at my London schools. But the Maidan gave words new meanings. … I suddenly felt very sharply that my mother was from Kiev, my father grew up in Czernowitz, my grandparents are from Odessa and Kharkiv. And so when I was asked the question at the conference I breathed deeply and said words I never thought I would: ‘I am Ukrainian.’ It felt strange. The ‘mmmm’ cut off with the sharp, whistling intake of ‘yuuu’, breaking into the avalanche of ‘krrrr’. I remembered the way revolutionary poets of the 1920s wanted to create new sounds to produce a new world: ‘Iammmmyoookkraaanian.’ The physical sensation of saying the words is revolutionary: like a new planet in the mouth. - Peter Pomerantsev

Peter Pomerantsev London Review of Books UK Vol. 37 No. 4 · February 19, 2015

When I was growing up in the 20th century revolutions seemed significant. At school the Russian Revolution was everyone’s favourite subject but it was less theoretical for me than for most: my parents had ended up in England because of it. The 68-er parents of schoolfriends would tell me about the sexual and cultural revolutions of their youth which, they said, changed the world. I was 12 in 1989, when we all watched the Berlin Wall fall on live TV. It seemed like the Russian Revolution and the 1960s rolled into one, the people taking power from elites while celebrating the subversive effect of U2. Later, when I went to film school and discovered Eisenstein, I realised that revolution had altered the way things looked: that all those CNN and BBC montages with their close-ups of ‘ordinary’ people on the revolutionary streets of Berlin, Moscow and Bucharest, and their stirring music, could have been borrowed from Battleship Potemkin or Strike; they were rolling news versions of Eisenstein’s notion of making the crowd the hero, transformed through the editing into a unified body.

But in the 21st century something changed. Suddenly any national political fight was calling itself a revolution. The Rose Revolution (Georgia), the Green Revolution (Iran), the Tulip Revolution (Kyrgyzstan), the Jeans Revolution (Belarus), the Cedar Revolution (Lebanon), the Jasmine Revolution (Tunisia). Some of these were revolutionary, others not at all. ‘Revolution’ stopped being the name you gave to a transformative historical moment and became the name a political technology gave itself in order to gain importance.

Ukraine’s Orange Revolution of 2004 had all the slogans, the set designs, the pop music, the flag-waving and video mash-ups of revolution but when it was over the same leaders returned to practise the same corrupt schemes as before. By this time I was making documentaries. I would find myself drinking with foreign correspondents in bars: ‘Was Kiev 2004 a real revolution? Was Bishkek 2005?’ we would ask. The Arab Spring made things worse. On TV Tahrir Square looked like something out of Eisenstein – but when it went wrong it did so gradually, in ways that didn’t look so cinematic.

And then there was Kiev’s Maidan: the ‘Euro-revolution’, ‘the revolution of dignity’ which celebrates the anniversary of its awful culmination this month. ‘Another Ukrainian revolution?’ I thought when it began. As thousands gathered to protest against Yanukovych’s decision to abandon an Association Agreement with the EU in return for a $15 billion bung from the Kremlin, and as the protests turned violent, with a hundred people shot before Yanukovych finally fled to Russia, the story of the revolution was already being spun in a hundred ways. ‘It’s a fascist / CIA / Masonic / Zionist / anti-Semitic coup,’ the Russian press declared. ‘It’s all the fault of the EU’s empire-building ambitions,’ insisted the anti-EU crowd in Western Europe. ‘Russia has a right to rule over Ukraine,’ reasoned the big power realists. And the Ukrainians who actually made, or were caught up in, the revolution had their own ways of telling the story, though the stories have changed over the year since Yanukovych fled, as the country has moved through presidential and parliamentary elections and Putin has sponsored, armed and helped man a war against Kiev in the old Yanukovych heartlands.

When I first arrived in Maidan a few months after the violence had ended, the square was still a tent city surrounded by barricades of tyres, car parts and furniture (as if the very fabric of the city had risen up and rebelled). The dregs of the Maidanistas were still living in the tents, refusing to leave. Wandering among them I found a crucible of utopias: Cossacks dreaming of a return to the Hetmanate; ‘liquid democrats’ inventing ways to vote and then unvote for parliamentarians as with ‘likes’ on Facebook; ethno-pagan nationalists searching for pure Ukrainian chromosomes; libertarians, anarchists, neo-fascists and Christian socialists.

After decades in Moscow with its aestheticised cynicism and London with its apolitical resignation, Kiev’s uprush of utopias was refreshing, and occasionally disturbing. Soon I found myself sitting in cafés scribbling my own pet utopia: Ukraine as a Russia 2.0. ‘Russia is not Europe,’ the Kremlin’s culture minister, Vladimir Medinsky, had recently announced. Could Kiev be a capital of a ‘Russia that is Europe’? I started to think which writers would be part of Russia 2.0: Medinsky would get Dostoevsky and Solzhenitsyn; we would get Chekhov, Turgenev and Nabokov. Tolstoy was a sticking point: one would think he was a Russian Russian, but might his excommunication by the Orthodox Church, which still describes him as using ‘his great talent to destroy Russia’s traditional spiritual and social order’, mean we have to take him in?

The seduction of big ideas was internationally infectious. Returning to my hotel lobby I encountered Bernard-Henri Lévy bathed in TV lights, giving an interview to a local network. BHL had just delivered a lecture at the local university about ‘Putinism as Fascism’: ‘Putin is frightened of the loss of traditional values and the principles of religion,’ Lévy said. At the conference I was attending, on ‘The Meaning of Ukrainian Pluralism for the Future of Europe, Russia and the World’, Paul Berman and François Heisbourg kept returning to the idea of Russia as a home for a kind of clerical nationalism, Ukraine as the battleground for liberal values. Were these grand visions, I wondered, actually playing into Putin’s hands? The Kremlin was doing all it could do to recast the story of a battle against corruption and bad governance as a clash of civilisations. The bigger the ‘idea’ of revolution became, the more it was susceptible to spin.

But many Ukrainians were wary of the excitement from abroad. ‘I don’t want to use the Maidan as my channel’s masthead,’ said Zurab Alasania, who had helped launch the independent TV channel of the revolution, Hromadske, and was now trying to create the country’s new public broadcasting channel. ‘The risk is we become addicted to the idea of revolution: it becomes a substitute for doing anything else.’ ‘We need to move away from the revolution of dignity to the revolution of effectiveness,’ Hannah Hopko told me. She had made a name for herself on the Maidan by collecting money to help feed and clothe ordinary citizens. Hopko had a different idea of the West’s role from BHL’s. She saw ‘Europe’ as complicit in supporting Yanukovych’s violent kleptocracy, providing a safe refuge for all the money stolen from the budget. ‘The IMF want strict conditions for a $2.7 billion loan. That’s only a fraction of the money Yanukovych stole and hid in the West. How about you just give that back instead?’ Six months on, $4 billion of the $100 billion the Ukrainian prosecutor’s office claims Yanukovych stole have been impounded; Hannah Hopko is now an MP.

The new cabinet includes people who have no connection to the old loops of corruption, but the fact they are new also means they have no influence with the entrenched bureaucracy, which persists almost unchanged. The press is freer than it was before: Alasania’s channel has just investigated dodgy real estate development by the new president, but whether that freedom can be converted into influence is unclear. A journalist who camped out in front of the presidential administration building and recorded who went in and who went out reported that many of the old faces from the Yanukovych years had a habit of stopping by in the evening; as for the old oligarchs they are only growing more powerful as the government approaches bankruptcy. In the 2015 Heritage Index of Economic Freedom Ukraine has sunk seven places and is now bottom of the European table. The government has neglected those who are suffering from the consequences of the war in the far east of the country on both sides of the line: bombing civilians in rebel-held areas and cutting them off from whatever welfare might provide has put paid to any residual loyalty to Kiev; meanwhile the hungry and wounded on the Ukrainian side are largely ignored.

Related: Chinese diplomat lectures West on Russia’s ‘real security concerns’ over Ukraine
RT Russia February 27, 2015

Vist this page for its related and audio links.

Western nations should heed Russia’s legitimate security concerns over the volatile situation in Ukraine, a top Chinese diplomat has said in a rare public statement on the crisis that has damaged relations between Russia and the West.

Qu Xing, China’s ambassador to Belgium, said the Ukrainian crisis came about due to the ongoing “game”– a metaphor similar to that used by US geopolitical strategist Zbigniew Brzezinski, who referred to it as the “grand chessboard” – between Russia and the West, which has not abated despite, or because of, the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Arguing that outside interference by various powers inflamed the Ukrainian situation, Xing said Moscow would naturally feel threatened unless Western powers engaged in a more constructive approach.

Xing advised Western powers to “abandon the zero-sum mentality” in their efforts to deal with Moscow and the Ukraine crisis and “take the real security concerns of Russia into consideration,” Reuters reported, quoting state news agency Xinhua.

China in the past has urged all involved parties to sit down and negotiate for peace.

The Chinese ambassador, whose Brussels office is in the same city as NATO’s headquarters, then offered some insight as to what motivates the United States on the international stage, and what could lead to its possible decline.

Posted at: February 27, 2015 - 1:16 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

February 26, 2015

Two brave, defiant governments: Icelandic bankers sentenced to prison & The Greek tragedy

Icelandic bankers sentenced to prison
Zoë Robert Iceland Review Iceland February 12, 2015, updated February 13, 2015

Sigurður Einarsson. Photo: Geir Ólafsson. Visit this page for its embedded link.

The Supreme Court of Iceland today upheld prison sentences issued by Reykjavík District Court in December 2013 on four former key executives and majority owners of Kaupþing Bank in the so-called Al-Thani case in what is the heaviest sentence ever given in Iceland for economic fraud, reports. The four were charged with market manipulation in relation to Sheik Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al-Thani of Qatar’s acquisition of more than five percent of shares (worth ISK 25.7 billion) in Kaupþing Bank shortly before it collapsed in autumn 2008.

The case was taken to the Supreme Court after the defendants appealed the Reykjavík District Court’s ruling.

Hreiðar Már Sigurðsson, former CEO of the bank, got the longest sentence at five and a half years, unchanged from the Reykjavík District Court’s ruling. Sigurður Einarsson, former chairman of the board, had his sentence reduced from five years to four while investor, and one of the bank’s biggest shareholders, Ólafur Ólafsson, had his sentence lengthened from 3.5 years to 4.5 years and Magnús Guðmundsson, director of Kaupþing Luxembourg, got 4.5 years instead of 3 years.

Hreiðar must also pay ISK 25 million (USD 190,000, EUR 167,000) in Supreme Court defense fees and 33.4 million in District Court defense fees, Sigurður ISK 14 million in each, Ólafur ISK 18 and 20 million respectively and Magnús ISK 20 million in each, reports.

The ruling was announced shortly after 4 pm today.

UPDATE: The amounts each of the defendants must pay has been updated in line with the latest information presented in the Icelandic media.

Related: Below: Some things not to forget, which the new Greek leaders have not.

The Greek tragedy
William Blum CounterPunch USA February 25, 2015

American historian D.F. Fleming, writing of the post-World War II period in his eminent history of the Cold War, stated that “Greece was the first of the liberated states to be openly and forcibly compelled to accept the political system of the occupying Great Power. It was Churchill who acted first and Stalin who followed his example, in Bulgaria and then in Rumania, though with less bloodshed.”

The British intervened in Greece while World War II was still raging. His Majesty’s Army waged war against ELAS, the left-wing guerrillas who had played a major role in forcing the Nazi occupiers to flee. Shortly after the war ended, the United States joined the Brits in this great anti-communist crusade, intervening in what was now a civil war, taking the side of the neo-fascists against the Greek left. The neo-fascists won and instituted a highly brutal regime, for which the CIA created a suitably repressive internal security agency (KYP in Greek).

In 1964, the liberal George Papandreou came to power, but in April 1967 a military coup took place, just before elections which appeared certain to bring Papandreou back as prime minister. The coup had been a joint effort of the Royal Court, the Greek military, the KYP, the CIA, and the American military stationed in Greece, and was followed immediately by the traditional martial law, censorship, arrests, beatings, and killings, the victims totaling some 8,000 in the first month. This was accompanied by the equally traditional declaration that this was all being done to save the nation from a “communist takeover”. Torture, inflicted in the most gruesome of ways, often with equipment supplied by the United States, became routine.

George Papandreou was not any kind of radical. He was a liberal anti-communist type. But his son Andreas, the heir-apparent, while only a little to the left of his father, had not disguised his wish to take Greece out of the Cold War, and had questioned remaining in NATO, or at least as a satellite of the United States.

Andreas Papandreou was arrested at the time of the coup and held in prison for eight months. Shortly after his release, he and his wife Margaret visited the American ambassador, Phillips Talbot, in Athens. Papandreou later related the following:

I asked Talbot whether America could have intervened the night of the coup, to prevent the death of democracy in Greece. He denied that they could have done anything about it. Then Margaret asked a critical question: What if the coup had been a Communist or a Leftist coup? Talbot answered without hesitation. Then, of course, they would have intervened, and they would have crushed the coup. 1

Another charming chapter in US-Greek relations occurred in 2001, when Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street Goliath Lowlife, secretly helped Greece keep billions of dollars of debt off their balance sheet through the use of complex financial instruments like credit default swaps. This allowed Greece to meet the baseline requirements to enter the Eurozone in the first place. But it also helped create a debt bubble that would later explode and bring about the current economic crisis that’s drowning the entire continent. Goldman Sachs, however, using its insider knowledge of its Greek client, protected itself from this debt bubble by betting against Greek bonds, expecting that they would eventually fail. 2

Will the United States, Germany, the rest of the European Union, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund – collectively constituting the International Mafia – allow the new Greek leaders of the Syriza party to dictate the conditions of Greece’s rescue and salvation? The answer at the moment is a decided “No”. The fact that Syriza leaders, for some time, have made no secret of their affinity for Russia is reason enough to seal their fate. They should have known how the Cold War works.

I believe Syriza is sincere, and I’m rooting for them, but they may have overestimated their own strength, while forgetting how the Mafia came to occupy its position; it didn’t derive from a lot of compromise with left-wing upstarts. Greece may have no choice, eventually, but to default on its debts and leave the Eurozone. The hunger and unemployment of the Greek people may leave them no alternative.

Greece: The next four months
Michael Roberts Michael Roberts Blog UK February 25, 2015

What will happen to Greece’s public finances and economy over the next four months while the Syriza-led government negotiates fiscal and economic conditions with the Eurogroup in return for Troika bailout funds under the existing programme that has now been extended until end-June?

Under the provisional agreement with the Eurogroup, the Greek government will not receive any of the outstanding funds of €7.2bn still available (€1.9bn from ECB profits on its Greek government bond holdings made in 2014 and promised to the previous Greek government; €1.8bn from the Eurogroup’s EFSF and €3.5bn from the IMF) until the Eurogroup is happy with its fiscal plans.

And that could take until end-April. As German finance minister Schaueble made clear: Greece was not getting softer conditions, only more time. “Only when we see they have fulfilled this will any money be paid. Not a single euro will be paid out before that,” he said.

But between this weekend and the end of April, the Greek government is supposed to make repayments on maturing short-term government bills and loans back to the IMF. Greece has to pay back IMF loans of just under €2bn by April and it also has to redeem short-term debt of €4.4bn and €2.4bn in March and April respectively.

Where is the money to come from if the Troika won’t cough up on what it promised until agreement on ‘conditionalities’ with the Greek government? Well, before the election of Syriza, the government was running an annualised surplus before paying interest on its debt of about €1.9bn. And it had built up some cash reserves of about €2bn. So all is well, then?

Well, no. Since the election, taxpayers have stopped paying tax, particularly the most well-off and private companies. Tax receipts have collapsed and were 20% short of target. The government actually ran a deficit in January. The primary surplus achieved in 2014 has already been halved. The available money is disappearing to pay for the upcoming debt redemptions.

Now the €6.8bn of government short-term bills could be paid off by issuing new bills that would be bought by the Greek banks (they are already making good profits on these). However, the ECB is saying that the Greek government is already at its limit of €15bn in T-bill issuance outstanding – this is a limit set by the ECB, by the way. The ECB does not want the Greek government to finance its spending by using the Greek banks, in case the government defaults later.

So it’s getting tight to manage to fund public finances over the next two months, unless the IMF waives its debt repayment to help – unlikely! As Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis put it: “We will definitely have problems in making debt payments to the IMF now and to the ECB in July,” he told Alpha Radio.

So even before we get to a deal with the Eurogroup on what level of austerity measures the new Greek government is supposed to apply to meet fiscal targets, the possibility of default arises.

The four-month extension on the existing Troika programme has been cast by Prime Minister Tsipras and Varoufakis as the best that could be expected to avoid the ECB cutting off funds to the Greek banks and leading to a run on the banks and financial collapse. Tsipras and Varoufakis have argued with their Syriza MPs and followers that they have really got a good deal, in the sense that they can negotiate with the Eurogroup over the terms and measures that will be applied over the next four months. In other words, they have ‘wriggle room’ or ‘fiscal space’.

But as we can see from the latest revenue and spending figures for the government, even if the Eurogroup agrees to a lower primary surplus target than the 3% of GDP they wanted in the old programme, there may not be any surplus to spend at all if tax revenues are not collected.

Yes, the government aims to focus on getting tax arrears, getting taxes out of the oligarchs; and improving tax collection in general. The government claims it can get up to €7bn with its measures. But it will need it (and must convince the Troika too) because it also wants to stop further pension cuts planned under the existing programme (although it has backed down on increasing pensions and the minimum wage or in increasing public sector employment – or at least the wage bill).

Syriza has apparently agreed not to increase income or corporate taxes and yet this is precisely where the most progressive form of taxation could apply. Instead, Varoufakis appears willing to comply with the IMF’s longstanding demand that concessionary VAT rates charged on Aegean Islands should be raised to the standard level. VAT is the most regressive of all taxes.

As for privatisation, what is not commonly realised is that privatisation revenues were supposed to be used to pay down the debt bill and not used to bolster revenues and the primary surplus. The Syriza leadership has agreed to allow existing privatisations through. So Cosco, the Chinese state shipping company, and Maersk of Denmark, the frontrunners among bidders shortlisted for a two-thirds stake in Piraeus Port Authority, will take over. And a consortium led by Frankfurt airport is the preferred bidder for a 40-year(!) concession to run Greece’s regional airports.

Inviting in foreign investment to improve important state assets should not be shunned, in my opinion. After all, that is what the Chinese government does all the time. But they maintain a majority ownership and control the projects. Greece could do the same. Instead, foreign companies will get key sectors of the Greek economy over the next four months. At least, Panagiotis Lafazanis, the energy minister, will apparently stop the sale of the electricity grid and part of the state power utility.

Negotiations on the details of the four-month extension will be tortuous and it is an opportunity for the Syriza government to campaign openly within Europe against austerity measures that the Eurogroup wants to impose and also it gives Syriza time to mobilise the Greek people for the battle ahead.

As PM Tsipras said (wrongly), “we won (actually lost) the first battle and but the war continues”. Austerity must be reversed. Since 2009, successive Greek governments under the direction of the Troika have carried out huge public spending cuts worth 30% of GDP. The public sector wage bill has been reduced by 29%, and now the government has agreed not to increase it. Social benefits have been cut 27% and again the government has agreed not raise this bill.

But Greek public finances at present do not allow for any fiscal space at all, even if the Eurogroup agrees to a lower fiscal target. Tax revenues must come in to meet upcoming debt repayments AND allow for dealing with the humanitarian crisis, boosting employment and wages. Can it be done?

And then what happens after four months? The Greek government and its people must reject any further Troika programme and its conditions (assuming it is offered). They must strike out on their own to control the economy.

That means taking over the banks and the major companies, introducing a plan of investment and growth that mobilises people to support and implement. If that brings the government into a final conflict with other Eurozone governments and the ECB and they threaten to cut off funds and throw Greece out of the Eurozone, so be it.

But there are four months available for the government to campaign within Greece and around Europe for the alternative to the neoliberal economic model and its policies. (see my post,

Posted at: February 26, 2015 - 3:29 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post