April 15, 2014

The overriding goal of US policy in Ukraine is to stop the further economic integration of Asia and Europe. Without doubt, Putin’s May 20 visit to China will be a defining moment in world politics

In my opinion, the Russian and Chinese governments have made serious strategic mistakes by remaining within the US dollar-based international payments system. The BRICS and any others with a brain should instantly desert the dollar system, which is a mechanism for US imperialism. The countries of the BRICS should immediately create their own separate payments system and their own exclusive communications/Internet system. - Paul Craig Roberts, Washington drives the world to war, April 14, 2014

The overriding goal of US policy in Ukraine is to stop the further economic integration of Asia and Europe. That’s what the fracas is really all about. The United States wants to control the flow of energy from East to West, it wants to establish a de facto tollbooth between the continents, it wants to ensure that those deals are transacted in US dollars and recycled into US Treasuries, and it wants to situate itself between the two most prosperous markets of the next century. Anyone who has even the sketchiest knowledge of US foreign policy– particularly as it relates to Washington’s “pivot to Asia”– knows this is so. The US is determined to play a dominant role in Eurasia in the years ahead. Wreaking havoc in Ukraine is a central part of that plan. - Mike Whitney, The Obama Game: Is Putin being lured into a trap?, April 15, 2014

Without doubt, Putin’s [May 20] visit to China will be a defining moment in world politics insofar as the strategic partnership between the two countries [is] poised for a historic uplift. Moscow is turning to Beijing at a time when its ties with the West are in tatters. - M K Bhadrakumar

Russia reaches out for China’s friendship
M K Bhadrakumar Indian Punchline India April 15, 2014

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Hardly forty-eight hours remain for a crucial four-party meet — Russia, United States, European Union and Ukraine — in Geneva on Thursday. From the heated debate in the UN Security Council over the weekend — as discernible from the speeches by the ambassadors of Russia (here) and the US (here) — and the barbs exchanged between presidents Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama in their latest phone conversation – and the sharply divergent version thereof given in the Washington briefing — Ukraine crisis is cascading and could lead to a US-Russia confrontation. Russia yesterday test-fired its fifth generation ICBM with multiple warheads and stealth features with a range of 12000 kilometers.

Therefore, it is rich in symbolism that Russian Foreign Minister is taking time out and is heading for Beijing for consultations on Tuesday. He will be received by President Xi Jinping. China’s stance on the Ukraine crisis becomes a matter of crucial importance for Moscow. But Lavrov’s mission also relates to the preparations over Putin’s visit to China on May 20.

Without doubt, Putin’s visit to China will be a defining moment in world politics insofar as the strategic partnership between the two countries are poised for a historic uplift. Moscow is turning to Beijing at a time when its ties with the West are in tatters.

The reports from Moscow indicate an unmistakable eagerness to conclude the trillion dollar mega gas deal with China, which has been under negotiation for a decade and would transform the strategic underpinnings of Russia-China partnership.

The Russian foreign ministry has said that Ukraine will receive “special attention” during Lavrov’s consultations in Beijing today. Officially, Moscow insists on drawing satisfaction over China’s neutral stance, but would like to have greater certainty over it if push comes to shove in Russia’s standoff with the West — especially if the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine — Lugansk, Kharkov, Donetsk, Kherson, Dnepropetrovsk, Zaparozhve and Odessa — were to secede and were to form some sort of ‘Confederal Union’ with Belarus and Russia, which appears to be a high probability.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement in the weekend while announcing Lavrov’s visit to China, “It is well-known, China sticks to a balanced and objective position, demonstrating understanding of the entire totality of factors, including historical ones, leading to new realities in the region.” That is a meaningful formulation that Lavrov wishes to build upon.

Truly, Russia never probably needed China’s support and understanding to this extent as at this point in time in all through the modern history between the two big powers. This comes out very clearly in a lengthy interview given by Lavrov to the government-run China Daily newspaper as the curtain-raiser for his trip to Beijing. Some excerpts are in order:

The full transcript is here on 3 pages.

Posted at: April 15, 2014 - 4:11 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

Are the complexities of Ukraine, and its peoples’ interests, being ignored? Commentary and news dispatches

Intro: Russia says east Ukraine must have say in preparing referendum
Alissa de Carbonnel Thomson Reuters Canada/UK April 14, 2014

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian Foreign Ministry Sergei Lavrov said on Monday Ukraine’s Russian-speaking eastern regions should be involved in drafting a new state structure that Kiev has said may be put to a referendum next month.

Lavrov said it was not in Russia’s interests for Ukraine to break up, but that Moscow wanted Kiev to give all citizens equal treatment.

He denied Ukrainian and U.S. allegations that Russia had undercover agents fomenting unrest in eastern Ukraine, and said he was seeking an explanation of media reports that the director of the CIA, John Brennan, had visited Kiev.

Pro-Russian groups in eastern Ukraine have said they want a new constitution which will create a federal system of government with greater autonomy for the regions.

“I do not yet know the details of the referendum that has been announced for May 25,” Lavrov said. He was speaking at a news conference after meeting his Sudanese counterpart.

“Fashioning some kind of text with the Verkhovny Rada (Ukrainian parliament) without the participation of the regions and then putting it to a referendum: that does not respond to the criteria we speak about or that the south east (of Ukraine) has spoken about and we back their stance.”

“Let every political actor and every region without exception voice its interests and based on that we will look for a common denominator and then we will get a constitution that really unites and guarantees the interest of the people.”

Ukrainian president open to referendum on federalization amid increasing tensions
Buenos Aires Herald Argentina April 14, 2014

In a rather surprising statement, Ukrainian acting President, Olexandre Turchinov, said he wasn’t opposed to the possibility of a national referendum to change to a federalized system, offering greater autonomy to the regions, a key demand of pro-Russian militants in the East of the country.

The unexpected announcement seems to be an attempt to ease the increasing tension between the central government and the pro-Russian militias. In fact, the President’s remarks come at a time when the deadline set by the government yesterday for pro-Russians to lay down their arms and evacuate the buildings they seized last week in eastern Ukraine has passed.

Turchinov, [who] has strongly rejected the referendum before, now said he wasn’t opposed to the idea, encouraged by Russia, because he was certain that most Ukrainians would vote in favor of an “indivisible, independent and democratic and united Ukraine”.

“In recent days, there has been a lot of talk about a national referendum”, the President said at a political meeting. “We are not against holding a national referendum that – if parliament adopts the corresponding decision – could be held together with the presidential elections”, he added.

Ukraine leader signals support for national referendum on status
Agence France-Presse/The News France/Pakistan April 14, 2014

KIEV: Ukraine’s interim president on Monday signalled support for a national referendum on turning the ex-Soviet republic into a federation with broader rights for its heavily Russified east.

Pro-Kremlin militias who have seized government buildings in regions such as Donetsk are demanding local referendums on either broader local rights or an option to join the Russian Federation.

Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov stopped well short of giving in to these demands by signalling support for a national referendum on Ukraine´s future status — a vote whose outcome is far less certain because most in Kiev and the Ukrainian speaking west reject the idea of federalisation.

Turchynov suggested that the national vote could coincide with snap presidential polls that Ukraine is set to hold on May 25 following the February ouster of Russian-backed president Viktor Yanukovych.

“In recent days, there has been a lot of talk about a national referendum,” Turchynov told leading lawmakers in nationally televised remarks.

“We are not against holding a national referendum that — if parliament adopts the corresponding decision — could be held together with the presidential elections,” said Turchynov.

“I am certain that a majority of Ukrainians will support an indivisible, independent, democratic and united Ukraine,” he added. “This is my conviction, and I think that all those present share my view.”

Ukraine´s new leaders have already struck a political partnership deal with the European Union and are expected to sign an economic relations and trade agreement later this year.

Items:Most Ukrainians are neither loyal Russians nor fascists
James Meek Guardian UK April 13, 2014

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Things weren’t easy in Ukraine when I lived there in the early 1990s, just after the country voted to break from Moscow. There was hyperinflation. People lost their savings. There were petrol shortages. The airport in Kiev would close for days at a time for lack of fuel. Nothing got repaired; nothing got built.

But nobody starved. Nobody froze. The electricity was never cut off. The trains kept running, schools and hospitals limped from day to day. Most importantly, horrifying as it was for Ukrainians to watch on the television news how long-peaceful places they knew, such as Georgia, Moldova and Chechnya, were suddenly on fire with heavily armed men strutting across them, they were far away.

There was much grumbling about the Ukrainian government, its incompetence, its corruption. There always seemed the possibility, in the abstract, that Russia might try to come back. In the mid-1990s I wrote an article for the Guardian suggesting a scenario for a new Yugoslavia in the east, with Ukraine as Croatia, Crimea as Bosnia and Russia as Serbia. But I felt I’d pushed it. After all, Boris Yeltsin was no Milosevic.

I remember visiting Ukraine one springtime in the mid-1990s. Days earlier, in Chechnya, I’d seen shell-ruined buildings, terrified civilians, battle-hardened separatists and frightened Russian conscripts. In Ukraine I drove past Ukrainian soldiers gathered around a radar truck; each one was blissfully asleep, bathed in the soft May sunshine. It made me smile. After all, what did they have to worry about? Ukraine had given away its nuclear weapons and in return, the country’s territorial integrity was guaranteed in a document signed by Russia, the US and Britain.

And then Russia got its Milosevic. Like his Serbian counterpart, Vladimir Putin is clever, articulate, popular, untrustworthy to those who are not his friends, ruthless, cynical to the point of absurdity and unable to account for his personal wealth. Like Milosevic, he has no compunction in exploiting the messianic, victim-narrative strain of his country’s patriotism. Unlike Milosevic, because of Russia’s nuclear arsenal, he is invulnerable to military attack from outside. Unlike Milosevic, he has had many years of income from raw materials exports with which to build up powerful, well-equipped security forces to carry out a well-targeted upgrade of Russia’s military, to turn the media into a government mouthpiece, to repress or buy off dissenters, and to offer the outside world the convincing illusion that his country is prospering. (It is true that Russian pensioners are somewhat less miserably poor than those in Ukraine.)

Now, a generation later, long after it had been unthinkable, those same chaotic figures with Kalashnikovs and fatigues have appeared in Ukraine, under Russian sponsorship and, all evidence suggests, direction.

Putin has put Ukraine’s weak transitional government in an impossible position: fail to resist and I will invade. Resist and I will invade more, and there will be corpses. Although they would never admit it, the authorities in Kiev are resigned to the loss of Crimea. But they don’t know where or when Putin will stop. His strategy has blighted the future of Ukraine’s 46 million people, making it impossible for any part of the country to move forward.

Hearing the opinions of people in Britain, Europe and America since Russia began to dismember Ukraine, I’ve been struck by how disagreement tends to focus on which of the two sides has behaved worst: Putin or the west. The complexities of the people of Ukraine tend to vanish in this binary view, alarmingly close to the Putinite consensus, which is that if you live in Ukraine you must either be a loyal vassal to Russia or a fascist.

The truth is that between the minority of archaic radical nationalists in Ukraine’s far west, whose role in the revolution won them a few posts in Kiev’s otherwise moderate government, and the minority of neo-Soviet extremists in the east, there is a larger group of Ukrainians for whom the difference between the two cultures and languages is trivial. What they want is for their country to be an east Slav space that is fairer and less corrupt than either Putin’s Russia, Yanukovych’s Ukraine or Lukashenko’s Belarus. Whichever way Europe and the US act, it must be with the interests of that group in mind.

Washington drives the world to war
Paul Craig Roberts Institute for Political Economy USA April 14, 2014

The CIA director was sent to Kiev to launch a military suppression of the Russian separatists in the eastern and southern portions of Ukraine, former Russian territories for the most part that were foolishly attached to the Ukraine in the early years of Soviet rule.

Washington’s plan to grab Ukraine overlooked that the Russian and Russian-speaking parts of Ukraine were not likely to go along with their insertion into the EU and NATO while submitting to the persecution of Russian speaking peoples. Washington has lost Crimea, from which Washington intended to eject Russia from its Black Sea naval base. Instead of admitting that its plan for grabbing Ukraine has gone amiss, Washington is unable to admit a mistake and, therefore, is pushing the crisis to more dangerous levels.

If Ukraine dissolves into secession with the former Russian territories reverting to Russia, Washington will be embarrassed that the result of its coup in Kiev was to restore the Russian provinces of Ukraine to Russia. To avoid this embarrassment, Washington is pushing the crisis toward war.

The CIA director instructed Washington’s hand-picked stooge government in Kiev to apply to the United Nations for help in repelling “terrorists” who with alleged Russian help are allegedly attacking Ukraine. In Washington’s vocabulary, self-determination is a sign of Russian interference. As the UN is essentially a Washington-financed organization, Washington will get what it wants.

The Russian government has already made it completely clear some weeks ago that the use of violence against protesters in eastern and southern Ukraine would compel the Russian government to send in the Russian army to protect Russians, just as Russia had to do in South Ossetia when Washington instructed its Georgian puppet ruler to attack Russian peacekeeping troops and Russian residents of South Ossetia.

Washington knows that the Russian government cannot stand aside while one of Washington’s puppet states attacks Russians. Yet, Washington is pushing the crisis to war.

The danger for Russia is that the Russian government will rely on diplomacy, international organizations, international cooperation, and on the common sense and self-interest of German politicians and politicians in other of Washington’s European puppet states.

For Russia this could be a fatal mistake. There is no good will in Washington, only mendacity. Russian delay provides Washington with time to build up forces on Russia’s borders and in the Black Sea and to demonize Russia with propaganda and whip up the US population into a war frenzy. The latter is already occurring.

Kerry has made it clear to Lavrov that Washington is not listening to Russia. As Washington pays well, Washington’s European puppets are also not listening to Russia. Money is more important to European politicians than humanity’s survival.

In my opinion, Washington does not want the Ukraine matters settled in a diplomatic and reasonable way. It might be the case that Russia’s best move is immediately to occupy the Russian territories of Ukraine and re-absorb the territories into Russia from whence they came. This should be done before the US and its NATO puppets are prepared for war. It is more difficult for Washington to start a war when the objects of the war have already been lost. Russia will be demonized with endless propaganda from Washington whether or not Russia re-absorbs its traditional territories. If Russia allows these territories to be suppressed by Washington, the prestige and authority of the Russian government will collapse. Perhaps that is what Washington is counting on.

If Putin’s government stands aside while Russian Ukraine is suppressed, Putin’s prestige will plummet, and Washington will finish off the Russian government by putting into action its many hundreds of Washington-financed NGOs that the Russian government has so foolishly tolerated. Russia is riven with Washington’s Fifth columns.

The Obama Game: Is Putin being lured into a trap?
Mike Whitney CounterPunch USA Apri 15, 2014

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Russia is not responsible for the crisis in Ukraine. The US State Department engineered the fascist-backed coup that toppled Ukraine’s democratically-elected president Viktor Yanukovych and replaced him with the American puppet Arseniy Yatsenyuk, a former banker. Hacked phone calls reveal the critical role that Washington played in orchestrating the putsch and selecting the coup’s leaders. Moscow was not involved in any of these activities. Vladimir Putin, whatever one may think of him, has not done anything to fuel the violence and chaos that has spread across the country.

Putin’s main interest in Ukraine is commercial. 66 percent of the natural gas that Russia exports to the EU transits Ukraine. The money that Russia makes from gas sales helps to strengthen the Russian economy and raise standards of living. It also helps to make Russian oligarchs richer, the same as it does in the West. The people in Europe like the arrangement because they are able to heat their homes and businesses market-based prices. In other words, it is a good deal for both parties, buyer and seller. This is how the free market is supposed to work. The reason it doesn’t work that way presently is because the United States threw a spanner in the gears when it deposed Yanukovych. Now no one knows when things will return to normal.

Check out this chart at Business Insider and you’ll see why Ukraine matters to Russia.

The overriding goal of US policy in Ukraine is to stop the further economic integration of Asia and Europe. That’s what the fracas is really all about. The United States wants to control the flow of energy from East to West, it wants to establish a de facto tollbooth between the continents, it wants to ensure that those deals are transacted in US dollars and recycled into US Treasuries, and it wants to situate itself between the two most prosperous markets of the next century. Anyone who has even the sketchiest knowledge of US foreign policy– particularly as it relates to Washington’s “pivot to Asia”– knows this is so. The US is determined to play a dominant role in Eurasia in the years ahead. Wreaking havoc in Ukraine is a central part of that plan.

Retired German Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Jochen Scholz summed up US policy in an open letter which appeared on the Neue Rheinilche Zeitung news-site last week. Scholz said the Washington’s objective was “to deny Ukraine a role as a bridge between Eurasian Union and European Union….They want to bring Ukraine under the NATO control” and sabotage the prospects for “a common economic zone from Lisbon to Vladivostok.”

Bingo. That’s US policy in a nutshell. It has nothing to do with democracy, sovereignty, or human rights.

On Sunday, Ukrainian imposter-President Oleksandr Turchynov announced a plan to launch a “large-scale anti-terrorist operation” in Donetsk and Lugansk to avoid a “repeat the Crimean scenario in Ukraine’s east.” The operation will involve “military forces, anti-terrorist forces and law enforcement of Ukraine” and is scheduled to begin at 9 AM yesterday morning.

It’s clear, that Turchynov is trying to lure Russia into a fight, just as it’s clear that the president would not have approved the crackdown without a green light from Washington.

Putin will not allow Russian-speaking people to be killed in Ukraine, that’s the red line the junta government must not cross if they want to avoid a confrontation with Russia. Unfortunately, Washington wants Russia to invade so it can put its “proxy war” plan into motion.

Ukraine SITREP April 15, 10:54 EST (a sharp turn for the worse)
‘The Saker” The Vineyard of the Saker USA April 15, 2014

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The situation in the Ukraine has taken a very sharp turn for the worse.

It appears that after a few days of confusion and chaos, the regime in Kiev and its western sponsors have decided to try to solve the problem by brute force. This maximalist strategy of “no negotiations, only violence” is fully consistent with the usual US practice and the record of the Ukie neo-Nazis. For a few days there were signs that maybe a real negotiation might take place, but now this options seems have been discarded in favor of a violent crackdown. Of course, the recent visit of the CIA director in Kiev (now admitted by the US government) had strictly nothing to do with that. Yeah, right.

Now a lot will depend on how effective the Fascist forces will be in their crackdown. I personally very much doubt that the goal of pacifying the eastern Ukraine is achievable. The freaks can probably put down a town or two, but all of them seems hardly doable, even over time and one by one.

Furthermore, and even though the Kremlin really does not want to end up in this situation, I am quite certain that the Russia military will intervene should the bloodbath become too massive.

I am starting to get the feeling that the West’s 1%ers have concluded that a civil war in the Ukraine and/or a Russian intervention might be a better option that a democratic and federalized Ukraine. Within their own logic and twisted system of values, they might be right: there are more and more signs that a referendum or any chance for democracy could be used by the eastern Ukraine to secede. So, in the traditional AngloZionist way, they concluded “if I can’t have it, I burn it”.

In contrast with Afghanistan, all the Russian military would have to do is whack the forces involved in the repression against the East and then let the locals take over. Something not unlike what the Russians did in Georgia: they eliminated the Georgian armed forces, helped the folks in South Ossetia and Abkhazia get organized, withdrew and recognized the sovereignty of these republics. One possible option for the Russian military would be to engage in a short but determined attack on key installations and units involved in the crackdown, then let the locals organize their “Republic of Donetsk” or “Novorossia” or whatever else they want to call it and recognize it as an independent state. No such option was even remotely possible in Afghanistan. So all that talk about a “new Afghanistan for Russia” is just wishful thinking by western elites.

The next week will be crucial and the outcome of the conflict will probably be decided in the next days so stay tuned.

Related: Turchynov announces military operation in Donetsk Oblast
ITAR-TASS News Agency Russia April 15, 2014

KIEV, April 15. / ITAR-TASS /. A military operation began tonight, in the north of Donetsk oblast, the Parliament-appointed Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov said at a meeting of the Parliament.

“Anti-terrorist operation began this morning, in the north of Donetsk oblast, it will be phased responsibly and carefully,” Turchynov said, stressing that the goal of the special operation is “to protect people.” He stressed that the authorities actions during Donbass operation, which, in his opinion, threatens “colossal danger” should be “decisive, but balanced and responsible.”

According to Turchynov, most of eastern regions of Ukraine, in spite of everything, “demonstrate stability,” and in many ways “it is a merit of the current government.”

Ukraine’s east invasion begins: Troops attack Kramatorsk Airfield
Jason Ditz Antiwar.com News USA April 15, 2014

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Ukraine’s military has begun what it is euphemistically calling an “anti-terror” operation against eastern Ukrainian provinces, vowing to crush the protesters who have taken over many government buildings in the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Reports emerging from Kramatorsk, at the northern tip of the Donetsk Oblast have the first fighting taking place at an airfield, with shots fired on both sides and some casualties reported.

The details of what is happening in Kramatorsk remain unclear amid the chaos of a military offensive against a city of 200,000 people, but the Ukrainian military claims to have captured the airfield, and is looking to press those gains elsewhere in the city and in neighboring Slovyansk, which protesters have also seized.

Roads leading into Slovyansk are being guarded by checkpoints run by a militia loyal to the protesters, who have spent the past week preparing for the eventuality of a military offensive.

Ukraine’s military not only used ground troops, but also warplanes in the Kramatorsk Airfield battle. As-yet-unconfirmed reports claim that one of the Ukrainian planes, a SU-27, was shot down over the airfield.

Kiev military op in eastern Ukraine LIVE UPDATES
RT Russia April 15, 2014

Kiev authorities have started a military operation against anti-government protesters in eastern Ukraine. Conflicting reports of casualties emerged after troops, with air and armored vehicle support, stormed areas occupied by the activists.

Posted at: April 15, 2014 - 3:47 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

At the urging of NATO, or Israel, or both? Maybe it is just Harper’s sense of himself as a prophet against ‘evil’. Harper government working on plans for military mission in Syria: Might a possible invasion be added to its existing aid to rebel fighters and media propaganda personnel?

Around 40,000 Canadian troops served in Afghanistan and 158 died.

Canada plans possible invasion of Syria
Jason Ditz Antiwar.com News USA April 14, 2014

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Documents from the Canadian government show that the nation’s military and diplomats have been secretly working on plans to invade Syria for quite some time, cobbling together five distinct scenarios that they could use to justify such an attack.

Canadian officials have publicly insisted for months they have “no plans” to be brought into the Syrian Civil War, but the internal documents, classified and heavily redacted, detail preparations for both an intervention and a long-term presence to back pro-West rebels as an alternative to al-Qaeda.

Canada has no history of unilateral interventions of this sort, so it is likely that the planning presumes the nation getting sucked into a war in Syria as some part of a NATO occupation, though the redactions in the documents make it entirely unclear.

The preparations also reveal that Canada has been working at training myriad rebel factions in “leadership skills” in anticipation of eventually backing them as a new government.

Canadian defence and diplomatic officials working on plans for military mission in Syria
Lee Berthiaume Ottawa Citizen Ontario Canada April 14, 2014

OTTAWA — Canadian defence and diplomatic officials have been quietly working on plans for possible Canadian military missions — as well as shoring up non-religious groups on the ground — in Syria as its three-year civil war continues.

The federal government has so far said it has no plans for Canada to be dragged into the conflict, which has killed an estimated 150,000 and driven hundreds of thousands more from their homes and their country.

But internal documents obtained by the Citizen show National Defence has drawn up at least five scenarios in which it could become involved in Syria’s ongoing civil war, as well as potential Canadian Forces missions for each situation.

The documents have been censored to remove specifics, but allude to “the rapidly deteriorating conditions in Syria, its impact on neighbouring countries and … the importance of Middle East stability.”

The scenarios also include several assumptions such as the Syrian government remaining “defiant,” as well as “most likely” and “worst case” outcomes, such as extremist groups getting hold of advanced or chemical weapons, or the conflict spilling beyond Syria’s borders.

At least one possible Canadian military intervention “assumes that a legitimate armed opposition group has been recognized” by Canada, although details about the rest of this scenario have been blacked out.

National Defence spokesman Daniel Blouin described such planning as “routine to significant international events” and part of the military’s due diligence to be prepared for any eventuality. He said none of the possible interventions has been acted upon.

However, the fact such plans have been drawn up indicates the degree of seriousness to which defence officials and the government are taking the fighting in Syria, which brings with it the risk of escalation and broader regional impacts.

Any military action would require the government’s approval.

Meanwhile, separate documents show Canada has been helping train anti-sectarian activists, journalists and others so they can provide a political alternative to Islamic extremist groups if the fighting stops.

Related: Stephen Harper attacks Putin on Ukraine to burnish legacy
Thomas Walkom Toronto Star Ontario Canada April 15, 2014

There is something going on with Stephen Harper. He has the look of a leader who, at game’s end, is trying to burnish his legacy.

How else to explain his increasingly hawkish rhetoric over Ukraine? All NATO leaders have harshly criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin for his actions against Ukraine. But Harper’s language is almost Churchillian in tone.

Putin’s “aggressive, militaristic and imperialistic” activities in Europe, the prime minister said Monday at a deliberately-arranged photo opportunity, aren’t just wrong. They threaten the “peace and stability of the world.”

Harper and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird have already compared Putin’s annexation of Crimea to Hitler’s land grabs of the 1930s. The prime minister now seems to be positioning himself as the Winston Churchill of the modern age, the leader who recognizes Satan for what he is when others are willing to temporize.

That Canada alone can do nothing to stop Russia is immaterial. The point is to be seen as prescient, to be on the right side of history.

It is a side that, in foreign affairs, has eluded Harper up to now.

Indeed, in far too many cases Harper has ended up on the wrong, or at least the indeterminate, side of history.
In opposition, he pressed for Canada to join U.S. president George Bush’s invasion of Iraq. A bad mistake.

In government, he invested his prestige in an Afghan war that the Canadian public eventually tired of.

He was one of the first to call for military action against Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Gadhafi was quickly defeated. But Libya remains a mess that few NATO leaders, including Harper, want to be reminded of.

His rock-hard support of Israel has endeared him to many Jewish voters in Canada. However, history’s verdict on Israel and the Palestinians has not yet been rendered.

And now Ukraine.

At one level, supporting Kyiv against Moscow is cheap politicking. Most Canadian voters of Ukrainian descent are pro-Kyiv. Most others don’t care. All three major parties recognize this political fact.

It is also easy for Canada to declare sanctions against Russia, a country with which it does little business.

But, rhetorically at least, Harper has gone beyond what is necessary to garner domestic votes. Indeed, if Canada possessed nuclear weapons, Putin might be taken aback by Harper’s warlike language.

Canada, however, does not have nukes. Nor, in spite of Harper’s soothing words to Eastern European governments, does it have any kind of military force able to confront Russia.

Stephen Harper? If events turn out as he predicts, Canada’s 22nd prime minister will be seen as a prophet — as a leader who recognized evil in the world and urged international action to stop it. That, I suspect, is what he’s aiming for.

Or he could be wrong again. That’s possible too.

Posted at: April 15, 2014 - 3:22 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

An eerie wonder: The stuff of folklore and science—”and the moon became as blood”

The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come. - Joel 2:31 (KJV)

And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; … - Revelation 6:12 (KJV)

The sky is falling! - From the folk tale, Henny Penny, also known as Chicken Licken or Chicken Little

Let’s try to get a handle on the things that we control,
Where we can make a change by what we do,
If we can help in smaller ways, the larger things will follow,
Then we won’t have the ‘Henny-Penny Blues’.

- From “The Henny-Penny Blues” by David Pekrul (2005), a song inspired by the story of Henny-Penny


Photo: Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter at Steward Observatory, April 15, 2014

This blood moon is special because it the first lunar eclipse that is part of a blood moon tetrad. A tetrad is a series of four lunar eclipses that happen within six-month intervals of each other. The first takes place the early morning hours of April 15; the next is on Oct. 8 of this year, followed by two in 2015 on April 4 and Sept. 28.

The lunar eclipse overnight April 14/April 15, 2014 coincided with the beginning of Passover at sundown Monday evening. Passover is one of the most important celebrations in Judaism. Today, Tuesday, is the first full day of Passover.

Passover is an important biblically derived Jewish festival. The Jewish people celebrate Passover as a commemoration of their liberation over 3,300 years ago by God from slavery in ancient Egypt that was ruled by the Pharaohs, and their freedom as a nation under the leadership of Moses. It commemorates the story of the Exodus as described in the Hebrew Bible especially in the Book of Exodus, in which the Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt.

In the narrative of the Exodus, the Bible tells that God helped the Children of Israel escape from their slavery in Egypt by inflicting ten plagues upon the ancient Egyptians before the Pharaoh would release his Israelite slaves; the tenth and worst of the plagues was the death of the Egyptian first-born.

The Israelites were instructed to mark the doorposts of their homes with the blood of a slaughtered spring lamb and, upon seeing this, the spirit of the Lord knew to pass over the first-born in these homes, hence the English name of the holiday.

Posted at: April 15, 2014 - 11:05 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

April 14, 2014

Forces of divergence: We may well find that the 21st century will be a century of greater inequality, and therefore greater social discord, than the 19th century


French economist Thomas Piketty, author of Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Photo: Ed Alcock/The Observer. One of the slogans of the 2011 Occupy protests was ‘capitalism isn’t working’. Now, in an epic, groundbreaking new book, French economist Thomas Piketty—after mining 200 years of data—explains why they’re right.

Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, translated by Arthur Goldhammer. Published by Belknap Press, 696 pages. ISBN 9780674430006. (This catalog page contains a series of links related to the book.)

Publisher’s description

What are the grand dynamics that drive the accumulation and distribution of capital? Questions about the long-term evolution of inequality, the concentration of wealth, and the prospects for economic growth lie at the heart of political economy. But satisfactory answers have been hard to find for lack of adequate data and clear guiding theories. In Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Piketty analyzes a unique collection of data from twenty countries, ranging as far back as the eighteenth century, to uncover key economic and social patterns. His findings will transform debate and set the agenda for the next generation of thought about wealth and inequality.

Piketty shows that modern economic growth and the diffusion of knowledge have allowed us to avoid inequalities on the apocalyptic scale predicted by Karl Marx. But we have not modified the deep structures of capital and inequality as much as we thought in the optimistic decades following World War II. The main driver of inequality—the tendency of returns on capital to exceed the rate of economic growth—today threatens to generate extreme inequalities that stir discontent and undermine democratic values. But economic trends are not acts of God. Political action has curbed dangerous inequalities in the past, Piketty says, and may do so again.

A work of extraordinary ambition, originality, and rigor, Capital in the Twenty-First Century reorients our understanding of economic history and confronts us with sobering lessons for today.

Forces of divergence
John Cassidy The New Yorker USA March 31, 2014

In the stately world of academic presses, it isn’t often that advance orders and publicity for a book prompt a publisher to push forward its publication date. But that’s what Belknap, an imprint of Harvard University Press, did for Capital in the Twenty-first Century, a sweeping account of rising inequality by the French economist Thomas Piketty. Reviewing the French edition of Piketty’s book, which came out last year, Branko Milanovic, a former senior economist at the World Bank, called it “one of the watershed books in economic thinking.” The Economist said that it could change the way we think about the past two centuries of economic history. Certainly, no economics book in recent years has received this sort of attention. Months before its American publication date, which was switched from April to March, it was already the subject of lively online discussion among economists and other commentators.

Piketty, who teaches at the Paris School of Economics, has spent nearly two decades studying inequality. In 1993, at the age of twenty-two, he moved to the United States to teach at M.I.T. A graduate of the élite École Normale Supérieure, he had recently completed his doctorate, a dense mathematical exploration of the theory behind tax policies. Plenty of bright young European scholars move across the Atlantic, of course, and many of them end up staying. Piketty was not to be one of them. “It was the first time I had set foot in the United States,” he recalls in the introduction, “and it felt good to have my work recognized so quickly. Here was a country that knew how to attract immigrants when it wanted to! Yet I also realized quite soon that I wanted to return to France and Europe, which I did when I was twenty-five. Since then, I have not left Paris, except for a few brief trips.”

Part of Piketty’s motivation in returning home was cultural. His parents are politically engaged Parisians who took part in the 1968 riots. When he was growing up, his intellectual role models were French historians and philosophers of the left, rather than economists. They included members of the Annales school, such as Lucien Febvre and Fernand Braudel, who produced exhaustive analyses of everyday life. Compared with this scholarship, much of the economics that Piketty encountered at M.I.T. seemed arid and pointless. “I did not find the work of U.S. economists entirely convincing,” he writes. “To be sure, they were all very intelligent, and I still have many friends from that period of my life. But something strange happened: I was only too aware of the fact that I knew nothing at all about the world’s economic problems.”

In Paris, he joined the French National Center for Scientific Research, and, later, the Écoles des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, where some of his heroes had taught. The main task he set himself was exploring the hills and valleys of income and wealth, a subject that economics had largely neglected. At first, Piketty concentrated on getting the facts down, rather than interpreting them. Using tax records and other data, he studied how income inequality in France had evolved during the twentieth century, and published his findings in a 2001 book. A 2003 paper that he wrote with Emmanuel Saez, a French-born economist at Berkeley, examined income inequality in the United States between 1913 and 1998. It detailed how the share of U.S. national income taken by households at the top of the income distribution had risen sharply during the early decades of the twentieth century, then fallen back during and after the Second World War, only to soar again in the nineteen-eighties and nineties.

With the help of other researchers, including Saez and the British economist Anthony Atkinson, Piketty expanded his work on inequality to other countries, including Britain, China, India, and Japan. The researchers established the World Top Incomes Database, which now covers some thirty countries, among them Malaysia, South Africa, and Uruguay. Piketty and Saez also updated their U.S. figures, showing how the income share of the richest households continued to climb during and after the Great Recession, and how, in 2012, the top one per cent of households took 22.5 per cent of total income, the highest figure since 1928. The empirical work done by Piketty and his colleagues has influenced debates everywhere from Zuccotti Park, the short-lived home of Occupy Wall Street, to the International Monetary Fund and the White House; President Obama has said that tackling inequality and wage stagnation is our foremost challenge.

The question is what’s driving the upward trend. Piketty didn’t think that economists’ standard explanations were convincing, largely because they didn’t pay enough attention to capital accumulation—the process of saving, investing, and building wealth which classical economists, such as David Ricardo, Karl Marx, and John Stuart Mill, had emphasized. Piketty defines capital as any asset that generates a monetary return. It encompasses physical capital, such as real estate and factories; intangible capital, such as brands and patents; and financial assets, such as stocks and bonds. In modern economics, the term “capital” has been purged of its ideological fire and is treated as just another “factor of production,” which, like labor and land, earns a competitive rate of return based upon its productivity. A popular model of economic growth developed by Robert Solow, one of Piketty’s former colleagues at M.I.T., purports to show how the economy progresses along a “balanced growth path,” with the shares of national income received by the owners of capital and labor remaining constant over time. This doesn’t jibe with modern reality. In the United States, for example, the share of income going to wages and other forms of labor compensation dropped from sixty-eight per cent in 1970 to sixty-two per cent in 2010—a decline of close to a trillion dollars.

Piketty believes that the rise in inequality can’t be understood independently of politics. For his new book, he chose a title evoking Marx, but he doesn’t think that capitalism is doomed, or that ever-rising inequality is inevitable. There are circumstances, he concedes, in which incomes can converge and the living standards of the masses can increase steadily—as happened in the so-called Golden Age, from 1945 to 1973. But Piketty argues that this state of affairs, which many of us regard as normal, may well have been a historical exception. …

In the United States, the very idea of a new wealth tax looks like a nonstarter politically, as would the notion of raising the top rate of income tax to eighty per cent. That’s not a knock on Piketty, though. The proper role of public intellectuals is to question accepted dogmas, conceive of new methods of analysis, and expand the terms of public debate. Capital in the Twenty-first Century does all these things. As with any such grand prognostication, some of it may not withstand the test of time. But Piketty has written a book that nobody interested in a defining issue of our era can afford to ignore.

The short guide to Capital in the 21st Century
Matthew Yglesias Vox USA April 8, 2014

Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century is the most important economics book of the year, if not the decade. It’s also 696 pages long, translated from French, filled with methodological asides and in-depth looks at unique data, packed with allusions to 19th century novels, and generally a bit of a slog.

The good news is that there’s no advanced math, and anyone who puts in the time can read the book. But if you just want the bottom line, we have you covered.

Capitalism simply isn’t working and here are the reasons why
Will Hutton The Observer UK April 12, 2014

Suddenly, there is a new economist making waves – and he is not on the right. At the conference of the Institute of New Economic Thinking in Toronto last week, Thomas Piketty’s book Capital in the Twenty-First Century got at least one mention at every session I attended. You have to go back to the 1970s and Milton Friedman for a single economist to have had such an impact.

The extravagances and incredible social tensions of Edwardian England, belle epoque France and robber baron America seemed for ever left behind, but Piketty shows how the period between 1910 and 1950, when that inequality was reduced, was aberrant. It took war and depression to arrest the inequality dynamic, along with the need to introduce high taxes on high incomes, especially unearned incomes, to sustain social peace. Now the ineluctable process of blind capital multiplying faster in fewer hands is under way again and on a global scale. The consequences, writes Piketty, are “potentially terrifying”.

Piketty notes that the rich are effective at protecting their wealth from taxation and that progressively the proportion of the total tax burden shouldered by those on middle incomes has risen. In Britain, it may be true that the top 1% pays a third of all income tax, but income tax constitutes only 25% of all tax revenue: 45% comes from VAT, excise duties and national insurance paid by the mass of the population.

As a result, the burden of paying for public goods such as education, health and housing is increasingly shouldered by average taxpayers, who don’t have the wherewithal to sustain them. Wealth inequality thus becomes a recipe for slowing, innovation-averse, rentier economies, tougher working conditions and degraded public services. Meanwhile, the rich get ever richer and more detached from the societies of which they are part: not by merit or hard work, but simply because they are lucky enough to be in command of capital receiving higher returns than wages over time. Our collective sense of justice is outraged.

The lesson of the past is that societies try to protect themselves: they close their borders or have revolutions – or end up going to war. Piketty fears a repeat. His critics argue that with higher living standards resentment of the ultra-rich may no longer be as great – and his data is under intense scrutiny for mistakes. So far it has all held up.

Nor does it seem likely that human beings’ inherent sense of justice has been suspended. Of course the reaction plays out differently in different eras: I suspect some of the energy behind Scottish nationalism is the desire to build a country where toxic wealth inequalities are less indulged than in England.

Occupy was right: Capitalism has failed the world
Andrew Hussey The Observer UK April 13, 2014

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… This is where I have arranged an interview with Professor Thomas Piketty, a modest young Frenchman (he is in his early 40s), who has spent most of his career in archives and collecting data, but is just about to emerge as the most important thinker of his generation – as the Yale academic Jacob Hacker put it, a free thinker and a democrat who is no less than “an Alexis de Tocqueville for the 21st century”.

This is on account of his latest work, which is called Capital in the Twenty-First Century. This is a huge book, more than 700 pages long, dense with footnotes, graphs and mathematical formulae. At first sight it is unashamedly an academic tome and seems both daunting and incomprehensible. In recent weeks and months the book has however set off fierce debates in the United States about the dynamics of capitalism, and especially the apparently unstoppable rise of the tiny elite that controls more and more of the world’s wealth. In non-specialist blogs and websites across America, it has ignited arguments about power and money, questioning the myth at the very heart of American life – that capitalism improves the quality of life for everyone. This is just not so, says Piketty, and he makes his case in a clear and rigorous manner that debunks everything that capitalists believe about the ethical status of making money.

The groundbreaking status of the book was recognised by a recent long essay in the New Yorker in which Branko Milanovic, a former senior economist at the World Bank, was quoted as describing Piketty’s volume as “one of the watershed books in economic thinking”. In the same vein, a writer in the Economist reported that Piketty’s work fundamentally rewrote 200 years of economic thinking on inequality. In short, the arguments have centred on two poles: the first is a tradition that begins with Karl Marx, who believed that capitalism would self-destruct in the endless pursuit of diminishing profit returns. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the work of Simon Kuznets, who won a Nobel prize in 1971 and who made the case that the inequality gap inevitably grows smaller as economies develop and become sophisticated.

Piketty says that neither of these arguments stand up to the evidence he has accumulated. More to the point, he demonstrates that there is no reason to believe that capitalism can ever solve the problem of inequality, which he insists is getting worse rather than better. From the banking crisis of 2008 to the Occupy movement of 2011, this much has been intuited by ordinary people. The singular significance of his book is that it proves “scientifically” that this intuition is correct. This is why his book has crossed over into the mainstream – it says what many people have already been thinking.

“I did deliberately aim the book at the general reader,” says Piketty as we begin our conversation, “and although it is obviously a book which can be read by specialists too, I wanted the information here to be made clear to everyone who wants to read it.’ And indeed it has to said that Capital in the Twenty-First Century is surprisingly readable. It is packed with anecdotes and literary references that illuminate the narrative. It also helps that it is fluently translated by Arthur Goldhammer, a literary stylist who has tackled the work of the likes of Albert Camus. But even so, as I note that Piketty’s bookshelves are lined with such headache-inducing titles as The Principles of Microeconomics and The Political Influence of Keynesianism, simple folk like me still need some help here. So I asked him the most obvious question I could: what is the big idea behind this book?

Related: Below: An earlier version of this essay first appeared in Canadian Dimension magazine, March 29, 2014 (“Canada’s transformation under neoliberalism”). Jim Stanford is an economist with Unifor. He is the author of Economics for Everyone (published in 2008 by Pluto Press and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives), which has been translated into six languages.

The three key moments in Canada’s neoliberal transformation
Jim Stanford rabble.ca Canada April 9, 2014

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The last three decades have witnessed a far-reaching transformation of the Canadian economy, politics and culture. Canada is not unique in experiencing this neoliberal transformation, of course, but it has been as dramatic, thorough and socially destructive here as almost anywhere else in the industrialized world. Even before that transformation began, Canada was hardly a model of inclusion, equality, and democracy. But in the latter years of the postwar expansion, Canada progressed both economically and socially. Living standards were improving quickly for most — fuelled by rising real wages (which doubled in a generation), and a dramatic expansion of the social wage (including the introduction of national medicare, unemployment insurance and the Canada Pension Plan within six remarkable years, from 1965 through 1971). We were catching up to the U.S. economically (and surpassing it socially), escaping our traditional status as “poor cousins” to the North. And we carved a unique and somewhat independent role for the country in global economic, political and military affairs. This confidence, hope and momentum was symbolized by Canada’s hosting of Expo 67 in Montreal, the year of the country’s centenary — officially opened with then-prime minister Lester Pearson’s claim that it constituted “one of the most daring acts of faith in Canadian enterprise and ability ever undertaken.”

This expansionary post-war “golden age” eventually ran up against its own internal limits and contradictions. As in other advanced capitalist countries, the happy recipe of strong profits and business investment, rising living standards, and Keynesian welfare-state fine-tuning, began to disintegrate. The Polish economist Michal Kalecki presciently predicted after World War II, just as Keynesianism was being consolidated, that capitalism would eventually experience a “full-employment sickness.” As workers were empowered by long-run employment and income security, their expectations would grow, sparking increasing conflict with the interests of capitalist employers in maintaining a compliant, disciplined, low-cost workforce. A confident working class won a larger and larger share of the economic pie: in Canada, the labour share of GDP grew steadily through the post-war era, peaking in the late 1970s. Even worse for employers, workers demanded changes in the workplace, and society, that constrained the freedom and power of business. The expansion of an interventionist state meant rising taxes and stronger regulations. Internationally, national liberation movements curtailed capitalism’s geographic scope. Most importantly, business investment — the underlying engine of the post-war expansion — slowed appreciably.

Neoliberalism represented a multi-faceted, deliberate, global strategy by elites (in both the financial and the real spheres of the economy) to turn the whole ship around. A generation later, it is sobering to consider how successful that strategy has been. It has clearly empowered and enriched corporations and those who own them, and put workers on the defensive everywhere. On the other hand, despite these successes, neoliberalism has not succeeded in creating a world economy which is stable (witness the dramatic events of 2008-09), efficient, or successful in meeting real human needs.

Neoliberalism has been applied harshly in Canada, consistent with the international trend, but also reflecting the unique features (and weaknesses) of Canadian capitalism. In my review of the history of neoliberalism in Canada, I identify three crucial transition points: historical moments when neoliberal principles and practices were introduced, consolidated, and ideologically cemented.

Below: ‘Empire of the Elites’. Paul Craig Roberts is a former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury and Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal. He concludes his commentary below: “Only gullible Americans expect leaders and elites or voting to do anything about the institutionalization of tyranny. Elites are only interested in money. As long as the system produces more income and wealth for elites, elites don’t give a hoot about tyranny or what happens to the rest of us.”

Washington is humanity’s worst enemy
Paul Craig Roberts CounterPunch USA April 14, 2014

How does Washington get away with the claim that the country it rules is a democracy and has freedom? This absurd assertion ranks as one of the most unsubstantiated claims in history.

There is no democracy whatsoever. Voting is a mask for rule by a few powerful interest groups. In two 21st century rulings (Citizens United and McCutcheon), the US Supreme Court has ruled that the purchase of the US government by private interest groups is merely the exercise of free speech. These rulings allow powerful corporate and financial interests to use their money-power to elect a government that serves their interests at the expense of the general welfare.

The control private interests exercise over the government is so complete that private interests have immunity to prosecution for crimes. At his retirement party on March 27, Securities and Exchange Commission prosecutor James Kidney stated that his prosecutions of Goldman Sachs and other “banks too big to fail” were blocked by superiors who “were focused on getting high-paying jobs after their government service.” The SEC’s top brass, Kidney said, did not “believe in afflicting the comfortable and powerful.” In his report on Kidney’s retirement speech, Eric Zuesse points out that the Obama regime released false statistics in order to claim prosecutions that did not take place in order to convince a gullible public that Wall Street crooks were being punished.

Democracy and freedom require an independent and aggressive media, an independent and aggressive judiciary, and an independent and aggressive Congress.

The United States has none of the above.

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 3 million Vietnamese in their own land because they embraced the wrong economic loyalties. He lives in Canada, which he is fond of calling “the peaceable kingdom.” 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.

Hurtling into darkness: America’s great leap towards global tyranny
John Chuckman Chuckman’s words on WordPress.com Canada April 14, 2014

The darkness to which I refer is something largely unanticipated in political studies and even in science fiction, a field which definitely enters this discussion, as readers will see. There have been many examples of national tyrannies and even stories of global autocracies, but the Hitler-Stalin-Mussolini type of tyranny is an antiquated model for advanced states despite its applying still to many third-world places. A unique set of circumstances now works towards a dystopian future in advanced states with no need for jackboots or brutal faces on posters.

Ironically, one of the key forces which brought Europe and North America over a few centuries to the kind of liberal democracies we know today is capable of delivering a new and unprecedented form of tyranny. That force is the body of interests of a nation’s middle class – the group of capable, ambitious, and rising people who were called a few centuries back by Europe’s landed old aristocracy “the new men.”

By “middle class,” I certainly do not mean what the average American Congressman encourages, in boiler-plate speeches, the average American to believe: that every family with steady work is middle class, all other classes having been eliminated from the American political lexicon. No, I mean the people of significant means – and, although not wealthy, of considerable talent and education – who hold as a group an important set of interests in society through their holdings and valued services. It was the gradual growth of this class of people over centuries of economic growth in Western societies that eventually made the position of monarchs and later aristocracies untenable: the middle class’s interests could no longer be represented by the old orders while their importance to burgeoning economies had become indispensable. They provided the indispensable force for what we now think of as democracy in their countless demands that their interests be represented.

But there is evidence, in America especially, that something altogether new is emerging in human affairs. The real middle class, at least a critical mass of it, has been folded into the interest of the modern elites, the relatively small number of people who own a great portion of all wealth just as they did in the 17th century, wealth today being generated by great global enterprises rather than the ownership of vast national estates. Great enterprises cannot be operated without much of the cream of the middle class: they serve in computer technology, finance, engineering, skilled management, the military officer class, and in intelligence. Their futures, interests, and prejudices have become locked-in with the interests of America’s corporate-military-intelligence establishment. They are indispensable to the establishment’s success, and they are accordingly rewarded in ways which bind their interests – health care, pension-type benefits, privileges, working conditions, opportunities for promotion, etc.

This marriage of interests between elites and the talented middle class effectively removes many of the best educated and most skilled people from being political opponents or becoming critics of the establishments for which they work. At the same time, America’s middle class in general – its small store owners, small factory owners, modest bankers, and even many professionals – has been under attack from economic competition in a globalized world for many years and has little to look forward to but more of the same. America’s legendary working class “middle class” – that brief postwar miracle of auto and steel workers and others who through unionized, unskilled labor earned long vacations, handsome pensions, home ownership, cars, and even small boats – has been battered beyond recognition, every year for decades seeing its real income fall and long-term having absolutely no prospects.

Posted at: April 14, 2014 - 4:12 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

Hurtling into darkness, Washington is humanity’s worst enemy & The Vietnam holocaust coverup—innumerable atrocities, more than 3 million killed & AFRICOM goes to war on the sly

In the 21st century Washington has established as its hallmarks every manifestation of tyranny: illegal and unconstitutional execution of citizens without due process of law, illegal and unconstitutional indefinite detention of citizens without due process of law, illegal and unconstitutional torture, illegal and unconstitutional rendition, illegal and unconstitutional surveillance, and illegal and unconstitutional wars. The executive branch has established that it is unaccountable to law or to the Constitution. An unaccountable government is a tyranny. - Paul Craig Roberts, Washington is humanity’s worst enemy, April 14, 2014

Hurtling into darkness: America’s great leap towards global tyranny
John Chuckman Chuckman’s words on WordPress.com Canada April 14, 2014

Despite the rise of a society much steeped in the illusions of advertising and marketing, most Americans likely still assume in their day-to-day affairs that their neighbors and business contacts do pretty much what they say they are doing, that while there may be an exaggeration or white lie here or there, most matters proceed according to understanding, laws, and ordinary civility. By and large for the present, they are still pretty much justified in their assumptions.

But when it comes to the level of the national government, and especially in matters of international affairs, these ordinary truths simply cease to hold, almost as though you had moved from the visible, work-a-day world to the quantum strangeness of the subatomic. Likely, it has always been the case to some degree, but the evidence mounts that we have entered a startling new reality, one which shares almost nothing with traditional civil society. America’s national government has become inured to lying and cheating the people whom it ostensibly serves, lying as consistently and thoroughly as would be the case with an occupying foreign power trying to keep a captive population pacified. Americans were lied to about Vietnam, lied to about Cambodia, lied to about the Gulf War, lied to about the invasion of Afghanistan, lied to about the invasion of Iraq, and lied to about a host of policies and interventions.

But we have reached a new level in these matters, a level where the extent of the misrepresentation almost severs the social contract between those governed and their government. America’s neo-con faction has had its agenda adopted over the last few decades, that of freely and happily using America’s great military and economic power to crush those abroad who disagree with America’s arbitrary pronouncements, creating a long crusade intended to re-order the affairs of others with no apologies to them and no honest explanation to America’s own people who pay the taxes and provide the lives of soldiers. While the neo-cons are a passing phenomenon, much as the Middle-eastern garrison state with which they are ferociously associated, the values and lessons they have successfully imparted will remain part of America’s ruling consciousness, serving yet other interests. A tool once successfully used is rarely abandoned.

Not only is there a quantitative difference now, there is a new qualitative difference. After the holocaust of Vietnam (3 million dead Vietnamese justify the term), the United States military realized that it could no longer depend upon citizen-soldiers in its colonial wars. It also realized that that it could no longer tolerate even a moderately free press nosing around its battlegrounds, thus was born the idea of an imbedded press in a professional army. Of course, in the intervening years, America’s press itself changed, becoming an intensely concentrated corporate industry whose editorial policies are invariably in lock-step over colonial wars and interventions and coups, almost as though it were an unofficial department of government. In addition, this corporatized press has abandoned traditional responsibilities of explaining even modestly world affairs, reportage resources having been slashed by merged corporate interests as well as by new economic pressures on advertising revenue, the result of changing technologies.

There is only one lens in America’s mainline journalistic kit, and that is one that filters everything through corporate American views, an automatic and invariable bias found in every image taken or written outside America’s borders. Now, some will say in response that a few newspapers like The New York Times or The Washington Post are exceptions here, but they couldn’t be more wrong. When a journalistic institution gains a reputation for thoroughness and detail in some of its operations, it becomes all the more able to powerfully leverage its reputation in matters which concern the establishment. If you examine the record of these newspapers for some decades, you will find absolutely without exception, their close support for every dirty war and intervention, as you will find their close support for the brutal, criminal behaviors of favored American satrapies like Israel. In a number of cases, CIA plants have worked directly for these papers as disinformation pipelines, but in all cases, reportage and editorial reflect nothing beyond what the publicity offices of the Pentagon and CIA would write themselves. It actually is a sign of how distorted American perceptions are that these papers are in any way regarded as independent, disinterested, or demonstrating consistent journalistic integrity.

It has long been the case that dishonesty and secrecy have marked America’s foreign policy, as it invariably does with great imperial powers. After all, when Theodore Roosevelt, William Randolph Hearst, and others decided in private to arrange a nasty little war with the declining Spanish Empire, one to become known as the Spanish-American War, they were hardly being honest with Americans. “Remember the Maine” was a cheap, dishonest slogan while America’s brutal behavior in Cuba and the Philippines (the first place waterboarding is known to have been used by Americans) were raw truths. So it has been time after time, so that the national government has learned that dishonesty and secrecy are successful and virtually never questioned.

During the long Cold War, America’s government became inured to these practices with its dozens of interventions and coups and long wars of terror like that waged against Cuba from Florida and New Orleans, a terror operation whose extent made bin Laden’s later mountain training place resemble a boy scout camp. Now, at least two new developments have now influenced these practices, with a third just beginning to make itself felt. One, America, under the influence of the insider group called neo-cons, has pretty much given up pretence in its aggressive foreign policies: it has come to believe that it is able and entitled to arrange the world according to its arbitrary desires. Two, under the pretext of a war on terror, the United States government has transferred the hubris and arrogance of its foreign affairs into domestic government, no one having voted for a Stasi-like secret surveillance state, one moreover where even local authorities are endowed with armored cars, drones, and abusive powers. Three, technology is genuinely revolutionizing the nature of war, putting immense new power into the hands of elites – power which, unlike the hydrogen bomb, can actually be used readily – and nowhere is this occurring at a more rapid pace than in the United States.

The approaching reality is America’s being able to kill, highly accurately, on a large scale without using thermo-nuclear weapons and almost without using armies. With no need to recruit and support vast armies of soldiers, no need for mess halls and sanitation, no need for px’s and pensions, costs can be slashed, and there is even less need to explain what you are doing or to account for your decisions, and secrecy is promoted even more perfectly.

I do not believe the citizens of the United States any longer possess the capacity to avoid these dark prospects. They are being swept along by forces they mostly do not understand, and most are unwilling to give up on the comfortable almost-religious myths of enforceable Constitutional rights and a benevolent national government. The world’s hope of avoiding global tyranny now lies in the rapid advance of nations such as China, Russia, India, and Brazil to counterbalance America. Europe, an obvious possible candidate to oppose America’s more dangerous and obtuse efforts, appears in recent decades to have fallen completely under America’s direction in so many areas where it once showed independence, an increasing number having been bribed or seduced or threatened to join NATO and unwilling to use the limited international agencies we have, such as the United Nations, to oppose America’s disturbing tendencies.

Related: Mỹ Lai and Sy Hersh, a reappraisal
Clay Claiborne Linux Beach Canada April 12, 2014

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I made a documentary about the Vietnam War five years ago, Vietnam: American Holocaust. Since I wanted it to be the ultimate Vietnam War documentary, I got the guy who narrated and starred in Apocalypse Now to do the voice-over. I made it because too many educated Americans will tell you 58,000 people died in the Vietnam War, when the real number is closer to three million, give or take 50,000. The tag line I have used to promote the film has been “The Vietnam War was a Mỹ Lai every week.” Since most people know about the Mỹ Lai massacre, it is an easy way to say what the film’s message is. The month after I released the film, Nick Turse published an article in The Nation titled “A Mỹ Lai a Month” about Operation Speedy Express, in which 10,889 Vietnamese were killed at the cost of only 267 American lives, which made much the same point.

That point, already known to the Vietnamese, most serious students of the Vietnam War, and certainly most combat vets, is that the only thing really outstanding about the Mỹ Lai massacre is the amount of attention it received.

Consider this relatively unknown massacre related by, Scott Camil, a decorated Vietnam combat Marine who testifies in my film. Why is it any less deserving to be known to the world and remembered throughout history?

In Operation Stone we were sitting up on the rail road trestle with a river on each side. There’s another company behind each river. And like the people were running around inside. And we were just shooting them and the newspaper said Operation Stone like World War Two movie. We just sat up there and wiped them out, women, children, everything. Two hundred nine-one of them.

Was this not worthy of Pulitzer Prize winning reportage? Certainly Operation Speedy Express was because it clearly wasn’t a simple case of a Lieutenant and his company going off the reservation.

I have long been of the opinion that the US imperialists, even in their limited wisdom, understood they could never obliterate the people’s memory of the many atrocities of the Vietnam War, so they allowed one to become famous, they allowed one to be publicized and prosecuted, in the hopes that the public memory of the generalized and pervasive massacres that was the Vietnam War, would be resolved down to the memory of this one atrocity, and in this they have been largely successful. I believe this is the proper context to view Seymour Hersh’s Pulitzer Prizing winning reporting on the Mỹ Lai Massacre.

When Sy Hersh asked “Why did the Army choose to prosecute this case?” the answer he got from his “military source” was:

“The Army knew it was going to get clobbered on this at some point, If they don’t prosecute somebody, if this stuff comes out without the Army taking some action, it could be even worse.”

With pressure growing, the Army knew they needed a “fall guy”, and after spending nearly a year investigating what had become known, even whispered in the halls of Congress, as the “Pinkville incident”, they charged one man, Lt. William Calley Jr., “with premeditation murder” of 109 “Oriental human beings” on 6 Sept 1969. He would become the only person ever convicted in this massacre. They also issued a short press release which was generally ignored.

It is only now, after the Army had built its case and charged Calley [a more cynical person might say, "After the Army had perfected its cover story."] that Seymour Hersh, the official hero of record in the Mỹ Lai massacre, comes onto the stage. He was alerted to the Calley court marshal by Geoffrey Cowan of The Village Voice. Geoffrey Cowan had earlier been active in the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer and had set up the first civil rights newspaper in Mississippi. He became an anti-war lawyer and was working on the anti-war presidential campaign of Senator Eugene McCarthy in 1968 when Sy Hersh was its press secretary.

I believe one of the effects of an almost obsessive focus by the media on the single massacre at Mỹ Lai has been to drown out the knowledge of these hundreds of other atrocities, larger and smaller, that gave the war the character of a holocaust in which more than 3 million human beings, “Oriental” or not, were slaughtered by Americans.

Nick Turse, AFRICOM becomes a “war-fighting combatant command”
Tom Englehardt and Nick Turse TomDispatch USA April 13, 2014

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Let me explain why writing the introduction to today’s post by TomDispatch Managing Editor Nick Turse is such a problem. In these intros, I tend to riff off the ripples of news that regularly surround whatever subject an author might be focusing on. So when it comes to the U.S. military, if you happen to be writing about the Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia,” really, no problem. Background pieces on that pile up daily. How could you resist, for instance, saying something about the U.S. refusal to send an aircraft carrier to China for a parade of Pacific fleets (after the Chinese refused to allow Japanese ships to participate)? It’s mean girls of the Pacific, no? Have an interest in the Ukrainian crisis? Piece of cake, top of the news any time — like those curious pro-Russian protestors in eastern Ukraine who tried to liberate an opera house in the city of Kharkiv, mistaking it for city hall, or the hints that U.S. troops might soon be stationed in former Soviet satellite states. Or, say, you’re writing about threats in cyberspace — couldn’t be simpler! Not when you have Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel offering an amusing assurance that the country that launched the first cyberwar and is ramping up its new cybercommand at warp speed “does not seek to militarize cyberspace.” And, of course, any day of the week U.S.-Iranian relations are a walk in the park (in the dark). At the moment, for instance, the Iranian nominee for U.N. ambassador — previously that country’s ambassador to Belgium, Italy, Australia, and the European Union, but once a translator for the group that took U.S. embassy hostages in Tehran in 1979 — has been declared “not viable” by the Obama administration. In a remarkable act of congressional heroism, the U.S. Senate, led by that odd couple Ted Cruz and Chuck Schumer, has definitively banned him from setting foot in the country. Mean girls of Washington? Who could resist such material?

Unfortunately, there’s one place in that city’s global viewfinder that never seems to provides much of anything to riff off of, and so no fun whatsoever: Africa. Yes, today and Tuesday, Nick Turse continues his remarkable coverage of the U.S. military pivot to that continent, which promises a lifetime of chaos and blowback to come. Admittedly, what’s happening isn’t your typical, patented, early twenty-first-century-style U.S. invasion, but it certainly represents part of a new-style scramble for Africa — with the U.S. taking the military path and the Chinese the economic one. By the time U.S. Africa Command is finished, however, one thing is essentially guaranteed: a terrible mess and a lifetime of hurt will be left behind. This particular pivot is happening on a startling scale and yet remains just below the American radar screen. Explain it as you will, with the rarest of exceptions the U.S. media, riveted by Obama’s so far exceedingly modest pivot to Asia, finds the African one hardly worth a moment’s notice, which is why, today, without the usual combustible mix of what’s recently in the news and what’s newsmaking in Turse’s two pieces, I have no choice but to skip the introduction. Tom

AFRICOM Goes to War on the Sly
U.S. Officials Talk Candidly (Just Not to Reporters) about Bases, Winning Hearts and Minds, and the “War” in Africa

By Nick Turse

What the military will say to a reporter and what is said behind closed doors are two very different things — especially when it comes to the U.S. military in Africa. For years, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has maintained a veil of secrecy about much of the command’s activities and mission locations, consistently downplaying the size, scale, and scope of its efforts. At a recent Pentagon press conference, AFRICOM Commander General David Rodriguez adhered to the typical mantra, assuring the assembled reporters that the United States “has little forward presence” on that continent. Just days earlier, however, the men building the Pentagon’s presence there were telling a very different story — but they weren’t speaking with the media. They were speaking to representatives of some of the biggest military engineering firms on the planet. They were planning for the future and the talk was of war.

I recently experienced this phenomenon myself during a media roundtable with Lieutenant General Thomas Bostick, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. When I asked the general to tell me just what his people were building for U.S. forces in Africa, he paused and said in a low voice to the man next to him, “Can you help me out with that?” Lloyd Caldwell, the Corps’s director of military programs, whispered back, “Some of that would be close hold” — in other words, information too sensitive to reveal.

Fast forward a few weeks and Captain Rick Cook, the chief of U.S. Africa Command’s Engineer Division, was addressing an audience of more than 50 representatives of some of the largest military engineering firms on the planet — and this reporter. The contractors were interested in jobs and he wasn’t pulling any punches. “The eighteen months or so that I’ve been here, we’ve been at war the whole time,” Cook told them. “We are trying to provide opportunities for the African people to fix their own African challenges. Now, unfortunately, operations in Libya, South Sudan, and Mali, over the last two years, have proven there’s always something going on in Africa.”

Cook was one of three U.S. military construction officials who, earlier this month, spoke candidly about the Pentagon’s efforts in Africa to men and women from URS Corporation, AECOM, CH2M Hill, and other top firms. During a paid-access web seminar, the three of them insisted that they were seeking industry “partners” because the military has “big plans” for the continent. They foretold a future marked by expansion, including the building up of a “permanent footprint” in Djibouti for the next decade or more, a possible new compound in Niger, and a string of bases devoted to surveillance activities spreading across the northern tier of Africa. They even let slip mention of a small, previously unacknowledged U.S. compound in Mali.

It turns out that, if you want to know what the U.S. military is doing in Africa, it’s advantageous to be connected to a large engineering or construction firm looking for business. Then you’re privy to quite a different type of insider assessment of the future of the U.S. presence there, one far more detailed than the modest official pronouncements that U.S. Africa Command offers to journalists. Asked at a recent Pentagon press briefing if there were plans for a West African analog to Djibouti’s Camp Lemonnier, the only “official” U.S. base on the continent, AFRICOM Commander General David Rodriguez was typically guarded. Such a “forward-operating site” was just “one of the options” the command was mulling over, he said, before launching into the sort of fuzzy language typical of official answers. “What we’re really looking at doing is putting contingency locating sites, which really have some just expeditionary infrastructure that can be expanded with tents,” was the way he put it. He never once mentioned Niger, or airfield improvements, or the possibility of a semi-permanent “presence.”

Here, however, is the reality as we know it today. …

For years, senior AFRICOM officers and spokesmen have downplayed the scope of U.S. operations on the continent, stressing that the command has only a single base and a very light footprint there. At the same time, they have limited access to journalists and refused to disclose the number and tempo of the command’s operations, as well as the locations of its deployments and of bases that go by other names. AFRICOM’S public persona remains one of humanitarian missions and benign-sounding support for local partners.

“Our core mission of assisting African states and regional organizations to strengthen their defense capabilities better enables Africans to address their security threats and reduces threats to U.S. interests,” says the command. “We concentrate our efforts on contributing to the development of capable and professional militaries that respect human rights, adhere to the rule of law, and more effectively contribute to stability in Africa.” Efforts like sniper training for proxy forces and black ops missions hardly come up. Bases are mostly ignored. The word “war” is rarely mentioned.

TomDispatch’s recent investigations have, however, revealed that the U.S. military is indeed pivoting to Africa. It now averages far more than a mission a day on the continent, conducting operations with almost every African military force, in almost every African country, while building or building up camps, compounds, and “contingency security locations.” The U.S. has taken an active role in wars from Libya to the Central African Republic, sent special ops forces into countries from Somalia to South Sudan, conducted airstrikes and abduction missions, even put boots on the ground in countries where it pledged it would not.

“We have shifted from our original intent of being a more congenial combatant command to an actual war-fighting combatant command,” AFRICOM’s Rick Cook explained to the audience of big-money defense contractors. He was unequivocal: the U.S. has been “at war” on the continent for the last two and half years. It remains to be seen when AFRICOM will pass this news on to the American public.

Posted at: April 14, 2014 - 4:04 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

April 13, 2014

It’s not Russia that is destabilizing Ukraine: Why US fracking companies are licking their lips over Ukraine; President Vladimir Putin’s letter to leaders of European countries – Full text & A Norwegian template worthy of consideration

Intro: It’s not Russia that is destabilising Ukraine
Sergei Lavrov Guardian UK April 7, 2014

The profound and pervasive crisis in Ukraine is a matter of grave concern for Russia. We understand perfectly well the position of a country which became independent just over 20 years ago and still faces complex tasks in constructing a sovereign state. Among them is the search for a balance of interests among its various regions, the peoples of which have different historical and cultural roots, speak different languages and have different perspectives on their past and present, and their country’s future place in the world.

Given these circumstances, the role of external forces should have been to help Ukrainians protect the foundations of civil peace and sustainable development, which are still fragile. Russia has done more than any other country to support the independent Ukrainian state, including for many years subsidising its economy through low energy prices. Last November, at the outset of the current crisis, we supported Kiev’s wish for urgent consultations between Ukraine, Russia and the EU to discuss harmonising the integration process. Brussels flatly rejected it. This stand reflected the unproductive and dangerous line the EU and US have been taking for a long time. They have been trying to compel Ukraine to make a painful choice between east and west, further aggravating internal differences.

Ukraine’s realities notwithstanding, massive support was provided to political movements promoting western influence, and it was done in direct breach of the Ukrainian constitution. This is what happened in 2004, when President Viktor Yushchenko won an unconstitutional third round of elections introduced under EU pressure. This time round, power in Kiev was seized undemocratically, through violent street protests conducted with the direct participation of ministers and other officials from the US and EU countries.

Assertions that Russia has undermined efforts to strengthen partnerships on the European continent do not correspond to the facts. On the contrary, our country has steadily promoted a system of equal and indivisible security in the Euro-Atlantic area. We proposed signing a treaty to that effect, and advocated the creation of a common economic and human space from the Atlantic to the Pacific which would also be open to post-Soviet countries.

In the meantime, western states, despite their repeated assurances to the contrary, have carried out successive waves of Nato enlargement, moved the alliance’s military infrastructure eastward and begun to implement antimissile defence plans. The EU’s Eastern Partnership programme is designed to bind the so-called focus states tightly to itself, shutting down the possibility of co-operation with Russia. Attempts by those who staged the secession of Kosovo from Serbia and of Mayotte from the Comoros to question the free will of Crimeans cannot be viewed as anything but a flagrant display of double standards. …

Russia is doing all it can to promote early stabilisation in Ukraine. We are firmly convinced that this can be achieved through, among other steps: real constitutional reform, which would ensure the legitimate rights of all Ukrainian regions and respond to demands from its south-eastern region to make Russian the state’s second official language; firm guarantees on Ukraine’s non-aligned status enshrined in its laws, thus ensuring its role as a connecting link in an indivisible European security architecture; and urgent measures to halt activity by illegal armed formations of the Right Sector and other ultra-nationalist groups.

We are not imposing anything on anyone, we just see that if it is not done, Ukraine will continue to spiral into crisis with unpredictable consequences. We stand ready to join international efforts aimed at achieving these goals. We support the appeal by foreign ministers of Germany, France and Poland to implement the 21 February agreement. Their proposal – to hold Russia-EU talks with the participation of Ukraine and other Eastern Partnership states about the consequences of EU association agreements – corresponds to our position.

The world of today is not a junior school where teachers assign punishments at will. Belligerent statements such as those heard at the Nato foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on 1 April do not match demands for a de-escalation. De-escalation should begin with rhetoric. It is time to stop the groundless whipping-up of tension, and to return to serious common work.

Item: The [natural gas] industry’s use of the crisis in Ukraine to expand its global market under the banner of “energy security” must be seen in the context of [its] uninterrupted record of crisis opportunism. - Naomi Klein

Why US fracking companies are licking their lips over Ukraine
Naomi Klein Guardian UK April 10, 2014

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The way to beat Vladimir Putin is to flood the European market with fracked-in-the-USA natural gas, or so the industry would have us believe. As part of escalating anti-Russian hysteria, two bills have been introduced into the US Congress – one in the House of Representatives (H.R. 6), one in the Senate (S. 2083) – that attempt to fast-track liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports, all in the name of helping Europe to wean itself from Putin’s fossil fuels, and enhancing US national security.

According to Cory Gardner, the Republican congressman who introduced the House bill, “opposing this legislation is like hanging up on a 911 call from our friends and allies”. And that might be true – as long as your friends and allies work at Chevron and Shell, and the emergency is the need to keep profits up amid dwindling supplies of conventional oil and gas.

For this ploy to work, it’s important not to look too closely at details. Like the fact that much of the gas probably won’t make it to Europe – because what the bills allow is for gas to be sold on the world market to any country belonging to the World Trade Organisation.

Or the fact that for years the industry has been selling the message that Americans must accept the risks to their land, water and air that come with hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in order to help their country achieve “energy independence”. And now, suddenly and slyly, the goal has been switched to “energy security”, which apparently means selling a temporary glut of fracked gas on the world market, thereby creating energy dependencies abroad.

I call this knack for exploiting crisis for private gain the shock doctrine, and it shows no signs of retreating. We all know how the shock doctrine works: during times of crisis, whether real or manufactured, our elites are able to ram through unpopular policies that are detrimental to the majority under cover of emergency. Sure there are objections – from climate scientists warning of the potent warming powers of methane, or local communities that don’t want these high-risk export ports on their beloved coasts. But who has time for debate? It’s an emergency! A 911 call ringing! Pass the laws first, think about them later.

Plenty of industries are good at this ploy, but none is more adept at exploiting the rationality-arresting properties of crisis than the global gas sector.

For the past four years the gas lobby has used the economic crisis in Europe to tell countries like Greece that the way out of debt and desperation is to open their beautiful and fragile seas to drilling. And it has employed similar arguments to rationalise fracking across North America and the United Kingdom.

Now the crisis du jour is conflict in Ukraine, being used as a battering ram to knock down sensible restrictions on natural gas exports and push through a controversial free-trade deal with Europe. It’s quite a deal: more corporate free-trade polluting economies and more heat-trapping gases polluting the atmosphere – all as a response to an energy crisis that is largely manufactured.

The industry’s use of the crisis in Ukraine to expand its global market under the banner of “energy security” must be seen in the context of this uninterrupted record of crisis opportunism. Only this time many more of us know where true energy security lies. Thanks to the work of top researchers such as Mark Jacobson and his Stanford team, we know that the world can, by the year 2030, power itself entirely with renewables. And thanks to the latest, alarming reports from the IPCC, we know that doing so is now an existential imperative.

As Jacobson said in an interview just this week: “We don’t need unconventional fuels to produce the infrastructure to convert to entirely clean and renewable wind, water and solar power for all purposes. We can rely on the existing infrastructure plus the new infrastructure [of renewable generation] to provide the energy for producing the rest of the clean infrastructure that we’ll need … Conventional oil and gas is much more than enough.”

Given this, it’s up to Europeans to turn their desire for emancipation from Russian gas into a demand for an accelerated transition to renewables. …

Responding to the threat of catastrophic warming is our most pressing energy imperative. And we simply can’t afford to be distracted by the natural gas industry’s latest crisis-fuelled marketing ploy.

Related: President Vladimir Putin’s letter to leaders of European countries. Full text
ITAR-TASS News Agency Russia April 10, 2014

The text of the letter was obtained by ITAR-TASS on April 10.

Ukraine’s economy in the past several months has been plummeting. Its industrial and construction sectors have also been declining sharply. Its budget deficit is mounting. The condition of its currency system is becoming more and more deplorable. The negative trade balance is accompanied by the flight of capital from the country. Ukraine’s economy is steadfastly heading towards a default, a halt in production and skyrocketing unemployment.

Russia and the EU member states are Ukraine’s major trading partners. Proceeding from this, at the Russia-EU Summit at the end of January, we came to an agreement with our European partners to hold consultations on the subject of developing Ukraine’s economy, bearing in mind the interests of Ukraine and our countries while forming integration alliances with Ukraine’s participation. However, all attempts on Russia’s part to begin real consultations failed to produce any results.
Instead of consultations, we hear appeals to lower contractual prices on Russian natural gas – prices which are allegedly of a “political” nature. One gets the impression that the European partners want to unilaterally blame Russia for the consequences of Ukraine’s economic crisis.

Right from day one of Ukraine’s existence as an independent state, Russia has supported the stability of the Ukrainian economy by supplying it with natural gas at cut-rate prices. In January 2009, with the participation of the then-premier Yulia Tymoshenko, a purchase-and-sale contract on supplying natural gas for the period of 2009-2019 was signed. The contract regulated questions concerning the delivery of and payment for the product, and it also provided guarantees for its uninterrupted transit through the territory of Ukraine. What is more, Russia has been fulfilling the contract according to the letter and spirit of the document. Incidentally, Ukrainian Minister of Fuel and Energy at that time was Yuriy Prodan, who today holds a similar post in Kiev’s government.

The total volume of natural gas delivered to Ukraine, as stipulated in the contract during the period of 2009-2014 (first quarter), stands at 147.2 billion cubic meters. Here, I would like to emphasize that the price formula that had been set down in the contract had NOT been altered since that moment. And Ukraine, right up till August 2013, made regular payments for the natural gas in accordance with that formula.

However, the fact that after signing that contract, Russia granted Ukraine a whole string of unprecedented privileges and discounts on the price of natural gas, is quite another matter. This applies to the discount stemming from the 2010 Kharkiv Agreement, which was provided as advance payment for the future lease payments for the presence of the (Russian) Black Sea Fleet after 2017. This also refers to discounts on the prices for natural gas purchased by Ukraine’s chemical companies. This also concerns the discount granted in December 2013 for the duration of three months due to the critical state of Ukraine’s economy. Beginning with 2009, the total sum of these discounts stands at 17 billion US dollars. To this, we should add another 18.4 billion US dollars incurred by the Ukrainian side as a minimal take-or-pay fine.

In this manner, during the past four years, Russia has been subsidizing Ukraine’s economy by offering slashed natural gas prices worth 35.4 billion US dollars. In addition, in December 2013, Russia granted Ukraine a loan of 3 billion US dollars. These very significant sums were directed towards maintaining the stability and creditability of the Ukrainian economy and preservation of jobs. No other country provided such support except Russia.

What about the European partners? Instead of offering Ukraine real support, there is talk about a declaration of intent. There are only promises that are not backed by any real actions. The European Union is using Ukraine’s economy as a source of raw foodstuffs, metal and mineral resources, and at the same time, as a market for selling its highly-processed ready-made commodities (machine engineering and chemicals), thereby creating a deficit in Ukraine’s trade balance amounting to more than 10 billion US dollars. This comes to almost two-thirds of Ukraine’s overall deficit for 2013.

To a large extent, the crisis in Ukraine’s economy has been precipitated by the unbalanced trade with the EU member states, and this, in turn has had a sharply negative impact on Ukraine’s fulfillment of its contractual obligations to pay for deliveries of natural gas supplied by Russia. Gazprom neither has intentions except for those stipulated in the 2009 contract nor plans to set any additional conditions. This also concerns the contractual price for natural gas, which is calculated in strict accordance with the agreed formula. However, Russia cannot and should not unilaterally bear the burden of supporting Ukraine’s economy by way of providing discounts and forgiving debts, and in fact, using these subsidies to cover Ukraine’s deficit in its trade with the EU member states.

The debt of NAK Naftogaz Ukraine for delivered gas has been growing monthly this year. In November-December 2013 this debt stood at 1.451,5 billion US dollars; in February 2014 it increased by a further 260.3 million and in March by another 526.1 million US dollars. Here I would like to draw your attention to the fact that in March there was still a discount price applied, i.e., 268.5 US dollars per 1,000 cubic meters of gas. And even at that price, Ukraine did not pay a single dollar.

In such conditions, in accordance with Articles 5.15, 5.8 and 5.3 of the contract, Gazprom is compelled to switch over to advance payment for gas delivery, and in the event of further violation of the conditions of payment, will completely or partially cease gas deliveries. In other words, only the volume of natural gas will be delivered to Ukraine as was paid for one month in advance of delivery.

Undoubtedly, this is an extreme measure. We fully realize that this increases the risk of siphoning off natural gas passing through Ukraine’s territory and heading to European consumers. We also realize that this may make it difficult for Ukraine to accumulate sufficient gas reserves for use in the autumn and winter period. In order to guarantee uninterrupted transit, it will be necessary, in the nearest future, to supply 11.5 billion cubic meters of gas that will be pumped into Ukraine’s underground storage facilities, and this will require a payment of about 5 billion US dollars.

However, the fact that our European partners have unilaterally withdrawn from the concerted efforts to resolve the Ukrainian crisis, and even from holding consultations with the Russian side, leaves Russia no alternative.

There can be only one way out of the situation that has developed. We believe it is vital to hold, without delay, consultations at the level of ministers of economics, finances and energy in order to work out concerted actions to stabilize Ukraine’s economy and to ensure delivery and transit of Russian natural gas in accordance with the terms and conditions set down in the contract. We must lose no time in beginning to coordinate concrete steps. It is towards this end that we appeal to our European partners.

It goes without saying that Russia is prepared to participate in the effort to stabilize and restore Ukraine’s economy. However, not in a unilateral way, but on equal conditions with our European partners. It is also essential to take into account the actual investments, contributions and expenditures that Russia has shouldered by itself alone for such a long time in supporting Ukraine. As we see it, only such an approach would be fair and balanced, and only such an approach can lead to success.

Audio: Norway’s successful oil and gas policy: Not a neoliberal economic fiefdom to benefit the few but a mixed economic plan to benefit the all.

Farouk al-Kasim: The man behind Norway’s oil wealth

You can listen to the interview (18:00) by clicking on the pop-up link on this page.

Like Canada and the United States, Norway has a very lucrative oil and gas industry. But unlike those two countries, Norway did not use its resource wealth to pay for hefty tax cuts or social programs. Instead, the Scandinavian country squirrelled its money away in a sovereign wealth fund for future generations. And today … less than 25 years since its inception … that nest egg has grown into the world’s most valuable sovereign wealth fund, worth almost $850 billion.

It is the envy of the world.

Meanwhile, the Alberta Heritage Fund, which is 14 years older, is worth about $17 billion; the Alaska Permanent Fund sits at $50 billion … neither of them chump change, but a tiny fraction of the wealth Norway has amassed.

And perhaps most remarkable of all … much of the credit for Norway’s phenomenal success with its oil fund, belongs to a geologist from Iraq … although he is loathe to take too much of the credit.

It was 1968, and Farouk al-Kasim was struggling with an important decision that would change his life, and that of his young family. What he didn’t know at the time was that it would have such a profound impact on Norway’s future as well.

Farouk al-Kasim joined Michael from a radio studio in Stavanger, Norway.

Posted at: April 13, 2014 - 12:14 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

Canada’s transformation under neoliberalism: The last three decades have witnessed a far-reaching transformation of the Canadian economy, politics and culture & Kitimat plebiscite result a rejection of Harper government’s neoliberal energy policy. Time to consider a province-wide vote?


A rally for a secession referendum in Lenin Square, Donetsk, Ukraine. Photo: ITAR-TASS/Barcroft Media. Jim comment: One doesn’t need to look far beneath the surface to see the root of this weekend’s restiveness in Athens, Donetsk and Rome is thriving in the soil of anti-neoliberal anger. (Donetsk was founded in 1869 when the Welsh businessman John Hughes built a steel plant and several coal mines in the southern part of the Russian Empire. Donetsk, with a metropolitan area of over 2,000,000 inhabitants, is still the center for Ukraine’s mutually dependent coal mining and steel industries.)

Neoliberalism is “capitalism with the gloves off.” - Robert W. McChesney, in his “Introduction” to Profit Over People: Neoliberalism and Global Order, a 1999 book by Noam Chomsky, published by Seven Stories Press. Profit Over People contains Chomsky’s critique of neoliberalism. He argues about the doctrines and the development of a pro-corporate system of economic and political policies that restrict the public arena and support private power. In the years since the initial publication of Noam Chomsky’s Profit Over People: Neoliberalism and Global Order, the bitter vines of neoliberalism have only twisted themselves further into the world economy, obliterating the public’s voice in public affairs and substituting the bottom line in place of people’s basic obligation to care for one another as ends in themselves. An updated and expanded edition of the book was published in September 2011.

Below: An earlier version of this essay first appeared in Canadian Dimension magazine, March 29, 2014 (“Canada’s transformation under neoliberalism”). Jim Stanford is an economist with Unifor. He is the author of Economics for Everyone (published in 2008 by Pluto Press and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives), which has been translated into six languages.

The three key moments in Canada’s neoliberal transformation
Jim Stanford rabble.ca Canada April 9, 2014

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The last three decades have witnessed a far-reaching transformation of the Canadian economy, politics and culture. Canada is not unique in experiencing this neoliberal transformation, of course, but it has been as dramatic, thorough and socially destructive here as almost anywhere else in the industrialized world. Even before that transformation began, Canada was hardly a model of inclusion, equality, and democracy. But in the latter years of the postwar expansion, Canada progressed both economically and socially. Living standards were improving quickly for most — fuelled by rising real wages (which doubled in a generation), and a dramatic expansion of the social wage (including the introduction of national medicare, unemployment insurance and the Canada Pension Plan within six remarkable years, from 1965 through 1971). We were catching up to the U.S. economically (and surpassing it socially), escaping our traditional status as “poor cousins” to the North. And we carved a unique and somewhat independent role for the country in global economic, political and military affairs. This confidence, hope and momentum was symbolized by Canada’s hosting of Expo 67 in Montreal, the year of the country’s centenary — officially opened with then-prime minister Lester Pearson’s claim that it constituted “one of the most daring acts of faith in Canadian enterprise and ability ever undertaken.”

This expansionary post-war “golden age” eventually ran up against its own internal limits and contradictions. As in other advanced capitalist countries, the happy recipe of strong profits and business investment, rising living standards, and Keynesian welfare-state fine-tuning, began to disintegrate. The Polish economist Michal Kalecki presciently predicted after World War II, just as Keynesianism was being consolidated, that capitalism would eventually experience a “full-employment sickness.” As workers were empowered by long-run employment and income security, their expectations would grow, sparking increasing conflict with the interests of capitalist employers in maintaining a compliant, disciplined, low-cost workforce. A confident working class won a larger and larger share of the economic pie: in Canada, the labour share of GDP grew steadily through the post-war era, peaking in the late 1970s. Even worse for employers, workers demanded changes in the workplace, and society, that constrained the freedom and power of business. The expansion of an interventionist state meant rising taxes and stronger regulations. Internationally, national liberation movements curtailed capitalism’s geographic scope. Most importantly, business investment — the underlying engine of the post-war expansion — slowed appreciably.

Neoliberalism represented a multi-faceted, deliberate, global strategy by elites (in both the financial and the real spheres of the economy) to turn the whole ship around. A generation later, it is sobering to consider how successful that strategy has been. It has clearly empowered and enriched corporations and those who own them, and put workers on the defensive everywhere. On the other hand, despite these successes, neoliberalism has not succeeded in creating a world economy which is stable (witness the dramatic events of 2008-09), efficient, or successful in meeting real human needs.

Neoliberalism has been applied harshly in Canada, consistent with the international trend, but also reflecting the unique features (and weaknesses) of Canadian capitalism. In my review of the history of neoliberalism in Canada, I identify three crucial transition points: historical moments when neoliberal principles and practices were introduced, consolidated, and ideologically cemented.

1. A dramatic shift in the emphasis of monetary policy in the early 1980s.

2. The implementation of Canada-U.S. free trade in 1989.

3. A dramatic increase in the economy’s reliance on resource extraction and export (especially petroleum), beginning just after the turn of the century.

The rest of this article considers each of these transition points in turn, and then concludes by mapping the transition points using a selection of statistical indicators.

Related: Kitimat residents vote ‘no’ on Northern Gateway. The turnout was impressive by Canadian standards, with 75 per cent of the 4,100 eligible voters casting ballots. Will it mean anything to the PMO? More importantly, will it have any effect on policy? The Haper government changed the rules last year—the final decision now will be made by the federal cabinet. That’s right, the corporatist cabinet, not the elected House of Commons.

Kitimat residents vote ‘no’ on Northern Gateway
Robin Rowland The Canadian Press/CTV News Canada Updated April 13, 2014

KITIMAT, B.C. — The residents of Kitimat, B.C. have voted against the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project in a non-binding plebiscite.

The ballot count from Saturday’s vote was 1,793 opposed versus 1,278 who supported the multi-billion dollar project — a margin of 58.4 per cent to 41.6 per cent.

The results from two polling stations and an advance vote all showed a clear majority for the “No” side.

“The people have spoken. That’s what we wanted — it’s a democratic process,” Kitimat Mayor Joanne Monaghan said in a statement issued after the vote Saturday night.

“We’ll be talking about this Monday night at Council, and then we’ll go from there with whatever Council decides,” the statement said.

The $6.5-billion project would see two pipelines, one carrying oilsands’ bitumen from Alberta to Kitimat’s port, and a second carrying condensate — a form of natural gas used to dilute the bitumen — from Kitimat back to Alberta.

Kitimat would also be the site of a proposed two-berth marine terminal and tank farm to store the thick Alberta crude before it’s loaded onto tankers for shipment to Asia.

A demonstration by members of the Haisla Nation at Kitimat’s City Centre Mall quickly turned into a celebration after the vote results were announced. The Haisla Spirit of Kitlope Dancers led the celebration with drumming, singing and dancing.

Some Kitimat residents also joined the party, as did Nathan Cullen, the NDP Member of Parliament for Skeena Bulkley Valley.

Cullen, who has been a harsh critic of the project, said Saturday’s vote sends a clear message that Stephen Harper’s government must listen to.

“This is a resounding no to the Conservative policies. This is one of the most powerful grass roots things I have ever been associated with. This is good politics,” he said.

Gerald Amos, an environmentalist and former member of the Haisla Nation Council, said, “The town of Kitimat has rejected a project that is not good for our economy. It endangers everything we worked for as a people here in Kitimat for the last ten thousand years.”

A key reason for holding the vote was to fulfil a 2011 promise made by all municipal election candidates in Kitimat to poll citizens on the pipeline project.

But other than gauging public reaction to the proposed pipeline, it remains unclear — even to Kitimat council — what the non-binding vote will mean.

Greens celebrate results of Kitimat plebiscite on Northern Gateway
Press release Green Party of Canada Canada April 13, 2014

NANAIMO – Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada and Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands today congratulates the people of Kitimat, BC on voting No in a plebiscite on the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline.

The final results of the plebiscite were revealed late yesterday evening, with the No side winning with 58.4% of the vote.

In advance of the vote, Enbridge had spent millions of dollars on local advertising and had brought in numerous lobbyists to build support for the pipeline.

“The people of Kitimat have spoken loud and clear, and they do not want this pipeline,” said May. “This vote is an important step in the right direction, because it shows that the people who will be the most directly affected by this project won’t accept Enbridge’s false promises of jobs as compensation for the risk of a devastating tanker spill.”

If completed, the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline would transport dilbit, a toxic mixture of oil sands bitumen and chemical diluent, for 1170 kilometers from northern Alberta to the port of Kitimat. Once in Kitimat, the dilbit would be loaded onto super tankers and shipped through the 260-km Hecate Strait, a narrow channel crowded with islands and prone to storms and thick fog. A 2012 study by a team of UBC researchers found the likelihood of a tanker spill in the channel to be nearly 100%. The cleanup costs for a single spill have been estimated at over $9 billion.

We received the following in our inbox this morning.

Despite spending unlimited money on advertising and flying in canvassers from Calgary, Enbridge’s pipeline and oil tanker proposal has been handed a resounding electoral defeat by the people of Kitimat.

“This shows what happens when you actually give people the chance to vote on Enbridge’s proposal,” said Kai Nagata, Energy & Democracy Director at Dogwood Initiative. “What would happen if we opened it up to a province-wide vote? That’s a question we’re hoping to answer through our new website, LetBCVote.ca.”

The rest of British Columbians have not had any chance to vote on Enbridge’s proposal. LetBCvote.ca allows British Columbians to add their name to a pledge calling for a fair, province-wide vote.

“This project would have serious ramifications for the whole province, so all British Columbians deserve to vote on it,” continued Nagata. “That should extend far beyond just speaking to a panel or writing your local newspaper. Regardless of whether you support this proposal, the decision should be made by British Columbians.

Dogwood Initiative and allied pro-democracy groups are currently exploring the option of launching an initiative petition under the Recall and Initiative Act, should the federal and provincial governments both green-light the Enbridge’s pipeline and oil tanker proposal.

B.C.’s so-called ‘direct democracy’ law – which is unique to our province – allows any British Columbian to bring a matter of provincial jurisdiction forward for a vote, provided they collect supporting signatures from 10 per cent of registered voters in every riding in the province.

In this case, British Columbians could vote on whether to approve or deny dozens of provincial permits required for Enbridge’s proposal.

“What happened in Kitimat was the result of neighbours taking back their power by talking to each other about what’s important to their community, one doorstep at a time,” said Dogwood’s Director of Organizing, Celine Trojand. “We’re so inspired by Douglas Channel Watch, the grassroots community group that defeated Enbridge in Kitimat’s David and Goliath battle. Now it’s time to scale up and organize all across the province so every British Columbian gets the chance to vote.”

“Right now our network includes 45 teams just as committed as the folks from Douglas Channel Watch in Kitimat,” Trojand continued. “We’re bringing in new allies and are growing every week. Anyone who wants to help organize in their community is encouraged to sign up at LetBCvote.ca.”

Posted at: April 13, 2014 - 11:35 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

April 12, 2014

Weekly Headlines

Click on a headline below to go to that news item

Friday, April 11, 2014

World News

NATO: A long history of waging war for ‘peace’. Is Russia an existential threat or a phantom menace? Whatever, NATO goes happily about its corporatist task & Greystone mercenaries allegedly on the ground in Eastern Ukraine

Commentary

In Ukraine, confusion and frustration, as well as social collapse

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Science & Technology

Internet security, the latest revelation: Heartbleed backdoor puts the chaotic nature of the Internet under the magnifying glass. Beware! The implied appeal for a central authority is another danger

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Commentary

By embracing their critics and colonizing governments, corporations engineer a world of conformity and consumerism & We are all one: Change the global markets to protect the future of our world

Living

Predatory equity: British Columbia government wants to get protected farmland unprotected to benefit energy

Living

Predatory equity: California drought exacerbated by corporate landowners. Already, ecological damage is piling up

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Social Ideas

If the aim is to develop a measure of national economic welfare, we shouldn’t be starting with GDP

Living

Predatory equity: “Rental-backed securities” & Publications that ask for donations or run advertisements, but don’t pay writers

Commentary

Putin’s regime will not last forever, but the disenchantment with hypocritical Western liberal values as an enemy’s political tool may well outlast him

Monday, April 7, 2014

World News

Gold and currencies: Western Axis military/paramilitary forward-deployment is there to ‘take and hold ground’, not against military threats, but potential financial ones

Commentary

A real strategic geopolitical axis—Moscow-Beijing-Tehran

World News

From the African theater: More than a year after French military intervention, Mali remains unstable; prime minister resigns alleging government is dysfunctional, incompetent

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Science & Technology

Art or science? Knowledge or nonsense? From visionary to the fringe: Immanuel Velikovsky’s strange quest for a scientific theory of everything.

Arts

100 years after 1914, still in the grip of the Great War

Commentary

Truth or psuedotruth? The current social myth in Western Axis ‘democracies’

Posted at: April 12, 2014 - 12:01 am -- Posted by: SSNews -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

April 11, 2014

NATO: A long history of waging war for ‘peace’. Is Russia an existential threat or a phantom menace? Whatever, NATO goes happily about its corporatist task & Greystone mercenaries allegedly on the ground in Eastern Ukraine

NATO chief: Answer to Russia is more military spending
Jason Ditz Antiwar.com USA April 6, 2014

To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail, and to the Secretary-General of the largest, most expensive military alliance on the planet, everything looks like an excuse for taxpayers to get out their wallets.

NATO Chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s latest commentary reads much like every other commentary on every other situation even remotely NATO themed, a plea for dramatic increases in military spending to “modernize” a fighting force that is already the overwhelming majority of the planet’s armed forces.

Today, the excuse is the Russian annexation of Crimea, which Rasmussen spun as a need for “intensive training” to confront Russia militarily, and a major hike in deployments to eastern Europe for “defense.”

Rasmussen’s position is nothing new for him, or for NATO’s leadership, as US officials have similarly pushed for spending increases, the same increases they were fighting for last summer without the illusory Russian threat, but now with a new sense of feigned urgency.

Why it is more important than ever to invest in defence of democracy
Anders Fogh Rasmussen Daily Telegraph UK April 6, 2014

Sixty-five years ago this month, Nato was born into a dangerous world. As the Soviet shadow deepened across Europe, 12 nations from both sides of the Atlantic committed to individual liberty, democracy, human rights and the rule of law determined to stand together to safeguard their security.

Those nations were Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States. They took the most solemn pledge that any country can take: an attack on one would be viewed as an attack on all.

Today’s Nato brings together a unique combination of the world’s strongest democracies with an integrated military structure, a permanent political decision-making process and a network of more than 40 partners from around the world. It is where Europeans and North Americans consult, decide and act every day on security issues that concern us all. We have learned much from the last 20 years of challenging operations, from Afghanistan to Kosovo, from Libya to the Horn of Africa. We are now more efficient and effective than at any time in Nato’s history.

We still live in a dangerous world, and the threats are more complex and unpredictable than 65 years ago. Some are new: cyber and missile attacks. Others are age-old: attempts to redraw borders by force. What has not changed is Nato’s commitment to our fundamental values and purpose. Our motto remains: all for one, one for all.

That solidarity is clear in our response to Russia’s illegal aggression against Ukraine and its continued breach of international law. Thanks to allies from both sides of the Atlantic, we have more than doubled the number of fighter aircraft policing the airspace of the Baltic States. We are patrolling the skies of Poland and Romania with Awacs early-warning aircraft and allies have boosted their presence in the Black Sea.

We are united in our determination to deter threats and to defend any ally at all times. We have strengthened our support for Ukraine and other partners in the region. And we have suspended cooperation with Russia; there can be no business as usual.

Nato military chief: Russia could take Ukraine in three days
Roland Oliphant Daily Telegraph UK April 2, 2014

Russian forces are positioned and prepared to launch an invasion of Ukraine within 12 hours of the order being given, Nato’s top general has said.

Gen. Philip Breedlove, Nato’s top military official and the man in charge of drafting a response to the Russian annexation of Crimea, said in interviews on Wednesday that Russian forces on the border are poised for a three to five day operation.

“It’s my opinion that they could move within 12 hours of a ‘go’,” Gen. Breedlove said in an interview with CNN. “So essentially they could move right away if given the ‘go’.”

US troops may be sent to E Europe
John-Thor Dahlburg Associated Press USA April 9, 2014


NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove gestures during an interview with the Associated Press in Paris, Wednesday April 9, 2014, as he talks about his mission to formulate a plan to help protect and reassure NATO members nearest Russia. NATO’s top military commander in Europe, Breedlove is tasked with drafting countermoves to the Russian military threat against Ukraine. Photo: Remy de la Mauviniere/AP

PARIS (AP) — NATO’s top military commander in Europe, drafting countermoves to the Russian military threat against Ukraine, said Wednesday they could include deployment of American troops to alliance member states in Eastern Europe now feeling at risk.

U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove told The Associated Press he wouldn’t “write off involvement by any nation, to include the United States.”

Foreign ministers of the 28-nation alliance have given Breedlove until Tuesday to propose steps to reassure NATO members nearest Russia that other alliance countries have their back.

“Essentially what we are looking at is a package of land, air and maritime measures that would build assurance for our easternmost allies,” Breedlove told the AP. “I’m tasked to deliver this by next week. I fully intend to deliver it early.”

Asked again if American soldiers might be sent to NATO’s front-line states closest to Russia, the four-star U.S. general said, “I would not write off contributions from any nation.”

NATO has already reinforced its Baltic air patrols and is performing daily AWACs surveillance flights over Poland and Romania. Breedlove said he has already received enough pledges of maritime assets from NATO member states to carry out beefed-up maritime operations through the end of the year.

“The tougher piece is, how do we do the assurance piece on the land,” the general said. “Because these are measures which are more costly (and) if not done correctly, might appear provocative. And everything we are trying to do in the air, on the ground and at sea we are trying to completely characterize as defensive in nature.”

“There is not a shortage of what we can use. It’s how do we use this in a measured way that indicates defensive capability so that we don’t provoke. And that’s what we will be working on,” Breedlove said before departing for NATO’s military headquarters near Mons, Belgium.

Is Estonia worth a war?
Justin Logan The National Interest USA April 10, 2014

Visit this page for its embedded links.

No one near the levers of power in Washington suggested that Ukraine’s territorial integrity was worth risking a war with Russia. That stark reality offers an opportunity to evaluate U.S. alliances. Which European countries should the United States be willing to go to war with Russia over?

It’s an important question, given that Washington has a formal treaty commitment to a number of countries that are less strategically important than Ukraine. Since no one in Washington favored fighting for Ukrainian sovereignty, would they really threaten it over, say, Estonia, just because the latter is a NATO member? Does the existence of an alliance commitment create an interest worth going to war over?

Over the second half of the twentieth century, the United States steadily accumulated allies. During the Cold War, we gathered allies in the name of containing the Soviet Union. After the Cold War, Washington parlayed its winnings, expanding its sphere of influence. In Europe, two rounds of NATO expansion brought the anti-Russian alliance up to the Russian border, accompanied by promises that NATO was no longer about Russia. Globally, more than a quarter of the world’s countries are now allies of the United States.

The foreign-policy establishment wants two things from NATO: the ability to retain outsized influence on European defense and foreign policy, and cheap deterrence of Russia. For decades, Washington’s NATO policy seems to have worked, or at least hasn’t failed. EU security cooperation has floundered, and Russia hasn’t militarily threatened any NATO member-state. But the Ukraine crisis raises questions about U.S. interests and the Russian perception of them.

The lesson is not that Washington should have started World War III over Ukraine, but rather that there is danger in littering the globe with alliance commitments in places where there is no interest that warrants war. This is particularly true when those countries seem to have been emboldened by the alliance commitment, and have politics that reflect the NATO commitment better than they reflect the nation’s geography or power position. Eventually one or more of NATO’s bluffs could be called, and a U.S. president could find himself—or herself—threatening war in a context where it has no vital interest, and war was never intended or even seriously considered.

Related: Kiev decides to tame eastern Ukraine by foreign mercenaries
Itar-Tass News Agency Russia March 25, 2014

DNEPROPETROVSK, March 25. /ITAR-TASS/. Ukrainian authorities plan to attract US private military company Greystone Limited to suppress protest moods of the mostly Russian-speaking population in the east of the country.

According to Ukrainian Security Service, mercenaries will be engaged in political search and protection of state security over inability of Ukrainian law enforcement agencies to curb on leaders and activists of pro-Russian movement independently. This initiative was put forward by oligarchs Ihor Kolomoyskyi, a co-owner of Ukraine’s PrivatBank, and Serhiy Taruta, head of the industrial union of Donbass, a coal basin in eastern Ukraine, as these business tycoons were appointed as governors in central Ukraine’s Dnepropetrovsk region and eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk region, respectively. A source in Ukrainian Security Service which participated in recent special meeting chaired by parliament-appointed interim President Oleksandr Turchynov reported about this fact.

“Turchynov believes that law enforcement agencies in eastern regions cannot settle the issue of pro-Russian movement themselves, so they decided to attract foreign mercenaries,” the security official said. “In debates over action plan Kolomoyskyi proposed “not to re-invent a bicycle”, because there are real people who have a clear idea how much and how to pay,” he said.

Greystone security service is registered on Caribbean islands Barbados. The company recruits people from different countries through its subsidiary Satelles Solutions Inc. The company promises to its clients to provide “best military from the whole world” to fulfill tasks in any part of the world up to large-scale operations.

Private military company Greystone Limited was established 47 years ago and has British roots, as veterans of British commandoes SAS registered a basic organization of mercenaries in 1967. The company was called WatchGuard International and drew attention to itself after an abortive first large-scale operation — an attempt on the life of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 1971. Then the organization has undertaken the second operation already with retired US commandoes Navy SEALs during the US war in Iraq in 2003-2011, when major corporations used actively Greystone services. Now Greystone Limited is one of branches of a big mercenary empire in the United States which changes its names constantly, as this was Blackwater until 2009, then Xe Services and Academi and now US Training Center. Murders, shootings of demonstrations, arms smuggling entailed ill fame through all flashpoints in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. Now Ukraine is next in line. But today there is no exact information about the volume of the market of private military services, as it is estimated only approximately at $200 billion annually. US high-ranking officials have always occupied key posts in the empire of soldiers of fortune — from the US State Department Bureau of Counterterrorism, the Central Intelligence Agency’s Counterterrorism Center and US intelligence services.

In 2010, Greystone was acquired by current management. Greystone now operates as a stand alone, management owned provider of protective support services and training. A private security service, Greystone is registered in Barbados, and employs soldiers for off-shore security work through its affiliate Satelles Solutions, Inc. Their web site advertises their ability to provide “personnel from the best militaries throughout the world” for worldwide deployment. Tasks can be from very small scale up major operations to “facilitate large scale stability operations requiring large numbers of people to assist in securing a region”. Erik Prince intended Greystone to be used for peacekeeping missions in areas like Darfur where military operations would need to take place to establish peace.

NATO trains terrorists who destabilize situation in Ukraine – analyst
The Voice of Russia Russia April 9, 2014

Contractors from private security companies are supposed to do what NATO cannot do openly, they train terrorists who destabilize situation in Ukraine, Michel Chossudovsky, Director of the Centre for Research on Globalization [Canada] told RIA Novosti Tuesday.

“Those organizations (private security companies) will do what NATO cannot do openly. They can train people to be terrorists,” Chossudovsky said, adding that in Syria private contractors were training al-Qaeda.

“We are talking about the continuation of US policy of military intervention in Ukraine and a preparatory stage for a massacre in southeastern Ukraine,” Igor Korotchenko, editor-in-chief of the National Defense monthly Russian-language magazine said, adding that the deployment of mercenaries from a private company Greystone Ltd. may be financed by Ukrainian oligarchs and organized in coordination with the US State Department.

Michel Chossudovsky told RIA Novosti that mercenaries are normally hired by governments, but options are numerous as they operate covertly and do not identify themselves.

“Private contractors could be hired by NATO, or by Ukrainian government or by an intermediary. Anyone can hire Greystone, they operate covertly, they don’t identify themselves, and make money,” Chossudovsky said.

“Considering that Ukraine’s security services show their obvious incompetence, foreign mercenaries are supposed to suppress the protests in the southeastern part of the country,” Korotchenko said.

Michel Chossudovsky expects Graystone to recruit Ukrainians for the operation and reminded that the company recruits different nationalities, who are trained by professional military personnel.

“Within the Ukrainian National Guard there are western military advisors, they have senior military people. They are supposed to train protective services, but in fact they train terrorists,” Chossudovsky said.

“NATO and the US won’t acknowledge the presence of these special forces. What is happening is an influx of special forces in Ukraine which are there with the purpose to sustain the current government, but also to sustain the state of destabilization,” Chossudovsky said stressing that mercenaries would infiltrate with grassroots movements to trigger violence across Ukraine.
Canadian expert also said that NATO advisors are already present in Ukraine and have been brought by Kiev authorities.

“We have reports that there were mercenaries in Eastern Ukraine in early March. Some of these mercenaries are used for sophisticated sniper operations which characterize Euro Maidan,” Chossudovsky said, adding that the similar operations have been seen in other countries.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has earlier voiced concerns over the buildup of Ukrainian forces in the southeastern part of the country involving some 150 American mercenaries from a private company Greystone Ltd., dressed in the uniform of the Ukrainian special task police unit Sokol. Moscow called this move violation of Ukraine’s legislation.

Posted at: April 11, 2014 - 2:50 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post