July 29, 2014

Thoughts on one subgenre of chaos theory and shock doctrines: Our era of thugs. Where this all ends is anyone’s conjecture, but as of now things don’t look very rosy

Jim comment: Western Axis thugs led the Maidan Nezalezhnosti coups. Is Russia using its own thugs in Novorossiya? I don’t know. Chan Akya thinks so. But I do agree with Akya’s basic premise: At some stage in recent history, governments started to outsource operational aspects of geopolitical strategy to gangs of robbers, murderers and nutcases and are increasingly abrogating greater responsibilities to them. It is a very dangerous practice, and where this all ends is anyone’s conjecture.

An era of thugs
Chan Akya Asia Times Online Hong Kong July 28, 2014

Thug – a word adapted into the English language from its origins in the Indian subcontinent; defined either as a member of a professional clan of robbers and murderers or as a ruffian. The Oxford English Dictionary quite chillingly states in that usual equanimity that lexicographers somehow adopt that the correct term of “thug” in the local language was “phansi-gar” wherein the word phansi means to strangle or hang; and gar is the person who carries out that action.

If an alien were to have landed on Earth in 2004 and observed humanity for the subsequent 10 years, he/she (or it) would be grappling for a word that describes all of the following events until somehow stumbling to that definition in the OED or similar. In reverse chronological order, some such events over the past week alone: …

When and how did modern governments decide to outsource all operational aspects of geopolitical strategy to marauding gangs of robbers and murderers? If a memo had been sent explaining this new initiative, I certainly did not receive it.

In pretty much every event I mentioned above, there is a state actor who is attempting to hide behind the façade of “plausible deniability”, that is, the ability to wash one”s hands of a matter when things go out of control. Think of the following: …

Inevitably, our alien would start framing all the above outcomes in a multi-player version of the prisoner’s dilemma wherein every player defaults to his version of the safe option, driving overall group outcomes continually lower. The opposite trajectory, as represented by Pareto optimality, is never even contemplated let alone executed by players.

This is why the transfer of operational responsibilities by and from nation-states to groups of individuals with narrower motives ends up being far more dangerous for the human race. Instead of seizing back power from these thugs, nation-states are increasingly abrogating greater responsibilities to them. Where this all ends is anyone’s conjecture, but as of now things don’t look very rosy.

Note: Pareto efficiency, or Pareto optimality, is a state of allocation of resources in which it is impossible to make any one individual better off without making at least one individual worse off.

Posted at: July 29, 2014 - 2:46 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post


What you need to know about Israel’s talking points regarding Gaza and more

The only way to make sense of Israel’s senseless war[s] in Gaza is through understanding the historical context. Establishing the state of Israel in May 1948 involved a monumental injustice to the Palestinians. British officials bitterly resented American partisanship on behalf of the infant state. On 2 June 1948, Sir John Troutbeck wrote to the foreign secretary, Ernest Bevin, that the Americans were responsible for the creation of a gangster state headed by “an utterly unscrupulous set of leaders”. I used to think that this judgment was too harsh but Israel’s vicious assault on the people of Gaza, and the Bush administration’s complicity in this assault, have reopened the question. - Avi Shlaim writing in 2009. Oxford professor of international relations Avi Shlaim served in the Israeli army and has never questioned the state’s legitimacy. But its merciless assault on Gaza has led him to devastating conclusions.

Below: Noura Erakat, a human rights attorney and activist, is an Abraham L. Freedman Fellow at Temple University, Beasley School of Law, and a contributing editor of Jadaliyya. Israel claims that it is merely exercising its right to self-defense and that Gaza is no longer occupied. Here’s what you need to know about these talking points and more. For one, under international law, an occupying power cannot simultaneously occupy a territory, thus usurping the self-governing powers that would otherwise belong to its citizens, and declare war upon them.

Five Israeli talking points on Gaza—debunked
Noura Erakat The Nation USA July 25, 2014

Visit this page for its embedded links.

Israel has killed almost 800 Palestinians [the death toll is now above 1100] in the past twenty-one days in the Gaza Strip alone; its onslaught continues. The UN estimates that more than 74 percent of those killed are civilians. That is to be expected in a population of 1.8 million where the number of Hamas members is approximately 15,000. Israel does not deny that it killed those Palestinians using modern aerial technology and precise weaponry courtesy of the world’s only superpower. In fact, it does not even deny that they are civilians.

Israel’s propaganda machine, however, insists that these Palestinians wanted to die (“culture of martyrdom”), staged their own death (“telegenically dead”) or were the tragic victims of Hamas’s use of civilian infrastructure for military purposes (“human shielding”). In all instances, the military power is blaming the victims for their own deaths, accusing them of devaluing life and attributing this disregard to cultural bankruptcy. In effect, Israel—along with uncritical mainstream media that unquestionably accept this discourse—dehumanizes Palestinians, deprives them even of their victimhood and legitimizes egregious human rights and legal violations.

This is not the first time. The gruesome images of decapitated children’s bodies and stolen innocence on Gaza’s shores are a dreadful repeat of Israel’s assault on Gaza in November 2012 and winter 2008–09. Not only are the military tactics the same but so too are the public relations efforts and the faulty legal arguments that underpin the attacks. Mainstream media news anchors are inexplicably accepting these arguments as fact.

Below I address five of Israel’s recurring talking points. I hope this proves useful to newsmakers.

Posted at: July 29, 2014 - 2:03 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

July 28, 2014


In the interstices of the unamusedly ludicrous: Are movements against the logic of capital gaining strength within the heart of the system itself—the United States and Canada? & How a people, its chiefs and a chief justice have bravely ennobled the Canadian spirit

Anacristina Rossi is the author of the ecological novel La Loca de Gandoca (The Madwoman of Gandoca), derived from her own experience to protect a Costa Rican preserve. This article was adapted by the translators, Carol Polsgrove and Paloma Fernández Sánchez, from a longer essay published in the Revista de Ciencias Sociales of the University of Costa Rica.

Cracks in the concrete of capitalism
Anacristina Rossi CounterPunch USA July 28, 2014

In a Monthly Review article several years ago, “What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know About Capitalism,” John Bellamy Foster and Fred Magdoff put forward a point of view sometimes heard on the Left: that we cannot save the earth from becoming inhospitable to human life without abandoning capitalism. There is no such thing as “green capitalism,” they maintained, since the very logic of capitalism requires increased production.

In light of the dawning global awareness of climate change, we need to ask ourselves, “What, then, can weaken the power of the capitalist system?”

Bellamy and Magdoff themselves give us the clue. In Marxist and dialectical form, they show what in the present contains the seeds of future. They say we need to listen to what is growing in the interstices of society because that is where the germs of a new society are being born, “just as the bourgeoisie itself arose in the ‘pores’ of feudal society. “

These movements in the interstices are all around, they tell us. They are the Bolivian indigenous groups that are proposing an ethical relation with the Earth, the Pacha Mama; the Vía Campesina (the Peasants’ way); Brazil’s Movimiento de los Trabajadores sin Tierra (Movement of Workers without Land). They are the ecologist and anti-globalization movements around the world. All these groups want new relations among people and with nature. All oppose the logic of capital.

Curiously, Bellamy and Magdoff only value interstices outside their country and place no importance on something that may be key to the future. That something is movements appearing in the interstices of the United States and Canada.

These are not just ecological movements, although without exception, they do propose a harmonious relationship with nature: intentional communities, eco-villages, movements of urban and organic agriculture, movements to recover public lands for communities, permaculture movements, nonviolent communication, collective and alternative commercial projects, voluntary simplicity movements, and many others. As Detroit activist Grace Lee Boggs put it in an interview with Amy Goodman, the community gardens of Detroit are “the symbol of a new kind of society, of people who grow their own food, of people who try and help each other,” a society in which “we begin to think,not so much of getting jobs and advancing our own fortunes, but how we depend on each other.“

In short, there are life choices that reject what Bellamy and Magdoff call the logic of capital.

What is new in the North American movements is that, in the very heart of developed capitalism, in its ideological bastions, their strength and numbers are growing. That points to a great dissatisfaction with the system and an important questioning of capitalism from within, and not, as up till now, from the periphery.

Related: How a people, its chiefs and a chief justice have bravely ennobled the Canadian spirit.

To the Tsilhqot’in, with gloves
Ian Gill TheTyee.ca British Columbia Canada July 26, 2014

Years ago, I came into possession of a pair of deerskin gloves through a transaction that involved two parties who brought different things to the table: me (the money), and an elderly aboriginal woman (the gloves). The exchange was, I believe, a fair one. She set the price, I paid it; she got the money, I got the gloves, which have remained among my most prized possessions.

The transaction was conducted with free and informed consent, a rare thing in this country when it comes to dealings between white settlers and Indigenous peoples.

Ours was admittedly a very small deal, but where it took place recently has become a very big deal in Canada. At the time, I was in Xeni Gwet’in, or the Nemiah Valley, in the heart of a large swath of territory claimed as their own by the Tsilhqot’in Nation — the People of the Blue Water. (The Xeni Gwet’in are one of six communities that comprise the Tsilhqot’in national government.)

Xeni Gwet’in Chief Annie Williams served as translator and witness to the purchase of the gloves, but mostly she was helping me understand why the Xeni Gwet’in had, in 1989, unilaterally declared their territory to be an “Aboriginal Wilderness Preserve.”

There was no legal force behind the declaration at the time, but the Tsilhqot’in people had a history of bucking convention that stretched back to one of the great moments of resistance in B.C. history, the so-called Chilcotin War of 1864. Then, an attempt to build a road from Bute Inlet up to the Cariboo goldfields was brought to an abrupt and bloody end when several members of the road crew were killed; in retribution, six Tsilhqot’in men were arrested, tried and eventually hanged, even though they were later proven not to have taken part in the original war party.

The upshot was the road never got built. Until the 1980s, when an explosion of logging and logging roads spread across the Chilcotin Plateau, the Nemiah Valley remained one of the remotest and most spectacular (undeclared) wilderness areas in all of Canada. Then, a few years after the Haida Nation out on the coast made its stand against B.C.’s logging companies, the Xeni Gwet’in made theirs.

The court process in defence of the Tsilhqot’in’s rights and title — a long, ugly, unseemly and expensive battle, as they always are — ended a few weeks ago when the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed Aboriginal title a quarter of a century after the Tslihqot’in called the question.

Make no mistake, this is a spectacular victory for the Tsilhqot’in and an emphatic rebuke to the swindlers who have ruled and attempted to ruin this province since they first clapped eyes on the place. Finally, a rare serving of natural justice, and from the darkness of modern times, some news that offers a glimmer of hope for a better world.

But while pausing to savour what has just been won, it’s hard not to worry that the barbarians are still at the gate, and may be all the more dangerous for being wounded.

To go back to Xeni Gwet’in for a moment, I bought those gloves when on assignment for CBC television visiting the Nemiah Valley to report a documentary series called The Battle for the Chilcotin. It was the first of many docs I was privileged to do for CBC that focused on the struggle of B.C. First Nations — the Cheslatta, flooded from their lands; the Haisla, trying to save the Kitlope from logging; the Ingenika and Fort Ware people, flooded from their lands; the Nuu-chah-nulth, fighting for their place in the battle over Clayoquot Sound, and many more.

Those halcyon days, when CBC journalists were allowed to tell Canadian stories to Canadians, when we even dared to air the complaints of Aboriginal people at the downstream consequences of our having built an unnatural economy from the unchecked extraction of “natural” resources — those exuberant, story-telling days have given way to a harrowing hollowing out of our public broadcaster to the point that, to cut costs, we are witnessing the imminent demise of in-house documentary production. Whose vision of Canada does that serve?

And it’s not just the CBC. Where to look, across Canada’s increasingly barren media landscape, for an articulation — without fear or favour — of what the Tsilhqot’in case means for Canada? We need good journalism because as the Tsilhqot’in case so aptly underlines, governments and industries can’t be trusted to tell the truth. But what we get instead is mere reaction. …

Alone among our public institutions, the Supreme Court has managed to sustain a vision of a Canada that remains recognizable to Canadians, including our very first Canadians, and much of the credit for that can be laid at the feet of Madam Justice Beverley McLachlin herself.

It is one of the happier accidents of history that it was in 1989, the year the Tsilhqot’in launched their case in the B.C. Supreme Court, that Beverley McLachlin was promoted from being Chief Justice of that court in order to take up an appointment to the Supreme Court of Canada. She has served that court ever since, the past 14 years as its Chief Justice, and it was she who wrote the 8-0 judgement in favour of the Tsilhqot’in.

You can put it down to mere coincidence, but I believe there is an almost dreamlike serendipity in the fact that the most powerful judgment ever written in favour of Aboriginal rights in Canada — possibly the most powerful such judgment anywhere in the world — was written by arguably the only national leader in Canada whose stature has risen, not fallen, in the 25 fractious and dispiriting years we have just lived through.

Madame Justice Beverley McLachlin is not just a great judge at law, she is the greatest living judge of our national character, and its greatest defender. Masterfully, she has time and time again found a moral centre, all be they couched, as of course she must, in legal arguments that have confounded the worst excesses of a polity that has long since lost any sense of what Canada stands for. For two and a half decades now, she has exhibited a legal dexterity, an intellectual agility, purposeful leadership and enormous personal courage in taking on cases of such weight and complexity that any single one of them would defeat most of us to even understand, let alone render judgment on.

Just the other day I heard U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer describe someone with a rare clarity of thought as having a “moonlight mind,” and he could well have been describing Canada’s Chief Justice. In recent months, her court has clarified many important issues for Canadians. On labour rights, the Court found for the union after a Walmart in Quebec closed its doors when workers dared to organize; on privacy rights, the court said police need a warrant to access our information stored with Internet service providers; on prostitution, it has stood up for sex-trade workers; on criminal justice, it has curbed the Tories’ over-reach for mandatory minimum sentences; regarding its own composition, the court outright refused to be saddled with Stephen Harper’s unqualified choice for the bench, Justice Marc Nadon. This has been every bit the doing of Beverley McLachlin, the most trusted voice in the land. And now this. In crafting the Tsilhqot’in decision, she ends a journey that she and Roger William set out on 25 years ago. They took very different paths to arrive at the same place. Between them, they have given a face and a voice, and finally, the force of law to help Canadians come to terms with the fact that we are all People of the Blue Water now. Indeed, we always have been.

Posted at: July 28, 2014 - 12:12 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

Downed flight MH17: Kiev military advance scuttles international team’s attempt to reach crash site; Western Axis spraying accusations wildly; death toll in separatist regions climbing rapidly

To date in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts at least 1,129 people have been killed, at least 3,442 people have been wounded and more than 100,000 people have been displaced. Map: Wikipedia

Intro: Feasting in the shadow of tragedy.

Malaysia mourns MH17 and MH370, even as it celebrates end of Ramadan
Satish Cheney in Kuala Lumpur South China Morning Post Hong Kong July 28, 2014

Fireworks danced across the sky in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday night, ahead of yesterday’s Hari Raya Puasa holiday marking the end of Ramadan.

But Malaysia’s festivities for Islam’s most important holiday, known elsewhere as Eid ul-Fitr, were shrouded by a dark mood, as the country reeled from the aviation disasters of flights MH370 and MH17.

“Mummy, this year’s Raya and the upcoming ones will not be Raya,” tweeted 15-year-old Diyana Yazeera, whose mother, Dora Shahila Kassim, was chief stewardess on MH17. She perished with 297 others when the Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down over Ukraine.

“I’m not gonna celebrate it without you,” wrote Yazeera.

The air tragedies have cast a long shadow, leaving Malaysians struggling to make sense of the twin disasters.

Not a trace has been found of Malaysia Airlines flight 370, from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, which vanished in March with 239 passengers. Two weeks ago, flight 17 was downed, allegedly by Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Over the weekend, Kuala Lumpur roads were jammed as tens of thousands of Malaysians rushed to their hometowns to be with their parents and relatives for the religious holiday.

But for many, thoughts turned to the relatives of those lost in the air disasters.

Items: Putin: West should demand Kiev obey ceasefire during plane crash probe
RT Russia July 22, 2014

Russian President Vladimir Putin believes it is necessary to call on Kiev to observe the ceasefire, which should last while investigations into the MH17 crash are ongoing.

Putin said that Ukrainian troops attacked self-defense units near Donetsk almost at the same time anti-government forces were handing over the black boxes from the MH17 crash to international experts.

“Tanks broke through to the railway station,” Putin said at the Russian Security Council session on Tuesday. “It was shelled. The international experts there could not even look out of the windows.”

The Russian president said Moscow will do everything it can to facilitate the crash investigation, including trying to influence the anti-government forces in eastern Ukraine.

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17: Fighting intensifies near crash site
Associated Press/CBC News USA/Canada July 27, 2014

Visit this page for its embedded and related links, slideshows and videos.

Ukrainian armed forces mounted a major onslaught against pro-Russian separatist fighters Sunday in an attempt to gain control over the area where a Malaysia Airlines plane was downed earlier this month.

The U.S. State Department, meanwhile, released satellite images that it says back up its claims that rockets have been fired from Russia into eastern Ukraine and heavy artillery for separatists has also crossed the border.

A four-page document released by the State Department seems to show blast marks from where rockets were launched and craters where they landed. Officials said the images, sourced from the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, show heavy weapons fired between July 21 and July 26 — after the July 17 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

Kiev says rocket blast downed MH17, Dutch probe says info ‘premature’
RT Russia July 28, 2014

Flight recorders of B-777 airliner that has crashed in Ukraine being transferred to Malaysian experts Photo: Mikhail Voskresenskiy/RIA Novosti

Ukraine says analysis of the black box flight recorders from the downed Malaysia Airlines plane shows it was destroyed by shrapnel from a rocket blast. Dutch investigators, however, say they have not shared data with Kiev, calling the claim “premature.”

The Ukrainian Security Council on Monday said that passenger flight MH17 crashed in eastern Ukraine due to “massive explosive decompression.”

The spokesman for the Council, Andrey Lysenko, told a news conference in Kiev the information came from experts analyzing the recorders from the plane that came down in territory held by anti-government forces in eastern Ukraine on July 17, killing all 298 passengers on board.

However, the Dutch Safety Board (DSB), which is heading the investigation into the crash, was puzzled by statements coming from Kiev. According to DSB spokeswoman Sara Vernooij, the “premature” release of details of MH17 black boxes is “not in the best interest of the investigation.”

Speaking to The Independent, Vernooij refused to confirm the claims or comment on the nature of the source used by Lysenko, saying that the board was not going to release anything until the crashed plane’s black boxes are analyzed in full.

“We want to analyze [and] combine information of several sources before we bring out anything, so we can give a coherent view on the whole investigation. Bringing out fragmented pieces of information is not on behalf of the investigation,” Vernooij was quoted as saying.

The DSB is expected to release its initial findings on the MH17 crash on August 1.

Police team turns back from Ukraine crash site
Associated Press/CBC News USA/Canada July 28, 2014

Heavy fighting raged Monday around the Malaysia Airlines debris field, once again preventing an international police team charged with securing the site from even getting there.

Government troops have stepped up their push to win back territory from pro-Russian separatists in fighting that the United Nations said Monday has killed more than 1,100 people in four months.

The international delegation of Australian and Dutch police and forensic experts stopped Monday in Shakhtarsk, a town around 30 kilometres from the fields where the Boeing 777 was brought down.

CBC correspondent Susan Ormiston said she could hear heavy bombardment in the area.

“After about 30 minutes we spotted the convoy racing back, likely making the assessment that it was too dangerous to continue to the crash site,” she said.

Sounds of regular shelling could be heard from Shakhtarsk and residents were seen fleeing town in cars.

Associated Press reporters saw a highrise apartment block in Shakhtarsk being hit by at least two rounds of artillery.

The mandate of the police team is to secure the currently rebel-controlled area so that comprehensive investigations can begin and any remaining bodies can be recovered.

The second cancelled site visit over two days has strained tempers among the observation team.

“There a job to be done,” said Alexander Hug, the deputy head of a monitoring team from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. “We are sick and tired of being interrupted by gunfights, despite the fact that we have agreed that there should be a ceasefire.”

While Russia and Ukraine trade accusations, the death toll has been mounting swiftly.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a report out Monday that at least 1,129 people have been killed between mid-April, when fighting began, and July 26. The report said at least 3,442 people had been wounded and more than 100,000 people had left their homes. A UN report from mid-June put the death toll at 356.

MH17 crash: Dutch and Australian forensic teams fail in fresh attempt to reach debris site
Natasha Culzac The Independent UK July 28, 2014

This page contains a 113 picture photo gallery.

Plans by Australian and Dutch authorities to reach the crash site of downed flight MH17 have once again been scuppered after heavy fighting rendered it too dangerous.

International experts had hoped to secure the area and search for the remaining unrecovered bodies after an effort to do so yesterday also failed.

Meanwhile, aviation chiefs are preparing to convene tomorrow to discuss potential issues resulting from the Malaysia Airlines crash, most notably the threat to passenger planes from war torn regions being flown over.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), International Air Transport Association (Iata) and Airports Council International will meet in Montreal, Canada.

Their assembly comes as Dubai-based carrier Emirates confirms is to stop flying over beleaguered Iraq, amid concerns that Islamist militants could fire missiles to passing planes.

“This is a political animal but… the fact of the matter is MH17 changed everything, and that was very nearly in European airspace,” Sir Tim Clark, Emirates Chief Executive told The Times.

“We cannot continue to say, ‘Well it’s a political thing’. We have to do something. We have to take the bull by the horns.”

Noted: Conspiracy theory: MH17 actually the lost MH370, Ukraine wreckage ‘not MH17′
Reissa Su International Business Times Australia July 26, 2014

The recent and tragic crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 that killed 298 people may have filled the news along with the other aircraft fatalities of TransAsia and Air Algerie but no one has forgotten about the mysterious disappearance of MH370.The recent and tragic crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 that killed 298 people may have filled the news along with the other aircraft fatalities of TransAsia and Air Algerie but no one has forgotten about the mysterious disappearance of MH370.

Several conspiracy theories have already surfaced in social media. Although some were impossible and outrageous, others have become so believable that they have been shared countless times on social media feeds.

As the wreckage of MH370 remains undiscovered, more and more conspiracy theories have gone viral in social media. Only time can tell which one of them is the closest thing to the truth.

Posted at: July 28, 2014 - 11:26 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post


At 11:10 hours on July 28, 1914 — 100 years ago today—Austria-Hungary dispatched a telegraph message to Serbia. Lest we forget. There never was, and never will be, a Great War

Terence Corcoran wrote in the Financial Post, July 26, 2014:

At 11:10 a.m. on July 28, 1914 — 100 years ago [today]—Austria-Hungary dispatched a telegraph message to Serbia. After a month of absurdist international diplomacy and internal bickering following the assassination of the empire’s Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, the Imperial and Royal Government said it had no choice but to resort to the force of arms. “Austria Hungary consequently considers herself henceforth in a state of war with Serbia.”

Within days, Russia ordered general mobilization (July 31), Germany declared war on Russia (August 1), Germany declared war on France and France on Germany (August 3) and Britain declared war on Germany (August 4).

Essential reading on the First World War
Terence Corcoran Financial Post Canada July 25, 2014

Thousands of books have been published on the First World War over the years, but the best of them may well have been written in the last decade, even the last year. Not all make for easy reading. Most readers might give up on the endless documenting of the insanity of the kings, prime ministers, politicians, bureaucrats and military lunatics who started the war and dragged Europe and most of the world through four years of hell. They killed millions through gross incompetence and negligence, devastated the world economy, and set the stage for economic ideas and policies that were equally destructive.

No one but the obsessed could read every word of the few books noted below. I certainly didn’t. But each, listed in no particular order, contains the story, in whole or in bits and pieces, of a war that is about much more than anything any human being could possibly imagine or conjure in his worst nightmares.

Below: On June 28, 1914 The Archduke Franz Ferdinand of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was assassinated by a young Serbian and vaulted Europe into a war from which it would never recover. This blog attempts to counter the mainstream inclination to cast The Great War as grounds for heroism, patriotism and military bravado — rather than four years of violence, trauma and irretrievable loss.

One hundred years later, how ‘great’ was The Great War?
Mel Watkins rabble.ca blogs Canada July 17, 2014

The First World War could not properly be called that until there was a Second, though a few, either from remarkable prescience or deep cynicism, so labelled it within a short time after its end. In the interim it was widely known, in English language countries, as the Great War, though sometimes the World War. It was the Great War when I was a child in the 1930s and had an uncle who had been there.

Which begs some questions.

I’m not sure why it is was called “Great” but one guess would be it was because of the humungous number killed, on both sides, soldiers and civilians, and another the scale of the struggle spatially.

It was certainly a great catastrophe with great suffering. It put paid to the complacent belief, before the War, in that greatest of things, Progress.

Great though the First World War was, it would be even Greater if it, and the Second World War, are seen as one war, with the first preparing the way for the second. It would then be the Second Thirty Years War of European countries, the First being that of 1608-1648.

The First World War was not the worst of them all — we don’t have boasting rights in that regard — but that tells us more about other even worse wars than about the First World War itself. Suffering isn’t proportional, it’s absolute, and the First World War was absolutely horrendous.

So were its consequences. The First World War triggered the Bolshevik Revolution and gave us communism. It gave us Hitler who fought in the trenches, who then gave us the most terrible fascism. It gave us the vengeful reparations imposed by the Allies on Germany which fed German grievances and further paved the road to the Second World War. It gave us American ascendancy which, with communism, gave us the Cold War. But I must stop before our future is foretold.

Posted at: July 28, 2014 - 9:57 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

July 27, 2014


Tracking the decline of our civilization—fewer and fewer natural philosophers; more and more data crunchers (scientists)

Introduced in 1833, the term “scientist” had grubby connotations. Natural philosophers thought deeply and wrote elegantly, scientists were data crunchers. Jonathan Rose is William R Kenan Professor of History at Drew University.

Diffusers of useful knowledge
Jonathan Rose Li†erary Review UK July 2014

Visions of Science: Books and Readers at the Dawn of the Victorian Age
By James A Secord (Oxford University Press 306pp

For a moment in time, just before Victoria became queen, popular science seemed to offer answers to everything. Around 1830, revolutionary information technology – steam-powered presses and paper-making machines – made possible the dissemination of ‘useful knowledge’ to a mass public. At that point professional scientists scarcely existed as a class, but there were genteel amateur researchers who, with literary panache, wrote for a fascinated lay audience.

The term ‘scientist’ was invented only in 1833, by the polymath William Whewell, who gave it a faintly pejorative odour, drawing analogies to ‘journalist’, ‘sciolist’, ‘atheist’, and ‘tobacconist’. ‘Better die … than bestialise our tongue by such barbarisms,’ scowled the geologist Adam Sedgwick. ‘To anyone who respects the English language,’ said T H Huxley, ‘I think “Scientist” must be about as pleasing a word as “Electrocution”.’ These men preferred to call themselves ‘natural philosophers’ and there was a real distinction. Scientists were narrowly focused utilitarian data-grubbers; natural philosophers thought deeply and wrote elegantly about the moral, cosmological and metaphysical implications of their work.

Today the role of natural philosopher has passed largely to academics like James Secord – professor of history and philosophy of science at Cambridge and director of the Darwin Correspondence Project. Secord has devoted his career to studying what published scientists usually don’t study: their readers. His prizewinning book Victorian Sensation (2000) tracked the response to Robert Chambers’s Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation (1844), which postulated a vast evolutionary progress from the beginnings of the cosmos to the dawn of man. It was more journalism than hard science, but Charles Darwin acknowledged that it prepared the Victorian public for the shock of On the Origin of Species.

Visions of Science offers vignettes of other pre-Darwin scientific writers who generated considerable buzz in their day …

Charles Babbage, in designing his ‘difference engine’, anticipated all the basic principles of the modern computer – including ‘garbage in, garbage out’. In Reflections on the Decline of Science in England (1830) he accused his fellow scientists of routinely suppressing, concocting or cooking data. Such corruption (he confidently insisted) could be cleaned up if the government generously subsidised scientific research. That may seem naive today, when we are all too aware that scientists often fudge results to keep the research money flowing. Yet in the era of the First Reform Act, everything appeared to be reformable. Babbage even stood for parliament in Finsbury, on a platform of freedom of information for all. But he split the scientific radical vote with Thomas Wakley, founder of The Lancet, and the Tory swept home.

After his sketches of these forgotten bestsellers, Secord concludes with the literary bomb that blew them all up. In Sartor Resartus Thomas Carlyle fiercely deconstructed everything the popular scientists stood for. Where they were cool, rational, optimistic and supremely organised, he was frenzied, mystical, apocalyptic and deliberately nonsensical. They assumed that big data represented reality; he saw that it might be all pretence, fabrication, image – in a word, ‘clothes’. A century and a half before Microsoft’s emergence, Carlyle grasped the horror of universal digitisation: ‘Shall your Science proceed in the small chink-lighted, or even oil-lighted, underground workshop of Logic alone; and man’s mind become an Arithmetical Mill?’ That was a dig at the clockwork utilitarianism of both John Stuart Mill and Babbage: the latter called his central processing unit a ‘mill’.

The scientific populists sincerely aimed to democratise information. But when the movement was institutionalised in the form of mechanics’ institutes and the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, did it aim at anything more than making workers more productive? Babbage never completed his difference engine, in part because he treated human beings – including the artisans who were supposed to execute his designs – as programmable machines. And he was certain that Homo sapiens was not the highest form of intelligence in the universe. On another planet somewhere, he suggested, the Divine Programmer must have created Humanity 2.0.

James Secord always excellently recreates the milieu of the past. He is not so much concerned with drawing parallels with the present, but any reader will see them. From every lip today we hear demands for ‘education that will prepare young people for a competitive global economy’ – and not much else. The ministry that manages British universities – the Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills – tellingly omits the word ‘education’ from its title. In America massive open online courses (MOOCs) promise to enable a single instructor to reach thousands of students through digital technology. MOOCs don’t allow much room for classroom discussion, answering questions, close reading of complex texts, or any real individualised instruction, but they can achieve economies by eliminating faculty. And they are exactly what Charles Babbage had in mind.

Posted at: July 27, 2014 - 12:29 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post


July 28, 1914, the paths of glory led but to the grave & Making sense of today’s messy world

Map of military alliances of Europe in 1914. The war drew in all the world’s economic great powers, which were assembled in two opposing alliances: the Allies (based on the Triple Entente of the United Kingdom, France and the Russian Empire) and the Central Powers of Germany and Austria-Hungary. Although Italy had also been a member of the Triple Alliance alongside Germany and Austria-Hungary, it did not join the Central Powers, as Austria-Hungary had taken the offensive against the terms of the alliance. These alliances were reorganised and expanded as more nations entered the war: Italy, Japan and the United States joined the Allies, and the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria the Central Powers. Ultimately, more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, were mobilised in one of the largest wars in history. Credit Wikipedia World War I

The 100th anniversary of the First World War and the 75th anniversary of the Second World War represent a unique opportunity for Canadians to reflect on our country’s long and proud military history. Throughout this period, the Government of Canada, in collaboration with partners in Canada and abroad, will carry out a variety of commemorative initiatives marking the tremendous sacrifices and accomplishments of all those who served during these Great Wars. … The First World War (1914–1918) and the Second World War (1939–1945) are among the most important chapters in world history. Both of these 20th century global conflicts touched the lives of countless families and communities across Canada and Newfoundland. Sadly, more than 110,000 Canadians and Newfoundlanders lost their lives during the two World Wars. The 100th and 75th anniversaries of these great wars will provide all Canadians with opportunities to celebrate their proud heritage and, more importantly, to honour those who served and continue to serve our country to uphold the values of peace, freedom and democracy.

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow’r,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,
Awaits alike th’inevitable hour.
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

- From “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” by Tomas Gray, first published in 1751

Jim comment: Tomorrow July 28, 2014 (100 years to the day after the start of WWI hostilities) I will be watching again Stanley Kubrick’s brilliant, sensitive film set during WWI, Paths of Glory, (1957). Kubrick’s film presaged the moral ambiguities of my generation’s war in Southeast Asia.

Related audio: Chaos and conflict: An analysis of our messy contemporary world.

Making sense of a messy world
“Sunday Edition” CBC Radio One Canada July 27, 2014

Smoke from an Israeli strike rises over the Gaza Strip. Photo: Hatem Moussa/AP

Paul Rogers on Ukraine, Gaza and Other Geopolitical Hotspots – For the past couple of weeks, the western world’s attention has been tightly focused on two international crises … Gaza and Ukraine.

That’s not surprising, given the fallout from the downing of a Malaysian jetliner and the ground war and humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza, while Hamas fires rockets into Israel.

These are traumatic stories that have unsettled people all over the world. Meanwhile, though, events equally or even more dire are occurring in some of the world’s most troubled countries, without nearly as much attention from western media.

The Jihadist organization ISIS, which dominated the headlines only a few weeks ago, continues its campaign in Iraq and Syria. The civil war in Syria rages on with intensifying violence and some 170,000 people dead. Feuding militias in Libya are engaged in pitched battles. And in Nigeria, there have been many bombings. The young women kidnapped by Boko Haram remain in captivity after more than one hundred days.

It’s a bewildering amount of chaos and conflict to deal with. The world seems to be engaged with what Paul Rogers describes as “Lid-ism” – just trying to keep a lid on things without addressing the underlying causes.

Paul Rogers is a Professor of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford and is one of Europe’s most astute observers of geopolitics. He talks to guest host Laura Lynch about how to make sense of a changed world and the dangers that lie ahead.

You can listen to the interview (19:25) from a pop-up link on this page.

Posted at: July 27, 2014 - 12:22 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

Whose ‘Promised Land’? Considering the emotional ambiguities of the conceptual and the actual: ‘Greater Israel’ and the Israeli military’s third military assault on Gaza in less than six years

Intro: Genesis 15:18-21 (KJV)

18 In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:

19 The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites,

20 And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims,

21 And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.

The Bible contains three geographical definitions of the Land of Israel. The first, found in Genesis 15:18-21, seems to define the land that was given to all of the children of Abraham, including Ishmael, Zimran, Jokshan, Midian, etc. It describes a large territory, “from the brook of Egypt to the Euphrates”, comprising all of modern-day Israel, the Palestinian Territories, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq, as well as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, U.A.E, Oman, Yemen, most of Turkey, and all the land east of the Nile river.

Promised Land
Wikipedias Last modified July 27, 2014

The Promised Land (Hebrew: הארץ המובטחת‎, translit.: Ha’Aretz HaMuvtahat) is the land promised or given by God, according to the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible), to the Israelites, the descendants of Jacob. The promise is first made to Abraham (Genesis 15:18-21) and then renewed to his son Isaac, and to Isaac’s son Jacob (Genesis 28:13), Abraham’s grandson. The promised land was described in terms of the territory from the River of Egypt to the Euphrates river (Exodus 23:31) and was given to their descendants after Moses led the Exodus out of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 1:8)

The term should not be confused with the expression “Land of Israel” which is used in 1 Samuel 13:19, when the Israelite tribes were already in the Land of Canaan.

Today, both Jews and Palestinians believe they are the intended inheritors of this “divine promise”. The concept of the Promised Land is the central tenet of Zionism, whose discourse suggests that modern Jews descend from the Israelites and Maccabees through which they inherit the right to re-establish their “national homeland”, whilst the Islamic and Christian Palestinian discourse suggests that modern Palestinians descend from all the different peoples who have lived in the region including the ancient Israelites.[1][2]

Items: On hope and despair in the Middle East
David Grossman, translated from the Hebrew by Anne Hartstein Pace Ha’aretz Israel July 8, 2014

Hope and despair. For years, we were tossed back and forth between one and the other. Today, most Israelis and Palestinians seem to be in a gloomy, flat, state of mind, one with no horizon; dully comatose, a self-induced numbness.

What hope can there be when such is the terrible state of things? The hope of nevertheless. A hope that does not disregard the many dangers and obstacles, but refuses to see only them and nothing else.

A hope that if the flames beneath the conflict die down, the healthy and sane features of the two peoples can gradually be revealed once more. The healing power of the everyday, of the wisdom of life and the wisdom of compromise, will begin to take effect. The sense of existential security. Of being able to raise children without abject fear, without the humiliation of occupation or the dread of terrorism. The basic human desires for family and livelihood and study. The fabric of life.

Among the two peoples today, the agents of despair and hatred have practically taken over, so it may be hard to believe that the picture I’ve described is truly possible. But a situation of peace will start to produce the agents of hope and closeness and optimism; it will give rise to more people who have a practical interest, unrelated to ideology, in creating more and more ties with members of the other people. Perhaps eventually, after some years, a deeper attachment will evolve, even genuine friendship between these two peoples, and those human beings. Such things have happened. But for now let us suffice with all those mundane situations in which Israelis and Palestinians could live with one another like human beings.

We, the people who have gathered at this Israel Conference on Peace cling to this hope, and preserve it in our heart. We cannot afford the luxury and indulgence of despair. The situation is too desperate to be left to the despairing, for accepting despair amounts to an admission that we’ve been defeated. Defeated not on the battlefield, but as human beings. Something deep and vital to us as humans was taken away, was stolen from us, the moment we agreed to let despair to have a dominion.

The Gaza war has done terrible things to Israeli society
Lisa Goldman Globe and Mail Canada July 24, 2014

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Earlier this month, one of Israel’s most famous writers announced in his weekly newspaper column that he was packing up his family and moving to the United States – permanently. Sayed Kashua, an Arab-Palestinian citizen of Israel who resides in Jerusalem, is the author of critically acclaimed novels and a popular television series, all written in Hebrew with wit and insight into the complex, conflicted society of Arabs and Jews living uneasily side-by-side. But after more than two decades of believing that ultimately Arabs and Jews would find a way to co-exist as equals, he wrote, something inside him “had broken.” He no longer believed in a better future.

Mr. Kashua’s decision to emigrate came in response to a series of events that were marked by violence and incitement against the Arab population, from the government to the street. One member of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, called for a war against the Palestinian people on her Facebook page. Another called an Arab legislator a “terrorist” during a parliamentary committee session, while still another, the leader of an ostensibly centrist party, submitted a proposal to ban an established Arab nationalist party with sitting members of the Knesset. The editor of a right-wing newspaper suggested that now was the time to transfer the Arab population out of the occupied West Bank. In Jerusalem, mobs of hyper nationalist youth rampaged through the cafe-lined downtown streets chanting “death to Arabs,” assaulting random passersby because they looked or sounded Palestinian. Most horrifically of all, a 17 year-old Palestinian boy from East Jerusalem was abducted from the street by six young Jewish men, three of them minors. The police found Mohammed Abu Khdeir’s corpse in the nearby Jerusalem Forest shortly after CCTV cameras recorded some young men forcing him into a car. He had been doused with gasoline and burned alive. Three of the six boys confessed to the crime and re-enacted it for the police.

This orgy of internecine violence was sparked by the mid-June abduction of three Jewish teenage boys – Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaer and and Eyal Yifrah – who were hitchhiking in the West Bank. The army carried out a massive three-week manhunt for the boys, that included pre-dawn raids and dozens of arrests; it ended with the discovery of three corpses buried in a field near Hebron. And while the men who committed the crime were almost certainly Palestinian, Hamas has vociferously denied involvement even as the Israeli government continues to accuse them of masterminding the abduction and murder as an act of terrorism.

After the nationally televised funerals for the boys, with moving eulogies delivered by their mothers, the country seemed to explode. Ultra nationalists openly organized anti-Arab demonstrations via Facebook groups. In response to the murder of Abu Khdeir, the Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem demonstrated violently against even more violent paramilitary police, three of whom were filmed beating a handccuffed and unconscious Palestinian-American boy named Tariq Abu Khdeir. And then the rage spread to the Galilee, where Palestinian-Arabs (sometimes called “Arab Israelis”) came out onto the streets to demonstrate; they were met by paramilitary police who used violent crowd control methods usually reserved for the occupied territories – rubber bullets, tear gas and brutal beatings. According to Adalah, a local NGO that monitors minority civil rights in Israel, the police arrested more than 400 Arab citizens for protesting.

Something has broken down in Israeli society. …

Israel has always been a flawed democracy with many festering internal divisions. Its policies toward the Arab minority reflect the unresolved tension of a conflicted identity: Should Israel aspire to be a liberal democracy or a democracy for Jews? But in the five years since Benjamin Netanyahu was elected prime minister and formed a governing coalition composed of far-right, racist and anti-democratic parties, something very fundamental has changed in Israeli society. It feels as though the majority is willing to suspend essential elements of democracy in favor of Jewish nationalism. There doesn’t seem to be a place for dissent anymore.

Israel is not my birthright
Shira Lipman Salon USA July 26, 2014

I’m writing this in my new baby niece’s room. I am here in Florida visiting my family because of this niece, this tiny pudgy innocent baby. We are Jewish, and it’s time for my niece to receive her Hebrew name in a sweet little ceremony at our longtime synagogue.

Last night I sat at the synagogue next to my 19-year-old daughter. I felt a swell of joy as the services began; I’d been away too long. I’d loved services as a child and teenager.

And then we hit the first mention of Israel as the Promised Land, and I burst into tears.

On the way to services, I’d caught up on Twitter a bit. I’d read about the Israeli missiles still falling on Palestine. I’d read about the outright murder of Palestinian children.

And I sat there and listened to the rabbi call Israel our Promised Land, and it broke something in me.

I am an American Jew of a certain age (40), and what that means is that I was raised to believe that Israel was ours by divine right.

It sounds ridiculous when you say it aloud. Especially because, like many of my generation of Jews, I’m not particularly religious. Many Jews my age slid into paganism, a sort of ambivalent agnosticism, or outright atheism; we are cultural Jews rather than religious Jews. And yet when I first spoke about the conflict between Israel and Palestine some years ago, I found that falling out of my mouth – that God promised us Israel. It’s ours because God said so.

My daughter, trying to comfort me after the services, said, “Maybe it is the Promised Land, just not right now.”

My daughter is an atheist. And the narrative got her, too.

The history we are taught in our Sunday school is that we were there first, and that therefore the Palestinians are occupying our land. How long ago were we there, though? And who, exactly, is we? I find myself using that we – “We need to stop bombing Palestine,” “we need to give land back,” but I am not Israeli. I have never been to Israel. This is how deep it runs, this idea of possession.

American Jewish teenagers get a free trip to Israel, paid for by a Jewish foundation. These are called Birthright trips.

My daughter went to Israel two years ago. Not on a Birthright trip, the very name of which raises the hairs on the back of my neck, that entitlement to land that others have lived on for generations. She went with my parents, who have gone many times before. She visited various landmarks; she took lots of pictures.

My daughter sat beside me last night at the synagogue, and I was acutely aware that she could not read Hebrew. Neither can my sister, and my husband lost the language right after his bar mitzvah, years ago.

I moved my finger beneath the words as I sang. I whispered to my daughter at opportune moments – this is the R, this is the L, here are the vowels.

Yud. Sin. Resh. Aleph. Lamed.


I hoped fervently that it would not happen, but it did – the rabbi spoke of those who hate Israel and hate the Jews, but did not speak of the Israeli army, which is burning children alive; did not condemn the hate of Israelis for Palestinians. He spoke of peace, but he spoke of peace as a thing to force on the Gaza strip, not a thing for both sides to work toward. I clutched my daughter’s hand, trying not to cry, thinking but we are killing children. Where is the peace in that action?

Who is we?

We. We are killing children, we are killing civilians, because we were told that God gave us this land, and half of us don’t even believe.

Our Birthright ™.

The rabbi encouraged us to go to Monday’s pro-Israel rally, and my stomach turned.

I am naïve, I suppose. I know that I am heartbroken. I just want everyone to live.

Shin. Lamed. Mem. I trace the letters and teach my daughter the word for peace.

Noted: While slaughtering children, Israelis rescue an owl
Paul Woodward War in Context USA July 27, 2014

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The Times of Israel reports: The fighting in Gaza has extracted a grave human toll, but some animals have been affected as well. One was lucky enough to make it to the hospital.

About two weeks ago, a long-eared owl was injured by mortar shrapnel in Kibbutz Nirim, near the Gaza border. The owl was found by Ben Itay, a kibbutz member and veterinary student, who brought him to his home. When rocket fire from Gaza eased enough to allow Ben to bring him to the Zoological Park in Ramat Gan, also known as the Safari, vets discovered that the poor creature had lost his vision in his right eye, had a broken beak, and was suffering from shrapnel in his head.

The bird is undergoing treatment at the animal hospital, and vets hope he will be able to return to the wild.

Let’s hope the owl makes a full recovery — and let’s not forget that the Nazis were great champions of animal welfare. Unfortunately they didn’t extend the same level of concern for the welfare of countless fellow human beings.

Posted at: July 27, 2014 - 12:15 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

July 26, 2014

Weekly Headlines

Click on a headline below to go to that news item

Friday, July 25, 2014


Ukraine the do or die battlefield for an increasingly frightened and worried Western Axis – a chessboard drenched in blood


Deadly disease-causing pesticides: Methoxychlor, Roundup, Lasso. Hazards to humans and other animals, causing acute and chronic health effects

Labour News

Our weapons are education, organization and agitation: Remembering the martyred, murdered Ginger Goodwin

Thursday, July 24, 2014


Orwell alive in Palestine, Ukraine: The Western Axis’ war on truth and its citizens’ complicity


Israel provoked this war yet, as Gaza body toll mounts, NBC executives crack down on criticism of Israel


Steam Injection Fracking Caused Major Alberta Bitumen Leak


A Parody of Populism

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


Irredentism? Caliphates, Novorossiya, Palestine, etc. Foreign fighters everywhere in today’s Eurasian wars. Considering here just two examples: Within the contemporary states of Ukraine and Israel


Environmental attitudes: Harper gov’t wants to turn a sustainable mariculture into an industrial farming operation; Northern Cree’s wild rice business; a bicycle-touring band on its way to Salt Spring Island

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


Meet the Online Tracking Device That is Virtually Impossible to Block


DIY internet: meshes

Civil Society

An Independent Newsroom Where Self-Censorship Rules


Cultural Studies: The Stursbergians vs. The Gzowskiteers — Why it’s time for the nerds to stand up for their CBC

Monday, July 21, 2014


Fires in NW Territories in Line with ‘Unprecedented’ Burn


Slaughter-Free Milk Is Great for Cows, But Not the Environment


Understanding the Food System Week by Week

Sunday, July 20, 2014

National News

Canadians at odds with Harper gov’t priorities: Finance Canada focus-group report


Posting will be sporadic for the next week

Posted at: July 26, 2014 - 7:21 am -- Posted by: SSNews -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

July 25, 2014


Ukraine the do or die battlefield for an increasingly frightened and worried Western Axis – a chessboard drenched in blood

In this piece (in Spanish) Wallerstein argues that the Empire of Chaos simply can’t accept its geopolitical decadence – and that’s why it has become so dangerous. Restoring its hegemony in the world-system has become the supreme obsession; and that’s where the whole “policy” that is an essential background to the MH17 tragedy reveals Ukraine as the definitive do or die battleground. In Europe, everything hinges on Germany. Especially after the National Security Agency scandal and its ramifications, the key debate raging in Berlin is how to position itself geopolitically bypassing the US. And the answer, as pressed by large swathes of German big business, lies in a strategic partnership with Russia. - Pepe Escobar reporting

China blasts “one-sided Western rush to judge Russia” over MH17
Tyler Durden Zero Hedge USA July 21, 2014

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The West has successfully put itself in a position to dictate ‘political correctness’ in international discourse,” China exclaims via a Global Times editorial on MH17 on Monday, “those unwilling to work with Western interests will often find themselves in a tough position.” China’s first public statement that “The Western rush to judge Russia is not based on evidence or logic,” comes on the heels of Vladimir Putin’s address last night jabbing the West “no one should not have the right to use this tragedy to achieve selfish political objectives.” China appears to have crossed the line, siding very clearly with Russia as they conclude, “It is yet another example of the power of Western opinion as a political tool.”

China may soon have to reconcile this foreign-policy quandary. “It will bring about a severe challenge to China’s general strategy and diplomacy if America and Europe propose sanctions against Russia and demand China should join with them,” wrote Chinese security analyst Gao Feng in a widely disseminated blog post. “For China, the issue is which side it should choose. Without doubt, an ambiguous stance [by Beijing] will face criticism and moral pressure.”

Below: No credible version of events points to the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine as intentional mass murder or terrorism, and with international experts now getting access to the black box, there seems to be little the Atlanticist Brigade can use to point the finger at Moscow. Still, expect sanctions on Russia to follow, and for the reverberations to reach east all the way to China. Peter Lee writes on East and South Asian affairs and their intersection with US foreign policy.

The charge of the Atlanticist Brigade
Peter Lee Asia Times Online Hong Kong July 22, 2014

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The bloody farce in the Ukraine took another ugly turn with the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

And to be ugly about it, if the rebels shot the plane down, it shouldn’t matter very much except as a horrible and unexpected catastrophe in a war zone and an overwhelming tragedy to the survivors of the victims on board. Call it an accident, collateral damage, manslaughter, there is no credible version of events in which it was intentional mass murder or terrorism, either by the rebels or Russian technicians that, according to the Ukrainian government, possessed the ability to operate the elderly but complex anti-aircraft systems fingered in the attack.

Recall the US shootdown of Iran Air Flight 655 in 1988 by the USS Vincennes. It was also an ugly business. The Iran Air jet was on a standard civilian flight path with its transponders on; the Vincennes through some bit of naval derring-do had actually intruded into Iranian territorial waters when it shot the plane down (something that was only admitted by the US three years later); 290 people died. The US never apologized, but eventually paid out some money to smooth things over, not in a particularly classy way, according to a 2002 account:

The US had compensated non-Iranian victims about US$2.9 million (not acknowledging any responsibility) but nothing to Iranian family members. In 1996, a $131.8 million settlement was reached that included the ignored families ($61.8 million). Seventy million was to be put into bank accounts and used to “pay off private US claims against Iran and Iran’s expenses for the Iran-US Claims Tribunal, which is handling the claims.” The US stated it was for claims “involving banking matters, not the airliner,” while Iran said that 30 million was for the plane.

The shootdown was accompanied by the usual quotient of dishonest denial and blame shifting. …

The Iran Air shootdown was classified as a goof – although the Iranians declared it rose to the level of criminal misconduct (and have been accused of engineering the Lockerbie bombing as retaliation) – and the captain of the Vincennes was condemned by his fellow officers as a reckless dingbat….

Captain Rogers was not officially censured for the shootdown; instead, two years later he was awarded the Legion of Merit for his services while captain of the Vincennes and soon after retired.

There you have it.

So, by the ordinary standards of murderous military ineptitude, the fallout from the MH17 tragedy would be disorganization and denial, an exhaustive and time-consuming investigation, a belated acknowledgment of responsibility, no legal consequences, and the application of some financial emollient eight or so years down the road.

This is obviously Putin’s goal, whether or not rebel forces were complicit (which I should say is not yet a slam dunk, despite the declarations of the US government), an objective which the US and many of its allies are determined to deny him.

There have been several attempts to frame the accidental shootdown as an episode of Putin barbarism that places him and his government beyond the civilized pale and in the fatal zone of illegitimate pariah state upon whom demands can be made, and whose calls for due process can be swept aside, and fair game for whatever principled skullduggery the democratic powers can concoct.

My sense of the situation, especially from the Asian perspective, is that the US is in danger of overplaying its hand, indeed that it has a bad case of tunnel vision in which it is fixated on the goal of sticking it to Putin at the expense of US global interests.

With its almost comical insistence that “the world” is uniting against Russia (which only counts if “the world” is defined as the Atlantic democracies and their close allies and China, India, et al are excluded) and, even more damagingly, the US insistence on peddling the Russia = the world’s greatest monster story even as the United States condones the catastrophic and much more bloody Israel incursion into Gaza, the US is accelerating the natural trend toward disintermediation of America in significant chunks of the global diplomatic and economic system.

The PRC occasionally comes in for mockery for its alleged hubris in wishing to elevate the yuan to the status of an international currency. However, I don’t think the PRC’s near term objective, or even desire, is to assume the glorious but extremely onerous burden of displacing the US dollar as the international reserve currency.

Instead, I think there are tactical as well as strategic forces in play, inspired in part by Russia’s sanctions miseries as well as the PRC’s own experiences with covert as well as overt US financial sanctions relating to China’s Iran and North Korea transactions, which date back to the George W Bush years. The PRC approach reflects the difficulty of sustaining strict capital controls on a national currency when China’s economy is increasingly open to the world; and the risk that a more freely trading Chinese currency can bring to the PRC in its current competition and incipient clash with the United States.

So one consequence of the singleminded US campaign against Russia is that it is being driven into the arms of the PRC; another is that the PRC is making its ability to resist sanctions a national priority. The US Atlanticists may succeed in either subduing Russia to Western tutelage or simply expelling it from the European sphere; but what about the Pacific?

Below: The MH17 tragedy may have been a horrendous mistake, but it may also have been a desperate gambit by the Kiev minions of the Empire of Chaos. Washington has been quick off the blocks to ignite and in theory win the spin war to persuade the world that Russia’s hand was wittingly or otherwise behind the downing of the civilian aircraft. Moscow, more rationally, is seeking the facts first, before pointing fingers of blame.

A chessboard drenched in blood
Pepe Escobar Asia Times Online Hong Kong July 23, 2014

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“The intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” Everyone remembers the Downing Street Memo, which unveiled the Bush/Blair “policy” in the run-up to the 2003 bombing/invasion/occupation of Iraq. The “policy” was to get rid of Saddam Hussein via a lightning war. The justification was “terrorism” and (non-existent) weapons of mass destruction (WMD), which had “disappeared”, mounted in trucks, deep into Syria. Forget about intelligence and facts.

The tragedy of MH17 – turned, incidentally, into a WMD – might be seen as a warped rerun of imperial policy in Iraq. No need for a memo this time. The “policy” of the Empire of Chaos is clear, and multi-pronged; diversify the “pivot to Asia” by establishing a beachhead in Ukraine to sabotage trade between Europe and Russia; expand the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to Ukraine; break the Russia-China strategic partnership; prevent by all means the trade/economic integration of Eurasia, from the Russia-Germany partnership to the New Silk Roads converging from China to the Ruhr; keep Europe under US hegemony.

The key reason why Russian President Vladimir Putin did not “invade” Eastern Ukraine – as much as he’s been enticed to by Washington/NATO – to stop a US military adviser-facilitated running slaughter of civilians is that he does not want to antagonize the European Union, Russia’s top trading partner.

Crucially, Washington’s intervention in Kosovo invoking R2P – Responsibility to Protect – was justified at the time for exactly the same reasons a Russian intervention in Donetsk and Luhansk could be totally justified now. Except that Moscow won’t do it – because the Kremlin is playing a very long game.

The MH17 tragedy may have been a horrendous mistake. But it may also have been a desperate gambit by the Kiev minions of the Empire of Chaos. By now, Russian intel may have already mastered the key facts. Washington’s predictable modus operandi was to shoot from the hip, igniting and in theory winning the spin war, and doubling down by releasing the proverbial army of “top officials” brimming with social media evidence. Moscow will take time to build a meticulous case, and only then lay it out in detail.

As much as Bashar al-Assad in Syria had absolutely no motive to “gas his own people” – as the hysterical narrative went at the time – the Eastern Ukraine federalists have no motive to down a civilian airliner. And as much as Washington doesn’t give a damn about the current civilian slaughter in Gaza, it doesn’t give a damn about the MH17 civilian deaths; the one and only obsession is to force Europeans to sanction Russia to death. Translation: break up Europe-Russia commercial and geopolitical integration.

One week before the MH17 tragedy, the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies was already sounding the alarm concerning the Empire of Chaos’s “policy” and its refusal to “adhere to the principles and norms of international law and the rules and spirit of the existing system of international relations”.

Moscow, in building its case on the MH17 tragedy, will bide its time to debunk Kiev’s claims and maximize its own credibility. The game now moves to the black boxes and the cockpit voice recorder. Still Ukraine will remain the do or die battlefield – a chessboard drenched in blood.

Below: A tale of three aircraft tragedies. Author Brian Cloughley lives in Voutenay sur Cure, France.

Russia bashing: Hatred, hysteria and humbug
Brian Cloughley CounterPunch USA July 25-27, 2014

“A civilian jet airliner shot down by US Navy surface to air missiles on 3 July 1988 as it flew over the Strait of Hormuz at the end of the Iran–Iraq War. The aircraft, an Airbus A300B2-203 operated by Iran Air, was flying from Bandar Abbas, Iran, to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. While flying in Iranian airspace over Iran’s territorial waters in the Persian Gulf on its usual flight path, it was destroyed by the guided missile cruiser USS Vincennes. All 290 on board, including 66 children and 16 crew, perished.”

The captain of the ship that killed 290 innocent people was given a high military decoration by the United States of America “for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service” during his period in command.

The following report about Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 sums up the attitude of the great majority of the west’s media and political administrations to the disaster in Ukraine. It is from a British newspaper that I used to respect, the Independent, which announced that “The 192 bodies found after the Flight MH17 plane crash have been bundled into black body bags and unceremoniously loaded into large refrigerated train cars, bound, it is understood, for the rebel heartland.” The paper didn’t have a reporter anywhere near the place, and shifted its shaky ground a bit when stating that “the bodies were reportedly moved by Ukraine’s emergency services who were working for the rebels under duress on Sunday.” It had to inject that “under duress” bit, but couldn’t avoid admitting that experts from official Ukrainian emergency services were involved.

If the bodies had been dealt with in the way the Independent claimed then of course there would be reason for disgust and condemnation. But it didn’t happen that way. The bodies were not “bundled” into body bags, nor were they “unceremoniously” loaded into the refrigerated wagons. But lots of media outlets followed the same propaganda line. The UK Daily Mail, which is admittedly a joke of a newspaper, screamed that “pro-Russian rebels left the victims’ bodies to decay for several days in body bags dumped around the crash site before eventually allowing them to be taken by train to Kharkiv airport.” Absolute rubbish.

According to Euronews, to which (with Al Jazeera, AFP, AP, Reuters and the BBC) I increasingly have recourse in order to obtain unbiased accounts of world affairs, it wasn’t like that at all. It reported that “the Ukrainian government announced that it had reached an agreement on the removal of bodies with representatives of the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk, the pro-Russian rebels who control the territory around the crash site” and that “International observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) inspected the train before it departed. The train was made up of refrigerated wagons to preserve the remains of the victims.” The BBC recorded that “the remains . . . have been loaded on to refrigerated rail wagons,” and that “Dutch experts examined some of the 196 bodies kept in refrigerator wagons in Torez, some 15 km away from the crash site. ‘I think the storage of the bodies is of good quality,’ team leader Peter van Leit said after the inspection.” There was no drama about these reports — because there was no drama.

But it’s essential for the US-dominated west to manufacture anti-Russian fantasies, and the Independent (and other hate-Putin fraternities) recounted that there were “reports from the crash site of the rebels blocking investigations and even allowing the bodies to be looted.” There were no verified first-hand reports of any such thing, of course, but then there was a bit of embarrassment when a western reporter at the crash site, a particularly nauseating little fragment of filth called Colin Brazier, of Rupert Murdoch’s Sky News, was shown on camera removing personal items from the luggage of a dead passenger. (Why does Murdoch come in to almost everything that is slimy and disgusting?)

The ghoulish manufactured reportage about the aircraft’s flight recorders was another example of western media hysteria. The headlines fairly shrieked propaganda nonsense such as “Flight’s Black Box ‘Found and En Route’ to Moscow for Investigation.” But of course the two recorders were not on the way to Russia. They were found and handed over to officials of Malaysia Airlines, as was right and proper. No western reporter checked out the original story in spite of its being denied by the Russian government. Why should they? — They had got the headlines, and people believed their lies. The rebels handed over the recorders to Malaysia Airlines simply because they didn’t trust the Ukrainians not to interfere with them. But this wasn’t the sort of news that is acceptable to Russia-bashers.

There was even more hysteria whipped up by the media which shrieked that it had taken far too long to collect the bodies — four days — and that this was absolutely scandalous. Does anyone remember the bombing of Pan American Airways flight 103 in 1988? The plane exploded and fell out of the sky onto Lockerbie in southern Scotland, killing 259 people. As the Guardian newspaper later reported “Search teams would comb through much of the 2,190 square kilometres of the county with the help of helicopters, airplanes and even spy satellites. But they would be unable to locate the bodies of seven of the passengers, as well as about 10 per cent of the plane. And in some cases they may have arrived too late: 10 years after the catastrophe, the chief pathologist reported that two of the passengers had suffered serious but not fatal wounds. Possibly they froze to death on the ground before the search teams found them in a forest four days later.” Four days later. There was no media frenzy about that four day gap. Why was there media mania about the four days taken to find the MH17 bodies? — Because there is a well-orchestrated campaign of vindictive anti-Russian propaganda.

Why should we believe John Kerry’s rabble-rousing proclamations about anything to do with the stricken MH17? Where is his proof?

Sure, many of the separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine are vicious horrible people. Their cause might be reasonable but some of their actions are barbaric. Many are former members of the Ukraine army. They are the Taliban of Ukraine’s tribal areas. But their political leader Alexander Borodai said they had moved the bodies “out of respect for the families” because “we couldn’t wait any longer because of the heat and also because there are many dogs and wild animals in the zone.” That is an entirely practical reason, and would any of the ignorant and spiteful western critics have acted differently in such circumstances?

Borodai denies that the rebels shot down the Malaysia Airlines flight, but of course he would, wouldn’t he? Just as the government of Ukraine denies having done it.

There was no attempt to find bodies after Iran Air 655 smashed into the waters of the Persian Gulf. There were no toothbrushes to be brandished by the squalid morbid media — and nor was there an independent inquiry. The captain of the ship that killed 290 innocent people was given a high military decoration by the United States of America “for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service” during his period in command.

It’s OK for the US to shoot down an Iranian airliner and kill 290 people — there’s never been an apology to the Iranian people for that war crime — but when there’s an opportunity to claim, to shriek, to propagandise at cyclone-level, that a disaster has occurred in which there just might be the tiniest chance to blame Russia, then there is clamour for investigation.

Of course there must be an investigation. And let it take into account exactly where Washington stood in regard to the first rebellion in Ukraine, against the elected government, and precisely what it did to foment it. Let the whole gutter-gobbing sleazy tale be told. Let the culprits who killed the 298 innocent people on board MH17 be brought to justice. But without anti-Russian hysteria. Or western humbug. The hatred, of course, will remain.

Posted at: July 25, 2014 - 2:53 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post