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30.03.2018 Pressenza London

Change Is coming… and not through the barrel of our guns
Tears roll down the face of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Emma Gonzalez as she observes 6 minutes and 20 seconds of silence while addressing the March for Our Lives rally on March 24, 2018 in Washington, DC. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators, including students, teachers and parents gathered in Washington for the anti-gun violence rally organized by survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on February 14 that left 17 dead. More than 800 related events are taking place around the world to call for legislative action to address school safety and gun violence.

The uncontained force behind the national murder rate is dehumanization, and as this movement grows, it must — it will — look institutional dehumanization straight in the eye.

30.03.2018 – Curitiba, Brazil Foro de Comunicación para la Integracion de NuestrAmérica (FCINA)

This post is also available in: Spanish

We shall not stay silent! The Communication Forum for the Integration of Our America condemns the attack against Lula

The Communication Forum for the Integration of Our America expresses its strongest repudiation of the attack suffered by the Caravan of former President Lula as it passed through the state of Paraná in Brazil.

This armed aggression is a direct consequence of the climate of violence and hatred installed by the distorted and permanent propaganda of concentrated groups of communication such as the Globo Organizations. It is also a prolongation of the growing militarization that Michel Temer’s illegitimate government wants to impose in order to silence all social demands in the face of its anti-popular programme of adjustment.

At the same time, it is a new attempt to remove from the electoral contest the candidate with the greatest intention of voting ahead of the presidential elections that should be held this year. The goal of the de facto government is to perpetuate itself in power and for that it needs to outlaw Lula, these attacks seek to prepare the ground for that, even at the expense of making evident at international level the lack of limits into which the usurping government of Michel Temer has fallen and especially the more radicalized fractions of the right that support it.

Among other issues, this situation also highlights the conflict between the struggle to achieve the redistribution of land through an integral agrarian reform in opposition to the interests of large landowners, who finance and arm groups to attack social leaders. Conflict in which the de facto government has taken a clear party in favour of the ruralists, promoting the criminalization of peasant organizations.

We are before a new sample of the generalized decomposition of Democracy in Latin America, which must be denounced outright by all citizens.

We also warned about the legitimacy that the conservative and neoliberal governments intend to give to the judicial persecution and political proscription of progressive candidates in the name of a supposed anti-corruption crusade, corruption of which they  are the main actors and representatives along with the companies that originate it.

The communication networks, media and social movements grouped in the Communication Forum for the Integration of Our America express our full solidarity to the colleague  Luiz Inácio “Lula” Da Silva, the companions of his caravan, those involved in the struggle  and all the Brazilian people in this juncture of social regression Brazil is going through.

We shall not stay silent!

COMMUNICATION FORUM FOR THE INTEGRATION OF OUR AMERICAS

28.03.2018 Pressenza London

The March for Our Lives in Pictures: demonstrators mourn those lost to gun violence and condemn complicit politicians

Who here is going to vote in the 2018 election? If you listen real close, you can hear the people in power shaking.”

by Julia Conley, staff writer for Common Dreams (watch the videos here)

Taking the stage on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, high school student David Hogg offered hundreds of thousands of audience members a visual representation of his reasons for helping to organize the March for Our Lives, a worldwide gun control advocacy demonstration.

“I’m going to start off by putting this price tag right here as a reminder for you guys to know how much Marco Rubio took for every student’s life in Florida,” Hogg said, placing a price tag reading “$1.05” on the podium.

SSen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has received $3,303,355 from the National Rifle Association (NRA). Because the #NeverAgain movement has found that there are 3,140,167 children enrolled in Florida’s schools, Hogg reasoned, each child’s life is worth approximately one dollar to the senator.

When politicians say that your voice doesn’t matter because the NRA owns them, we say: No more. When politicians send their thoughts and prayers with no action, we say: No more. And to those politicians supported by the NRA, that allow the continued slaughter of our children and our future, I say: Get your résumés ready,” said Hogg.

The student was one of several speakers at the march from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where 14 of Hogg’s classmates and three staff members were killed in a mass shooting on February 14.

After reading the names of the victims, Emma Gonzalez, who has been a prominent voice in the school community’s calls for common-sense gun control reforms in recent weeks, stood silently for six minutes and 20 seconds to signify the amount of time it took for a gunman with an AR-15 to kill the 17 people.

 

 

 

Prior to the students’ speeches, hundreds of thousands of Americans marched through the city, many carrying signs reading “Never Again” and chanting “Enough is enough!”

By 1:00pm in Washington, more than 207,000 people had ridden the city’s Metro—more than three times the average number of Saturday riders.

“Sibling marches” both large and small took place in cities across the country.

 

On every continent except Antarctica, supporters—many from countries that have had strict regulations on gun ownership for decades—staged protests in solidarity with American students.

 

In Washington, D.C., Hogg alluded to the fact, often-repeated by the #NeverAgain movement, that many of the students who survived the Parkland shooting will be voting for the first time in the 2018 or 2020 elections.

“Who here is going to vote in the 2018 election?” he asked the crowd. “If you listen real close, you can hear the people in power shaking.”

 

28.03.2018 – New York, USA Tony Robinson

Venezuela becomes 7th country to ban nuclear weapons
(Image by Venezuelan Ministry of Communication)

Following last week’s announcement from Palestine, Venezuela this week joined six other ratifying countries in formally endorsing the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

A statement released by the Venezuelan Ministry of Communication said, “On Tuesday, the Permanent Representative of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the United Nations, Samuel Moncada, presented the instrument of ratification of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons to the UN Office of Legal Affairs, signed by the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro Moros.”

Noting that the TPNW is the biggest development in recent decades in matters of disarmament with direct implications for the maintenance of global peace and security, Ambassador Moncada said, “For our country, the threat of use or the use of nuclear weapons is unjustifiable, illegal and immoral. We therefore believe that the use of nuclear weapons represents a flagrant violation of international law and international humanitarian law, which in turn constitutes a war crime, in accordance with the provisions of the Rome Statute.”

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was negotiated at the UN in New York in 2017 and approved on the 7th of July by 122 countries.  The treaty enters into force when the 50th country delivers its instrument of ratification to the UN Office of Legal Affairs.  So far no nuclear weapon state has shown any signs of supporting the treaty, but some impact is already being felt in the financing of nuclear weapons as evidenced by the latest Don’t Bank on the Bomb report which shows that financial institutions investing in nuclear weapon producers have dropped by 10%.

Venezuela becomes the fourth country in Latin America and the Caribbean to ratify the treaty after Guyana, Mexico and Cuba.  A full list is available on the ICAN website here.

21.03.2018 Redazione Italia

How They Sold the Iraq War
(Image by Pinterest)

The war on Iraq was a propaganda war where loaded phrases, such as “weapons of mass destruction” and “rogue state” were hurled like precision weapons at the target audience: us. Blair paid a price for his grandiose puffery. Bush has skated freely through the tempest. Why?

By Jeffrey St. Clair. First published on Counterpunch, 20/03/2018

 

The war on Iraq won’t be remembered for how it was waged so much as for how it was sold. It was a propaganda war, a war of perception management, where loaded phrases, such as “weapons of mass destruction” and “rogue state” were hurled like precision weapons at the target audience: us.
To understand the Iraq war you don’t need to consult generals, but the spin doctors and PR flacks who stage-managed the countdown to war from the murky corridors of Washington where politics, corporate spin and psy-ops spooks cohabit.

Consider the picaresque journey of Tony Blair’s plagiarized dossier on Iraq, from a grad student’s website to a cut-and-paste job in the prime minister’s bombastic speech to the House of Commons. Blair, stubborn and verbose, paid a price for his grandiose puffery. Bush, who looted whole passages from Blair’s speech for his own clumsy presentations, has skated freely through the tempest. Why?
Unlike Blair, the Bush team never wanted to present a legal case for war. They had no interest in making any of their allegations about Iraq hold up to a standard of proof. The real effort was aimed at amping up the mood for war by using the psychology of fear.

Facts were never important to the Bush team. They were disposable nuggets that could be discarded at will and replaced by whatever new rationale that played favorably with their polls and focus groups. The war was about weapons of mass destruction one week, al-Qaeda the next. When neither allegation could be substantiated on the ground, the fall back position became the mass graves (many from the Iran/Iraq war where the U.S.A. backed Iraq) proving that Saddam was an evil thug who deserved to be toppled. The motto of the Bush PR machine was: Move on. Don’t explain. Say anything to conceal the perfidy behind the real motives for war. Never look back. Accuse the questioners of harboring unpatriotic sensibilities. Eventually, even the cagey Wolfowitz admitted that the official case for war was made mainly to make the invasion palatable, not to justify it.

The Bush claque of neocon hawks viewed the Iraq war as a product and, just like a new pair of Nikes, it required a roll-out campaign to soften up the consumers. The same techniques (and often the same PR gurus) that have been used to hawk cigarettes, SUVs and nuclear waste dumps were deployed to retail the Iraq war. To peddle the invasion, Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell and company recruited public relations gurus into top-level jobs at the Pentagon and the State Department. These spinmeisters soon had more say over how the rationale for war on Iraq should be presented than intelligence agencies and career diplomats. If the intelligence didn’t fit the script, it was shaded, retooled or junked.

According to the trade publication PR Week, the Rumsfeld Group sent “messaging advice” to the Pentagon. The group told Clarke and Rumsfeld that in order to get the American public to buy into the war on terrorism, they needed to suggest a link to nation states, not just nebulous groups such as al-Qaeda. In other words, there needed to be a fixed target for the military campaigns, some distant place to drop cruise missiles and cluster bombs. They suggested the notion (already embedded in Rumsfeld’s mind) of playing up the notion of so-called rogue states as the real masters of terrorism. Thus was born the Axis of Evil, which, of course, wasn’t an “axis” at all, since two of the states, Iran and Iraq, hated each other, and neither had anything at all to do with the third, North Korea.

Tens of millions in federal money were poured into private public relations and media firms working to craft and broadcast the Bush dictat that Saddam had to be taken out before the Iraqi dictator blew up the world by dropping chemical and nuclear bombs from long-range drones. Many of these PR executives and image consultants were old friends of the high priests in the Bush inner sanctum. Indeed, they were veterans, like Cheney and Powell, of the previous war against Iraq, another engagement that was more spin than combat .

At a diplomatic level, despite the hired guns and the planted stories, this image war was lost. It failed to convince even America’s most fervent allies and dependent client states that Iraq posed much of a threat. It failed to win the blessing of the U.N. and even NATO, a wholly owned subsidiary of Washington. At the end of the day, the vaunted coalition of the willing consisted of Britain, Spain, Italy, Australia, and a cohort of former Soviet bloc nations. Even so, the citizens of the nations that cast their lot with the U.S.A. overwhelmingly opposed the war.

Domestically, it was a different story. A population traumatized by terror threats and shattered economy became easy prey for the saturation bombing of the Bush message that Iraq was a terrorist state linked to al-Qaeda that was only minutes away from launching attacks on America with weapons of mass destruction.
Americans were the victims of an elaborate con job, pelted with a daily barrage of threat inflation, distortions, deceptions and lies, not about tactics or strategy or war plans, but about justifications for war. The lies were aimed not at confusing Saddam’s regime, but the American people. By the start of the war, 66 per cent of Americans thought Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11 and 79 per cent thought he was close to having a nuclear weapon.

Of course, the closest Saddam came to possessing a nuke was a rusting gas centrifuge buried for 13 years in the garden of Mahdi Obeidi, a retired Iraqi scientist. Iraq didn’t have any functional chemical or biological weapons. In fact, it didn’t even possess any SCUD missiles, despite erroneous reports fed by Pentagon PR flacks alleging that it had fired SCUDs into Kuwait.

This charade wouldn’t have worked without a gullible or a complicit press corps. Victoria Clarke, who developed the Pentagon plan for embedded reports, put it succinctly a few weeks before the war began: “Media coverage of any future operation will to a large extent shape public perception.”

“A lot of our imagery will have a big impact on world opinion,” predicted Lt. Jane Larogue, director of Combat Camera in Iraq. She was right. But as the hot war turned into an even hotter occupation, the Pentagon, despite airy rhetoric from occupation supremo Paul Bremer about installing democratic institutions such as a free press, moved to tighten its monopoly on the flow images out of Iraq. First, it tried to shut down Al Jazeera, the Arab news channel. Then the Pentagon intimated that it would like to see all foreign TV news crews banished from Baghdad.

Few newspapers fanned the hysteria about the threat posed by Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction as sedulously as did the Washington Post. In the months leading up to the war, the Post’s pro-war op-eds outnumbered the anti-war columns by a 3-to-1 margin.

Back in 1988, the Post felt much differently about Saddam and his weapons of mass destruction. When reports trickled out about the gassing of Iranian troops, the Washington Post’s editorial page shrugged off the massacres, calling the mass poisonings “a quirk of war.”

The Bush team displayed a similar amnesia. When Iraq used chemical weapons in grisly attacks on Iran, the U.S. government not only didn’t object, it encouraged Saddam. Anything to punish Iran was the message coming from the White House. Donald Rumsfeld himself was sent as President Ronald Reagan’s personal envoy to Baghdad. Rumsfeld conveyed the bold message than an Iraq defeat would be viewed as a “strategic setback for the United States.” This sleazy alliance was sealed with a handshake caught on videotape. When CNN reporter Jamie McIntyre replayed the footage for Rumsfeld in the spring of 2003, the secretary of defense snapped, “Where’d you get that? Iraqi television?”

The current crop of Iraq hawks also saw Saddam much differently then. Take the writer Laura Mylroie, sometime colleague of the New York Times’ Judy Miller, who persists in peddling the ludicrous conspiracy that Iraq was behind the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

How times have changed! In 1987, Mylroie felt downright cuddly toward Saddam. She wrote an article for the New Republic titled “Back Iraq: Time for a U.S. Tilt in the Mideast,” arguing that the U.S. should publicly embrace Saddam’s secular regime as a bulwark against the Islamic fundamentalists in Iran. The co-author of this mesmerizing weave of wonkery was none other than Daniel Pipes, perhaps the nation’s most bellicose Islamophobe. “The American weapons that Iraq could make good use of include remotely scatterable and anti-personnel mines and counterartillery radar,” wrote Mylroie and Pipes. “The United States might also consider upgrading intelligence it is supplying Baghdad.”

In the rollout for the war, Mylroie seemed to be everywhere hawking the invasion of Iraq. She would often appear on two or three different networks in the same day. How did the reporter manage this feat? She had help in the form of Eleana Benador, the media placement guru who runs Benador Associates. Born in Peru, Benador parlayed her skills as a linguist into a lucrative career as media relations whiz for the Washington foreign policy elite. She also oversees the Middle East Forum, a fanatically pro-Zionist white paper mill. Her clients include some of the nation’s most fervid hawks, including Michael Ledeen, Charles Krauthammer, Al Haig, Max Boot, Daniel Pipes, Richard Perle, and Judy Miller. During the Iraq war, Benador’s assignment was to embed this squadron of pro-war zealots into the national media, on talk shows, and op-ed pages.

Benador not only got them the gigs, she also crafted the theme and made sure they all stayed on message. “There are some things, you just have to state them in a different way, in a slightly different way,” said Benador. “If not, people get scared.” Scared of intentions of their own government.

It could have been different. All of the holes in the Bush administration’s gossamer case for war were right there for the mainstream press to expose. Instead, the U.S. press, just like the oil companies, sought to commercialize the Iraq war and profit from the invasions. They didn’t want to deal with uncomfortable facts or present voices of dissent.

Nothing sums up this unctuous approach more brazenly than MSNBC’s firing of liberal talk show host Phil Donahue on the eve of the war. The network replaced the Donahue Show with a running segment called Countdown: Iraq, featuring the usual nightly coterie of retired generals, security flacks, and other cheerleaders for invasion. The network’s executives blamed the cancellation on sagging ratings. In fact, during its run Donahue’s show attracted more viewers than any other program on the network. The real reason for the pre-emptive strike on Donahue was spelled out in an internal memo from anxious executives at NBC. Donahue, the memo said, offered “a difficult face for NBC in a time of war. He seems to delight in presenting guests who are anti-war, anti-Bush and skeptical of the administration’s motives.”

The memo warned that Donahue’s show risked tarring MSNBC as an unpatriotic network, “a home for liberal anti-war agenda at the same time that our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity.” So, with scarcely a second thought, the honchos at MSNBC gave Donahue the boot and hoisted the battle flag.

It’s war that sells.

There’s a helluva caveat, of course. Once you buy it, the merchants of war accept no returns.

 

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His new book is Bernie and the Sandernistas: Field Notes From a Failed Revolution.

 

20.03.2018 Countercurrents

00:00:10 Seconds To Midnight

By Jim Miles

I have lived my whole life under the notifications of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and their Doomsday Clock. It is currently set a two minutes to midnight after many years of variance, some as far away as seventeen minutes. After reading Daniel Ellsberg’s The Doomsday Machine, it would probably be more appropriate to move it forward to ten seconds before midnight. A combination of two main factors – global climate change and nuclear weapons launch on warning risks – puts not only humanity but virtually all species under threat of extinction.

Admittedly it is just a metaphor. Obviously if you are reading this at least a several midnight’s worth of ten seconds has gone by without destruction. In consideration of global climate change however it is already past midnight for those killed by the various episodes of storms, droughts, floods, and food shortages accompanying this phenomenon. While global warming is assured by humanities output of carbon dioxide, the chance that some form of humanity will survive into another era does exist.

That chance drops to zero for nuclear war. Unlike global warming, nuclear war for most people, safely cocooned within their fuzzy entertainment distractions and/or the toil of daily life, has no daily impact or reminders. Arguably the vast majority of humanity does not truly understand the ultimate impact of a war anywhere going nuclear, a frame of mind the established powers in the west are quite content to see continue.

Turnabout, the same applies to global climate change. The more distraction and obfuscation and dissimulation (lying, concealing, ignoring) on climate change, the better it is for the corporate-military sector to continue on its wealth harvesting ways. These events will have smaller effects on my lifetime, with increasing problems for all successive generations, a slow turning up of the heat so that every new generation sees it as the new normal. That is, unless somewhere along the line, sooner or later, a tipping point is reached that flips what we now consider a rather benign climate into a threat to most of humanity.

The two are seriously linked together.

Climate change increases the chance of strife between different groups, of mass migrations, mass starvations, devastation of the resources that mankind needs to survive on. With the loss of oxygen producing capabilities and the toxic factor of too much carbon dioxide survival will be difficult. It could result in more wars, arguably already having an influence especially in the Middle East and the Sahel, more wars leading to the possibility of more aggressive wars pitting nuclear nations against other nations nuclear or not.

Nuclear war’s factors for the survival of humanity include the obvious initial destruction, the secondary and lingering radiation effects, and the predicted nuclear winter. This does not include the inevitable melt down of the four hundred plus nuclear plants scattered around the world, four hundred possible Chernobyls, Three Mile Islands and Fukishimas. War planning is such that the U.S. has first strike options ready ‘on the table’, at the same time that Russia has signalled that it has a new generation of both offensive and defensive weapons – created mostly after the U.S.’ abrogation of the 1972 Anti-ballistic missile treaty. China is calculated into U.S. plans, somewhat casually as China is unrealistically still considered to be much less advanced technologically. Initially U.S. war planners understood that hundreds of millions could die in a nuclear war without knowing about the consequences of nuclear winter. Once the latter idea was discussed and considered almost inevitable after such a war, that toll rises to include most of life on earth. Nuclear winter is global climate change writ large and sudden across the face of the earth.

Geopolitics dooms us….?

The dominant factor in all this is the U.S. geopolitical view of global domination – hegemony – under the guise of a neoliberal economic outlook and a neoconservative political perspective. It is a society based on consumer consumption promoted through a lifetime of advertising propaganda in the material sense, the pretentious and unrealistic “rugged individualism” of Reagan and Rand, and in the emotive ideas of being the world’s indispensable nation. To support the material side, the corporate world – ranging from the military industries, the financial corporations, through the large media outlets – supports the ongoing wars and subversions around the world in order to harvest the resources and use the cheap labour required to keep the domestic economy going.

This is aided and abetted by their many sycophantic allies. Europe has essentially been occupied and subordinated since WW II, for sure after NATO was created and even more so with its eastward expansion. Canada is essentially the 51st state of the union. Australia copies and parrots the U.S. line especially across south and east Asia. Japan and South Korea are similar to the European countries having been rebuilt through autocratic dictatorship or subordinate business class governments, along with large remaining contingents of U.S. military personnel. Other countries, many of them theocratic dictatorships (Saudi Arabia and the members of the Gulf Council), have worked out a plan of support with the U.S. in order not to be attacked as others who have rejected U.S. dominance have suffered subversion and direct attack (Iraq, Libya, and Syria as prime examples).

The U.S. is not immune to certain forms of blowback. Israel is the tail that frequently wags the U.S. dog and has a powerful lobbying position inside Congress. Similarly the Saudis have a large lobby, looking for means to ensure their security but foremost to ensure the circulation of the dollars they earn. If they needed to, both countries would ditch the dog in order to turn to another benefactor that suits their circumstances and desires.

The dollar dooms us….?

Without the power of the dollar, the U.S. would collapse geopolitically. It is not the fact of the dollar’s ubiquitous use, its power to bribe and coerce, but its use as the global reserve currency. In order to trade globally, the institutions of the Washington consensus (i.e. those institutions supposedly functioning independently around the world – the World Bank, the IMF, the WTO, SWIFT, BIS) have created a financial environment in which the US$ reigns supreme. Only the U.S. can ‘print’ its money, only the U.S. can carry a trade imbalance because of the dollar’s global necessity, and only the U.S. can carry such a whopping debt load without collapsing. Only the U.S. can run such a large military budget (trillions of dollars if all aspects such as the nuclear sites and security measures are added in). All this since the U.S. took itself off the gold standard and its limitations.

The real threat to the dollar would be its lack of use, something Russia has indicated it wishes, but even more strongly China has outright stated that the era of the US$ as the sole global fiat currency is drawing to a close. While China has been noted as a trade competitor/challenger, it is Russia that has become the neocon ‘other’, the country that is to be maligned and discredited regardless of evidence and truths. Russia has large resource wealth, a strong agricultural sector, a renewed manufacturing/technology sector, a relatively stable economy (in spite of sanctions and regardless of U.S. media reports otherwise), and a large nuclear arsenal – and now a tested and experienced military force used in an asymmetric war. Having overcome the depredations of the Yeltsin U.S. shock doctrine era, Russia has rebounded to become once again a major power on the geopolitical stage. Russia and China have been pushed together as a result of U.S. actions threatening both economically and militarily.

Moral and intellectual cretins doom us….?

The philosophical meanderings of geopolitics, its hubris, arrogance, wilful ignorance, combine with the power of the dollar and the power of the military to create our existence on the edge of midnight. What has saved us in the past has been the few individuals with enough intelligence and enough moral certitude while being in the right place at the right time that has prevented any nuclear catastrophe to date. Those kind of people are few and far between in the political military mindset of western leaders as it is almost incumbent upon them to at best be unable to think critically and morally. The vetting process through the western ‘democratic’ systems ensures that only the mentally damaged, the mentally unstable, those easy for the deep state to manipulate, ever get to be in leadership roles.

It does not matter a whole lot if a Canada’s blowhard government with its sycophantic support of U.S. foreign policy and its carefully crafted Russophobia rising from Chrystia Freeland’s warped mind calls for actions against Russia or China. However the current turnstile residents of Washington’s cuckoo nest – while simply continuing and aggravating all previous U.S. government’s war mongering – should chill anyone to the marrow. As of today, the military is well ensconced in the major positions of unelected power, while the likes of chicken-hawk neocon John Bolton circle around looking for carrion.

Trump himself is an arrogant, narcissistic, ignorant and readily manipulated leader. His unscripted speaking only demonstrates the inability to put coherent thoughts together in order to formulate a plan, at the same time highlighting his lack of any moral sensibilities. Given that, it is the people he has brought into the White House along with those already on the same trajectory as his “fire and fury” comments that are the big concern, the nuclear war concern. I am not sure how they do it, but somehow in their minds a first strike nuclear war is winnable, a small scale tactical nuclear strike is containable, and threats will not create a response.

Solutions and a pessimistic future

The solutions are easy: get rid of nuclear weapons and change our consumptive lifestyles and become highly innovative with energy technology. Simple. Except that the world that wants the simple solution has to deal with the cretins and morons that for whatever reason are able to convince the majority that they should remain in power. Part of that is achieved by providing the warm fuzzy comforts of life as cheaply as possible, blaming others when that cannot be achieved at the personal level, creating the myth of rugged individualism that it is the person’s own fault. and then, ultimately, finding and creating an enemy to redirect that anger and distract the populace from the domestic roots of the problem.

The ‘simple’ solution is blocked by a rather desultory education system, a corporate controlled media, and an ever increasing militarized police state. It is this latter that will prevent change as the current “one percenters” will not relinquish power and control without a fight, a fight that the domestic populations do not seem to have in them, nor is it latently visible. In other words, while the solutions are available to a rationale moral mind, the imperial structure is such that those minds will have little if any effect on outcomes.

The U.S. (thus the ‘western world’) will change only under two related circumstances. First would be the demise of the US$ as global fiat currency. The sudden rush of dollars returning ‘home’ and the unpayable trillions of debt would collapse the economy, and the economies of the rest of the world would suffer significantly – with a caveat that Russia and China already have in place a system of exchange separated from the previously mentioned Washington consensus. Whither then Israel and Saudi Arabia? Europe?

The next consideration then becomes whether the U.S. will go down without initiating a nuclear war and would bring the military home. China and Russia probably prefer this to be a ‘soft’ landing for the U.S. economy, without really disrupting too much of the wealth of the powers that be, allowing them to continue to reside in relative ease over an impoverished third world country and without support for a global military empire. A ‘hard’ landing, a sudden crash of the economy by either a foreseen event (e.g. the coming gold standard oil bourse in China) or some other unforeseen event might trigger a hard response as associated with all U.S. challenges as being wars (on drugs, on crime). The global set of military bases may then be put into action, into global disaster.

Approaching midnight

The world as such, the natural world, does not require that humans exist. That we do is sort of a miracle, developing from the probabilities of all the interactions that have gone before us. If we cease to exist, the planet will circle our star for billions of years without us. Yet somehow, we care. Call it whatever you want, but people strive for life, strive for fulfillment, strive for the most part to pass on a better world to our children and grandchildren. Humanity as a species is a temporary thing, but while we are here, should we not strive to get rid of that which could kill us, to move into that space that our supposedly well developed minds can create such that all of us can co-exist peacefully? It is a thin possibility, becoming thinner as the clock ticks towards midnight.


Jim Miles is a Canadian educator and a regular contributor/columnist of opinion pieces and book reviews for The Palestine Chronicle. Miles’ work is also presented globally through other alternative websites and news publications.

 

20.03.2018 Countercurrents

00:00:10 Seconds To Midnight

By Jim Miles

I have lived my whole life under the notifications of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and their Doomsday Clock. It is currently set a two minutes to midnight after many years of variance, some as far away as seventeen minutes. After reading Daniel Ellsberg’s The Doomsday Machine, it would probably be more appropriate to move it forward to ten seconds before midnight. A combination of two main factors – global climate change and nuclear weapons launch on warning risks – puts not only humanity but virtually all species under threat of extinction.

Admittedly it is just a metaphor. Obviously if you are reading this at least a several midnight’s worth of ten seconds has gone by without destruction. In consideration of global climate change however it is already past midnight for those killed by the various episodes of storms, droughts, floods, and food shortages accompanying this phenomenon. While global warming is assured by humanities output of carbon dioxide, the chance that some form of humanity will survive into another era does exist.

That chance drops to zero for nuclear war. Unlike global warming, nuclear war for most people, safely cocooned within their fuzzy entertainment distractions and/or the toil of daily life, has no daily impact or reminders. Arguably the vast majority of humanity does not truly understand the ultimate impact of a war anywhere going nuclear, a frame of mind the established powers in the west are quite content to see continue.

Turnabout, the same applies to global climate change. The more distraction and obfuscation and dissimulation (lying, concealing, ignoring) on climate change, the better it is for the corporate-military sector to continue on its wealth harvesting ways. These events will have smaller effects on my lifetime, with increasing problems for all successive generations, a slow turning up of the heat so that every new generation sees it as the new normal. That is, unless somewhere along the line, sooner or later, a tipping point is reached that flips what we now consider a rather benign climate into a threat to most of humanity.

The two are seriously linked together.

Climate change increases the chance of strife between different groups, of mass migrations, mass starvations, devastation of the resources that mankind needs to survive on. With the loss of oxygen producing capabilities and the toxic factor of too much carbon dioxide survival will be difficult. It could result in more wars, arguably already having an influence especially in the Middle East and the Sahel, more wars leading to the possibility of more aggressive wars pitting nuclear nations against other nations nuclear or not.

Nuclear war’s factors for the survival of humanity include the obvious initial destruction, the secondary and lingering radiation effects, and the predicted nuclear winter. This does not include the inevitable melt down of the four hundred plus nuclear plants scattered around the world, four hundred possible Chernobyls, Three Mile Islands and Fukishimas. War planning is such that the U.S. has first strike options ready ‘on the table’, at the same time that Russia has signalled that it has a new generation of both offensive and defensive weapons – created mostly after the U.S.’ abrogation of the 1972 Anti-ballistic missile treaty. China is calculated into U.S. plans, somewhat casually as China is unrealistically still considered to be much less advanced technologically. Initially U.S. war planners understood that hundreds of millions could die in a nuclear war without knowing about the consequences of nuclear winter. Once the latter idea was discussed and considered almost inevitable after such a war, that toll rises to include most of life on earth. Nuclear winter is global climate change writ large and sudden across the face of the earth.

Geopolitics dooms us….?

The dominant factor in all this is the U.S. geopolitical view of global domination – hegemony – under the guise of a neoliberal economic outlook and a neoconservative political perspective. It is a society based on consumer consumption promoted through a lifetime of advertising propaganda in the material sense, the pretentious and unrealistic “rugged individualism” of Reagan and Rand, and in the emotive ideas of being the world’s indispensable nation. To support the material side, the corporate world – ranging from the military industries, the financial corporations, through the large media outlets – supports the ongoing wars and subversions around the world in order to harvest the resources and use the cheap labour required to keep the domestic economy going.

This is aided and abetted by their many sycophantic allies. Europe has essentially been occupied and subordinated since WW II, for sure after NATO was created and even more so with its eastward expansion. Canada is essentially the 51st state of the union. Australia copies and parrots the U.S. line especially across south and east Asia. Japan and South Korea are similar to the European countries having been rebuilt through autocratic dictatorship or subordinate business class governments, along with large remaining contingents of U.S. military personnel. Other countries, many of them theocratic dictatorships (Saudi Arabia and the members of the Gulf Council), have worked out a plan of support with the U.S. in order not to be attacked as others who have rejected U.S. dominance have suffered subversion and direct attack (Iraq, Libya, and Syria as prime examples).

The U.S. is not immune to certain forms of blowback. Israel is the tail that frequently wags the U.S. dog and has a powerful lobbying position inside Congress. Similarly the Saudis have a large lobby, looking for means to ensure their security but foremost to ensure the circulation of the dollars they earn. If they needed to, both countries would ditch the dog in order to turn to another benefactor that suits their circumstances and desires.

The dollar dooms us….?

Without the power of the dollar, the U.S. would collapse geopolitically. It is not the fact of the dollar’s ubiquitous use, its power to bribe and coerce, but its use as the global reserve currency. In order to trade globally, the institutions of the Washington consensus (i.e. those institutions supposedly functioning independently around the world – the World Bank, the IMF, the WTO, SWIFT, BIS) have created a financial environment in which the US$ reigns supreme. Only the U.S. can ‘print’ its money, only the U.S. can carry a trade imbalance because of the dollar’s global necessity, and only the U.S. can carry such a whopping debt load without collapsing. Only the U.S. can run such a large military budget (trillions of dollars if all aspects such as the nuclear sites and security measures are added in). All this since the U.S. took itself off the gold standard and its limitations.

The real threat to the dollar would be its lack of use, something Russia has indicated it wishes, but even more strongly China has outright stated that the era of the US$ as the sole global fiat currency is drawing to a close. While China has been noted as a trade competitor/challenger, it is Russia that has become the neocon ‘other’, the country that is to be maligned and discredited regardless of evidence and truths. Russia has large resource wealth, a strong agricultural sector, a renewed manufacturing/technology sector, a relatively stable economy (in spite of sanctions and regardless of U.S. media reports otherwise), and a large nuclear arsenal – and now a tested and experienced military force used in an asymmetric war. Having overcome the depredations of the Yeltsin U.S. shock doctrine era, Russia has rebounded to become once again a major power on the geopolitical stage. Russia and China have been pushed together as a result of U.S. actions threatening both economically and militarily.

Moral and intellectual cretins doom us….?

The philosophical meanderings of geopolitics, its hubris, arrogance, wilful ignorance, combine with the power of the dollar and the power of the military to create our existence on the edge of midnight. What has saved us in the past has been the few individuals with enough intelligence and enough moral certitude while being in the right place at the right time that has prevented any nuclear catastrophe to date. Those kind of people are few and far between in the political military mindset of western leaders as it is almost incumbent upon them to at best be unable to think critically and morally. The vetting process through the western ‘democratic’ systems ensures that only the mentally damaged, the mentally unstable, those easy for the deep state to manipulate, ever get to be in leadership roles.

It does not matter a whole lot if a Canada’s blowhard government with its sycophantic support of U.S. foreign policy and its carefully crafted Russophobia rising from Chrystia Freeland’s warped mind calls for actions against Russia or China. However the current turnstile residents of Washington’s cuckoo nest – while simply continuing and aggravating all previous U.S. government’s war mongering – should chill anyone to the marrow. As of today, the military is well ensconced in the major positions of unelected power, while the likes of chicken-hawk neocon John Bolton circle around looking for carrion.

Trump himself is an arrogant, narcissistic, ignorant and readily manipulated leader. His unscripted speaking only demonstrates the inability to put coherent thoughts together in order to formulate a plan, at the same time highlighting his lack of any moral sensibilities. Given that, it is the people he has brought into the White House along with those already on the same trajectory as his “fire and fury” comments that are the big concern, the nuclear war concern. I am not sure how they do it, but somehow in their minds a first strike nuclear war is winnable, a small scale tactical nuclear strike is containable, and threats will not create a response.

Solutions and a pessimistic future

The solutions are easy: get rid of nuclear weapons and change our consumptive lifestyles and become highly innovative with energy technology. Simple. Except that the world that wants the simple solution has to deal with the cretins and morons that for whatever reason are able to convince the majority that they should remain in power. Part of that is achieved by providing the warm fuzzy comforts of life as cheaply as possible, blaming others when that cannot be achieved at the personal level, creating the myth of rugged individualism that it is the person’s own fault. and then, ultimately, finding and creating an enemy to redirect that anger and distract the populace from the domestic roots of the problem.

The ‘simple’ solution is blocked by a rather desultory education system, a corporate controlled media, and an ever increasing militarized police state. It is this latter that will prevent change as the current “one percenters” will not relinquish power and control without a fight, a fight that the domestic populations do not seem to have in them, nor is it latently visible. In other words, while the solutions are available to a rationale moral mind, the imperial structure is such that those minds will have little if any effect on outcomes.

The U.S. (thus the ‘western world’) will change only under two related circumstances. First would be the demise of the US$ as global fiat currency. The sudden rush of dollars returning ‘home’ and the unpayable trillions of debt would collapse the economy, and the economies of the rest of the world would suffer significantly – with a caveat that Russia and China already have in place a system of exchange separated from the previously mentioned Washington consensus. Whither then Israel and Saudi Arabia? Europe?

The next consideration then becomes whether the U.S. will go down without initiating a nuclear war and would bring the military home. China and Russia probably prefer this to be a ‘soft’ landing for the U.S. economy, without really disrupting too much of the wealth of the powers that be, allowing them to continue to reside in relative ease over an impoverished third world country and without support for a global military empire. A ‘hard’ landing, a sudden crash of the economy by either a foreseen event (e.g. the coming gold standard oil bourse in China) or some other unforeseen event might trigger a hard response as associated with all U.S. challenges as being wars (on drugs, on crime). The global set of military bases may then be put into action, into global disaster.

Approaching midnight

The world as such, the natural world, does not require that humans exist. That we do is sort of a miracle, developing from the probabilities of all the interactions that have gone before us. If we cease to exist, the planet will circle our star for billions of years without us. Yet somehow, we care. Call it whatever you want, but people strive for life, strive for fulfillment, strive for the most part to pass on a better world to our children and grandchildren. Humanity as a species is a temporary thing, but while we are here, should we not strive to get rid of that which could kill us, to move into that space that our supposedly well developed minds can create such that all of us can co-exist peacefully? It is a thin possibility, becoming thinner as the clock ticks towards midnight.


Jim Miles is a Canadian educator and a regular contributor/columnist of opinion pieces and book reviews for The Palestine Chronicle. Miles’ work is also presented globally through other alternative websites and news publications.

 

19.03.2018 – Manila, Philippines Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc. (PMPI)

A Forward Stride Amidst Long Years of Struggle to Defend Island Homes
One of the mined sites in Homonhon Island, Guiuan, Eastern Samar. Photo by Mark Z. Saludes
As the world celebrated International Women’s Day, respondents to a civil case filed by a mining company against the environmental defenders of Canawayon in the island of Homonhon in Eastern Samar and the entire membership of the Homonhon Environmental Rescuers Organization (HERO) celebrate a small triumph as the presiding judge of the Regional Trial Court Branch 3 in Guiuan, Eastern Samar issue an Order of Dismissal.“We are very happy to receive this good news on Women’s Day”, one of the women respondents of the case opined. We feel relieved. The case has caused us psychological and emotional trauma and has burdened us since. God is good. We are thankful that our NGO partners are relentless to provide us the needed help. This is another obstacle off our struggles,” she added.

“We were caught by surprise by the sudden withdrawal of the civil case filed against dissenters of environmental and social injustices in Homonhon Island noting that this is the third case filed against HERO officers and members by MSMEDC. They are too aggressive to put us in jail but just like in the first two cases (Arson and Robbery in Band), they failed,” stated Billy Abueme, President of HERO and one of the respondents in the case. “On one hand, we consider that MSEDC may have come to a realization that environmental and human rights defenders of Homonhon are determined to pursue unconditional justice for the island and its people. That the efforts of these defenders are strengthened by a steady support from HERO’s partner NGOs, CSOs, the Diocese of Borongan, and individual supporters to sufficiently oppose such actions. On the other hand, we never believe that this is an act of goodwill as we see and feel their persistence to further induce lasting sufferings to the people of Brgy. Canawayon and Homonhon Island as a whole,” he added.

It can be recalled that Mt. Sinai Mining Exploration and Development Corporation (MSMEDC) filed a case for Damages with prayer for Temporary Restraining Order against 16 residents of Canawayon who are all members of HERO, allegedly for damages and losses incurred by the company because of their protest actions. The Environmental Law Assistance Center (ELAC) which handled the case for the respondents motioned that it was a Strategic Legal Action Against Public Participation (SLAPP) suit meant to harass these islanders who are against mining operations in their barangay.

Atty. Ronnan Reposar of ELAC who handled the case expressed that, “It wasn’t much of a surprise. Early on, we were already certain that MSMEDC did not have a shred of concrete evidence against our clients and I think, they also came to the same realization. Even if it took a while, in the end, the result was the same. To tell you honestly, had this case gone the other way, we were ready to fight this to the teeth because we believed in the conviction of the residents of Canawayon.”

Meanwhile, in Manicani, another island in Guiuan, the Protect Manicani Island Society, Inc. (PROMISI) who had been at the forefront of the struggle against mining in their island rejoiced as two (2) of their members who were imprisoned for murder in connection to their struggle were finally released to live with their families.

“These recent developments are proof that justice is still possible for everyone. It should serve as an inspiration for all of us to resist the dominance of capitalists and self-serving politicians. We should not fear but instead, let us unite and let our voices be heard even as many of our LGUs continue to endorse mining operations in Manicani and Homonhon islands without hesitation and despite our oppositions,” said Fr. Odick Calumpiano of the Diocese of Borongan who had been at the forefront of the church’s campaign support for the struggle of both islands.

The Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc. (PMPI) continues to support both islands in the rehabilitation and development of the same through its Project Pagbangon.

“We consider this dropping of the case against members of our partner people’s organization as a milestone and a step forward to the narratives of victories on environmental struggle. May this inspire other communities not to waver in their struggle to protect their homes against development aggressions. Salute to all environmental defenders especially to all the good women and men who stood their ground in defense of the environment and human rights,” said Yoly Esguerra, National Coordinator of PMPI.

PMPI, the Diocese of Borongan, and ELAC have been working closely in supporting the environmental campaigns of both islands.

For more information:

ANTI-MINING CAMPAIGN UNIT
Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc.
E-mail: jen@pmpi.org.phjay@pmpi.org.ph
Contact No.: +63922 850 1875 / +63971 630 8149


17.03.2018 Redazione Italia

This post is also available in: Italian

Of A Type Developed By Liars
(Image by Wikimedia Commons)

by Craig Murray, 16/3/18.
originally posted here

I have now received confirmation from a well placed FCO source that Porton Down scientists are not able to identify the nerve agent as being of Russian manufacture, and have been resentful of the pressure being placed on them to do so. Porton Down would only sign up to the formulation “of a type developed by Russia” after a rather difficult meeting where this was agreed as a compromise formulation. The Russians were allegedly researching, in the “Novichok” programme a generation of nerve agents which could be produced from commercially available precursors such as insecticides and fertilisers. This substance is a “novichok” in that sense. It is of that type. Just as I am typing on a laptop of a type developed by the United States, though this one was made in China.

To anybody with a Whitehall background this has been obvious for several days. The government has never said the nerve agent was made in Russia, or that it can only be made in Russia. The exact formulation “of a type developed by Russia” was used by Theresa May in parliament, used by the UK at the UN Security Council, used by Boris Johnson on the BBC yesterday and, most tellingly of all, “of a type developed by Russia” is the precise phrase used in the joint communique issued by the UK, USA, France and Germany yesterday: “This use of a military-grade nerve agent, of a type developed by Russia, constitutes the first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since the Second World War”.

When the same extremely careful phrasing is never deviated from, you know it is the result of a very delicate Whitehall compromise. My FCO source, like me, remembers the extreme pressure put on FCO staff and other civil servants to sign off the dirty dossier on Iraqi WMD, some of which pressure I recount in my memoir Murder in Samarkand. She volunteered the comparison to what is happening now, particularly at Porton Down, with no prompting from me.

Separately I have written to the media office at OPCW to ask them to confirm that there has never been any physical evidence of the existence of Russian Novichoks, and the programme of inspection and destruction of Russian chemical weapons was completed last year.

Did you know these interesting facts?

OPCW inspectors have had full access to all known Russian chemical weapons facilities for over a decade – including those identified by the “Novichok” alleged whistleblower Mirzayanov – and last year OPCW inspectors completed the destruction of the last of 40,000 tonnes of Russian chemical weapons

By contrast the programme of destruction of US chemical weapons stocks still has five years to run

Israel has extensive stocks of chemical weapons but has always refused to declare any of them to the OPCW. Israel is not a state party to the Chemical Weapons Convention nor a member of the OPCW. Israel signed in 1993 but refused to ratify as this would mean inspection and destruction of its chemical weapons. Israel undoubtedly has as much technical capacity as any state to synthesise “Novichoks”.

Until this week, the near universal belief among chemical weapons experts, and the official position of the OPCW, was that “Novichoks” were at most a theoretical research programme which the Russians had never succeeded in actually synthesising and manufacturing. That is why they are not on the OPCW list of banned chemical weapons.

Porton Down is still not certain it is the Russians who have apparently synthesised a “Novichok”. Hence “Of a type developed by Russia”. Note developed, not made, produced or manufactured.

It is very carefully worded propaganda. Of a type developed by liars.

UPDATE

This post prompted another old colleague to get in touch. On the bright side, the FCO have persuaded Boris he has to let the OPCW investigate a sample. But not just yet. The expectation is the inquiry committee will be chaired by a Chinese delegate. The Boris plan is to get the OPCW also to sign up to the “as developed by Russia” formula, and diplomacy to this end is being undertaken in Beijing right now.

I don’t suppose there is any sign of the BBC doing any actual journalism on this?

 

15.03.2018 Democracy Now!

This post is also available in: Italian

1 Million Students Walk Out of 3,000+ Schools to Protest Gun Violence
(Image by Democracy Now!)

In a historic day of action, more than a million students from over 3,000 schools walked out of classes to protest gun violence on Wednesday. Walkouts occurred in all 50 states as well as some overseas.

In Littleton, Colorado, hundreds walked out Columbine High School—site of a 1999 massacre that left 15 people dead. In Madison, Wisconsin, thousands of students walked out and marched on the state Capitol building, where they flooded the rotunda and chanted “We want Walker!” outside the office of Republican Governor Scott Walker, who has resisted calls for gun control.

In Washington, D.C., protesters placed 14,000 shoes on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol—one pair for each of the estimated 7,000 children who’ve died of gunshot wounds since the Sandy Hook school massacre of 2012. Across the Mall, hundreds of D.C.-area students protested outside the White House, turning their backs on the building and sitting silently for 17 minutes—one minute for each person killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida a month ago. This is 16-year-old Reem Arajai and 17-year-old Simone Hicks speaking at the protest.

Reem Arajai: “I hope that the president will step up, stop accepting money from the NRA, because if all of the deaths that have occurred aren’t enough to convince him, then I guess it just has to be us protesting right now.”

Simone Hicks: “If you can protect guns this much and don’t have the same regard for the people who are going to create your country in the future, then we’re in trouble. The kids are the future. If you’re not protecting the kids, then what’s left?”

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We must act and dare the appropiateness and not whatever comes to our mind not floating in the likelihood but grasp the reality as brave as we can be freedom lies in action not in the absence of mind obedience knows the essence of good and satisfies it, freedom dares to act and returns God the ultimate judgment of what is right and what is wrong, Obedience performs blindly but Freedom is wide awake Freedom wants to know why, Obedience has its hands tied, Freedom is inventive obedient man respects God’s commands and by virtu of his Freedom, he creats new commands. Both Obedience and Freedom come true in responsability (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

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