U.S. Tries to Stir Ethnic Division in Crimea

Eric Zuesse

On Saturday, August 1st, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko (who now acknowledges that his government is illegitimate and that his predecessor Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown in a February 2014 coup), sent greetings to an international conference of supporters of Tatars in Crimea, at the Second World Congress of the Crimean Tatars. He charged the current Crimean government (the government that Crimeans elected on 16 March 2014, rejoining Russia) of discriminating against Tatars. His message attacked the “torn imperial policies of the Kremlin,” and the “temporary occupation of Crimea by Russia.” He said that, “The Crimean Tatar people are again experiencing terror, and tens of thousands are thus forced to flee.” He thanked America’s Sunni ally Turkey for hosting this conference of pro-Saudi, Sunni Muslim, Crimeans.

According to polls, the 12% to 15% of Crimeans who are Tatars (most of whom are Sunni Muslims, and thus oriented toward Saudi Arabia) are overwhelmingly in support of Crimea’s having severed its ties with Ukraine and of having become instead a province of Russia, as Crimea had been part of Russia for centuries until the Soviet dictator Nikita Khrushchev transferred Crimea to Ukraine in 1954.

That linked poll there was taken in January 2015, but its findings were similar to earlier ones. For example, it showed that 82% of Crimeans said that they “endorse Russia’s annexation of Crimea.” Another 11% said they “mostly endorse” it. That’s overall 93% approval. By comparison, an April 2014 Gallup poll of Crimeans showed that 82.8% said that, “The results of the referendum on Crimea’s status likely reflect the views of most people here.” Only 6.7% did not agree. So, those two polls seem to have agreed: both showed overwhelming acceptance by Crimeans of the referendum’s result: Crimea’s becoming again a part of Russia.

An earlier (pre-referendum, even pre-coup), May 2013, Gallup poll of only Crimeans, found that 15% of their sample said they were “Tatar,” and that unlike all other ethnic groups in Crimea, none of Crimea’s Tatars considered themselves to be either “Ukrainian” or “Russian,” though they all were, at that time, technically Ukrainains. Back at that time, 68% of all Crimeans said they were “warm” toward Russia; only 5% said they were “cold” toward Russia; so, even if all of the respondents who were “cold” there were among the 15% of Crimeans who were Tatar, fully two-thirds of Crimea’s Tatars were not “cold” toward Russia. However, by contrast, only 6% of Crimeans said that they were “warm” toward the U.S.; 24% said they were “cold” toward it. So: at best (even if all Crimeans who are “warm” toward the U.S. are the Tatars) Crimea’s Tatars are actually as “cold” toward the U.S. as they are toward Russia. Besides the 15% of Crimeans who self-identified as being “Tatar,” there were 20% of Crimeans who self-identified as “Ukrainian,” and 59% who self-identified as “Russian.” So, that pre-coup breakdown helps to explain why the vast majority of Crimeans were “warm” toward Russia: most Crimeans, even before Crimea was restored to Russia in March 2014, already considered themselves to be “Russian.”

That May 2013 poll was taken for the International Republican [Party] Institute, and for the (Obama) U.S. State Department-run agency, USAID, in preparation for the coup (by Obama, backed strongly by congressional Republicans). Back in May 2013, the U.S. State Department was already a few months into organizing the overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elected President, which coup occurred, or took place, actually, less than a year later, in February 2014. This poll was asking questions that were designed to tap into the prospects for winning the support of Crimeans, and especially of its Tatars, for the overthrow that was being planned, and for America’s intended yanking away from Russia of Russia’s centuries-long control over Russia’s Crimean naval base, which has been one of Russia’s top military assets ever since 1783.

Basically, what all three polls showed was that Crimeans were going to be appalled at the overthrow, but that Crimea’s Tatars would be more supportive of it than other Crimeans would.

And this is why America’s agent, Petro Poroshenko, is now courting Crimea’s Tatars. They may not like Ukraine, but they dislike it less than other Crimeans do.

Poroshenko is just doing his job for his American sponsors.

U.S. President Barack Obama says that Russia’s “conquest of land” to seek “great nation status” is what caused Crimea to switch from Ukraine to Russia, and that this “conquest of land” caused Russia’s consequent punishment for “Russia’s aggression.” He says that this “aggression” is the reason for the economic sanctions against Russia.

But actually, “The Anti-Crimean Pogrom that Sparked Crimea’s Breakaway” expressed the passionate hatred against Russians on the part of Ukraine’s Right Sector — the organization that the Obama Administration had actually hired as the gunmen who carried out the anti-Russian coup d’etat in Ukraine next door to Russia during February 2014. The leader of Right Sector is Dmitriy Yarosh, who aspires to destroy Russia. He’s just the type of man Obama needed to mastermind this coup and so to carry out not only Obama’s will, but his own. Yarosh also masterminded “The Anti-Crimean Pogrom that Sparked Crimea’s Breakaway,” and also was one of the key leaders and masterminds of the massacre of the coup’s opponents inside the Odessa Trade Unions Building on 2 May 2014, the event that sparked Ukraine’s civil war. Obama hires the right people for a job, and these were far-right jobs.

But actually, “The Anti-Crimean Pogrom that Sparked Crimea’s Breakaway” expressed the passionate hatred against Russians on the part of Ukraine’s Right Sector — the organization that the Obama Administration had actually hired as the gunmen who carried out the anti-Russian coup d’etat in Ukraine next door to Russia during February 2014. The leader of Right Sector is Dmitriy Yarosh, who aspires to destroy Russia. He’s just the type of man Obama needed to mastermind this coup and so to carry out not only Obama’s will, but his own. Yarosh also masterminded “The Anti-Crimean Pogrom that Sparked Crimea’s Breakaway,” and also was one of the key leaders and masterminds of the massacre of the coup’s opponents inside the Odessa Trade Unions Building on 2 May 2014, the event that sparked Ukraine’s civil war. Obama hires the right people for a job, and these were far-right jobs.

———-

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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The Anti-Crimean Pogrom that Sparked Crimea’s Breakaway

Eric Zuesse

#1:

Here is a description of the “Korsun Pogrom” or “Korsun Massacre”: the 20 February 2014 event that sparked Crimea’s breakaway from Ukraine:

http://fortruss.blogspot.com/2015/02/korsun-massacre-anniversary-what-really.html

——

#2:

Here is a 25-minute documentary about it, dated 14 August 2014:

http://ukraine-human-rights.org/the-pogrom-of-korsun/

It’s also here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=loKajkXoTBU

——

#3:

Here is a chaotic 19 minutes of video footage showing the massacre from a distance (silent for its opening 2:20): 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=13&v=pwtiw7MoRVs

Some of its scenes ended up being included in the documentary, #2.

——

And here are some scenes from the documentary (#2 above):Screen Shot 2015-08-01 at 5.25.12 PM Screen Shot 2015-08-01 at 5.28.13 PM Screen Shot 2015-08-01 at 5.33.19 PM Screen Shot 2015-08-01 at 5.34.11 PM Screen Shot 2015-08-01 at 6.19.24 PM Screen Shot 2015-08-01 at 6.24.14 PM Screen Shot 2015-08-01 at 6.25.35 PM Screen Shot 2015-08-01 at 6.26.59 PM Screen Shot 2015-08-01 at 6.30.14 PM Screen Shot 2015-08-01 at 6.31.07 PM Screen Shot 2015-08-01 at 6.34.48 PM Screen Shot 2015-08-01 at 6.36.00 PM Screen Shot 2015-08-01 at 6.37.11 PM

——

Obama then imposed economic sanctions against Russia, for “Russia’s aggression.”

Obama’s only statement of what “Russia’s aggression” consisted of, that has been even as lengthy as moderately brief — since he has never presented it at any more length — was his interview with Fareed Zacaria of CNN on 1 February 2015, which happened to be a statement given just three days short of the first anniversary of his agent’s, Victoria Nuland’s, having selected, on 4 February 2014, whom the next leader of Ukraine would be; it would be Arseniy Yatsenyuk (she called him “Yats”), as soon as the democratically elected and sitting Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych, would become overthrown, which happened 18 days later, on 22 February 2014. (It was nothing like Czechoslovakia’s “Velvet Revolution”. This wasn’t democratic; it was a coup.) Obama seized Ukraine, and blamed Putin for “aggression” against Crimea — a “conquest of land.”

Obama said there, in this CNN interview, that the reason for the sanctions against Russia was that, 

“since Mr. Putin made this decision around Crimea and Ukraine  not because of some grand strategy, but essentially because he was caught off-balance by the protests in the Maidan and Yanukovych then fleeing after we had brokered a deal to transition power in Ukraine  since that time, this improvisation that he’s been doing has getting  has gotten him deeper and deeper into a situation that is a violation of international law, that violates the integrity, territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, has isolated Russia diplomatically, has made Europe wary of doing business with Russia, has allowed the imposition of sanctions that are crippling Russia’s economy at a time when their oil revenues are dropping. There’s no formula in which this ends up being good for Russia. The annexation of Crimea is a cost, not a benefit, to Russia. The days in which conquest of land somehow was a formula for great nation status is over.”

So, that’s how Americans learned about what caused Russia’s “conquest of land,” to seek “great nation status,” and Russia’s consequent punishment for “Russia’s aggression.”

—————

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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The Cost of Stagnation: We’re Living in Limbo

The idea that human life subdivides rather naturally into stages is based on our natural progression from childhood into adulthood and eventual (if we’re lucky) old age.

Confucian thought views life as a developmental process with seven stages, each roughly corresponding to a decade: childhood, young adulthood (16-30), age of independence (30-39), age of mental independence (40-49), age of spiritual maturity (50-59), age of acceptance (60-69), and age of unification (70 – end of life).

Each stage has various tasks, goals and duties, which establish the foundation for the next stage.

Each stage is centered on a core human challenge: for the teenager, establishing an identity and life that is independent of parents; for the young adult, finding a mate and establishing a career; for the middle-aged, navigating the challenges of raising children and establishing some measure of financial security; for those in late middle-age, helping offspring reach independent adulthood and caring for aging parents; early old age, seeking fulfillment now that life’s primary duties have been accomplished and managing one’s health; and old age, the passage of accepting mortality and the loss of vitality.

The End of Secure Work and the diminishing returns of financialization are disrupting these core human challenges and frustrating those who are unable to proceed to the next stage of life:

1. Teenagers are being pressured to focus their lives on achieving a conventional financial success (see “Training for Discontent” in From Left Field) that is becoming harder to achieve.

2. Young adults without secure full-time careers cannot afford marriage or children, so they extend the self-absorption of late adolescence into middle age.

3. The middle-aged are finding financial security elusive or out of reach as they struggle to fund their young adult children, aging parents and their own retirement.

4. Increasing longevity is pressuring the late-middle-aged’s stage of fulfillment, as elderly parents may require care even as their children reach their own retirement (65-70).

The financial pressures generated by the demise of financialization and the End of Secure Work are not just disrupting each stage; they are upending essential financial balances between the young, the middle-aged and the old.

The elderly, protected by generous social welfare benefits paid by current taxpayers, also benefit from the soaring value of assets such as real estate and stocks. Meanwhile, financialization’s asset bubbles have pushed housing beyond the reach of most young people.

Downsizing, lay-offs, low-paying replacement work and poor decisions to buy houses near the peak of the prior bubble have left many of the middle-aged with high fixed costs and a stagnant or increasingly insecure income.

The stresses of trying to make enough money to afford what was once assumed to be a birthright–a “middle class” lifestyle–is taking a heavy toll on the mental and physical health of the middle-aged, leaving many of them too tired for any fulfilling activities and easy prey for destructive self-medication.

This erosion of opportunities to complete life’s stages and core dramas is rarely recognized, much less addressed. We are constantly bombarded with messages to innovate, keep up, be fulfilled, etc.–essentially impossible demands for those with multiple generational and/or business duties.

The most workable and productive response to these financial disruptions is to focus not on what’s scarce and fraught with intense competition (the top 5% slots of conventional financial security) but on what’s still abundant, which is opportunities outside conventional hierarchies, ways of reducing fixed costs and life-skills that happen to be entrepreneurial, adaptive and fulfilling.

When I talk about the Mobile Creative class in Get a Job & Build a Real Career, I’m not talking about a finance-centric definition of success or a path to join the top 5% in Corporate America and the government. The herd is chasing those dwindling slots, too, guaranteeing frustration and failure for the 95% who won’t secure one of those slots.

What we’re really discussing is a way of living that places a premium on independent thinking, maintaining very low fixed costs, establishing a healthy honesty with oneself and one’s associates and customers, the ability to make realistic assessments of oneself, one’s successes, failures and errors, and a focus on challenges, opportunities, risks, adaptability, flexibility and experimentation, all with a goal of building one’s own human, social and material capital–the foundations not just of well-being but of any meaningful measure of wealth.

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STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND

“Thinking doesn’t pay. Just makes you discontented with what you see around you.”

Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land

I wish I didn’t think when I travel to NYC. It only makes me discontented. My last article about New York City – Uneasy in NYC – produced a lot of commentary pro and con about New York. That two day trip last October was more eventful as we met world renowned financial mind David Stockman. When my son got notice he had to leave for Penn State this weekend to start his job as an RA (saving his old man $6,800 in rent), we decided to do something fun before he left. The choice was a one day sightseeing excursion to the Big Apple.

My wife plotted out the day and the boys and I just went along for the ride. The plan was to drive to the Hamilton Station and catch a NJ Transit train to Penn Station. We got up early and were on the road by 8:10. We should have been able to easily make the 9:22 express. Everything was going smoothly until we were ten miles from the station on Route 1. First there was an accident, then one car overheated in the left lane, then another car overheated in the left lane. We picked a day with a heat index of 100 degrees to go to New York.

We didn’t make the 9:22 express. We got the last spot in the parking lot about a quarter mile from the station. We made the 10:00 local. I expected a 50 year old piece of crap train with standing room only to pull into the station, but to my pleasant surprise a brand new double decker train with dozens of open seats pulled in. Life was good again. We got a four seat combo and settled in for our 1 hour and 15 minute trek to Penn Station. The family were pecking away on their iGadget phones while I started reading my tattered copy of Running Man, bought at the used book store – Hooked on Books – in Wildwood a few weeks ago.

It looked good for a 11:15 arrival until the engineer came over the loud speaker (which sounded like the teacher from Charlie Brown) and announced that a train had stalled in the tunnel and we’d be delayed for 30 minutes. The concept of on-time is meaningless in our paradise of crumbling infrastructure. As you get closer to New York, the decay comes into clear view. Dilapidated vacant factories covered in graffiti dot the landscape along the tracks. The disappearance of our manufacturing base is clearly evident. Instead of producing capital goods we produce financial derivatives, debt and despair. As you approach the tunnel into New York you see the Empire State building and off in the distance the new Liberty Tower, where you once saw the Twin Towers.

Continue reading

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Congress Passes Bill In 15 Minutes To Revoke Americans’ Passports Without Due Process

Submitted by Mike Krieger via Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,

The “war on terror” is a status quo fraud perpetuated by the oligarch-controlled mainstream media and authoritarian members of Congress as a way to systematically strip the American public of its freedom and civil rights in the name of fighting an outside enemy. This tried and true tactic has been used by statists throughout history, and history is indeed repeating itself here in the “land of the free.”

Of course, I’ve spent innumerable hours writing on this topic for many years, even before I started this website. Here are a few recent examples:

The “War on Terror” Turns Inward – DHS Report Warns of Right Wing Terror Threat

More “War on Terror” Abuses – Spying Powers Are Used for Terrorism Only 0.5% of the Time

How the Department of Homeland Security Monitored and Tracked Peaceful “Black Lives Matter” Protests

Moving along, today’s story is so incredible it’s almost hard to believe. It appears our so-called “representatives” recently took fifteen minutes to pass a bill that allows the Secretary of State to revoke Americans’ passports with no due process. Did you know about this? Well neither did I, and what’s worse, these members of Congress are so cowardly they passed the bill with a voice vote to avoid going on record. Talk about anti-American.

First, from Reason:

On Tuesday, without much notice, and after a whopping 15-minute debate, the U.S. House of Representatives passed via voice vote the Foreign Terrorist Organization Passport Revocation Act of 2015. Its intent: “To authorize the revocation or denial of passports and passport cards to individuals affiliated with foreign terrorist organizations, and for other purposes.” Some of the bill’s sparse details:

The Secretary of State may refuse to issue a passport [or revoke a previously issued one] to any individual whom the Secretary has determined has aided, assisted, abetted, or otherwise helped an organization the Secretary has designated as a foreign terrorist organization

How does today’s John Kerry or tomorrow’s John Bolton make such a determination? The bill doesn’t say.

Don’t we have laws, courts and due process in this country? Guess not.

It was also covered by Police State USA:

A bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives would allow the government to restrict Americans’ travel through the revocation of passports based upon mere suspicions of unscrupulous activity.  This bill represents another dangerous step forward in the war on terror and the disintegration of American due process.

H.R. 237, the “FTO (Foreign Terrorist Organization) Passport Revocation Act of 2015,” will allow the U.S. Secretary of State the unchecked authority to prohibit individuals from traveling internationally.  According to the bill, the Secretary may unilaterally revoke (or refuse to issue) a passport from “any individual whom the Secretary has determined has aided, assisted, abetted, or otherwise helped an organization the Secretary has designated as a foreign terrorist organization pursuant to section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1189).”

The bill did not bother to define what the terms “aided, assisted, abetted, or otherwise helped” actually mean, in legal terms.  The power has been left open-ended so that it can mean whatever the secretary wants it to mean.  Needless to say, a bill like this would be easily abused.

The travel restriction requires no presumption of innocence for the targeted individual; no explanation; no public presentation of evidence; no opportunity for a defense; no checks and balances on the power.  The bill does not outline any appeals process for the targeted individual.  The only stipulation is that the Secretary of State must issue a report to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs — “classified or unclassified.”  The bill does not state that either committee can reverse the secretary’s decisions.

What’s really disturbing though, is that as I was researching this bill, I came across the fact that Congress is also sneaking in a provision to the highway-bill that would allow the IRS to revoke Americans’ passports if they owe the agency $50,000. Here’s some excellent coverage on the matter from the Ron Paul Institute:

Just the other day we wrote about a US House “suspension” bill that would give the Secretary of State the authority to cancel your passport if he decided that you had “aided” an organization that he rules is terrorist. There is no definition of what “aided” means, no chance to dispute the Secretary’s decision, no trial or presentation of evidence, and in fact any evidence the government has can be classified as secret so that you may not see it. In effect the Secretary of State can unilaterally consign you to internal exile and there is nothing you can do about it.

Because Members of the US House were too cowardly to go on record voting for such an anti-American piece of legislation, the bill passed by a voice vote.

Today the US Senate plans to one-up its counterparts on the lowlier side of Capitol Hill. Buried inside the US highways funding bill is a provision to revoke or deny issuance of a US passport to anyone who has a large outstanding tax debt to the US Internal Revenue Service. According to a Senate Finance Committee summary (PDF) acquired today, the measure provides for:

Revocation or denial of passport in case of certain unpaid taxes. This provision would authorize the Federal government to deny the application for a passport when an individual has more than $50,000 (indexed for inflation) of unpaid federal taxes which the IRS is collecting through enforcement action. It would also permit the Federal government to revoke a passport for such individuals. Before revocation, however, the Federal government would be allowed to limit a previously issued passport only for return travel to the United States or to issue a limited passport that only permits return travel to the United States. The provision would be effective on January 1, 2016, and is estimated to raise $0.398 billion over 10 years.As can be seen from the summary, this measure threatening to imprison Americans within (or outside) US borders is simply viewed as a means by which to raise revenue. The hoped-for increase in revenue coming from this threat is considered an “offset” to the money being spent on the highway bill — in other words the threat to imprison US citizens within their own country or freeze them out is considered appropriate incentive to force them to pay what the government claims it is owed.

Unconvinced that the US government would do such a thing? Check the bill coming to the Senate Floor. Section 52102 of the Highway Funding bill, to be taken up by the Senate today,  states:

If the Secretary receives certification by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue that any individual has a seriously delinquent tax debt in an amount in excess of $50,000, the Secretary shall transmit such certification to the Secretary of State for action with respect to denial, revocation, or limitation of a passport pursuant to section 52102(d) of the Transportation Funding Act of 2015.

The use of citizenship rights as a weapon against Americans is becoming increasingly common as Washington is ever more desperate for control of its passport holders.

Indeed, Congress does seem rather obsessed in creating various loopholes by which the government can snatch American citizens’ passports and restrict travel without due process. It makes you wonder if Ron Paul was right in 2011 when he stated: “Border Fence Will Be Used To ‘Keep Us In’”

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NATO Member Busted Massively Supporting ISIS … Now Declares War Against ISIS, But Instead Bombs Its Political Rival (Which Is the Most Effective Force FIGHTING ISIS)

Turkey Enabling ISIS

NATO member Turkey has been busted supporting ISIS.

The Guardian reported this week:

US special forces raided the compound of an Islamic State leader in eastern Syria in May, they made sure not to tell the neighbours.

The target of that raid, the first of its kind since US jets returned to the skies over Iraq last August, was an Isis official responsible for oil smuggling, named Abu Sayyaf. He was almost unheard of outside the upper echelons of the terror group, but he was well known to Turkey. From mid-2013, the Tunisian fighter had been responsible for smuggling oil from Syria’s eastern fields, which the group had by then commandeered. Black market oil quickly became the main driver of Isis revenues – and Turkish buyers were its main clients.

As a result, the oil trade between the jihadis and the Turks was held up as evidence of an alliance between the two.

***

In the wake of the raid that killed Abu Sayyaf, suspicions of an undeclared alliance have hardened. One senior western official familiar with the intelligence gathered at the slain leader’s compound said that direct dealings between Turkish officials and ranking Isis members was now “undeniable”.

“There are hundreds of flash drives and documents that were seized there,” the official told the Observer. “They are being analysed at the moment, but the links are already so clear that they could end up having profound policy implications for the relationship between us and Ankara.”

***

However, Turkey has openly supported other jihadi groups, such as Ahrar al-Sham, which espouses much of al-Qaida’s ideology, and Jabhat al-Nusra, which is proscribed as a terror organisation by much of the US and Europe. “The distinctions they draw [with other opposition groups] are thin indeed,” said the western official. “There is no doubt at all that they militarily cooperate with both.”

***

One Isis member says the organisation remains a long way from establishing a self-sustaining economy across the area of Syria and Iraq it controls. “They need the Turks. I know of a lot of cooperation and it scares me,” he said. “I don’t see how Turkey can attack the organisation too hard. There are shared interests.”

While the Guardian is one of Britain’s leading newspapers, many in the alternative press have long pointed out Turkey’s support for ISIS.

And experts, Kurds, and Joe Biden have accuses Turkey of enabling ISIS.

Has Turkey Changed Its Ways?

On Tuesday, Turkey proclaimed that it will now help to fight ISIS.

Don’t buy it …

Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson – former chief of staff to Colin Powell, and now distinguished adjunct professor of Government and Public Policy at William & Mary – asked yesterday:

What is [Turkish president] Erdogan’s ultimate purpose? He hates Assad. He’d love to bring him down. Is that why he’s doing this?

There’s also the Kurds …

As Time Magazine pointed out in June:

Ethnic Kurds—who on Tuesday scored their second and third significant victories over ISIS in the space of eight days—are by far the most effective force fighting ISIS in both Iraq and Syria.

And yet Turkey is trying to destroy the Kurds. Time writes:

Since [Turkey announced that it was joining the war against ISIS] it has arrested more than 1,000 people in Turkey and carried out waves of air raids in neighboring Syria and Iraq. But most of those arrests and air strikes, say Kurdish leaders, have hit Kurdish and left wing groups, not ISIS.

***

Kurds are an ethnic minority that live in parts of Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Iran. They have been persecuted for decades — from Turkey’s suppression of Kurdish identity and banning of Kurdish language to Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons on Kurdish communities. Their leaders, from the numerous different parties and rebel groups that represent them, have long sought an independent Kurdish state encompassing that territory and have fought against their respective governments to try to achieve that.

***

Hoshang Waziri, a political analyst based in Erbil, says the Kurds’ recent territorial gains in Syria along Turkey’s border and their increasing political legitimacy in the eyes of the West, have made the Kurds a bigger threat to Turkey than ISIS. “The fear of the Turkish state started with the Kurdish defeat of ISIS in Tel Abyad,” says Waziri.

***

“The image in the West of the Kurds as a reliable ally on the ground is terrifying for Turkey,” says Waziri. “So before it’s too late, Turkey waged its war — not against ISIS, but against the PKK.”

***

Some see the war against ISIS simply as a cover for an attack on Kurdish groups. Of the more than 1,000 people Turkey has arrested in security sweeps in recent days, 80% are Kurdish, associated either with the PKK or the non-violent Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), says İbrahim Ayhan, a member of parliament for the HDP.

***

Ayhan says the AKP needs a state of “chaos” to perusade voters that it is the only bulwark against chaos. As of yet no new government has been formed in Turkey and if that doesn’t happen in the next few weeks, new elections will be called. By that time Ayhad fears many of the leaders of his HDP party will be in jail and some even worry the HDP will be outlawed. At the same time, Erdoğan and his AKP hope they will have shown only they can defend Turkey from internal and external threats.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Turkey’s military activity against Islamic State does not stem from sudden realizations about threats from ISIS but appears designed to elicit international support for its fight against the Kurds.

The Kurdish Workers’ Party, known as the PKK, was locked in a bloody war with the Turkish state from the mid-1980s until 2013. The cease-fire has, for all intents and purposes, been destroyed. Turkey is battling both ISIS and the PKK under the guise of fighting terrorism. Yet Turkish attempts to conflate ISIS and the PKK–even in the wake of the suicide bombing in a Kurdish border town that killed 32 young people–effectively ask people to overlook some salient facts:

The Kurds are Islamic State’s ideological opposites. The Kurds have been fighting ISIS in Syria and Iraq for some time; in particular, the Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG) in northern Syria has been among the most effective forces at repelling ISIS efforts to take control of the Syrian-Turkish border. Kurdish military resistance in Syria and, to a lesser extent, the Kurdish autonomous government in Iraq have shouldered the lion’s share of the ground conflict against Islamic State, standing their ground at high cost and with limited support from the Western coalition.

***

A declaration of a state of emergency in Turkey would give the Justice and Development Party (or AKP), which lost its parliamentary majority in June elections, more flexibility to crack down on political opponents such as the Kurdish majority People’s Democratic Party. More than 1,300 people have been detained recently under the guise of cracking down on domestic PKK and ISIS elements in Turkey.

The AKP has declared the peace process with the Kurdish separatists dead and is trying to discredit the only recognized political representatives of the Turkish left and the Kurdish population; the Kurdish People’s Democratic Party won a 13% share of the Turkish parliament in the June elections–a sign of its rising popularity not only among Kurds but also with increasingly disgruntled Turkish liberals.

***

If a governing coalition isn’t formed, early elections will be held. The AKP appears to be hoping for that–under the thinking that a majority of voters would seek to maintain the status quo in a time of uncertainty and potential civil war, and that AKP’s standing in parliament would, in turn, be strengthened.

Zero Hedge adds:

Even the most mainstream of news outlets are unable to completely obscure the fact that Turkey’s ISIS “offensive” may amount to nothing more than a smokescreen, as Erdogan launches a renewed effort to crush the PKK and nullify opposition gains won at the ballot box early last month when, for the first time in more than a decade, AKP [Erdogan’s party] lost its parliamentary majority.

Coalition building efforts since the election have gone largely nowhere, and in what amounted to a sure sign that some manner of crackdown was likely just around the corner, Erdogan warned on June 21 that “if politicians are unable to sort [it] out, then the people are the only recourse” – a nod to his right under the constitution to call new elections.

Critically, AKP doesn’t need much to push them back over the top in terms of regaining their majority in parliament. Consider the following from WSJ:

Turkey’s government—which lost its parliamentary majority last month— bills its new two-front war against Kurdish militants and Islamic State as a much-overdue reaction to terrorism. But, on the third front of domestic politics, this violence could also help President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his party regain control.

In the June 7 parliamentary elections, Mr. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, or AKP, lost its majority for the first time in 12 years, and has been in coalition talks since. If these negotiations fail in coming weeks, Mr. Erdogan has said he will send the country back to the polls.

A rise in nationalist feelings amid the bloodshed and an unfolding crackdown on the government’s Kurdish political foes could bolster AKP’s chances in such a new election, many analysts say.

A two-percentage point shift from the last election could restore AKP’s absolute majority, making concessions demanded by its potential coalition partners on press freedom, corruption prosecutions and foreign policy unnecessary. This could also allow Mr. Erdogan to proceed with controversial plans to turn Turkey into a presidential republic and solidify his personal power.

The last passage there is critical.

AKP needs but a two percentage point swing in order to pave the way for Erdogan’s power grab and there’s no better way to stoke a renewed sense of nationalism and turn voters away from HDP than to invent a conflict and then trot out a few casualities as proof of what can happen when Kurdish “terrorists” are emboldened by a victory at the ballot box.

Given this, one could be forgiven for casting a wary eye at the rather convenient series of events that has now culminated in Ankara going back to war with the PKK. Here’s a recap:

NATO representatives met in Brussels on Tuesday after Turkey made a rare Article 4 request which compels treaty parties to convene in the event a member state is of the opinion that its “territorial integrity, political independence or security” is being threatened. 

That’s the case in Turkey, where the security situation has rapidly deteriorated over the past two weeks following a suicide bombing in Suruc (claimed by Islamic State) and the murder of two Turkish policemen in the town of Ceylanpinar (at the hands of the PKK, which claims the officers were cooperating with ISIS). Ankara responded by launching airstrikes against both Islamic State and PKK.

So, ISIS launches a suicide attack and the PKK (whose Syrian affiliate YPG is battling ISIS just across the border) retaliates by killing two Turkish policemen, an event which gives the government an excuse to tighten the screws on the Kurds with virtual impunity under the guise of stepping up its efforts against ISIS.

Better still, the ISIS red herring has allowed Ankara to effectively obtain NATO’s blessing for a brutal crackdown on its Kurdish political rivals. To wit, from Salon:

The choreography attaching to the accord authorizing Turkey’s entry into war as a combatant is, as often, so careful and predictable as to be self-evident. On Sunday Ankara announced that it had requested a meeting of NATO ambassadors to consider its new circumstance. The outcome was obvious from the first.

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s Norwegian secretary-general, suggested Monday that Turkey was unlikely to get “any substantial NATO military support.”

This was a straw man: Material support is not what the Erdogan government wants. In its fight against ISIS and the Kurds—against both, note—it wants “solidarity and support from our NATO allies,” as the foreign ministry in Ankara later made clear.

Legitimacy, in other words. And it got it Tuesday in Brussels, where Stoltenberg announced, “We all stand united in condemning terrorism, in solidarity with Turkey.”  See the problem? Not “united against ISIS,” but “united in condemning terrorism.”

Erdogan understood. Within hours he declared that no peace process with the Kurds is possible—and then urged parliament to strip legislators with ties to the PKK of immunity from prosecution. An Istanbul source wrote Tuesday afternoon to say that some sitting parliamentarians have already been arrested.

So there you have it – mission accomplished. Erdogan has now secured Western support for his effort to nullify an election result he did not like.

***

Consider the following from Al Jazeera:

“When AK party lost [its] absolute majority [in parliament] on June 7, while HDP won, getting over the 10 percent barrier, the results showed how people started seeing that not every Kurd is a terrorist,”  Ilya U Topper, an Istanbul-based analyst on foreign affairs and democracy for the M’Sur, a Spanish media outlet added.

He noted that HDP was able to perform so well in June’s elections because there was peace.

“Two years of peace make people forget bloodshed and give them hope. Now we are back to square one. Kurds are ‘terrorists’ again,” he said. “If elections are repeated, HDP might fall under the barrier and AK party will achieve [an] absolute majority in the elections. The big question is why the PKK accepted that game.”

And that is a very good question.

Why would the PKK, whose political affiliate had just won a major victory at the ballot box, suddenly decide that now is the time to break a fragile cease fire, likely knowing that doing so would imperil further political gains and legitimacy for HDP?

***

In the final analysis, Turkey wants Assad out of Syria and that means backing anyone and everyone who is willing to help make that happen (including ISIS) with the exception of the PKK, who Ankara is keen on crushing especially after June’s election results. So now, Turkey will use ISIS as an excuse to procure NATO support for a politically motivated rout of Kurdish “terrorists”. The West will hope that ISIS will suffer more damage than YPG, Turkey will hope that PKK and, by extension, YPG will suffer more damage than ISIS, and everyone – Ankara, Washington, ISIS, and PKK – will hope the when the dust (and blood) finally settles, Bashar al-Assad will have met a Gaddafi-esque end.

So Turkey isn’t really going after ISIS … instead, the ruling party is going after its main political threat – the Kurds – and continuing its long-term effort to overthrow Syria’s Assad.

Posted in Politics / World News | 10 Comments

The Greek Coup: Liquidity as a Weapon of Coercion

By Ellen Brown.

“My father made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. Luca Brasi held a gun to his head and my father assured him that either his brains, or his signature, would be on the contract.”                                                                                                                                                 — The Godfather (1972)

In the modern global banking system, all banks need a credit line with the central bank in order to be part of the payments system. Choking off that credit line was a form of blackmail the Greek government couldn’t refuse. 

Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis is now being charged with treason for exploring the possibility of an alternative payment system in the event of a Greek exit from the euro. The irony of it all was underscored by Raúl Ilargi Meijer, who opined in a July 27th blog:

The fact that these things were taken into consideration doesn’t mean Syriza was planning a coup . . . . If you want a coup, look instead at the Troika having wrestled control over Greek domestic finances. That’s a coup if you ever saw one.

Let’s have an independent commission look into how on earth it is possible that a cabal of unelected movers and shakers gets full control over the entire financial structure of a democratically elected eurozone member government. By all means, let’s see the legal arguments for this.

So how was that coup pulled off? The answer seems to be through extortion. The European Central Bank threatened to turn off the liquidity that all banks – even solvent ones – need to maintain their day-to-day accounting balances. That threat was made good in the run-up to the Greek referendum, when the ECB did turn off the liquidity tap and Greek banks had to close their doors. Businesses were left without supplies and pensioners without food. How was that apparently criminal act justified? Here is the rather tortured reasoning of ECB President Mario Draghi at a press conference on July 16:

There is an article in the [Maastricht] Treaty that says that basically the ECB has the responsibility to promote the smooth functioning of the payment system. But this has to do with . . . the distribution of notes, coins. So not with the provision of liquidity, which actually is regulated by a different provision, in Article 18.1 in the ECB Statute: “In order to achieve the objectives of the ESCB [European System of Central Banks], the ECB and the national central banks may conduct credit operations with credit institutions and other market participants, with lending based on adequate collateral.” This is the Treaty provision. But our operations were not monetary policy operations, but ELA [Emergency Liquidity Assistance] operations, and so they are regulated by a separate agreement, which makes explicit reference to the necessity to have sufficient collateral. So, all in all, liquidity provision has never been unconditional and unlimited. [Emphasis added.]

In a July 23rd post on Naked Capitalism, Nathan Tankus calls this “a truly shocking statement.” Why? Because all banks rely on their central banks to settle payments with other banks. “If the smooth functioning of the payments system is defined as the ability of depository institutions to clear payments,” says Tankus, “the central bank must ensure that settlement balances are available at some price.”

How the Payments System Works

The role of the central bank in the payments system is explained by the Bank for International Settlements like this:

One of the principal functions of central banks is to be the guardian of public confidence in money, and this confidence depends crucially on the ability of economic agents to transmit money and financial instruments smoothly and securely through payment and settlement systems. . . . [C]entral banks provide a safe settlement asset and in most cases they operate systems which allow for the transfer of that settlement asset.

Internationally before 1971, this “settlement asset” was gold. Later, it became electronic “settlement balances” or “reserves” maintained at the central bank. Today, when money travels by check from Bank A to Bank B, the central bank settles the transfer simply by adjusting the banks’ respective reserve balances, subtracting from one and adding to the other.

Checks continue to fly back and forth all day. If a bank’s reserve account comes up short at the end of the day, the central bank treats it as an automatic overdraft in the bank’s reserve account, effectively lending the bank the money in the form of electronic “liquidity” until the overdraft can be cleared. The bank can cure the deficit by attracting new deposits or by borrowing from another bank with excess reserves; and if the whole system is short of reserves, the central bank creates more to maintain the liquidity of the system.

The most dramatic exercise of this liquidity function was seen after the banking crisis of 2008, when credit was frozen and banks had largely stopped lending to each other. The US Federal Reserve then stepped in and advanced over $16 trillion to financial institutions through the TAF (Term Asset Facility), the TALF (Term Asset-backed Securities Loan Facility), and similar facilities, at near-zero interest. Toxic unmarketable assets were converted into “good collateral” so the banks could remain solvent and keep their doors open.

Liquidity as a Tool of Coercion

That is how the Fed sees its role, but the ECB evidently has other ideas about this liquidity tool. Whether a country’s banks are allowed to “access monetary policy operations” is seen by the ECB not as mandatory but as discretionary with the central bank. And as a condition of that access, if a country’s bonds are “below investment grade,” the country must be under an IMF program — meaning it must subject itself to forced austerity measures. According to ECB Vice President Constâncio at the same press conference:

[W]hen a country has a rating which is below the investment grade which is the minimum, then to access monetary policy operations, it has to have a waiver. And the waiver is granted if there are two conditions. The first condition is that the country must be under a programme with the EU and IMF; and second, we have to assess that there is credible compliance with such a programme. [Emphasis added]

Liquidity is provided only on “adequate collateral” — usually government bonds. But whether the bonds are “adequate” is not determined by their market price. Rather, political concessions are demanded. The government must sell off public assets, slash public services, lay off public workers, and subject its fiscal policies to oversight by unelected bureaucrats who can dictate every line item in the national budget.

Tankus observes:

Europe now has a system where liquidity and insolvency problems can occur and can be deliberately generated (at least in part) by the central bank. Then the Troika can force that country into an “IMF program” if it wants to continue having a functioning banking system. Alternatively, the central bank can choose to simply “suspend convertibility” to the unit of account [i.e. cut off the supply of Euros] and force the write down of deposits [haircuts and bail-ins] until the banks are solvent again.

Pushed to the Cliff by the Financial Mafia

Were liquidity and insolvency problems intentionally generated in Greece’s case, as Tankus suggests? Let’s review.

First there was the derivatives scheme sold to Greece by Goldman Sachs in 2001, which nearly doubled the nation’s debt by 2005.

Then there was the bank-induced credit crisis of 2008, when the ECB coerced Greece to bail out its insolvent private banks, throwing the country itself into bankruptcy.

This was followed in late 2009 by the intentional overstatement of Greece’s debt by a Eurostat agent who was later tried criminally for it, triggering the first bailout and accompanying austerity measures.

The Greek prime minister was later replaced with an unelected technocrat, former governor of the Bank of Greece and later vice president of the ECB, who refused a debt restructuring and instead oversaw a second massive bailout and further austerity measures. An estimated 90% of the bailout money went right back into the coffers of the banks.

In December 2014, Goldman Sachs warned the Greek Parliament that central bank liquidity could be cut off if the Syriza Party were elected. When it was elected in January, the ECB made good on the threat, cutting bank liquidity to a trickle.

When Prime Minister Tsipras called a public referendum in July at which the voters rejected the brutal austerity being imposed on them, the ECB shuttered the banks.

The Greek government was thus broken Mafia-style at the knees, until it was forced to abandon its national sovereignty and watch its public treasures sold off piece by piece. Suspicious minds might infer that this was a calculated plot designed from the beginning to throw Greece’s prized assets onto the auction block, a hostile takeover and asset stripping for the benefit of those well-heeled entities in a position to purchase them, including the very banks, hedge funds and speculators instrumental in driving up Greek debt and destroying the economy.

No Sovereignty Without Control Over Currency and Credit

In the taped conference call for which Yanis Varoufakis is currently facing treason charges, he exposed the trap that eurozone countries are now in. It seems there is virtually no legal way to break free of the euro and the domination of the troika. The government has no access to the critical data files of its own banks, which are controlled by the ECB.

Varoufakis said this should alarm every EU government. As Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King warned in 1935:

Once a nation parts with the control of its currency and credit, it matters not who makes the nation’s laws.  Usury, once in control, will wreck any nation.

For a nation to regain control of its currency and credit, it needs a central bank with a mandate to serve the interests of the nation. Banking should be a public utility, serving the economy and the people.

____________________

Ellen Brown is an attorney, founder of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books including the best-selling Web of Debt. Her latest book, The Public Bank Solution, explores successful public banking models historically and globally. Her 300+ blog articles are at EllenBrown.com. Listen to “It’s Our Money with Ellen Brown” on PRN.FM.

 

Posted in Politics / World News | 3 Comments

Drivers, Beware: The Costly, Deadly Dangers of Traffic Stops in the American Police State

By John Whitehead, constitutional and human rights attorney, and founder of the Rutherford Institute.

“The Fourth Amendment was designed to stand between us and arbitrary governmental authority. For all practical purposes, that shield has been shattered, leaving our liberty and personal integrity subject to the whim of every cop on the beat, trooper on the highway and jail official. The framers would be appalled.”—Herman Schwartz, The Nation

Trying to predict the outcome of any encounter with the police is a bit like playing Russian roulette: most of the time you will emerge relatively unscathed, although decidedly poorer and less secure about your rights, but there’s always the chance that an encounter will turn deadly.

The odds weren’t in Walter L. Scott’s favor. Reportedly pulled over for a broken taillight, Scott—unarmed—ran away from the police officer, who pursued and shot him from behind, first with a Taser, then with a gun. Scott was struck five times, “three times in the back, once in the upper buttocks and once in the ear — with at least one bullet entering his heart.”

Samuel Dubose, also unarmed, was pulled over for a missing front license plate. He was reportedly shot in the head after a brief struggle in which his car began rolling forward.

Levar Jones was stopped for a seatbelt offense, just as he was getting out of his car to enter a convenience store. Directed to show his license, Jones leaned into his car to get his wallet, only to be shot four times by the “fearful” officer. Jones was also unarmed.

Bobby Canipe was pulled over for having an expired registration. When the 70-year-old reached into the back of his truck for his walking cane, the officer fired several shots at him, hitting him once in the abdomen.

Dontrell Stevens was stopped “for not bicycling properly.” The officer pursuing him “thought the way Stephens rode his bike was suspicious. He thought the way Stephens got off his bike was suspicious.” Four seconds later, sheriff’s deputy Adams Lin shot Stephens four times as he pulled out a black object from his waistband. The object was his cell phone. Stephens was unarmed.

If there is any lesson to be learned from these “routine” traffic stops, it is that drivers should beware.

At a time when police can do no wrong—at least in the eyes of the courts, police unions and politicians dependent on their votes—and a “fear” for officer safety is used to justify all manner of police misconduct, “we the people” are at a severe disadvantage.

According to the Justice Department, the most common reason for a citizen to come into contact with the police is being a driver in a traffic stop. On average, one in 10 Americans gets pulled over by police. Black drivers are 31 percent more likely to be pulled over than white drivers, or about 23 percent more likely than Hispanic drivers. As the Washington Post concludes, “‘Driving while black’ is, indeed, a measurable phenomenon.”

As Sandra Bland learned the hard way, the reason for a traffic stop no longer matters. Bland, who was pulled over for allegedly failing to use her turn signal, was arrested after refusing to comply with the police officer’s order to extinguish her cigarette and exit her vehicle. The encounter escalated, with the officer threatening to “light” Bland up with his taser. Three days later, Bland was found dead in her jail cell.

You’re doing all of this for a failure to signal?” Bland asked as she got out of her car, after having been yelled at and threatened repeatedly. Had she only known, drivers have been pulled over for far less. Indeed, police officers have been given free range to pull anyone over for a variety of reasons.

This approach to traffic stops (what I would call “blank check policing,” in which the police get to call all of the shots) has resulted in drivers being stopped for windows that are too heavily tinted, for driving too fast, driving too slow, failing to maintain speed, following too closely, improper lane changes, distracted driving, screeching a car’s tires, and leaving a parked car door open for too long.

Motorists can also be stopped by police for driving near a bar or on a road that has large amounts of drunk driving, driving a certain make of car (Mercedes, Grand Prix and Hummers are among the most ticketed vehicles), having anything dangling from the rearview mirror (air fresheners, handicap parking permits, troll transponders or rosaries), and displaying pro-police bumper stickers.

Incredibly, a federal appeals court actually ruled unanimously in 2014 that acne scars and driving with a stiff upright posture are reasonable grounds for being pulled over. More recently, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that driving a vehicle that has a couple air fresheners, rosaries and pro-police bumper stickers at 2 MPH over the speed limit is suspicious, meriting a traffic stop.

Unfortunately for drivers, not only have traffic stops become potentially deadly encounters, they have also turned into a profitable form of highway robbery for the police departments involved.

As The Washington Post reports, “traffic stops for minor infractions such as speeding or equipment violations are increasingly used as a pretext for officers to seize cash from drivers.” Relying on federal and state asset forfeiture laws, police set up “stings” on public roads that enable them to stop drivers for a variety of so-called “suspicious” behavior, search their vehicles and seize anything of value that could be suspected of being connected to criminal activity. Since 2001, police have seized $2.5 billion from people who were not charged with a crime and without a warrant being issued.

“In case after case,” notes The Washington Post, “highway interdictors appeared to follow a similar script. Police set up what amounted to rolling checkpoints on busy highways and pulled over motorists for minor violations, such as following too closely or improper signaling. They quickly issued warnings or tickets. They studied drivers for signs of nervousness, including pulsing carotid arteries, clenched jaws and perspiration. They also looked for supposed ‘indicators’ of criminal activity, which can include such things as trash on the floor of a vehicle, abundant energy drinks or air fresheners hanging from rearview mirrors.”

If you’re starting to feel somewhat overwhelmed, intimidated and fearful for your life and your property, you should be. Never before have “we the people” been so seemingly defenseless in the face of police misconduct, lacking advocates in the courts and in the legislatures.

So how do you survive a police encounter with your life and wallet intact?

The courts have already given police the green light to pull anyone over for a variety of reasons. In an 8-1 ruling in Heien v. North Carolina, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that police officers can pull someone over based on a “reasonable” but mistaken belief about the law.

Of course, what’s reasonable to agents of the police state may be completely unreasonable to the populace. Nevertheless, the moment those lights start flashing and that siren goes off, we’re all in the same boat: we must pull over.

However, it’s what happens after you’ve been pulled over that’s critical. Survival is the key.

Technically, you have the right to remain silent (beyond the basic requirement to identify yourself and show your registration). You have the right to refuse to have your vehicle searched. You have the right to film your interaction with police. You have the right to ask to leave. You also have the right to resist an unlawful order such as a police officer directing you to extinguish your cigarette, put away your phone or stop recording them.

However, as Bland learned the hard way, there is a price for asserting one’s rights. “Faced with an authority figure unwilling to de-escalate the situation, Bland refused to be bullied or intimidated,” writes Boston Globe contributor Renee Graham. “She understood her rights, but for African-Americans in encounters with police, the appalling price for asserting even the most basic rights can be their lives.”

So if you don’t want to get probed, poked, pinched, tasered, tackled, searched, seized, stripped, manhandled, arrested, shot, or killed, don’t say, do or even suggest anything that even hints of noncompliance when it comes to interactions with police.

One police officer advised that if you feel as if you’re being treated unfairly, comply anyhow and contest it in court later. Similarly, black parents, advising their kids on how to deal with police, tell them to just obey the officer’s orders. “The goal,” as one parent pointed out, “is to stay alive.”

It seems that “comply or die” has become the new maxim for the American police state.

Then again, not even compliance is a guarantee of safety anymore. “Police are specialists in violence,” warns Kristian Williams, who has written extensively on the phenomenon of police militarization and brutality. “They are armed, trained, and authorized to use force. With varying degrees of subtlety, this colors their every action. Like the possibility of arrest, the threat of violence is implicit in every police encounter. Violence, as well as the law, is what they represent.”

In other words, in the American police state, “we the people” are at the mercy of law enforcement officers who have almost absolute discretion to decide who is a threat, what constitutes resistance, and how harshly they can deal with the citizens they were appointed to “serve and protect.”

As I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, this mindset that any challenge to police authority is a threat that needs to be “neutralized” is a dangerous one that is part of a greater nationwide trend that sets the police beyond the reach of the Fourth Amendment. Moreover, when police officers are allowed to operate under the assumption that their word is law and that there is no room for any form of disagreement or even question, that serves to chill the First Amendment’s assurances of free speech, free assembly and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Frankly, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a casual “show your ID” request on a boardwalk, a stop-and-frisk search on a city street, or a traffic stop for speeding or just to check your insurance. If you feel like you can’t walk away from a police encounter of your own volition—and more often than not you can’t, especially when you’re being confronted by someone armed to the hilt with all manner of militarized weaponry and gear—then for all intents and purposes, you’re under arrest from the moment a cop stops you.

Sad, isn’t it, how quickly we have gone from a nation of laws—where the least among us had just as much right to be treated with dignity and respect as the next person (in principle, at least)—to a nation of law enforcers (revenue collectors with weapons) who treat us all like suspects and criminals?

Clearly, the language of freedom is no longer the common tongue spoken by the citizenry and their government. With the government having shifted into a language of force, “we the people” have been reduced to suspects in a surveillance state, criminals in a police state, and enemy combatants in a military empire.

Posted in General | 5 Comments

US Forces Succeed in Clearing Peaceful Environment Guardians, Escorting Shell Rig Through and Sending on to Arctic

Reporting from the scene:

US forces cleared kayakers out of the way and cut the cables connecting suspended climbers, making space for the government-escorted Shell oil rig to move through and continue on to the Arctic to begin the fossil fuel extraction process.

As the ship approached, one (hopelessly naive) onlooker shouted, “Where is President Obama?“, as if this were being done against his will.

Obama in 2012:

“Now, under my administration, America is producing more oil today than at any time in the last eight years. That’s important to know. Over the last three years, I’ve directed my administration to open up millions of acres for gas and oil exploration across 23 different states. We’re opening up more than 75 percent of our potential oil resources offshore. We’ve quadrupled the number of operating rigs to a record high. We’ve added enough new oil and gas pipeline to encircle the Earth and then some.”

Here is the oil rig passing through the cleared blockade:

After the rig passed through, a cheer of appreciation for the climbers and kayakers rang out from the onlookers, along with shouts of “Thank you!”

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Gov.-escorted Shell rig spews exhaust after passing through cleared blockade.

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Exhaust fumes from oil rig wash over the climbers.

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Drone watches from above.

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Drone hovers.

Author focuses on force dynamics, national and global. @_DirtyTruths

Donations to help the environmental organizations with bail money, etc., can be made here and here.

Posted in General, Politics / World News | 10 Comments

Understanding Oil Qaeda

In The Al Qaeda Network: A New Framework For DefiningThe Enemy, Katherine Zimmerman of the American Enterprise Institute describes the terrorist groups affiliated with Al Qaeda. Zimmerman is seen as a leading expert on the Al Qaeda network, having testified about it to Congress and written about it for The Washington Post, the Weekly Standard, and the Huffington Post.

Al Qaeda region 2In her analysis, Zimmerman identified the geographical locations of the groups said to be within the Al Qaeda network. These locations outline an area encompassing parts of Northern Africa and all of the Middle East. This region, in which the entire Al Qaeda network is based, represents about 15% of the total land on planet earth.

What is special about this land that might lead its inhabitants to a life of terrorism? Some, including Zimmerman, say that this region correlates to the land of Islam and that therefore the correlation is simply an indication that Muslims are prone to terrorism.

However, the known distribution of the world’s population of Muslims does not support that contention. According to the Pew Research Center, only about 55% of the world’s Muslims live inside the Al Qaeda network region.

The other possibility is that, since the area is rich in untapped resources, powerful people have used claims of terrorism as a pretext to invade. That possibility is definitely supported by evidence. For example, ten years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, U.S. officials began openly admitting that the war in Iraq was motivated by the desire to seize oil. U.S. military leaders including General John Abizaid, head of the U.S. military in Iraq, and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel have said that the war was about oil. Even former Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Alan Greenspan admitted it.

Geographical correlation also supports this possibility much better. When the region outlined by Zimmerman’s Al Qaeda network is superimposed on a map of oil reserves by country, over 70% of the world’s oil reserves fall within the same area.

If one considers only oil reserves that are not yet fully within the control of the world’s superpowers (the U.S., Russia, China, and the E.U.), about 90% of what is left is within Zimmerman’s region. Only Venezuela, with 6.5% of the remaining oil, stands out. It is therefore not surprising that the U.S. government has recently declared Venezuela to be a national security threat.

The strong correlation between Al Qaeda and oil suggests that the terrorist group might be better named Oil Qaeda. However, the truth is a little more complex. As reported before, the geopolitical significance of this relatively small part of the world is as much about natural gas as it is about oil. Other critical resources, including lithium and gold, are motivators for those wanting control of the region.

Moreover, it has been seen that the invasion of Afghanistan probably had something to do with that country having the ideal climate for the production of opium. Just before the U.S. invasion in 2001, the Taliban had essentially eradicated the production of opium in Afghanistan. Under the U.S. occupation, opium production has reached record levels and the country now supplies 90% of the world’s heroin.

There’s no doubt that the Al Qaeda network serves multiple purposes. For those who want simple answers, there will continue to be propaganda about the region’s problems with “Islamic terrorism.” For those who can still think and see, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Al Qaeda and its associated network is largely an excuse for seizing resources.

Kevin Ryan blogs at Dig Within.

Posted in General | 3 Comments

Portland, OR: US Gov Using Force to Clear Environment Guardians so Shell Oil Rig can Proceed to Arctic

Reporting from the scene:

Currently, at the St. Johns Bridge in Portland, Oregon, environment guardians are suspended from the bridge by cables, and kayakers are trying to block the water.  Their goal is to prevent a Shell oil rig from leaving town to go to the Arctic to start the process of extracting oil.  Business press commentators have expressed excitement that warming climates are causing ice to melt, thus helping to clear the way to more “black gold”.

The climbers and kayakers are letting all ships through except one, the massive Shell rig, which turned around this morning when it encountered the obstacle, and is currently waiting for the government to remove the guardians so it can head to the Arctic.

At the moment, US government forces (Oregon State Police and US Coast Goard) have begun to forcefully extract the climbers and herd the kayakers out of the way, chasing them and hooking them with hooked poles, so that they can be arrested and charged with federal crimes, and the oil rig can proceed to the Arctic.

What the government position comes down to is that it is a crime to protect the environment, and “legal” to irreparably harm it.  However, this is one of those issues where what the government declares to be “legal” is irrelevant.  Yes, for hundreds of years it was “legal” to kill native people and “illegal” – in fact, terrorism – to interfere with their being murdered.  So what?  Means nothing.

On a related note, several of the climbers are of Native descent, and have commented that they and their ancestors have, over generations, watched and resisted the swift destruction of the environment by the European invaders.  This marks another time when they are working to preserve the environment and the US government is using force against them to further its destruction.

Simultaneously, annexation of Native land in Arizona is being carried out (under John McCain) for additional resource extraction.

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Climbers suspended; Kayaks under bridge. Gov forces beginning to herd and arrest them.

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By this point, kayakers largely herded to side to make way for Shell oil rig to head to Arctic.

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This climber secured his or her neck to the bridge, but was just cut loose and arrested.

pano

By my estimate, there are several hundred people on the scene to support the environment guardians, and two people there to support Shell, aside from the US government forces, which are acting in support of Shell.

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US forces using a pole to try to ensnare, arrest environment protectors.

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Donations to help the organization with bail money, etc., can be made here and here.

The Shell rig is currently on its way back to the bridge.  For updates from the organization, text @ShellNoPDX to 23559, or follow this author @_DirtyTruths

Author focuses on force dynamics, national and global.

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Former Exxon President On Mission To Clean Up Oil Sands

Canada has given oil sands a dirty reputation, but a breakthrough, commercially viable technology has caught the eye of a former Exxon Mobil president who is putting it to use to clean up Utah’s billions of barrels of oil sands.

Imagine extracting high-quality oil out of the estimated 32 billion barrels buried in Utah’s oil sands, without creating the toxic wastelands that have resulted from oil sands projects in Western Canada. And imagine doing it at a cost that can still turn a profit in today’s oil price slump.

That would be highly enticing to some of the large operators in the Uinta Basin, Utah’s emerging tight oil play. As shale production has soared across the country, operators have moved to Utah to try to coax oil and gas from shale rock in ways that have been done on such a large scale elsewhere. Major players such as Marathon Oil (NYSE:MRO), EP Energy Corporation (NYSE:EPE) and Newfield Exploration Co. (NYSE:NFX) have significant exposure in Utah.

But Utah’s oil sands are suddenly attracting a lot more attention because of their vast potential. The poor environmental reputation and high cost has kept companies away up until now, but armed with a new, clean oil sands technology, there is even talk that Utah could shift its focus away from expensive shale.

Related: Cameroon Ramping Up Oil Production As Prices Moving Down

Protecting the environment and still profiting from oil has long been a major challenge, particularly when it comes to dirty oil sands, but that could all change if a new technology designed specifically to extract these oil sands in the most environmentally friendly way possible proves successful.

For five decades, companies have been trying to replicate Alberta’s oil sands success in Utah, but without turning the state into a toxic wasteland. A former Exxon president of Arabian Gulf operations, Dr. R Gerald Bailey, is one of several to take up the challenge, where today he is CEO of a small oil services technology company called MCW Energy Group (MCWEF:OTCQB).

“It is really simple,” Dr. Bailey told Oilprice.com. “In the same way that soap washes grease from plates, with the grease adhering to the soap and pulling it off, so new technology in the form of an innovative solvent can pull the oil out of oil sands.” Oil sands are typically black and dirty looking. However, once washed with the solvent, the sand comes out 99.9 percent clean before it is returned to the Earth, according to Dr. Bailey. “If we throw it back on the Earth, it is no longer contaminated with oil and you can grow plants on it.”

This is not just about making oil, Dr. Bailey opines. It’s about remediation. “After the tragic Deepwater Horizon disaster, we could have gone over there and cleaned that beach up with this new technology.” The company is focusing on Utah, but sees future potential abroad in places like Russia, China, Afghanistan, the Dominican Republic, Namibia, Jordan and Trinidad.

Related: Greenpeace Going All Out To Stop Shell Drilling In The Arctic

Other companies are working on similar technologies as environmental groups and governments turn increasingly hostile to dirty oil sands. Marathon Oil isdeveloping a proprietary solvent technology, in which wet tailings are dried and deposited back into a mine site as back-fill. Imperial Oil (TSE: IMO), a Canadian oil company, is doing something similar.

The focus of any new oil extraction technology must be on the environment—both Canada’s toxic wastelands and the fallout from hydraulic fracturing have ensured that new technologies can no longer push full speed ahead towards profit while ignoring the longer-term consequences.

While shale producers are taking a nose-dive in this market, experts estimate that production using new solvent technologies in Utah can be more profitable than shale oil currently being produced, and more profitable than any other oil sands project in North America.

It costs about $55 per barrel to produce oil sands in Alberta. But independent research has shown that MCW Energy Group can produce oil from Utah oil sands at approximately $30 for clean oil sands.

From an environmental standpoint, it would seem that the goals are also being achieved. The process employed does not use any water, which is a significant selling point in the dry state of Utah, and produces no waste or pollutants, including no more tailing ponds.

Related: Top 6 Most Powerful Women In Oil And Gas

Can it apply to Canada’s oil sands as well?

According to Dr. Bailey of MCW Energy, the Utah sands differ as they are oil-wet and not water-wet, and because they can simply be scooped up with a front loader and then processed with the solvent. The oil separates out and the clean sand is returned to the ground. In Canada, however, the sand must be mined because it is several hundred feet underground and requires extraction with steam and subsequent hot water, which becomes highly contaminated. “The huge acres of tailing ponds can be seen from space.”

But while it may seem a daunting task, the new technology can tackle even Alberta’s oil sands waste problem—after the process, according to Dr. Bailey, without using any water. “We would just use a de-watering process and then treat the raw sludge with our solvent.”

The much-maligned oil sands may yet have a viable future in a world increasingly concerned about the environment.

By James Stafford of Oilprice.com

Source: Former Exxon President On Mission To Clean Up Oil Sands

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Iran Deal Prevents Naked Muslim Ray Gun

Nukes get all the attention, but the fact is that intense inspections of Iranian facilities will also prevent Iran from developing a ray gun that causes your clothes to vanish and your brain to convert to Islam.

No, there is not the slightest scrap of evidence that Iran is trying to create such a thing, but then there’s also not the slightest scrap of evidence that Iran is trying to create a nuclear bomb.

And yet, here are a bunch of celebrities in a video that certainly cost many more dollars than the number of people who’ve watched it, urging support for the Iran deal after hyping the bogus Iranian nuclear threat, pretending that the United States gets “forced into” wars, making a bunch of sick jokes about how nuclear death can be better than other war deaths, suggesting that spies are cool, cursing, and mocking the very idea that war is a serious matter.

And here’s an otherwise intelligent guy in a video claiming that the Iran deal will prevent the “Iranian regime” (never a government, always a regime) from “gaining a nuclear weapon.” Well, I say it also prevents Iran from gaining a Naked Muslim Ray Gun!

When you question supporters of diplomacy and peace with Iran on why they focus their rhetoric on preventing Iran from getting nukes, even though at least some of them privately admit there’s no evidence Iran is trying to, they don’t come out and say that they’re cynically playing into popular beliefs, even false ones, because they have no choice. No, they tell you that their language doesn’t actually state that Iran was trying to get nukes, only that if Iran ever did decide to try to get nukes, this deal would prevent it.

Well, the same applies to the Naked Muslim Ray Gun.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Or rather, stop being afraid. Don’t listen to the pro-war propaganda even when it’s parroted by the pro-peace advocates. It doesn’t improve your thinking, your understanding, or the prospects in the long run of avoiding war.

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Currency Devaluation: The Crushing Vice of Price

VICE is both a sin and a tool in the UK and Oz. In North America, the tool is VISE. I am using vice as both the tool and sin…

When stagnation grabs exporting nations by the throat, the universal solution offered is devalue your currency to boost exports. As a currency loses purchasing power relative to the currencies of trading partners, exported goods and services become cheaper to those buying the products with competing currencies.

For example, a few years ago, before Japanese authorities moved to devalue the yen, the U.S. dollar bought 78 yen. Now it buys 123 yen–an astonishing 57% increase.

Devaluation is a bonanza for exporters’ bottom lines. Back in late 2012, when a Japanese corporation sold a product in the U.S. for $1, the company received 78 yen when the sale was reported in yen.

Now the same sale of $1 reaps 123 yen. Same product, same price in dollars, but a 57% increase in revenues when stated in yen.

No wonder depreciation is widely viewed as the magic panacea for stagnant revenues and profits. There’s just one tiny little problem with devaluation, which we’ll cover in a moment.

One exporter’s depreciation becomes an immediate problem for other exporters: when Japan devalued its currency, the yen, its products became cheaper to those buying Japanese goods with U.S. dollars, Chinese yuan, euros, etc.

That negatively impacts other exporters selling into the same markets–for example, South Korea.

To remain competitive, South Korea would have to devalue its currency, the won. This is known as competitive devaluation, a.k.a. currency war. As a result of currency wars, the advantages of devaluation are often temporary.

But as correspondent Mark G. recently observed, devaluation has a negative consequence few mention: the cost of imports skyrockets. When imports are essential, such as energy and food, the benefits of devaluation (boosting exports) may well be considerably less than the pain caused by rising import costs.

Japan is a case in point. The massive devaluation of the yen was designed to boost Japan’s exports and rocket-launch corporate profits, which was then supposed to drive a virtuous cycle of higher wages and increased employment.

But the benefits of the massive devaluation have been underwhelming. Some exporters have seen profits soar, helping to push Japan’s stock market to post-1990 highs, but the effect is not universally positive.

Consider the plight of companies that must buy soybeans from the U.S. to make their food products. The cost of their raw materials just increased 50%, as a $1 of soybeans now costs 123 yen rather than 78 yen.

Given that major exporters of goods and services like China and Japan are importers of oil and food, devaluation is a ticking time bomb in terms of the cost of liquid fuels and food. The looming global recession and overinvestment in commodity production–driven by the zero-interest rate policies of the central banks–has created a temporary glut in oil and other commodities.

But as marginal producers are driven into bankruptcy or cut production, supply and demand will realign at some point. Somewhere not that far down the line, exporting nations that devalued their currency for the crack-cocaine hit of soaring revenues and profits in their home currencies will find the cost of essential imports will skyrocket while the benefits of their devaluation fade in the currency wars they instigated.

Authorities pushing currency devaluation as a cure for their stagnating economies might want to study Frederic Bastiat’s insight into the eventual cost and consequences: “For it almost always happens that when the immediate consequence is favorable, the later consequences are disastrous, and vice versa.”

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Viet Nam a Half Century Later

Jimmy Carter called a war waged in Vietnam by the United States — a war that killed 60,000 Americans and 4,000,000 Vietnamese, without burning down a single U.S. town or forest — “mutual” damage. Ronald Reagan called it a “noble” and “just cause.” Barack Obama promotes the myth of the widespread mistreatment of returning U.S. veterans, denounces the Vietnamese as “brutal,” and has launched a 13-year, $65 million propaganda program to glorify what the Vietnamese call the American War:

“As we observe the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, we reflect with solemn reverence upon the valor of a generation that served with honor. We pay tribute to the more than 3 million servicemen and women who left their families to serve bravely, a world away . . . They pushed through jungles and rice paddies, heat and monsoon, fighting heroically to protect the ideals we hold dear as Americans.”

Which ideals might those have been? Remember, this was the bad war in contrast to which World War II acquired the ridiculous label “good war.” But the Pentagon is intent on undoing any accurate memory of Vietnam. Members of the wonderful organization, Veterans For Peace, meanwhile have launched their own educational campaign to counter the Pentagon’s at VietnamFullDisclosure.org, and the Vietnam Peace Commemoration Committee has done the same at LessonsOfVietnam.com. Already, the Pentagon has been persuaded to correct some of its inaccurate statements. Evidence of the extent of the killing in Vietnam continues to emerge, and it has suddenly become universally acceptable in academia and the corporate media to acknowledge that presidential candidate Richard M. Nixon secretly sabotaged peace talks in 1968 that appeared likely to end the war until he intervened. As a result, the war raged on and Nixon won election promising to end the war, which he didn’t do. There would seem to be at work here something like a 50-year limit on caring about treason or mass-murder. Imagine what it might become acceptable to say about current wars 50 years hence!

And yet, many lies about Vietnam are still told, and many truths are too little known. After Nixon sabotaged peace negotiations, U.S. and Vietnamese students negotiated their own People’s Peace Treaty, and used it to pressure Nixon to finally make his own.

“Suppose Viet Nam had not enjoyed an international solidarity movement, particularly in the United States,” writes Madame Nguyen Thi Binh. “If so, we could not have shaken Washington’s aggressive will.”

The People’s Peace Treaty began like this:

“Be it known that the American and Vietnamese peoples are not enemies. The war is carried out in the names of the people of the United States and South Vietnam but without our consent. It destroys the land and people of Vietnam. It drains America of its resources, its youth and its honor.

“We hereby agree to end the war on the following terms, so that both peoples can live under the joy of independence and can devote themselves to building a society based on human equality and respect for the earth. In rejecting the war we also reject all forms of racism and discrimination against people based on color, class, sex, national origin, and ethnic grouping which form the basis of the war policies, past and present, of the United States government.

“1. The Americans agree to the immediate and total withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Vietnam.

“2. The Vietnamese pledge that, as soon as the U.S. government publicly sets a date for total withdrawal, they will enter discussions to secure the release of all American prisoners, including pilots captured while bombing North Vietnam.”

Nine leaders of the U.S. antiwar movement of the 1960s have put their current thoughts down in a forthcoming book called The People Make the Peace: Lessons from the Vietnam Antiwar Movement. The movement of the 1960s and early 1970s was widespread and dynamic beyond what we know today. It was part of a wider culture of resistance. It benefitted from the novelty of televised war and televised protest. It benefitted from hugely flawed but better-than-today economic security, media coverage, and election systems, the impact of the draft, and — of course — the creativity and courage and hard work of peace activists.

Those contributing to this book, and who recently returned to Vietnam together, are Rennie Davis, Judy Gumbo, Alex Hing, Doug Hostetter, Jay Craven, Becca Wilson, John McAuliff, Myra MacPherson, and Nancy Kurshan. Their insights into the war, the Vietnamese culture, and U.S. culture, and the peace movement are priceless.

This was a war that Vietnamese and Americans killed themselves to protest. This was a war in which Vietnamese learned to raise fish in bomb craters. This was a war in which U.S. peace activists illegally traveled to Vietnam to learn about the war and work for peace. This is a war in which people still die from weapons that explode these many years later or from poisons that take this long to kill. Third-generation victims with birth defects live in the most contaminated areas on earth.

Nixon recorded himself fretting about the People’s Peace Treaty with his staff. Two years later, he eventually agreed to similar terms. In the meantime, tens of thousands of people died.

And yet the Vietnamese distinguish clearly, as they always did, U.S. peace advocates from the warmongering U.S. government. They love and honor Norman Morrison who burned himself to death at the Pentagon. They carry on without bitterness, hatred, or violence. The rage still roiling the United States from the U.S. Civil War is not apparent in Vietnamese culture. Americans could learn from Vietnamese attitudes. We could also learn the lesson of the war — and not treat it as a disease called “the Vietnam syndrome” — the lesson that war is immoral and even on its own terms counter-productive. Recognizing that would be the beginning of health.<--break->

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