Saturday, February 15, 2014

David Brooks' - Ostrich in Print

Avoiding Unpleasant Truths with David Brooks

by Steve Breyman - CounterPunch

We all know people who prefer cozier psychic climes to those offered up by reality. They’re ubiquitous, the place is lousy with them. They constitute what might be a solid (if hardly silent) majority in the United States today. Folks incapable of entertaining mental states much north of Miami. The insufferably faux cheery manager. The always look-on-the-bright-side friend. The ‘bad news’ avoider. These people likely even include ourselves from time to time.

Who doesn’t want to “stay calm and carry on,” or “don’t worry, be happy”? What sane person prefers sour or angry moods to the buoyant? But the preference for Zen over Zinn doesn’t change reality; it makes reality harder to change. And it’s plain irresponsible or downright dishonest to substitute counterfeit preoccupations for unflinching analysis.

It’s not just Fox News. New York Times columnist David Brooks has made a career of helping conservatives avoid uncomfortable truths. Brooks is of course not as bad as Roger Ailes’ mad stable of professional prevaricators, but he has a more prestigious perch.

His February 10 column—“The American Precariat”—stands as a fine example of Brooks’ peculiar brand of pseudo-intellectual soft right victim blaming reality dodging. Brooks sees the world through old-fashioned, moralistic and mythical American Exceptionalist lenses set in generational conflict culture war frames. Were he British, he’d sit in the House of Lords.

He’s mildly perturbed (not being the type to get genuinely outraged) by the news that Americans are now less mobile, that they move less today than they did some decades ago (though the decline is not precipitous: 20% of Americans moved in 1950; 12% at present). He finds related stats for duration of tenure in a particular abode (people stayed in the same house for a mere five years in the fifties and sixties; it’s up to 8.6 years today). We’re “no more mobile than people in Denmark or Finland” (as if this is necessarily a bad thing; Scandinavians tend to live superior lives compared to Americans), and Brooks is worried.

He’s honest enough (which is what distinguishes him from many pundits on the right) to examine “a few theories that offer partial explanations, but only partial ones” as to why this might be so. These “theories” include an aging population (old folks are less geographically mobile), and the relocation difficulties faced by people burdened by underwater mortgages.

Yet young people are not moving as much as they used to, Brooks tells us, and neither are renters—so that can’t be it. Growing job homogeneity across regions—why move if the jobs in Pittsburgh are the same as those in Atlanta?—doesn’t cut it for Brooks either.

Instead, “a big factor here is a loss of self-confidence.”

“It takes faith to move. You are putting yourself through temporary expense and hardship because you have faith that over the long run you will slingshot forward. Many highly educated people, who are still moving in high numbers, have that long-term faith. Less-educated people often do not.”

Brooks thus gives us a choice. We can explain decreased mobility among the working class as a function of the decline in living standards, the collapse of labor unions, the erosion of real wages, the evaporation of manufacturing jobs through offshoring, computerization and tax and trade policy, the significant increase in housing prices and rents in many communities, the unwillingness of banks to offer or refinance mortgages on affordable terms, the widespread assumption of massive credit card and student loan debt, and the nontrivial expense of relocation—in sum as a predictable outcome of decades of pauperization—or we can explain it as a loss of faith, a moral failing, a weakness of character on the part of the “less educated.”

Brooks is also puzzled that those people who are moving are not headed to “low unemployment/high income areas,” the sort of place Brooks would move to.

“Instead they are moving to lower-income areas with cheap housing. That is to say, they are less likely to endure temporary housing hardship for the sake of future opportunity. They are more likely to move to places that offer immediate comfort even if the long-term income prospects are lower.”

We have another choice. We can be surprised that people without jobs or with lousy or part-time jobs, saddled by debt, having cobbled together the hundreds or more likely thousands of dollars necessary to pay first month’s rent, last month’s rent (in some places), and probably a security deposit equivalent to a month’s rent, or who scrimped for years to sock away a down payment, might be averse to “temporary housing hardship.” Or not.

But Brooks doesn’t see it this way—given the curvature of his lenses. There’s got to be more to the story, some individual or collective moral failure, upon which we can pin American decline.

It’s not enough that Brooks has probably never been evicted because he couldn’t make the rent, never had his home foreclosed on, never had to choose between paying the landlord or the bank, the credit card company or the power utility. No, he also questions the grit of those who must seek “immediate comfort.”

Brooks finds further evidence for Americans’ loss-of-faith-as-moral-failing. Fertility rates (“a good marker of confidence”) are down, “people are less likely to vacate a job in search of a better one,” and a mere 46% of Americans “believe they have a good chance of improving their standard of living.” Worse yet, a decline of “faith in capitalism, a classless society, America’s role in the world and organized religion” has Americans indistinguishable from Europeans, “and when you just look at young people, American exceptionalism is basically gone.”

Uncertain why people one paycheck away from catastrophe might choose not to reproduce? Good thing abortion and contraceptive rights are not under attack across the country. Surprised that someone might hold on to the job she has rather than risk penury for the ever more elusive “better one”? Perhaps workers might someday receive unemployment benefits when they voluntarily leave a job. Taken aback that nearly half of Americans now realize (correctly) that social mobility is a thing of the past for four out of five of them? Confused why people under siege by corporations and the 1% who own them, without consequential assistance from impotent (or worse) churches, might ‘lose faith’ in the American Dream?

Brooks’ disappointment in and disapproval of his (younger) countrymen continues.

Fifty percent of Americans over 65 believe America stands above all others as the greatest nation on earth. Only 27 percent of Americans ages 18 to 29 believe that. As late as 2003, Americans were more likely than Italians, Brits and Germans to say the “free market economy is the best system on which to base the future of the world.” By 2010, they were slightly less likely than those Europeans to embrace capitalism.

Thirty years ago, a vast majority of Americans identified as members of the middle class. But since 1988, the percentage of Americans who call themselves members of the “have-nots” has doubled. Today’s young people are more likely to believe success is a matter of luck, not effort, than earlier generations.

Brooks calls these completely reasonable attitudes and amazingly accurate self-assessments, these inevitable consequences of the dismantling of the American Dream, “pessimistic views,” as if those who held them simply needed to think positively and regain their confidence. Brooks fails to connect the historical dots: he apparently doesn’t understand that it was the conservative policies of austerity, retrenchment, and corporate welfare over this same period —pushed both by Republicans and many Democrats, and cheered by Brooks—that pushed people into the ranks of the have-nots.

Even when borrowing a catchy meme from a British academic, the sort of thing Brooks loves to do, he can’t help but sermonize. The precariat is just what it sounds like, the growing class of workers (often young) with temporary or part-time work teetering on the edge of homelessness and hunger. Brooks describes the American precariat as “hunkered down, insecure, risk averse, relying on friends and family but without faith in American possibilities. This fatalism is historically uncharacteristic of America.” Yet again, clear-eyed realism about a miserable situation—a reality painfully experienced, violently imposed and with no prospects for improvement—Brooks converts into a character flaw of a whole class of unfortunates.

Finally, Brooks feels compelled to offer policy prescriptions. If you expected a higher minimum wage, universal single payer health care, fair trade over ‘free trade,’ massive investment in affordable housing, student loan forgiveness, state banks, ecological restructuring to weather climate change, public child care or pre-K, paid family leave, increased Social Security benefits—to name just a few urgently needed programs—you’d be disappointed. Nope, Brooks cites an idea from some guy with the American Enterprise Institute, that bastion of human kindness and fellow feeling: moving vouchers for the long-term unemployed so that “the old future-oriented mind-set [might] return.”

Steve Breyman teaches science and technology studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Reach him at

Persisting Despite the Fear: Scared Ergo Courageous

I am Scared, Therefore I am Brave!

by Andre Vltchek - CounterPunch

Recently, my Italian translator, Giuseppe, wrote me an email. It was not a typical exchange, but quite an extraordinary personal query:

“Many see you as a very courageous person. They would like to imitate you at that, at least a little bit, but they feel they are not courageous, say, ‘by nature’ and they cannot learn courage. What do you think about that? Can people train themselves to be courageous?"

I do not know how to answer this question in brief, and definitely not in the body of an email, not in just a few words. But the question is important, maybe essential, and so I decided to reply by writing this essay.


I have travelled the world, covering a myriad of conflicts, on all continents. I have written books, made films, and produced investigative reports.

I have seen fear on the faces of men, women and children, I have seen misery and sometimes I saw what could only be described as absolute desperation. I often sensed fear ‘in the air’, in so many corners of the globe!

Fear has been, naturally, omnipresent at all battlefields and in the areas of carnage and plunder, but also at ‘not so obvious places’, such as churches and family homes, and even on the streets.

I have been ‘studying fear’, trying to understand its causes, its roots. I always suspected that to define what triggers fear, what produces it, would be like coming at least halfway to containing it, destroying it, freeing people from its tyrannical claws.

There are, of course, many types of fear: from rational fear of direct violence, to some abstract, almost grotesque fear that is imposed on people by our political regimes and establishments, by almost all religions, and by oppressive family structures.

The second type of fear is purposefully manufactured and has been perfected throughout the centuries. How to use it effectively, how to maximize it, how to inflict the greatest damage, all of that is passed on from oppressor to oppressor, from generations to generations.

Fear is administered in order to stop progress, in order to choke dissent and to keep people in a thoroughly submissive and servile position. Fear breeds ignorance, too. It offers a false sense of security and of belonging. Needless to say that one can belong to an extremely bad ‘club’, or to a family of gangsters, or to a fascist country. Fear manipulates masses to an ignorant obedience, and then threatens those who resist: “don’t you see, that is what the majority of people want and think. Follow the others, or else!”


Almost several decades ago, thinkers like Huxley, Orwell and others prophesied societies in which we now live. We are still reading ‘1984’ or ‘Brave New World’ with disgust, and with outrage. We read those books as though they are some imaginary, science-fiction horror, not realizing that those nightmares, actually, have already arrived in our countries, cities, even into our own living rooms.

As many nations, including those in Europe and North America, increasingly succumb to indoctrination and intellectual homogeneity, courage is vanishing. It is demonstrated very infrequently, and it clearly fails to inspire the majority.

It is not because ‘people have changed’, but because the world in which we are living is becoming increasingly compliant and restrained, and the main sources of information (mass media), as well as those sources that shape public opinion and the behavioral patterns of the citizens (social media), are fully controlled by corporate and conservative political groups and their interests.

While people used to be influenced and inspired by great thinkers, novelists and filmmakers, they are now being shaped by 160-character messages of social media, and by all those opinion-formers who try to make them shallow, unemotional, compliant and cowardly.

In much of the distant past, but before I was born, rebellions and revolutions were seen as something truly heroic; they were respected and seen as something worth living for, even dying for. That was still the era of true pathos, of struggles against fascism and against colonialism. And life was not stripped of all poetry, yet, not even of revolutionary poetry.

One’s worth was defined by one’s contribution to building a much better world, not by the size of his or her SUV.

In those days, entire nations rose up from their knees. Great men and women led some of the spectacular rebellions. Writers, filmmakers, even musicians joined the struggle, or often marched at the vanguard. The line between top investigative journalist work and the arts became increasingly blurry, as great personalities such as Wilfred Burchett and Ryszard Kapuscinski circled the globe, relentlessly identifying its plights and grievances.

Life suddenly became meaningful. Many, not the majority but definitely many, were ready to dedicate their lives, and even to die, in order to destroy that outdated and unjust world order; to build, from scratch, a decent and prosperous society for all human beings, or in brief, ‘to improve the world’.

If you see some of the French, Italian, Japanese and Latin American films from that era, chances are, that you will get goose bumps. Such was the energy, the zeal, and determination to challenge the establishment and to improve life on the planet.

When Sartre spoke, even if on topics such as imperialism and colonialism, hundreds of thousands of people would gather in Paris, and he would often appear in places like the Renault factory, far away from those famous intellectual salons of the capital.

“I rebel, therefore I exist!” wrote Albert Camus, proudly. It appeared to be one of the main mottos of that era.

Then, suddenly, rebellion ended’, it was ‘contained’.

But the wars continued. Imperialism and colonialism regrouped. Media outlets were purchased, bought. Capitalism won, once again, despite all dialectic logic against such a victory. Progress was stopped, even reversed. Corporatism produced Thatcherism and Reagan-ism, and the world got its shackles and muzzles back. Then, that gangrenous ‘War on Terror’ was launched and fear began creeping back, even from where it had been expelled several decades earlier.


I do not consider myself ‘brave’, Giuseppe.

In fact, I am very scared, and that is why I rebel, and risk my life, constantly.

I am scared of what I see. I am also scared of not being able to see, to witness, to document.

I am scared when I see the desperate faces of women, holding photos of their disappeared or killed husbands and sons.

I am scared of the aftermaths of aerial bombardment and of drone warfare.

I am scared of overcrowded hospitals, with injured people screaming on the floor, drenched in their own blood.

I am scared when I witness how all those great dreams of, on paper, independent countries in Africa, Asia, Middle East and Oceania are vanishing into thin air.

I am scared of all the new forms of imperialism, of neo-colonialism, of buying intellectuals in poor countries, of manufacturing ‘opposition movements’ against the governments the West does not like.

I am scared of the irreversible destruction of our beautiful planet. I have seen how entire stunning countries, atoll nations, are becoming uninhabitable because of global warming and the rising sea level – Tuvalu, Kiribati, and the Marshall Islands.

I am scared when I see scars instead of beautiful rainforests, stumps of trees and black chemicals floating where once ran bubbly, happy rivers – in Sumatra, Borneo, and Papua.

I am scared of so many things!

I am scared of seeing women being treated like dogs or doormats, as possessions of their fathers and husbands, and even brothers.

I am scared when brutal, corrupt and ignorant priests ruin lives and spread grotesque fears.

I am scared when books are getting burnt, directly or indirectly, replaced by sheets of metal and plastic, with potentially controllable content.

I am scared when they are, metaphorically or in real terms, shooting people straight between their eyes, or in their backs, simply because they refused to kneel.

I am scared when people have to lie in order to survive, or when they have to betray their loved ones.

I am scared of rape, of people being raped; in any way that rape is performed – physically or mentally.

I am scared of darkness. Not the one in the bedroom, at night, but of the darkness that is once again descending on our planet, and on humanity.

And the more scared I am, the more I feel that I have to act.

It is just because sitting still is the scariest thing of all. Sitting still while this world, this beautiful world which I know so intimately; from Tierra De Fuego to Northern Canada, from the Cape of Good Hope to the tiny Pacific Islands, to PNG to DRC, is being plundered, violated, and intellectually lobotomized.

It is also because I am a human being, one tiny grain of sand in this tremendous mankind, and as Maxim Gorky once wrote “Mankind – that has a proud sound!”

I am not always scared

When the muzzle of a gun attached to some tank, slowly moves in my direction, I am not scared. I have seen what happens, what can happen if it fires; unfortunately I have seen it too many times. The moment of pain must be very intense but extremely short – and then, there is nothing. I don’t want it to happen to me, because I love this life so passionately, so much, but I am not scared of the possibility of death.

But again, I am extremely scared of ‘not being there’, of not witnessing and documenting life, in its full beauty, in its richness and its brutality.

I am scared, I am terrified, of not knowing, of not understanding, of not fighting, of not rebelling, of not loving, not hating, not running, not falling, not laughing or crying (as one cannot exist without other), of not doing the right thing, or not erring, of not existing!


To search for the truth, to educate oneself, that is already brave, it is very brave.

The way our world is structured nowadays, people are strongly discouraged from being different.

Most men and women, even children, are now conditioned in such a way, that it makes taking the first step away from the controlled mainstream, extremely difficult. To step out of that ‘comfort zone’, away from the swamp of ‘commonly accepted and promoted values’, of cheap clichés, and the outright lies, is brave, heroic.

As a result, while the world is in flames, while it is being plundered, very few are actually fighting for its survival.

Has courage disappeared from this world? Is cowardice what actually accompanies those cheap ‘pop’ values’? Does shallowness, intellectual and emotional, breed compliance?

Can there still be a struggle for justice? Is rebellion still possible? Of course there can still be, of course it is, and you are walking away, you are rebelling as well, Giuseppe, with every article that you translate, and with every question that you ask.

It is not necessary to always face a combat helicopter, in order to be defined as a brave person. Some do go to wars, of course. I do. Is it because I am brave? Or is it because it is sometimes easier to point my camera at some battlefield, than to deal with the gentle art of translation? I don’t know. Let others judge.

But to answer your question, it is: yes, one can learn the trade, any trade. And one can also learn how to be brave, too.

However, courage just for the sake of courage is worth nothing. It is like bungee jumping, or driving at breakneck speed on some icy road, not much more. Just a strong rush of adrenaline…

Genuine courage, I believe, has to have a purpose, an important goal. And to risk one’s life, one has to really and deeply love it, and to respect it: his or her life, as well as the life of others. Therefore, courage makes sense only if it is there to protect the life of other human beings. One has to love this life, passionately and madly, in order to fight for it, in order to fight for the survival of others.

A courageous person can never be a slave, to anyone or to anything. Maybe that is the best way to begin ‘being brave’: by realizing, by defying, by demolishing slavery, by fighting against it no matter where and in which form it exists. There is still so much of it, all around us… Not only that old-fashioned slavery defined by shackles, but all types of slavery, in so many forms.

Accepting slavery, but especially becoming a voluntary slave, is the opposite of courage

To ‘swim with the flow’, equals to being a slave. To repeat pre-fabricated clichés, to refuse forming his or her personal opinion is nothing less than intellectual servitude.

Of course, to be courageous, one has to be informed, as one has to be able to analyze the world, to choose a personal set of values, to be secure. Then and only then can one fight, if there is no other way; to fight and to risk everything combating oppression and brutality, whenever human beings are being tortured and violated, anywhere on this planet.

In order to be informed, one should never ‘believe’, one should always demand to know! That is brave too, and not at all easy, but necessary. It is brave when one is determinedly demanding to study and to learn, when one dares to form his or her own personal opinion. Not some pre-chewed school curriculum, but real learning. That is actually immensely brave, and also the only way to help to move humankind forward.

That is why truly free thought has lately been directly and brutally targeted in the West, and in the other oppressed parts of the world. Because this present regime, this ‘New World Order’, which is actually not new at all, is doing all it can to reverse natural development, to lock us all back in the gloom and doom of some outdated religious-style dogmatism. We are forced; we are being conditioned to believe in capitalism, in a Western style of ‘multi-party democracy’, in the superiority of Western concepts.

But it is clear – more thoughts are there, more alternatives, options, more checks and balances, the safer our planet becomes. Needless to say, it is brave to fight for its safety.


There is perhaps nothing as powerful, as humble, as honest, as this quote by Bertrand Russell displayed in the office of Noam Chomsky, at MIT:

“Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind.”

This quote also helps to answer the question posted by my translator and friend from Italy:

When the desire for knowledge becomes truly overwhelming, one simply cannot stop, or slow down. The only way is to go forward, to absorb knowledge, to fight for attaining knowledge, to see the world, to understand, to feel, to listen; passionately and consistently. No fear can deter us, when we are avidly searching for truth. It is so proud, so brave, this desire to know!

When we feel ‘unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind’, when we witness how unjust is the arrangement of this world, when we truly internalize the suffering of others, of our fellow human beings living on all the continents of this beautiful but battered planet, then almost all of us, or at least those who are humanists in their core, become courageous, and brave. They suddenly know what has to be done.

As for ‘the longing for love’, it is there, it is always there, in all of us, in all human beings. To fight for love, when it comes, is brave, and to die for it, if risking all is the only way to save it, is courageous. That ‘longing for love’ is the most humble, most sacred, the most essential part of our nature, so rarely satisfied. It takes courage to love; it takes tremendous, indescribable courage!

As the Cuban poet Antonio Guerrero Rodriguez, one of those brave ‘Cuban Five’, imprisoned for defending their country against Yankee infiltration and terrorism, once wrote: “Love is either eternal, or it is not love.” If it can vanish, it is not love. El amor que expira no es amor.

These words, a poem, were written in a brutal North American prison and what they mean is clear. It is brave to love. It is so easy to betray. But it takes real courage to defend love.

Such courage, Giuseppe, can be learned. Or it can simply be discovered and nourished, as it lives inside us: inside all of us it lives!

Andre Vltchek is a novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. His discussion with Noam Chomsky On Western Terrorism is now going to print. His critically acclaimed political novel Point of No Return is now re-edited and available. Oceania is his book on Western imperialism in the South Pacific. His provocative book about post-Suharto Indonesia and the market-fundamentalist model is called “Indonesia – The Archipelago of Fear”. He has just completed the feature documentary, “Rwanda Gambit” about Rwandan history and the plunder of DR Congo. After living for many years in Latin America and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides and works in East Asia and Africa. He can be reached through his website or his Twitter.

Ukranian Coup de Grace Planned for Russian Finale?

Russia Under Attack

by Paul Craig Roberts - Information Clearing House 

In a number of my articles I have explained that the Soviet Union served as a constraint on US power. The Soviet collapse unleashed the neoconservative drive for US world hegemony. Russia under Putin, China, and Iran are the only constraints on the neoconservative agenda.

Russia’s nuclear missiles and military technology make Russia the strongest military obstacle to US hegemony. To neutralize Russia, Washington broke the Reagan-Gorbachev agreements and expanded NATO into former constituent parts of the Soviet Empire and now intends to bring former constituent parts of Russia herself--Georgia and Ukraine--into NATO. Washington withdrew from the treaty that banned anti-ballistic missiles and has established anti-ballistic missile bases on Russia’s frontier. Washington changed its nuclear war doctrine to permit nuclear first strike.

All of this is aimed at degrading Russia’s deterrent, thereby reducing the ability of Russia to resist Washington’s will.

The Russian government (and also the government of Ukraine) foolishly permitted large numbers of US funded NGOs to operate as Washington’s agents under cover of “human rights organizations,” “building democracy,” etc. The “pussy riot” event was an operation designed to put Putin and Russia in a bad light. (The women were useful dupes.) The Western media attacks on the Sochi Olympics are part of the ridiculing and demonizing of Putin and Russia. Washington is determined that Putin and Russia will not be permitted any appearance of success in any area, whether diplomacy, sports, or human rights.

The American media is a Ministry of Propaganda for the government and the corporations and helps Washington paint Russia in bad colors. Stephen F. Cohen accurately describes US media coverage of Russia as a “tsunami of shamefully unprofessional and politically inflammatory articles.”

As a holdover from the Cold War, the US media retains the image of a free press that can be trusted. In truth, there is no free press in America (except for Internet sites). See here for an example: During the later years of the Clinton regime, the US government permitted 5 large conglomerates to concentrate the varied, dispersed and somewhat independent media. The value of these large mega-companies depends on their federal broadcast licenses. Therefore, the media dares not go against the government on any important issue. In addition, the media conglomerates are no longer run by journalists but by corporate advertising executives and former government officials, with an eye not on facts but on advertising revenues and access to government “sources.”

Washington is using the media to prepare the American people for confrontation with Russia and to influence Russians and other peoples in the world against Putin. Washington would love to see a weaker or more pliable Russian leader than Putin.

Many Russians are gullible. Having experienced communist rule and the chaos from collapse, they naively believe that America is the best place, the example for the world, the “white hat” that can be trusted and believed. This idiotic belief, which we see manifested in western Ukraine as the US destabilizes the country in preparation for taking it over, is an important weapon that the US uses to destabilize Russia.

Some Russians make apologies for Washington by explaining the anti-Russian rhetoric as simply a carryover from old stereotypes from the Cold War. “Old stereotypes” is a red herring, a misleading distraction. Washington is gunning for Russia. Russia is under attack, and if Russians do not realize this, they are history.

Many Russians are asleep at the switch, but the Izborsk Club is trying to wake them up. In an article (February 12) in the Russian weekly Zavtra, strategic and military experts warned that the Western use of protests to overturn the decision of the Ukraine government not to join the European Union had produced a situation in which a coup by fascist elements was a possibly. Such a coup would result in a fratricidal war in Ukraine and would constitute a serious “strategic threat to the Russian Federation.”

The experts concluded that should such a coup succeed, the consequences for Russia would be:

  •   Loss of Sevastopol as the base of the Russian Federation’s Black Sea Fleet;

  •   Purges of Russians in eastern and southern Ukraine, producing a flood of refugees;

  •   Loss of manufacturing capacities in Kiev, Dnepropetrovsk, Kharkov where contract work is done for the Russian military;

  •   Suppression of the Russian speaking population by forcible Ukrainianization;

  •   The establishment of US and NATO military bases in Ukraine, including in Crimea and the establishment of training centers for terrorists who would be set upon the Caucasus, the Volga Basin, and perhaps Siberia;

  •   Spread of the orchestrated Kiev protests into non-Russian ethnicities in cities of the Russian Federation.

The Russian strategists conclude that they “consider the situation taking shape in Ukraine to be catastrophic for the future of Russia.”

What is to be done? 

Here the strategic experts, who have correctly analyzed the situation, fall down. They call for a national media campaign to expose the nature of the takeover that is underway and for the government of the Russian Federation to invoke the Budapest Memorandum of 1994 in order to convene a conference of representatives of the governments of Russia, Ukraine, the USA, and Great Britain to deal with the threats to the Ukraine.

In the event that the Budapest Memorandum governing the sovereignty of Ukraine is set aside by one or more of the parties, the experts propose that the Russian government, using the precedent of the Kennedy-Khrushchev negotiations that settled the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, negotiate directly with Washington a settlement of the developing crisis in Ukraine.

This is a pipe dream. The experts are indulging in self-deception. Washington is the perpetrator of the crisis in Ukraine and intends to take over Ukraine for the precise reasons that the experts list. It is a perfect plan for destabilizing Russia and for negating Putin’s successful diplomacy in preventing US military attack on Syria and Iran.

Essentially, if Washington succeeds in Ukraine, Russia would be eliminated as a constraint on US world hegemony, Only China would remain.

I suspected that Ukraine would come to a boiling point when Putin and Russia were preoccupied with the Sochi Olympics, leaving Russia unprepared. There is little doubt that Russia is faced with a major strategic threat. What are Russia’s real options? Certainly the options do not include any good will from Washington.

Possibly, Russia could operate from the American script. If Russia has drones, Russia could use drones like Washington does and use them to assassinate the leaders of the Washington-sponsored protests. Or Russia could send in Special Forces teams to eliminate the agents who are operating against Russia. If the EU continues to support the destabilization of Ukraine, Russia could cut off oil and gas supplies to Washington’s European puppet states.

Alternatively, the Russian Army could occupy western Ukraine while arrangements are made to partition Ukraine, which until recently was part of Russia for 200 years. It is certain that the majority of residents in eastern Ukraine prefer Russia to the EU. It is even possible that the brainwashed elements in the western half might stop foaming at the mouth long enough to comprehend that being in US/EU hands means being looted as per Latvia and Greece.

I am outlining the least dangerous outcomes of the crisis that Washington and its stupid European puppet states have created, not making recommendations to Russia. The worst outcome is a dangerous war. If the Russians sit on their hands, the situation will become unbearable for them. As Ukraine moves toward NATO membership and suppression of the Russian population, the Russian government will have to attack Ukraine and overthrown the foreign regime or surrender to the Americans. The likely outcome of the audacious strategic threat with which Washington is confronting Russia would be nuclear war.

The neoconservative Victoria Nuland sits in her State Department office happily choosing the members of the next Ukrainian government. Is this US official oblivious to the risk that Washington’s meddling in the internal affairs of Ukraine and Russia could be triggering nuclear war? Are President Obama and Congress aware that there is an Assistant Secretary of State who is provoking Armageddon?

Insouciant Americans are paying no attention and have no idea that a handful of neoconservative ideologues are pushing the world toward destruction.

NOTE: I have received an email from Moldova, a country bordered by Romania and Ukraine with cities on the Moldova-Ukraine border, that Moldovans are paid 30 euros per day to pose as Ukrainian protesters. I would like to hear from readers who can confirm this report and/or provide a media source in support of this claim.

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following. His latest book, HOW AMERICA WAS LOST, is now available:

Friday, February 14, 2014

Disaster by Design: How to Fail Providing Aid to Syria's Millions in Need

How not to get aid into Homs, Yarmouk, and to 9.3 million Syrians via a UN Resolution

by Franklin Lamb

Al Nebek, Syria - Who authored the seemingly designed-to-fail UN Security Council Draft Resolution on delivering urgent humanitarian aid into the Old City of Homs and other besieged areas of conflict-torn Syria? When we know this, much may become clearer with respect to the cynical politicization of the continuing civilian suffering.

The draft resolution was put forward by Australia, Luxembourg, and Jordan, and according to a UN/US congressional source—one who actually worked on rounding up the three countries to front for the US and its allies—none was pleased with the decidedly raw and undiplomatic pressure they received from the office of US UN Ambassador Samantha Power.

When this observer inquired how such a poorly drafted, one-sided, adversary-bashing draft resolution could actually have seen the light of day and been submitted to the UN Security Council, the reply he received was terse: “Ask Samantha.”

Suspicions are being raised in Geneva, in Syria, and among certain UN aid agencies, in Homs and elsewhere, that efforts on behalf of those they are trying to save from starvation were ‘set-up’ to fail as a result of power politics and influences emanating from Washington and Tel Aviv.

This observer is not a big fan of conspiracy theories. No doubt it’s a personal congenital defect of some sort that makes him want to hear at least a modicum of relevant, prohibitive, material, non-hearsay evidence to support some of the wilder and internet-fueled claims ricocheting around the globe. However, some things are becoming clear as to what happened at the UNSC last week and why certain specific language was included in the resolution.

Ms. Power, it has been claimed by two Hill staffers who monitor AIPAC, owes her position as UN Ambassador to Israeli PM Netanyahu, who views her and her husband, AIPAC fund raiser, Cass Sunstein, as Israel-first stalwarts. Congressional sources claim the White House went along with her appointment so as not to provoke yet another battle—either with AIPAC’s congressional agents or the wider US Zionist lobby.

As part of her continuing gratitude for her “dream job,” as she told an American Jewish Committee convention on 2/10/14 in New York, Ms. Power assured the AJC that the United States “strongly supports Israel's candidacy for a seat on the UN Security Council, and we have pushed relentlessly for the full inclusion of Israel across the UN system.” Ms. Power is said to have assured AIPAC officials in private that evening that “one of Israel’s few survival reeds may be to grasp, in the face of rising anti-Semitism, a seat on the council.” Insisting that “there is growing and rampant hostility towards Israel within the UN, where a large number of member states are not democratic,” Ms. Power, continued” “I will never give up and nor should you."

Following the standing ovation from her adoring audience, she repeated, according to one eye witness: “We have also pushed relentlessly for the full inclusion of Israel across the UN system." What the Zionist regime still occupying Palestine knows, as does no doubt Ms. Power, is that the American public and increasingly even the US Congress is finally pulling back from the regime in favor of justice for Palestine. Thus the lobby’s strange reasoning that the UN system, where the American public is essentially absent, is increasingly important.

So what’s the problem with the US-mission-spawned Security Council draft resolution on Syria so dutifully submitted by three chummy and faithful allies?

Well, for starters, the resolution is DOA, as presumably every sophomore poli-sci, civics, or governance student would have recognized from the outset. The aggressive language—demanding the UNSC immediately take action by targeting only one claimed violator with yet more international sanctions—would have caused chaff and cringing among many, probably most. But even beyond that, Moscow, with a UNSC veto ready to use, sees the US-initiated draft as a bid to lay the groundwork for military strikes against the Syrian government, interpreting the language as an ultimatum: that if all this isn’t solved in two weeks then the Security Council will automatically follow with sanctions against the Syrian government.

As Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov told the media on 2/10/14, “Instead of engaging in everyday, meticulous work to resolve problems that block deliveries of humanitarian aid, they see a new resolution as some kind of simplistic solution detached from reality.”

The draft text, obtained by this observer from Reuters, expresses the intent to impose sanctions—on individuals and entities obstructing aid—if certain demands are not met within the next two weeks.

“It is unacceptable to us in the form in which it is now being prepared, and we, of course, will not let it through,” said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov.

One diplomat in Syria, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s permanent representative to the UN, had told the Security Council on 2/11/14 that Moscow opposes some 30 percent of the original draft, but did not specify what which parts. He added, “We’re not aiming for a Russian veto, we’re aiming for a resolution that everybody can agree. That is what we want.”

For his part, President Obama, speaking at a joint news conference in Washington with French President Francois Hollande, kept up the pressure for the Security Council to accept the US resolution. He insisted that there is “great unanimity among most of the Security Council” in favor of the resolution and “Russia is a holdout.” Secretary of State John Kerry and others have “delivered a very direct message” pressuring the Russians to drop their opposition.

“It is not just the Syrians that are responsible” for the plight of civilians, but “the Russians as well if they are blocking this kind of resolution,” Kerry claimed.
“How you can object to humanitarian corridors? Why would you prevent the vote of a resolution if, in good faith, it is all about saving human lives?”

Among international observers, the draft resolution is widely viewed as one-sided, condemning rights abuses by Syrian authorities, demanding Syrian forces stop all aerial bombardment of cities and towns as well as indiscriminate use of bombs, rockets and related weapons. It also, parenthetically and somewhat obliquely, condemns “increased terrorist attacks,” and calls for the withdrawal of all foreign fighters from Syria, but the latter language is believed to be aimed mainly at Hezbollah. Sources in Syria claim that the draft heaps all the blame on the Syrian government without devoting the necessary attention to the humanitarian problems created by the actions of the rebels.

These gratuitous draft elements are not only aggressive, but frankly appear calculated to end serious discussion and to undermine a solution of the problem.

Being new on the job is one thing for Ms. Power (she has served as UN ambassador only since August of last year), but politicizing relief from starvation for a besieged civilian population is quite another. Likewise for promoting a draft resolution focusing all blame on one side. Such things violate a broad range of applicable and mandatory international norms, and if Ms. Power is hazy on this subject, the State Department’s Office of International Organization Affairs is not—or at least was not when this observer interned there following law school years ago.

Language that would have stood a much better chance of ending the siege of Homs, Yarmouk and other areas under siege was drafted this week by a Syrian law student at the Damascus University Faculty of Law. The widely esteemed university witnessed the death of 17 of its students, along with the serious injuring of more than 20 others, when rebel mortar bombs, on 3/28/13, targeted the canteen of the College of Architecture. Those responsible for the shelling later admitted they were trained and armed by agents of the US government.

The DU law student’s draft resolution on unfettered humanitarian aid into besieged areas of Syria will hopefully be widely discussed over the weekend at a news conference tentatively scheduled on campus. Perhaps the next UN draft resolution will reflect the student’s homework assignment.

The starving victims besieged in Syria, and all people of goodwill, are demanding immediate, non-politicized humanitarian aid without further delay. Virtually every American voter is in a position to pressure his or her congressional representative, and would possibly achieve much good by making the White House aware of their demands to end playing international ‘gotcha’ politics, and to cooperate to end the needless deaths by starvation that continue today.

Franklin Lamb is a visiting Professor of International Law at the Faculty of Law, Damascus University and volunteers with the Sabra-Shatila Scholarship Program (

First Nation Fights Fish Farm Invasion

Salmon farm solidarity rally – Feb 17, Vancouver

by Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw

The Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw people are fighting Fish Farm expansion on their territories on BC’s Coast. Come show solidarity and support to fight the proliferation of these damaging practices.

Fish farms affect all nations who depend on salmon runs for subsistence — let’s stand together and make our voices head.

Elected chief councillor of the Kwikwasutinuxw Haxwa’mis, Robert Leigh Chamberlin is meeting with the DFO and Minister Gail Shea.

Monday, February 17th at 8:30am PST

401 Burrard Street @ Pender Street, Vancouver


Japan and America's "China Hawks" Feeling for Obama Admin.'s Tender Asia Pressure Points

A Pleasant Beijing Visit by John Kerry...

...Will Not Stop America's Merry Dash Into the Collective Self Defense/Deterrence Cul-de-Sac...

by Peter Lee - China Matters

John Kerry recently concluded a friendly visit to Beijing, with both sides chatting about matters of mutual concern in a way that implied these two great powers have areas of shared concern and interest.

Some observers might fear that peace might break out.

Don’t worry.

My personal opinion is that a dwindling group of PRC doves in the Obama administration are being rolled by military and think tank hawks who sense the weakness of the individuals with suspected panda hugger inclinations, such as Joe Biden and John Kerry, and also smell blood in the water with President Obama’s emerging lame duck status and the likely return of a down-the-line China hawk civilian slate with the expected election of Hillary Clinton as President in 2016.

The result has been a spate of articles calling the White House, especially Joe Biden, soft on China and pointing the finger at John Kerry for being excessively preoccupied with the Middle East and thereby allowing the precious Pivot to Asia to languish.

I, for one, detect a pretty effective tag team between the Abe administration and US anti-China/pro-Japan hawks. It should be recalled that Abe’s closest US relationships are with the Cheney wing of the Republican Party and his relations with Obama are, at best, cool. So, if US policy as it pertains to Japan and China is being criticized, both directly in terms of flagging Obama commitment to Asia and over-commitment to the Middle East, I think the fine Japanese hand can be suspected, reinforcing (but not necessarily directing) the anti-Obama grumblings of various think-tank hawks.

When I saw a poobah on Twitter opining that the Yasukuni furor showed the rather pathetic limitations of the Japanese PR machine, I had to lift both eyebrows in skepticism. Actually, I ran around with my arms in the air like Spongebob Squarepants in his utter-dismay mode, while yelling Nooooooooo like Luke Skywalker did after Darth Vader cut off his hand and told him he was his father.

Japan has learned the lessons of World War II, when the Japan Lobby was bested by the China Lobby, and also from the fraught decades of the 1970s and 80s, when Japan filled the designated role of Asian menace to the Western way of life in US politics. Recently, the Abe administration has energetically ingratiated itself to the US military, defense hawks, and the American Right, and done a pretty good job of leveraging its ally status into a favorable position in the US policy debate…especially when compared to the PR black hole occupied by PR China.

In my humble opinion, Kerry’s focus on the Middle East—where the United States is deeply involved in three armed conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq, a political crisis in Egypt, and a high-risk diplomatic gambit with Iran—at the expense of the Far East—which is facing the threat of Chinese aggression against five unoccupied islands and an uninhabited atoll—is pretty well justified.

In fact, conspiracy theorists might note that Kerry is getting some assistance from the PRC in trying to wrangle the Syria, Afghanistan, and Iran questions, as he acknowledged during his press availability--while Japan has very little to offer.

I, for one, would not be surprised if the Japanese foreign ministry, concerned that the PRC might be piling up deposits in John Kerry’s favorbank for eventual redemption in the Far East and programming against Kerry's visit to Beijing, might have thought it better to encourage concerns about excessive US attention to the Middle East and US “softness” on the PRC in order to make sure the PRC is recognized as the real bad guy and pre-empt any possibility that the dreaded “G2”—an effective alliance of interest of the US and PRC on key questions that excludes Japan—ever materializes.

I think the concerted and orchestrated nature of the pro-Japan campaign is revealed by the fearmongering that the United States “might” fail to back up Japan on the Senkakus.

As Bill Gertz, the journalistic dean of China hawks, reported in an article which accused the Obama administration of fecklessness in China affairs (excuse me, in which unnamed "China watchers" and "analysts" opined that the adminstration's response to China had been "confused", "vacillating", "mild" and "too little too late"):

A U.S. official summed up the tensions in a comment to The Nelson Report’s Chris Nelson: “What we need to think our way through is how China’s salami-slicing tactics (and they will continue whether with an ADIZ in the [South China Sea] or elsewhere) will play against U.S. credibility.

“If all we have are diplomatic response[s] when China is creating new facts on the ground/in the sea/air, this will continue to erode U.S. credibility with allies and partners; and, if, God forbid, we fail to honor alliance commitments, especially on the Senkakus, we soon will have no allies/partners/standing in the region.”

Although the PRC officially disclaimed any plans for an SCS ADIZ in response to a US declaration, thereby supporting the unwelcome surmise that the US could effectively engage with the PRC, Gertz manages to brush aside this ruse and keep the eternal reality of China's inexorable salami-slicing menace alive in the minds of his readers with the parenthetical remark ("they will continue whether an ADIZ...or elsewhere").

Despite the concerns of Gertz and the various watchers and analysts, I don't think the U.S. is even remotely considering selling out the Senkakus. Like it or not, US support for Japan on the Senkakus is the linchpin of US credibility in the region (ever since Secretary Clinton, in response to the somewhat fishy-smelling Captain Zhan incident and the subsequent rare earth “crisis” in 2010, reversed the Obama administration’s previous internal decision not to reaffirm their inclusion in the scope of Article V) and it’s not, in my opinion, going anywhere.

Lower down the foreign policy and op-ed food chain, the term “appeasement” has floated to the surface like an unwelcome addition to the punchbowl of China discourse, often referencing the PRC’s declaration of the Air Defense Identification Zone in the East China Sea and the measured US response.

A few things to bear in mind.

First, the United States showed plenty of confrontational sack by immediately flying two B-52s into the ADIZ unannounced.

Second, the only thing that the United States—and the rest of the world, for that matter—didn’t do was follow Japan’s lead and take the rather irresponsible step of directing its civilian carriers to drop their compliance and start disregarding the ADIZ.

So, in this context, “appeasement” means not doing something that Japan wants, something that is worth bearing in mind when considering whose interests are really being promoted by a more aggressive policy.

Third and for extra credit, according to a credible-sounding report in the Mainichi Shinbun as reported by the Shingetsu News Service, the PRC had notified Japan and the US about the ADIZ extension in 2010, supporting the inference that the US & Japan, instead of coming up with a faltering and incomplete response to “assertive China”, were actually being plenty aggressive and confrontational in using the public announcement of the ADIZ to sandbag the PRC with accusations of destabilizing the region.

So, in my opinion, US PRC policy has not been excessively weak-kneed.

However, looking at the recent chest-thumping and scrotum-hefting declarations of the White House concerning the China threat, it looks to me like the Obama administration is ostentatiously inoculating itself against the “weak on China” accusation while, when the remarks are closely parsed, still trying to reserve some space for the US between the PRC and Japan as “the honest broker”.

In fact, John Kerry was quite reassuring during his recent visit to Beijing and his words probably triggered a brief, blissful reverie in the PRC leadership about the unconsummated new great power relationship. Cooperation on North Korea was the lead item, followed by nice words about the SCS Code of Conduct and some collective handwringing about climate change. Kerry averred that the United States was not trying to contain China.

From his press availability:

Our cooperation, frankly, on issues of enormous importance in the world should not go unnoticed. China and the United States are cooperating on big-ticket items. We’ve worked together in the P5+1 on Iran. We’ve worked together on Afghanistan. We have worked together on Syria. We are working together on other issues like South Sudan and the prevention of violence there. And we appreciate enormously the Chinese efforts with respect to those kinds of initiatives. Not many people know that that kind of cooperative effort is underway.

Kerry’s statement on the SCS disputes—particularly his apparent endorsement of Chinese gripes about provocations by “others”-- will probably have the China hawks mailing him Neville Chamberlain umbrellas:

And the Chinese have made clear that they believe they need to be resolved in a peaceful and legal manner, and that they need to be resolved according to international law and that process.

And I think they believe they have a strong claim, a claim based on history and based on fact. They’re prepared to submit it, and – but I think they complained about some of the provocations that they feel others are engaged in. And that is why I’ve said all parties need to refrain from that. Particularly with respect to some of the islands and shoals, they feel there have been very specific actions taken in order to sort of push the issue of sovereignty on the sea itself or by creating some construction or other kinds of things.

So the bottom line is there was a very specific statement with respect to the importance of rule of law in resolving this and the importance of legal standards and precedent and history being taken into account to appropriately make judgments about it.

The PRC leadership obviously likes Kerry and his policies, especially when compared with the alternative (Hillary Clinton); and it seems to me that Kerry is not just playing good cop in the good cop/bad cop chain-yanking exercise.

So China hawks have a right to be anxious that Big John is not sufficiently enthusiastic about twisting the PRC’s testicles until universal peace, freedom, democracy, and prosperity explode into East Asia.

Nevertheless, a Global Times op-ed realistically noted that nice words from Big John do not, however, translate directly into a favorable attitude by the United States:

Kerry did say something to pressure China as US politicians always do. But he also reasonably exchanged ideas with Chinese leaders and showed some good faith. His positive remarks about the US not to contain China will at least have some impact on Washington's behavior for a while. We are not demanding too much.

I don’t think the hawks have to worry overmuch. The countdown to a new, almost certainly more hardline US presidency has begun, and the PRC is unlikely to deliver any foreign policy win to Kerry that’s big enough to cause a significant and lasting U-turn in US policy.

Also, by yielding to the insistence of the Pentagon to endorse Japanese “collective self defense”, I think the Obama administration has let the pendulum swing far enough away from China that it has sacrificed much of its tattered “honest broker” cred and, from the PRC point of view, is perhaps considered “weak on Japan” i.e. so far in Japan’s pocket that it cannot constrain Japanese behavior in a way useful to the PRC.

On the surface, “collective self defense” doesn’t seem to be a huge change to the US-Japanese relationship. It would simply enable closer integration of US and Japanese forces during joint military operations. Of course, this might involve joint flotillas in international waters countering the mythical threat to freedom of navigation from the PRC but, I suppose, the thinking is that the US would have overall command and therefore control over when and where a serious confrontation with the PRC might occur.


Japanese strategists, to their credit, have repeatedly asserted the “collective self defense” will be applied to Japanese security arrangements with other friendly countries (read Philippines, India), new bilateral relationships that have nothing to do directly with the United States.

(Astute observers, of course the only kind of readers China Matters has, will recall that the Abe administration frequently if discretely voices its anxiety about true US staying power in Asia in order to justify its independent security outreach in the region and thereby stampede the Obama administration into a more assertively pro-Japanese policy.)

Anyway, assuming that Prime Minister Abe as expected announces the legitimacy of “collective self defense” through a cabinet statement, the Rubicon’s been crossed, cat’s out of the bag, Pandora’s box has been opened, America sh*t the bed, choose your metaphor, the Japanese government’s freedom to create a new parallel security regime in Asia without the input of the United States is being enabled by…the United States.

I’m assuming that the Obama team is well aware of this implication but has decided not to worry/care about, maybe because President Obama, contemplating both his lame duck status and his marked distaste for the PRC regime combined with strong institutional pressure from the Pentagon and its allies, has decided not to expend too much political and bureaucratic capital fighting this thing.

And the Chinese leadership, expecting John Kerry’s panda-hugging tendencies to be circumscribed by the anti-appeasement whispering campaign, President Obama’s upcoming Asian tour programmed as a celebration of democratic Asia and the US pivot against the menace of Chinese aggression, the Japanese government taking advantage of the US tilt to push more aggressive policies (like the needlessly provocative declaration it wishes to sue the hapless Captain Zhan), and the prospect of President Clinton waiting in the wings, will just have to keep its head down for the next few years.

Beyond threatening to disintermediate the US in the creation of a new Asian security regime, I think the real threat from collective self defense to regional and US interests comes for its possible integration into “deterrence” as the standard security template for Asia.

As I discuss in my most recent article at Asia Times Online, US and Japanese strategists have characterized the situation with the PRC in the East China Sea as a “gray zone crisis” i.e. neither war nor peace, to be addressed by a combination of “dynamic” and “static” deterrence.

In the Chinese context, it means that the PRC position is defined as “probing for and attempting to fill a power vacuum and thereby expel competing powers from its near beyond”, and the correct riposte is Japanese vigilance and US preparedness—heightened surveillance activity in the area that integrates directly into the SDF and US military capability so that decisive military power can be brought to bear in case of a confrontation.

The possibility that the PRC might have legitimate interests that could be negotiated is infra dig—it’s appeasement. Hey, there’s that word again!

Same thing, of course on the PRC side. With the deterrence framing, concession = capitulation.

So, conflicts that were and could possibly continue to be handled through bilateral civilian negotiations become militarized.

Concessions, indeed negotiations, on these issues are not particularly desirable since they are a sign of lack of resolve and detract from the credibility of deterrence.

Deterrence, in other words, easily turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy, with each side continually thinking about escalating their response so as not to show the dreaded “weakness”.

And, of course, maintaining deterrence offers the delectable prospect of an arms race, as the various parties parse their worst-case scenarios and decide to muscle up.

With the concept of collective self defense, Japan has the opportunity to apply the two-tiered deterrent architecture to formal security arrangements it concludes directly with other Asian democracies. Thereby, the US is faced with diminished regional clout in an environment of increased danger.

Beyond the theoretical problems with collective security and deterrence theory, there are some major holes in practice.

In Japanese affairs, the double-tiered deterrent structure deploys Japanese forces at the front end, with the US at the back end. Looking at it another way, the providers of “static deterrent” are theoretically hostage to the implementers of “dynamic deterrence” because the “static” is expected to back up the “dynamic”, otherwise the credibility of deterrence collapses and with it the whole security architecture.

But the one thing the United States does not want to do is get forced in a war with the PRC because the SDF shot down some plane over Senkakus; and the security treaty, by specifying in case of an attack the US “would act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional provisions and processes” does not directly mandate War! This unavoidable loophole irks and concerns the Abe administration, I think, for good reason: there is always the chance that the US Cavalry, instead of riding to Japan’s rescue, will first stop off for an anxious powwow with the enemy.

This sort of ambiguity is great for US flexibility, but it undercuts the credibility of deterrence and, in fact, makes the whole deterrent concept look rather fanciful and destabilizing. And, truth be told, a similar modified-hangout-backup would probably also apply to any security arrangement that Japan might conclude with the now useful but potentially dangerous fire-breathing administration of Philippine President Aquino.

So, to the militarizing and escalating dynamic of deterrence add a widespread suspicion about its actually effectiveness.

With the implementation of collective self defense and deterrence, we are faced with a situation in which the US pivot to Asia, which is supposed to a) secure American leadership and b) assure the peace and prosperity of the region for the 21st century by c) reducing tensions and avoiding the dreaded miscalculations and misunderstandings is instead a) promoting the disintermediation of the United States in the Asian defense equation by empowering Japan b) stoking an expensive arms race and c) polarizing Asia into two opposing blocs d) making it more likely that some Asian power will do something irrevocably stupid.

Rather ironic.

Deterrence is a dead end, figuratively. Hopefully figuratively, not literally.

I don’t blame Prime Minister Abe or Japan for this state of affairs. He has a strategy for advancing Japanese interests at the PRC’s expense. It’s zero sum, but he expects Japan to come out on the positive-number side of the equation.

I have less generous feelings about the US foreign policy solons who look to the Asian pivot and a deterrence structure to make life easier for US budgeters and defense planners, and pick up some easy diplomatic gains by encouraging antagonisms between the Asian democracies and the PRC, but don’t seem to have thought through the ultimate implications for the US position in Asia.

Mostly, I think it’s because America is hooked on hegemonism—being the unmatchable top dog in Asia—but really can’t do it alone as Asia becomes more prosperous and pours more money into national defense budgets.

So I think the US is taking a leaf from the history of the Roman Empire, by enlisting the inhabitants of the borderlands—in this case Asian democracies instead of fur-clad Goths—in order to make sure the imperial writ is still obeyed. The US might not find itself fighting off Goths, but it will find itself herding cats—or Japanese panthers—and the US leadership position in Asia will degrade accordingly.

The popularity of the China pivot strategy is a testament to the remarkable power of a bad idea.

As currently implemented, the pivot may not be a workable solution for Asia’s putative ills, but it’s a big fat gift to the military, military contractors, and think tanks. And it has a virtue shared with other bad ideas.

Dealing with the neverending stream of negative consequences created by a really bad idea is called “process”. And “process” can be very profitable.

Trying to turn chickenshit into chickensalad isn’t just a job; it’s a career, maybe even a lifelong crusade. I don’t doubt that the architects of the pivot, when they shuffle off their mortal coil and enter the neo-liberal Valhalla, will still find profitable PRC containment conundrums with which to wrestle.

Thanks, Pivot to Asia!

Somewhere up there the God of War is laughing.

SLAPP in the Face: Canada's Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Fish Farm Case

Statement following the Supreme Court of Canada dismissal

Statement from Don Staniford, Global Coordinator of GAAIA

Cermaq's SLAPP suit is a slap in the face of public dissent and freedom of speech. Shame on the Norwegian Government - as owner of the plaintiff, Mainstream Canada (now re-named Cermaq Canada) - for bankrolling such Draconian legal action.

Norway may have a monopoly on salmon farming globally but Norwegian corporations surely cannot be allowed to own the law? 

That the Canadian legal system has given the Norwegian Government free reign to muzzle freedom of speech speaks volumes of how undemocratic Canada has become under the Harper Government. Freedom of speech and critical dissent is a basic democratic right."

If Cermaq's lawyers and the Kafkaesque Canadian courts want to silence me they will have to drag me kicking and screaming the truth from cyberspace. Thanks to everyone who has supported me financially in this legal battle.

To support the ongoing campaign against Norwegian corporations spreading infectious diseases, draining the world's oceans of wild fish and killing free speech around the globe please Go Fund Me - I promise that not a single cent or kroner will go to fill the coffers of Cermaq, Mainstream Canada or EWOS Canada. The plaintiff's corporate name-changing smacks of a crooked shell game and begs the question: to whom do I write the cheque?

For more background listen to a CBC podcast from the Early Edition's show (13 February):

Listen to the podcast online here

Download statement in full with more background details online here

Read more via:
To Whom Do I Write the Cheque?
Censored: A Permanent Injunction on The Truth
SLAPP in the Face of Freedom of Speech!
See You In Court! Tuesday (28 May) in the BC Court of Appeal!
Censorship Like A Cancer Grows
Norway Tightens Noose on Free Speech!
"Cermaq - see you in court (again)!"
"Cermaq Like A Cancer Grows - The Sound of Cermaq's SLAPP"
"Norway’s Injunction Kills Free Speech!"
"Gagging the Truth Becomes Mainstream"
"Closing Norway's Noose on Freedom of Speech"
"Cermaq's Clusterfuck"

The Joy of Killing: Pennsylvania's Coyote Massacre Jamboree

No Honor in Killing ‘God’s Dog’

by Walter Brasch

A week before the opening of the Olympics, 759 Pennsylvanians paid $25 each to participate in a sport that would never be a part of any international competition.

These Pennsylvanians carried shotguns, whistles, and electronic calls; most also used dogs to search out their prey.

The prey was coyotes. A “reward” of $100 was paid for each coyote killed; whoever killed the biggest coyote in each of the three-day hunt received $250. Most of the coyotes killed weighed 30–40 pounds, about the size of a Brittany Spaniel; the largest weighed 51 pounds.

This hunt was organized by District 9 Pennsylvania Trappers Association, which covers seven counties in the north-central part of the state. Other hunts are organized by community organizations and volunteer fire companies in several states. January and February, the months when most organized hunts take place, is when the coyotes breed; gestation period is about two months.

Decades ago, hunters killed off the wolf population. Ever resourceful, coyotes filled the void. In Pennsylvania, as in most states that have coyotes, every day is open season. Last year, more than 40,000 coyotes were killed in Pennsylvania, about half of all coyotes killed throughout the country. However, eliminating coyotes is impossible. When threatened by predators, including humans, coyotes will breed and overproduce. When not threatened, they maintain the size of their packs.

In literature, the coyote is the trickster, not unlike Br’er Rabbit who could out-think (and scam) any other animal. Among Native Americans in the southwest, the coyote was revered as “God’s Dog.”

Those who trap rather than shoot coyotes use leg-hold traps and neck snares, which causes severe injuries, pain, and suffering,” according to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Another problem with traps is they often capture domestic animals. But there is even a greater problem than the traps.

“Because coyotes are nocturnal animals, and look like dogs at night, people hunting coyotes will kill domestic pets,” says Sarah Speed of the HSUS. She says there are “thousands of cases” of what is dismissed as “mistaken identity.”

Coyotes pose no threat to humans, and will avoid human contact when possible. Contrary to hunter claims, coyotes usually avoid killing deer and elk, except in extreme winter when food is scarce. To the coyotes, size does matter, and scoring dinner of mice and berries is far easier than taking down an eight-point buck.

Those who kill coyotes claim coyotes, one of the most intelligent and resourceful of all animals, kill fawns, causing severe stress to the deer families. So, like the true humanitarians they are, these citizens of a state founded by a man opposed to killing, spin the fiction they are not only preventing an overpopulation of coyotes, but are also saving fawns, cottontails, mice and, apparently, fruits and berries, coyote favorites in the summer, from the coyote population. The Pennsylvania Game Commission says there is no evidence coyotes have any significant impact upon the deer population.

Farmers say they don’t like coyotes because they kill hens, which produce eggs and then are slaughtered. Coyotes deprive not only Colonel Sanders from income but also sports fans from the thrill of slobbering barbeque sauce over their hands and mouths during “Wing Nite Mondays.”

Most hunters who kill deer say they do so to provide their families with meat; they say the skin provides for warmth. They don’t say why they have a testosterone-fueled need to stuff a buck’s head, complete with antlers, and display it like a trophy. Nevertheless, coyotes have no meat value. Although their fur can yield a maximum of $40 a pelt, women aren’t salivating for a Valentine’s Day gift of a coyote stole.

Hunters whose intelligence and ability to survive in the woods aren’t as good as a coyote’s can still kill them. Several game farms offer special hunts. For $399 a day, pretend-hunters can sign up with Kansas Predator Hunts for “guided and all-inclusive” hunts that includes lodging, food, and a guide to do everything except to take the actual shot.

Many hunters refuse to kill coyotes. Mark Giesen of Northumberland, Pa., a hunter for 40 years, refuses to hunt coyotes or anything that does not have meat value. He says he believes incentivized killing, where people are paid to kill animals, “whether it’s coyotes or pigeons, is wrong and very unsportsmanlike.”

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives, composed of part-timers who earn a minimum of $82,026 a year plus as much as $159 a day when they are actually in Harrisburg, passed a bill, 111-78 in December, which would pay a $25 bounty for every coyote killed. The Senate has not yet voted on the legislation. Because there is open season on coyotes, more than 40,000 a year are killed, and numerous wildlife officers are on record as saying that bounties are not effective in controlling the coyote population, the bill appears to be little more than a special welfare program to benefit hunters and trappers. The cost to the state, which is already in financial distress, will be up to $700,000 a year for the bounties, plus additional administrative costs to process a program that adds another layer of bureaucracy and still not solve a problem that doesn’t exist.

Camilla Fox of Project Coyote told The Wildlife News that:

“Killing coyotes and wolves for fun and prizes is ethically repugnant, morally bankrupt, and ecologically indefensible. Such contests demean the immense ecological and economic value of predators, perpetuating a culture of violence and sending a message to children that life has little value.”

For whatever reason people say they kill coyotes, it has nothing to do with sport or ecological necessity, and everything to do with the sheer joy of killing.

Dr. Brasch has been an award-winning journalist for four decades. His latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania, an in-depth investigation into the effects of the shale gas industry upon economics, health, and environment.

Walter M. Brasch, Ph.D.
Latest Books: Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution
Fracking Pennsylvania: Flirting With Disaster

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Past Remembrances: Pasternak Beyond Lean's Treatment

Testament, Communion, Subversion: Remembering Pasternak

by Chris Floyd - Empire Burlesque

A little late with this, but I meant to mark Boris Pasternak's birthday this week (Feb. 10, 1890).

It would be hard to express how much his work meant to me when I was first finding my way into the world. In later years, I had three brief, indirect contacts with Pasternak, beyond his work.

In the mid-1990s, I went to his house in Peredelkino, remarkably preserved since his death in 1960, and got to spend a few minutes in his upstairs study, where he'd written his late verse and much of Doctor Zhivago. That same day, after a long, convoluted search, I found his grave nearby. Then a few years after that, in the downstairs den of a well-appointed house in Oxford, I came face to face with Pasternak's oldest son, Yevgeny -- by then an old man.

He had come to Oxford for the opening of an exhibition of paintings and drawings by his grandfather, Leonid, Boris's father. They were to be shown at the Ashmolean Museum, but for now, before the opening, many of them had been hung throughout this private house, the home of the poet Craig Raine, who is married to Boris Pasternak's niece, Anne Pasternak Slater. It was some sort of open house for the paintings, I suppose; I don't remember how I heard about it, but I lived a couple of blocks away at that time, so I went over.

I didn't expect to see Pasternak's son there. He was standing just across from me, chatting with someone; I thought I saw something of his father's face in him. I wanted to say something to him, shake his hand, but I hung back. I didn't know if he spoke English, and I knew my own poor Russian couldn't sustain even a light conversation very far; I was afraid of embarrassing myself, I suppose. I wouldn't hang back today, but it's too late. The moment has passed. (And Yevgeny Borisovich died in 2012, at the age 89.) But I was glad I saw him, glad for the other fleeting contacts.

Below are a couple of previously posted pieces on Pasternak, just to mark (belatedly) the occasion.

From February 2010:

From April 2008:

Immortal Communion: One Lowly Word 

and the Subversion of Power


Boris Pasternak's novel, Doctor Zhivago, is best remembered for its star-crossed love story and its sweeping panorama of the Russian Revolution – themes amplified in David Lean's 1965 film version, a beautiful travesty which has largely supplanted the book in the public mind. But within his conventional narrative of shattering passions and historic upheavals, Pasternak subtly diffuses a deeply subversive philosophy that overthrows power structures and modes of thought that have dominated human life for thousands of years. Yet remarkably, this far-reaching, radical notion is based on one of the most humble concepts and lowly words in the Russian language: byt.

The word has no precise equivalent in English, but in general it means the ordinary "stuff" of life: the daily round, the chores, the cares and duties, the business and busyness that drives existence forward. The connotations of byt are not always positive; it is frequently associated with another Russian word, poshlost', a more pejorative term for the miserable muck of daily life that can trap a noble soul yearning for transcendent heights – for shattering passions and historic upheavals, perhaps. Benjamin Sutcliffe has described this association well in his extensive analysis of the notion of byt in Russian literature by women:

"The 'everyday' is a problematic concept that Russian culture consistently links with women. Byt is not only povsednevnaia zhizn' (daily life), but also a corrosive banality threatening higher, often intellectual aspirations…. Vladimir Nabokov connects byt to poshlost', the soul-killing realm of the crass and insensitive. In an even more sepulchral metaphor, Andrei Siniavskii compares Soviet culture to a pyramid: the grandiose grave of a hollow society whose time has passed. Byt is the sum of both those constituent parts, often seen as 'women’s work' (care for the self, care for others, maintaining a household) and the negative adjectives ascribed to them: petty, small-scale, mundane, exhausting, repetitive, and ultimately deadening."

In contrast to this mundane and deadening level stands the realm of the transcendent: the "great questions" of life, the grand abstractions – nation, faith, ideology, honor, prosperity, family, security, righteousness, glory – for which millions fight and die. It's the world of power, fuelled by the dynamic of dominance and servitude – a dialectic that governs relationships in every realm: political, economic, religious, artistic, personal. Everywhere, hierarchies abound, even among the most professedly egalitarian groups, from monasteries to movie sets, from ashrams to activist collectives. Everywhere we find, in Leonard Cohen's witty take, "the homicidal bitchin'/That goes down in every kitchen/To determine who will serve and who will eat."

This, we are given to understand, is the real world, the important world, far above the tawdry, tedious humdrum that fills the dead hours between epiphanies and exaltations. The Russian Revolution is of course one of history's great manifestations of this dynamic, where the "transcendent," world-shaking abstractions of ideology and high politics (imperialism, capitalism, revolution, Bolshevism) uprooted whole nations and produced suffering and dehumanization on an almost unimaginable scale. The modern era's "War on Terror" bids fair to surpass the Revolution in this regard, with its wildly inflated rhetoric and grand abstractions, its epiphanies of violence and exaltations of terror – on both sides – inflaming a conflict that has already devoured nations and destabilized the entire globe. The dominance paradigm – so thoroughly worked into our consciousness, so ever-present in our interactions, large and small, public and private – is the engine driving this vast machinery of death and ruin.

But below this "higher plane" lies the reality of byt. Far from the soul-killing muck that Nabokov found so distasteful, in Pasternak's hands the true nature of byt is revealed: creative, sustaining, nurturing, an infinite source of meaning. For the most part, the novel conveys this indirectly, in passages where Pasternak shows us byt in action – people going about their work, having quiet conversations, preparing food, fixing stoves, tending gardens, washing floors – or in the richly detailed backgrounds and descriptions given for minor characters who pop up briefly in the narrative then are rarely, perhaps never, seen again.

Over the years, some critics have decried these passages as the clumsy strokes of a fictional amateur, a poet gamely trying and failing to match the rich plenitude of Tolstoy's novels. (And to be fair, the English translations of the novel, though serviceable, are hobbled by clunky prose that ill-serves the original Russian.) But surely Pasternak, a writer of immense talent and intelligence, knew exactly what he was doing with these portions of the novel. The "clumsy" strokes that brake and complicate the grand narrative are central to the book's meaning. "Zhivago" means "the living," its root word is "life." And life is immense, comprising every aspect, every atom of reality. "Life, always one and the same, always incomprehensibly keeping its identity, fills the universe and is renewed in every moment in innumerable combinations and metamorphoses," as Zhivago says at one point. It is in the careful observation and deeply felt experiencing of the details of daily life that the meaning of existence can be found – or rather, consciously created.

Elsewhere in the novel, Pasternak deals with more openly with this theme, especially in one of the book's central chapters, made up of a diary that Zhivago keeps when his family have been driven from Moscow by the privations of the Revolution – and by Zhivago's own political unreliability, which stems from his refusal to hew to any party line and its grand, impersonal abstractions, its distorted caricatures of the infinite complexities of human reality. They are living off the land, deep in the countryside, their whole life taken up by the struggle to survive: byt in its starkest terms. Only at night, their work done, can they turn to their books, the handful of Russian classics they've taken with them into exile.

The whole chapter is like a marvelous concerto, blending and concentrating all of the novel's themes and variations in what appears to be the most artless of forms: the ramblings of a private journal. Among the many passages that illustrate the relation of byt to the "overworld," the realm of dominance and hierarchy, this one stands out:

"What I have come to like best in the whole of Russian literature is the childlike Russian quality of Pushkin and Chekhov, their shy unconcern with such high-sounding matters as the ultimate purpose of mankind or their own salvation. It isn't that they didn't think about these things, and to good effect, but they always felt that such important matters were not for them. While Gogol, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky worried and looked for the meaning of life and prepared for death and drew up balance-sheets, these two were distracted, right up to the end of their lives, by the current individual tasks imposed on them by their vocation as writers, and in the course of fulfilling these tasks they lived their lives quietly, treating both their lives and their work as private, individual matters, of no concern to anyone else. And these individual things have since become of concern to all; their work has ripened of itself, like apples picked green from the trees, and has increasingly matured in sense and sweetness."


Of course, the supreme irony of the relation between the humble, private, "pointless" world of byt and the "real world" of power and exaltation is that the former is actually where any genuine "transcendence" can be found, while the latter is the merely the outgrowth of our most primitive and meaningless urges.

For what is the desire to "project dominance," to erect hierarchies, but the elaboration of the same unconsidered instinctual drives that underlie the social structures of the animal world? You can see it in any colony of apes (although they too have their forms of sustaining, nurturing byt). I've written of this elsewhere, but I think it has some application in this context as well:

Is it not time to be done with lies at last? Especially the chief lie now running through the world like a plague, putrescent and vile: that we kill each other and hate each other and drive each other into desperation and fear for any other reason but that we are animals, forms of apes, driven by blind impulses to project our dominance, to strut and bellow and hoard the best goods for ourselves. Or else to lash back at the dominant beast in convulsions of humiliated rage. Or else cravenly to serve the dominant ones, to scurry about them like slaves, picking fleas from their fur, in hopes of procuring a few crumbs for ourselves.

That's the world of power – the "real world," as its flea-picking slaves and strutting dominants like to call it. It's the ape-world, driven by hormonal secretions and chemical mechanics, the endless replication of protein reactions, the unsifted agitations of nerve tissue, issuing their ignorant commands. There's no sense or reason or higher order of thought in it – except for that perversion of consciousness called justification, self-righteousness, which gussies up the breast-beating ape with fine words and grand abstractions…

Beyond the thunder and spectacle of this ape-roaring world is another state of reality, emerging from the murk of our baser functions. There is power here, too, but not the heavy, blood-sodden bulk of dominance. Instead, it's a power of radiance, of awareness, connection, breaking through in snaps of heightened perception, moments of encounter and illumination that lift us from the slime.

It takes ten million forms, could be in anything – a rustle of leaves, the tang of salt, a bending blues note, the sweep of shadows on a tin roof, the catch in a voice, the touch of a hand. Any particular, specific combination of ever-shifting elements, always unrepeatable in its exact effect and always momentary. Because that's all there is, that's all we have – the moments.

The moments, and their momentary power – a power without the power of resistance, defenseless, provisional, imperfect, bold. The ape-world's cycle of war and retribution stands as the image of the world of power; but what can serve as the emblem of this other reality? A kiss, perhaps: given to a lover, offered to a friend, bestowed on an enemy – or pressed to the brow of a child murdered by war.

Both worlds are within us, of course, like two quantum states of reality, awaiting our choice to determine which will be actuated, which will define the very nature of being – individually and in the aggregate, moment by moment. This is our constant task, for as long as the universe exists in the electrics of our brains: to redeem each moment or let it fall. Some moments will be won, many more lost; there is no final victory. There is only the task.

And of course, that's what byt entails, in both its literal sense and in the heightened, deepened understanding of Pasternak's art: the task, the work, the busyness of sustaining life.

One last passage from Zhivago provides a striking encapsulation of this, although a word should be said about the Christian symbolism it employs – a symbolism worked deeply into the plan and language of the entire novel. As Pasternak told one interviewer, the religious symbols were "put into the book the way stoves go into a house – to warm it up. Now they would like me to commit myself and climb into the stove." Later he added: "The novel must not be judged on theological lines. Nothing is further removed from my understanding of the world. One must live and write restlessly, with the help of new reserves that life offers. I am weary of this notion of faithfulness to a point of view at all cost. The great heroic devotion to one point of view is very alien to me – it's a lack of humility."

Here Pasternak, like his Zhivago, resists adherence to any party line, even one that he finds enormously congenial, like Christianity. It is not in pious certainties but in the humble, shifting, temporary coalescences of everyday existence, in byt, that some measure of always-imperfect, always-provisional meaning can be found.

But the languages of faith – structures that for centuries were the chief embodiment and expression of the human yearning for illumination, encounter and escape from the brutalities of dominance and servitude – can still serve as vehicles to convey a deeper reality, as Pasternak shows here, in the voice of one of his characters, the philosopher Nikolai Vendenyapin:

"I think that if the beast who sleeps in man could be held down by threats – any kind of threat, whether of jail or retribution after death – then the highest emblem of humanity would be the lion-tamer with his whip, not the preacher who sacrificed himself. But don't you see, this is just the point – what has for centuries raised man above the beast is not the cudgel but an inward music: the irresistible power of unarmed truth, the attraction of its example. It has always been assumed that the most important things in the Gospels are the ethical teaching and commandments. But for me the most important thing is the fact that Christ speaks in parables taken from daily life, that he explains the truth in terms of everyday reality. The idea that underlies this is that communion between mortals is immortal, and that the whole of life is symbolic because the whole of it has meaning."

Immortal communion, in the transient, private, churning flow of byt: this is what Pasternak offers as an alternative to the violent estrangement of the "overworld," to its violence and fear, its bombast and lies. This lowly word could bring down empires, and stands in defiance of death itself.