Saturday, February 17, 2018

Democracy Under Threat: When the Free Market Isn't Free

The Free Market Threat to Democracy


February 16, 2018

Democratic institutions are not under stress--they're under aggressive attack, as unconstrained financial greed overrides democratic decisions, says economist John Weeks.

John Weeks is a professor emeritus of the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies and author of Economics of the 1%: How Mainstream Economics Serves the Rich, Obscures Reality and Distorts Policy. His recent policy work includes a supplemental unemployment program for the European Union and advising the central banks of Argentina and Zambia. 

Bethlehem Beyond the Wall, Media Hypocrisy and More

Bethlehem Beyond the Wall, Hypocrisy and More

by Mazin Qumsiyeh -

February 16, 2018

Hypocrisy in the Western world becomes more obvious by the day. For example, there's a debate about Russian interference in US elections but this is minuscule compared to Israeli Zionist interventions shaping US elections (a topic not up for debate).

Another example: Media and politicians debate mental issues and send prayers and thoughts to victims of mass shootings by whites that kill far more Americans than anyone else.

Compare that coverage with any act by a Muslim which is labeled a terrorist act that threatens America. No one talks about the Zionist controlled major media outlets and Hollywood (and even games) that promote violence and mass killings.

And with over 20 trillion in debt not much discussed, there is not one word that over 3 trillion of that debt was created to serve Israel (due to the shadowy Israel lobby). These are just examples that came to mind this week and people will forget about these soon and wait for the next disaster to again watch mindlessly as the media manipulates thinking away from the real issues. Some of those are listed below (like the 20+ trillion debt).

Bethlehem Beyond the Wall: An Exhibition Organized by the Museum of the Palestinian People Manhattan College, NY, February 19th – 27th

More on boycotts, divestment, and sanctions

- Former president of Modern Language Association resigns following decision to ban debate on BDS

- French Arab Singer Banned: Freedom to Speak? Freedom to Lie?

- New York bookseller bowed to Israel supporters after violent threats. Ali Abunimah The Electronic Intifada

- The Boomerang Effect: How Netanyahu Made Israel an American Issue, and Lost. Despite massive sums of money spent to channel public opinion in the United States in favor of Israel, unmistakable trends in opinion polls are attesting to the changing dynamics of Israel’s support among ordinary Americans.

More on Ahed Tamimi and other abductees

- Over 10 Million Indian Women Demand Freedom For Ahed Tamimi, Endorse BDS

- BBC report: is a slap an act of terror

- Artist behind iconic Che Guevera portrait paints Ahed Tamimi as the real life wonder woman

- Journalist, activist Bushra al-Tawil ordered to another four months in prison without charge or trial

Seymour Hersh says Hillary approved sending Libya’s Sarin to Syrian rebels

[fascinating read and explains how the government works]

Has Our Government Spent $21 Trillion Of Our Money Without Telling Us?

US Debt Data/Clock

Amazing information

Stay Human.

Mazin Qumsiyeh
A bedouin in cyberspace, a villager at home
Professor,  Founder, and (volunteer) Director
Palestine Museum of Natural History
Palestine Institute for Biodiversity and Sustainability
Bethlehem University
Occupied Palestine
Join me on facebook

Friday, February 16, 2018

Between Zijlstra and Freeland: What Lies An Ocean Apart Mean

What is the Difference Between the Lies the Dutch Foreign Minister and the Canadian Foreign Minister Have Been Telling About President Vladimir Putin? There's No Difference 

by John Helmer - Dances with Bears

February 14, 2018 


Dutch Foreign Minister Halbe Zijlstra (lead image, left) resigned his post this week after admitting he had publicly and repeatedly lied about meeting with President Vladimir Putin. The Dutch press, which initiated the investigation exposing the lie, reports that in his resignation speech to the Dutch parliament Zijlstra confessed,

“the biggest mistake of my political life…The Netherlands deserves a minister who is above any doubt.”

In Canada, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland (right) – appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in January 2017 — has been lying about meeting President Putin when she did not.

No Canadian newspaper has investigated Freeland’s lying, and she has expanded the lie to meetings with other Russian officials, which also did not happen. The Toronto Globe and Mail, the Ottawa Citizen and the state-owned Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) have also failed to report Zijlstra’s resignation for his Putin lie; their editors blocked the Reuters and Bloomberg wire reports, which have been running on Canadian newsroom screens, from appearing in print.

The lie, which Zijlstra started during election campaigning in 2006 in The Netherlands and repeated over the decade following, was compounded because Zijlstra also claimed he had heard Putin say Russia was making territorial claims on Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and the Baltic states as part of a “Greater Russia”. Putin said nothing of the sort.

Neither had the Shell oil company executive, who told Zijlstra what he had heard Putin remark at a meeting with Dutch executives. Zijlstra had fabricated what his source told him in order to exaggerate his importance to Dutch voters, and make the Russian threat he had conjured a vote-winner for himself. In 2006 Zijlstra was elected to the Dutch House of Representatives for the first time. He was re-elected in 2012, and appointed foreign minister in October 2017.

The Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant, whose reporting forced the removal of Zijlstra, concluded that Zijlstra’s lie,

“ha[s] exploded in his face… His attempt to reinvent himself as a senior diplomat stranded by a lie [makes him] an ambitious politician who told one story too much.”

In Canada, Zijlstra’s counterpart as foreign minister is Chrystia Freeland . She too has been repeatedly lying in public about meeting Putin. Initially, her motive was the same as Zijlstra’s – to exaggerate her own importance and qualification to be foreign minister.


In an interview with CBC News in Toronto on January 13, 2017, three days after her promotion to foreign minister, Freeland declared:

“So I’ve spoken with the top guy [Putin] in Russia quite recently and we spoke in Russian and we had quite a long conversation.” 

This was a lie — Freeland had not met Putin. The story of the lie, and Freeland’s efforts to get the Canadian media to repeat it as if true, was first told here. This was published in April of 2017. Since then no Canadian medium has investigated the truth, or challenged Freeland to admit it.

With the encouragement of reporters from the Canadian media, Freeland has continued to lie about her Russian meetings. Here, in May 2017, she was lying again:

“I had quite a few productive conversations with Minister Lavrov, both last night over supper and today”. 

For the full story, read this.

Source: Freeland’s Twitter feed, May 13, 2017, showing Freeland with 
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (centre) and Russian Ambassador 
to the US, Sergei Kislyak (left). 

The encounter lasted seconds during a coffee-break at an Arctic Council meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska. Freeland had pre-positioned her photographer; the Russian officials didn’t have time to raise their cups to their mouths.

For the archive of more Freeland lies as a minister of state, click to open.

The Times Ain't-a-Changing: NYT "Russia Election Meddling" Meme Drones On

Agitprop Is Not News

by James Howard Kunstler - Clusterfuck Nation

February 15, 2018

Forget about sharks. In their Valentine’s Day editorial: Why Does Trump Ignore Top Officials’ Warnings on Russia?, The New York Times jumped several blue whales (all the ones left on earth), a cruise ship, a subtropical archipelago, a giant vortex of plastic bottles, and the Sport’s Illustrated swimsuit shoot.

The lede said:

The phalanx of intelligence chiefs who testified on Capitol Hill delivered a chilling message: Not only did Russia interfere in the 2016 election, it is already meddling in the 2018 election by using a digital strategy to exacerbate the country’s political and social divisions.

Hmmm…. After almost two years of relentless public paranoia about Russia and US elections, don’t you suppose these Ruskie gremlins would find some other way to make mischief in our world — maybe meddle in the NHL playoffs, or hack WalMart’s bookkeeping department, or covertly switch out the real Dwayne Johnson with a robot? I kind of completely and absolutely doubt that they’ll bother with our elections.

Let’s face it, the United States is doing a stellar job of destroying itself with bad ideas, foolish ideologies, and pervasive self-deceit. If I was running the Russian intel services, I’d just pay to send a few Nebraska county commissioners to Disneyland — that would keep our seventeen US intel agencies busy until kingdom come trying to figure out the angle. And it would cheaper than spending a hundred grand to fuck with Facebook.

Actually the Times’s editorial seems to have CIA/NSA fingerprints all over it, or at least Deep State paw prints. By stating that the Russians are already “meddling” in 2018 elections that haven’t happened yet, aren’t our own security agencies setting up the public to lose faith in the electoral process and fight over election results? Oh, by the way, the Times presented no evidence whatsoever that this alleged “meddling” is taking place. They just assert it, as if it were already adjudicated.

But then they take it another step, making the case that because Mr. Trump does not go along with the Russian Meddling story, he is obstructing efforts to prevent Russian interference in the elections that haven’t happened yet, and is therefore by implication guilty of treason. A fine piece of casuistry.

The longer this fantasy about Russia continues from the Left side of the political transect, the deeper the nation sinks into a dangerous collective psychosis. After all this time, the only known instances of American political figures “colluding” with Russians involve the shenanigans between the DNC, the Hillary Clinton campaign, and US intel services including the FBI and CIA, in paying for the “Steele Dossier” and the activities of the Fusion GPS company that claimed Russia hacked Hillary’s and John Podesta’s email.

There is now a ton of evidence about all this monkey business, and no sign (yet) that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller may be taking a good hard look at it, not to mention the professional misconduct of a half dozen senior FBI, NSA, and CIA officials, especially former CIA chief John Brennan, who has now morphed into a CNN “analyst,” taking an active role in what amounts to a psy-ops campaign to shove the public toward war.

The “resistance” may think it is getting some mileage out of this interminable narrative, but its arrant inconsistencies only undermine faith in all our political institutions, and that is really playing with fire. We are already choking this polity to death by endlessly litigating the past, insuring that the country doesn’t have the time or the fortitude to deal with much more important quandaries of the present — especially a financial system that is speeding into the most colossal train wreck in history. That will de-rail Mr. Trump soon enough, and then all the rest of us will have enough to do to keep our lives together or to refashion them in some that will work in a very different economy.

PS: Readers may wonder why I did not devote this space to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. It is exactly what you get in a society that wants to erase behavioral boundaries. It is especially dangerous where adolescent boys are concerned. The country has a gigantic boundary problem. We have also created perfect conditions — between the anomie of suburbia and the dreariness of our school systems — to induce explosions of violent despair. That’s why these things happen. Until we change these conditions, expect ever more of it.

Is the NDP Ready to Face It's Foreign Policy Contradictions?

Burying Canada’s Anti-Palestinian Consensus

by Yves Engler - Dissident Voice

February 15th, 2018

The anti-Palestinian consensus among Canada’s three main political parties is crumbling and NDP members could bury it this weekend.

After taking an all-expense paid trip to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s conference in Washington and participating in a Jewish National Fund event in Israel 14 months ago, the NDP’s foreign critic has begun challenging Canada’s contribution to Palestinian dispossession.

Hélène Laverdière has repeatedly criticized the Trudeau government’s silence on Donald Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem. In response she tweeted,

“a devastating day for those who believe in peace, justice and security in the Middle East. Where is Canada’s voice in protest of Trump’s decision on #Jerusalem? I urge Canada to condemn this decision in the strongest of terms.”

The party’s foreign critic also asked the federal government to condemn Israel’s detention of 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi and hundreds of other Palestinian children who are usually tortured by Israeli forces. Similarly, Laverdière has pressed Ottawa to properly label products from illegal Israeli settlements and submitted a petition to Parliament calling “upon the Government of Canada to demand that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.”

Two weeks ago I received an email on behalf of party leader Jagmeet Singh titled “all people deserve the same human rights”, which listed the party’s recent support for Palestinian rights. It noted,

“the NDP shares your concerns about Palestine. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and his team of New Democrats have a consistent record of defending Palestinian rights as well as raising concerns over Islamophobia.”

A series of factors are likely driving Laverdière’s shift. She probably never backed former NDP leader Tom – “I am an ardent supporter of Israel in all situations and in all circumstances” – Mulcair’s position. Additionally, last year’s NDP leadership race unleashed ever bolder expressions of support for the Palestinian cause.

Amidst the campaign, Laverdière was criticized for speaking at AIPAC’s 2016 conference in Washington and participating in an event put on by the explicitly racist Jewish National Fund. In August the NDP Socialist Caucus called for her resignation as foreign critic and it has submitted a motion to this weekend’s convention calling for her to be removed from that position.

Ottawa’s high-profile abstention at the UN General Assembly after Donald Trump announced that he would move the US Embassy to Jerusalem has given the NDP an opportunity to distinguish itself from the Trudeau government. And media coverage of subsequent Palestinian resistance, most notably Ahed Tamimi’s courageous slaps, has provided additional opportunities to highlight the Liberal’s extreme anti-Palestinianism.

The NDP leadership is also trying to head off members’ calls to boycott Israel (according to a 2017 Ekos poll, 84% of NDP members were open to sanctioning Israel).

At least five resolutions (among more than ten concerning Palestine/Israel) submitted to the convention call for some type of boycott of Israel. The NDP Socialist Caucus has called on the party to “actively campaign” in support of the (just nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize) Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions‘ movement’s demands.

With probably more backing than any of the 100+ resolutions submitted, 30 riding associations and youth committees endorsed “Palestine Resolution”, which calls for “banning settlement products from Canadian markets, and using other forms of diplomatic and economic pressure to end the occupation.” Of course, party leaders fear the media response to any type of boycott resolution being adopted.

Whatever the reason for Laverdière’s shift away from anti-Palestinianism, it remains insufficient. As I’ve detailed, the NDP continues to provide various forms of support to Israel and the party has an odious anti-Palestinian history. In the mid-1970s the party opposed Palestinian Liberation Organization participation in two UN conferences in Toronto and Vancouver and party leader Ed Broadbent called the PLO “terrorists and murderers whose aim is the destruction of the state of Israel.”

That year NDP icon Tommy Douglas also told the Histadrut labour federation: “The main enmity against Israel is that she has been an affront to those nations who do not treat their people and their workers as well as Israel has treated hers.” (Douglas’ 1975 speech was made while Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights and Sinai, after it repeatedly invaded its neighbours and ethnically cleansed 750,000 Palestinians from their homeland.)

A progressive party worth its salt campaigns on an international issue in equal measure to its government/society’s contribution to that injustice.

Over the past century Canada has played no small part in Palestinians’ dispossession. Hundreds of Canadians provided military force to realize the crassly anti-Palestinian Balfour Declaration and this country’s diplomats played a central role in the UN’s decision to give the Zionist movement most of Palestine in 1947.

Today, Ottawa regularly votes against Palestinian rights at the UN and subsidizes dozens of charities that channel tens of millions of dollars to projects supporting Israel’s powerful military, racist institutions and illegal settlements. Additionally, Canada’s two-decade-old free trade agreement with Israel allows settlement products to enter Canada duty-free and over the past decade Ottawa has delivered over $100 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority in an explicit bid to advance Israel’s interests by building a security apparatus to protect the corrupt Palestinian Authority from popular disgust over its compliance in the face of ongoing Israeli settlement building.

Hopefully, in the years to come the NDP can help Canada make up for its sad anti-Palestinian history. Perhaps this weekend the party will finally bury official Canada’s anti-Palestinian consensus.

I will be speaking about “What’s Wrong with NDP Foreign Policy?” on the sidelines of the convention.

Yves Engler is the author of A Propaganda System: How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Canada in Africa: 300 years of aid and exploitation.
Read other articles by Yves.

Koching Up Canada's "Socialists": The (Mildly) Surprising Alignment of NDP and Oiligarch's Interests

Canada vs. Venezuela: Have the Koch Brothers Captured Canada’s Left?

by Joyce Nelson - CounterPunch

February 16, 2018

With a U.S.-backed military coup or invasion in Venezuela looking ever more likely, Canada’s progressive leftists are pushing for the federal New Democratic Party (NDP) to abandon its “reactionary” foreign policy position on that country. As well, at the annual NDP convention (February 15 – 18), the NDP Socialist Caucus will present a motion requesting the removal of NDP Foreign Affairs Critic Helene Laverdiere from that role.

 Image: Eden, Janine and Jim | CC BY 2.0

In December, the Canadian Dimension published a lengthy Open Letter from Dr. John Ryan, a retired University of Winnipeg professor, documenting the “reactionary foreign policy positions” on a variety of issues that the NDP has adopted in recent years, especially through Laverdiere’s role.

Regarding Venezuela, Dr. Ryan wrote,

“One would think that Canada’s NDP, as a social democratic party, would be supportive of the progressive policies that have been enacted in Venezuela. Surely the bulk of the people who vote NDP would be far more supportive of Venezuela than they would be of U.S. policies to undermine that country. So how is it that the NDP’s maverick foreign affairs critic is capable of aligning herself with American imperialist reactionary policies? There wasn’t a word from her when President Trump threatened to invade Venezuela and she has yet to criticize the recently announced Canadian sanctions [by the federal Liberal government]. [1]

On February 12, Canadian writer Yves Engler extensively documented Helene Laverdiere’s stance toward Venezuela in recent years, and he noted:

“In what may be the first ever resolution to an NDP convention calling for the removal of a party critic, the NDP Socialist Caucus has submitted a motion to next weekend’s convention titled ‘Hands Off Venezuela, Remove Helene Laverdiere as NDP Foreign Affairs Critic.’ It notes: 
 Be It Resolved that the NDP actively oppose foreign interference in Venezuela, defend Venezuela’s right to self- determination, reject alignment with U.S. policy in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and beyond, and request the immediate removal of MP Helene Laverdiere as NDP Foreign Affairs Critic.” [2]

Engler wrote that Laverdiere recently failed to criticize,

“Canada’s role in the so-called Lima Group of anti-Venezuelan foreign ministers. Laverdiere remained silent when foreign minister Chrystia Freeland organized a meeting of the Lima Group in Toronto four months ago.” [3]

Lima Group

Despite U.S. hopes and predictions, in October 2017 Maduro’s PSUV party won the gubernatorial elections by a wide margin, increasing its voter support to 54% and winning 18 of 23 governor posts. As Dr. James Petras noted,

“Over a thousand independent outside observers, who had monitored the Venezuela elections and voting procedures, declared the elections to be the free and valid expression of the citizens’ will.” [4]

The results showed that the right-wing opposition had lost sizeable support and was in disarray.

Nonetheless, foreign ministers from the Lima Group – Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraquay, Peru – met in Toronto on October 26 and issued a statement claiming that the gubernatorial elections had been marked by “acts of intimidation, manipulation, social coercion and voting conditioning, among other irregularities.” [5]

It was a strange message, given that even the defeated opposition candidates had conceded the election’s fairness.

During the Munk School of Global Affairs panel that followed the Lima Group meeting that same day, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland said the message of the Lima Group to the Venezuelan opposition is “Get your act together, guys!”

Freeland called for the further “isolation” of President Maduro and said that,

“Canadians feel strongly about human rights for people in other countries … This is our neighbourhood,” she stated, “this is our hemisphere…”

“Our Hemisphere”

Freeland’s rhetoric about “our neighborhood” and “our hemisphere” raises an issue that is rarely discussed when it comes to Canada’s foreign policy toward Venezuela.

In 2013, investigative reporter Greg Palast told RT’s Abby Martin that the reason Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez became U.S. “enemy number one” in 2001 is that he decided that he wasn’t going to give away the country’s oil anymore.

“Big U.S. oil companies were paying a royalty for Venezuela’s super-heavy oil of about 1 per cent – 1 percent! Okay? – And for the regular oil, it was 16 per cent. So the oil companies were keeping 84 per cent, and Chavez said, ‘You’re going to have to pay 30 per cent, you can only keep 70 per cent of our oil …You gotta split off a bit for the people of Venezuela’.” [6]

According to Palast, that change in Venezuela’s royalty rates became a huge irritant to the billionaire Koch Brothers, who own a refinery in Texas that has long imported Venezuelan heavy crude. The Koch Brothers are also a top lease-holder in the Alberta tar sands, and their Pine Hills refinery in Minnesota refines millions of barrels of imported tar sands crude.

As the price of oil escalated to more than $100 per barrel, Palast said the Koch Brothers determined that it would be cheaper – by about $2 billion per year – for them to substitute Canadian tar sands crude in their Texas refinery than to keep on importing Venezuelan heavy oil, so they became a big advocate for the Keystone XL pipeline to bring more tar sands crude all the way to the Gulf coast. The Koch Brothers’ Flint Hills Resources refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas is right next to Venezuela’s Citgo refinery.

In an Op-Ed for the Financial Post (March 7, 2013), business consultant Ryan W. Lijdsman noted that'

“Canada and Venezuela are both producers of heavy oil and compete for the limited number of customers that can refine heavy bitumen …A slide in Venezuelan production would be good for Canadian producers, which could meet the additional demand for heavy oil in the U.S. market.” [7]

Unlike Venezuela, Canada had taken no such stand to raise royalty rates for its oil, and as of December 2016 it has the lowest royalty rates in the world. Similarly, the Justin Trudeau Liberal government (like the previous Harper Conservative government) is in favour of the Keystone XL pipeline (and others) that would replace Venezuelan heavy oil in Gulf Coast refineries.

So when Chrystia Freeland acts to target Venezuela because “this is our hemisphere,” she is acting in concert with the Koch Brothers’ (and oil patch) desires – of course, without ever mentioning the tar sands.

Is this the reason why the NDP’s foreign affairs critic Helen Laverdiere has also been so reactionary towards the Venezuelan government? It’s hard to know, but these days politically (and wherever you look) it’s usually always about the oil.

Perhaps the Koch Brothers role in all this will prompt the NDP to listen to its Socialist Caucus.

[1] John Ryan, “Open Letter to Jagmeet Singh: NDP’s reactionary foreign policy positions must be changed,” Canadian Dimension, December 17, 2017.
[2] Yves Engler, “Canada’s New Democratic Party Seeks to Topple Venezuela’s Government,” Dissident Voice, February 12, 2018.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Prof. James Petras, “Ten Reasons Why the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) Won the Election,” Global Research, October 25, 2017.
[5] “Latin, Canada FMs urge UN to get involved in Venezuela,” AFP, October 26, 2017.
[6] Abby Martin interview with Greg Palast, RT, March 27, 2013.
[7] Ryan W. Lijdsman, “Chavez: the impact,” Financial Post, March 6, 2013.
Joyce Nelson’s sixth book, Beyond Banksters: Resisting the New Feudalism, can be ordered at: She can be reached through
More articles by: Joyce Nelson

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Amazonian Quest for North America's Dumbest, Most Desperate Jurisdiction

Jeff Bezos’ Quest to Find America’s Dumbest Mayor

by Dean Baker - CounterPunch

February 14, 2018

With the Super Bowl now behind us, America eagerly awaits the next big event: the announcement of the winner in Jeff Bezos’ contest to determine which combination of state and local governments is prepared to give him the most money to be home to Amazon’s new headquarters.

Narrowed from a field of more than 200 applications, 20 finalists now wait with baited breath for the news, expected sometime later this year.

But while the politicians who join Bezos for the photo op are going to be treated as big winners, it is likely that the taxpayers they represent will be big losers, dishing out more to Amazon than they will ever get back in benefits.

Image: DonkeyHotey | CC BY 2.0 

Bezos’ “HQ2” contest is simply an extension of a game that corporations have been playing with state and local governments for the last four decades. Rather than making location decisions based on standard economic factors, like the availability of a skilled labor force, quality infrastructure, land prices and tax rates, they have persuaded governments to bid against each other with company-specific benefit packages ― usually a basket of tax concessions and sometimes even including commitments to build company-specific infrastructure like port facilities or roads.

However, most research indicates that the cost to state and local governments for these subsidies typically outweighs the benefits in terms of employment and tax revenue, including in the cases of Amazon’s growing network of fulfillment centers.

A new analysis by the Economic Policy Institute looking at employment in counties that managed to land a fulfillment center in the last 15 years found no evidence that overall employment increased, and in some instances employment even fell relative to comparison counties. The implication was that the commitments made to win Amazon’s facilities ― subsidies likely worth over $1 billion dollars in total ― usually were enough of a drag on the rest of the economy, either by imposing a higher tax burden or diverting resources, to more than offset any jobs and spending created by Amazon.

Nonetheless, politicians are unlikely to be deterred from such bidding wars, since the victory of landing a big investment is highly visible and immediate. A mayor or governor gets to take part in a big ceremony with the CEO of a major corporation touting the thousands of jobs that are being created. The costs in the form of lost tax revenue that may be needed to support schools, infrastructure and other essential services will only be seen years down the road.

Now, Jeff Bezos is taking the bidding war into the Internet Age with this highly publicized contest for Amazon’s next headquarters. He put out the promise of a new headquarters with “up to” 50,000 high-paying jobs, and then the country’s cities put in their offers. (Toronto is the one non-American city also in the running).

The structure of this bidding war is virtually guaranteed to ensure that the city that lands the new headquarters will end up paying out far more in subsidies than it gets back in benefits. Once a location is named as being in the top 20, political leaders have their appetite whetted. They want more than ever to be the winner and are prepared to raise their offers so that they don’t end up in second place. Bezos is using a standard tease as an inducement to keep people gambling, just like the $10 or $50 prizes in the state lotteries or the small jackpots at the slot machines. They give the players just enough incentive to want to keep playing.

In addition, to minimize the extent to which an informed public can scrutinize the commitments being made by their leaders, Amazon has encouraged city officials to keep the details of their offers secret. This means that there will be very little time between when city and state officials celebrate the big victory and when city or county councils have to vote on the package.

Of course, Amazon is not new to shorting taxpayers. In many ways, the company’s prosperity is based on it. For years, the company took advantage of a loophole in tax law so that it did not have to collect the same sales tax as its brick-and-mortar competitors. This created the absurd situation that as Amazon was growing into one of the largest retailers in the world, it was effectively getting a tax subsidy at the expense of many family-owned retail stores. Even now, while the company does collect sales taxes on its direct sales, many of its affiliates, who pay Amazon a portion of their revenue, still do not collect sales tax in many states.

This was not a small subsidy. The size of the sales tax in many cases is close to standard profit margins. The fact that Amazon did not collect the tax gave it an enormous advantage over stores that did. Recent research has found a very large effect from the imposition of sales tax on Amazon sales, especially in the case of large purchases like television sets. The findings implied that imposing a sales tax of 5 percent would lead to roughly a 20 percent decline in sales on large purchases.

Since Amazon has been only marginally profitable since its founding, a sales tax requirement that put it on a level playing field with its brick-and-mortar competitors would have seriously impeded its growth. It may still have survived and even prospered, but it almost certainly would be a much smaller company today.

The contest to find the stupidest mayor in America is best understood in this context, as yet another episode in Amazon’s efforts to shaft taxpayers. And judging by the quantity and enthusiasm of the bids, the taxpayers still haven’t caught on.

There is a reason that Jeff Bezos is considered a genius.

Dean Baker is a macroeconomist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. He previously worked as a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute and an assistant professor at Bucknell University.
More articles by: Dean Baker

This column originally appeared on Huffington Post.  

No Pretence of Justice at Assange's Hearing: Judge and Jury by Peers

All Pretence is Over in Persecution of Assange 

by Craig Murray

14 Feb, 2018 

The “judge” who dismissed Assange’s case yesterday was “Lady Arbuthnot of Edrom”, wife to Tory peer, former Tory junior Defence Minister and government whip Lord James Arbuthnot. Not to mention Chairman of the Conservative Friends of Israel.

Arbuthnot was naturally Eton educated, the son of Major Sir John Sinclair Wemyss Arbuthnot. Of course Lady Arbuthnot’s children were all sent to Eton too.

At the first hearing, I was stunned by reports of completely inappropriate comments by Lady Arbuthnot, including responding to representations about Assange’s health by the comment that medical care is available in Wandsworth prison.

Our “Lady” Arbuthnot of Edrom

As the official charade is that Assange is wanted for nothing but jumping bail, for which a custodial sentence is rare, that callous attempt at gallows humour was redolent of Arbuthnot’s Tory mindset.

She also remarked – and repeats it in yesterday’s judgement – that Assange has access to fresh air through the Embassy’s balcony. That is simply untrue. The “balcony” floor is 3 feet by 20 inches and gives no opportunity to exercise. Julian does not have access to it. He is confined to a small area within the Embassy, which still has to function. The balcony is off the Ambassador’s office. He has been given access to it on average about twice a year. But “Lady” Arbuthnot showed a very selective attitude to getting at the truth.

The truth is that just last week the evidence was published which inarguably proves that the questioning for sexual allegations was only ever a charade to secure Assange in custody for deportation to the US, to face charges for publishing the USA’s dirty secrets. In 2013 Sweden wished to drop the investigation and the arrest warrant, and was subject to strong persuasion from the Crown Prosecution Service to maintain the warrant. This included emails from the CPS telling the Swedes “Don’t you dare” drop the case, and most tellingly of all “Please do not think this case is being dealt with as just another extradition.” That last exposes the entire pretence in just one sentence.

It is worth noting it was not the servile UK corporate media, but the Italian journalist Stefania Maurizi and the Italian newspaper Le Repubblica which obtained these emails through dogged freedom of information requests and High Court proceedings. These revealed the quite stunning truth that the CPS had systematically destroyed most of the highly incriminating correspondence, with only accidental copies of a few emails surviving to be produced in response to the FOI request.

The CPS emails devastate the official charade, which is precisely that this is just a normal extradition case. Furthermore it is admitted at para 43 of “Lady” Arbuthnot’s judgement that the Crown Prosecution Service actively referred the Swedish authorities to Wikileaks activities in the United States as a reason not to drop the arrest warrant, a fact which the UK mainstream media has still never reported and which obviates “Lady” Arbuthnot’s trite observation that there is no evidence that Sweden would have extradited Assange to the USA.

Perhaps most stunning of all “Lady” Arbuthnot opines at para 44 that “I cannot determine from the extracts of correspondence whether the lawyer in the extradition unit acted inappropriately” in preventing the Swedes from dropping the case and referring them to Wikileaks activities vis a vis the USA. Whereas in fact:

a) It provides irrefutable proof that this was never about the frankly unbelievable Swedish sexual allegations, which were always just a pretext for getting Assange into custody over Wikileaks’ publications

b) The reason she only has “extracts” of the correspondence is that the Crown Prosecution Service, as openly admitted in the High Court, tried to destroy all this correspondence, itself an illegal act. Arbuthnot gives them the benefit of their illegality, against all legal principle.

“Lady” Arbuthnot takes it upon herself to contradict the judgement of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, every one of whose members is a much more eminent lawyer than “Lady” Arbuthnot. The UK had of course every opportunity to raise the points made by Lady Arbuthnot in its appeal to the UN, which appeal also failed.

“Lady” Arbuthnot’s attempt to undermine a judgement by going back and disputing the actual facts of the case, with no opportunity to answer, is, to say the least, a creative piece of judicial process. But as with her failure to pursue the CPS’ destruction of evidence, it is just an example of her most obvious bias.

“Lady” Arbuthnot set out with one clear and evident purpose, to assist the Crown.

“Lady” Arbuthnot has perhaps performed an unwitting public service by the brazen nature of her partiality, which exposes beyond refutation the charade of legal process behind the effort to arrest Assange, in reality over the publication of USA secrets. The second half of Para 57 of the judgement sets out how, following his arrest for “jumping bail”, the American extradition request on espionage charges will be handled.

I should like to conclude that “Lady” Arbuthnot is a disgrace to the English justice system, but I fear she is rather typical of it. This intellectually corrupt, openly biased, callous Tory shill is rather a disgrace to humanity itself.

A National Day of Action on the Overdose Crisis

National Day of Action on the Overdose Crisis

by CAPUD Canadian Association of People Who Use Drugs

February 14, 2018

4,000 Canadians are on death row this year. That’s how many died an early and entirely preventable overdose death in 2017.

More will die in 2018, and the Canadian justice system is implicated in each and every death. This day of action is focused on decriminalizing drugs and reforming the Canadian justice system.

In Vancouver, we will meet at Victory Square and march to the Federal courthouse in downtown Vancouver.

February 20, 2018 at 12:30pm - 3:30pm

Victory Square, East Hastings & Cambie Sts

Google map and directions

How to get involved:

  • Raise awareness in your local community about how the justice system and criminalization impact people who use(d) drugs.
  • Write a letter of support for drug decriminalization to the Canadian Minister of Justice and Prime Minister
  • Join us on February 20th for protests around the country, and WEAR RED to symbolize the injustice of red zoning.

Political demands:

  • Decriminalize all drugs immediately
  • Widespread expansion of needle distribution and overdose prevention services in Canadian federal prisons.
  • End pre-trial conditional charges

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Honduras' Continuous Coup

Honduras: the Never-Ending Coup (1/2) 

by Jesse Freeston - TRNN

January 27, 2018

All three elections since the coup d'état in Honduras in 2009 have been marred by evidence of fraud employed to keep the ultra right National Party in power. During the most recent election of November 26th, the Opposition Alliance, formed to defeat the National Party, was ahead by 5% with 57% of the votes counted when the electoral tribunal computer system crashed.

When counting resumed 24 hours later, the tendency reversed and the National Party led by President Juan Orlando Hernández, ended up winning by 1%.

A special report from the hemisphere's most controversial Inauguration

Special Report: The Never-Ending Coup in Honduras (2/2)

The Inauguration of an Unelected President

Reportaje Especial: El golpe sin fin (1 de 2) (en espanol)

Reportaje Especial: El golpe sin fin (2 de 2) (en espanol)

Britain's Proxy Prisoner: Uncovering UK Role in Assange Detention

The UK’s Hidden Hand in Julian Assange’s Detention

by Jonathan Cook - CounterPunch

February 13, 2018

It now emerges that the last four years of Julian Assange’s effective imprisonment in the Ecuadorean embassy in London have been entirely unnecessary.

In fact, they depended on a legal charade.

Behind the scenes, Sweden wanted to drop the extradition case against Assange back in 2013. Why was this not made public? Because Britain persuaded Sweden to pretend that they still wished to pursue the case.

Image Billy Bob Bain | CC BY 2.0 

In other words, for more than four years Assange has been holed up in a tiny room, policed at great cost to British taxpayers, not because of any allegations in Sweden but because the British authorities wanted him to remain there.

On what possible grounds could that be, one has to wonder? Might it have something to do with his work as the head of Wikileaks, publishing information from whistleblowers that has severely embarrassed the United States and the UK.

In fact, Assange should have walked free years ago if this was really about an investigation – a sham one at that – into an alleged sexual assault in Sweden. Instead, as Assange has long warned, there is a very different agenda at work: efforts to extradite him onwards to the US, where he could be locked away for good. That was why UN experts argued two years ago that he was being “arbitrarily detained” – for political crimes – not unlike the situation of dissidents in other parts of the world that win the support of western liberals and leftists.

According to a new, limited release of emails between officials, the Swedish director of public prosecutions, Marianne Ny, wrote to Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service on 18 October 2013, warning that Swedish law would not allow the case for extradition to be continued. This was, remember, after Sweden had repeatedly failed to take up an offer from Assange to interview him in London, as had happened in 44 other extradition cases between Sweden and Britain.

Ny wrote to the CPS:

“We have found us to be obliged to lift the detention order … and to withdraw the European arrest warrant. If so this should be done in a couple of weeks. This would affect not only us but you too in a significant way.”

Three days later, suggesting that legal concerns were far from anyone’s mind, she emailed the CPS again:

“I am sorry this came as a [bad] surprise… I hope I didn’t ruin your weekend.”

In a similar vein, proving that this was about politics, not the law, the chief CPS lawyer handling the case in the UK, had earlier written to the Swedish prosecutors: “Don’t you dare get cold feet!!!”

In December 2013, the unnamed CPS lawyer wrote again to Ny: “I do not consider costs are a relevant factor in this matter.” This was at a time when it had been revealed that the policing of Assange’s detention in the embassy had at that point cost Britain £3.8 million. In another email from the CPS, it was noted: “Please do not think this case is being dealt with as just another extradition.”

These are only fragments of the email correspondence, after most of it was destroyed by the CPS against its own protocols. The deletions appear to have been carried out to avoid releasing the electronic files to a tribunal that has been considering a freedom of information request.

Other surviving emails, according to a Guardian report last year, have shown that the CPS “advised the Swedes in 2010 or 2011 not to visit London to interview Assange. An interview at that time could have prevented the long-running embassy standoff.”

Assange is still holed up in the embassy, at great risk to his physical and mental health, even though last year Sweden formally dropped an investigation that in reality it had not actually been pursuing for more than four years.

Now the UK (read US) authorities have a new, even less credible pretext for continuing to hold Assange: because he “skipped bail”. Apparently the price he should pay for this relatively minor infraction is more than five years of confinement.

London magistrates are due to consider on Tuesday the arguments of Assange’s lawyers that he should be freed and that after so many years the continuing enforcement of the arrest warrant is disproportionate. Given the blurring of legal and political considerations in this case, don’t hold your breath that Assange will finally get a fair hearing.

Remember too that, according to the UK Foreign Office, Ecuador recently notified it that Assange had received diplomatic status following his successful application for Ecuadorean citizenship.

As former British ambassador Craig Murray has explained, the UK has no choice but to accept Assange’s diplomatic immunity. The most it can do is insist that he leave the country – something that Assange and Ecuador presumably each desire. And yet the UK continues to ignore its obligation to allow Assange his freedom to leave. So far there has been zero debate in the British corporate media about this fundamental violation of his rights.

One has to wonder at what point will most people realise that this is – and always was – political persecution masquerading as law enforcement.
Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is
More articles by Jonathan Cook

Trudeau Tries to Disarm Pipeline Opponents

Confronting Trudeau on Climate Lies and Kinder Morgan Pipeline


February 13, 2018

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau recently concluded a cross-country tour consisting of a series of town halls. As Prime Minister Trudeau headed westward, Canadians' questions about his government's climate policies became increasingly hostile.

Clayton Thomas-Muller, an indigenous and environmental activist who challenged Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's pro-pipeline rhetoric during the PM's cross-country town hall tour.

Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, Garth Mullins, Mark Schuller, Janine Bandcroft February 15, 2018

This Week on GR

by C. L. Cook -

February 15, 2018

The numbers are staggering: last year, more than 4,000 Canadians suffered premature and completely preventable deaths, and more are dying this year and will continue to do so largely because Canada's political representatives lack the courage and vision to change a system that literally gives up for dead citizens it regards as lost causes.

Next week, February 20th, in Victoria and across the country, the National Day of Action on the Overdose Crisis will take to the streets yet again in efforts to bring the Justice system to its senses and reform finally the nation's drugs policies.

Listen. Hear.

Garth Mullins is a long-time Vancouver-based DTES activist, writer, broadcaster, musician, trade unionist, contributor to CBC Radio One's Ideas program, and his weekly column past appeared at 24 Hours Vancouver. He’s also been at the fore, with the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, responding to that city’s ongoing overdose crisis.

Garth Mullins in the first half.

And; while Washington debates whether Donald Trump believes Haiti to be either "shithole" or "shithouse" uncontested is the under-reported fact, "peacekeepers" from the euphemistically known "United" Nations used at least one of Haiti's rivers as an open sewer, initiating the cholera epidemic that august body is yet to take full responsibility for. Thus is the fate it seems for long-suffering Haiti, despoiled and denigrated by its powerful neighbours, and through their intervention "humanitarian" and otherwise kept the poorest of the Western Hemisphere's countries.

Mark Schuller is Associate Professor of Anthropology and NGO Leadership and Development at Northern Illinois University and affiliate at the Faculté d’Ethnologie, l’Université d’État d’Haïti. He is the author or co-editor of six books, including the forthcoming 'Humanitarian Aftershocks in Haiti'. Schuller is also co-director/co-producer of the documentary Poto Mitan: Haitian Women, Pillars of the Global Economy (2009), and he's active in several solidarity efforts. His recent CounterPunch article asks, 'What Is a Shithole Country and Why is Trump So Obsessed with Haiti?'

Mark Schuller and anatomy of a shithole in the second half.

And; Victoria-based activist and CFUV Radio broadcaster at-large, Janine Bandcroft will join us at the bottom of the hour with the Left Coast Events bulletin of good things you can get up to around here in the coming week. But first, Garth Mullins and wearing the red for the reform of Canada's drugs policies.

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, airing live every Thursday between 11-Noon Pacific Time. In Victoria at 101.9FM, and on the internet at:  He also serves as a contributing editor to the web news site, Check out the GR blog at:

Virgin Tosses "Palestinian" Salad After Israeli Complaints

Virgin Pulls Palestinian salad name from in-flight menu after complaints from Israel supporters

by RT

February 13, 2018

Virgin Atlantic faces an ongoing backlash over a salad on its in-flight menu after the meal’s ‘Palestinian’ name was shared on a pro-Israel Facebook page.

The ‘Palestinian couscous salad’ - which includes a mix of Maftoul and other couscous, along with tomatoes, cucumber, parsley, mint and lemon vinaigrette - sparked a backlash after passengers posted it on social media.

An image of the in-flight menu was posted on the ‎Israel Advocacy Movement Facebook page by passenger David Garnelas, who said:

“I thought this was an Israeli salad...obviously [airline founder Richard] Branson showing his true colours...Israelis must boycott Virgin and Israel must ask for an explanation. When I complained the stewardess tried to take back the menu from me.”

The negative reaction to the meal’s name saw it changed on the airline’s menu.

“We were aware that Maftoul is not a widely known ingredient – so the dish was listed as a ‘Palestinian couscous salad’, and later as a ‘Couscous salad’,” the airline said in a statement to
 “We’d like to reassure all customers that our sole intention was to bring new flavors onboard, and never to cause offense through the naming or renaming of the dish.”

However, despite the effort to appease passengers, changing the name of the meal sparked a counter backlash from pro-Palestine groups.

“After an orchestrated campaign by Zionist groups, Virgin Atlantic airlines decides that Palestinian food is offensive. Removes the word 'Palestinian', but keeps the food. Shameful,” the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign said of the change.

Twitter user Bassam Mansour said that maftoul is the national dish of Palestine and Virgin should not have caved to the demands of “twisted and hate-filled passengers.”

Monday, February 12, 2018

Olivia Solon and the Workings of The Guardian Sausage Factory

An Open Letter to Olivia Solon

by James Corbett - The Corbett Report

Feb. 11, 2018  

As attentive Corbett Report viewers will already know, The Guardian was the recipient of the highest dishonor of the year this year: The award for “Fakest Fake News Story of the Year 2017” at my First Annual REAL Fake News Awards ( aka “the Dinos”).

Specifically, the dishonor was bestowed on The Guardian’s San Francisco-based technology reporter, Olivia Solon, for her breathtaking contribution to the annals of establishment fake news hackery, “How Syria’s White Helmets became victims of an online propaganda machine.”

The report, for those who have not read it yet, is as exactly what you would expect from an establishment stenography institution like The Guardian: The so-called “Syrian Civil Defence,” aka the White Helmets, are pure and virtuous; anyone who questions them is an anti-imperialist activist/conspiracy theorist/troll with support from the Russian government; no criticisms of the group are valid and they’ve all been refuted by reputable fact-checkers like Snopes; blah blah blah, etc., etc.

As I say, you know exactly how the story goes…but you should read it anyway. It really is a perfect snapshot of the template that the MSM uses to discredit any and all opposition, and it would have been incredible effective…in the 1950s, when people still trusted the mainstream media. (Protip: no one trusts the MSM anymore!)

As it is, this is the age of the internet and it’s impossible for fake news stories like this to fly with an increasingly informed and connected public. When The Guardian ran its hit piece on the independent researchers like Vanessa Beeley and Eva Bartlett and Tim Anderson who are countering the mainstream White Helmets / Syria narrative, they just responded on their own websites and social media and in interviews on independent media sites, probably reaching more people in the process.

One of the highlights of this response came in Eva Bartlett’s rebuttal of The Guardian smear job, “How the Mainstream Media Whitewashed Al-Qaeda and the White Helmets in Syria.” In that report, Eva Bartlett published Olivia Solon’s actual emails to Bartlett when she was seeking comment for her article. Stop what you’re doing and read those emails right now.

If you ever wanted to know how the sausage is made, here it is in all its gory glory: Leading questions. Accusations. Taunts and insults framed as innocent inquiries. It’s like Solon went to the same school of journalism as Cathy Newman.

As attentive Corbett Report viewers will also know by now, I released my own response to Solon’s hit piece this past Friday: The White Helmets Are A Propaganda Construct.

As I note at the end of my podcast:

“Olivia Solon was contacted for comment on this report, but she did not respond to the request.” 

That’s right, of course I offered Solon a right of reply to the piece that I was writing about her story. In fact, I did even more than that: I very closely copied her own email’s style, format, and even some of her questions when I reached out to her. Sadly, though, Solon did not see fit to reply to my query.

So, in an effort to reach her via a different outlet, I am releasing my email to Solon as an open letter. If anyone out there happens to be in contact with her, perhaps you could pass these questions along? Thanks!


FROM: James Corbett
TO: Olivia Solon
SUBJECT: Media request re: The White Helmets

Hi Olivia,

I am a reporter in Japan and I’m planning to publish a report on February 9 about the “journalists” who believe that the White Helmets are crusading heroes and the independent reporters who are seeking to expose that lie.

Your reporting is featured in this report and I’d like to include your voice within it. I am including the key parts of the report which will call your own reporting into question below. It would be great if you could respond to them by 12 noon Japanese time on Friday, February 9th (2 days from now). I will be sure to carefully consider any comments you make. If you do not choose to respond to the numbered points by Friday I shall proceed on the basis that you have no comment you wish to make.

1. That the White Helmets are an organization of crusading heroes who are above reproach – they are, in your view, a politically neutral organization of everyday Syrians who have valiantly saved tens of thousands of lives.

2. That you rely nearly exclusively on The Syria Campaign for your “expert analysis” of the White Helmets and their trustworthiness despite The Syria Campaign’s admitted role as a PR firm lobbying for the White Helmets. You also completely ignore or exclude reporting on the Syria Campaign, its murky origins, its anonymous donors, and its ties to groups promoting regime change in Syria.

3. You believe that all opposition to the White Helmets is part of a smear campaign that is being coordinated by the Kremlin. Do you still believe this?

4. You attack the work of independent reporters who have done on-the-ground investigative journalism in Syria and come to differing conclusions about the White Helmets, calling them “anti-imperialist activists,” “conspiracy theorists” and “trolls with the support of the Russian government.” At the same time, you fastidiously ignoring the similar conclusions reached by:
John Pilger, one of the most celebrated journalists and documentarians of the past half century
Philip Giraldi, a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer
Gareth Porter, the award-winning journalist who has contributed to Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs, The Nation, Al Jazeera, Salon, The Huffington Post, Alternet and countless other outlets
Stephen Kinzer, former New York Times correspondent and, ironically, recent contributor to The Guardian.

Can you please identify which category of “anti-imperialist activists,” “conspiracy theorists” or “trolls with the support of the Russian government” that Pilger, Giraldi, Porter and Kinzer fall into? (Please categorize each one individually.)

5. That you think that Assad is maniacally killing his own population and deploying chemical weapons on his own country, knowing that this is the one “red line” that would ensure an invasion of Syria by outside forces, because he is a deranged bloodthirsty maniac and likely suicidal.

I also have a few questions for you:

1. You are described as a “technology reporter based in San Francisco” who would appear to have absolutely no background, expertise or training in international geopolitics. Why do you believe you were assigned these stories about the White Helmets and what makes you think you are qualified to report on them, despite seemingly never having set foot in Syria?

2. Do you believe that members of the White Helmets have openly advocated for, appeared with, or even fought for listed terrorist organizations, as their own social media profiles make abundantly clear?

3. Even if you believe the White Helmets are faultless heroes, do you believe it is possible that there are jihadis and terrorists in their ranks, and that their work is promoted as part of a cynical operation to rally Western support for increased military intervention in Syria? Or is it all above board, in your opinion?

4. Could you briefly outline your training as an investigative reporter?

Kind regards,
James Corbett


Well, there it is. And if Olivia Solon does read this post, perhaps I can use this opportunity to ask a few follow-up questions:

1. What do you think of The Guardian’s uncritical reporting of the (admittedly completely fictitious) “Syrian sniper boy” video and why did you not include critical reflection of that incident in your article’s lengthy treatment of the White Helmets’ Mannequin Challenge video?

2. Assuming you are paid by The Guardian for your…*cough*…”reporting,” what can you tell us about the paper’s financing and how that might help to influence a pro-interventionist editorial position at the paper? And can you elaborate on any potential conflicts of interest that might arise from The Guardian’s relationship to The Doc Society, which promotes various White Helmet documentaries?

3. Do you think the public should take The Guardian seriously as an objective arbiter of the truth about the White Helmets given that their editorial board is on record lobbying for the White Helmets to win the Nobel Peace Prize?

4. Why do you think that Beeley and Bartlett were reluctant to answer the questions in your email?

Thanks again for your time, Olivia Solon! I will now start holding my breath while waiting for your reply…

a VERY HEAVY agenda - Trailer

a VERY HEAVY agenda

From Documentary Filmmaker Robbie Martin


A Very Heavy Agenda

Singing from the Same Hymn Book: Old Song, New Tune for Latter Day Propagandists

Lifting of US Propaganda Ban Gives New Meaning to Old Song

by Whitney Webb - MintPress News

February 12, 2018

In the age of legal, weaponized propaganda directed against the American people, false narratives have become so commonplace in the mainstream media that they have essentially become normalized, leading to the era of “fake news” and “alternative facts.”

“U.S. Official War Pictures”, propaganda poster by 
Louis D. Fancher circa 1917. (Public Domain)

Though its ostensible purpose is to fund the U.S. military over a one year period, the National Defense Authorization Act, better known as the NDAA, has had numerous provisions tucked into it over the years that have targeted American civil liberties. The most well-known of these include allowing the government to wiretap American citizens without a warrant and, even more disturbingly, indefinitely imprison an American citizen without charge in the name of “national security.”

One of the lesser-known provisions that have snuck their way into the NDAA over the years was a small piece of legislation tacked onto the NDAA for fiscal year 2013, signed into law in that same year by then-President Barack Obama. Named “The Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012,” it completely lifted the long-existing ban on the domestic dissemination of U.S. government-produced propaganda.

For decades, the U.S. government had been allowed to produce and disseminate propaganda abroad in order to drum up support for its foreign wars but had been banned from distributing it domestically after the passage of the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948. However, the Modernization Act’s co-authors, Reps. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) and Adam Smith (D-WA, no relation to the Smith of the 1948 act), asserted that removing the domestic ban was necessary in order to combat “al-Qaeda’s and other violent extremists’ influence among populations.” 

Thornberry stated that removing the ban was necessary because it had tied “the hands of America’s diplomatic officials, military, and others, by inhibiting our ability to effectively communicate in a credible way.” Yet, given that Thornberry is one of the greatest beneficiaries of weapon manufacturers’ campaign contributions, the real intent — to skeptics at least — seemed more likely related to an effort to ramp up domestic support for U.S. military adventurism abroad following the disastrous invasions of Iraq and Libya.

Five years later, the effects of the lifting of the ban have turned what was once covert manipulation of the media by the government into a transparent “revolving door” between the media and the government. Robbie Martin — documentary filmmaker and media analyst whose documentary series, “A Very Heavy Agenda,” explores the relationships between neoconservative think tanks and media — told MintPress, that this revolving door “has never been more clear than it is right now” as a result of the ban’s absence.

In the age of legal, weaponized propaganda directed at the American people, false narratives have become so commonplace in the mainstream and even alternative media that these falsehoods have essentially become normalized, leading to the era of “fake news” and “alternative facts.”

Those who create such news, regardless of the damage it causes or the demonstrably false nature of its claims, face little to no accountability, as long as those lies are of service to U.S. interests. Meanwhile, media outlets that provide dissenting perspectives are being silenced at an alarming rate.

The effects of lifting the ban examined 


Vice founders Shane Smith, left, and Suroosh Alvi, attend the Webby 
Awards at Cipriani Wall Street in New York. The formerly independent 
Vice News saw a precipitous uptick in citations of Broadcasting Board
of Governors (BBG) sources after securing corporate funding.

Since 2013, newsrooms across the country, of both the mainstream and “alternative” variety, have been notably skewed towards the official government narrative, with few outside a handful of independently-funded media outlets bothering to question those narratives’ veracity. While this has long been a reality for the Western media (see John Pilger’s 2011 documentary “The War You Don’t See”), the use of government-approved narratives and sources from government-funded groups have become much more overt than in years past.

From Syria to Ukraine, U.S.-backed coups and U.S.-driven conflicts have been painted as locally driven movements that desperately need U.S. support in order to “help” the citizens of those countries — even though that “help” has led to the near destruction of those countries and, in the case of Ukraine, an attempted genocide. In these cases, many of the sources were organizations funded directly by the U.S. government or allied governments, such as the White Helmets and Aleppo Media Centre (largely funded by the U.S. and U.K. governments) in the case of Syria, and pro-Kiev journalists with Nazi ties (including Bogdan Boutkevitch, who called for the “extermination” of Ukrainians of Russian descent on live TV) in the case of Ukraine, among other examples. Such glaring conflicts of interests are, however, rarely — if ever — disclosed when referenced in these reports.

More recently, North Korea has been painted as presenting an imminent threat to the United States. Recent reports on this “threat” have been based on classified intelligence reports that claim that North Korea can produce a new nuclear bomb every six or seven weeks, including a recent article from the New York Times. However, those same reports have admitted that this claim is purely speculative, as it is “impossible to verify until experts get beyond the limited access to North Korean facilities that ended years ago.” In other words, the article was based entirely on unverified claims from the U.S. intelligence community that were treated as compelling.

As Martin told MintPress, many of these government-friendly narratives first began at U.S.-funded media organizations overseen by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) — an extension of the U.S. state department.

Martin noted that U.S.-funded media, like Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Europe (RFE), were among the first to use a State Department-influenced narrative aimed at “inflaming hostilities with Russia before it soaked into mainstream reporting.” Of course, now, this narrative — with its origins in the U.S. State Department and U.S. intelligence community — has come to dominate headlines in the corporate media and even some “alternative” media outlets in the wake of the 2016 U.S. election.

This is no coincidence. As Martin noted, “after the ban was lifted, things changed drastically here in the United States,” resulting in what was tantamount to a “propaganda media coup” where the State Department, and other government agencies that had earlier shaped the narrative at the BBG, used their influence on mainstream media outlets to shape those narratives as well.

A key example of this, as Martin pointed out, was the influence of the new think-tank “The Alliance for Securing Democracy,” whose advisory council and staff are loaded with neocons, such as the National Review’s Bill Kristol, and former U.S. intelligence and State Department officials like former CIA Director Michael Morell. The Alliance for Securing Democracy’s Russia-focused offshoot, “Hamilton 68,” is frequently cited by media outlets — mainstream and alternative — as an impartial, reliable tracker of Russian “meddling” efforts on social media.

Martin remarked that he had “never seen a think tank before have such a great influence over the media so quickly,” noting that it “would have been hard to see [such influence on reporters] without the lifting of the ban,” especially given the fact that media organizations that cite Hamilton 68 do not mention its ties to former government officials and neoconservatives.

In addition, using VOA or other BBG-funded media has become much more common than it was prior to the ban, an indication that state-crafted information originally intended for a foreign audience is now being used domestically. Martin noted that this has become particularly common at some “pseudo-alternative” media organizations — i.e., formerly independent media outlets that now enjoy corporate funding. Among these, Martin made the case that VICE News stands out.

After the propaganda ban was lifted, Martin noticed that VICE’s citations of BBG sources “spiked.” He continued:

“One of the things I immediately noticed was that they [VICE news] were so quick to call out other countries’ media outlets, but yet — in every instance I looked up of them citing BBG sources — they never mentioned where the funding came from or what it was and they would very briefly mention it [information from BBG sources] like these were any other media outlets.”

He added that, in many of these cases, journalists at VICE were unaware that references to VOA or other BBG sources appeared in their articles. This was an indication that “there is some editorial staff [at VICE News] that is putting this in from the top down.”

Furthermore, Martin noted that, soon after the ban was lifted, “VICE’s coverage mirrored the type of coverage that BBG was doing across the world in general,” which in Martin’s view indicated “there was definitely some coordination between the State Department and VICE.” This coordination was also intimated by BBG’s overwhelmingly positive opinion of VICE in their auditing reports, in which the BBG “seemed more excited about VICE than any other media outlet” — especially since VICE was able to use BBG organizations as sources while maintaining its reputation as a “rebel” media outlet.

Martin notes that these troubling trends have been greatly enabled by the lifting of the ban. He opined that the ban was likely lifted “in case someone’s cover [in spreading government propaganda disguised as journalism] was blown,” in which case “it wouldn’t be seen as illegal.” He continued:

“For example, if a CIA agent at the Washington Post is directly piping in U.S. government propaganda or a reporter is working for the U.S. government to pipe in propaganda, it wouldn’t be seen as a violation of the law. Even though it could have happened before the ban, it’s under more legal protection now.”

Under normal circumstances, failing to disclose conflicts of interests of key sources and failing to question government narratives would be considered acts of journalistic malice. However, in the age of legal propaganda, these derelictions matter much less. Propaganda is not intended to be factual or impartial — it is intended to serve a specific purpose, namely influencing public opinion in a way that serves U.S. government interests. As Karl Rove, the former advisor and deputy chief of staff to George W. Bush, once said, the U.S. “is an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.” This “reality” is defined not by facts but by its service to empire.

Meanwhile, counter-narratives, however fact-based they may be, are simultaneously derided as conspiracy theories or “fake news,” especially if they question or go against government narratives.

The revolving door

Another major consequence of the ban being lifted goes a step further than merely influencing narratives. In recent years, there has been the growing trend of hiring former government officials, including former U.S. intelligence directors and other psyops veterans, in positions once reserved for journalists. In their new capacity as talking heads on mainstream media reports, they repeat the stance of the U.S. intelligence community to millions of Americans, with their statements and views unchallenged.

For instance, last year, CNN hired former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Clapper, a key architect of RussiaGate, has committed perjury by lying to Congress and more recently lied about the Trump campaign being wiretapped through a FISA request. He has also made racist, Russophobic comments on national television. Now, however, he is an expert analyst for “the most trusted name in news.” CNN last year also hired Michael Hayden, who is a former Director of both the CIA and the NSA, and former Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence.

CNN isn’t alone. NBC/MSNBC recently hired former CIA director John Brennan — another key architect of RussiaGate and the man who greenlighted (and lied about) CIA spying on Congress — as a contributor and “senior national security and intelligence analyst.” NBC also employs Jeremy Bash, former CIA and DoD Chief of Staff, as a national security analyst, as well as reporter Ken Dilanian, who is known for his “collaborative relationship” with the CIA.

This “revolving door” doesn’t stop there. After the BBG was restructured by the 2016 NDAA, the “board” for which the organization was named was dissolved, making BBG’s CEO — a presidential appointee — all powerful. BBG’s current CEO is John Lansing, who – prior to taking the top post at the BBG – was the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM), a marketing association comprised of 90 of the top U.S. and Canadian cable companies and television programmers. Lansing’s connection to U.S. cable news companies is just one example of how this revolving door opens both ways.

Media-government coordination out of the shadows 


Defense Secretary James Mattis chats with Amazon founder and 
Washington Post owner, Jeff Bezos, during a visit to west coast tech 
and defense companies. (Jeff Bezos/Twitter)

Such collusion between mainstream media and the U.S. government is hardly new. It has only become more overt since the Smith-Mundt ban was lifted.

For instance, the CIA, through Operation Mockingbird, started recruiting mainstream journalists and media outlets as far back as the 1960s in order to covertly influence the American public by disguising propaganda as news. The CIA even worked with top journalism schools to change their curricula in order to produce a new generation of journalists that would better suit the U.S. government’s interests. Yet the CIA effort to manipulate the media was born out of the longstanding view in government that influencing the American public through propaganda was not only useful, but necessary.

Indeed, Edward Bernays, the father of public relations, who also worked closely with the government in the creation and dissemination of propaganda, once wrote:

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.”

While this was once an “invisible” phenomenon, it is quickly becoming more obvious. Now, Silicon Valley oligarchs with ties to the U.S. government have bought mainstream and pseudo-alternative media outlets and former CIA directors are given prominent analyst positions on cable news programs. The goal is to manufacture support at home for the U.S.’ numerous conflicts around the world, which are only likely to grow as the Pentagon takes aim at “competing states” like Russia and China in an increasingly desperate protection of American hegemony.

With the propaganda ban a relic, the once-covert propaganda machine long used to justify war after war is now operating out in the open and out of control.

Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News who has written for several news organizations in both English and Spanish; her stories have been featured on ZeroHedge, the Anti-Media, and 21st Century Wire among others. She currently lives in Southern Chile.

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