Skip to content

not to wield power but to draw attention away

President of the Imperial Galactic Government

The President is very much a figurehead – the qualities he is required to display are not those of leadership but those of finely judged outrage. For this reason the President is always a controversial choice, always an infuriating but fascinating character. His job is not to wield power but to draw attention away from it.

Douglas Adams

Slightly abridged quote from http://hhgproject.org/entries/president.html

The Anti-Empire Report #148 (copy-paste)

By William Blum – Published February 4th, 2017

*

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to williamblum.org is provided.

*

-> copy-paste the whole thing!!

mk

*

“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” – Alice in Wonderland

*

Since Yalta, we have a long list of times we’ve tried to engage positively with Russia. We have a relatively short list of successes in that regard. – General James Mattis, the new Secretary of Defense

*

If anyone knows where to find this long list please send me a copy.

This delusion is repeated periodically by American military officials. A year ago, following the release of Russia’s new national security document, naming as threats both the United States and the expansion of the NATO alliance, a Pentagon spokesman declared: “They have no reason to consider us a threat. We are not looking for conflict with Russia.”

Meanwhile, in early January, the United States embarked upon its biggest military buildup in Europe since the end of the Cold War – 3,500 American soldiers landed, unloading three shiploads, with 2,500 tanks, trucks and other combat vehicles. The troops were to be deployed in Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary and across the Baltics. Lt. Gen. Frederick Hodges, commander of US forces in Europe, said, “Three years after the last American tanks left the continent, we need to get them back.”

The measures, General Hodges declared, were a “response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the illegal annexation of Crimea. This does not mean that there necessarily has to be a war, none of this is inevitable, but Moscow is preparing for the possibility.” (See previous paragraph.)

This January 2017 buildup, we are told, is in response to a Russian action in Crimea of January 2014. The alert reader will have noticed that critics of Russia in recent years, virtually without exception, condemn Moscow’s Crimean action and typically nothing else. Could that be because they have nothing else to condemn about Russia’s foreign policy? At the same time they invariably fail to point out what preceded the Russian action – the overthrow, with Washington’s indispensable help, of the democratically-elected, Moscow-friendly Ukrainian government, replacing it with an anti-Russian, neo-fascist (literally) regime, complete with Nazi salutes and swastika-like symbols.

Ukraine and Georgia, both of which border Russia, are all that’s left to complete the US/NATO encirclement. And when the US overthrew the government of Ukraine, why shouldn’t Russia have been alarmed as the circle was about to close yet tighter? Even so, the Russian military appeared in Ukraine only in Crimea, where the Russians already had a military base with the approval of the Ukrainian government. No one could have blocked Moscow from taking over all of Ukraine if they wanted to.

Yet, the United States is right. Russia is a threat. A threat to American world dominance. And Americans can’t shake their upbringing. Here’s veteran National Public Radio newscaster Cokie Roberts bemoaning Trump’s stated desire to develop friendly relations with Russia: “This country has had a consistent policy for 70 years towards the Soviet Union and Russia, and Trump is trying to undo that.” Heavens! Nuclear war would be better than that!

Fake news, fake issue

The entire emphasis has been on whether a particular news item is factually correct or incorrect. However, that is not the main problem with mainstream media. A news item can be factually correct and still be very biased and misleading because of what’s been left out, such as the relevant information about the Russian “invasion” of Crimea mentioned above. But when it comes to real fake news it’s difficult to top the CIA’s record in Latin America as revealed by Philip Agee, the leading whistleblower of all time.

Agee spent 12 years (1957-69) as a CIA case officer, most of it in Latin America. His first book, Inside the Company: CIA Diary, published in 1974 revealed how it was a common Agency tactic to write editorials and phoney news stories to be knowingly published by Latin American media with no indication of the CIA authorship or CIA payment to the particular media. The propaganda value of such a “news” item might be multiplied by being picked up by other CIA stations in Latin America who would disseminate it through a CIA-owned news agency or a CIA-owned radio station. Some of these stories made their way back to the United States to be read or heard by unknowing North Americans.

The Great Wall of Mr. T

So much cheaper. So much easier. So much more humane. So much more popular. … Just stop overthrowing or destabilizing governments south of the border.

And the United States certainly has a moral obligation to do this. So many of the immigrants are escaping a situation in their homeland made hopeless by American intervention and policy. The particularly severe increase in Honduran migration to the US in recent years is a direct result of the June 28, 2009 military coup that overthrew the democratically-elected president, Manuel Zelaya, after he did things like raising the minimum wage, giving subsidies to small farmers, and instituting free education. The coup – like so many others in Latin America – was led by a graduate of Washington’s infamous School of the Americas.

As per the standard Western Hemisphere script, the Honduran coup was followed by the abusive policies of the new regime, loyally supported by the United States. The State Department was virtually alone in the Western Hemisphere in not unequivocally condemning the Honduran coup. Indeed, the Obama administration refused to even call it a coup, which, under American law, would tie Washington’s hands as to the amount of support it could give the coup government. This denial of reality continued to exist even though a US embassy cable released by Wikileaks in 2010 declared: “There is no doubt that the military, Supreme Court and National Congress conspired on June 28 [2009] in what constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup against the Executive Branch”. Washington’s support of the far-right Honduran government has continued ever since.

In addition to Honduras, Washington overthrew progressive governments which were sincerely committed to fighting poverty in Guatemala and Nicaragua; while in El Salvador the US played a major role in suppressing a movement striving to install such a government. And in Mexico, over the years the US has been providing training, arms, and surveillance technology to Mexico’s police and armed forces to better their ability to suppress their own people’s aspirations, as in Chiapas in 1994, and this has added to the influx of the oppressed to the United States, irony notwithstanding.

Moreover, Washington’s North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), has brought a flood of cheap, subsidized US agricultural products into Mexico, ravaging campesino communities and driving many Mexican farmers off the land when they couldn’t compete with the giant from the north. The subsequent Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) brought the same joys to the people of that area.

These “free trade” agreements – as they do all over the world – also resulted in government enterprises being privatized, the regulation of corporations being reduced, and cuts to the social budget. Add to this the displacement of communities by foreign mining projects and the drastic US-led militarization of the War on Drugs with accompanying violence and you have the perfect storm of suffering followed by the attempt to escape from suffering.

It’s not that all these people prefer to live in the United States. They’d much rather remain with their families and friends, be able to speak their native language at all times, and avoid the hardships imposed on them by American police and other right-wingers.

Mr. T., if one can read him correctly – not always an easy task – insists that he’s opposed to the hallmark of American foreign policy: regime change. If he would keep his Yankee hands off political and social change in Mexico and Central America and donate as compensation a good part of the billions to be spent on his Great Wall to those societies, there could be a remarkable reduction in the never-ending line of desperate people clawing their way northward.

Murders: Putin and Clintons

Amongst the many repeated denunciations of Russian president Vladimir Putin is that he can’t be trusted because he spent many years in the Soviet secret intelligence service, the KGB.

Well, consider that before he became the US president George HW Bush was the head of the CIA.

Putin, we are also told, has his enemies murdered.

But consider the case of Seth Rich, the 27-year-old Democratic National Committee staffer who was shot dead on a Washington, DC street last July.

On August 9, in an interview on the Dutch television program Nieuwsuur, Julian Assange seemed to suggest rather clearly that Seth Rich was the source for the Wikileaks-exposed DNC emails and was murdered for it.

Julian Assange: “Our whistleblowers go to significant efforts to get us material and often face very significant risks. A 27-year-old that works for the DNC, was shot in the back, murdered just a few weeks ago for unknown reasons, as he was walking down the street in Washington, D.C.”

Reporter: “That was just a robbery, I believe. Wasn’t it?”

Julian Assange: “No. There’s no finding. So … I’m suggesting that our sources take risks.” (See also Washington Post, January 19, 2017)

But … but … that was Russian hacking, wasn’t it? Not a leak, right?

If you’ve been paying attention over the years, you know that many other murders have been attributed to the Clintons, beginning in Arkansas. But Bill and Hillary I’m sure are not guilty of all of them. (Google “murders connected clintons.”)

America’s frightening shortage of weapons

President Trump signed an executive order Friday to launch what he called “a ‘great rebuilding of the Armed Forces’ that is expected to include new ships, planes, weapons and the modernization of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.”

This is something regularly advocated by American military and civilian leaders.

I ask them all the same question: Can you name a foreign war that the United States has ever lost due to an insufficient number of ships, planes, tanks, bombs, guns, or ammunition, or nuclear arsenal? Or because what they had was outdated, against an enemy with more modern weapons?

That tired old subject

Senator Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump’s pick for Attorney General, declared two years ago: “Ultimately, freedom of speech is about ascertaining the truth. And if you don’t believe there’s a truth, you don’t believe in truth, if you’re an utter secularist, then how do we operate this government? How can we form a democracy of the kind I think you and I believe in … I do believe that we are a nation that, without God, there is no truth, and it’s all about power, ideology, advancement, agenda, not doing the public service.”

So … if one is an atheist or agnostic one is not inclined toward public service. This of course is easily disproved by all the atheists and agnostics who work for different levels of government and numerous non-profit organizations involved in all manner of social, poverty, peace and environmental projects.

Who is the more virtuous – the believer who goes to church and does good deeds because he hopes to be rewarded by God or at least not be punished by God, or the non-believer who lives a very moral life because it disturbs him to act cruelly and it is in keeping with the kind of world he wants to help create and live in? Remember, the God-awful (no pun intended) war in Iraq was started by a man who goes through all the motions of a very religious person.

Christopher Hitchens, in 2007, in response to conservative columnist Michael Gerson’s article, “What Atheists Can’t Answer”, wrote: “How insulting is the latent suggestion of his position: the appalling insinuation that I would not know right from wrong if I was not supernaturally guided by a celestial dictatorship … simply assumes, whether or not religion is metaphysically ‘true’, that at least it stands for morality. … Here is my challenge. Let Gerson name one ethical statement made or one ethical action performed by a believer that could not have been uttered or done by a nonbeliever.”

Gerson, it should be noted, was the chief speechwriter for the aforementioned very religious person, George W. Bush, for five years, including when Bush invaded Iraq.

Phil Ochs

I was turning the pages of the Washington Post’s Sunday (January 29) feature section, Outlook, not finding much of particular interest, when to my great surprise I was suddenly hit with a long story about Phil Ochs. Who’s Phil Ochs? many of you may ask, for the folksinger died in 1976 at the age of 35.

The Post’s motivation in devoting so much space to a symbol of the American anti-war left appears to be one more example of the paper’s serious displeasure with Donald Trump. The article is entitled “Phil Ochs is the obscure ’60s folk singer we need today”.

My favorite song of his, among many others, is “I ain’t marching anymore”:

Oh I marched to the battle of New Orleans
At the end of the early British war
The young land started growing
The young blood started flowing
But I ain’t marchin’ anymore

For I’ve killed my share of Indians
In a thousand different fights
I was there at the Little Big Horn
I heard many men lying, I saw many more dying
But I ain’t marchin’ anymore

(chorus)
It’s always the old to lead us to the war
It’s always the young to fall
Now look at all we’ve won with the saber and the gun
Tell me is it worth it all?

For I stole California from the Mexican land
Fought in the bloody Civil War
Yes I even killed my brothers
And so many others
But I ain’t marchin’ anymore

For I marched to the battles of the German trench
In a war that was bound to end all wars
Oh I must have killed a million men
And now they want me back again
But I ain’t marchin’ anymore

(chorus)
For I flew the final mission in the Japanese sky
Set off the mighty mushroom roar
When I saw the cities burning I knew that I was learning That I ain’t marchin’ anymore

Now the labor leader’s screamin’
when they close the missile plants,
United Fruit screams at the Cuban shore,
Call it “Peace” or call it “Treason,”
Call it “Love” or call it “Reason,”
But I ain’t marchin’ any more,
No, I ain’t marchin’ any more

Ironically, very ironically, Donald Trump may well be less of a war monger than Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.

Notes
  1. Washington Post, January 13, 2017
  2. Agence French Presse, January 4, 2016
  3. NPR, January 9, 2017
  4. Washington Post, January 28, 2017
  5. The Daily Beast, January 12, 2017, reporting on remark made November 14, 2014

Triggered by Trump?

So many folks that never breathed a word about politics are suddenly sending me emails. Someone very close to me is even walking around with a satirical death threat to Trump (featuring James Bond) in her pocket.

But would things really get better if only this guy were removed? Do you even know it was the Republicans who spoke about re-imposing Glass-Steagall (separation of investment banks, preventing further financial crises) last year? Obama just called a meeting. Never hear one person on the left bring this up. Sad. [Update 11.2.2017, see comments section below!]
To understand what’s going on, I find it helps me to look at the differences between the two George W. Bush administrations. The first was blatant and in-your-face, so people got upset. Then he toned it down for the second term. Changed some personnel around. Different assholes, same shit!
Same kind of stuff, incidentally, as under President Clinton, if one cares to look. His doctrine was to “act unilaterally when we must”. Translation: “We’ll do what we want.” But if it’s said in code, there’s no mass movement. And oh, Clinton also signed NAFTA, which was known would harm working people in both the US and Mexico, as it did. Plus it immediately became necessary to BUILD A WALL. Yep: the famous border wall is just cosmetics. Same old, same old – but with a difference in style. When we look back in a few years – if there’s still a world to look back from! -, it will have been President Bill CLINTON who militarized the Mexican border.
Look: Trump is a guy, he wanted a job (a difficult one) and he has the character and took the steps necessary to get it. That is something to think about and learn from.
Sci-fi humorist Douglas Adams, who also wrote about endangered species: “the President’s job is not to wield power, but to distract attention away from it.” Part of that distraction involves the fallacy that it’s up to OTHERS. Rather than “being the change” (Gandhi), we feel encouraged to expect some hero to come in and do it for us.
Another danger is then to project stuff we don’t like about ourselves (our group) onto said “hero”. Exhibit A: the largest protest in American history, led ostensibly by women, failed to address the betrayal of Bernie.
People getting involved and rising up to challenge authority is fine. But one must look at oneself too. Better: do that first! I learned this from the famous Chomsky-Perle debate. You can find it anywhere.
“I was once asked why I don’t participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I’ll be there.” (Mother Theresa)
=====
“Banks need Boundaries” tries to focus on how we can tweak the system as a whole. We have a petition on change.org that I was happy to see recently passed the 100-signature mark. That means one can now sponsor it to bring it up higher on the list.
Picture credit:
Screenshot from an eerie YouTube video, attributed to “Murdoch Murdoch”, using a hardrock tune by the band PROTOMEN.
screenshot_2017-02-04-20-09-14

EU-Greece

Hi,
Here’s a video I found interesting


Chomsky mostly in the role of interviewer. Interviewee is the finance minister of Greece who resigned.
Pretty good run-down of relevant European history, some crucial points where US- and corporate power tie in!

C ya

Goldman’s Greek Gambit

http://www.thenation.com/article/goldmans-greek-gambit/

Generic news on the economy :-)

Click on the link and get ready to giggle!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HN2iVe8_Ato

It’s very poignant, because it also includes the subtle lies we still encounter every day:

Bees are a bad metaphor for money. Bees (insofar as they have not yet been eradicated by modern agriculture) are self-organizing. Money, on the other hand, is NOT self-organizing. It follows paths very carefully crafted and maintained by people.

Furthermore, printing and minting money is NOT money creation. The fact that countries get to put their name on those things is merely to indicate who foots the bill whenever things go pear-shaped. According to a document you can find here, British TV did try to show the process of money being ‘made’ (i.e. created). If anyone saw this, please post a link here in the comments section. It would make for a refreshing change – THANKS!

www.banks-need-boundaries.net relaunch

We have given our website an up-to-date technical base (Joomla 3) and a facelift, check it out: www.banks-need-boundaries.net

Austrian Association Against Predatory Credit files class-action lawsuit against Deutsche Bank

Since the current political class seems neither able nor willing to protect citizens from hazardous banking practices, the Austrian Association Against Predatory Credit ‘Kreditopferverein‘ (AAPC) is launching its first class-action lawsuit against systemic fraud by banks.
In November 2013, the European Commission fined a number of large banks for manipulating LIBOR and EURIBOR. As these two reference interest rates can be found in most credit contracts, the fraud affected millions of debtors. To date, no one has taken steps toward compensating the debtors. Worse still, debtors are expropriated when they have trouble paying and their property is forcibly auctioned off (foreclosure) – despite their having paid interest rates built on a manipulated base rate.
For too long, there has been no certainty regarding the full extent of the damage by LIBOR/EURIBOR manipulation. AAPC’s current class-action lawsuit wants to help achieve this certainty. One must also ask the question, whether contracts that are partly based on deceit can even be legally valid. For AAPC, this lawsuit is one step towards fixing fundamental flaws in our system.
Contrary to common knowledge, banks don’t lend out the money of savers, but create new money out of thin air whenever they make a loan – without a real asset base! The upshot of this is that our money supply is in the hands of a few banks – how undemocratic! Democracy is a farce without democratic money.

Original press release (German): “KOV Kreditopferverein klagt Deutsche Bank

Princes of Yen

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5Ac7ap_MAY

Thanks, RM, for the tip – a fascinating film about the power of central banks.

Save the 1%!

The wealth gap between rich and poor is widening. However, so is the gap between the elite and the super-elite. That’s right folks – they’re getting screwed too! More than half the wealth in the top 1% is going to the top 0.1%.°

Save the top one percent!

Of course, one must continue to pay attention to the 99%. They need support by organizations for human rights, worker rights and involvement, tax justice, freedom of the press, charitable organizations.°° However, helping them is a drawn-out, hard struggle. One not only fights for the cause, but also for money to support it. In a way, you’re an activist and a salesman. Not easy.

Saving the top 1% has no such drawbacks. One must simply start by making sure they know how they’re getting screwed (they rarely do), and then aid them in fixing the mechanisms. Because it’s all part of the same system, the 99% will benefit. Many of the same tools are being used to rob both groups:

* Value-added tax (it’s regressive!)

* Bailouts (too-big-to-fail and straight bailouts “to save jobs”)

* Dumb-down media (can you believe that some of the top 1% I met over the holidays didn’t even know about TTIP?)

(Neither did hardly any of them know the German “aid” money to Greece was just new debt, to repay wealthy banks/hedge funds. It ping-ponged right back to Germany and France, mostly the super-elite, and whoever’s selling two submarines to the Greek army.)

* Tax-avoidance tricks. Ranging from tax havens to simple over-use of business-expense accounts: Business-class flights, or going out for meals that are more about eating than meeting.

* Totalitarian corporations. Today’s technology would be perfect for integrating workers better in decision-making, not to mention profits! Instead, we have global tyranny.

* A propos technology: more often than not, it was developed at public expense (universities), and then handed over to private power for profit (patents). Sometimes, the patents on new developments are even bought up for the sole purpose of preventing progress.

* So-called “free trade”, which isn’t free trade. Just because money is crossing borders, doesn’t mean it’s trade. And what’s “free” about it, is primarily the freedom of lobbyists and lawyers to influence legislation behind the scenes on behalf of their paymasters.

* So-called “globalization”, which really is just one specific kind of global integration. Geared to suit the neoliberal agenda. When Marx addressed “workers of the world”, he was advocating a different (bad?) kind of globalization.

* The very system by which money is created and how it is destroyed, see banks-need-boundaries.net

* Financialization of the economy. Most of the money used to be in the real economy, now it’s zooming around the globe to turn money into more money, and to kill unloved social policies by capital flight (veto of the Virtual Senate). The average time a stock was held used to be months, now it’s seconds. High-frequency trading and other nifty programs also means brain-drain: these people could be working on green technologies, cancer, you name it…

* The public relations industry geared towards the “manufacturing of consent” (Lippmann) for the top 0.1%’s short-term needs. (The long-term ones, such as air for their grandkids, are excluded!)

* Privatization, public-private “partnerships”, death of the commons, rise of gated communities.

All of these points involve/reinforce an upwards redistribution, the legitimacy of which must be challenged by those losers in the top 1%. HELP THEM HELP THEMSELVES 😉

===

Some mechanisms that rob only the bottom 99% – need to be challenged, too:

* Scientific methods of strike-breaking – mobilizing the community against unions.

* The lottery. It’s a tax on mathematical incompetence and desperation – more widespread at the bottom.

* Fees, e.g. for public transport (anyway just to clear roads for limos and SUVs). All fees are a regressive tax!

===

° Numbers taken from The Trillion Dollar Meltdown, one of the first books about the crisis, page 140. In this section of the book, Charles R. Morris goes on to debunk arguments used by conservative lobbies to deny that the wealth gap is widening. Mainly US-based, and using numbers from 1980 to 2005. My feeling is that if you’d include other countries and numbers until today, we’d see it’s getting worse rather than better. This has to do with the lackeys of the top 0.1% working to rig the system in their paymasters’ favour (often even against their own…they just hope to one day be part of it) – they’re also rigging the system by which the system can be altered. Basically continuing what the founding fathers did, setting up “checks and balances”.

°° But: “Donating money and then deducting it from taxes is just a way of bypassing the government and assuming its role for yourself.”