Monday, December 05, 2016

Palestine Resistance: Action in Politics and in Building

Actions in Politics & Actions in Building

by Mazin Qumsiyeh - palestinenature.org


December 5, 2016

It is sometimes hard to know how many people receiving these messages read them. It would be great to get more feedback on what is useful and what is not. As a simple experiment and since some people do respond I am going to send two messages back to back: this one on politics (including actions you can take), the second one will be on Action in Building (positive things not directly political). I will see how many reply to each and will report to you the results of this experiment next week :-)

Message 1. Action in Politics


“Israel’s official position is that this is not an area under belligerent occupation [1967 areas]. Go onto the Foreign Ministry’s websites and you’ll see. We did not accept the Geneva Convention, because we knew it would be against us…When Joshua ben Nun [the biblical prophet] entered the land, he sent three messages to its inhabitants: those who want to accept [our rule] will accept; those who want to leave, will leave; those who want to fight, will fight. The basis of his strategy was: We are here, we have come, this is ours. Now too, three doors will be open, there is no fourth door. Those who want to leave – and there will be those  who leave – I will help them. When they have no hope and no vision, they will go. As they did in 1948. Those who do not go will either accept the rule of the Jewish state, in which case they can remain, and as for those who do not, we will fight them and defeat them.”  - Knesset Member Bezalel Smotrich interview in Haaretz

Senate Passes a Dumb and Dangerous Bill by James J. Zogby This week, without debate or an actual vote, the US Senate stealthily passed a disturbing and dangerous piece of legislation introduced by Senators Tim Scott (R-SC) and Bob Casey (D-PA). Called “The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2016” (AAA), the Scott-Casey bill requires the Department of Education (DOE) to apply the State Department’s (DOS) definition of anti-Semitism in evaluating complaints of discrimination on US campuses… more at.
http://lobelog.com/senate-passes-a-dumb-and-dangerous-bill/#more-36971

(The bill we allow the Israel lobby to outlaw criticism of Israeli apartheid?) Senate Passed Anti-Free Speech Bill; House Considers Bill: It targets human rights activists, not hatred.
https://www.fcnl.org/updates/senate-passed-anti-free-speech-bill-house-considers-bill-483

10 Zionist Arguments You’ve Encountered, But Didn’t Have Answers To

http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2016/11/28/10-zionist-arguments-youve-encountered-but-didnt-have-answers-to/

Endorse the academic and cultural boycott campaign in your own country:
Britain: http://www.bricup.org.UK
France: http://www.aurdip.org
Spain: http://pebai.wordpress.com
Italy: http://bdsitalia.org/
US: http://www.usacbi.org
Global: http://bdsmovement.net
And search for BDS campaigns in your country here:
https://bdsmovement.net/get-involved/join-a-bds-campaign

Message 2: Actions in Building


The Christmas season is here in Bethlehem and the “Holy Land”. Already the Christmas tree in Bethlehem Nativity square is lit. It is beautiful to see people of all faiths here in occupied Palestine share joys and share sadness (ie. share life). We already attended two concerts/choirs (one led by Germans, the other by Swedes). It is most inspiring to see Muslims and Jews in the Christmas spirit here. Like all holidays it becomes part of our native Palestinian culture as different faith communities join hands and sing together and celebrate together. Friends of ours lost their son and hundreds of all faiths came to pay respect on the day of burial Friday (it was heart-wrenching to watch this beautiful family mourn this special child). Sunday we attended services for six who died earlier (40 day or 6 month rituals) which included my Aunt Amal and my uncle Sami. We miss them all.

We are in the midst of an environmental conference (networking with really good people) and thinking out loud how we make a difference. We finally had rains here in good quantity and even though we are cold, we are happy. We try to live our life despite the horrors of the occupation and the incitement against us. We even had rainbows and great food. We are still lucky to be alive and in good health.

Life carries on and forces us to think of what legacy we leave in it. Will we be destructive or productive? How much time do we spend to challenge destructive forces and how much to build (I try to balance but it is very hard). For me the most rewarding is seeing positive change in eyes of children coming to our museum and botanical garden.

To see it in the increased critical thinking and questioning by my students at the three colleges/universities I teach at (Bethlehem, Birzeit, Dar Al-Kalima). As the semester closes soon, I can’t help but marvel at where they were at the beginning of the semester and where they are now (well at least the majority of them ;-).  I could not help but think of the lyrics of Louis Armstrong’s song:

"What A Wonderful World"
I see trees of green, red roses too.
I see them bloom, for me and you.
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.

I see skies of blue, And clouds of white.
The bright blessed day,  The dark sacred night.
And I think to myself, What a wonderful world.

The colors of the rainbow, So pretty in the sky.
Are also on the faces, Of people going by,
I see friends shaking hands.  Saying, "How do you do?"
They're really saying,  "I love you".

I hear babies cry,  I watch them grow,
They'll learn much more, Than I'll ever know.
And I think to myself, What a wonderful world.
Yes, I think to myself, What a wonderful world.

The Best Magazine in Palestine: This Week in Palestine will now be available by subscription. Please visit this link to see the latest/December issue (still free for now and a wonderful issue on celebrations/holidays) and ALSO to subscribe:
http://thisweekinpalestine.com/

Kairos Palestine Christmas Alert
http://www.kairospalestine.ps/images/Kairos%20Palestine%20Christmas%20Alert%202016%20Email.pdf
And if you have not seen our holiday message of hope and call to
action, please visit
https://www.palestinenature.org/2016-christmas-message/

Stay human and come visit us in occupied Palestine

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

http://qumsiyeh.org
http://palestinenature.org
_______________________________________________
HumanRights newsletter
http://lists.qumsiyeh.org/listinfo/humanrights

Silence! Press Freedom "Champion" Martineau Slaps Lawsuit on Ricochet

We’re Being Sued, and We Need Your Help

by Ricochet


December 5, 2016  


Hello; let us get right to the point: Ricochet’s existence is threatened by a defamation lawsuit filed by Richard Martineau, a columnist with the Quebecor-owned Journal de Montréal. He’s seeking $350,000 in damages from Ricochet, contributor Marc-André Cyr and illustrator Alexandre Fatta for the publication of a satirical piece that made fun of his polemical style.

Mr. Martineau may hope to see Ricochet go bankrupt paying for a legal defence, which would silence one of the very few progressive outlets in Quebec and one of a handful across Canada.

But we have news for him. Ricochet is here to stay, and we will fight to the end. But we can’t do it without your help.

We founded Ricochet in 2014 with a crowdfunding campaign that raised $83,000 from individuals.

This time we are fundraising without fanfare, without perks. We need $50,000 to cover our legal needs and defend the freedom of the press.

Bills for court fees and legal expenses related to our defence are already piling up. We are confident that we can win this case, but the court process will be extremely long and costly. It could very well shut down the organization.

Can you donate $25, $50 or $100 to help us defend ourselves against Richard Martineau?


Yes, I want to contribute the amount of my choice to Ricochet’s defence.

Thanks to your support and lots of goodwill, we have published over 1,500 articles read over three million times by readers across Canada and from as far away as Saudi Arabia (we were one of the first to report on the Saudi arms deal in 2014) and Hong Kong (where our exclusive interview with Edward Snowden ignited a media firestorm last week).

It is with a heavy heart that we prepare to go to court. We would much rather focus on Ricochet’s mission of bilingual journalism in the public interest. But this case is about more than just us. The principle of freedom of expression is on trial.

Richard Martineau is well versed in freedom of expression. In a column from March of this year, he wrote that “freedom of expression is ALSO the freedom to say what is shocking, detestable and unpopular.” His “Je suis Charlie” series includes 45 columns praising the satirical work of cartoonists Cabu, Charb, Tignous and Wolinski. When far-right British politician Paul Weston — who proudly describes himself as a racist — was invited to Montreal, Martineau campaigned against the cancellation of his conference.

Despite all this, today Martineau is attacking the freedom of expression by going after a small independent media outlet. We cannot let him succeed.

Are you ready to contribute to Ricochet’s victory?


Yes, I want to contribute the amount of my choice to Ricochet’s defence.

We appreciate your support, whether you donate, express support on social media, or share this news with your circles. It is with your help that we built Ricochet, and it is with your help that we will win this case.


Erin Seatter and Jahanzeb Hussain, editors

On behalf of the entire Ricochet team

The Post-Democratic Age: Recognizing Language, Pseudo-Concepts, and Subterfuges for Manipulated Choices

Chosen Leaders, Proven Failures and Political Debacles

by James Petras  - Information Clearing House


December 05, 2016

With a few notable exceptions, political leaders are chosen by political leaders, and not by electorates or community-based organizations or popular assemblies. Popular media figures and the so-called ‘pundits’, including academics and self-declared experts and ‘think-tank’ analysts reinforce and propagate these choices.

A collection of terms and pseudo concepts are essential in validating what is really an oligarchical process. These concepts are tagged onto whoever is chosen by the elite for electoral candidates or for the seizure of political power. With this framework in mind, we have to critically analyze the symbols and signs used by popular opinion-makers as they promote political elites. We will conclude by posing an alternative to the ‘propaganda of choice’, which has so far resulted in broken pre-election promises and political debacles.

Language and Pseudo-Concepts: Subterfuges for Manipulated Choices


The usual suspects in the business of mass-manipulation describe their political leaders in the same folksy or pseudo-serious terms that they attribute to themselves: Experts/intuitive improvisers/trial and error ‘muddlers’. The ‘experts’ often mean wrong-headed policymakers and advisers whose decisions usually reflect the demands of their current paymasters. Their stated or unstated assumptions are rarely questioned and almost never placed in the context of the contemporary power structures. The experts determine the future trajectory for their political choices. In this way, the views expressed by ‘experts’ are primarily ideological and not some disembodied scholarly entity floating in an indeterminate space and time.

Pundits often promote ‘experience’ in describing the ‘experienced’ leader, adviser or cabinet member. They denigrate the opposition candidate adversary as ‘lacking experience’. The obvious questions to this platitude should be: ‘What kind of experience? What were the political results of this experience? Who did this experience serve?

We know that Secretaries of Defense William Gates and Donald Rumsfeld and their leading assistants, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith were appointed to their high positions and praised for their ‘experience’. This ‘experience’ drove the country into repeated disastrous military engagements, political debacles and unending wars. It would be better to reject officials who are highly ‘experienced’ in creating disasters and appoint those officials experienced in conciliation and reconciliation. Unfortunately the ‘experts’ never discuss these matters in any historical context.

Many political choices are adorned with ‘titles’, such as ‘successful entrepreneur’ and/or ‘prize winning journalist’. This ignores the fact that those ‘bestowing titles’ come from a narrow band of inbred organizations with financial, military or ideological interests looking for near-future rewards from their now titled, prize winning political choice.

Highly certified candidates, we are told, are those eminently qualified to lead, whether they are university academics with prestigious degrees, or doctors, lawyers, or investors who work for leading groups. The most highly vetted officials coming from Harvard University have implemented economic policies leading to the worst crises in the shortest time in world history.

Lawrence Summers, PhD and Harvard University President-turned Treasury Secretary participated in the pillage of Russia in the 1990’s and then brought his talent for sowing international chaos home by joining Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. These two ‘experts’ promoted enormous financial swindles, which led to the worst economic crash in the US in seven decades.

Money laundering by the big banks flourished under Princeton Summa Cum Laude and US Treasury ‘Under-Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence’, Stuart Levey. Levey concentrated on implementing brutal economic sanctions against Iran shutting US businesses out of multi-billion-dollar oil deals with Tehran, promoting a huge annual $4 billion-dollar giveaway to Israel and a granting a uniquely privileged trade status for the Jewish state – which cost the US taxpayers additional billions.

Receiving ‘prestigious awards’ does not predict a successful policymaker in contemporary US politics. The underlying ideological commitments and political allegiances determine the appointment of these ‘prize-winning’ leaders. From an objective perspective, any obscure college economics graduate, eager to increase high tech US exports and sign profitable trade agreements with Iran, would have been far more successful political choice as Secretary of Treasury.

Frequently ‘identity’ colors the choice of appointees, especially favoring an ‘oppressed’ minority, even if their field of competence and their political allegiances run counter to the real interests and political needs of the vast majority of American citizens. Some ‘ethnic’ groups wear their identity on their shirt sleeves as a point of entry into lucrative or influential appointments: “Hello, I’m a Jewish graduate of Yale Law school, which makes me the best choice for an appointment to the Supreme Court … where there are already three Jews out of the ten Justices… and only an anti-Semite would consider a fourth to be an ‘over-representation’ of our tiny national minority…whereas the total absence of any WASPs (white Anglo-Protestants) on ‘The Court’ only confirms their historical degeneracy…” Who could object to that?

‘Identity’ appointees are not reluctant to employ scare tactics, including citing old historical grievances and claiming special suffering unique to their heritage, to justify their appointment to privileged, lucrative positions. Their identity also seems to insulate them from any fall-out from their policy catastrophes such as disastrous wars and economic crises, as well as providing impunity for their personal involvement in financial mega-swindles.

Race and claims of victimization often serves as a justification for being a political ‘chosen one’. We are told repeatedly that some appointee, even with a tangential link to skin color, must have suffered past indignities and is therefore uniquely qualified to represent the aspirations of an entire group, promising to eliminate all inequality, right injustices and promote peace and prosperity. Racial identity never prevented three of the worst Caribbean tyrants from robbing and torturing their people: The two Haitian dictators, ‘Papa Doc’ and ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier murdered tens of thousands Haitians, especially among mixed race educated elites. Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista had to slaughter hundreds of Afro-Caribbean sugar workers in Santiago de Cuba before he could enter the exclusive ‘whites only’ Havana Golf and Country Club.

In the United States, it was a ‘man of color’, General Colin Powell, Secretary of State under President George W. Bush, who bombed and invaded black African Somalia and implemented the policy of invading and destroying Iraq and Afghanistan. The carefully groomed ‘First Black President-To-Be’ Barack Obama, was the protégé of a Chicago-based millionaire lobby led by the fanatical ‘Israel-First’ mob, to bring ‘identity’ to its highest level. This charade culminated in the ‘First Black President’ and promoter of seven devastating wars against the poorest people of the world receiving the Nobel Peace Prize from the hands of the King of Sweden and a committee composed of mostly white Swedish Christians. Such is the power of identity. It was of little comfort to the hundreds of thousands of Libyans and South Sahara Africans murdered, pillaged, raped and forced to flee in rotting boats to Europe, that the NATO bombs destroying their country had been sent by the ‘Historic Black US President and Nobel Peace Prize Winner’. When the wounded captive President Libya Gadhafi, the greatest proponent of Pan-African integration, was brutalized and slaughtered, was he aware that his tormentors were armed and supported by ‘America’s First Black President’? A video of Gadhafi’s gruesome end became a source of gleeful entertainment for the ‘Feminist’ US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who would go on to cite her ‘victory’ over the Libyan President in her bid to become ‘The First Female President of the US”.

The question is not about one’s race or identity, but whose interests are served by the Afro-American leader in question. US President Barack Obama served Wall Street and the Pentagon, whereas Malcolm X and Martin Luther King had a long and arduous history of leading peoples’ movements. MLK joined the striking Afro-American garbage workers in Memphis and the autoworkers in Detroit. Malcolm X organized and spoke for the Harlem community – while inspiring millions.

Gender labels covered the fact that a politically chosen woman ruled on behalf of a family-led tyranny, as in the case of Indira Gandhi in India. The financial lords of the City of London financiers, and the mining and factory bosses in Great Britain chose the very female Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who launched multiple wars abroad and smashed trade unions at home. Madame Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who promoted seven wars resulting in the deaths, injuries, displacement and rape of 5 million African and Middle Eastern women and destruction of their families, had the unconditional support of the top 20 Wall Street banks when she ran to become the ‘First Woman President of the United States’.

In other words, political appointments chosen for their ‘gender identity’ bring no special qualities or experience that would recommend them as progressive. When political and business elites choose a female for a high political office, they do so because it serves their interests to put a progressive political gloss on their reactionary policies. The ‘gender emphasis’ is most effective on liberals and the advocates of ‘identity over class politics’. In reality it is a vacuous symbol rather than real power and highlights elite upward mobility.

Often media moguls, publicists and corporate leaders laud the ‘social background’ of a candidate. They use such criteria to groom and coopt upwardly mobile workers, trade union officials and community militants. ‘Chosen leaders’ from minority or oppressed backgrounds are put in charge of discipline, work-place speed-ups and lay-offs. They sometimes adopt ‘workers’ language, splicing rough anti-establishment curses with their abuses as they fire workers and cut wages. One’s past social background is a far less useful criterion than current social commitments. As Karl Marx long ago noted, the ruling class is not a closed caste: It is always open to co-opting bright and influential new members among upwardly mobile labor leaders and activists.

Labor leaders receive ‘special favors’, including invitations to political inaugurations and corporate meetings with all the travel and luxury accommodations paid. Elites frequently transform past militant leaders into corporate policemen, ready to identify, exclude and expel any genuine emerging local and shop floor militants. Public and private labor relations experts frequently describe a labor militant’s ascent to the elite as an ‘up by his own bootstraps operation’ – putting a virtuous gloss on the ‘self-made worker’ ready to serve the interests of the corporate elite! The primary feature that characterizes these ‘boot-strappers’ is how their sense of ‘solidarity’ turns upward and forward toward the bosses, and not backward and downward toward the working masses, as they transform into ‘boot-lickers’.

Many examples of these ‘upward and forward’-looking political choices are found among entertainment celebrities, sports heroes, media figures and pop musicians. Rap singers become ghetto millionaires. And ‘working-class hero’ rock musicians, the well-wrinkled as well as the young, charge hundreds of dollars a seat for their rasping and grasping performances while refusing to play on behalf of striking workers…

The popular music, promoted by the elite, contain country and working class lyrics, sung with phony regional twangs to entertain mass audiences even as the successful performers flaunt their Presidential awards, luxury mansions and limos. The political and corporate elite frequently choose phony working class or ethnic identity celebrities to endorse their products, as the gullible public is encouraged to purchase useless commodities, electronic gadgets and gimmicks, and to support reactionary politicians and politics. There are a few celebrities who protest or maintain real mass solidarity but they are blacklisted, ostracized or past their peak earning power. Most celebrities prefer to shake their backsides, mouth raunchy language, snort or smoke dope and slum a bit with their bodyguards, but the political elite have chosen them to distract and depoliticize the young and discontented. They are paid well for their services.

Conclusion


The concepts, symbols and signs of the ruling class determine who will be the political ‘choices’ for leaders and officials. Political elites co-opt upwardly mobile ‘identities’, among minorities and workers, carefully assessing which of their qualities will contribute to the desired elite outcomes. This is how working class and community-based electorates are seduced into voting against their real class, national, community, gender and racial economic interests.

Renegades, demagogues, soothsayers and other charlatans of many races, ethnicities, genders and proclivities run for office and win on that basis.

The elite pay a relatively small fee for procuring the services of prestigious, certified, titled and diversified candidates to elect or appoint as leaders.

Elite power only partially depends on the mass media, money and power. It also needs the services of the concept and language masters, identity promoters and propagandists of the embellished deed.

Stripping away the phony veneer of the ‘chosen’ politicians requires a forceful critique of the signs and symbols that cloak the real identity of the makers and breakers of these leaders. And it requires that they be exposed for their proven failures and disasters, especially their role in leading America into an unending series of political, military and economic debacles.

James Petras is a Bartle Professor (Emeritus) of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Information Clearing House editorial policy.

Obama's Last Stand: Blocking Dakota Access - for Now

After Historic Protests, Obama Blocks Current Route of the Dakota Access Pipeline

by TRNN


December 5, 2016




The $4 billion dollar project could still be approved by President-elect 

Donald Trump who is heavily invested in the pipeline 

 

Stand By Your Smear: Wash. Post Won't Come Clean on McCarthyite Misstep

WPost Won’t Retract McCarthyistic Smear

by Norman Solomon  - Consortium News


December 5, 2016

We still don’t have any sort of apology or retraction from the Washington Post for promoting “The List” — the highly dangerous blacklist that got a huge boost from the newspaper’s fawning coverage on Nov. 24. The project of smearing 200 websites with one broad brush wouldn’t have gotten far without the avid complicity of high-profile media outlets, starting with the Post.

On Thursday — a week after the Post published its front-page news article hyping the blacklist that was put out by a group of unidentified people called PropOrNot — I sent a petition statement to the newspaper’s executive editor Martin Baron.
Sen. Joseph McCarthy, R-Wisconsin, who
led the “Red Scare” hearings of the 1950s.

“Smearing is not reporting,” the RootsAction petition says.

“The Washington Post’s recent descent into McCarthyism — promoting anonymous and shoddy claims that a vast range of some 200 websites are all accomplices or tools of the Russian government — violates basic journalistic standards and does real harm to democratic discourse in our country. We urge the Washington Post to prominently retract the article and apologize for publishing it.”

After mentioning that 6,000 people had signed the petition (the number has doubled since then), my email to Baron added: “If you skim through the comments that many of the signers added to the petition online, I think you might find them to be of interest. I wonder if you see a basis for dialogue on the issues raised by critics of the Post piece in question.”

The reply came from the newspaper’s vice president for public relations, Kristine Coratti Kelly, who thanked me “for reaching out to us” before presenting the Post’s response, quoted here in full:

“The Post reported on the work of four separate sets of researchers, as well as independent experts, who have examined Russian attempts to influence American democracy. PropOrNot was one. The Post did not name any of the sites on PropOrNot’s list of organizations that it said had — wittingly or unwittingly — published or echoed Russian propaganda. The Post reviewed PropOrNot’s findings and our questions about them were answered satisfactorily during the course of multiple interviews.”

Full of Holes


But that damage-control response was as full of holes as the news story it tried to defend.

For one thing, PropOrNot wasn’t just another source for the Post’s story. As The New Yorker noted in a devastating article on Dec. 1, the story “prominently cited the PropOrNot research.” The Post’s account “had the force of revelation, thanks in large part to the apparent scientific authority of PropOrNot’s work: the group released a 32-page report detailing its methodology, and named names with its list of 200 suspect news outlets…. But a close look at the report showed that it was a mess.”

Contrary to the PR message from the Post vice president, PropOrNot did not merely say that the sites on its list had “published or echoed Russian propaganda.” Without a word of the slightest doubt or skepticism in the entire story, the Post summarized PropOrNot’s characterization of all the websites on its list as falling into two categories: “Some players in this online echo chamber were knowingly part of the propaganda campaign, the researchers concluded, while others were ‘useful idiots’ — a term born of the Cold War to describe people or institutions that unknowingly assisted Soviet Union propaganda efforts.”

As The New Yorker pointed out, PropOrNot’s criteria for incriminating content were broad enough to include “nearly every news outlet in the world, including the Post itself.” Yet “The List” is not a random list by any means — it’s a targeted mish-mash, naming websites that are not within shouting distance of the U.S. corporate and foreign policy establishment.

And so the list includes a few overtly Russian-funded outlets; some other sites generally aligned with Kremlin outlooks; many pro-Trump sites, often unacquainted with what it means to be factual and sometimes overtly racist; and other websites that are quite different — solid, factual, reasonable — but too progressive or too anti-capitalist or too libertarian or too right-wing or just plain too independent-minded for the evident tastes of whoever is behind PropOrNot.

As The New Yorker’s writer Adrian Chen put it:

“To PropOrNot, simply exhibiting a pattern of beliefs outside the political mainstream is enough to risk being labeled a Russian propagandist.” 

And he concluded: “Despite the impressive-looking diagrams and figures in its report, PropOrNot’s findings rest largely on innuendo and conspiracy thinking.”

As for the Post vice president’s defensive phrasing that “the Post did not name any of the sites on PropOrNot’s list,” the fact is that the Post unequivocally promoted PropOrNot, driving web traffic to its site and adding a hotlink to the anonymous group’s 32-page report soon after the newspaper’s story first appeared. As I mentioned in my reply to her: “Unfortunately, it’s kind of like a newspaper saying that it didn’t name any of the people on the Red Channels blacklist in 1950 while promoting it in news coverage, so no problem.”

Pushing McCarthyism


As much as the Post news management might want to weasel out of the comparison, the parallels to the advent of the McCarthy Era are chilling. For instance, the Red Channels list, with 151 names on it, was successful as a weapon against dissent and free speech in large part because, early on, so many media outlets of the day actively aided and abetted blacklisting, as the Post has done for “The List.”

Consider how the Post story described the personnel of PropOrNot in favorable terms even while hiding all of their identities and thus shielding them from any scrutiny — calling them “a nonpartisan collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds.”

So far The New Yorker has been the largest media outlet to directly confront the Post’s egregious story. Cogent assessments can also be found at The Intercept, Consortium News, Common Dreams, AlterNet, Rolling Stone, Fortune, CounterPunch, The Nation and numerous other sites.

But many mainline journalists and outlets jumped at the chance to amplify the Post’s piece of work. A sampling of the cheers from prominent journalists and liberal partisans was published by FAIR.org under the apt headline “Why Are Media Outlets Still Citing Discredited ‘Fake News’ Blacklist?

FAIR’s media analyst Adam Johnson cited enthusiastic responses to the bogus story from journalists like Bloomberg’s Sahil Kupar and MSNBC’s Joy Reid — and such outlets as USA Today, Gizmodo, the PBS NewsHour, The Daily Beast, Slate, AP, The Verge and NPR, which “all uncritically wrote up the Post’s most incendiary claims with little or minimal pushback.” On the MSNBC site, the Rachel Maddow Show’s blog “added another breathless write-up hours later, repeating the catchy talking point that ‘it was like Russia was running a super PAC for Trump’s campaign.’”

With so many people understandably upset about Trump’s victory, there’s an evident attraction to blaming the Kremlin, a convenient scapegoat for Hillary Clinton’s loss. But the Post’s blacklisting story and the media’s amplification of it — and the overall political environment that it helps to create — are all building blocks for a reactionary order, threatening the First Amendment and a range of civil liberties.

When liberals have green-lighted a witch-hunt, right wingers have been pleased to run with it. President Harry Truman issued an executive order in March 1947 to establish “loyalty” investigations in every agency of the federal government. Joe McCarthy and the era named after him were soon to follow.

In media and government, the journalists and officials who enable blacklisting are cravenly siding with conformity instead of democracy.
Norman Solomon is co-founder of the online activist group RootsAction.org. His books include War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. He is the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

Antarctic Meltdown

Huge Antarctica Glacier in Serious Trouble

Robert Hunziker - Pacific Free Press


December 5, 2016

The global warming crisis seems to get worse and worse, faster and faster. Now, Antarctica is in the spotlight with brand-new shocking research of a spine-chilling development. 

The whole of Antarctica, if melted in its entirety, equates to a sea level rise of 200’, but that will not happen during current lifetimes. It’s too big and would require way too much heating for way too long. But, a meltdown of a significant part of Antarctica, like West Antarctica, has the potential, according to new research, to submerge Miami and New York during current lifetimes.

This is the first time scientific observation has officially come to the conclusion that such a horrendous meltdown is probable so soon!

Already, Miami Beach is forced to raise streets by two feet because of persistent flooding beyond any past experience. Indeed, a rising sea is global warming’s payback for reckless, arrogant, pompously excessive anthropogenic (human-caused) fossil fuel CO2 emissions.

The frightful new findings involve Pine Island Glacier, the subject of a research paper by Seongsu Jeong, Ian M. Howat, Jeremy N. Basis, Accelerated Ice Shelf Rifting and Retreat at Pine Island Glacier, West Antarctica, Geophysical Research Letters, 28 November 2018. 

The tenor of Jeong’s paper should scare the pants off anybody who doubts the seriousness and powerfulness behind acceleration of global warming. As it happens, Pine Island Glacier was already the world’s largest mass of irreversible ice melt before this new research came to light, but timing has always been kinda fuzzy. Now, with this new analysis, timing is taking on a whole new ugly dimension.

Here’s the problem: According to Ian Howat, associate professor of Earth Sciences at Ohio State University:

“This kind of rifting behavior provides another mechanism for rapid retreat of these glaciers, adding to the probability that we may see significant collapse of West Antarctica in our lifetimes” (Source, Pam Frost Gorder, West Antarctic Ice Shelf Breaking Up From the Inside Out, The Ohio State University, Nov. 28, 2016).

That’s a brand-spanking new global warming threat. It is big, real big! It is the first time researchers have witnessed “deep subsurface rift” opening within Antarctic ice: “This implies that something weakened the center of the ice shelf, with the most likely explanation being a crevasse melted out at the bedrock level by a warming ocean,” Ibid. The bottom of West Antarctica Ice Sheet lies below sea level so warm ocean water can intrude inland, undetected.

A warming ocean figures as the culprit as the ocean has been absorbing up to 90% of Earth’s heat, helping to protect on-land creatures, like humans, from real bad overheating. But, what goes around comes around, as evidenced in Antarctica; all of that worldly heat is coming home to roost underneath big, fat ice sheets.

“Researchers found that from two-thirds to 98 percent of the substantial ocean heat gain between 2006 and 2013 took place well south of the equator… Summer sea surface temperatures in some sections have risen… nearly five times the global average. Parts of the Indian Ocean, North Atlantic, and waters surrounding Antarctica are warming at nearly the same rate. More heat stored in the ocean now means more will inevitably return to the atmosphere… The ocean’s doing us a favor by grabbing about 90 percent of our heat, but it’s not going to do it forever” (Source: How Long Can Oceans Continue to Absorb Earth’s Excess Heat? Environment360, e360yale.edu, 30 Mar 2015).

Here’s what’s different from past research: Rifts usually form at the margins of the ice shelves, calving icebergs, but not deep inland like this new discovery. Furthermore, the rift in question is 20 miles inland. Pine Island Glacier (keeping one’s fingers crossed) serves as a backstop, holding back large portions of West Antarctica ice from flowing into the sea. Pine Island Glacier is like a hockey goalie for parts of the massive West Antarctica ice sheet, the last line of defense, preventing partial collapse of the big ice sheet, which would entail quite a large splash unimaginably, inconceivably large!

One year ago, Science Magazine carried the following article: “Just a Nudge Could Collapse West Antarctic Ice Sheet, Raise Sea Levels 3 Meters,” Science, Nov. 2, 2015. The opening paragraph of that article states:

“It won’t take much to cause the entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet to collapse—and once it starts, it won’t stop. In the last year, a slew of papers has highlighted the vulnerability of the ice sheet covering the western half of the continent, suggesting that its downfall is inevitable—and probably already underway. Now, a new model shows just how this juggernaut could unfold. A relatively small amount of melting over a few decades, the authors say, will inexorably lead to the destabilization of the entire ice sheet and the rise of global sea levels by as much as 3 meters.” 

That was back then, over a year ago, but now circumstances seem to be accelerating.

With this new discovery, timing of a collapsing West Antarctica Ice Sheet is downright spooky. Previously scientists thought decades-to-centuries. Now, maybe “within current lifetimes.”

Assuming it’s not already too late, never before in world history has strong U.S.  leadership been so important to do whatever is necessary to stem an impending climate change/global-warming cataclysm. Our way of life is at stake.

Along those lines, climate science is eerily similar to tracking near-Earth asteroids, which over millennia occasionally crash into Earth, wiping out the poor defenseless dinosaurs, for example. If a near-Earth asteroid is projected to hit, maybe some kind of deployment can prevent the big crash from wiping out life on the planet. Thus, begging the very big question: What deployment stops collapsing ice sheets?

Los Angeles

Sunday, December 04, 2016

How Government Bank Funnels Funds to Transnational Energy Corps

Little-Known Gov. Bank Gave $34 Billion to Overseas Fossil Fuel Projects Under Obama's Tenure

by TRNN


December 4, 2016



Boeing, General Electric, and Exxon Mobil among 

the beneficiaries, says researcher Susanne Rust

PropOrNot's Useful Idiots: Washington Post's Cred Pillaried

CounterPunch as Russian Propagandists: the Washington Post’s Shallow Smear

by Joshua Frank - CounterPunch


December 2, 2016  
 
This past week CounterPunch and other reputable independent media outlets were accused of spreading fake news during the presidential election – stories allegedly fabricated by the Ruskies. The baseless accusations originated from an obscure new anonymous outfit called PropOrNot, which claims that the “overall Russian effort is at least semi-centralized, with multiple Russian projects and influence operations working in parallel to manage the direct and outsourced production of propaganda across a wide range of outlets.”
Photo by thierry ehrmann | CC BY 2.0

CounterPunch, they asserted, was one such outlet.

Last week Washington Post journalist Craig Timberg used PropOrNot as a primary source for an article he wrote titled, “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say”. Russia’s goal, the group appears to claim, was to hurt the Hillary Clinton campaign and elevate Donald Trump. While Timberg did not cite CounterPunch directly as a purveyor of fake news, he did attempt to legitimize the group’s bogus findings:

PropOrNot’s monitoring report, which was provided to the Washington Post in advance of its public release, identifies more than 200 websites as routine peddlers of Russian propaganda during the election season, with combined audiences of at least 15 million Americans. On Facebook, PropOrNot estimates that stories planted or promoted by the disinformation campaign were viewed more than 213 million times.

At no time did PropOrNot contact anyone at CounterPunch during their “research”. In the Post’s case, Timberg didn’t even bother to phone my co-editor Jeffrey St. Clair for comment, even though Jeff has written for the Post in the past. The whole thing adds up to one big ruse, orchestrated by PropOrNot and promoted, quite carelessly, by the Post.

It’s obvious Timberg and his researchers did not conduct a quality background check on PropOrNot, whose practice of identifying “peddlers of Russian propaganda” is questionable at best. The group, according to The New Yorker, reached out to a number of publications prior to its launch, hoping to snag a little attention. The Post seems to be the only place that took the bait. Timberg, I’d hope, regrets he even responded to the the mysterious group, which claims to be made up of “computer scientists, statisticians, national security professionals, journalists and political activists, dedicated to identifying propaganda”.

Well, they aren’t that good at it.


It only requires a quick glance at PropOrNot’s social media presence to see how juvenile their tactics are, which should have raised a red flag immediately about their legitimacy.

The group shared this meme on their Facebook page, from a photo taken in 2015 at an anniversary celebration for RT:




It’s obvious the group has an agenda – alleging Russia (and Jill Stein, even though she’s spearheading a recount effort?) manipulated the outcome of the 2016 election in favor of Trump. Apparently PropOrNot doesn’t realize the progressive sites they are going after are the very ones that are committed to holding Trump accountable over the next four years.

Then there are childish tweets like this one, which has since been deleted:



After a brief email exchange, PropOrNot admitted it was wrong in listing CounterPunch and promptly removed us from their list of Russian pawns. In the initial email to the group I inquired why we were included in their list in the first place and provided them with evidence — a link to an article I wrote which was critical of Russia’s involvement in Syria — that CounterPunch was not in the pocket of Russians, nor were we Putin’s “useful idiots”.




Here’s their response:

Thank you for reaching out! Your article above is eminently even-handed, unlike the propaganda we review on a regular basis. Your use of the term “pro-Russia left” is very interesting, because many of us place ourselves firmly on the left and that motivates a fierce opposition to Putin. Why do you think the “pro-Russia left” is even a thing anymore? What’s your take on that?

Regardless, we will be removing your site in the next day or so, as per your request, and will follow up with you if you have any more questions.

Also, we are reorganizing our site and our effort generally to be more narrowly focused in various ways, and are attaching a release which may provide additional context.
And absolutely all the best –

The PropOrNotTeam


In further emails, I explained to the group that there were many other media outlets that were not tools of Russian propaganda; Truthout, Truthdig, BlackAgendaReport, Antiwar.com, among others. Here is their reply:

If Truthout, Truthdig, Antiwar, BlackAgendaReport, etc, were to reach out to us like you did, things might well end up playing out very similarly to how this one has! We’ve asked people to do that on our site. Several have. Others have not.

And then this gem:

If someone contacts us and the resulting conversation makes clear that they understand, for example, how Putin’s Russia is a revisionist authoritarian wannabe-imperialist kleptocracy that uses ‘fake news’ as online propaganda, then we have a lot of common ground. That factors into our understanding of the merits, but more importantly, becomes a basis for constructive movement forward.

Huh? That isn’t very sound methodology if you ask me, more like a shallow smear campaign manufactured by amateurs. PropOrNot will consider taking these sites off their blacklist, not based on the sites’ content but on whether or not they contacted PropOrNot directly and if “they understand” Putin is a bad hombre? The group lists these aforementioned sites right along RT and Sputnik News, both of which are openly funded by the Russian government and provide a point of view that’s in line with the Kremlin. It’s clearly a case of guilt by association.

For the record, neither Jeffrey or I have ever appeared on RT or Sputnik, we’ve both turned down dozens of requests, in part because we are opposed to state-run media. In fact, both of us have been highly critical of Putin and Russia over the years and we don’t plan on curbing our critiques anytime soon. Additionally, we have gladly published a variety of Russian writers, such as Boris Kagarlitsky, many of whom are harsh critics of the regime. Even so, we don’t believe any American journalists who have appeared on these Russian-sponsored outlets should apologize for anything, and it certainly doesn’t mean those who have are Russian propagandists.

Of course, this leads one to speculate whether this blacklist campaign is a government operation or just an insignificant group of befuddled Democrats, angered that Trump knocked Hillary off her perch. PropOrNot assures me they are not funded by the Pentagon or associated with the Hillary Clinton campaign or anyone else. However, The New Yorker reports that PropOrNot provided a preliminary report to staff of Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon. “[A]fter reviewing our report they urged us to get in touch with you and see about making it a story,” the group said.

“We are not funded financially in any way, and proud of that,” PropOrNot wrote CounterPunch in an email.

“We realize that’s unusual, if not unique, and we’re proud of that too … Some members of our group have extensive experience in the public sector, as well as the private, academic, and non-profit sectors, but we are all acting in our private capacities as citizens.”

Without the Post giving PropOrNot undue credit, we’d likely have never heard of this shady little group or their work. PropOrNot’s blacklist is not just frivolous, it’s potentially dangerous as it directly discourages dissenting points of view like the ones we provide on a daily basis. Timberg and his editors dropped the ball and it’s our hope the Post issues a mea culpa in the form of a retraction and apology.


JOSHUA FRANK is managing editor of CounterPunch. His most recent book is Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, co-edited with Jeffrey St. Clair and published by AK Press. He can be reached at joshua@counterpunch.org. You can follow him on Twitter @joshua__frank.
More articles by:Joshua Frank

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Blind Distrust: Politicizing Justice

Trump Nominee Will Politicize Dept. of Justice

by Walter Brasch  - Wanderings



December 3, 2016

In his successful run to the presidency, Donald Trump spent a lot of time talking about the Second Amendment and defending gun ownership. He spent very little time talking about the other amendments, other than to say he supported the Constitution. He knew his core support came from those who could effortlessly repeat a phrase, “Donald Trump supports my Second Amendment rights,” without knowing much more than that.

There’s probably a reason why Trump wasn’t specific about the other rights—he doesn’t know much about the Constitution. That became apparent this past week when he said he would jail anyone who burned the flag.


image

However, the Supreme Court, in Texas v. Johnson (1989), ruled that burning the flag is protected by the First Amendment right of free speech, no matter how hateful or unpatriotic it may seem. Trump’s tweet was soundly condemned by all media and civil rights organizations.

Trump’s knowledge of the Constitution isn’t as important as his attorney general’s enforcement of Trump’s political beliefs. Most attorney generals have been apolitical; Trump’s nomination may not be.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) will face significant questioning by most Democrats and a few Republican senators during confirmation hearings. Ronald Reagan withdrew his support for Sessions in 1986 after nominating him for a federal judgeship. The nomination had drawn heated opposition by numerous groups , individuals, and four Department of Justice lawyers over Sessions’ history of racially insensitive comments. Among comments that Sessions made was that the NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the ACLU, and the National Conference of Churches were un-American.

Sessions says he isn’t a racist. Perhaps that’s accurate, but let’s see what he said in 2014. In an uninformed opinion about the recruitment of not-naturalized immigrants into the military, Sessions stated, “I just think in terms of who’s going to be most likely to be a spy: somebody from Cullman, Alabama, or somebody from Kenya?” Elaborating, he stated,

“We don’t have a difficulty getting American citizens to fill our military slots. That is unbelievable that in a time of high unemployment and we get a lot of calls — ‘Help my son get in the military. He’s been turned down, can he get in?’ So I just think this is not the right thing to do right now.” 

However, an investigation conducted by the Kansas City Star revealed the problem wasn’t that the military was turning down American citizens but that the reduction of ground troops led to increased requirements for recruits and about 80 percent of American citizens who applied were rejected as unfit for service.

“Unfit” also applied to the Klan, which Session says “was OK until I found out they smoked pot.” He claims he was joking. But he wasn’t joking about his opinion of marijuana. In 2016, he incorrectly stated, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.” Again elaborating on his main theme, the four-term senator said,

“We need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized, that it’s in fact a very real danger.” 

He opposes sentence reduction and believes in seizing the assets of those arrested for possession, even before those arrested are convicted, a distinct civil rights violation to the Constitutional guarantee that persons arrested are considered to be innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

He opposes same-sex marriage, voted against repealing the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, and believes that the U.S. should be allowed to torture suspected terrorists.

Sessions was an early supporter of Trump’s proposal to ban immigration of Muslims to the United States. He stated there was no vetting process for Syrian refugees, a claim that wilts in face of the reality that it takes 18 to 24 months of intensive investigation before immigrants are admitted to the U.S.

Sessions also argued against the H-1B provision of the Immigration Act that allows persons who possess significant skills are allowed admission to the U.S. if there are not a sufficient number of Americans to fill those jobs. The H-1B provision has often been used to allow physicians and medical workers into the U.S. In the Senate’s Judicial Committee, Sessions delivered a 30 minute speech about why there needed to be a ban. “Many people are radicalized after they enter,” Sessions stated, again inaccurately, and then claimed,

“How do we screen for that possibility, if we cannot even ask about an applicant’s views on religion? Would we forbid questions about politics? Or theology?” 

However, the Constitution and Supreme Court interpretations of the Constitution are specific in stating that there can be no religious test for immigrants—before or after admission to the U.S.

An attorney general has wide latitude on whom he or she prosecutes or doesn’t prosecute, or what terms are acceptable on plea bargains. With Jeff Sessions as attorney general, there is every probability that there will be an overhaul of career staff who are apolitical, of the prosecution of certain crimes at the expense of other crimes, and the refusal to pursue many civil rights violations.

Dr. Brasch is an award-winning social issues/investigative journalist who has covered government and politics for four decades. His latest book is Fracking America: Sacrificing Health and the Environment for Short-Term Economic Benefit.

Walter M. Brasch, Ph.D., social issues journalist
latest books:
Fracking America (investigation)
Before the First Snow (historical fiction)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E6cC4zHnFAY

www.walterbrasch.com
www.walterbrasch.blogspot.com

Friday, December 02, 2016

A Rogue's Regime: Trump's Felonious Favourites

Too busy getting rich to commit war crimes? Is Trump’s Idea To Fix a ‘Rigged System’ by Appointing Crooks Who’ve Played It? 

by Dave Lindorff  - This Can't Be Happening


December 2, 2016

Donald Trump’s cabinet choices are suggesting a governing philosophy along the lines of a corrupt municipal police force relying on gangsters to help it keep street crime held in check.

Trump has been naming top Wall Street bankers and hedge fund owners to staff his Commerce Department (former Rothschild banker and billionaire Wilbur Ross), Treasury (former Goldman Sachs executive and hedge fund executive Steve Mnuchin, and more recently, as top “economic strategy advisors”, Blackstone Group CEO Steven Schwartzman and JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon.

The president-elect has actually demonstrated a predilection for considering people who play the "rigged system' and even actual criminals (albeit unindicted in some cases) in his cabinet and White House advisory staff. Dimon, of course, heads a too-big-to-fail bank that was one of five that pleaded guilty last year to federal felony charges involving a huge currency manipulation conspiracy. Dimon had his bank cop a plea and pay a $5.6-billion fine that allowed him to avoid facing criminal charges himself for the bank’s admitted criminal behavior and even to stay on in his lucrative top spot running the felonious institution.

Meanwhile, Trump is reportedly considering naming disgraced former General David Petraeus, who in 2015 also copped a guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of “mishandling top-secret information” while he was CIA director (a post he had to resign), in order to avoid more serious felony charges of providing such national security secrets to his paramour and biographer Paula Broadwell, and of potentially of lying about it to FBI investigators, also a felony. Petraeus, who did not have to do jail time under the plea deal, is still on two-year’s probation through April 23, 2017 though, and if appointed to a cabinet post by Trump would have to report his new job to his probation officer, and also obtain advance permission for any work-related travel until that date -- a historic first for a top government appointee.

Either that or Trump, once inaugurated President, would have to pardon Petraeus before appointing him. Could the idea of putting the gangsters in charge of national economic and foreign policy and economic regulation in order to fix what Trump calls a “rigged system” work as a governing philosophy?

I guess you’d have to ask how well having a crooked, mob-linked police force in New York, Philadelphia, Boston or Chicago worked in years past at keeping crime in check in those cities. The evidence is not particularly good, I would suggest, having lived in several of those venues.

We should also note that Trump’s idea of appointing top Wall Street weasels to key cabinet posts involved in regulating the economy is hardly unique to him. We can be sure that had the recent election been won by Hillary Clinton, who raked in millions of dollars both in personal gifts (excuse me: speaking “fees”) and in campaign contributions and donations to her family “charity” both before and during the campaign, would have also placed top bankers and capitalists in key cabinet posts, just as Presidents Obama, Bush II and Bill Clinton did in their presidencies.


David Petraeus and Jamie Dimon, both felony prosecution dodgers
and Trump White House appointment prospects

That said, Trump’s choices seem particularly egregious in terms of the visuals, particularly in the cases of Dimon and potential appointee Petraeus.

Then again Trump himself has been good at skating around potential prosecution, as witness his personal “charitable” foundation’s settlement of a charge of self-dealing, and of a fraud case involving his so-called Trump “University,” as well as various other shady deals during his decades of building an allegedly billion-dollar real estate empire through creative use of the bankruptcy and tax laws.

Looking on the bright side, as Alexander Cockburn, co-founder with Jeff St. Clair of the magazine Counterpunch, once argued [1] in defense of an article I had written for that publication comparing George W. Bush to Adolf Hitler, “All US presidents (with the possible exception of Warren Harding) have shared the Fuhrer’s “enthusiasm for mass murder.” Alex claimed that Harding was exempted from the charge because “he was too busy lining his pockets to engage in war crimes.”

Perhaps that could turn out to be the story with the incoming Trump presidency: Maybe we’ll get a president and a cabinet so infected with the greed bug that they’ll devote their time and use their power to enrich themselves and their friends, and spare the world the murderous policies of their predecessors.


Links: [1] http://www.counterpunch.org/2004/01/10/bush-as-hitler-let-s-be-fair/

A War Against Incredulity: "Fake News" Furore Phony Attempt to Silence Journalism

The Orwellian War on Skepticism

by Robert Parry  - Consortium News


December 1, 2016

Under the cover of battling “fake news,” the mainstream U.S. news media and officialdom are taking aim at journalistic skepticism when it is directed at the pronouncements of the U.S. government and its allies.

One might have hoped that the alarm about “fake news” would remind major U.S. news outlets, such as The Washington Post and The New York Times, about the value of journalistic skepticism. However, instead, it seems to have done the opposite.

The idea of questioning the claims by the West’s officialdom now brings calumny down upon the heads of those who dare do it.


Author George Orwell

“Truth” is being redefined as whatever the U.S. government, NATO and other Western interests say is true. Disagreement with the West’s “group thinks,” no matter how fact-based the dissent is, becomes “fake news.”

Special Report: Official Washington’s rush into an Orwellian future is well underway as political and media bigwigs move to silence Internet voices of independence and dissent, reports Robert Parry.



So, we have the case of Washington Post columnist David Ignatius having a starry-eyed interview with Richard Stengel, the State Department’s Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy, the principal arm of U.S. government propaganda.

Entitled “The truth is losing,” the column laments that the official narratives as deigned by the State Department and The Washington Post are losing traction with Americans and the world’s public.

Stengel, a former managing editor at Time magazine, seems to take aim at Russia’s RT network’s slogan, “question more,” as some sinister message seeking to inject cynicism toward the West’s official narratives.

“They’re not trying to say that their version of events is the true one. They’re saying: ‘Everybody’s lying! Nobody’s telling you the truth!’,” Stengel said.

“They don’t have a candidate, per se. But they want to undermine faith in democracy, faith in the West.”

No Evidence


Typical of these recent mainstream tirades about this vague Russian menace, Ignatius’s column doesn’t provide any specifics regarding how RT and other Russian media outlets are carrying out this assault on the purity of Western information. It’s enough to just toss around pejorative phrases supporting an Orwellian solution, which is to stamp out or marginalize alternative and independent journalism, not just Russian.



Washington Post columnist David Ignatius
(Photo credit: Aude)

Ignatius writes: “Stengel poses an urgent question for journalists, technologists and, more broadly, everyone living in free societies or aspiring to do so. How do we protect the essential resource of democracy — the truth — from the toxin of lies that surrounds it? It’s like a virus or food poisoning. It needs to be controlled. But how?

“Stengel argues that the U.S. government should sometimes protect citizens by exposing ‘weaponized information, false information’ that is polluting the ecosystem. But ultimately, the defense of truth must be independent of a government that many people mistrust. ‘There are inherent dangers in having the government be the verifier of last resort,’ he argues.”

By the way, Stengel is not the fount of truth-telling, as he and Ignatius like to pretend. Early in the Ukraine crisis, Stengel delivered a rant against RT that was full of inaccuracies or what you might call “fake news.”

Yet, what Stengel and various mainstream media outlets appear to be arguing for is the creation of a “Ministry of Truth” managed by mainstream U.S. media outlets and enforced by Google, Facebook and other technology platforms.

In other words, once these supposedly responsible outlets decide what the “truth” is, then questioning that narrative will earn you “virtual” expulsion from the marketplace of ideas, possibly eliminated via algorithms of major search engines or marked with a special app to warn readers not to believe what you say, a sort of yellow Star of David for the Internet age.

And then there’s the possibility of more direct (and old-fashioned) government enforcement by launching FBI investigations into media outlets that won’t toe the official line. (All of these “solutions” have been advocated in recent weeks.)

On the other hand, if you do toe the official line that comes from Stengel’s public diplomacy shop, you stand to get rewarded with government financial support. Stengel disclosed in his interview with Ignatius that his office funds “investigative” journalism projects.

“How should citizens who want a fact-based world combat this assault on truth?” Ignatius asks, adding:

“Stengel has approved State Department programs that teach investigative reporting and empower truth-tellers.”

Buying Propaganda


After reading Ignatius’s column on Wednesday, I submitted a question to the State Department asking for details on this “journalism” and “truth-telling” funding that is coming from the U.S. government’s top propaganda shop, but I have not received an answer.



The Washington Post building in downtown Washington, D.C. (Photo: Washington Post)

But we do know that the U.S. government has been investing tens of millions of dollars in various media programs to undergird Washington’s desired narratives.

For instance, in May 2015, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) issued a fact sheet summarizing its work financing friendly journalists around the world, including “journalism education, media business development, capacity building for supportive institutions, and strengthening legal-regulatory environments for free media.”

USAID estimated its budget for “media strengthening programs in over 30 countries” at $40 million annually, including aiding “independent media organizations and bloggers in over a dozen countries,” In Ukraine before the 2014 coup ousting elected President Viktor Yanukovych and installing a fiercely anti-Russian and U.S.-backed regime, USAID offered training in “mobile phone and website security,” skills that would have been quite helpful to the coup plotters.

USAID, working with currency speculator George Soros’s Open Society, also has funded the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, which engages in “investigative journalism” that usually goes after governments that have fallen into disfavor with the United States and then are singled out for accusations of corruption. The USAID-funded OCCRP collaborates with Bellingcat, an online investigative website founded by blogger Eliot Higgins.

Higgins has spread misinformation on the Internet, including discredited claims implicating the Syrian government in the sarin attack in 2013 and directing an Australian TV news crew to what appeared to be the wrong location for a video of a BUK anti-aircraft battery as it supposedly made its getaway to Russia after the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in 2014.

Despite his dubious record of accuracy, Higgins has gained mainstream acclaim, in part, because his “findings” always match up with the propaganda theme that the U.S. government and its Western allies are peddling. Higgins is now associated with the Atlantic Council, a pro-NATO think tank which is partially funded by the U.S. State Department.

Beyond funding from the State Department and USAID, tens of millions of dollars more are flowing through the U.S.-government-funded National Endowment for Democracy, which was started in 1983 under the guiding hand of CIA Director William Casey.

NED became a slush fund to help finance what became known, inside the Reagan administration, as “perception management,” the art of controlling the perceptions of domestic and foreign populations.

The Emergence of StratCom


Last year, as the New Cold War heated up, NATO created the Strategic Communications Command in Latvia to further wage information warfare against Russia and individuals who were contesting the West’s narratives.



NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.

As veteran war correspondent Don North reported in 2015 regarding this new StratCom, “the U.S. government has come to view the control and manipulation of information as a ‘soft power’ weapon, merging psychological operations, propaganda and public affairs under the catch phrase ‘strategic communications.’

“This attitude has led to treating psy-ops — manipulative techniques for influencing a target population’s state of mind and surreptitiously shaping people’s perceptions — as just a normal part of U.S. and NATO’s information policy.”

Now, the European Parliament and the U.S. Congress are moving to up the ante, passing new legislation to escalate “information warfare.”

On Wednesday, U.S. congressional negotiators approved $160 million to combat what they deem foreign propaganda and the alleged Russian campaign to spread “fake news.” The measure is part of the National Defense Authorization Act and gives the State Department the power to identify “propaganda” and counter it.

This bipartisan stampede into an Orwellian future for the American people and the world’s population follows a shoddily sourced Washington Post article that relied on a new anonymous group that identified some 200 Internet sites, including some of the most prominent American independent sources of news, as part of a Russian propaganda network.

Typical of this new McCarthyism, the report lacked evidence that any such network actually exists but instead targeted cases where American journalists expressed skepticism about claims from Western officialdom.

Consortiumnews.com was included on the list apparently because we have critically analyzed some of the claims and allegations regarding the crises in Syria and Ukraine, rather than simply accept the dominant Western “group thinks.”

Also on the “black list” were such quality journalism sites as Counterpunch, Truth-out, Truthdig, Naked Capitalism and ZeroHedge along with many political sites ranging across the ideological spectrum.

The Fake-News Express


Normally such an unfounded conspiracy theory would be ignored, but – because The Washington Post treated the incredible allegations as credible – the smear has taken on a life of its own, reprised by cable networks and republished by major newspapers.



MSNBC’s “Hardball” host Chris Matthews

But the unpleasant truth is that the mainstream U.S. news media is now engaged in its own fake-news campaign about “fake news.” It’s publishing bogus claims invented by a disreputable and secretive outfit that just recently popped up on the Internet. If that isn’t “fake news,” I don’t know what is.

Yet, despite the Post’s clear violations of normal journalistic practices, surely, no one there will pay a price, anymore than there was accountability for the Post reporting as flat fact that Iraq was hiding WMD in 2002-2003. Fred Hiatt, the editorial-page editor most responsible for that catastrophic “group think,” is still in the same job today.

Two nights ago, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews featured the spurious Washington Post article in a segment that – like similar rehashes –didn’t bother to get responses from the journalists being slandered.

I found that ironic since Matthews repeatedly scolds journalists for their failure to look skeptically at U.S. government claims about Iraq possessing WMD as justification for the disastrous Iraq War. However, now Matthews joins in smearing journalists who have applied skepticism to U.S. and Western propaganda claims about Syria and/or Ukraine.

While the U.S. Congress and the European Parliament begin to take action to shut down or isolate dissident sources of information – all in the name of “democracy” – a potentially greater danger is that mainstream U.S. news outlets are already teaming up with technology companies, such as Google and Facebook, to impose their own determinations about “truth” on the Internet.

Or, as Ignatius puts it in his column reflecting Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy Stengel’s thinking, “The best hope may be the global companies that have created the social-media platforms.

“‘They see this information war as an existential threat,’ says Stengel. … The real challenge for global tech giants is to restore the currency of truth. Perhaps ‘machine learning‘ [presumably a reference to algorithms] can identify falsehoods and expose every argument that uses them. Perhaps someday, a human-machine process will create what Stengel describes as a ‘global ombudsman for information.’”

Ministry of Truth


An organization of some 30 mainstream media companies already exists, including not only The Washington Post and The New York Times but also the Atlantic Council-connected Bellingcat, as the emerging arbiters – or ombudsmen – for truth, something Orwell described less flatteringly as a “Ministry of Truth.”



Big Brother poster illustrating George Orwell’s novel about modern propaganda, 1984.

The New York Times has even editorialized in support of Internet censorship, using the hysteria over “fake news” to justify the marginalization or disappearance of dissident news sites.

It now appears that this 1984-ish “MiniTrue” will especially target journalistic skepticism when applied to U.S. government and mainstream media “group thinks.”

Yet, in my four decades-plus in professional journalism, I always understood that skepticism was a universal journalistic principle, one that should be applied in all cases, whether a Republican or a Democrat is in the White House or whether some foreign leader is popular or demonized.

As we have seen in recent years, failure to ask tough questions and to challenge dubious claims from government officials and mainstream media outlets can get lots of people killed, both U.S. soldiers and citizens of countries invaded or destabilized by outsiders.

To show skepticism is not the threat to democracy that Undersecretary Stengel and columnist Ignatius appear to think it is.

Whether you like or dislike RT’s broadcasts – or more likely have never seen one – a journalist really can’t question its slogan: “question more.” Questioning is the essence of journalism and, for that matter, democracy.

[In protest of the Post’s smearing of independent journalists, RootsAction has undertaken a petition drive, which can be found here.]

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).image_pdf

This Land's Not Your Land: Trudeau Deal Gifts West to the Far East

Justin Trudeau: BC is not yours to give away

by Rafe Mair - Common Sense Canadian


December 1, 2016

I’ll not waste too many words on Prime Minister Trudeau’s treachery. Of all the many political sins, surely the greatest of all is hypocrisy and this prime minister has taken that sin to new levels.

Justin Trudeau speaks at the Paris COP climate talks – flanked by Canadian premiers (Province of BC/Flickr)


“They hang the man, and flog the woman,
That steals the goose from off the common;
But let the greater villain loose,
That steals the common from the goose.”


May takes a stand


He basked in the glory of Paris and being portrayed as the hero of the earth but had scarcely got home when he cast aside the cloak of righteousness, reverting to being a cheap hustler for the fossil fuel industry, even outshining Stephen Harper.

The consequences that would flow from Kinder Morgan’s pipeline would be a monumental contribution to global warming and killing the earth’s atmosphere but he’s consoled by the fact that the fossil fuel industry loves him and with their captive pseudo-journalists are falling all over themselves in support. I can’t help but comment on Gary Mason in the Globe and Mail, who criticizes Elizabeth May because she’s said she’ll go to jail if necessary in protest of the Kinder Morgan line. Mason, the sneer undisguised, quips, “Green Party Leader Elizabeth May has already said she is willing to go to jail over Kinder Morgan. Less clear is what good she thinks she can do behind bars.”

Gary Mason knows the answer to that full well and fears it because it would do one hell of a lot of good. There’s not a public figure in BC who could rally people against Kinder Morgan in a more effective way then she. Elizabeth May behind bars would be Kinder Morgan’s all-time, number one nightmare – not to mention a political horror story for the Liberals and the Tories. She has that commodity the media has abandoned – credibility.

From Brexit to Trump


Ms. May, along with other leaders of this fight like Grand Chief Stewart Philip, head of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, understands something that Trudeau chooses to ignore: There’s been a sea change in politics in this world. The enemy is no longer the other political parties but the elite, regardless of individual political persuasion. Brewing for a decade, it recently manifested itself in the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump. No one needs to explain this to Ms. May or Grand Chief Philip and I’ve neither the time nor the inclination to explain it to Trudeau.

Not long ago I said this about the Brexit result and in predicting Trump’s victory:
The media and pollsters have been caught out making outdated assumptions and asking irrelevant questions. They’re looking at this contest through the prism of elections past and are still declaring their choice of issues and missing the main one.

It’s an entirely new ballgame and I refer back to articles I’ve done here and elsewhere saying that society as we have come to know it is mortally wounded …

The accepted media wisdom, an oxymoron if there ever was one, is that mostly kooks voted for Trump. In fact, interview after interview discloses the underlying reason was deep anger with what the Anglican Book of Prayer so neatly calls “those set in authority over us”.

The phenomenon is not Donald Trump but a worldwide movement of ordinary people who are angry. Whoever looked less elite was going to win.

Tired of being lied to


Who are these angry people?

Not the poor and disadvantaged, although they are part of it; not the traditional left, many of whom are unwelcome. These are people pissed off at the entrenched wealthy, the elite, who have the power to do as they wish. Mr. Trudeau, your ilk, sir!

What was the cause? The catalyst?

Clearly, it was pollution, a phenomenon that showed the elite to be incompetent, serial liars who, since the start of the industrial revolution, had assured the public that no harm came from gunk emitted from smokestacks even though cities like London were blackened by these emissions.

The denouement began with Rachel Carson’s 1962 Silent Spring. It was just a matter of time before people realized they had been, and were being lied to. For the first time, the need to regulate industry in order to protect the environment became widely accepted, and modern environmentalism was born.

Industry and politicians went into denial. Tobacco smoke, hitherto claimed harmless, was proved to kill both smokers and innocent bystanders, yet the companies fought every inch of the way like cornered rats. The chemical companies went into full denial, even though companies like Union Carbide became massive killers.

The list seemed endless and the evidence piled, up but the elite kept on lying and hiring pliable scientists and clever PR specialists. Governments were willing accomplices and, every day, the elite lost credibility, yet clung to their denial.

Then, in a different but related area of public health, there was that kook Ralph Nader, denying the wonders of America’s icon, the automobile and its ever-increasing safety features, in his 1965 book Unsafe At Any Speed. Suddenly, the courts demonstrated that Nader had been right all along. Jesus! Was there nothing sacred?

More valuable than money


Prime Minister, we’ve come to the crux of the matter.

It has dawned on people that the elite have only one standard of judging value – money – and that they would risk destroying the earth to make it.

More and more, people see that there’s real, tangible value to water, more than just making electricity and slaking our thirst. What, they asked, if it does no more than be beautiful in its untouched state? Can it be said that water is only valuable when destroyed for a dam?

Trees have a dollar value when they become lumber and paper. What about the life they harbour and perpetuate? Is an uncut forest not valuable in itself? Do we have to destroy it before it’s an asset?

Environmentalism went from being semi-admirable Kookism practiced by, you know, those sorts of people, to the respectable, then became mainstream, moving into the realm of the sacred.

Unholy catechism


No one believes developers or governments any more, not even Prime Ministers. Projects that once would scarcely cause a ripple of adverse reaction became hugely controversial and it was no longer just the “usual suspects” picketing and demonstrating against those in authority. Suddenly “Jack was as good as his master”, perhaps better. The elite, the “higher purpose persons”, have their knickers in a knot, unable to comprehend what’s going on or why. Lying, bribery and blatant hypocrisy constitute the only catechism they understand.

You are in denial, sir, because you can’t think of anything except business as usual, always hoping this all goes away.

“National Interest”


Let’s move into contemporary British Columbia.

You tell us, Mr. Trudeau, that our environment and way of life is subject to what you say is in “the national interest” – whether we like it or not. Money counts, especially oil money. Your political commitments, not to say bribes, are paramount.

We must accept that pipelines carrying deadly bitumen go through virgin forest where spills can’t be reached or, more likely, there’s nothing to be done anyway. You glibly dismiss the horrible, ongoing risks of tanker traffic – plain statistics tell us what will happen.

We’re told we must, in the interests of the “nation”, put our rivers, inlets, shorelines, fjords, public safety and unbeatable environment at risk to enhance the interests of others.

Why, Prime Minister? Please spell out this national interest. Don’t you really mean the interests of the Liberal party in Alberta? The political survival of premier Notley? Don’t you mean really the masses of investment capital which hasn’t a soupçon of social conscience?

I would never hold this against them Mr. Trudeau but I remember so well going to first ministers conferences on the patriation of the constitution and watching Alberta oppose equalization for poor provinces, lecturing them that if they only managed their affairs as Alberta did, they would be fine. That these provinces had no resources and Alberta was sitting on all that oil didn’t seem to count. It seems as if shoes have changed feet in this country.

Rights and Wrongs


Let me ask you a niggling question: Are Property and Civil Rights not a provincial right under our Constitution?

Attitudes have changed, Mr. Trudeau, and people all over the world now believe that those things that you cheerfully donate to your corporate friends don’t belong to you or the government but to all of the people.

Yes, you have the legal right to give them all away but that’s because our political system is a couple of centuries out of date and reposes in your office dictatorial powers while you pretend to run a democracy. You know, as does anyone who thinks about it, that MPs, particularly in the governing party, have absolutely no power and are just expensive cyphers whose main job is to make sure that pension checks are mailed on time.

Let me put it perhaps more bluntly, Mr. Trudeau: We in British Columbia – and especially First Nations whose unceded territories are at stake – regard those mountains as ours, the rivers are ours, trees are ours; so are the oceans, the beaches, the coastlines, the lakes and on it goes. Your right to steal them from us and give them to oil companies only rests upon a political system that, frankly, stinks.

BC doesn’t belong to you


If that was just the position of one ageing pol living in Lions Bay, British Columbia, you would be able to rest easy. What I’m trying to make you understand, sir, is that the ever-increasing masses of people all over the world are fed to the teeth with a phoney political system that takes away from people what is theirs and gives it to greedy supporters of politicians in power.

In short, British Columbians regard all of our forests, rivers, coastlines, as having enormous value to us simply as they are – not in their exploitation but their existence. This is where we live. our home, our legacy.

Why can’t you understand that, Prime Minister?

You, the hero of the Paris conference, ask us to sacrifice our home so that the Tar Sands, the world’s biggest polluter, can spew its poisons full time again? Why are you telling us, Mr. Trudeau, that we must pledge what God gave us to the tender mercies of the fossil fuel industry?

Sir, we aren’t fools. We’ve seen how your lot cares about BC. When we hear soothing words from industry and the federal government about how they will treat our assets with care and respect, we think of our sacred salmon, which has been at the mercy of industry and the federal government – a government flooding our waters with diseased foreign fish to this day – ever since Confederation.

You are dead wrong, sir, letting hubris overcome common sense and you’re clearly spoiling for a fight.

If that’s what you truly want, you shall have it.

Rafe Mair, LL.B, LL.D (Hon) a B.C. MLA 1975 to 1981, was Minister of Environment from late 1978 through 1979. In 1981 he left politics for Talk Radio becoming recognized as one of B.C.'s pre-eminent journalists. An avid fly fisherman, he took a special interest in Atlantic salmon farms and private power projects as environmental calamities and became a powerful voice in opposition to them. Rafe is the co-founder of The Common Sense Canadian and writes a regular blog at rafeonline.com.
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