Archive | November 27th, 2016

Hezbollah Offers Condolences to Cuban Leadership, People over Castro Death

NOVANEWS
Cuban revolutionary icon Fidel CastroCuban revolutionary icon Fidel Castro

Head of Hezbollah International Relations Department Sayyed Ammar Al-Moussawi phoned, on behalf of the party, the Cuban embassy in Beirut to offer condolences over the death of the major leader Fidel Castro.

Stressing that Castro has been always the minaret of the rebels across the world.

Al-Moussawi expressed his full trust that the revolutionary leadership in Cuba will continue following the path of the late leader Castro.

Source: Al-Manar Website

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How FIDEL CASTRO Was Almost Overthrown by the Return of Jesus

NOVANEWS

Whatever we may or may not think about Fidel Castro and his long era in Cuba (all of which is difficult, complex and debatable), it has to be said that there is something poetically pleasing about the fact that he survived some 634assassination attempts, outlasted nine US Presidents and became the third longest- serving head of state in the world.

Only Queen Elizabeth II and the King of Thailand have lasted longer than Castro as head of state. Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, who was a friend and ally of Castro’s and also somewhat a student of Castro’s early accomplishments, managed to last over forty years himself: but though Gaddafi too was subject to assassination attempts by the CIA and others, it wasn’t nearly as many as Castro.

Most of these assassination plots originated with the CIA, and they were comically diverse in their details, ranging from toxic or exploding cigars, poisoned pills, booby-trapped fountain pens, femme fatale honey traps, mafia hit-men, and powders to make his beard fall out. I assume there were also secret ninja squads and strategically placed banana skins – but we haven’t heard about those ones yet.

I have no real interest in portraying Castro as either a hero or a villain, as either could be true, depending on which types of criteria you base it on or depending on which period of history you’re looking at, through which ideological lens you’re looking through and from where in the world you’re looking from. The entire exercise would become pointless: someone could compile an entirely valid thesis for why Fidel Castro is a legitimate international hero figure and how much good he did, and then someone else could compile an equally legitimate essay on why he was a ‘terrible person who brought terrible results’.

But the fact that he held to power for so long, through all of those plots, including the Cuban Missile Crisis, the failed CIA-orchestrated Bay of Pigs invasion and four decades of economic sanctions, kind of stands as a prolonged middle-finger directed at all those who wanted him gone for so long.

I mean, he literally could’ve built a statue of himself on the Cuban coast permanently giving the US the finger and it would’ve amounted to the same propaganda victory.

The multiple assassination plots and coup attempts targeting Castro had already become popular legend decades ago; but this idea of Castro as the unkillable target was more recently immortalised again by 638 Ways to Kill Castro – a documentary film made by Channel 4 in the UK and broadcast in 2006. It provides an insight into how long this operation to remove Castro went on for and how many turns it took, and the film tells much of the story through the recollections of people who were actually involved in the plots.
fidelcastro-madmagazine

There were all kinds of desperate, lunatic ways the intelligence community tried to cook up to get rid of Castro. But one particular plan – which was never put into action (and which isn’t actually referenced in the film) – is especially fascinating.

It centered on establishing the idea that Castro was the Anti-Christ… and then simulating the Second Coming and having Jesus take down the Cuban Leader.

Within the pages of a document from November 20th 1975 (titled ‘Alleged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders, Interim Report of the Select Committee to Study Government Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities’), there was an extraordinary statement from someone by the name of Thomas A. Parrott, who had served with the CIA for over two decades and at that time held the title of Assistant Deputy Director for National Intelligence Programs.

In the document, he refers to “a wonderful plan for getting rid of Castro. This plan consisted of spreading the word that the Second Coming of Christ was imminent and that Christ was against Castro who was anti-Christ. And you would spread this word around Cuba, and then on whatever date it was, that there would be a manifestation of this thing. And at the time – this was absolutely true – and at the time just over the horizon there would be an American submarine that would surface off of Cuba and send up some star-shells. And this would be the manifestation of the Second Coming and Castro would be overthrown.”

The idea being explored centered on a US Navy submarine projecting holo images of Jesus Christ onto low-lying cloud formations off the Havana coast. This would’ve been combined with US military planes, hidden behind the clouds, using powerful transmitters to broadcast messages from ‘Christ’, calling on the Cuban people to overthrow Castro.

This may all sound like a plot from The X-Files, but this is precisely the kind of wacky, inventive thinking the intelligence community has been known to indulge in, and mass deceptions and false-flags are a stock-in-trade. Beyond various complex plots to overthrow Castro, this kind of Project Bluebeam-style thinking also found its way into other international plots.

An article from Activist Post a year or so ago, for example, managed to find a Washington Post report from 1999, revealing an alleged plan to ‘project holograms of Allah over Iraq’. Military physicists had allegedly established the feasibility of holographically projecting large, three-dimensional objects that appeared to float in the air.

I’m not going to pass judgement: and, to be fair to those wacky, fucked up intelligence guys, it is essentially their job to come up with ideas and options – many of which will never be put into action.

Also, the idea of characterizing Castro as the ‘Anti Christ’ was later echoed in propaganda strategies to depict Iraq’s Saddam Hussein as a kind of embodiment of super-villain evil. It is known there were intelligence ploys to fabricate, for example, images of Saddam sexually molesting young boys in order to discredit him within the Iraqi population. I recall reading a number of books in the mid-to-late nineties -some of them by fairly well-regarded authors – which were insisting Saddam Hussein was the Biblical Anti-Christ too, which prompts me to wonder whether a lot of these books were intelligence-guided psy-ops to create a certain image of a foe in order to make Western populations more amenable to the inevitable US invasion of Iraq that was going to happen sooner or later.
fidel_castro_picture

By the way, whenever you see someone branding some world figure or another as the prophetic ‘Anti Christ’ (and they do it all the time: it’s been Obama, Saddam and a whole bunch of others), you’d do best to immediately discard everything else they’re saying, as it’s a sure-fire sign that they’re stuck at the child-level of Christianity (complete with parental lock-out).

As for Fidel Castro and the fact that, despite every one of those assassination or coup attempts, he lived all the way to age of 90 – you can’t help but imagine that every one of them was a badge of honour that simply reinforced and underlined his stature and sense of defiance.

Quite what would’ve happened if the Jesus-in-the-clouds operation had gone ahead is anyone’s guess – it would’ve been fascinating though.

 

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Castro: Stood in the face of Washington fifty years

NOVANEWS

Image result for Fidel Alejandro Castro, PHOTO

Stood in the face of Washington fifty years .. and President al – Assad senta telegram offering condolences leader Fidel Castro … .. goodbye

At the age of 90 years, left the Cuban leader Fidel Alejandro Castro, an ally of Syria, which prompted the positions of the United States to the inclusion of his country on the «black list» for decades, along with Syria, North Korea, Iran and Libya, to find Washington itself forced later to re-normalize its relations with Cuba, which has withstood in the face of the economic blockade and diplomatic isolation for more than half a century.

President Bashar al-Assad at the forefront of mourners the death of the leader and sent a telegram to the President of the Republic of Cuba Raul Castro Ruz condolences for the death of his brother, the leader Castro.

According to the news agency «SANA» news President al-Assad said in his message, «the great leader led the struggle of his people and his country against imperialism and hegemony for decades efficiently and effectively, and became steadfastness legendary and inspiring leaders and peoples all over the world».

President al-Assad pointed out that «Cuba friendly able leadership of steadfastness in the face of the most powerful sanctions unjust campaigns witnessed by our recent history, thus becoming a beacon for the liberation of the peoples of the South American countries and the peoples of the whole world, and that Fidel Castro’s name will live forever in the minds of generations and inspiring for all peoples aspiring to true independence and freedom from the yoke of colonialism and hegemony. »

He chaired leader Castro Cuba since 1959 when he overthrew the government of Fulgencio Batista military revolution until 2008, when announcing the failure of his candidacy for a new term, to elect his brother Raul in his place.

And subjected Castro several attempts the assassination of US and interventions in the affairs of his country, and the man turned to the example of a model in front of other countries and leaders in Latin America and elsewhere, it has long supported the demands of Syria to achieve a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East, based on Zionist withdrawal from all Arab territories occupied in 1967 including the Syrian Golan Heights, and support the right of the Palestinian people in the occupied territories, who cut his country’s diplomatic relations with the Jewish Nazi regime in 1973, an expression of solidarity with the Palestinians.

Several intelligence reports and others reported that the United States mimicked more than 600 plot to assassinate him, but Castro has survived them all.

He met with the leader Castro, the late President Hafez al-Assad several times, including a visit to Damascus in September 1973 and remained its relations with Damascus, a well-established and stable, where he also visited in 2001, and in return, President Bashar al-Assad’s visit to Havana on June 26, 2010 where he met with leader and his brother, Cuban President Raul Castro .

In a surprise move late 2014 by US President Barack Obama announced that his country will normalize relations with Cuba, and added: «We will end the outdated in relations with Cuba policy, and will be opening an embassy in Havana».

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Africa, Russia, United States Imperialism and the Bankruptcy of the International Criminal Court

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The Hague NL International criminal court -ICC

As defections continue from the Rome Statute the Netherlands-based group says Washington may have engaged in torture

A recent article published in the New York Times appears to suggest that the United States will be investigated by the Netherlands-based International Criminal Court (ICC) for committing torture against captives in Afghanistan.

Surprisingly enough the ICC has almost exclusively focused its attention on alleged war crimes and acts of genocide taking place in Africa. Many of the cases have in effect served the interests of U.S. imperialism where governments which are targets for destabilization and regime-change are indicted by the prosecutorial institution in order to isolate their leaders by threating illegal arrests and seizures.

Somini Sengupta and Marlise Simons wrote in the report that: “The international prosecutor has been considering whether to begin a full-fledged investigation into potential war crimes in Afghanistan for years. In Monday’s (Nov. 14) announcement, the prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, signaled that a full investigation was likely. Still, the prosecutor did not announce a final decision on an investigation, which would have to be approved by judges, and it is unlikely that the United States will cooperate. The United States is not a party to the court, which was established to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. But Afghanistan is a member of the court, so allegations of crimes committed in its territory, no matter the nationality of the perpetrators, are widely considered to be fair game.”

Even though Washington was initially a signatory to the Rome Statute under the presidency of Bill Clinton in 2000, it has never been ratified by the U.S. Congress. The Rome Statute set the stage for the creation of the ICC which the administrations of George W. Bush, Jr. and Barack Obama have refused to recognize as a body which its citizens are subject to honor.

Although the Rome Statute was adopted in 1998 and went into effect some five years later, successive U.S. administrations have sought to use this legal body most notably against the Republic of Sudan headed by President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and the Libyan Jamahiriya formerly led by the slain Col. Muammar Gaddafi.  Cases have also been brought against the government of the Republic of Kenya under President Uhuru Kenyatta and Vice-President William Ruto.

For years these leaders accused of gross human rights violations, crimes against humanity and even genocide have been subjected to corporate and governmental media campaigns aimed at undermining their legitimacy both domestically and internationally. Nonetheless, the historical genocidal measures enacted by the U.S., Britain, France, Portugal, Spain, Germany and even the Netherlands itself have never been examined.

The crimes of forced removal of indigenous people, the enslavement of millions and the systematic mass extermination of untold numbers on all populated continents over the last five to six centuries are never acknowledged by the ICC or similar entities. Consequently, the ICC is considered biased by many African states and regional institutions.

During the Jubilee celebrations of the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) sponsored by the successor African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia held discussions in May 2013 on the withdrawal from the ICC. Routinely the European Union (EU) and the U.S. bypasses the AU in violation of diplomatic protocol in order to hold summits that exclude key African states.

States such as Zimbabwe, Sudan, and Eritrea among others are not invited to these gathering in Brussels and Washington. Other African governments have refused to attend in light of these neo-colonial efforts by European and North American states aimed at creating divisions among members of these regional blocs.

In recent weeks the Republic of South Africa, Burundi and Gambia announced that their governments would no longer recognize the Rome Statute. These developments portends that other states will soon follow suit.

Even according to Newsweek magazine, “In what seems to be a continental domino effect, three African states have publicly declared their intended withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC) over the past month. The court has repeatedly been criticized by African states as an inefficient, neo-colonial institution of the Western powers to try African countries.

This argument is supported by the fact that nine of the ten situations under investigation, with three others under preliminary investigations, involve African countries.”

Other African states which could soon withdraw include the Republic of Namibia, Kenya and Uganda. These are major countries on the continent and their rejection of the Rome Statute and the ICC would be a major blow to this institution.

Russia Announces Refusal to Ratify

On November 16, the Russian-based news agency Tass wrote that Moscow had no intentions of ratifying the Rome Statute which ostensibly guides the operations of the ICC. The announcement was made by the offices of President Vladimir Putin and posted on governmental web site the following day.

The resolution mandates that notice to this effect will be given by the Russian Foreign Ministry to the United Nations Secretary General. The Rome Statute was developed with Moscow’s involvement and later adopted by the UN Diplomatic Conference of Plenipotentiaries. Russia reportedly signed the document on September 13, 2000. However, it was never fully adopted by any government in Russia over the last sixteen years.

This announcement is likely related to a report issued by the ICC on its investigation into what the Netherlands-based group says is Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the continuing war engendered by U.S. intervention into the internal affairs of Ukraine. In February 2014, the elected government of Ukraine was overthrown with the support of the administration of President Barack Obama which funded campaigns that supported fascist organizations to serve as the main force in the removal of former President Viktor Yanukovych.

Kiev’s new U.S.-backed regime was so anti-Russian that the people of Crimea voted overwhelmingly to rejoin the Russian Federation.  During the decades-long existence of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), the Crimean Oblast was legally a subdivision of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. In 1954, a transfer of Crimea into the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic took place.

With the collapse of the USSR in 1991, Crimea then was ceded to a putative independent Ukraine. Later that year Crimea had re-gained its autonomy following a national referendum.

The following year in 1992, the Ukrainian parliament abrogated the Crimean Constitution and in 1995, the office of President. By 1998, Crimea had a new constitution imposed upon the state that mandated less autonomy. Therefore, any legislation adopted by the Crimean parliament could be overturned by an act of the Ukrainian parliament.

Imperialists War Crimes Should be Investigated and Prosecuted

Just over the last decade-and-a-half, the U.S., Britain, France and other imperialist states have committed horrendous war crimes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Sudan and other geo-political regions. These crimes are related to the intervention and occupations of nation-states based on false pretenses designed to eliminate independent governments and the seizure of their resources.

As a direct result of these massive bombings, invasions, occupations and partitions, tens of millions of people have been displaced, impoverished and disenfranchised. Millions have died in combined military actions against Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti, Libya, Syria and other countries.

The plight of the Palestinian people, subjected to nearly 70 years of Israeli occupation, has worsened while the imperialist governments have increased their funding, arming and diplomatic support for Tel Aviv. Gaza, popularly referred to as the largest open-air prison in the world, remains under de facto Israeli occupation along with other areas of Palestine and the Golan Heights in Syria.

At some point these crimes must be legally addressed along with the development of the Atlantic Slave Trade, colonialism, neo-colonialism and the denial of full participation in the UN and other international bodies by the imperialist governments. The abolition of the effectiveness of the ICC should pave the way for a broader discussion on the creation of a genuine world body to pursue war crimes and the violations of the fundamental human rights of the majority of the world’s population.

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The Entire Mainstream Warmongering Media is Fake

Médias

If the Trump phenomena showed anything, it showed the consensus reality the mainstream media attempted to create concerning Hillary’s certain victory, as well as the consensus reality erected for decades, is not omnipotent.

In fact, the earliest days of mass print media were erected on a famous fraud known as the “Great Moon Hoax” of 1835 – something researcher Chris Kendall has long called attention to – wherein the “educated,” “elite” widely accepted the mainstream publications’ claim bat people inhabited the lunar surface.

In our day, a similar hoax still reigns, as mainstream media is literally as credible as Weekly World News’ Bat Boy story.

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Orson Wells as Citizen Kane (1941)

Anyone who has seen Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane knows the director became a target of one of the most powerful media moguls of all time – William Randolph Hearst (who bought up all the major papers of his day). Not many years later, Skull and Bonesman “Baal,” aka, Henry Luce of Time Magazine fame and his CIA operative wife Claire Boothe would cooperate in promoting the “anti-establishment” hallucinogenic trend, along with the dozens of academic and government institutions associated with MK ULTRA.

What was supposedly anti-establishment was in fact promoted by the mass media for the explicit purposes of cultural revolution and social engineering, as Dave McGowan has detailed in his Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon.

The major television news companies, and CBS in particular, have their origins in operatives of the OSS, like William Paley and David Sarnoff, while the same goes for print media, as the CIA’s tentacles extended to major publications, including Katherine Graham’s Washington Post, the Bushes and the Moonies with the Washington Times, as well as the Mockingbird New York Times. Investigations into the CIA’s Operation Mockingbird would reveal extensive media control through some 400 top editors and journalists, and even today known establishment and CIA operatives such as Anderson Cooper (CNN-CBS) and Robert Baer (CNN) regularly “report the facts” to millions of Americans.

Journalist Robert Parry notes as a further example the mainstream, establishment press covering up numerous scandals for the Reagan Administration, including Nicaraguan drug trafficking and the infamous Iran-Contra:

At least since the 1980s, The New York Times has misreported or glossed over many international issues that put the United States and its allies in a negative light.

For instance, the Times not only missed the Nicaraguan Contra cocaine scandal, but actively covered up the Reagan administration’s role in the wrongdoing through the 1980s and much of the 1990s.

The Times lagged badly, too, on investigating the secret operations that became known as the Iran-Contra Affair. The Times’ gullibility in the face of official denials was an obstacle for those of us digging into that constitutional crisis and other abuses by the Reagan administration. [For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com’s “New York Times: Apologist for Power.”]

In that same era, The Washington Post performed no better. Leonard Downie, its executive editor at the time of the Contra-cocaine scandal, has continued to reject the reality of Ronald Reagan’s beloved Contras trafficking in cocaine despite the 1998 findings of CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz that, in fact, many Contras were neck-deep in the cocaine trade and the Reagan administration covered up their criminality for geopolitical reasons.

Old BFFs.

This scandal was not limited to the GOP covering its ass, but also the other wing of the decrepit vulture of our two party system when the Clintons were implicated in the CIA’s drug importation to Mena, Arkansas, through the journalistic work of Gary Webb. The Telegraph explains:

Webb summed up the heart of his Dark Alliance series thus: “It is one of the most bizarre alliances in modern history. The union of a U.S. backed army attempting to overthrow a revolutionary socialist government and the uzi-toting “gangstas” of Compton and South-Central Los Angeles.

Perhaps most damningly, Webb wrote that crack was virtually unobtainable in the city’s black neighbourhoods before “members of the CIA’s army” began supplying it at rock-bottom prices in the Eighties. “For the better part of a decade,” he wrote in the intro to the first piece in the trilogy, “a San Francisco Bay Area drug ring sold tonnes of cocaine to the Crips and Bloods street gangs of Los Angeles, and funnelled millions in drug profits to a Latin American guerrilla army run by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

Given the mainstream media is almost wholly owned by 6 conglomerates, we can begin to see how the coordination and control once considered a “conspiracy theory” is now made evident. In 1983, there were 50 and now it is roughly six, with NewsCorp owning the largest papers on three continents. That these facts sound like a “conspiracy theory” can only be presumed from a position of ignorance, especially given the full coordination and deception regarding the Trump – Clinton election of 2016, from rigged polls to Wikileaks revelations of 6o plus top media operatives directly promoting Hillary.

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When the mainstream media and the lying CIA claimed Saddam had “weapons of mass destruction,” it was promulgating fake news. The false claim subsequently led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis for a ridiculous war that aided U.S. and Israeli foreign policy. While the WMD claim is now known to be untrue, the chemical weapons Saddam previously possessed were admittedly given to him by the CIA. When Saddam gassed Iranians in the conflict that saw U.S. arming of both sides of that war, it was done by a man installed and trained by the CIA (Saddam himself). Foreign Policy explains:

According to recently declassified CIA documents and interviews with former intelligence officials like Francona, the U.S. had firm evidence of Iraqi chemical attacks beginning in 1983. At the time, Iran was publicly alleging that illegal chemical attacks were carried out on its forces, and was building a case to present to the United Nations. But it lacked the evidence implicating Iraq, much of which was contained in top secret reports and memoranda sent to the most senior intelligence officials in the U.S. government. The CIA declined to comment for this story.

It has been previously reported that the United States provided tactical intelligence to Iraq at the same time that officials suspected Hussein would use chemical weapons. But the CIA documents, which sat almost entirely unnoticed in a trove of declassified material at the National Archives in College Park, Md., combined with exclusive interviews with former intelligence officials, reveal new details about the depth of the United States’ knowledge of how and when Iraq employed the deadly agents. They show that senior U.S. officials were being regularly informed about the scale of the nerve gas attacks. They are tantamount to an official American admission of complicity in some of the most gruesome chemical weapons attacks ever launched.

And as for Saddam as a tool of the CIA, even the UPI reported, based on Miles Copeland, the following:

In the mid-1980s, Miles Copeland, a veteran CIA operative, told UPI the CIA had enjoyed “close ties” with Qasim’s ruling Baath Party, just as it had close connections with the intelligence service of Egyptian leader Gamel Abd Nassar. In a recent public statement, Roger Morris, a former National Security Council staffer in the 1970s, confirmed this claim, saying that the CIA had chosen the authoritarian and anti-communist Baath Party “as its instrument.

Iraq wasn’t the only war-based lie (all wars are a racket, as General Smedley Butler said) of note – the entire tale of 9/11 was never questioned by the mainstream media, but in fact propped by coordinated disinformation. Within minutes, the top media outlets were assuring the public “Osama bin Laden” was the culprit, and what do you know, like Saddam, he happened to be another CIA cut-out asset. Not only was this flimsy official conspiracy theory ludicrous, it was compounded with an equally laughable “raid, capture and execution,” that was not televised, photographed or known, apart from the mainstream media simply claiming it was so. The CIA director even admitted as much, adding the infamous “situation room” photo was staged.


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Following 9/11, a paper thin cover for expansion into Afghanistan was proffered upon the American population, when Afghanistan had no connection to 9/11 or Iraq. Incoherent and contradictory accounts of who was the villain, where Osama’s cartoonish base was and how this somehow related to Iraq was touted by W, while the media worked fully in tandem with this ridiculous foreign policy. Even more absurd, and confirming the tip of the iceberg Webb had uncovered, U.S. occupation of Afghanistan saw the exponential increase in opium production, with Fox even showing America’s finest guarding the opium fields! None of this could have been achieved without a massive coordinating deception campaign by the mainstream media.  The  lies have not been as successful in Syria, but we can expect them to keep the staged nonsense rolling.

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Smear-Mongering: A Mea Culpa for the Age of McCarthyism 2.0

Kremlin 2

OK, I guess I’d better come clean. It seems that I must be a paid agent of the Kremlin. After all, I write for CounterPunch Magazine — for money! I used to write regularly for Truthout.org — for money! I’ve contributed articles to the Baltimore Gazette. I’ve often quoted and linked to stories from the Black Agenda Report. I’ve regularly quoted and linked to articles by prize-winning AP/Newsweek reporter Robert Parry for years. According to the Washington Post, all of this makes me either a paid Kremlin propagandist or a Kremlin dupe. There is no other alternative.

And who says this? A collection of completely anonymous “experts” from a group no one has ever heard of until it materialized for the Postarticle. The group, PropOrNot, put out a list of publications and websites that are “outlets for Russian propaganda,” a list that included all the venues named above, as well as several others which have been long-time critics of various aspects of American foreign policy. These were all mixed in with obvious propaganda mills and clickbait factories (of whatever provenance).

The story is a smear piece just like Tailgunner Joe and Roy Cohn used to make. It makes a direct equation between dissent and treason, using the crudest, stupidest kind of cod-reasoning: if you have criticized a policy or action that Vladimir Putin has also criticized at some point (even if the reasons for your critique might differ wildly from his), then you are automatically a Russian agent or a “useful idiot.” That’s it. That’s the sole binary in our political world, according to new McCarthyism: either you must accept everything the US government says and does at face value, believe it implicitly and support it whole-heartedly, or else you’re a traitor acting on behalf of the Russkies — or you might as well be.

I remember this asinine stance from the old days, when anyone who opposed the Vietnam War was a commie, when Martin Luther King was obviously motivated solely by Kremlin gold to get the darkies all stirred up. You’d think that our modern progressives would be ashamed to push this ugly line — yet they seem to be its greatest enthusiasts. And so here we are again, in the 21st century — after COINTELPRO, the Church Commission, Iran-Contra, the Iraq War lies, etc. etc., etc.: if you dare question Washington’s line, you must be a traitor, or a fool who cannot possibly think for himself or herself without being spoon-fed by Moscow.

Oddly enough, there is only one kind of critic of US foreign policy that is not regarded as a Kremlin agent: those who criticize Washington for not being even more bloodthirsty and aggressive in its foreign policy. Those kind of outlets never land on our new McCarthyite lists. And here’s another odd fact: PropORNot’s list of those who peddle “fake news” doesn’t include Breitbart.com, which is one of the master bullshit purveyors of the age.

Oh well, I’m just glad the Washington Post was a bit more skeptical toward state power during the Watergate era. (Today it would be: “Where did you get this fake news crap about the President and a ‘cover-up,’ Bernstein? Russian agents? What are you, some kind of commie?”) And I guess we can take comfort in the fact that in just a few weeks, it’ll be OK for progressives to be critical of American policy again, once it’s in the hands of Donald Trump.

But what’s going to happen to commie traitor pinko nogoodniks like me? If I write just as scathingly of Trump’s drone wars, deaths squads, covert ops, subversions and White House death squads as I have of Obama’s (and Bush’s), will my flow of Kremlin gold be cut off? I mean, it’s not like ANYONE can ever have a consistent, considered opposition to certain policies and actions no matter who commits them, right? And OMG — what if Putin finds about my critiques of his own brutal policies and actions? Whose list will I end up on then? It’s all so confusing! But fortunately, we have the Washington Post and its anonymous experts to guide us through the modern McCarthyite morass.

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Trump’s Economic Plan; This Isn’t Going to Work

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economist-trump

Will Donald Trump be good for the US economy?

The American people seem to think so. According to a recent survey taken by Gallup “Americans have relatively high expectations (of) the president-elect… Substantial majorities (upward of 60%) believe the Trump administration will improve the economy and create jobs. A slim majority (52%) say he’ll improve the healthcare system.”

Even more impressive, the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index spiked to a 93.8 -high in November, signaling a significant improvement in overall consumer attitudes about the economy.

Analysts attribute this change in outlook to the recent presidential election which showed a marked-uptick in optimism “across all income and age subgroups across the country.”

“The initial reaction of consumers to Trump’s victory was to express greater optimism about their personal finances as well as improved prospects for the national economy,” said Richard Curtin, the survey’s chief economist.

So, people are not just giving Trump the benefit of the doubt, they genuinely think their economic situation is going to get better under the new president.

The results are particularly significant when we realize that the economy not only topped the list of important issues going into the November elections, but that also (according to a survey conducted by Edison Research) “Three in five voters said the country was seriously on the wrong track and about the same number said the economy was either not good or poor. Two-thirds said their personal financial situation was either worse or the same as it was four years ago. About one in three voters said they expected life to be worse for the next generation.”

In other words, the election was a referendum on Obama’s handling of the economy, in which 60 percent of those surveyed, think was a failure. These results also suggest that, had Obama made any attempt to address wage stagnation, shrinking incomes, student debt, or widespread economic insecurity, Hillary Clinton would probably be president today. As it happens, the victory went to the anti-establishment outsider who promised a fundamental change in direction, Donald Trump.

This is particularly worth thinking about now that protests have broken out in cities across the country and liberals are accusing Trump supporters of voting for a racist. No, the majority of Trump supporters did not vote for a racist (surveys also show that a majority of these people support a way for undocumented immigrants to attain US citizenship) nor do the approve of the white nationalist movement. They voted for someone who they thought would change the economic policies that have been destructive to their interests. Trump won the election because he addressed the issues that matter to ordinary working people and refrained from such foolishness as running around with his hair on fire blaming the Russians for everything under the sky. Hillary Clinton got exactly what she deserved.

Now the question is: Can Trump deliver?

The question is not only important for the American people, but also for the Trump administration that figures its prospects for success depend largely on an economic revival. Steve Bannon, who is Trump’s chief strategist and advisor, knows that he won’t be able to build a strong, divers coalition to support his political revolution without boosting growth and improving conditions for working people. That’s why fixing the economy is Job 1.

Here’s a quote from Bannon:

The globalists gutted the American working class and created a middle class in Asia. The issue now is about Americans looking to not get f—ed over. If we deliver…”we’ll get 60 percent of the white vote, and 40 percent of the black and Hispanic vote and we’ll govern for 50 years. That’s what the Democrats missed. They were talking to these people with companies with a $9 billion market cap employing nine people. It’s not reality. They lost sight of what the world is about.…

It’s everything related to jobs. The conservatives are going to go crazy. I’m the guy pushing a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. With negative interest rates throughout the world, it’s the greatest opportunity to rebuild everything. Ship yards, iron works, get them all jacked up. We’re just going to throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks. It will be as exciting as the 1930s, greater than the Reagan revolution — conservatives, plus populists, in an economic nationalist movement. (Ringside with Steve Bannon, Hollywood Reporter)

I don’t pretend to know anything more about Steve Bannon than I’ve read in the newspapers and on the Internet. What I do know, however, is that if he is sincere in his desire to defeat the corrupt political establishment and build a coalition that “will govern for 50 years”, he’s going to have to find a way to climb down on his hardline immigration policies in order to implement his economic strategy. That said, I expect Trump will settle on some way to minimize the damage he has done to himself and call on congress to get more involved in the hot-button immigration issue. In other words, he’s going to have to punt if he wants to govern.

Bannon is the main architect of Trump’s economic plan, a plan that has already earned broad public support, but a plan that won’t succeed unless it is drastically changed. Here’s why:

Trump’s economic plan can be broken into three parts: Tax cuts, deregulation and fiscal stimulus.

As far as tax cuts, there are three main subsets:

1–The corporate tax rate, which Trump wants to drop from 35 percent to 15 percent.

2–A tax cut on the so-called “repatriation of funds”– which lowers the rate on roughly $2 trillion of cash that’s currently stashed overseas by uber-rich US businesses that have been evading US corporate taxes for years. Trump wants to give these tax dodgers a one-time “holiday” with a 10% penalty for companies that agree to bring their cash back to the US. Trump believes that the one-time tax break will increase business investment and employment in the US. Critics say the scheme will not work unless the economy strengthens and demand grows.

3–Trump also wants to reduce the top tax rate from 39.6% to 33%, while making modest reductions to the other brackets. Under the Trump plan, “a taxpayer who makes between $48,000 to $83,000 a year would save about $1,000 (while) people in the top 0.01%, making $3.7 million or more in a year, would receive $1 million in annual tax savings.” (USA Today)

Here’s a brief summary from economist Dean Baker:

According to the analysis of the Tax Policy Center at the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute, (Trump’s) tax plan will reduce revenue by more than $9 trillion (close to 4 percent of GDP) over the course of the next decade. This tax cut plan would effectively add close to $800 billion to the annual deficit when it first takes effect, with the amount increasing over time……

According to the Tax Policy Center, more than half of Trump’s tax cuts will go to the richest one percent of the population. The richest 0.1 percent will get tax cuts that average almost $1.5 million annually. The Trump tax cut is consistent with the fundamental principle of the Republican Party, and unfortunately many Democrats, of putting as much money as possible in the pockets of the rich. (Republican deficit hawks abandon their religion, Smirking Chimp)

As you can see, most of the benefits from the proposed tax cuts go to the extremely rich. How does that fit with Trump’s campaign promise:

I am proposing an across-the-board income-tax reduction, especially for middle-income Americans…The tax relief will be concentrated on the working and middle-class taxpayer. They will receive the biggest benefit – it won’t even be close.”

The tax cuts look like a serious betrayal of Trump’s supporters. They also look like a misguided , short-term strategy that will derail Bannon’s plan for broad coalition based on a strong economic growth and rising wages. This latest iteration of “trickle down” economics will not help him achieve that goal.

Unfortunately, the other parts of Trump’s economic plan are equally dismal. For example, Trump is determined to repeal many of the key provisions of the 2010 Dodd-Frank law, the toothless bill that Congress passed in order to prevent another financial meltdown. At present, Texas congressman, Jeb Hensarling — an outspoken critic of Dodd-Frank appears to be the frontrunner in the competition for US Treasury Secretary. Hensarling, who just last week said “Dodd-Frank was a grave mistake”, is pushing his own Wall Street-friendly Financial CHOICE act, which would replace the bill with a “pro-growth, pro-consumer” alternative” that would protect the banks from ‘growth-strangling regulation. (Housingwire)

Is that what we really need, more laws to protect the banks?? Check out this clip from Fortune Magazine:

Hensarling wants to put the market in charge. His view is that encouraging banks to hold lots of capital (as Dodd-Frank does) goes far enough by itself to shore up the system, making banks far safer than the law’s dense web of stress tests, complex limits on trading, and banning of mortgages and credit cards deemed “abusive” by regulators. Now that Republicans control Congress and the White House, it’s highly possible that the Hensarling manifesto, or a large part of it, will become law…

I will not rest until Dodd-Frank is ripped out by its roots and tossed on the trash bin of history,” (Hensarling) declared in a recent speech. The centerpiece of the CHOICE act is a provision that would exempt banks from the more restrictive Dodd-Frank regulations… (This Congressman Could Turn the Dodd-Frank Financial Reforms Upside Down, Fortune)

The idea that a Congressman can devote all his energy to lifting the ban on “abusive mortgages” — just eight years after abusive, predatory, toxic mortgages blew up the global financial system costing roughly $50 trillion and years of agonizing retrenchment– seems almost treasonous, doesn’t it? And yet, at the very least, Hensarling is likely to become one of Trump’s chief advisors on financial regulations. Go figure?

What, in God’s name, is Trump trying to achieve? On the one hand, he blames the Fed for inflating another gigantic asset bubble and, on the other, he tries to remove the regulatory obstacles to bubble-making. What sense does that make?

Here’s a little more background on Trump’s crusade against regulation. This is from the Wall Street Journal:

Donald Trump has tapped a longtime critic of heavy regulation to flesh out his new administration’s plans for remaking the financial rule book, including the potential dismantling of much of the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul.

Paul Atkins served as a Republican member of the Securities and Exchange Commission from 2002 to 2008, where he spoke out against big fines for companies, arguing they punish shareholders. Now Mr. Atkins, 58 years old, is the member of the president-elect’s transition team charged with recommending policies on financial regulation, according to current and former regulators briefed on the matter.

Mr. Trump has detailed little about his views on financial regulation beyond his vow to dismantle the 2010 Dodd-Frank law.(Donald Trump’s Point Man on Financial Regulation: A Former Regulator Who Favors a Light Touch, Wall Street Journal)

Trump also wants to dismantle the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) which recently imposed a $100 million fine on Wells Fargo for using bank employees to create more than 2 million unauthorized accounts to meet sales quotas. The action was applauded by consumer groups across the board which is why Trump will make every effort to defang the watchdog agency. The president-elect appears to be gearing up to eliminate any rule that impairs Wall Street’s ability to rake in bigger profits, whether it puts the American people at risk or not.

So how does this square with Steve Bannon’s comments about coalition building and desire for a stronger economy?

I can’t figure it out, after all, Bannon sounds like a true believer, a no-nonsense, red-blooded, blue collar working guy who hates the Wall Street, the Republican establishment and the mainstream media. What’s not to like about that?

But how does Bannon’s hardscrabble upbringing, his commitment to tea party uprising, and his take-no-prisoners combativeness, jibe with these flagrant tax giveaways, this anti-worker deregulation, and a fiscal policy that only benefits the uber wealthy? I don’t get it??

In an extremely persuasive interview with Buzzfeed News, Bannon disparages the new strain of “Ayn Rand” capitalism that objectifies people and turns them into commodities. He expands on this idea by giving a brief synopsis of the financial crisis that many will find galvanizing. Here’s a clip:

The 2008 crisis, … which, by the way, I don’t think we’ve come through — is really driven I believe by the greed, much of it driven by the greed of the investment banks. …
And one of the reasons is that we’ve never really gone and dug down and sorted through the problems of 2008. Particularly the fact — think about it — not one criminal charge has ever been brought to any bank executive associated with 2008 crisis. And in fact, it gets worse. No bonuses and none of their equity was taken. So part of the prime drivers of the wealth that they took in the 15 years leading up to the crisis was not hit at all, and I think that’s one of the fuels of this populist revolt that we’re seeing as the tea party…

The bailouts were absolutely outrageous, and here’s why: It bailed out a group of shareholders and executives who were specifically accountable. …

In fact, one of the committees in Congress said to the Justice Department 35 executives, I believe, that they should have criminal indictments against — not one of those has ever been followed up on. … (and) Middle-class taxpayers, people that are working-class people, right, people making incomes under $50,000 and $60,000, it was the burden of those taxpayers, right, that bailed out the elites. …

It’s all the institutions of the accounting firms, the law firms, the investment banks, the consulting firms, the elite of the elite, the educated elite, they understood what they were getting into, forcibly took all the benefits from it and then look to the government, went hat in hand to the government to be bailed out. And they’ve never been held accountable today. Trust me — they are going to be held accountable. (This Is How Steve Bannon Sees The Entire World, Buzzfeed News)

Repeat: “They are going to be held accountable.”

Bravo! He wants to lock them up. He wants the bankers to be held accountable and locked up! Who doesn’t want that? Every working slob in America wants that. This is why Bannon has attracted such a loyal following; it’s because his analysis of the financial crisis and its aftermath are “dead on”. The American people know they were ripped off, know that Wall Street is infested with crooks and parasites, and know that the country is governed by a corrupt and unaccountable oligarchy of racketeers.

Bannon has tapped into powerful feelings of frustration and rage, and he’s built a thriving movement on top of them. But where’s the beef? His economic policy just doesn’t deliver the goods. Bannon is talking the talk, but he’s not walking the walk.

The tax cuts don’t deliver for working people and neither does deregulation. So what about the third part of Trump’s economic plan, the fiscal stimulus component?

Bannon says he’s the driving force behind the $1 trillion infrastructure development program. Unfortunately, the program is little more than a scam. Let me explain:

Typically, when people think about fiscal stimulus, they imagine expensive Keynesian “shovel ready” infrastructure projects with lots of well-paid government workers building bridges, roads, rapid transit systems and even schools. That’s not what this is. According to economist Jared Bernstein:

Instead of just allocating the needed resources as in the traditional approach, they propose to “offer some $137 billion in tax breaks to private investors who want to finance toll roads, toll bridges, or other projects that generate their own revenue streams.

Since the plan depends on private investors, it can only fund projects that spin off user fees and are profitable. Rural roads, water systems, and public schools don’t fall into that category. Neither does public transit, which fails on the profitable criterion (it depends on public subsidies. (Trump’s misguided flirtation with Keynesianism, Politico)

This isn’t going to work. It’s completely self defeating. This is just more of the same, more handouts to big business. The whole point of fiscal stimulus is to get money in the hands of the people who will spend it fast, rev up the economy, boost growth, generate more demand and get the economy out of its eight-year-long funk. The rebuilding of infrastructure is secondary, in fact, it doesn’t even matter. What matters is getting money circulating in the perennially-moribund economy. Caspice?

Here’s more on the Trump infrastructure boondoggle from an article in the Washington Post:

Trump’s plan is not really an infrastructure plan. It’s a tax-cut plan for utility-industry and construction-sector investors, and a massive corporate welfare plan for contractors. The Trump plan doesn’t directly fund new roads, bridges, water systems or airports, as did Hillary Clinton’s 2016 infrastructure proposal. Instead, Trump’s plan provides tax breaks to private-sector investors who back profitable construction projects. … There’s no requirement that the tax breaks be used for … expanded construction efforts; they could all go just to fatten the pockets of investors in previously planned projects…

Second, as a result of the above, Trump’s plan isn’t really a jobs plan, either. Because the plan subsidizes investors, not projects; because it funds tax breaks, not bridges; because there’s no requirement that the projects be otherwise unfunded, there is simply no guarantee that the plan will produce any net new hiring. …

Buried inside the plan will be provisions to weaken prevailing wage protections on construction projects, undermining unions and ultimately eroding workers’ earnings. Environmental rules are almost certain to be gutted in the name of accelerating projects.”(Trump’s big infrastructure plan? It’s a trap. Washington Post)

These so called “public-private partnerships” are just another way for big business to suck money out of the government. They don’t help the economy, not really, and they don’t help workers either. If Bannon is serious about building his coalition on the back of a robust economy, there’s an easier way to do it. First get rid of the corporate ideologues and supply side radicals whose theories never work. Then hire a team of reputable economists who have first-hand experience implementing thorny stimulus programs of this magnitude. (Joseph Stiglitz, James Galbraith, Dean Baker, Michael Hudson, Jack Rasmus)

Then start with the low-hanging fruit, that is, put money into already-running programs that will produce immediate results. For example, in James Galbraith’s epic article “No Return to Normal” the economist recommends increasing Social Security payments. Think about that. It’s a complete no-brainer. The people who live on Social Security spend every dime they get every month, which means that — if their payments go up by, let’s say, $200 or more per month– then all that dough goes straight into the economy which is what fiscal stimulus is all about. Also, increase food stamp funding, lower the Medicare age of eligibility, and rehire a portion of the 500,000 federal workers who lost their jobs in the Crash of ’08. These policies will put money into the economy immediately, boosting growth, increasing wages, and strengthening the prospects for whatever political party happens to be in office.

The point is, fiscal stimulus doesn’t have to be a boondoggle and it doesn’t require “shovel ready” jobs. All that’s needed is a competent team of economic advisors who know what the hell they’re doing and the political will to get the job done. Trump’s economic plan doesn’t do that, all it does is slightly improve GDP while trillions of dollars are transferred to the bank accounts of behemoth corporations and Wall Street cronies.

If Bannon is serious about fixing the economy and rebuilding the Republican party, my advice to him would be: Give Galbraith a call.

Posted in USAComments Off on Trump’s Economic Plan; This Isn’t Going to Work

African-Arab Summit: Anti-Imperialism, Sustainable Development and Mutual Economic Cooperation

NOVANEWS
African-Arab Summit

Meeting illustrated problems and prospects for sustainable relations in the 21st century

A fourth gathering of the African-Arab Summit met on November 23 in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea to discuss avenues of mutual cooperation and benefit to the neighboring regions throughout the continent and West Asia.

African Union (AU) Commission Chairperson Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, held a preliminary meeting on November 4 with Mohammed Abou Alhassan, Representative and Special Advisor of the Emir of Kuwait. The discussion took place at the headquarters of the Pan-African bloc in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa.

In comments made to the media at the AU conference center, Dlamini-Zuma praised the role of the summit which she said was facilitating the inter-regional cooperation in various fields. The Kingdom of Kuwait both hosted and chaired the 3rd summit in 2013, under the theme “Partners in Development and Investment.” (Xinhua, Nov. 4)

Dlamini-Zuma emphasized that within “the context of agenda 2063, Afro-Arab cooperation and bilateral cooperation between Kuwait and African member states focus on areas including scientific research, food security, trade and investment, infrastructure development, and enhancing the role of women in development.”

This year’s meeting was organized under the theme “Together for sustainable development and economic cooperation,” the AU Chair said.

The gathering was co-sponsored by the AU and the League of Arab States. President Tedoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea hosted the summit.

This 4th African-Arab Summit was represented by leaders from African and Arab countries including host President Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea;  H.H Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Amir of the State of Kuwait, President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, President of the Islamic Republics of Mauritania, H.E. President Idriss Déby Itno, President of the Republic of Chad, H.E. Mr. Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Secretary General of the League of Arab States,  H.E. Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission among others.

By its conclusion the summit decided to transfer control of the Co-Chairmanship of the Summit to Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Amir of the State of Kuwait and Co-Chair of the 3rd Africa-Arab Summit, to H.E. President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, President of the Islamic Republics of Mauritania; for the Arab side, even though Mauritania is in North Africa. On the ostensible African side, President Idriss Déby Itno, of Chad assumed control from Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Hailemariam Dessalegn, as Co-chairperson of the 3rd Africa-Arab Summit.

The previous African-Arab Summit was held in Kuwait in November 2013. The meeting pledged to enhance cooperation in the areas of infrastructural development, food security and agricultural development.

In deliberations during the 3rd Summit the conference adopted a partnership program based upon a joint plan of action. The 2013 gathering was held just three years since the 2010 2nd Summit which convened in Sirte, Libya.

This was just several months prior to the counter-revolution in the North African state which was bombed extensively from March 19, 2011 until October 31 of the same year by the Pentagon, NATO and its regional allies. Today Libya remains a major source of instability throughout North and West Africa spreading across the Mediterranean and into Southern, Central and Eastern Europe.

Unfortunately, several key Arab states in the Gulf region and North Africa supported and participated in the destruction of Libya. Syria and Algeria, two governments with a history of anti-imperialist and national liberation politics, voted against the Arab League decision to endorse the UN Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973 which resulted in an arms embargo against Tripoli then under the leadership of Col. Muammar Gaddafi as well as the imposition of a so-called “no-fly zone” allowing for the blanket bombing of the country of Libya that killed up to 100,000 and displaced several million.

Those states designated as African and Arab respectively assessed progress made in the three years since, and deliberated on how to strengthen their cooperation in ways that would live up to the expectations of their citizens in terms of socio-cultural and economic development based on the principles of equality, mutual interest and respect.

In 2013, the summit issued the “Kuwait Declaration” which called for a collective approach aimed at promoting cooperation in the political, economic and socio-cultural fields between the Arab and African nations in part to resolve disputes and violence in the two regions.

Nonetheless, the concrete conditions on the continent and in West Asia has worsened since 2013 with the Mediterranean migrant crisis marked by the deaths of thousands over the last two years due to wars of regime-change and the economic crisis spurred on by the precipitous decline in energy and other commodity prices.

Problems in Inter-regional Relations within the Context of Imperialism

Although these states which met in Malabo are ostensibly independent, there are remaining issues related to neo-colonialism and domination by Western powers. The failure of the League of Arab States to halt the war in Syria and foster the stabilization of Libya, along with the AU and other inter-regional territories, speaks volumes related to veracity of these institutions.

AU Chair Dlamini-Zuma implored the heads-of-state and foreign ministers to work together on questions which can benefit both regions. She stated: “In our engagements, the priority lies in working together withpartners to ensure the joint implementation of Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals, which are pivotal to regional transformation.” (AU-Int, Nov. 23)

Dlamini- Zuma spoke favorably of the programs and activities of the two regions during the last four decades, when the first summit was held in 1977 in Cairo, Egypt. Yet, the historical trajectory in Africa and West Asia since the late 1970s has witnessed deeper imperialist interventions by the U.S. and other Western states.

President Robert Mugabe of the Republic of Zimbabwe attended the 4th African-Arab Summit and addressed the delegates saying:

“It is my fervent hope that the Africa-Arab Cooperation can, and should be utilized, as an instrument to enhance trade and investment. This relationship should be taken to higher levels that reflect the strong cultural ties, the geographical proximity and the tremendous potential that exists within and between our two regions.” (Zimbabwe Herald, Nov. 24)

Zimbabwe, which says it has benefitted from the declarations of the 3rd Summit held in Kuwait through a $35 million citrus farming project slated to be created in Matabeleland South along with the building of two new hospitals by the Ministry of Health and Child Care, suggested that an alliance between African and Arab states could transform the world economy. Nonetheless, the former leader of the AU undergirded his comments in recognition of the present crises inherited from imperialist domination.

Mugabe stressed that: “The unbalanced North/South cooperation, an extension of the colonial system, has demonstrated repeated failures, especially for less privileged countries of the South. They have simply tagged along, and only ‘developed’ along the dictates of the wealthy northerners. For the countries of the South, the economic pattern has been the continuous export of primary products and raw materials to feed the insatiable industrial needs of the northerners.”

The Saharawi Question Divides Summit

Another major problem facing the African-Arab 4th Summit was the withdrawal of the Kingdom of Morocco in protest of the recognition of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) which is a member by the AU. Morocco which has rejoined the AU after an absence of more than three decades is still in opposition to a plebiscite on the independence of the Western Sahara occupied by its military forces and political institutions. A report published by Press TV claimed “Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Jordan and Yemen as well as Somalia also left the one-day summit.” (Nov. 23)

Zimbabwe  Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi said the matter was later resolved at the Heads of States level: “The drama relating to Morocco’s objection in relation to the presence of a flag and a plaque of the Saharawi Republic took place during the meetings at the Ministerial level. The stand-off led to a delay in the start of the meeting by up to seven hours and it only resumed after the Co-Chairs insisted that Morocco’s concerns would be heard.” (Zimbabwe Herald, Nov. 24)

Mumbengegwi went on to note: “When it came to the Heads of State level, it was agreed that on the African side, everyone is entitled to attend all partnership meetings and that point was not negotiable and in the end nobody raised it. There was no walkout as what happened during the Ministerial meetings.”

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Britain’s “Snooper Charter” : U.K. Parliament Approves Unprecedented Hacking and Surveillance Powers

NOVANEWS
internet-surveillance 2

A few years ago, it would have been unthinkable for the British government to admit that it was hacking into people’s computers and collecting private data on a massive scale. But now, these controversial tactics are about to be explicitly sanctioned in an unprecedented new surveillance law.

Last week, the U.K.’s Parliament approved the Investigatory Powers Bill, dubbed the “Snoopers’ Charter” by critics. The law, which is expected to come into force before the end of the year, was introduced in November 2015 after the fallout from revelations by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden about extensive British mass surveillance. The Investigatory Powers Bill essentially retroactively legalizes the electronic spying programs exposed in the Snowden documents — and also expands some of the government’s surveillance powers.

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the new law is that it will give the British government the authority to serve internet service providers with a “data retention notice,” forcing them to record and store for up to 12 months logs showing websites visited by all of their customers. Law enforcement agencies will then be able to obtain access to this data without any court order or warrant. In addition, the new powers will hand police and tax investigators the ability to, with the approval of a government minister, hack into targeted phones and computers. The law will also permit intelligence agencies to sift through “bulk personal datasets” that contain millions of records about people’s phone calls, travel habits, internet activity, and financial transactions; and it will make it legal for British spies to carry out foreign-focused large-scale hacks of computers or phones in order to identify potential “targets of interest.”

“Every citizen will have their internet activity — the apps they use, the communications they send, and to who — logged for 12 months,” says Eric King, a privacy expert and former director of Don’t Spy On Us, a coalition of leading British human rights groups that campaigns against mass surveillance. “There is no other democracy in the world, possibly no other country in the world, doing this.”

There is no other democracy in the world, possibly no other country in the world, doing this.

King argues that the new law will cause a chilling effect, resulting in fewer people feeling comfortable communicating freely with one another. He cites a Pew survey published in March 2015 that found that 30 percent of American adults had altered their phone or internet habits due to concerns about government surveillance. “It’s going to change how people communicate and express their thoughts,” King says. “For a society that’s supposed to be progressive, that encourages open debate and dialogue, it’s awful.”

Other civil liberties advocates are concerned that the new law will be viewed by governments across the world as a green light to launch similar sweeping surveillance regimes. “The passing of the IP Bill will have an impact that goes beyond the U.K.’s shores,” says Jim Killock, executive director of the London-based Open Rights Group. “It is likely that other countries, including authoritarian regimes with poor human rights records, will use this law to justify their own intrusive surveillance powers.”

Despite the broad scope of the Investigatory Powers Bill, it generated little public debate in the U.K., and did not receive a great deal of coverage in the mainstream press. One reason for this was undoubtedly the U.K.’s shock vote in June to leave European Union — known as Brexit — which has dominated news and discussion in recent months. But there was another major factor for the swift passage of the law in the face of little backlash. The Labour Party, the U.K.’s leading opposition political party, had pledged to fight back against unwarranted snooping,” but ended up supporting the government and voting in favor of the new surveillance law. “Blame has to be fixed on the Labour Party,” says Killock. “They asked for far too little and weren’t prepared to strongly challenge many of the central tenets of the bill.”

In an effort to placate some of its critics, the government has agreed to strengthen oversight of the surveillance. The Investigatory Powers Bill introduces for the first time a “judicial commissioner” — likely a former senior judge — who will have the authority to review spying warrants authorized by a government minister. It also bolsters provisions relating to how police and spy agencies can target journalists in a bid to identify their confidential sources. New safeguards will mean the authorities will have to seek approval from the judicial commissioner before obtaining a journalist’s phone or email records; previously they could obtain this data without any independent scrutiny.

The U.K.’s National Union of Journalists, however, believes that the law does not go far enough in protecting press freedom. The union is particularly alarmed that any potential surveillance of media organizations will be kept completely secret, meaning they will not be afforded the chance to challenge or appeal any decisions relating to them or their sources. “The bill is an attack on democracy and on the public’s right to know and it enables unjustified, secret, state interference in the press,” the union blasted in a statement last week, adding that “the lack of protection for sources has an impact on journalists working in war zones or those investigating organized crime or state misconduct.”

Other issues relating to how the law will be applied remain unclear. It contains a provision, for instance, allowing the government to serve a company with a “technical capability notice,” which can include “obligations relating to the removal by a relevant operator of electronic protection applied by or on behalf of that operator to any communications or data.” Earlier this year, technology giants Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, and Yahoo criticized this power, expressing concerns that it could be used by the government to force companies to weaken or circumvent encryption technology used to protect the privacy of communications and data.

In practice, if the law is used to undermine encryption, it may never come to light. The government included a section in the law that criminalizes “unauthorized disclosures” of any information related to its surveillance orders, which could potentially deter any whistleblowers or leakers from coming forward. The punishment for breaches is a prison sentence of up to 12 months, a fine, or both.

Though the Investigatory Powers Bill will soon to come into force, it is likely to face several lawsuits. There are at least three ongoing cases that could result in changes to some of its provisions. One of these cases is a major challenge in the European Court of Human Rights, which could potentially rule the government’s mass collection and retention of data to be illegal. (Judgments from the European Court of Human Rights remain binding in the U.K., despite its vote to leave the European Union.)

Either way, some are not willing to leave it up to the courts to determine how much of their data the government can vacuum up. One recently established British nonprofit company, calling itself Brass Horn Communications, says it is planning to build a new internet provider that is based on Tor — a tool used to browse the internet anonymously — in an effort to help people protect themselves from the spying. “We should be able to research an embarrassing medical condition, or ask questions on Google, without having to worry about it being stored on a permanent internet record somewhere,” says a spokesperson for the company. “The government has decided that everyone is a suspect, but you can’t treat an entire society as criminal.”

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Flawed Alliances and the “Pivot to Asia”: Australia, the US and Trumpism

NOVANEWS
australia usa

Politics can be a deliciously self-defeating field.  For the US-Australian alliance, one born out of desperate insecurity on the part of Canberra, a dramatic change in the White House was always going to cause a shudder.  A Clinton presidency was presumed to be inevitable and, on taking place, a no-fuss affair, one which was to continue President Barack Obama’s “pivot” towards the Asia Pacific, and against China.

This has made a satrap Australia vulnerable to the grand political designs of the United States.  Caught in the cross hairs of conflict, Canberra can do its little bit to disentangle itself from the overly enthusiastic eye of Washington in the region while maintaining a merry dance with China.

That aspect has been something of a dream.  Instead of maintaining a degree of sobriety in the matter, various local commentators and policy wonks were hoping that Australia would, alongside the United States, be able to contain China’s belligerence.  The large question was how best to do so.

In July this year, the opposition Labor’s Defence spokesman Stephen Conroy decided to stoke the fires by insisting that China had been shown by the International Court of Justice to be a regional bully boy. On ABC radio, he observed that China had been “engaged in an aggressive, at times, bullying performance, and has now been called out by the international court.”

Conroy’s hawkish solution was simple. “Australia should authorise its forces to both sail and fly over the areas of the South China Sea.”[1]  This would at least reassure other powers that the “Freedom of Navigations in and around the South China Sea” could be affirmed.

The Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, rebuked Conroy by suggesting that he was “steaming in a direction all of his own.  Everyone else in the region is calling for calm and consideration.”  Foreign Minister Julie Bishop scoldingly told the Senator that he was “urging an escalation in tensions.”

The stomping victory of Donald Trump now sharpens the belligerent context, throwing such engagements into sharper relief.  Unilateralism offers a vast bag of unpredictable goodies, and it was the sort of bag that was providing Australia’s political classes with discomfort.

On both sides of the aisle, the members of parliament were visibly troubled about the US election result, with only government backbencher and Trump enthusiast George Christensen thrilled at the outcome.  Never the sharpest tool in the box, Christensen insisted that this was the sort of victory that could only be good.

The others did not fare so positively.  Opposition leader Bill Shorten had already pushed himself into hot water by calling Trump “barking mad”, madness he would have to contend with in future.  But he, along with many Australian political figures, has been as much a Trumpist at stages as the man he so roundly condemned.

Australian politicians, in truth, have been mimicking the Trump doctrine of Fortress America for years, building borders they hope will be impervious to the arrival of refugees by sea, and insisting on a form of ugly patriotism that would sit rather well in Trump’s cabinet of wonders. Shorten’s “Australia First” philosophy is another example.

What the local think-tankers and members of the defence fraternity are fretting over is what unruly measure will take place towards the Canberra-Washington alliance. In that sense, such mouthing is typical of satrapy, the view of the desperate on the periphery.Individuals such as Senator Di Natale of the Greens have simply jumped to the conclusion that a Trump presidency posed Australia with a “security threat”.[2]  Labor has urged, through its Shadow Foreign Minister Penny Wong, that “we should not be naïve,” only to then prove her very own point by drawing assumptions about Trump.  “We need to consider a broader range of scenarios than was previously within contemplation.”[3]

This, of course, should have always been the case for Australia, whose tendency to ape the Washington line in matters of war and security has gone unquestioned except by a few, including the late Malcolm Fraser.  The result has seen unquestioned deployments of personnel and material in zones of conflict most Australians would struggle to name. Truly, with the US, all the way, whatever the case of Australia’s immediate neighbours.

Department of Defence Secretary Dennis Richardson has also added his few cents worth, telling an audience at Old Parliament House in Canberra that “the alliance cannot be taken for granted.”[4]  It was a relationship that would endure, irrespective of who was in the White House. Ditto former Defence Force chief Angus Houston, who insisted that the US was the “stabilising glue” of the Asia-Pacific region.[5]

If you wanted to get a sense of Australian foreign policy in the past, you would simply have to go to the US State Department’s portfolios.  The rest was simple imitation, with the Australian foreign minister being no better than a mid-ranking State Department employee.  As with so much with previous assumptions, that book has been thrown out.  A Trump victory has given the first necessary jolt to the US-Australian relationship in years, and a needed one at that.

 

Notes

[1] http://www.news.com.au/world/asia/australian-senator-stephen-conroy-accused-on-inflaming-tensions-in-the-south-china-sea/news-story/c2b0515a6fe71459fff7a5d6fe60e824
[2] http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/richard-di-natale-united-states-alliance-now-represents-a-security-threat-to-australia-20161121-gsty5r.html
[3] http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/donald-trump-presidency-should-force-rethink-of-us-alliance-says-alps-penny-wong-20161115-gspvom?deviceType=text
[4] http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/top-defence-official-warns-of-big-mistake-of-questioning-us-alliance-over-donald-trump-20161124-gswog5.html
[5] http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/top-defence-official-warns-of-big-mistake-of-questioning-us-alliance-over-donald-trump-20161124-gswog5.html

Posted in USA, EuropeComments Off on Flawed Alliances and the “Pivot to Asia”: Australia, the US and Trumpism

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