Archive | January 15th, 2019

Counterfeit Currencies and Banknote Forgeries, The Decline of Paper Money

NOVANEWS

Governments around the world have been fighting counterfeiters for several centuries. Eventually, the combined efforts of law enforcement agencies, banknote printing and minting works led to the fact that cost of fake money was high for most of the 20th century. Then, the complexity of the process and the severity of punishment prevented counterfeiting from becoming a truly popular criminal industry. The volume of production of counterfeit money never reached the levels of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Nevertheless, the world experienced a new surge of interest to forgery of money at the end of the 20th century. The spread of affordable office equipment made printing fake money easier. Accordingly, the number of counterfeiters also increased. For instance, the US Secret Service stated in its annual 2017 report that over $73 million in counterfeit U.S. currency were prevented from circulation. The constant threat from counterfeiters has become the main, but not the only reason why states have to constantly think about increasing the degree of protection of banknotes. Now, it’s also about reputation of the world’s leading powers and blocs. For example, the dollar and the euro are fighting not only for the status of the world’s main reserve currency, but also for the name of the most reliable money in all respects.

Banknotes of both currencies, both dollar and euro, are literally stuffed with security features. For instance, the $100 banknote bears a 3D security ribbon and a portrait watermark. It’s printed by raising printing method, and has additional security features that can be checked with special devices.  In turn, the € 100 bill has a similar level of protection. Also, there’s a couple of common characteristics. Both banknotes are printed on paper and with special ink.

In fact, the banknote ink and paper are one of the key elements in the security printing process. You may not realize it, but a genuine banknote feels right and shows true colors. Thomas Savare, CEO of French security printing company Oberthur Fiduciaire, explains: “Banknote paper is very specific one, only used for banknotes, and manufactured by extremely niche suppliers who will only sell to recognized banknote printers (state printers or private printers). The same goes for the ink, which is made exclusively for banknote printing. The ink is resistant and has integrated security features, to be long lasting. The entire supply chain is dedicated to this industry and that’s a large part of the security of a banknote.” 

Watermarking is also one of the most popular and reliable methods of protecting bills. Despite the fact that it has been in use for a long time, security printers and central banks are in no hurry to trade it for anything else. The watermark has already become a customary way of identifying the authenticity of a bill without special equipment.

Modern watermarking may be old as a concept, but not as a technique. It constantly evolves and becomes more complex. In particular, a new generation of watermarks has been developed by VHP Security Paper, a recently acquired subsidiary of Oberthur Fiduciaire:

“VHP Security has been developing new technology watermarks for some time and its Pixel watermark, released just a few years ago, has already been selected by ten countries and features on more than 30 billion banknotes. The technology creates bright areas in the watermark, making it easy to identify and authenticate and more difficult to counterfeit,” says Thomas Savare.

Furthermore, the traceability of the entire supply chain has become a priority. The banks are demanding in this matter and being certified by the European Central Bank and being able to guarantee the confidentiality and security of the entire process, including through strict standards (ISO 9001, ISO 14001, OHSAS 18001), is now an essential and central asset for Oberthur Fiduciaire.

In general, forgery of money is a costly affair now. The workflow has become much more complicated than just a few dozen years ago. Modern security printers own unique technologies that are impossible to reproduce without special equipment, materials and set of skills. Authentication methods have become more complex for manufacturers to print, but, on the other hand, they still remain simple for end users.

The cost of counterfeit banknotes increases every year. Already now, the proportion of fake money in circulation is negligible compared to the total money supply. The ECB says:

“Some 331,000 counterfeit euro banknotes were withdrawn from circulation in the first half of 2017, a decrease compared with the second half of 2016. The likelihood of receiving a counterfeit is thus very slight.”

Counterfeit money in its traditional sense is clearly in decline at the beginning of the 21st century. Now, it looks more like sports or an entertainment for talented loners, rather than a huge branch of the shadow business. In the past, paper money was faked the most when paper replaced metal. Now paper money is gradually getting out of circulation, yielding to non-cash payments, and this means that a new type of counterfeiters hides among hackers and other cybercriminals.

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Media Reports “Good News”: Kids Are Dying in Venezuela, Sanctions are Working

NOVANEWS

The Guardian’s Tom Phillips’ article Venezuela Crisis Takes Deadly Toll on Buckling Health System (January 06, 2019) is more good news for US psychopaths, such as Trump, Bolton and Pompeo. Children are dying in Venezuela. Sanctions are working!

Tom is becoming the Luke Harding of Venezuela. Luke…err, Tom blames all of Venezuela’s problems on president Nicolas Maduro. Tom has piled on, repeating the Washington Consensus vilifying Maduro……that is what “repeaters” do.

If Maduro is illegally and violently removed from office, what will come after? Probably chaos, since there is no united opposition. Chaos is what the US desires, because chaos gives the US an excuse for interventions. A dysfunctional opposition then gives the US the power to be the kingmaker. The US has a self-proclaimed “right” to intervene anywhere, anytime in Latin America, according to the 1823 Monroe Doctrine, and the 1904 “Big Stick” Roosevelt corollary.

As a rule, US doctrines do not become internationally laws, and instead usually violate international law. Doctrines are just a “wish-list” of US foreign policy. The main US foreign policy objective is to promote US corporate exploitation of foreign countries.

If the US gets its way in Venezuela, then Venezuela will be ruled by oligarchs, dictators or the military—or a confabulation of the three natural allies. The Venezuelan people overwhelmingly rejected the 40-years of oligarchy, when they elected Hugo Chavez in 1998. Chavez ran for election on a socialist platform. The US has been trying to overthrow Chavez’s socialist movement from the first moment Chavez took office.

In 2002 Bush backed a failed coup. Trump and his cronies have been planning another coup. This just in from Tom Phillips January 11th: Juan Guaido of the opposition is calling for an international intervention and a military coup. An illegal violent regime change is very likely soon.

After Chavez died of cancer at the age of 58 in 2013, his vice president Nicolás Maduro constitutionally assumed his office. Maduro has been struggling to continue Chavez’s socialist programs for the poor. Maduro is no Chavez, but he is trying to carry on Chavez’s legacy. Maduro was reelected to his second term in 2018.

Maduro faces many economic problems, much of them stemming from the collapsing international oil price in 2015. There are good reasons to believe that the collapse in oil prices was a US-Saudi conspiracy, since the economic victims were Russia and Venezuela, two of the countries the US is trying to regime change. Oil is 95% of Venezuela’s revenue from exports, and 25% of its GDP.

The other major problem for Maduro is that on top of collapsing oil prices the US imposed crushing economic sanctions. Tom’s article unwittingly exposes the lie that the sanctions were targeted, and not intended as collective punishment of the people. Children are dying! Instead of using dead children as propaganda props, economic sanctions should be immediately suspended, and foreign aid sent to save the lives of these innocent victims. Tom did not mention that in the article. All he had for the dead children was crocodile tears.

The US is stomping on Venezuela’s neck, trying to kill socialism. And vengefully killing Venezuelan kids. (Just a few weeks ago, Pompeo mocked Iran, saying ….”if you want your people to eat”). The US is stomping its boot on the neck of socialism throughout Latin America, after years of a “pink tide” of elected progressive governments. It is working, as progressive governments in Latin America are becoming extinct.

Critics of Chavez and Maduro claim that socialism never works. It worked just fine under Chavez, as people were lifted out of poverty. Inequality declined dramatically. Critics blame Chavez and now Maduro for “overspending” on the poor.

As the US rebounds from one economic crisis to another, one bank bailout to the next, it is obvious to those that can see: Capitalism does not work. The US with its hyper-neoliberalism is 25th on the UN Human Development Index, adjusted for inequality. The US has its own healthcare crisis of 45,000 people dying every year because they cannot afford healthcare. Many of them children, Tom!

Sad how the critics never blame a country’s economic problems on over spending for US weapons, concentration of wealth in a few wealthy families, or austerity for the people because of crooked debt-imposed austerity by the IMF. The poor are expendable for oligarchs North and South. US healthcare and needed infrastructure suffer from overspending on the military and wars.

Socialism, even a democratic one is a dirty word to the US, because socialist governments use their country’s natural resources, and state-owned enterprises for the benefit of the people. US corporations want those resources, privatized state-owned enterprises, and to have poor people as a source of cheap labor. The driver of US foreign policy is what corporations want.

US foreign policy and US corporate exploitation in Latin America increases poverty there. The poor and indigenous people have their land stolen out from under them, and paramilitary death squads enforce their removal. Large land owners, resource corporations and monocrop plantations for export move in, often they are US corporations.

US welcoming committee for asylum seekers on the southern border. (Photo by the White House)

Unfair trade agreements allow the import of cheap US agricultural products. Cheap agricultural products, such as corn, is highly subsidized by US taxpayers, corporate welfare to agribusiness. Indigenous small farmers cannot compete with the dumped US imports. They are driven out of business and off their farms. With nowhere else to go, the poor and dispossessed migrate to the city where they are exploited as wage-slaves. Because the poor are vulnerable, they are easy targets for extortion from criminal gangs……while corrupt police look the other way.

Ironically, the poor fleeing for their lives, seeking protection and an opportunity to earn a subsistence wage head in the direction of their abuser……to the USA. That is why the US is experiencing a sharp increase in people from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador seeking political asylum.

Trump and his xenophobic racist supporters want the US to turn asylum seekers away. They want the US to be a “gated community”, as Trump put it. When other countries such as Venezuela want to be a “gated community” and keep out US corporations and unfair trade from exploiting them, then the US sends in the jackals.

In the old days the US “opened” foreign “gated communities” with gunboats, and admitted that the purpose was commercial interests. At one time or another, over the past 200 years the US has invaded almost every Latin American and Caribbean country; some of them multiple times. US invasions haven’t been for democracy. They have been for commercial reasons, and the source of wealth for those that became elite families.

William Allen Rogers’s 1904 cartoon recreates the Big Stick Diplomacy of Theodore Roosevelt as an episode in Gulliver’s Travels……(Wikipedia)

Today foreign holdouts from the neoliberal Washington Consensus are “opened” by the CIA, Special Forces, mercenaries, terrorists, local collaborators, the National Endowment for Democracy, the International Republican Institute, and other government-private NGOs. NGOs do overtly what the CIA used to do covertly to sow discontent, opposition and violence.

The US uses psychological warfare and propaganda to “open” closed foreign countries. The US uses threats, bribes, political isolation, economic sanctions and the constant reminder that “all options are on the table”. The mainstream media, such as the Guardian (British, but very much part of this fetid media conspiracy) are complicit by keeping up a steady drumbeat of propaganda.

The US always presents its aggression as being out of concern for democracy, human rights, or because the US is being threatened by some small country, like Cuba, Bolivia, or Venezuela. Absurdity and blatant cowardice do not exist in the minds of US policymakers or their media stenographers: The US multiforce attack on puny Grenada (with a population smaller than a single neighborhood in Brooklyn, and with no actual armed forces of any kind) was hailed as a victory for US arms, and made into a “hero” movie by Clint Eastwood.—Ed) And quite typically, Pompeo just gave a delusional lying speech in Cairo that the US is a force for good, and he praised the bloody military-coup dictator Sisi. Mentioning commercial interests, greedy banks and the military-industrial-complex is considered uncouth, even though it is the truth behind US foreign policy.

The mainstream media is a vital player and collaborator in preparing the domestic audience for US wars of aggression, interventions, and regime changes. Mockingbirds, such as Tom Phillips, members of a compliant media, can only be described charitably as “useful idiots” in advancing the US agenda, when not outright hidden collaborators. The mainstream media such as the Guardian creates a circus-like atmosphere of a crisis. They sell the public that “something has to be done”.

After a US invasion the mainstream media again provides the cover story. When all the lies come out as they did about the Iraq War, then the media sticks its head in the sand and denies any responsibility. But in all cases, when the media acts as a propagandist for war, then they have blood on their hands too. They are first-degree accomplices to grave international crimes for which people were hanged under Nuremberg tribunal statutes.

US imperialism, neocolonialism, resource exploitation, imposed austerity, unfair trade, and the US monopolizing of the international financial system have destroyed millions of people’s lives. Trump says he does not hate US victims. Like a lot of US Americans, he just does not care. The US has no empathy for its victims, but cries crocodile tears for the alleged victims of US enemies. It is the syndrome that Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky referred to as “Worthy and Unworthy Victims”.

As Paul Jay of The Real News Network put it, for Donald Trump, Chuck Schumer, and Tony Soprano, the US is like the mafia: “it’s not personal, it’s just business”.

The Guardian used to challenge the Washington Consensus. It used to inform, instead of misinform. As the Guardian was publishing the Snowden Files the GCHQ cracked down. They smashed the Guardian’s computers, as well as freedom of the press. The Guardian said it obliged as a symbolic act. The “symbolic act” was the Guardian caving in to the GCHQ. Afterwards there was an exodus of many courageous editors and real journalists from the Guardian. This vile act —which the rest of the media did nothing to rescind—happened in a nation that has long boasted of being one of the world’s most stable democracies. The “new” Guardian is not just a pale version of its former progressive self; it is a toxic zombie bent in most cases to do the bidding of the empire.

Tom Phillips is the Guardian’s Latin America mockingbird for Washington’s neocons who are trying to destroy Venezuela, and stamp out socialism in Latin America. It is not a question of pro-Maduro or against-Maduro. It is about the integrity and professionalism of journalism.

Tom Phillips, Luke Harding and the Guardian are enablers of US regime change projects, from Russia, Iran, and North Korea to Venezuela. They have abandoned their responsibility to the public and freedom. Tom’s anti-Maduro articles are appearing almost daily. Here is another one on January 9th: Venezuela’s Neighbours Turn Up Heat as Nicolás Maduro Begins Second Term; (the Guardian left out the adjective “rightwing” and “murderous” in neighbours).

Anyway, in Tom’s “unfriendly neighbours” article he quotes generously from the rightwing Lima Group. The Lima Group was formed in 2017 for the specific purpose of ousting Maduro and socialism. Washington’s fingerprints are all over the Lima Group. As Tom repeated, the Lima Group voted on January 4th to put crushing regional sanctions on Venezuela……more children will die……and declared Maduro’s democratic election illegitimate.

Before the Lima Group voted, which the US is not a member of, the CIA directo…err, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a video presentation to the group. Pompeo’s message of “carrots” for those voting correctly, and “sticks” for those voting incorrectly was clear. How shameful to see the US bully its tiny neighbors, and watch them humiliate themselves.

The Lima Group’s members are Argentina, Brazil, Canada (?), Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay and Peru. Most of the members of the Lima Group are disqualified from judging anybody else, because of their own miserable records on democracy and human rights. Most of the members of the group are rightwing governments. Leftwing governments were left out purposely, except by accident. Canada should not even be a member. The Lima Group is for the most part mafia states, and they are doing the enforcement work for their USA godfather.

The US has 79 military bases in Latin America. The supposed purpose of these US bases in Latin America is to counter the threats of:

“Cuba, Venezuela, and Bolivia; the struggle against drug trafficking; regional and transnational criminal networks; the greater presence of China, Russia, and Iran in Latin America and the Caribbean; disaster response (remember the “aid” given Haiti after the earthquake); as well as the role assigned to security forces in every country in terms of internal, regional, and international order.”

What a bunch of crapola. Tiny Cuba with 10 million people is a threat? Venezuela with a military budget of $6 billion is a threat? Bolivia with 11 million people, a military budget of $659 million, and its mild-mannered president Evo Morales, the first Indigenous Native president……he is a threat? The aid to Haiti that went into the Clinton Foundation, and never reached the people? Ridiculous!

As with all US foreign policy, the real reason for US military foreign bases is to promote the interests of US corporations, prop up global neoliberalism. As General Smedley Butler said in his little classic, “War is a Racket”:

I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Bussiness, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903……Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints.”

In the 100 years since Butler’s book was written, nothing has changed about US foreign policy and US interventions. It is still a money-making racket for the rich, corporations, banks, oligarchs, and their servants. Nothing has changed (if anyhting, it’s gotten worse) because its true fountainhead, the dynamics and culture of capitalism, remain at the helm of the American nation.

The Lima Group, Tom Phillips, and the Guardian are the servants of warmongers that Butler wrote about. They scramble for the crumbs of war profiteers. They eat well enough, if they can stomach the taste of blood.

With the exception of Costa Rica’s center-left Carlos Alvarado Quesada and Mexico’s historically elected left-wing Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (known affectionately as AMLO), the members of the Lima Group are Washington stooges, right-wing governments, and dictatorships. Canada shouldn’t even be in the group, much less vote, because of its extensive, environmentally destructive, and exploitative mining activities in Latin America. Not to mention that Canada by no stretch of the imagination can qualify as “Latin American.” Period.

Mexico was the only country to vote not to go along with the Washington consensus of the Lima Group. He sided with the international principles of non-intervention, sovereignty, self-determination, and respect for the internal affairs of other countries.

Lopez Obrador is courageous. It is up to the Venezuelan people to determine their own destiny without illegal economic sanctions, threats and subversion by outsiders. Obrador also stood up to Trump on the humanitarian crisis that the US has created on the US southern border.

Obrador is calling on the US for “reparations” (i.e. US investment) to make amends for its neoliberal-neocon exploitation and invasions. US exploitation has been a driver of poverty in Central America. Obrador has hinted that if the US will not invest to create jobs in Central America, then he might turn to the Chinese. Obrador’s “bad behavior” is pushing the US envelope. We should all cheer and pray for him, because he is putting himself in the crosshairs of Washington’s jackals.

As for Tom Phillips, his articles further shred his integrity and credibility. His article on “Venezuela’s neighbours” mostly just quoted the Lima Group. In other words, Tom is a stenographer, and the Guardian regurgitates it.

The US purposely creates chaos and crisis as an excuse for intervention. That is what the US is doing to Venezuela. US regime change artists and their mockingbirds in the media never consider what might come after. They really don’t care about the people, except as props for regime change. If and when Maduro’s socialist government falls, then Venezuela will be turned over to rightwing oligarchs, whom will do Washington’s bidding.

Venezuelans can then say “Hello” to neoliberalism, privatization, ExxonMobil, austerity, and neglected social programs. And, “Good-bye” to state-owned enterprises, universal healthcare, free education, and a voice speaking up for the poor.

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This article was originally published on The Greanville Post.

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The ‘Private Governments’ that Subjugate U.S. Workers

NOVANEWS

Corporate dictatorships—which strip employees of fundamental constitutional rights, including free speech, and which increasingly rely on temp or contract employees who receive no benefits and have no job security—rule the lives of perhaps 80 percent of working Americans.

These corporations, with little or no oversight, surveil and monitor their workforces. They conduct random drug testing, impose punishing quotas and targets, routinely engage in wage theft, injure workers and then refuse to make compensation, and ignore reports of sexual harassment, assault and rape. They use managerial harassment, psychological manipulation—including the pseudo-science of positive psychology—and intimidation to ensure obedience.

They fire workers for expressing leftist political opinions on social media or at public events during their off-hours. They terminate those who file complaints or publicly voice criticism about working conditions. They thwart attempts to organize unions, callously dismiss older workers and impose “non-compete” contract clauses, meaning that if workers leave they are unable to use their skills and human capital to work for other employers in the same industry. Nearly half of all technical professions now require workers to sign non-compete clauses, and this practice has spread to low-wage jobs including those in hair salons and restaurants.

The lower the wages the more abusive the conditions. Workers in the food and hotel industries, agriculture, construction, domestic service, call centers, the garment industry, warehouses, retail sales, lawn service, prisons, and health and elder care suffer the most. Walmart, for example, which employs nearly 1 percent of the U.S. labor force (1.4 million workers), prohibits casual conversation, which it describes as “time theft.” The food industry giant Tyson prevents its workers from taking toilet breaks, causing many to urinate on themselves; as a result, some workers must wear diapers. The older, itinerant workers that Amazon often employs are subjected to grueling 12-hour shifts in which the company electronically monitors every action to make sure hourly quotas are met.

Some Amazon workers walk for miles on concrete floors each shift and repeatedly get down on their hands and knees to perform their jobs. They frequently suffer crippling injuries. The company makes injured employees, whom it fires, sign releases saying the injuries are not work-related. Two-thirds of workers in low-wage industries are victims of wage theft, losing an amount estimated to be as high as $50 billion a year. From 4 million to 14 million American workers, under threat of wage cuts, plant shutdowns or dismissal, have been pressured by their employers to support pro-corporate political candidates and causes.

The corporations that in effect rule the lives of American workers constitute what University of Michigan philosophy professor Elizabeth Anderson refers to as “private governments.”

These “workplace governments,” she writes, are “dictatorships, in which bosses govern in ways that are largely unaccountable to those who are governed. They don’t merely govern workers: they dominate them.”

These corporations have the legal authority, she writes, “to regulate workers’ off-hour lives as well—their political activities, speech, choice of sexual partner, use of recreational drugs, alcohol, smoking, and exercise. Because most employers exercise this off-hours authority irregularly, and without warning, most workers are unaware of how sweeping it is.”

“If the U.S. government imposed such regulations on us, we would rightly protest that our constitutional rights were being violated,” Anderson writes in her book “Private Government: How Employers Rule Our Lives (and Why We Don’t Talk About It).” “But American workers have no such rights against their bosses. Even speaking out against such constraints can get them fired. So most keep silent.”

Once workers sign contracts they essentially cede their rights as citizens to the corporations, except the few rights guaranteed by law, for the duration of the contracts.

“Employers’ authority over workers,” Anderson writes, “outside of collective bargaining and a few other contexts, such as university professors’ tenure, is sweeping, arbitrary, and unaccountable—not subject to notice, process, or appeal. The state has established the constitution of the government of the workplace; it is a form of private government.”

These corporations, by law, can “impose a far more minute, exacting, and sweeping regulation of employees than democratic states do in any domain outside of prisons and the military.”

These myriad corporate dictatorships, or private governments, ensure American workers are docile and compliant as the superstructure of the corporate state cements into place a species of corporate totalitarianism. The ruling ideology of neoliberalism and libertarianism, used to justify the corporate domination and social inequality that afflict us, sells itself as the protector of freedom and liberty. It does this by subterfuge. It claims workers have the freedom to enter into employment contracts and terminate them, while ignoring the near-total suspension of rights during the period of employment. It pretends that workers and corporations function as independent and autonomous sellers and buyers, with workers selling their labor freely and corporate owners buying this labor.

This neoliberal economic model, however, is defective. The relationship between the corporation and the worker is not the same as the relationship between a self-employed baker, for example, and his customers. The self-employed baker and those who buy the bread appeal to mutual self-interest in the exchange.

“The buyer is not an inferior, begging for a favor,” Anderson writes. “Equally importantly, the buyer is not a superior who is entitled to order the butcher, the brewer, or the baker to hand over the fruits of his labor. Buyers must address themselves to the other’s interests. The parties each undertake the exchange with their dignity, their standing, and their personal independence affirmed by the other. This is a model of social relations between free and equal persons.” (Emphasis by the author.)

Once a worker is bonded to a corporation, however, he or she instantly loses this dignity, standing and personal independence, especially if the job is temporary, entry-level or menial. Relations are no longer free and equal.

“When workers sell their labor to an employer, they have to hand themselves over to their boss, who then gets to order them around,” Anderson writes. “The labor contract, instead of leaving the seller free as before, puts the seller under the authority of their boss.”

The worker either fulfills the demands of management, which he or she has little ability to question or formulate, or is reprimanded, demoted, sanctioned or fired. The corporate manager wields total authority over the worker.

“The performance of the contract embodies a profound asymmetry in whose interests count,” Anderson writes, “henceforth, the worker will be required to toil under conditions that pay no regard to his interests, and every regard for the capitalist’s profits.”

Neoliberalism posits that the choice is between a free market and state control, whereas, as Anderson writes, “most adults live their working lives under a third thing entirely: private government.” Neoliberalism argues that the essence of freedom is free enterprise, while never addressing workers’ surrender of basic freedoms. Neoliberalism holds out the promise, which has not been true since before the Industrial Revolution, that workers can become self-employed if they are hardworking and innovative. We all have the ability to achieve economic independence or become industry leaders if we draw on our inner resources, according to the neoliberal mantra, one popularized by mass culture. The neoliberal ideologues’ solution to the cannibalization of the economy is to call for fostering a nation of entrepreneurs. This is a con. Corporations and their lobbyists write the laws and the legislation, creating a two-tiered legal system in which poverty is criminalized and we are controlled, taxed and punished. The corporate oligarchs, however, live in a world where monopoly, fraud and other financial wrongdoing are legal or rarely punished and taxes are minimal or nonexistent. Among the population, only a tiny percentage—most of whom come from inherited wealth and have been groomed in elitist, plutocratic universities and institutions—dominate the corporate hierarchy. Public discourse, controlled by corporate power, ignores this one-sided power arrangement. It cannot address a problem it refuses to acknowledge. Subjugation is freedom.

Anderson calls this corporate economic system communist—that’s communist with a small “c”—because these private governments “own all the nonlabor means of production in the society it governs. It organizes production by means of central planning. The form of the government is a dictatorship. In some cases, the dictator is appointed by an oligarchy. In other cases, the dictator is self-appointed.” Private governments, their sanctioning powers lacking the state’s ability to imprison or execute (although they often have internal security forces with the power to arrest), ensure compliance by using wholesale surveillance and the threats of demotion and exile, plus the potential rewards of salary raises and promotions. Also, there usually is a steady barrage of company propaganda.

“We have the language of fairness and distributive justice to talk about low wages and inadequate benefits, we know how to talk about the Fight for $15, whatever side of this issue you are on,” Anderson writes. “But we don’t have good ways to talk about the way bosses rule workers’ lives.”

American workers have never achieved the array of rights won by workers in other industrialized countries. At the height of union representation in 1954, only 28.3 percent of American workers were union members. This number has fallen to 11.1 percent, with only 6.6 percent of private-sector workers belonging to unions. Wages have for decades declined or been stagnant. Half of all U.S. workers make less than $29,000 a year, effectively putting their families in poverty.

Workers, lacking unions and the ability to pressure management through collective bargaining, have no say in their working conditions. If they choose to leave abusive employment, where do they go? The inequalities and the workers’ loss of liberty and agency are embedded within the corporate structure. It is impossible, as Anderson warns, to build a free, democratic society dominated by private governments. As these private governments merge into the superstructure of the corporate state we are cementing into place an unassailable corporate tyranny. It is a race against time. Our remaining freedoms are being rapidly extinguished. These omnipotent dictatorships must be destroyed, and they will only be destroyed by sustained popular protest such as we see in the streets of Paris. Otherwise, we will be shackled in 21st-century chains.

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Trump, Bolton and the Syrian Confusion

NOVANEWS

It’s a messy, though typical picture.  US President Donald Trumpwants to pull out forces in Syria.  When announced in December, jaws drooped and sharp intakes of breath were registered through the Washington establishment.  Members of the military industrial complex were none too pleased.  The President had seemingly made his case clear: US blood and treasure will not be further drawn upon to right the conflicts of the Middle East. 

His national security advisor, John Bolton, prefers a different message: the US will not leave north-eastern Syria till the militants of Islamic State are defeated and the Kurds protected.  If this was a message of intended confusion, it has worked.  The media vultures are confused as to what carrion to feed upon. The US imperial lobby is finding the whole affair disruptive and disturbing.  Washington’s allies attempt to read the differences between policy-by-tweet and policy by representation.

Trump’s pre-New Year announcement suggested speediness, a rapid removal of US forces supposedly indispensable in Making America Great Again.  Once made, US troops were to leave in a matter of weeks – or so went a certain wisdom.  “They’re all coming back, and they’re coming back now,” ventured the president.  But Bolton suggested otherwise.  US personnel, he suggested, would remain in al-Tanf to counter Iranian influence.  Timetables could be left to the talking heads. 

A change of heart also came from the White House, with Trump asserting that,

“We won’t be finally pulled out until ISIS is gone.” 

To reporters, he adopted a familiar stance in ever shifting sands: promising to do something meant doing something different.

“We are pulling back in Syria.  We’re going to be removing our troops.  I never said we’re doing it that quickly.”

On Sunday, Trump delivered another streaky note on Twitter, thereby adding another lace of confusion.

“Starting the long overdue pullout from Syria while hitting the little remaining ISIS territorial caliphate hard, and from many directions.” 

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Starting the long overdue pullout from Syria while hitting the little remaining ISIS territorial caliphate hard, and from many directions. Will attack again from existing nearby base if it reforms. Will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds. Create 20 mile safe zone….

Last Thursday, information on the withdrawal of some US military ground equipment from Syria was noted.  On Friday, Col. Sean Ryan, spokesman for the US-led coalition in Syria, issued a statement claiming that the coalition had “begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria” leaving little by way of details.  In Trumpland, the scanty detail often prevails over the substantive. 

US strategy in the Middle East has tended to revolve around setting up figures for the fall while inflicting the fall of others.  The Kurds have tended to find themselves in that role, encouraged and prompted to take up arms against their various oppressors, only to find themselves left to the slaughter in the subsequent geopolitical dramas of the region.  The promise by Great Britain and France at the conclusion of World War I that a Kurdish state be chalked out of the remains of the Ottoman Empire never materialised.  In the crude machinations of international relations, they have remained, as Joost Hiltermann describes them, the “expendable” ones. 

Bolton is keen not to make that same mistake, which is exactly why he risks doing so.  The great enemy of the Kurds on this occasion remains a prickly US ally, Turkey. 

“We don’t think the Turks ought to undertake military action that’s not fully coordinated with the agreed to by the United States”.   

Trump, similarly, suggested in a direct call with the Turkish president that the Turkish economy would be devastated “economically if they hit Kurds.”  In a statement from White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders,

“The President expressed the desire to work together to address Turkey’s security concerns in northeast Syria while stressing the importance to the United States that Turkey does not mistreat the Kurds and other Syrian Democratic Forces with whom we have fought to defeat ISIS.”   

Bolton’s credibility in pursuing that agenda seemed to crumble in Ankara before a notable snubbing by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on January 8.  The national security advisor had to make do with a meeting with Erdoğan’s senior advisor, Ibrahim Kalin. Bolton was not one the Turkish leader particularly wanted to see in light of his comments that Turkey not harm members of the Kurdish Syrian militias in the aftermath of the US withdrawal.  Such views also fly in the face of Turkey’s self-appointed role as an agent of influence in the region.  An absent Washington is simply too good a chance to press home the advantage, and Ankara is bound to capitalise. 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did not fare much better in his regional whistle-stops in Egypt Jordan, Iraq and the Gulf states.  In Cairo, Pompeo denied that there was any “contradiction whatsoever” about Trump’s position on withdrawal. 

“I think everyone understands what the United States is doing.” 

If not everyone, then at the very least, “the senior leaders in their governments”.  Very good of them.

The views of American functionaries have not necessarily meant much in the righteous intent of other powers, but Bolton is nonetheless happy to pen his name to this mast.  He wishes for the Kurds to hold firm, avoid the temptation of seeking another sponsor who just might do a better job. 

“I think they know,” suggested Bolton, “who their friends are.”  (Bolt is more than nudging here, making sure the Russians or the Assad regime are avoided in any future security arrangements that might supply a shield for the Kurds.)

Daft, can be Bolton, who sees himself as a true appraiser of the international relations system when he is disabled by presumption.  The Turks may, in time, hand Washington another bloody lesson of retribution showing that basic, keen hatreds in historical dramas are far more significant than sophisticated notions of self-interest.  The presence of US troops in Syria will no doubt be reclassified, withdrawal by which any other name would be as confusing.  The Kurds will have to chew over their options with the sort of caution nursed by a history of promise followed by abandonment.  Be wary of the expendable ones.

Posted in USA, SyriaComments Off on Trump, Bolton and the Syrian Confusion

Entering a Major Regional Re-set – The Syria Outcome Will Haunt Those Who Started this War

The Middle East is metamorphosing. New fault-lines are emerging, yet Trump’s foreign policy ‘hawks’ still try to stage ‘old movies’ in a new ‘theatre’.

The ‘old movie’ is for the US to ‘stand up’ Sunni, Arab states, and lead them towards confronting ‘bad actor’ Iran. ‘Team Bolton’ is reverting back to the old 1996 Clean Break script – as if nothing has changed. State Department officials have been briefing that Secretary Pompeo’s address in Cairo on Thursday was “ slated to tell his audience (although he may not name the former president), that Obama misled the people of the Middle East about the true source of terrorism, including what contributed to the rise of the Islamic State. Pompeo will insist that Iran, a country Obama tried to engage, is the real terrorist culprit. The speech’s drafts also have Pompeo suggesting that Iran could learn from the Saudis about human rights, and the rule of law.”

Well, at least that speech should raise a chuckle around the region. In practice however, the regional fault-line has moved on: It is no longer so much Iran. GCC States have a new agenda, and are now far more concerned to contain Turkey, and to put a halt to Turkish influence spreading throughout the Levant. GCC states fear that President Erdogan, given the emotional and psychological wave of antipathy unleashed by the Khashoggi murder, may be mobilising newly re-energised Muslim Brotherhood, Gulf networks. The aim being to leverage present Gulf economic woes, and the general hollowing out of any broader GCC ‘vision’, in order to undercut the rigid Gulf ‘Arab system’ (tribal monarchy). The Brotherhood favours a soft Islamist reform of the Gulf monarchies – along lines, such as that once advocated by Jamal Khashoggi.

Turkey’s leadership in any case is convinced that it was the UAE (MbZ specifically) that was the author behind the Kurdish buffer being constructed, and mini-state ‘plot’ against Turkey – in conjunction with Israel and the US. Understandably, Gulf states now fear possible Turkish retribution for their weaponising of Kurdish aspirations in this way.

And Turkey is seen (by GCC States) as already working in close co-ordination with fellow Muslim Brotherhood patron and GCC member, Qatar, to divide the collapsing Council. This prefigures a new round to the MB versus Saudi Wahhabism spat for the soul of Sunni Islam.

GGC states therefore, are hoping to stand-up a ‘front’ to balance Turkey in the Levant. And to this end, they are trying to recruit President Assad back into the Arab fold (which is to say, into the Arab League), and to have him act, jointly with them, as an Arab counter to Turkey.

The point here is obvious: President Assad is closely allied to Iran – and so is Moscow and Turkey. To be fashionably Iranophobic – as Pompeo might wish the GCC to be – simply would spoil the GCC’s anti-Turkey ‘play’. Syria indeed may be (justly) skeptical of Turkey’s actions and intent in Syria, but from President Assad’s perspective, Iran and Russia are absolutely crucial to the managing of an erratic Turkey. Turkey does represent an existential Syrian concern. And trying to lever President Assad – or Lebanon or Turkey – away from Iran, would be absurd. It won’t happen. And the GCC states have enough nous to understand this now (after their stinging defeat in Syria). The Gulf anti-Iranian stance has had ‘the burner’ turned sharply down, (except when their need is to stroke US feathers).

They can see clearly that the Master of Ceremonies in the Levant – putting together the new regional ‘order’ – is not Mr Bolton, but Moscow, with Tehran (and occasionally Ankara), playing their equal part ‘from behind the curtain’.

Presumably, America’s intelligence services know, (and Gulf states certainly are aware), that in any case, Iranian forces are almost all gone from Syria (though of course Syria’s ‘Iranian connection’ remains as firm, as ever) – even as Pompeo and Israel say the precisely the opposite: that they are pushing-back hard at the ‘threatening’ Iranian military ‘footprint’ in Syria. Few in the region will believe it.

The second notable emerging regional fault line then, evidently is the one that is opening between Turkey and the US and Israel. Turkey ‘gets it’: Erdogan ‘gets it’ very clearly: that Washington now deeply distrusts him, suspects that Turkey is accelerating into Moscow and Beijing’s orbit, and that DC would be happy to see him gone – and a more NATO-friendly leader installed in his stead.

And it must be clear to Washington too ‘why’ Turkey would be heading ‘East’. Erdogan precisely needs Russia and Iran to act as MCs to moderate his difficult relations with Damascus for the future. Erdogan needs Russia and Iran even more, to broker a suitable political solution to the Kurds in Syria. He needs China too, to support his economy.

And Erdogan is fully aware that Israel (more than Gulf States) still hankers after the old Ben Gurion ideal of an ethnic Kurdish state – allied with Israel, and sitting atop major oil resources – to be inserted at the very pivot to south-west and central Asia: And at Turkey’s vulnerable underbelly.

The Israeli’s articulated their support for a Kurdish state quite plainly at the time of Barzani’s failed independence initiative in Iraq. But Erdogan simply, unmistakably, has said to this ‘never’ (to Bolton, this week). Nonetheless, Ankara still needs Russian and Iranian collaboration to allow Bolton to ‘climb down his tree’ of a Kurdish mini-state in Syria. He needs Russia to broker a Syrian-led buffer, vice an American-Kurdish tourniquet, strapped around his southern border.

It is unlikely however, that despite the real threat that America’s arming of the Kurds poses to Turkey, that Erdogan really wants to invade Syria – though he threatens it – and though John Bolton’s ‘conditions’ may end by leaving Turkey no option, but to do it. Since, for sure, Erdogan understands that a messy Turkish invasion of Syria would send the delicately balanced Turkish Lire into free-fall.

Still … Turkey, Syria, Iran and Russia now all want America gone from Syria. And for a moment, it seemed it might proceed smoothly after Trump had acquiesced to Erdogan’s arguments, during their celebrated telephone call. But then – Senator Lindsay Graham demurred (against the backdrop of massed howls of anguish issuing from the Beltway foreign policy think-tanks). Bolton did the walk-back, by making US withdrawal from Syria contingent on conditions (ones seemingly designed not to be met) and not tied any specific timeline. President Erdogan was not amused.

It should be obvious now that we are entering a major regional re-set: The US is leaving Syria. Bolton’s attempted withdrawal-reversal has been rebuffed. And the US, in any event, forfeited the confidence of the Kurds in consequence to the original Trump statement. The Kurds now are orientated toward Damascus and Russia is mediating a settlement.

It may take a while, but the US is going. Kurdish forces (other than those linked with the PKK) are likely to be assimilated into the Syrian army, and the ‘buffer’ will not be directed against Turkey, but will be a mix of Syrian army and Kurdish elements – under Syrian command – but whose overall conduct towards Turkey will be invigilated by Russia. And the Syrian army will, in due time, clear Idlib from a resurgent al-Qaida (HTS).

The Arab states are returning to their embassies in Damascus – partly out of fear that the whipsaw of American policy, its radical polarisation, and its proclivity to be wholly or partially ‘walked-back’ by the Deep State – might leave the Gulf unexpectedly ‘orphaned’ at any time. In effect, the GCC states are ‘hedging’ against this risk by trying to reconnect a bifurcated Arab sphere, and to give it a new ‘purpose’ and credibility – as a balance against Turkey, Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood (Syria’s old nemesis).

And yet – there remains still another layer to this calculus, as described by veteran Middle East journalist, Elijah Magnier:

“Indeed the Levant is returning to the centre of Middle East and world attention in a stronger position than in 2011. Syria has advanced precision missiles that can hit any building in Israel. Assad also has an air defence system he would have never dreamed of before 2011 – thanks to Israel’s continuous violation of its airspace, and its defiance of Russian authority. Hezbollah has constructed bases for its long and medium range precision missiles in the mountains and has created a bond with Syria that it could never have established – if not for the war. Iran has established a strategic brotherhood with Syria, thanks to its role in defeating the regime change plan.

NATO’s support for the growth of ISIS has created a bond between Syria and Iraq that no Muslim or Baathist link could ever have created: Iraq has a “carte blanche” to bomb ISIS locations in Syria without the consent of the Syrian leadership, and the Iraqi security forces can walk into Syria anytime they see fit to fight ISIS. The anti-Israel axis has never been stronger than it is today. That is the result of 2011-2018 war imposed on Syria”.

Yes. This is the third of the newly emergent fault-lines: that of Israel on the one hand, and the emerging reality in the Syrian north, on the other – a shadow that has returned to haunt the original instigators of the ‘war’ to undermine Syria. PM Netanyahu since has put all the Israeli eggs into the Trump family ‘basket’. It was Netanyahu’s relationship with Trump which was presented in Israel as being the true ‘Deal of the Century’ (and not the Palestinian one). Yet when Bibi complained forcefully about US withdrawal from Syria (leaving Syria vulnerable, Netanyahu asserts, to an Iranian insertion of smart missiles), Trump nonchalantly replied that the US gives Israel $ 4.5 billion per year – “You’ll be all right”, Trump riposted.

It was seen in Israel as an extraordinary slap to the PM’s face. But Israelis cannot avoid, but to acknowledge, some responsibility for creating precisely the circumstances of which they now loudly complain.

Bottom line: Things have not gone according to plan: America is not shaping the new Levantine ‘order’ – Moscow is. And Israel’s continual, blatant disregard of Russia’s own interests in the Levant, firstly infuriated, and finally has provoked the Russian high command into declaring the northern Middle East a putative no-fly zone for Israel. This represents a major strategic reversal for Netanyahu (and the US).

And finally, it is this repeating pattern of statements being made by the US President on foreign policy that are then almost casually contradicted, or ‘conditioned’, by some or other part of the US bureaucracy, that poses to the region (and beyond) the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question. The pattern clearly is one of an isolated President, with officials emptying his statements of executive authority (until subsequently endorsed, or denied, by the US bureaucracy). It is making Trump almost irrelevant (in terms of the setting of foreign policy).

Is this then a stealth process – knowingly contrived – incrementally to remove Trump from power? A hollowing out of his Presidential prerogatives (leaving him only as a disruptive Twitterer) – achieved, without all the disruption and mess, of formally removing him from office? We shall see.

And what next? Well, as Simon Henderson observes, no one is sure – everyone is left wondering:

“What’s up with Secretary Pompeo’s extended tour of the Middle East? The short answer is that he is trying to sell/explain President Trump’s “we are leaving Syria” policy to America’s friends … Amman, Jordan; Cairo, Egypt; Manama, Bahrain; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE); Doha, Qatar; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Muscat, Oman; Kuwait City, Kuwait. Wow, even with his own jet and no immigration hassles, that’s an exhausting itinerary … The fact that there now are eight stops in eight days, probably reflects the amount of explaining that needs to be done.”

Posted in SyriaComments Off on Entering a Major Regional Re-set – The Syria Outcome Will Haunt Those Who Started this War

A New Narrative Control Firm Works to Destroy Alternative Media

NOVANEWS

The frenzied, hysterical Russia narrative being promoted day in and day out by western mass media has had two of its major stories ripped to shreds in the last three days.

report seeded throughout the mainstream media by anonymous intelligence officials back in September claimed that US government workers in Cuba had suffered concussion-like brain damage after hearing strange noises in homes and hotels with the most likely culprit being “sophisticated microwaves or another type of electromagnetic weapon” from Russia.

A recording of one such highly sophisticated attack was analyzed by scientists and turned out to be the mating call of the male indies short-tailed cricket. Neurologists and other brain specialists have challenged the claim that any US government workers suffered any neurological damage of any kind, saying test results on the alleged victims were misinterpreted. The actual story, when stripped of hyperventilating Russia panic, is that some government workers heard some crickets in Cuba.

Another report which dominated news headlines all of yesterday claimed that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort (the same Paul Manafort who the Guardian falsely claimed met with Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy) had shared polling data with a Russian associate and asked him to pass it along to Oleg Deripaska, who is often labeled a “Russian oligarch” by western media.

The polling data was mostly public already, and the rest was just more polling information shared in the spring of 2016, but Deripaska’s involvement had Russiagaters burning the midnight oil with breathless excitement. Talking Points Memo‘s Josh Marshall went so far as to publish an article titled “The ‘Collusion’ Debate Ended Last Night”, substantiating his click-generating headline with the claim that “What’s crystal clear is that the transfer to Kilimnik came with explicit instructions to give the information to Deripaska. And that’s enough.”

Except Manafort didn’t give any explicit instructions to share the polling data with Deripaska, but with two Ukrainian oligarchs (who are denying it). The New York Times was forced to print this embarrassing correction to the story it broke, adding in the process that Manafort’s motivation was likely not collusion, but money.

View image on Twitter

Michael Tracey

@mtracey

Aw, shucks. Well at least the new names are also complicated and Slavic, so readers can still draw their preferred sinister inferences https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/08/us/politics/manafort-trump-campaign-data-kilimnik.html 

These are just the latest in a long, ongoing pattern of terrible mass media debacles as reporters eager to demonstrate their unquestioning fealty to the US-centralized empire fall all over themselves to report any story that makes Russia look bad without practicing due diligence. The only voices who have been questioning the establishment Russia narrative that is being fed to mass media outlets by secretive government agencies have been those which the mass media refuses to platform. Alternative media outlets are the only major platforms for dissent from the authorized narratives of the plutocrat-owned political/media class.

Imagine, then, how disastrous it would be if these last strongholds of skepticism and holding power to account were removed from the media landscape. Well, that’s exactly what a shady organization called NewsGuard is trying to do, with some success already.

new report by journalist Whitney Webb for MintPress News details how NewsGuard is working to hide and demonetize alternative media outlets like MintPress, marketing itself directly to tech companies, social media platforms, libraries and schools. NewsGuard is led by some of the most virulently pro-imperialist individuals in America, and its agenda to shore up narrative control for the ruling power establishment is clear.

MintPress News@MintPressNews

EXCLUSIVE: As Newsguard’s project advances, it will soon become almost impossible to avoid this neocon-approved news site’s ranking systems on any technological device sold in the United States. @_whitneywebbhttps://www.mintpressnews.com/newsguardneocon-backed-fact-checker-plans-to-wage-war-on-independent-media/253687/ 

How a NeoCon-Backed “Fact Checker” Plans to Wage War on Independent Media

Newsguard, the internet news “fact checker” has deep connections to the US government and silicon valley, and it’s going after independent media.

mintpressnews.com

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The product which NewsGuard markets to the general public is a browser plugin which advises online media consumers whether a news media outlet is trustworthy or untrustworthy based on a formula with a very pro-establishment bias which sees outlets like Fox News and the US propaganda outlet Voice of America getting trustworthy ratings while outlets like RT get very low ratings for trustworthiness. This plugin dominates the bulk of what comes up when you start researching NewsGuard, but circulating a plugin which individual internet users can voluntarily download to help their rulers control their minds is not one of the more nefarious agendas being pursued by this company. The full MintPress article gives a thorough breakdown of the yucky things NewsGuard has its fingers in, but here’s a summary of five of its more disturbing revelations:

1. The company has created a service called BrandGuard, billed as a “brand safety tool aimed at helping advertisers keep their brands off of unreliable news and information sites while giving them the assurance they need to support thousands of Green-rated [i.e., Newsguard-approved] news and information sites, big and small.” Popularizing the use of this service will attack the advertising revenue of unapproved alternative media outlets which run ads. NewsGuard is aggressively marketing this service to “ad tech firms, leading agencies, and major advertisers”.

2. NewsGuard’s advisory board reads like the fellowships list of a neocon think tank, and indeed one of its CEOs, Louis Gordon Crovitz, is a Council on Foreign Relations member who has worked with the American Enterprise Institute and Heritage Foundation. Members of the advisory board include George W Bush’s Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, deep intelligence community insider Michael Hayden, and the Obama administration’s Richard Stengel, who once publicly supported the need for domestic propaganda in the US. All of these men have appeared in influential think tanks geared toward putting a public smiley face on sociopathic warmongering agendas.

Embedded video

William Craddick@williamcraddick

At a Council on Foreign Relations forum about “fake news,” former Editor at Time Magazine Richard Stengel directly states that he supports the use of propaganda on American citizens – then shuts the session down when challenged about how propaganda is used against the third world

3. Despite one of its criteria for trustworthy sources being whether or not they are transparent about their funding, the specifics of NewsGuard’s financing is kept secret.

4. NewsGuard is also planning to get its news-ranking system integrated into social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter, pursuing a partnership which will make pro-establishment media consumption a part of your experience at those sites regardless of whether or not you download a NewsGuard app or plugin.

5. NewsGuard markets itself to state governments in order to get its plugin installed in all of that state’s public schools and libraries to keep internet users from consuming unauthorized narratives. It has already succeeded in accomplishing this in the state of Hawaii, with all of its library branches now running the NewsGuard plugin.

View image on Twitter

Daniel Rubino

@Daniel_Rubino

Really excited to see NewsGuard now built into the latest beta of Edge on iOS 👍👍. Smart service. There’s also an extension for Edge on Windows 10.

We may be absolutely certain that NewsGuard will continue giving a positive, trustworthy ranking to the New York Times no matter how many spectacular flubs it makes in its coverage of the establishment Russia narrative, because the agenda to popularize anti-Russia narratives lines up perfectly with the neoconservative, government agency-serving agendas of the powers behind NewsGuard. Any attempt to advance the hegemony of the US-centralized power establishment will be rewarded by its lackeys, and any skepticism of it will be punished.

Whoever controls the narrative controls the world. Ruling power’s desire to regulate people’s access to information is so desperate that it has become as clumsy and ham-fisted as a teenager pawing at his date in the back seat of a car, and it feels about as enjoyable. They’re barely even concealing their desire to control our minds anymore, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to wake everyone up to their manipulations. We need to use every inch of our ability to communicate with each other before it gets shut down for good.

Posted in MediaComments Off on A New Narrative Control Firm Works to Destroy Alternative Media

Two-step Solution for the American Government Shutdown

NOVANEWS

Two-step solution:

1) End the Government Shutdown;
2) A (YES or NO) National Referendum on allocating a budget for a border Wall

Everyone agrees that if a contractor is hired for a certain job, they have to do that job according to the agreed contract. The U.S. President and Congress have been elected as government servants to work for the American people. This is a very simple contract. However, our elected servants are not getting along with each other these days and have decided to shutdown the government.

A government shutdown was never mentioned as an option when these ladies and gentlemen were making all of their grand promises during their election campaign. The American people are now facing the dilemma whereby their elected servants are asking them to work without pay for an unforeseen amount of time!

These government servants are representing two major factions – Democrats and Republicans. These two wealthy factions (which represent the interest of the 1%) have no solution and only are able to complain against their opponents. This means both factions are too incompetent to run a smooth government.

The American people’s tax money funds all budgets for the government. Now that the two complaining factions (Democrats and Republicans) don’t talk to each other, the American people have the responsibility to intervene and bring an end to this destructive and hurtful behavior by the so-called “leaders”. For a family who survives “pay check to pay check”, this situation is TERRORIZING. Therefore without any delay, we need to end the government shutdown and prepare a referendum.

Let’s solve this problem democratically. If the majority of American people want to allocate some of their tax money to build a wall, then let’s do it and if they don’t, then the priority of the government should be on creating a healthcare, education and jobs for all. The referendum on the question of the wall would be a YES or NO referendum. However, there should not be any delay in ending the government shutdown. Everybody should be back at work with full pay before the referendum takesplace.

There have been many articles and corporate media talk shows regarding the question of a border wall and government shutdown from all sides. All cards are already on the table “face up”! President Trump is first and foremost leading his Fascistic minded Republicans to build a wall around democratic rights. He is threatening the American Democracy and is signaling a totalitarian style of governing by fabricating a “National Emergency”. He wants to be the sole decision maker that dictates the will of the nation! His opposition is not able to offer a better perspective. Actually Democrats fundamentally share the same views but without Trump himself!

It is time to look at all problems on a global scale. Today the American working people share the same pain and anxiety about the future of their families as do French or Indian workers or any other toilers around the world.

However, the American working people are the main force that is able to end all disastrous and unnecessary wars and prevent new wars that the Trump Administration (through Mr. Pompeo and Bolton) are stirring up these days. The American working people are a powerful force that can bring a meaningful change and peace around the world.

The 2019 government shutdown is a test for the American people to save this country from tyranny and dictatorship or endure the consequences.

Posted in USAComments Off on Two-step Solution for the American Government Shutdown

White House Asked for Options to Strike Iran After Baghdad Attack

NOVANEWS

National Security Council request came after mortars fired in September into area that houses US embassy in Baghdad, says Wall Street Journal

The White House’s national security team asked the Pentagon to provide it with options for striking Iran, after a group aligned with Tehran fired mortars in September into an area in Baghdad that is home to the US embassy, a US newspaper reported.

The request by the National Security Council (NSC), which is led by John Bolton, sparked deep concern among Pentagon and State Department officials, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on Sunday, citing current and former US officials.

“It definitely rattled people,” one former senior US administration official told the WSJ.

“People were shocked. It was mind-boggling how cavalier they were about hitting Iran.”

The Pentagon complied with the request, but it is not known whether the options for an Iran strike were also provided to the White House or if President Donald Trump knew about it.

The decision to consider striking Iran was prompted by an incident in early September, in which three mortars were fired into a diplomatic quarter in Baghdad.

The shells landed in an open lot and no one was hurt.

Two days later, unidentified fighters fired three rockets that hit close to the US consulate in the southern city of Basra but caused no serious damage.

NSC spokesman Garrett Marquis said in a statement on Sunday that “the NSC coordinates policy and provides the president with options to anticipate and respond to a variety of threats” and it will continue to consider “the full range of options” after the attacks in Basra and Baghdad.

Former US officials said it was unnerving that the NSC asked for such far-reaching military options in response to attacks that caused little damage and no injuries.

‘Act of war’

As a think tank scholar and Fox News commentator, Bolton often urged Washington to attack Iran, including in a 2015 New York Times op-ed titled: “To stop Iran’s bomb, bomb Iran.”

Relations between Tehran and Washington are highly fraught following Trump’s decision in May to withdraw from a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers and to reimpose sanctions, including on Iran’s vital oil sector.

In September, Bolton, who worked hard on the withdrawal from the treaty, warned Tehran that there would be “hell to pay” if Iran threatened the US or its allies.

In the same month, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also stated the US was willing to target Iran for the actions of its allies in Iraq.

“Iran will be held accountable for those incidents,” he said in a 21 September interview with CNN.

“Even militarily?” asked CNN’s Elise Labott.

“They’re going to be held accountable,” Pompeo replied. “If they’re responsible for the arming and training of these militias, we’re going to go to the source.”

Alongside the requests in regards to Iran, the NSC asked the Pentagon to provide the White House with options to respond with strikes in Iraq and Syria as well, according to people familiar with the talks, the WSJ said.

In one meeting, Bolton’s then deputy Mira Ricardel, who was forced out of her job in November after a feud with First Lady Melania Trump, described the attacks in Iraq as “an act of war” and said the US had to respond decisively, according to one person familiar with the meeting.

‘Anti-Iran circus’

On Sunday, Iran’s foreign ministry summoned a senior Polish diplomat in protest at Poland jointly hosting a global summit with the US focused on the Middle East, particularly Iran, state news agency IRNA reported.

Pompeo said on Friday that the summit, to be held in Warsaw on 13-14 February, would focus on stability and security in the Middle East, including on the “important element of making sure that Iran is not a destabilising influence”.

Pompeo told Fox News that dozens of countries would attend the summit which would aim to “build out the global coalition” opposed to Iranian policies in the region.

Poland’s charge d’affaires was told that Iran saw the decision to host the meeting as a “hostile act against Iran” and was warned that Tehran could reciprocate, IRNA added.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif described the summit as a “desperate anti-Iran circus”.

Posted in USA, IranComments Off on White House Asked for Options to Strike Iran After Baghdad Attack

Anger Among Iraqi Kurds as Syria Adds Masrour Barzani to Terror List

NOVANEWS
 

Syria’s Combat Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing Commission released Dec. 29 a list containing the names of 615 individuals and 105 entities. Notably, the list included the name of Masrour Barzani, the eldest son of former Kurdistan Region President and head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) Massoud Barzani. Masrour Barzani heads the Kurdistan Region Security Council and has been nominated to be premier of the new government.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) was quick to respond, releasing a statement Dec. 31 saying authorities were dismissing the matter as “ludicrous” because “[the list] is issued by a chauvinistic, oppressive regime that has been an adversary to the Kurdish people and has supported the terrorists in order to remain in power.” The statement accused the Syrian regime of “using internationally prohibited weapons against its own civilian people” as well.

Meanwhile, KDP Vice President Bashar al-Kiki released a statement the same day demanding the “removal of Masrour Barzani’s name from the Syrian terror list.” He told Al-Monitor in a phone call,

“Our [demand] has been relayed to the Syrian authorities,” adding, “They should rectify this mistake and lift [Masrour Barzani’s] name from the list.”

Regarding any future actions to be taken against Syria’s decision, Kiki said,

“The [KRG] demands a formal apology by the Syrian government to the Iraqi state and the region.”

Kiki said the KRG sees Syria’s actions as damaging relations between Iraq and Syria.

Kiki cited “political goals related to the Kurds’ situation in Syria” as the motive behind Syria’s decision, and he expressed his support for the legitimate rights and demands of the Iraqi Kurdistan region.

“The Syrian decision is incompatible with the war waged by the region and regional forces on terror since Masrour Barzani was one of the most prominent names to fight the Islamic State [IS],” Kiki stressed.

Syria’s and Iraq’s Kurds are standing in solidarity with Masrour Barzani against Syria’s decision. Writer Farouq Haji Mustafa said in his Jan. 10 opinion article in Middle East Online,

“Syria’s decision comes at a time when Masrour Barzani is getting ready to chair Kurdistan’s government, a step that [received] a warm welcome from global, regional and Iraqi parties.”

Mustafa asked in his op-ed:

“What Kurdish entities have been categorized as a terror group that received support and finance from Masrour?”

However, Syrian parliament member Mahmoud Joukhdar reportedly claims to have evidence against Masrour Barzani. In statements to the media Jan. 4, Joukhdar accused both Massoud and Masrour Barzani of “committing crimes in northeast Syria by supporting armed Kurds with finance and weaponry.” Joukhdar said his country reserves the right to prosecute Masrour Barzani on the domestic and international stage.

However, legal expert and former Judge Tareq Harb told Al-Monitor,

“It’s not possible to label Masrour Barzani as a terrorist in the sense established in the terminologies of Security Council resolutions or the 2005 Iraqi Anti-Terrorism Law, which defines terrorism as ‘every criminal act committed by an individual or an organized group that targeted an individual or a group of individuals or groups or official or unofficial institutions and caused damage to public or private properties, with the aim to disturb the peace, stability, and national unity …’ — which doesn’t apply to the case of [Masrour Barzani].”

According to Article 1, Paragraph 2 of the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of Terrorism of 1937, which was established in Geneva under the now-dissolved League of Nations, the term “acts of terrorism” was defined as “criminal acts directed against a State and intended or calculated to create a state of terror in the minds of particular persons, or a group of persons or the general public.”

It is worth noting that at the time of this writing there are no Iraqi Kurdish parties or entities on terrorist lists.

But what if Syria’s list is taken seriously? Ali al-Tamimi, also a former judge, said it is not that simple.

“Even in cases where the name of an individual is added to the UN’s lists of designated terrorist groups or those of other states, it doesn’t hold any legal weight,” Tamimi told Al-Monitor. “[That is,] unless a law or resolution was passed by the Iraqi judiciary or Kurdistan’s judiciary validating that list,” he added.

“The Iraqi government should address the Syrian government formally,” Tamimi said. “In any case, Iraq is not bound to extradite Masrour or anyone else for the matter based on those lists, unless he was wanted by another state through Interpol. Even in this case, Iraq can refuse to surrender him should the state wish to do so.”

Political analyst and writer Kathem al-Haj of Al-Hadaf Network for Political and Media Analysis spoke to Al-Monitor and stressed “the existence of political implications to the Syrian list rooted in [Masrour Barzani’s] involvement in the Syrian situation.” Haj cited Article 7 of the 2005 Iraqi Constitution:

“The state shall undertake to combat terrorism in all its forms, and shall work to protect its territories from being a base, pathway or field for terrorist activities.”

He also cited Article 8, which says,

“Iraq shall observe the principles of good neighborliness, adhere to the principle of noninterference in the internal affairs of other states.”

“Masrour Barzani should adhere to Iraq’s Constitution and laws,” Haj said, adding, “[He should also] not take any position in support of any religious or ethnic group in another state, because this is prohibited according to the law.

Haj said,

“Iraqi Kurdistan should inquire as to the reason why [Masrour Barzani’s] name was put on Syria’s list for terrorist entities through the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs and move forward by sticking to legal measure mechanisms through formal channels.”

But it seems that the central government, judging from the response by Baghdad and Iraq’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, remains unconcerned by the Syrian list. Meanwhile, the Iraqi Kurdistan government has limited its response to the one statement made to the media and merely a handful of condemnations.

Posted in Iraq, SyriaComments Off on Anger Among Iraqi Kurds as Syria Adds Masrour Barzani to Terror List

3 Ways Christianity Was Largely Responsible For The Holocaust

NOVANEWS  

This post by Travis Haan originally appeared at The Wise Sloth.

While Christianity wasn’t the sole catalyst for the Holocaust, there is no doubt in my mind that Christianity set the stage for the Holocaust to happen to the extent that the Holocaust couldn’t have happened without Christianity.

1: Christianity financially and emotionally oppressed Germans leading up to WWII.

Churches exploited German Christians financially by requiring tithes, encouraging donations, selling indulgences and charging fees for breaking moral laws. This siphoned off much-needed income from the poor and gave it to the aristocracy of the Christian theocracy. Not only did this hurt the poor’s chances of living well in the present, but that lost income couldn’t be saved, invested or passed on to future generations. So over the course of several generations, the consequences of lost income compounded.

The church mentally abused the German populace by forbidding behavior that deviated from Church doctrine. People were put in the stocks for gossiping, ostracized for adultery and killed for witchcraft. If you go to any medieval torture museum in Germany today, most of the instruments of misery were used by the state to enforce Biblical morality. Medieval Germany under Christian rule was like Saudi Arabia is today under Islam. Everyone was forced to walk the line, and punishment for deviation was harsh.

2: Christianity was culturally oppressive to the Jews but economically favorable to them.

In the eyes of the Christian church, Jews were heretics and Jesus-killers. Since they rejected the teachings of salvation, they deserved to go to Hell. As a result, the good Christians ostracized them and forced them to form tight-knit, insular communities with other Jews.

Ostracizing the Jews taught them to be frugal and save their money for hard times to come. It also meant Jews had close business relationships with each other and could count on one another for financial support.

At the same time, Christianity practically handed the banking industry to the Jewish community. The New Testament forbid charging interest on loans. Since Christians couldn’t charge interest, they had no incentive to open banks. People still needed loans though. So the Jews stepped in and filled the need. Once the Jews had their hand in the financial sector, then money beget money, and the income gap between Jews and Christians grew.

3: Hitler hijacked German Christians’ existing prejudice towards Jews.

Your average Christians living in Germany saw they were the “have-nots” and the Jews were the “haves,” but they didn’t understand why. They just thought Jews were Jesus-killing, heretic, big-nose, stingy thieves… because that’s how the church had always taught Christians to see the Jews. Anti-Jew riots occurred in Germany well before World War II because Christianity had already established a well-defined environment for distrust, resentment, and hate.

After World War I, life in Germany was even more destitute for poor Christians than ever. Of course, the church didn’t open its coffers and give back all the money it had been taking from the poor for generations. So the masses stayed poor and disgruntled while the Jews kept getting richer.

That’s when Hitler stepped in and said, “I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator by defending myself against the Jew. I am fighting for the work of the Lord.”

Hitler merely played on the prejudices created by Christianity to blame the problems that were largely created by Christianity, on the Jews. Thus, Christianity played a central role in setting the stage for the Holocaust.

Reprinted with permission from the author.

Travis Haan is the editor of The Wise Sloth blog. The Wise Sloth contains editorial, philosophical, instructional, inspirational and satirical posts in the form of essays, lists, comics, and fiction, which tend to be irreverent, humorous and controversial.

Six Million Crucifixions: How Christian Teachings About Jews Paved the Road to the Holocaust

Christopher Hitchens – Hitler, Fascism and the Catholic Church

Power of the Church in the Middle Ages

 

 

 

 

Posted in GermanyComments Off on 3 Ways Christianity Was Largely Responsible For The Holocaust

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