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The Looting Machine Called Capitalism

NOVANEWS
 

I have come to the conclusion that capitalism is successful primarily because it can impose the majority of the costs associated with its economic activities on outside parties and on the environment. In other words, capitalists make profits because their costs are externalized and born by others. In the US, society and the environment have to pick up the tab produced by capitalist activity.

In the past when critics raised the question about external costs, that is, costs that are external to the company although produced by the company’s activities, economists answered that it was not really a problem, because those harmed by the activity could be compensated for the damages that they suffered. This statement was intended to reinforce the claim that capitalism served the general welfare. However, the extremely primitive nature of American property rights meant that rarely would those suffering harm be compensated. The apologists for capitalism saved the system in the abstract, but not in reality.

My recent article, “The Destruction of Inlet Beach,” made it clear to me that very little, if any, of the real estate development underway would be profitable if the external costs imposed on existing property holders had to be compensated.

http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2017/04/17/destruction-inlet-beach/

Consider just a few examples. When a taller house is constructed in front of one of less height, the Gulf view of the latter is preempted. The damage to the property value of the house whose view has been blocked is immense. Would the developer build such a tall structure if the disadvantaged existing property had to be compensated for the decline in its value?

When a house is built that can sleep 20 or 30 people next to a family’s vacation home or residence, the noise and congestion destroys the family’s ability to enjoy their own property. If they had to be compensated for their loss, would the hotel, disquised as a “single family dwelling” have been built?

Image result for walton county florida

Walton County, Florida, is so unconcerned about these vital issues that it has permitted construction of structures that can accommodate 30 people, but provide only three parking spaces. Where do the rental guests park? How many residents will find themselves blocked in their own driveways or with cars parked on their lawns?

As real estate developers build up congestion, travel times are extended. What formerly was a 5 minute drive from Inlet Beach to Seaside along 30-A can now take 45 minutes during summer and holidays, possibly longer. Residents and visitors pay the price of the developers’ profits in lost time. The road is a two-lane road that cannot be widened. Yet Walton County’s planning department took no account of the gridlock that would emerge.

As the state and federal highways serving the area were two lanes, over-development made hurricane evacuation impossible. Florida and US taxpayers had to pay for turning two lane highways into four lane highways in order to provide some semblance of hurricane evacuation. After a decade, the widening of highway 79, which runs North-South is still not completed to its connection to Interstate 10. Luckily, there have been no hurricanes.

If developers had to pay these costs instead of passing them on to taxpayers, would their projects still be profitable?

Now consider the external costs of offshoring the production of goods and services that US corporations, such as Apple and Nike, market to Americans. When production facilities in the US are closed and the jobs are moved to China, for example, the American workers lose their jobs, medical coverage, careers, pension provision, and often their self-respect when they are unable to find comparable employment or any employment. Some fall behind in their mortgage and car payments and lose their homes and cars. The cities, states, and federal governments lose the tax base as personal income and sales taxes decline and as depressed housing and commercial real estate prices in the abandoned communities depress property taxes. Social security and Medicare funding is harmed as payroll tax deposits fall. State and local infrastructure declines. Possibly crime rises. Safety net needs rise, but expenditures are cut as tax revenues decline. Municipal and state workers find their pensions at risk. Education suffers. All of these costs greatly exceed Apple’s and Nike’s profits from substituting cheaper foreign labor for American labor. Contradicting the neoliberal claims, Apple’s and Nike’s prices do not drop despite the collapse in labor costs that the corporations experience.

A country that was intelligently governed would not permit this. As the US is so poorly governed, the executives and shareholders of global corporations are greatly enriched because they can impose the costs associated with their profits on external third parties.

The unambigious fact is that US capitalism is a mechanism for looting the many for the benefit of the few. Neoliberal economics was constructed in order to support this looting. In other words, neoliberal economists are whores just like the Western print and TV media.

Yet, Americans are so insouciant that you will hear those who are being looted praise the merits of “free market capitalism.”

So far we have barely scratched the surface of the external costs that capitalism imposes. Now consider the pollution of the air, soil, waterways, and oceans that result from profit-making activities. Consider the radioactive wastes pouring out of Fukushima since March 2011 into the Pacific Ocean. Consider the dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico from agricultural chemical fertilizer run-off. Consider the destruction of the Apalachicola, Florida, oyster beds from the restricted river water that feeds the bay due to overdevelopment upstream. Examples such as these are endless. The corporations responsible for this destruction bear none of the costs.

Image result for pollutionIf it turns out that global warming and ocean acidification are consequences of capitalism’s carbon-based energy system, the entire world could end up dead from the external costs of capitalism.

Free market advocates love to ridicule economic planning, and Alan Greenspan and Larry Summers actually said that “markets are self-regulating.” There is no sign anywhere of this self-regulation. Instead, there are external costs piled upon external costs. The absence of planning is why over-development has made 30-A dysfunctional, and it is why over-development has made metropolitan areas, such as Atlanta, Georgia, dysfunctional. Planning does not mean the replacement of markets. It means the provision of rules that produce rational results instead of shifting costs of development onto third parties.

If capitalism had to cover the cost of its activities, how many of the activities would pay?

As capitalists do not have to cover their external costs, what limits the costs?

Once the external costs exceed the biosphere’s ability to process the waste products associated with external costs, life ends.

We cannot survive an unregulated capitalism with a system of primitive property rights. Ecological economists such as Herman Daly understand this, but neoliberal economists are apologists for capitalist looting. In days gone by when mankind’s footprint on the planet was light, what Daly calls an “empty world,” productive activities did not produce more wastes than the planet could cleanse. But the heavy foot of our time, what Daly calls a “full world,” requires extensive regulation. The Trump administration’s program of rolling back environmental protection, for example, will multiply external costs. To claim that this will increase economic growth is idiotic. As Daly (and Michael Hudson) emphasize, the measure known as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is so flawed that we do not know whether the increased output costs more to produce than it is worth. GDP is really a measure of what has been looted without reference to the cost of the looting. Environmental deregulation means that capitalists can treat the environment as a garbage dump. The planet can become so toxic that it cannot recover.

In the United States and generally across the Western world, property rights exist only in a narrow, truncated form. A developer can steal your view forever and your solitude for the period his construction requires. If the Japanese can have property rights in views, in quiet which requires noise abatement, and in sun fall on their property, why can’t Americans? After all, we are alleged to be the “exceptional people.”

But in actual fact, Americans are the least exceptional people in human history. Americans have no rights at all. We hapless insignificant beings have to accept whatever capitalists and their puppet government impose on us. And we are so stupid we call it “Freedom and Democracy America.”

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IMF Meeting Signals Descent into Global Trade War

In another step toward world-wide trade war, the International Monetary Fund over the weekend became the second major global economic organisation to back away from a commitment to “resist all forms of protectionism.”

In the wake of the decision at last month’s meeting of the G20 finance ministers to drop the phrase from its communiqué, the IMF adopted the same course at its spring meeting in Washington. In both cases, the “free trade” commitment was removed as a result of pressure from the Trump administration, in line with the White House’s “America First” agenda.

The statement issued by the IMF’s International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC) said it sought to “promote a level playing field in international trade,” dropping the previous wording.

The current chair of the committee, Agustin Carstens, the governor of the Bank of Mexico, sought to cover over the significance of the decision by suggesting that the previous wording had been removed because “the use of the word protectionism is very ambiguous.”

In reality, the omission of any disavowal of protectionism is an unmistakable expression of mounting trade tensions, fueled above all by the Trump administration.

These conflicts could not be completely suppressed at the meeting. In his statement to the IMFC, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said

Germany “commits to keep the global economy open, resist protectionism and keep global economic and financial cooperation on track.”

This statement stood in stark contrast to the remarks of US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. He said the US would

“promote an expansion of trade with those partners committed to market-based competition, while more rigorously defending ourselves against unfair trade practices.”

He directed his comment in particular against the two major countries, China and Germany, that have the largest trade surpluses with the US. Washington insists that the Chinese economy is not market-based, while members of the Trump administration have asserted that Germany enjoys unfair advantages because the value of the euro is lower than where its former currency, the deutschmark, would have been.

While not directly naming Germany, which recorded a record trade surplus last year, Mnuchin said that

“countries with large external surpluses and sound public finances have a particular responsibility for contributing to a more robust global economy.”

The decision of the IMF to bow to US pressure came just days after the Trump administration announced a major initiative aimed at imposing sweeping restrictions on steel imports, which, if carried through, will have far-reaching implications for the global market in this basic commodity.

Under a little-used law dating from 1962, Trump signed an executive order to launch an investigation into the impact of steel imports on US national security. Describing the decision as a “historic day for America,” he declared that steel was “critical to both our economy and military,” and that this was not “an area where we can afford to become dependent on foreign countries.”

The invocation of “national security” has clear connections to the militarist drive of the administration. But the use of this legislation is also part of a broader strategy on protectionism laid out by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Peter Navarro, the head of Trump’s National Trade Council, in a submission to Congress earlier this year.

It is based on using previous US legislation to circumvent international trade laws enforced by the World Trade Organization, enabling the United States to impose protectionist measures with impunity. Significantly, in their paper, Ross and Navarro invoked the infamous Smoot-Hawley Act of 1930, widely credited with being responsible for the trade conflicts of the 1930s that contributed to the outbreak of World War II.

Commenting on the latest Trump move to the Financial Times, Chad Brown, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute and a former economic adviser to President Obama, said that citing “national security” to justify restrictions on steel imports amounted to carrying out the “nuclear option” on trade.

“This is one more piece of evidence in the worrisome trend that Trump seems to be turning over every rock and investigating each tool available under US law to stop trade,” he said.

In recent years, the US has launched 152 anti-steel dumping cases and has another 25 in the pipeline. But the latest move represents a major escalation. According to Commerce Secretary Ross, the present system is too “porous” and allows only for narrow complaints against particular countries, which can be easily skirted.

The new measures are intended to bring about a “more comprehensive solution with a very wide range of steel products and a very wide range of countries,” which could “conceivably result in a recommendation to take action on all steel imports.”

This would cause chaos in international markets, as steel exporters sought to shift their output to other markets, leading to accusations of dumping, the imposition of tariffs and other restrictions—in short, a full-scale trade war.

There are two essential driving forces behind the actions of the American government:

First, the ongoing economic decline of the US, which it now seeks to overcome by political and military means—a process that has accelerated in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008 and the subsequent decline in world economic growth and contraction of world markets.

Second, the striving by the Trump administration to deflect rising social tensions caused by low wages and growing economic hardship, and channel them along reactionary economic nationalist lines. In this, Trump has the full support of the trade union bureaucracy, with key union leaders standing beside him as he signed his executive order on steel. It is also backed by the economic nationalists of the Democratic Party, whose most prominent representative is the self-styled “socialist” Bernie Sanders.

Image result for imf descent global trade warThe inherent, objective logic of these processes is economic and military war, to which the capitalist politicians can offer no progressive alternative, as the impotence displayed by the IMF in the face of what it recognises as a great danger once again underscored. This is because the growth of economic nationalism and protectionism is rooted in the very foundations of the socio-economic system based on private profit and the division of the world into rival nation-states.

One hundred years ago, the world was embroiled in the carnage of World War I. It was not the “war to end all wars,” but only the start of a more than three-decade-long struggle to decide which of the imperialist powers would achieve global dominance. Eventually, after tens of millions of deaths and untold horrors, including the Holocaust and the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan, the US emerged as the preeminent global power.

Now the world is being brought face to face with the even more explosive consequences of America’s economic decline.

But this year also marks the centenary of the greatest event of the 20th century, the Russian Revolution, and the successful conquest of political power by the working class, led by the Lenin, Trotsky and the Bolshevik Party on the basis of the program of world socialist revolution. That must be the perspective that animates the international working class in the struggles it now directly confronts.

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Neoliberal Globalization: In the Shadow of Social Democracy, Right-Wing Challenges and Left Alternatives

We live in a paradoxical world. Much debate on the radical left revolves around multitudes of discontented groups – sometimes lumped together as the 99%, sometimes rebranded as precariat – struggling against an abstract empire and its 1% rulers. Capitalism and class – once serving as a compass to navigate left politics through the apparently chaotic sees of everyday life – have turned into subjects of theoretical debate with little to no connection to political praxis.

Vacated by the left, a new right adopted the language of class to appeal to those who were steamrolled and marginalized by economic globalization. Many of the policies advanced by the new right could have been taken out of social democratic programs of old but are now loaded with claims to racial and national superiority. Some on the left, and pretty much everybody in the political centre, takes the new right ideology at face value and concludes that working class politics, even if originally meant as harbinger of universal human liberation, invariably lead to nationalism and racism. Such reasoning ignores that much of the discontent on which the new right thrives is produced by neoliberal globalization, the very project that appropriates left aspirations of human liberation in the pursuit of profit.

It also ignores the fact that most of the support for the new right does not come from people with low incomes and little educational attainment but from the middle-brackets of Western societies. People at the low-end rather opt out of casting their votes. The franchise for which socialists fought so hard at various points in history is increasingly abandoned by the have-nots whose ancestors still thought the sheer number of their votes might counterbalance the power of concentrated capital.

Dormant: Class Politics from Below

That class politics is dead, or at least dormant, doesn’t mean there are no political and social conflicts. In fact, there are a lot and most of them are fought out in the shadow of social democracy. The demands put forward by political upstarts like Podemos in Spain and Syriza in Greece, who grew out of the post-class politics of occupied public spaces, would have been considered as social democratic mainstream back in the 1970s. The same is true for Jean-Luc Mélenchon‘s presidential campaign in France or Jeremy Corbyns efforts to put social democratic content back into the British Labour Party. And it is also true for a whole number of left-wing parties all over Western Europe. Some, like the Swedish Left Party, have roots in Soviet Communism, the Dutch Socialist Party comes out of the Maoist movement, and Ireland’s Sinn Fein out of the struggle for national independence. Back in the 1970s, all of these organizations were more or less critical of social democracy but began filling the vacuum left when social democratic parties, spearheaded by New Labour’s Tony Blair, began deserting the political space they had occupied throughout the post-WWII-era. To the Blairites and others in the political centre, a continued commitment to social reforms and the welfare state, not to speak of further reaching goals of socialist transformation, is not only a step toward the convergence with the populism coming from the new right. It is also seen as an expression of nostalgia unable to come to terms with the new realities of global capitalism.

This nostalgia charge contains a kernel of truth but misses the point. Widespread nostalgia has nothing to do with anyone’s inability to understand the harsh realities of global capitalism. It has anything to do with growing numbers of people resenting these realities and looking for alternatives. Ironically enough, social democratic parties abandoned their commitment to social reform and welfare state expansion at some time during the 1990s when the neoliberal promise of a rising tide that would eventually lift all boats began to ring hollow. With more and more people finding out that they were at the losing end of neoliberal globalization the welfare state regained popularity, which – under conditions of near full employment up until the 1970s – had been challenged by women, ethnic minorities and youth who resented their exclusion from welfare state provisions as much as the bureaucratic ways such provisions were delivered.

Yet, with the collective bargaining power of unions receding in the face of automation, relocations and the reorganization of firms and labour processes, inequality and insecurity began to rise. Under these conditions welfare states, despite cuts and even stricter bureaucratic control, became more important to increasing numbers of people who could have done without many of the welfare state’s provisions in the good old days of high employment and rising real wages. Memories of those days, even if they appear rosier in hindsight than they were experienced at the time, seem to be an inspiration for current struggles against further welfare state retrenchment. They can also contribute to the imagination of a better future.

Forward and Backward Looking Memories

Three Worlds of Social Democracy by Ingo Schmidt

In fact, ‘forward-looking memories’ did play key roles in the making of socialist movements in the past. The moral economy shaped by pre-capitalist agriculture and artisan production turned into a guide to struggle against the factory regime under which the first generations of wageworkers had to toil. Later, the traditions of craftsmanship inspired workers fighting against the degradation of work under the guise of scientific management and developed visions of workers’ councils and self-management out of these traditions. There is no reason that memories of more generous welfare states couldn’t inspire visions of a future beyond ever tighter budget constraints and bureaucratic control under which welfare states suffer at the present time. Unlike the memories of pre-capitalist times and craftsmanship, which motivated workers to build movements focused very much on the point of production, memories of the heyday of welfare state expansion open the focus to the much wider world of social reproduction. This could be a starting point of amalgamating movements organizing around specific issues – such as minimum wages, public healthcare, housing or education – into a more unified movement, which, in Marx’s and Engels’ words in the German Ideology, “abolishes the present state of things.”

Such a vision for the future doesn’t automatically develop out of memories of a better past. It needs to be actively created. This requires political interventions that allow people to see their past in a way that opens prospects for a better future. Without such prospects, ‘backward-looking memories’ can lead to a demoralizing and demobilizing yearning to restore an irredeemable past. The frustrated recognition of the impossibility to restore the past may then open the door to right-wing praise of the glorious past of the chosen people. Falling for such praise inevitably leads to frustration as this ideological cover stands in stark contrast to the politics that new right formations pursue. Rather than offering alternatives to an unloved present, these formations aim at the further radicalization of neoliberalism. Avoiding a vicious cycle of right wing policies thriving on backward-looking memories, further radicalization of neoliberalism and frustration fueled by the outcomes of such radicalization requires not only the opening of future prospects for a better world. It also requires an understanding why better conditions that existed in the past ceased to exist. In this particular case, this means an understanding of social democracy and the welfare state project it pursued, whether in office or in opposition, in the post-WWII-era.

Limits to Social Democracy

Blueprints for an organized capitalism in which the spoils of rising productivity would be shared between labour and capital were floating around socialist circles for quite some time. They only came to fruition during the Cold War. The overarching goal of containing Soviet Communism prompted capitalists’ willingness to strike a deal with social democracy. On the basis of unprecedented and, after the experiences of the Great Depression, unexpected prosperity such a deal could be reached without cutting into company profits. Social democratic theoreticians attributed the prosperity to the virtues of Keynesian demand management that stabilized the accumulation process and therefore reduced the risk of large-scale investments. This Keynesian story is true but incomplete. It misses the role played by the unequal exchange between cheap resource imports from and relatively more expensive industrial exports to the South. And it misses the role played by unpaid household labour and the super-exploitation of groups of workers, often immigrants, who were excluded from the deal between capital and organized labour. The convergence of struggles of these excluded groups, militancy of unionized workers and anti-imperialist movements in the South represented a formidable threat to profit rates from the late-1960s onwards. In the mid-1970s this threat coincided with a crisis of overproduction, on its part induced by a long boom of investment in production capacity and the rise of new industrial economies in Asia.

At that point, capitalists decided to turn from welfare state compromise to neoliberal class struggle from above. This included a global restructuring of production and distribution processes that ultimately destroyed the social basis for the various but largely unconnected movements that had challenged capitalist rule in previous years. During the Keynesian era, capitalists had more or less grudgingly accepted social reform as a means to contain the real or just assumed threat of communism. When that acceptance turned into a threat to profits and capitalist rule in its own right, they built a global economy in which the quest for social reform pushes capitalism to the verge of revolution. At this time, social movements – remnants of old workers’ movements and the new social movements of the 1970s but also movements dating back to the alter-globalization movement of the 1990s and more recent anti-austerity movements – are far from posing a revolutionary threat. At best, they slow the continuation of neoliberal restructuring down and articulate alternatives to the new right. Experiences made in these struggles might contribute to the remaking of working class politics that could effectively challenge capitalist power in the future.

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World Bank declares itself above the law

World Bank

The World Bank has for decades left a trail of human misery. Destruction of the environment, massive human rights abuses and mass displacement have been ignored in the name of “development” that works to intensify neo-liberal inequality. In response to legal attempts to hold it to account, the World Bank has declared itself above the law.

At least one U.S. trial court has already agreed that the bank can’t be touched, and thus the latest lawsuit filed against it, attempting to obtain some measure of justice for displaced Honduran farmers, faces a steep challenge. Regardless of the ultimate outcome of legal proceedings, however, millions of people around the world have paid horrific prices for the relentless pursuit of profit.

A trail of evictions, displacements, gross human rights violations (including rape, murder and torture), widespread destruction of forests, financing of greenhouse-gas-belching fossil-fuel projects, and destruction of water and food sources has followed the World Bank.

The latest attempt at accountability is a lawsuit filed in the U.S. federal court in Washington by EarthRights International, a human rights and environmental non-governmental organization, charging that the World Bank has turned a blind eye to systematic abuses associated with palm-oil plantations in Honduras that it has financed. The lawsuit, Juana Doe v. International Finance Corporation, alleges that,

“Since the mid-1990s, the International Finance Corporation [a division of the World Bank] has invested millions of dollars in Honduran palm-oil companies owned by the late Miguel Facussé. Those companies — which exist today as Dinant — have been at the center of a decades-long and bloody land-grabbing campaign in the Bajo Aguán region of Honduras.

For nearly two decades, farmer cooperatives have challenged Dinant’s claims to sixteen palm-oil plantations … that it has held in the Bajo Aguán region. On information and belief, Dinant’s former owner, Miguel Facussé, took that land from the farmer cooperatives through fraud, coercion, and actual or threatened violence. The farmer cooperatives have engaged in lawsuits, political advocacy, and peaceful protests to challenge Dinant’s control and use of the land. And Dinant has responded to such efforts with violence and aggression.”

Bank’s own staff cites failures

EarthRights International alleges that the World Bank has “repeatedly and consistently provided critical funding to Dinant, knowing that Dinant was waging a campaign of violence, terror, and dispossession against farmers, and that their money would be used to aid the commission of gross human rights abuses.” The lawsuit filing cites “U.S. government sources” to allege that more than 100 farmers have been killed since 2009.

The suit also says that the International Finance Corporation’s own ombudsman said the World Bank division “failed to spot or deliberately ignored the serious social, political and human rights context.” These failures arose “from staff incentives ‘to overlook, fail to articulate, or even conceal potential environmental, social and conflict risk’ and ‘to get money out the door.’ ” Despite this internal report, the suit says, the World Bank continued to provide financing and that the ombudsman has “no authority to remedy abuses.”

(World Bank representatives did not respond to a request for comment. Although not directly a party to the lawsuit, Dinant describes the allegations as “absurd.” In a statement on its web site, the company said “All allegations that Dinant is — or ever has been — engaged in systematic violence against members of the community are without foundation.”)

EarthRights International’s lawsuit faces an uphill challenge due to an earlier suit filed by it on behalf of Indian farmers and fisherpeople being thrown out by the same court when it ruled that the World Bank is immune from legal challenge. The bank provided $450 million for a power plant that the plaintiffs said degraded the environment and destroyed livelihoods. The court agreed with the World Bank’s contention that it has immunity under the International Organizations Immunities Act. (The dismissal has been appealed.)

The International Organizations Immunities Act provides that “International organisations, their property and their assets, wherever located, and by whomsoever held, shall enjoy the same immunity from suit and every form of judicial process as is enjoyed by foreign governments.” The World Bank has been declared the equivalent of a sovereign state, and in this context is placed above any law as if it possesses diplomatic immunity.

This law is applied selectively; lawsuits against Cuba are not only allowed but consistently won by plaintiffs. These are not necessarily the strongest of cases, such as participants in the Bay of Pigs invasion winning judgements and a woman who was married to a Cuban who went back to Cuba winning $27 million because the court found that her marriage made her a “victim of terrorism”!

More than 3 million people displaced

Despite its immunity, a passport may not be needed to enter a World Bank office, but can it be argued that the lending organization uses its immense power wisely? That would be a very difficult case to make.

A 2015 report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists found that 3.4 million people were physically or economically displaced by projects funded by the World Bank. Land was taken, people were forced from their homes and their livelihoods damaged. Some of the other findings of the report, on which more than 50 journalists from 21 countries worked:

  • From 2009 to 2013, the World Bank pumped $50 billion into projects graded the highest risk for “irreversible or unprecedented” social or environmental impacts — more than twice as much as the previous five-year span.
  • The bank regularly fails to live up to its own policies that purport to protect people harmed by projects it finances.
  • The World Bank and its International Finance Corporation lending arm have financed governments and companies accused of human rights violations such as rape, murder and torture. In some cases, they continued to bankroll these borrowers after evidence of abuses emerged.
  • Ethiopian authorities diverted millions of dollars from a World Bank-supported project to fund a violent campaign of mass evictions, according to former officials who carried out the forced resettlement program.

One of the articles that is a part of this investigative report said the bank routinely ignores its own rules that require detailed resettlement plans and that employees face strong pressure to approve big infrastructure projects. The report says:

“The World Bank often neglects to properly review projects ahead of time to make sure communities are protected, and frequently has no idea what happens to people after they are removed. In many cases, it has continued to do business with governments that have abused their citizens, sending a signal that borrowers have little to fear if they violate the bank’s rules, according to current and former bank employees.

‘There was often no intent on the part of the governments to comply — and there was often no intent on the part of the bank’s management to enforce,’ said Navin Rai, a former World Bank official who oversaw the bank’s protections for indigenous peoples from 2000 to 2012. ‘That was how the game was played.’ …

Current and former bank employees say the work of enforcing these standards has often been undercut by internal pressures to win approval for big, splashy projects. Many bank managers, insiders say, define success by the number of deals they fund. They often push back against requirements that add complications and costs.”

Funding that facilitates global warming

Incredibly, one of the outcomes of the Paris Climate Summit was for leaders of the G7 countries to issue a communiqué that they would seek to raise funds “from private investors, development finance institutions and multilateral development banks.” These leaders propose the World Bank be used to fight global warming despite it being a major contributor to projects that increase greenhouse-gas emissions, including providing billions of dollars to finance new coal plants around the world. The bank even had the monumental hypocrisy to issue a report in 2012 that called for slowing global warming while ignoring its own role.

It is hoped you, dear reader, won’t fall off your chair in shock, but the World Bank’s role in facilitating global warming has since only increased.

Financing projects that facilitate global warming had already been on the rise. A study prepared by the Institute for Policy Studies and four other organizations found that World Bank lending for coal, oil and gas reached $3 billion in 2008 — a sixfold increase from 2004. In the same year, only $476 million went toward renewable energy sources. Oil Change International (citing somewhat lower dollar figures) estimates that World Bank funding for fossil fuels doubled from 2011 to 2015.

Destructive logging projects across the Global South funded by the World Bank accelerated in the 1990s. Despite a January 2000 internal report finding that its lending practices had not curbed deforestation or reduced poverty, Southeast Asia saw a continuation of illegal logging and land concessions, and untimely deaths of local people blowing the whistle, as has Africa.

Similar to its report on curbing global warming that ignores its own role, the World Bank shamelessly issued a 2012 report calling for international law enforcement measures against illegal logging. Perhaps what is illegal are only those operations not funded by the bank?

Loans to pay debt create more debt, repeat

Ideology plays a critical role here. International lending organizations, such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, consistently impose austerity. The IMF’s loans, earmarked for loans to governments to pay debts or stabilize currencies, always come with the same requirements to privatize public assets (which can be sold far below market value to multi-national corporations waiting to pounce); cut social safety nets; drastically reduce the scope of government services; eliminate regulations; and open economies wide to multi-national capital, even if that means the destruction of local industry and agriculture. This results in more debt, which then gives multi-national corporations and the IMF, which enforces those corporate interests, still more leverage to impose more control, including heightened ability to weaken environmental and labor laws.

The World Bank compliments this by funding massive infrastructure projects that tend to enormously profit deep-pocketed international investors but ignore the effects on local people and the environment.

The World Bank employs a large contingent of scientists and technicians, which give it a veneer of authority as it pursues a policy of relentless corporate plunder. Noting that the bank possesses “an enormous research and knowledge generation capacity,” The environmental and social-justice organization ASEED Europe reports:

“The World Bank is the institution with one of the largest research budgets globally and has no rival in the field of development economics. … A number of researchers and scholars have questioned the reliability of the World Bank-commissioned research. Alice Amsdem, a top scholar on East Asian economies, argues that since the World Bank continually fails to scientifically prove its conclusions, its policy justifications are ‘quintessentially political and ideological.’ Regarding the World Development Report (WDR) series, for example, Nicholas Stern, an Oxford professor in economics and former World Bank chief economist says that many of the numbers used by the Bank come from highly dubious sources, or have been constructed in ways which leaves one sceptical as to whether they can be helpfully applied.” (citations omitted)

Capitalist ideology rests on the concept of “markets” being so efficient that they should be allowed to work without human intervention. But what is a market? Under capitalism, it is nothing more than the aggregate interests of the most powerful and largest financiers and industrialists. No wonder that “markets” “decide” that neoliberal austerity must be ruthlessly imposed — it is those at the top of vast corporate institutions who benefit from the decisions that the World Bank, and similar institutions, consistently make.

Markets do not sit in the clouds, beyond human control, as some perfect mechanism. They impose the will of those with the most who can not ever have enough. Markets are not ordained by some higher power — everything of human creation can be undone by human hands. Our current world system is no exception.

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Analyzing the Emerging World Order: The Future of Globalism

NOVANEWS
 
GLOBAL-ECONOMY

The global community today is clearly in a state of flux. This is not an aberration – we are in the midst of a normal and periodic global reordering. We shall briefly take a “big picture” look at this phenomenon and attempt to glean an understanding as to the direction that we are heading as citizens of a global society. It is my hope that these observations can foster a more in depth discussion between reasonable people; leading to the development of ideas which can then be implemented to improve the human condition.

Current Paradigm:

We live in a world subdivided by societies: nations and their respective subdivisions. As a matter of fact, there are over 200 nations recognized by the United Nations (UN). We are taught that a society must conform to a binary label such as “free” or “unfree”, “democratic” or “non-democratic” and so on. This is done principally for two reasons – to provide a tautological definition, also for easier control of the masses via manipulation.

The current overarching narrative provides that we are divided between the “western” and “eastern” worlds. What does this really mean? We can distill this down to one principal root: economics. What do we mean by economics? We can say that in it’s purest form, it is simply the structured allocation of finite resources.

Today we are observing the transition from a so called unipolar world, one in which a single nation (or group of allied nations) dictates the terms of life for all global citizens, to a more balanced and natural multipolar world.

The current dominating group, the “western” bloc of nations, is led by the United States along with numerous vassal states; this order has persisted since the end of the Second World War. This construct is held together using a combination of supranational organizations (UN,WTO,World Bank, IMF, et cetera), propaganda (mainstream media complex), armed might (MIC,NATO, private mercenary forces) and chiefly economics (central banks, corporations).

The true “rulers” of this bloc are a cabal of very wealthy and powerful oligarchs that work in the background (shadow banking, dark pool finance, shadow governments, think tanks, NGO’s) to subvert the various sovereignties to their advantage. These oligarchs are the principal owners of, not just the industries and corporations that front for them, but the governments that rule over the masses. Most importantly this cabal owns the means by which real wealth extraction is carried out: fiat currency, chiefly the “worlds reserve currency”- the United States dollar and it’s derivatives. These currencies are backed not by equitable assets; such as natural resources, precious metals or productive capacities; instead they are backed by the creation of debt. Debt that represents a claim on real assets that virtually all participants in global commerce must pay.

How did this cabal come into power? This is a complex question that is subject to many possible answers and interpretations. Briefly, we know from historical fact that a global empire is a central part of this construct, today the United States empire holds that role (previously British, French so on…). This provides the controlling force behind such a cabal. The privately owned quasi-governmental western central banks are at the heart of this operation. They form the crucial nexus between sovereign governments and the financial world in which they derive their revenue stream, and by extension, their power. The current seat of this construct (United States) was founded as a Constitutional Republic. Unfortunately, the United States Constitution is quite amorphous. Using many acts of legislative, executive and even judicial fiat, this cabal has been able to effectively take over the reigns of the nation. With that feat accomplished, near world domination was made possible. A complex web of regulations, laws, and rules; coupled with a financial system few fully comprehend has been put into place across the west. This became the mechanism by which this “new world order” has been enforced.

The unsolvable problem here is that this debt based system is really just an elaborate pyramid scheme predicated on ever increasing amounts of debt in a world where sources of real wealth are finite. At present, the growth rate and the total amount of debt issuance, is outpacing the extraction rate and amount of available reserves of resources on the planet.

A Path Forward?…..

A new bloc of nations has been pushed toward an alliance. This bloc of nations consists of principally China, Russia and Iran (“eastern bloc”). These nations are led by various actors who seem to comprehend the likely nature of the end game inherent to the current financial construction. They are out of necessity seeking a path toward a different and more balanced and hopefully sustainable economic and global governance paradigm.

Not individually formidable, these nations collectively are quite powerful. Lets take a look at the derivation of that power. Firstly we examine a crucial metric: energy, it is well documented that these nations collectively possess enough energy resources to adequately power their economies for a long time. They also possess much of the worlds’ known stores of natural commercial use resources (metals, minerals, rare earth elements).

Additionally, owing in part to technological advances and also to long term changes in the earth’s climate, they possess the means to adequately feed their populations. They are also taking advantage of the fact that scientific knowledge and technological innovation (the key to a sustainable and competitive economy) are geographical location independent, as scientific axioms are immutable and provable anywhere on the planet. Lastly, the differences between these nations is paradoxically what makes them a powerful bloc. As example: China has become the world’s workshop and an innovation leader whilst Russia proper contains large deposits of natural resources, carries very low external debt levels and possesses a very technologically advanced war machine.

Initiatives led by China such as the OBOR (One Belt One Road) infrastructure project, the AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank) and the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) are aimed at providing distinct alternatives to western backed organizations such as the World Bank, IMF, UN, et cetera. The key piece of this strategy seems to be the use of the fiat system itself to fund the accumulation of tangible assets (businesses, technologies, resources, PM’s).

These assets can be then be utilized as a hedge against probable future turbulence with the current western based fiat regime. Why are these nations not publicly clamoring for this system to be dismantled sooner rather then later? First of all, this is a dangerous proposition, as they would likely be economically punished (Greece, Brazil) or worse, suffer an armed attack/invasion (Iraq, Libya). One just needs to observe the large amount of vitriol directed toward these nations in the western mainstream press to connect theses dots – these nations surely get the message. Secondly, they are slowly dissolving this system on their own terms (direct bilateral trade agreements via own currencies, accumulation of PM’s as a potential partial backing to their respective currencies). As of now, these nations are taking advantage of the current system to build up their economies and national infrastructures for the long term. As an example, Russia and China have begun co-developing a wide body passenger aircraft using their respective indigenous technologies and knowledge bases. These activities are made possible by their embedment into the current monetary system.

Conclusion:

For the human condition to improve, the following possible actions should be taken under serious consideration.

The western fiat currency regime should be dissolved, most outstanding debts should be extinguished (debt jubilee, massive write offs, large scale revaluations), and national sovereignty must regain prominence across the entire globe.

A balanced financial system based principally on equitable assets must take the place of the current debt based system. Sovereign governments should look to take on the crucial role as their own primary issuer of currency; this of course would require much more honest and transparent governments’ than we currently have in place.

A new system of loose decentralized global governance should be constructed to act as an impartial arbiter in geopolitical and economic affairs. These are but a few of the possible reforms that could be made to affect a more intelligent paradigm of globalism. Whether the alternative system(s) being pursued by the emergent eastern bloc will fulfill these objectives still remains to be seen, as big challenges remain, e.g. environmental degradation.

The best outcome for the world at large is a general reset of sorts. A new paradigm in which malinvestments are discouraged and cleared away, success and effort are rewarded, and opportunity for all is sought as a societal virtue, should be pursued. Worse case is a long term continuation of the current system. This outcome is likely to lead to increasing levels of civil and political unrest, and possible widespread conflict as the planet’s capacity to support the growth rates demanded by a debt based system is diminished by a declining real ROI.

Posted in Politics, WorldComments Off on Analyzing the Emerging World Order: The Future of Globalism

The plain truth about terrorism

NOVANEWS

or why the “oops we accidentally let ISIS get our guns” excuse does not work…

OffGuardian 

We get a few people here saying some variant on “ISIS, al Qaeda etc are all the unlooked-for by-product of the criminal western policy in the Middle East.” It’s one of the would-be middle-of-the-road positions occupied as much through fear of what lies beyond it than for any inherent value it contains. It’s still possible to be considered relatively mainstream and hold this position. Sensible people like Robert Fisk and Noam Chomsky promote it. There’s only one problem with it really, namely that it is not true. Recent leaks/releases of government documents have put it beyond question that the US, its Gulf allies and NATO at very least willingly got behind the creation of extreme jihadist groups and have been funding such groups in their attempts to overthrow the legitimate Syrian government.

So we thought we’d address that claim very quickly with the help of this graphic originally made by professor Tim Anderson. It makes the point more clearly than many paragraphs of text.

the_fall-back_story_9044b

That’s all you need.

Stop making that bogus and unhelpful claim here or anywhere else.

Posted in Media, PoliticsComments Off on The plain truth about terrorism

2016: How Truth was Destroyed So You’d Buy the Government’s Propaganda

NOVANEWS
Image result for Oxford Dictionaries CARTOON
By Claire Bernish 

“We’re an empire now,” Karl Rove nefariously asserted in 2004, “and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality —  judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

Rove might have said that 12 years ago, but the words hauntingly describe our situation in 2016 — Oxford Dictionaries, incidentally, named “post-truth” the international word of the year — with facts seemingly relative, truth debatable, and a falsely-premised war on fake news, Orwell must be rolling in his grave.

In fact, given these telling circumstances, perhaps Oxford Dictionaries didn’t go far enough — this year epitomizes a new era of post-coherence. Rove and his ilk — the dynasties Bush and Clinton, reigning powers for nearly 30 years — must chuckle behind closed doors as Americans quarrel savagely over the authenticity of falsehoods and facts, alike.

With ostensibly everything now up in the air, the U.S. power apparatus has inarguably ‘created a new reality’ — one in which doubt has been so instilled as to obstruct and thwart the dissemination of accurate, factual information.

This purposeful manipulation of perception, in other words, does exactly what Rove and the aptly-termed “history’s actors” intend — it keeps the rest of us confused — and bitterly arguing over what’s actually going on.

Online communication facilitated this madness exponentially — it’s doubtful such disorientation would have occurred decades ago, when social media didn’t have critical influence.

Of course, this tumult and turbulence isn’t manufactured without reason — it allows the surreptitious and sometimes flagrant distribution of propaganda favorable to the American political establishment to circulate largely unhindered.

But those aspects of post-coherence unintentionally also gave rise to a furious backlash — the Internet might facilitate confusion and propaganda, but it is, after all, a global library of information — and wary independent and alternative media outlets immediately tear apart false information published by collusive corporate media presstitutes.

With all of this in mind, the following are just a smattering of many outrageous examples of how the Fake News narrative brought us post-truth, intentionally shaping the events of 2016 — and promises to continue the inanity far into the future.

Perhaps the most laughable Fake News came to us courtesy of CNN’s Chris Cuomo, who warned the planet amid ongoing publication by Wikileaks of documents deleterious to the credibility of the Democratic establishment to “remember, it’s illegal to possess these stolen documents. It’s different for the media. So everything you learn about this, you’re learning from us.”

Cuomo’s conspicuous ploy to limit the spread of the actual documents — and win CNN additional reader- and viewership — constituted a reckless foray into censorship of information.

Of course, CNN didn’t proclaim the leaked emails verboten for nothing — the outlet bears the snarky moniker, Clinton News Network, as its parent company, Time Warner, donated over $400,000 to Hillary Clinton’s campaign — and was exposed by alternative media countless times for cutting off reporters who dared criticize its darling candidate or report on revealed corruption.

Further, CNN’s pernicious claim came as the documents revealed the outlet and others colluding with the Clinton campaign to report news portraying Democrats in a favorable manner — of course, those who took Cuomo’s warning to heart and relied solely on the Clinton News Network would never know that pertinent detail.

Other mainstream media outlets who coordinated with the Clinton camp struggled to accurately report the contents of the Wikileaks documents — when they bothered covering the revelations. Corporate propaganda’s spin machine seemed to be on overdrive for the duration of the election cycle — and has reached the level of absurdity following Donald Trump’s win.

Because, according to corporate media — who ignored the depth of corruption exposed by Wikileaks — the election of Trump was so anomalous, there had to be an explanation beyond the fact the American people didn’t find Hillary qualified for the job.

Enter The Russians.

Taking cues from the era of McCarthyism and leading the new Red Scare with a bullhorn is the once-illustrious Washington Post, who first posited, without any evidence sans statements from unnamed CIA officials, that the Intelligence Community had reached a consensus — Russian hackers had interfered in the election to install Trump.

Famously in lockstep, the New York Times quickly parroted the same assertion as if it were steel truth — neither outlet, however, bothered consulting officials from the 16 other agencies comprising the U.S. Intelligence Community.

In actuality, no such consensus had been reached — not even inside the CIA. Shortly after the Post’s shameful scare piece was published, the FBI came forward to denounce the Russian hacking theory as “fuzzy” and “ambiguous” — showing the lack of cohesion amongst intelligence officials, as well as the rush to shirk blame for the lost election.

Wikileaks, itself — the one organization with insider information — has vociferously and repeatedly denied their source hacked anything, is not Russian, and that the documents were leaked by an insider.

Nonetheless, news of the report went viral and furthered current administration’s agenda to both paint Russia as a villain and Trump as having somehow stolen the election.

Indeed, the utterly unproven Russian Hackers theory provided the impetus for President Obama to an embarrassing diplomatic meltdown this week, announcing the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats, sanctions, and the shuttering of two compounds owned by Russia.

While that move could have easily brought the two superpower nations yet closer to military conflict, Russian President Vladimir Putin allowed cooler heads to prevail, went against the fury of other officials, and announced there would be no diplomatic tit-for-tat — no United States diplomats would be expelled from Russia.

Incidentally, the mainstream press jumped the gun again, publishing the statements of Russian officials claiming the country would be mirroring moves by the U.S. — before Putin announced Russia would not be stooping to such diplomatic pettiness. … continue

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Economic, Geopolitical, Military and Diplomatic Trends in 2016. What Prospects for 2017

NOVANEWS
 
Brexit R-U

2016 marked by important of diplomatic, political and military developments around the world.

Britain voted to leave the European Union by 52% to 48% in a national referendum. The outcome of the Brexit referendum has caused strong reaction at home and worldwide. Brexit was supported by the popular majority of Britain and a significant portion of the UK national elite. Even the use of lobbying clout by Cameron’s cabinet did not allow EU supporters to attain victory.

Indeed, leaving the EU would allow the UK to control immigration more efficiently, save billions of pounds in membership fees and advocate its own trade deals while leaving all trade conditions between the UK and the EU relatively unchanged – all while getting rid of restrictive EU regulations, bloated Brussels bureaucracy and run down Eastern and South European economies. In fact, the UK has simply jilted continental Europe. After all, it was Britain that was an active supporter of many decisions that have had a negative impact on the current situation of refugees in the EU and the economic issues of the Member States.

As to the trade cooperation and conditions, the EU could hardly proceed without British industry, technologies and investments. At the same time Britain acquires the first chance to jump in the US-backed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership freely without intra-European debates.

However, EU lobbyists now have moved beyond just the information campaign and diplomatic pressure. They have started to use bureaucratic technologies and well-known “color revolutions” technologies, previously field-tested in Eastern Europe and the Arab countries, to attempt to rip the referendum results to shreds. As a result, the process of the UK exit from the EU was de-facto frozen, ignoring the people’s choice. However, the BREXIT became an important step in the ongoing confrontation between EU citizens and the European bureaucracy.

Following the Brexit, Donald J. Trump won the US presidential elections. While on the campaign trail, President-Elect Donald J. Trump made a range of statements suggesting a shift away from a policy of interventionism, combined with a focus on safeguarding US borders and jobs at the expense of the dominant ideology of globalism. Can and will he deliver on these promises? There are many reasons to believe he will genuinely push US foreign policy in this direction, but at the same time he will face obstacles on his path.

One of the factors clearly helping him is the increasingly indisputable fact that globalism as an ideology has been discredited, except, ironically, among the liberal “creative classes” and among the financial elites. The rest of the society and of the elite is increasingly skeptical of such policies if not downright opposed to them, which means they are willing to experiment with economic nationalism and even isolationism.

At a minimum, the “global elites” will attempt to find as much compromising information concerning Trump, his family, and close associates as possible, in order to make him an “offer he can’t refuse” backed up by a sizable financial “consolation prize”.

If Trump refuses to succumb to direct and indirect pressure and attempts to pursue even part of what he promised during the campaign, Trump’s opponents will embark on more drastic measures, including a Maidan-like permanent demonstration aimed at tarnishing Trump’s reputation or even an assassination attempt. While the former is highly likely, the latter is somewhat less plausible because it would result in elevate Trump to martyrdom and also set a precedent for future assassinations, which is something the US elite fears greatly.  However, Trump will have to deal with tremendous and constant psychological pressure that will be exerted on him through his close associates, family, and of course the media, in order to disorient him and throw him off course.

Moreover, Trump’s political foes will pursue an international approach, using NATO and EU as means of exerting pressure on the new administration, through military provocations if need be. US, being a relatively sparsely, resource-rich country not unlike Russia, can pursue a “Fortress America” strategy. The EU would find it much more difficult to do so without embracing authoritarian governance, as it requires a “Lebensraum”-like sphere of influence that will provide natural resources which the continent lacks. But this Europe has no Grande Armee or Wehrmacht– it has to rely on US military power and subversion. Hence the  hysterical European reaction to the US election, for the adoption of a “Fortress America” strategy by the US renders EU’s own strategy of expansion obsolete.

Deciding what to do about the US relationship to Europe that has become a major net drain on US resources will therefore be a major challenge for the Trump Administration. If it is pulled down the same path as its predecessor, it will ultimately be because of its inability to redefine its relations with an increasingly burdensome and costly set of allies on the other side of the Atlantic, and for this reason the outcome of the upcoming elections in Germany and France is of critical importance.

The development of conflicts in the Middle East was the alternate side of the changes in the EU and the US. While backers of Syrian terrorists were trying to hold the power at their home, the Russian-Syrian-Iranian alliance made significant steps aimed on combating terrorism in Syria.

The provinces of Latakia, Homs, Hama, Aleppo and the Damascus countryside wre the main areas of operations against terrorists. The joint anti-terrorism forces achieved a series of significant victories in these areas, liberating waste areas near the Syrian capital, the important town of Qaryatayn and the key Syrian city of Aleppo. They also temporarily liberated the ancient city of Palmyra from ISIS, but lost it as result of a large-scale ISIS attack in December.

On October 1, 2015, SouthFront predicted that the Russian military operation in Syria will likely lead to the establishment of a permanent Russian air and naval base in eastern Mediterranean. By October 2016, Moscow expanded its military facilities in Syria, launching a program of transforming the Khmeimim Air Base into a full-fledged military base with a permanent contingent of the Russian Aerospace Forces and announced plans to turn its naval facility in Tartus into a fully-fledged permanent naval base.

Summing up the gains of pro-government forces across the country within the past year and the growing military presence of Russia in Syria, it’s easy to conclude that the course of the Syrian war was dramatically changed and the Syrian-Iranian-Russian forces delivered a devastating blow to terrorists and saving the Assad government from the military defeat. Now, the strategic initiative of the war is in the hands of Syrian-Iranian-Russian alliance.

Another key player in the conflict was Turkey that had entered northern Syria to combat ISIS and Kurdish YPG forces in August. Turkey’s aim was to build a buffer zone with pro-Turkey militant groups and to prevent Kurdish forces from creation a semi-autonomous state in Syria. Turkey’s decision to intervene in Syria was made amid the rapprochement with Russia and Iran. This allowed many experts to suggest that Turkey, Iran, Russia and Syria had some unpublicized agreements over the ongoing crisis. The Turkish-Russian-Iranian negotiations that excluded the US-led block of the so-called “friends of Syria” and took place in Moscow in December contributed to this version. The military coup attempt that took place in Turkey in July and was allegedly supported by some part of the US elite became the main reason of Ankara’s decision to increase cooperation with Moscow and Tehran.

The Russian anti-terrorist operation also pushed the US to take more active steps in combating ISIS in Iraq and Syria that led to the start of advance on Raqqah, Fallujah and Mosul. While Fallujah was liberated, Mosul remained a major ISIS stronghold in Iraq despite the US-led attempts to retake the city from terrorists.

It appears that the pre-election project of the Democratic Party of the USA, under the title “Quick Capture of Mosul” has, seemingly, failed together with Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Now, the tactics of the USA administration have changed. This may mean that Donald Trump gets dragged into a quagmire of a war. That being stated, high-ranking Pentagon officials no longer believe that the Iraqi military is capable of taking Mosul, and have been preparing a plan with greater participation of the US Armed Forces.

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) also launched an advance on the ISIS self-proclaimed capital in Syria, Raqqah. However, until now, they have not even reached the city.

Conflicts in Yemen and Libya continued to flare in the Middle East with almost no chances to be solved with diplomatic measures, contributing to instability in the region. The Saudi-led intervention turned Yemen into a zone of instability and set conditions for the growth of local al-Qaeda branch. Even despite this, Saudi-led forces failed to achieve their military goals in the area and to inflict a defeat to the Houthi-Saleh alliance backed by Iran.

The rapidly developing relations between Russia and Egypt have been overshadowed by the more prominent relationships between Russia and Syria, as well as Russia and Iran. Nevertheless, the Russia-Egypt relationship deserves closer scrutiny because, unlike the country’s relations with the other two Middle Eastern powers, it concerns a country that until recently appeared to be firmly in Western orbit. The abrupt shift of its geopolitical vector toward Eurasia therefore represents a far bigger change for the region than Russia’s successful support of the legitimate Syrian government, or the close relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran, both of which have been on the Western “enemies list” for decades. The reasons for this shift are twofold, and have to do with the way Western powers interact with Middle Eastern powers in the context of a systemic economic crisis, as well as with Russia’s demonstrated attractiveness as an ally.

From the Russian perspective, Egypt represents yet another bulwark of security against Western encroachment, a symmetric response to NATO expansion, “Eastern Partnership”, and color revolutions. Combined with the military presence in Syria, Cyprus’ general pro-Russian orientation, and the neutralization of Turkey which was also facilitated by an abortive West-promoted coup attempt, the Egyptian-Russian cooperation would impact the balance of power in the Mediterranean.

In 2016, the whole Middle East was affected by the major crisis with Syria, Iraq, Yemen and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Turkey in its core. Turkey faced a military coup attempt, economic decay and Kurdish insurgency that almost turned into a full-scale civil war.

2016 witnessed a sharp escalation in the militarization of the South China Sea. The cause of the escalation is multifaceted and comes from both regional and international quarters. The militarization has been initiated and exacerbated by both China and the United States, both bearing responsibility for the current level of tension in the region. As land reclamation and building efforts on the part of the Chinese continue at Fiery Cross Reef and Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands with no signs of slowing down in the immediate future, the US increases the size and tempo of future patrols in the area and expands its cooperation with regional powers to counter the Chinese claims.

The Central Asia also remained the point of instability that attracted attention of the key regional players: Russia, the US and China. While Afghanistan remained the main source of instability, neighboring central Asian countries also faced various terror and security threats, strengthened by an instable internal political situation.

Security threats are growing in Europe. The ongoing migration crisis and acute situation with a terrorism threat didn’t force the EU elite to change their failed foreign and internal policy and the union was plunged into shock by the continued series of terror attacks.

If this situation is not to get worse, it would require the adoption of a revised approach, namely a unified, well-funded and comprehensive EU-level migration policy, consisting of combating organized crime among ethnic groups, screening new arrivals, guaranteeing access to social services and labor markets, etc.  Otherwise the EU is risking a massive social explosion provoked by growing inter-ethnic and inter-religious conflict, and the constant perception of a growing terrorist threat. Unless addressed rapidly, these problems could be sufficient to destroy the already fragile EU common security framework.

The general security situation in Europe was further worsened with the smoldering conflict in eastern Ukraine, where the recent escalation took place in December. The situation is worsening due to the economic collapse in Ukraine and the Kiev’s government inability to negotiate and unwillingness to follow the Minsk agreements. Ukraine remained the point that can be used by some powers to instigate destabilization in the whole Europe.

In general, 2016 was a very complicated year in military and diplomatic terms. The reactive processes were observed the international relations at all levels. The number of local conflicts didn’t reduce and even grew involving more and more regional and world powers. The diplomatic, military and security trends formed in the end of 2016 year will shape 2017. It will be the year of continued geopolitical standoff of global powers amid the reducing US influence around the world.

Posted in USA, Politics, WorldComments Off on Economic, Geopolitical, Military and Diplomatic Trends in 2016. What Prospects for 2017

How to remain completely anonymous and hidden online

NOVANEWS

anonymous in mexico
Maintaining online anonymity is no easy task. Today’s ad-driven and heavily surveilled internet ecosystem endeavors to accomplish the exact opposite result. Be it for national security or to sell you a smartphone, governments and companies want to know everything they can about you. To make them lose your trail is not a simple matter.

It is possible to be remain anonymous online, but it’s getting more difficult as time progresses. No measure you take will ever be perfect, but unless you’re a high profile criminal, you can make it more difficult than it’s worth for anyone to expose you.

Being anonymous has its benefits. Certain freedoms come with being unrecognizable and untraceable. It also requires sacrifice. Many of the conveniences of the modern web were built around profiling, tracking, and analyzing user behavior.

Bearing that in mind, these are the steps you can take and the tools you’ll need to stay anonymous and hidden online.

Tor

No anonymity checklist would be complete without Tor. This network of volunteer nodes around the world is synonymous with anonymity. Tor, short for “the onion router”, allows you to encrypt your internet traffic and, each time you connect to a web server, route that traffic through a random array of nodes before heading to the final destination.

There are dozens of ways to use Tor from many different devices. The Tor Browser is the most popular. Simply installing this Firefox-based application on your Mac or PC will allow you to anonymously browse the web. For Android devices, try Orbot. iOS users don’t have any official support from the Tor project, but the Onion Browser seems like a decent option.

tor browser wikileaks url bar

Tor does have a few downsides. For one, it’s slow. Tor isn’t suitable for streaming video or torrenting files. You can browse the web and that’s pretty much it due to the lack of volunteer resources and competing traffic from other users.

Secondly, even though your internet traffic is encrypted and untraceable, an internet service provider can still detect whether or not you are using Tor. This alone might be enough to raise suspicions, as Tor is often used for criminal activity online. Your ISP could choke your bandwidth, send you a cease and desist letter, or report you to the authorities even if you haven’t done anything wrong.

For this reason, we advise Tor users to use an obfuscation tool like Obfsproxy, turn on a VPN when using Tor, or both. Obfsproxy is a Tor project that makes encrypted Tor traffic look like normal un-encrypted traffic so that it doesn’t draw undue attention. More on VPNs further down.

Finally, there’s considerable speculation that the US government successfully used traffic analysis on Tor on at least a few occasions that led to arrests, including that of the infamous Dread Pirate Roberts of the Silk Road illicit goods marketplace. Rumor has it that governments also operate and monitor activity on several Tor exit nodes. None of these allegations come with concrete evidence, so take it with a big grain of salt.

Live OS

A browser is suitable for escaping targeted advertisements and occasional visits to the DarkNet, but those who require complete anonymity will need a more nuclear option. While no one can track your browsing activity on Tor Browser, for instance, chances are you’ve still got multiple applications running in the background. These applications–word processors, video players, update managers–send data to the web. Rumor has it that authorities have used unencrypted error reports from the Windows operating system to find people. Windows 10 includes a litany of tracking software that’s enabled by default.

You could disable all of those settings and uninstall all of your applications, but that’s not very practical. Instead, we recommend a live operating system. Live operating systems can be installed on USB drives or DVDs. By tweaking a few settings in your computer’s bootloader, you can launch an entirely independent operating system from a thumb drive on your everyday laptop.

Tails is the official live OS from the Tor Project. All internet traffic–not just web browsing–goes through the Tor Network. The OS leaves no trace on your computer and all instant messages, emails, and files are encrypted. It’s simple to use and is designed to be idiot proof.

If Tails doesn’t seem suitable for whatever reason, another option is Whonix. Whonix isn’t an independent live OS. Instead, it runs in a virtual machine on your existing operating system. It has all the advantages of Tails (it also uses the Tor Network) plus it is designed so that IP address leaks–which can be used to track users–are impossible. The downsides are that it takes a reasonably powerful computer to run a virtual machine and it’s rather complicated to set up.

Other options are also on the table. Kali, Qubes, and ZeusGuard are all alternatives to Tails and Whonix worth considering. Do your research and figure out what’s best for you.

Logless VPN

A VPN, or virtual private network, encrypts all of a device’s internet traffic and then routes it through an intermediary server in a location of the user’s choosing. The end result is that the device’s IP address is masked and third parties–including ISPs–cannot monitor traffic.

Most VPN providers utilize shared IP addresses on their servers. Multiple users–dozens, hundreds, and even thousands–are assigned a single IP address. This makes it nearly impossible to trace the activity of a single person in the pool.

ipvanishclient_3

VPNs are built for privacy and not anonymity, however, so we caution against using them alone if you want to truly remain hidden. Privacy and anonymity often go hand in hand, but remember this important distinction: anonymity means no one can identify you, but privacy implies no can see what you’re doing.

Using a VPN requires a certain degree of trust in your VPN provider and the entities that host their servers. Very few VPN providers own their own physical server infrastructure. Your traffic is encrypted on your local device and remains encrypted until it arrives at the VPN server. It is then decrypted before being sent onto its destination. For a brief moment, your activity is visible to the VPN provider.

This is why we highly recommend “logless” VPNs. Branded with a “logless”, “no-logs”, or “zero-logs” policy, this means that the VPN provider does not store any information about the content of users traffic. Assuming the VPN provider is telling the truth, that’s a good thing.

But it’s not so simple as that. Some VPN providers claim to be logless but in reality they still store metadata. Depending on how anonymous you want to be, this is a nuance to be wary of. Metadata doesn’t contain any information about the contents of your traffic, but it can include details such as when you used the VPN, for how long, how much data was transferred, and even your original IP address. Always skim through a VPN provider’s privacy policy for devilish details like these.

Even the few true zero-logs VPNs out there require customers to trust them. There’s no way of knowing whether they are being honest and how they will react when faced with a government subpoena. For the highest level of anonymity, then, try combining your VPN with Tor. Avoid VPNs based in the United States and Europe, where data retention laws and government intelligence agencies could put your data at risk.

Simply running Tor Browser while connected to the VPN makes tracing the user twice as difficult. VPNs can also be configured manually in live operating systems like Tails.

Logless DNS

When a URL is entered into a browser, a request is sent to a DNS server to lookup the IP address that matches the URL. Even when using a proxy like a VPN, these DNS requests can be sent outside the encrypted tunnel to the default server. By default, DNS requests usually go to and are recorded by a nearby server operated by the user’s ISP.

If this happens when using a VPN, it’s called a DNS leak. Many VPN providers offer DNS leak protection, which ensures that all internet traffic, including DNS requests, are directed through the VPN. These VPNs typically operate their own DNS servers, which won’t record which websites you visit if they meet the logless criteria outlined above.

Even if a VPN advertises DNS leak protection, that statement often only applies to IPv4 DNS leaks. IPV6 DNS requests can still travel on the default network and be picked up by both web servers and ISPs. It would be great if more VPNs would set up IPv6 DNS servers to handle this situation, but at the moment the best solution is simply to disable IPv6 in the device’s internet settings.

If the VPN you use lacks DNS leak protection, or you aren’t using a VPN at all, try opting for a public no-logs DNS server. You can change your device’s DNS settings so that requests aren’t sent through your ISP. We recommend DNS.WATCH or OpenNIC.

Burner emails

It goes without saying that remaining anonymous online means not logging into any of your existing accounts. But since many apps and websites require users to sign up, you’ll need an email address or two.

Several services offer free fake and burner email accounts. For one-off registrations and messages, we recommend Guerilla Mail. No registration is required and it includes a password manager to help remember the passwords associated with those accounts.

guerrilla mail ss

For a more long-term untraceable email account, the best option is probably ProtonMail. This end-to-end encrypted service is open-source and uses zero-knowledge apps for web and mobile. Unfortunately, new users must apply for an invite due to limited server capacity. ProtonMail is donation-based.

If you don’t want to wait around for an invite, Zmail is another alternative. It allows you to send emails from fake addresses.

Never use your own email account when trying to be anonymous. Don’t even read your email or log into the account. If you want to send encrypted email from a burner account, you’ll have to set up new PGP or S/MIME keys.

Cryptocurrencies

If you want to make an anonymous purchase or donation, cryptocurrencies are superior to PayPal and obviously credit cards. That doesn’t mean that you can just open up a Bitcoin wallet with a big exchange like Coinbase and start spending, though.

There’s a big misconception that bitcoin is always anonymous, when in fact the very nature of blockchain technology means every transaction is tracked and verified. This publicly available ledger can be analyzed so that the wallets you use and the transactions you make could be linked to your identity.

By analyzing the activity which is visible to anybody on the public blockchain an observer may well be able to link your personal identity with all of the wallets you use and therefore your entire transaction history. In a way, this makes Bitcoin even less private than a bank account.

To get around this, use wallets that change your bitcoin address after each transaction. This makes you harder to trace. Use a bitcoin mixing service, which pools your bitcoins with other people’s and mixes them up before making a payment to the receiver.

Perhaps the most difficult part is anonymously buying bitcoins in the first place, as doing so requires fiat currency. Private deals and peer-to-peer exchanges like LocalBitcoins are not for the careless, but they are the best means of anonymously getting your hands on coins.

Remember that Bitcoin isn’t the only player in town, although it is the biggest. Litecoin, DarkCoin, and Dogecoin are popular as well.

Search engines

Google keeps track of every search query and link you click on. If you’re using Tor, this doesn’t matter so much, but it’s still a good idea to opt for an alternative.

DuckDuckGo is perhaps the most popular search engine that doesn’t track or profile users. It can be set as the default search engine in your browser.

DuckDuckGo is a fully independent browser, so, let’s be honest, the results won’t be as good as Google’s. Luckily, there’s a way to get Google results without Google.

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StartPage removes all your identifying information and submits a search query to Google on your behalf. It doesn’t log or track user activity. All search results are displayed with a proxy link beneath them, allowing you to click through to any site while retaining your privacy through a proxy.

File transfers

The moment might arise when you need to anonymously send a file that’s too big for an email attachment. If you’re a whistleblower who wants to leak a large trove of damning documents to the public, uploading the files to Dropbox just won’t do.

FileDropper is a simple and convenient solution that allows uploads of up to 5GB with no registration required. WeTransfer is another option that allows files up to 2GB without signing up. For these types of services, just upload a file and then send the link to whoever you want to receive it.

Remember to access the site using Tor and share the links using a burner email or some other anonymous method, as the website might well be gathering information on site visitors despite the fact that registration isn’t required.

Choose your browser extensions carefully

The Tor Browser has very little support for extensions, and there’s a good reason for that. Advertising companies are getting smarter about how they track users. One of the most advanced methods is called fingerprinting. By gathering information about your web browser–what extensions are installed, what device you use, what language you read in, etc–ad tech companies can create a “fingerprint” that identifies a user. Fingerprints are superior to IP addresses because they don’t change if a user switches wifi networks or connects to a VPN.

Many extensions can help maintain your privacy–ABP, Disconnect, Privacy Badger, HTTPS Everywhere, etc–but they also contribute to a more well-formed fingerprint. This is one of several reasons it’s so difficult to be anonymous on a popular browser like FireFox or Chrome.

If you want to test how well your browser protects you from tracking, head over to the Panopticlick website. This tool made by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) can show you in excruciating detail how an ad agency can identify your browser using a unique fingerprint.

Besides fingerprinting, browser extensions can communicate with servers in the background without your knowledge, potentially logging metadata that could help identify you and your online activity.

Read more: 75+ free tools to protect your privacy online

Encrypted communications

Besides email, you’ll also want to cover your tracks when sending messages and making calls. Encryption is more focused on privacy than anonymity; even if a message is encrypted, a snoop still knows who the sender and receiver is. But if you’re going through the trouble of being anonymous, you might as well take every precaution.

Signal is the premier app for encrypted voice calls on smartphones. It also includes instant messaging. Users can verify the identities of their contacts by comparing key fingerprints.

cryptocat ss

For encrypted text and media messaging, there’s a wealth of free and private options. TorChat uses peer-to-peer encrypted messaging on the Tor network. It requires no installation and can be run from a USB drive. Other alternatives include Pidgin, and CryptoCat.

Encrypted backup

Even anons need to back up and store large files, and sometimes allow other people to access them. Stay away from Google Drive and Dropbox, as these contain no real privacy protections such as encryption and aren’t anonymous at any rate.

Backups are best done locally to an encrypted external hard drive. Crashplan offers a free version of its software that makes this easy.

backblaze web app

If you want a cloud solution, it will require trusting a provider. Seek out a “zero knowledge” service that allows you to set your own encryption key. SpiderOak, iDrive, BackBlaze, and Crashplan all offer this option, which prevents the provider from decrypting your files.

If you insist on using Google Drive, Dropbox, or some other un-encrypted storage provider, you can always encrypt your files before uploading them to the cloud.

Secure your webcam

It’s been proven that webcams can be remotely activated and used to spy on users. The head of the FBI and Mark Zuckerberg both go so far as to put tape over their webcams for this very reason.

Webcams are usually remotely activated through malware, so a real-time virus scanner and regular system scans can prevent this from happening. If your laptop has an LED light that turns on whenever the webcam is active, make sure it’s enabled. If you don’t want to put tape on your webcam, make sure you close the laptop when not in use.

Learn more about securing your webcam here.

Secure your wifi router

Many of us never bother changing the settings that our wifi routers came with from the factory. Unsecured routers can make users extremely vulnerable to nearby snoops. Routers can be used to intercept, read, and modify internet traffic. If you’re on someone else’s wifi network, be sure to use a VPN.

If you want to remain anonymous, it’s important to change the router’s login credentials, update the firmware, set the strongest level of encryption (usually WPA2), restrict inbound and outbound traffic, turn off WPS, disable unused services, check port 32764, enable and read logs, and log out of your router when finished.

You can learn more about how to take all of these steps and more in our guide on securing wireless routers.

iOS and Android are not optimal for anonymity

If you’re choosing between iOS and Android based on which is more anonymous, go with Android. But don’t get comfortable and think you can be totally anonymous on either.

It is far more difficult to be anonymous on a smartphone than on a computer. Anonymity tools for Tor just haven’t matured to a point where they work well on mobile, yet. Apple and Google are too deeply embedded in these devices. You might be able to browse an onion site with Orbot on Android, but that’s about as far as you’ll get. There are no official Tor browsers for iOS.

There are no live operating systems that can be utilized by smartphones like TAILS for desktops.

Smartphones have IMEI numbers, MAC addresses, and possibly vulnerable firmware that cannot be altered and can be used to identify a specific device when connected to the internet. Because Android is usually modified by manufacturers, it’s difficult to audit and keep up with each device’s potential vulnerabilities. Apple and Google have the power to track almost every iOS and Android phone, respectively.

Apps constantly communicate with servers over the internet, passing data back and forth that could be used to track users. Even something as basic as a keyboard could be used to monitor activity. Cameras and microphones can be hacked into to spy on users. Any time a device receives a signal from a cell tower, their device’s location can be traced. Simply put, there’s just too much that could go wrong on Android and iOS that the user cannot see.

While making smartphones completely anonymous might be a futile effort, they can be made significantly more private. Android devices can be encrypted and iPhones are all encrypted by default. Use VPNs to encrypt internet traffic, and set up a self destruct sequence if the passcode is entered incorrectly too many times.

Finally, companies like Silent Circle make Android-based smartphones with security first in mind. The Blackphone, for instance, is fully encrypted and runs several “virtual phones” to compartmentalize data. Silent Circle also has a subscription service to make iPhones private. Again, the key difference is that this phone is focused on privacy, not anonymity. While the contents of the phone are protected, the same isn’t necessarily true for the identity of the user.

Be wary of the Internet-of-Things

The internet of things presents a whole new wave of opportunity for hackers and snoopers. Security has unfortunately been an afterthought for many IoT manufacturers. A simple log of when your smart air conditioner is activated, for example, can tell a lot about a person’s daily routine. Critics have warned against devices like the Amazon Echo, which are always listening for input even when deactivated.

Depending on your online activity, this can be a threat to a user’s anonymity. Use IoT devices with caution.

Make a checklist

No anonymity tool, even Tor, is perfect. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t effective. While a well-funded corporation or government agency could spend huge amounts of time and money running traffic analysis on the Tor network to eventually find the person they are looking for, it’s much more likely that person will make a mistake and drop a clue somewhere along the way.

So how do you avoid making mistakes? The same way surgeons and other high-risk occupations do: with lists. Every time you want to be anonymous online, start from the beginning of your checklist. Write it down on a piece of paper, but don’t include any login credentials or other identifying information. Here’s what one might look like based on everything discussed:

  • Connected to a logless VPN
  • Connected to the internet through Tor Browser/Tails
  • DNS settings are configured to use a logless DNS
  • Logged out of all online accounts
  • Closed all apps and background services connected to the web
  • All tracking in my browser and OS are turned off and blocked
  • Emails are sent using burner accounts
  • New accounts registered and logged in with burner emails
  • Search with DuckDuckGo or StartPage
  • Bitcoins are properly mixed and using a third-party wallet

With a standard protocol in place, you can drastically reduce the chances of making mistakes. Don’t be overconfident. Anonymity is something you can get right 100 times, but it only takes one misstep for it all to crumble.

Posted in Education, PoliticsComments Off on How to remain completely anonymous and hidden online

Assange and Wikileaks: “Donald? It’s a Change Anyway”

wikiLeaks-logo-01

When they appeared on the scene for the first time in 2006, few noticed them. And when four years later they hit worldwide media headlines with their publication of over 700,000 secret US government documents, many assumed that Julian Assange and his organisation, WikiLeaks, would be annihilated very shortly.

Since 2010 Assange has lived first under house arrest and then confined to the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has been granted asylum by Ecuador. The country’s officials judged  his concerns of being extradited to Sweden and then to the US to be put on trial for the WikiLeaks’ revelations well-grounded.

Repubblica met Julian Assange in the embassy, nicely decorated for the Christmas season.

These last ten years have been intense ones for his organisation, but the last two months have been truly hectic: WikiLeaks’ publication of Hillary Clinton’s and US Democrats’ emails hit headlines around the world.

The US government hit back, accusing WikiLeaks of having received these materials from Russian cybercriminals with the political agenda of influencing the US elections, a claim some experts question. In the midst of these publications, Ecuador even cut off Julian Assange’s internet connection. Finally, in November, Swedish prosecutors travelled to London to question the WikiLeaks’ founder after six years of judicial paralysis. In a matter of a few weeks, they will be deciding whether to charge or absolve him once and for all. Next February, Ecuador will be holding political elections. If Julian Assange loses asylum, will he be extradited to Sweden and then to the US?

How did it all start? Back in 2006, why did you think a new media organisation was necessary?

I had watched the Iraq War closely, and in the aftermath of the Iraq War a number of individuals from the security services, including the Australian [ones], came out saying how they had attempted to reveal information before the war began and had been thwarted. People who wanted to be whistleblowers before the Iraq war had not found a channel to get the information out. I felt that this was a general problem and set about to construct the system which could solve this problem in general.

In a famous interview, you declared that at the beginning you thought that your biggest role would be in China and in some of the former Soviet states and North Africa. Quite the opposite, most of WikiLeaks’ biggest revelations concern the US military-industrial complex, its wars in Afghanistan and in Iraq and its serious human rights violations in the war on terror. These abuses have had a heavy impact in an open and democratic society like the United States and produced ‘dissidents’ like Chelsea Manning willing to expose them. Why aren’t human rights abuses producing the same effects in regimes like China or Russia, and what can be done to democratise information in those countries?

In Russia, there are many vibrant publications, online blogs, and Kremlin critics such as [Alexey] Navalny are part of that spectrum. There are also newspapers like “Novaya Gazeta”, in which different parts of society in Moscow are permitted to critique each other and it is tolerated, generally, because it isn’t a big TV channel that might have a mass popular effect, its audience is educated people in Moscow. So my interpretation is that in Russia there are competitors to WikiLeaks, and no WikiLeaks staff speak Russian, so for a strong culture which has its own language, you have to be seen as a local player. WikiLeaks is a predominantly English-speaking organisation with a website predominantly in English. We have published more than 800,000 documents about or referencing Russia and president Putin, so we do have quite a bit of coverage, but the majority of our publications come from Western sources, though not always. For example, we have published more than 2 million documents from Syria, including Bashar al-Assad personally. Sometimes we make a publication about a country and they will see WikiLeaks as a player within that country, like with Timor East and Kenya. The real determinant is how distant that culture is from English. Chinese culture is quite far away.

What can be done there?

We have published some things in Chinese. It is necessary to be seen as a local player and to adapt the language to the local culture.

There is strict control of the web in China…

China banned us in 2007, we have worked around that censorship at various times, publishers there were too scared to publish [our documents]. The feeling is mixed within China: they of course like to see the Western critique that a number of our publications enable. China is not a militaristic society, they don’t see they have a comparative advantage in making warfare, so they presumably like general critiques of war, but it is a society that is authority-structured, which is terrified of dissidents, whereas if you compare it to Russia, it too is an increasingly authoritarian society, but one that has a cultural tradition of lionising dissidents.

Why aren’t the US and UK intelligence agencies leaking to WikiLeaks about their enemies, like Russia or China? They could do it using NGOs or even activists as a cover and they could expose WikiLeaks, if your organisation didn’t publish their documents…

We publish full information, pristine archives, verifiable. That often makes it inconvenient for propaganda purposes, because for many organisations you see the good and the bad, and that makes the facts revealed harder to spin. If we go back to the Iraq War in 2003, let’s imagine US intelligence tried to leak us some of their internal reports on Iraq. Now we know from US intelligence reports that subsequently came out that there was internal doubt and scepticism about the claim that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Even though there was intense pressure on the intelligence services at the political level to create reports that supported the rush towards the war, internally their analysts were hedging. The White House, Downing Street, the New York Times, the Washington Post and CNN stripped off those doubts. If WikiLeaks had published those reports, these doubts would have been expressed and the war possibly adverted.

WikiLeaks published documents on Hillary Clinton and the US Democrats. How do you reply to those who accuse you of having helped to elect Mr. Trump?

What is the allegation here exactly? We published what the Democratic National Committee, John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, and Hillary Clinton herself were saying about their own campaign, which the American people read and were very interested to read, and assessed the elements and characters, and then they made a decision. That decision was based on Hillary Clinton’s own words, her campaign manager’s own words. That’s democracy.

Do you agree with those who say that it was a hit job, because you hit Hillary Clinton when she was most vulnerable, during the final weeks of her campaign?

No, we have been publishing about Hillary Clinton for many years, because of her position as Secretary of State. We have been publishing her cables since 2010 and her emails also. We are domain experts on Clinton and her post 2008 role in government. This is why it is natural for sources who have information on Hillary Clinton to come to us. They know we will understand its significance.

So Clinton is gone, has WikiLeaks won?

We were pleased to see how much of the American public interacted with the material we published. That interaction was on both sides of politics, including those to the left of Hillary Clinton those who supported Bernie Sanders, who were able to see the structure of power within the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and how the Clintons had placed Debbie Wasserman Schultz to head up the DNC and as a result the DNC had tilted the scales of the process against Bernie Sanders.

What about Donald Trump? What is going to happen?

If the question is how I personally feel about the situation, I am mixed: Hillary Clinton and the network around her imprisoned one of our alleged sources for 35 years, Chelsea Manning, tortured her according to the United Nations, in order to implicate me personally. According to our publications Hillary Clinton was the chief proponent and the architect of the war against Libya. It is clear that she pursued this war as a staging effort for her Presidential bid. It wasn’t even a war for an ideological purpose. This war ended up producing the refugee crisis in Europe, changing the political colour of Europe, killing more than 40,000 people within a year in Libya, while the arms from Libya went to Mali and other places, boosting or causing civil wars, including the Syrian catastrophe. If someone and their network behave like that, then there are consequences. Internal and external opponents are generated. Now there is a separate question on what Donald Trump means.

What do you think he means?

Hillary Clinton’s election would have been a consolidation of power in the existing ruling class of the United States. Donald Trump is not a DC insider, he is part of the wealthy ruling elite of the United States, and he is gathering around him a spectrum of other rich people and several idiosyncratic personalities. They do not by themselves form an existing structure, so it is a weak structure which is displacing and destabilising the pre-existing central power network within DC. It is a new patronage structure which will evolve rapidly, but at the moment its looseness means there are opportunities for change in the United States: change for the worse and change for the better”.

In these ten years of WikiLeaks, you and your organisation have experienced all sorts of attacks. What have you learned from this warfare?

Power is mostly the illusion of power. The Pentagon demanded we destroy our publications. We kept publishing. Clinton denounced us and said we were an attack on the entire “international community”. We kept publishing. I was put in prison and under house arrest. We kept publishing. We went head to head with the NSA getting Edward Snowden out of Hong Kong, we won and got him asylum. Clinton tried to destroy us and was herself destroyed. Elephants, it seems, can be brought down with string. Perhaps there are no elephants.

You have spent six years under arrest and confinement, the UN established that you are arbitrarily detained, the UK appealed against the UN decision and lost, so this decision is now final. What is going to happen now?

That’s all politics, that’s something that people cannot properly understand, unless they been through the legal system themselves in high-profile cases. This decision by the UN in my case is really an historical decision. What is someone to do when they are in a multi-jurisdictional conflict, that is politicised and involves big powers? There is too much pressure for domestic courts to resist, so you need an international court with representation from different countries which are not allied to each other to be able to come to a fair decision. That is what happened in my situation. Sweden and the United Kingdom have refused to implement this decision so far, of course it costs both Sweden and the UK on a diplomatic level and the question is how long they are willing to pay that cost.

After six years, the Swedish prosecutors questioned you in London, as you had requested from the beginning. What happens if you get charged, extradited to Sweden and then to the United States? Will WikiLeaks survive?

Yes, we have contingency plans that you have seen in action when my Internet was cut off and while I was in prison before. An organisation like WikiLeaks cannot be structured such that a single person can be a point of failure in the organisation, it makes him or her a target.

Is the internet still cut off?

The internet has been returned.

You’ve declared on more than one occasion that what you really miss after 6 years of arrest and confinement is your family. Your children gave you a present to make you to feel less alone: a kitten. Have you ever reconsidered your choices?

Yes, of course. Fortunately I’m too busy to think about these things all the time. I know that my family and my children are proud of me, that they benefit in some ways from having a father who knows some parts of the world and has become very good in a fight, but in other ways they suffer.

One of the first times we met I noticed a book on your table: “The Prince” by Machiavelli. What have you learned about power in 10 years of WikiLeaks?

My conclusion is that most power structures are deeply incompetent, staffed by people who don’t really believe in their institutions and that most power is the projection of the perception of power. And the more secretively it works, the more incompetent it is, because secrecy breeds incompetence, while openness breeds competence, because one can see and can compare actions and see which one is more competent. To keep up these appearances, institutional heads or political heads such as presidents spend most of the time trying to walk in front of the train and pretending that it is following them, but the direction is set by the tracks and by the engine of the train. Understanding that means that small and committed organisations can outmanoeuvre these institutional dinosaurs, like the State Department, the NSA or the CIA.

Posted in PoliticsComments Off on Assange and Wikileaks: “Donald? It’s a Change Anyway”

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