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John Kerry's magical mystery tour.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington is “not responsible” for either the crisis in Libya, or violence in Iraq, where militants of the Al-Qaeda offshoot group ISIS are capturing cities one by one.

“The United States of America is not responsible for what happened in Libya, nor is it responsible for what is happening in Iraq today,” said Kerry at a press conference in Cairo after a short visit to Egypt for talks with its newly elected President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as part of his Middle East tour. […]

http://rt.com/usa/167708-us-kerry-iraq-libya/

I can only guess we are supposed to believe that, like Bill Clinton, John Kerry does not inhale whatever it is he smokes.

Our leaders may deny and bluster all they want, but I doubt there is another country on the planet that buys this horse-shit.  The US is the direct cause of the ongoing violence in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Ukraine, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan,…

There are about 5000 more words I could have written here, but then I thought to myself, why bother?  When our Secretary of State tours the Middle East (just one area of the globe aflame with the civil strife we inflicted upon it) making such buffoonish remarks, there is nothing to do but gawp like a rube at the county fair taking his first gander at the two-headed boy and hope no-one recognizes you as an American.

[…] The Magical Mystery Tour

Is hoping to take you away

Hoping to take you away […]

The Magical Mystery Tour

Is coming to take you away

Coming to take you away

The Magical Mystery Tour

Is dying to take you away

Dying to take you away

Take you today

[“Magical Mystery Tour” is track #11 on the album The Beatles 1967-1970 (The Blue Album). It was written by Lennon, John Winston / Mccartney, Paul James]

Our foreign policy encapsulated in another Beatles’ song:

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Posted by on June 23, 2014 in Iraq, Libya, MIC, State Dept/diplomacy

 

Greenwald to name names?

Updated below.

Glenn Greenwald, the man Edward Snowden handed the NSA “spying documents” over to, has announced that he has neared the end of the material he will release to the public.  If you haven’t been satisfied with the number of documents published through a few media outlets so far, you can buy his new book, which I understand has a couple more new “revelations” in it.  The book is oddly separated from the documents themselves (I gather you can go to a website and download the documents the book mentions for yourself) and has no index (strange editing choice for a book on such a subject).  Maybe there will be more in his upcoming movie, although that is being publicized as the story of how he and Snowden met and planned the release of the documents; no mention has been made that the movie will include any revealing of the document materials.  Now he has plans for the ending point, a final release of one last item, a “Grand Finale”,  which he will publish later this year at his new billionaire Pierre Omidyar-funded website, The Intercept: he is going to release the names of individuals targeted by the NSA.  (What the hell happened to all those other tens of thousands of documents never released?  We just don’t get to see what’s in them?)

According to this Realclearpolitics article, entitled ” Greenwald’s Finale: Naming Victims of Surveillance”:

The man who helped bring about the most significant leak in American intelligence history is to reveal names of US citizens targeted by their own government in what he promises will be the “biggest” revelation from nearly 2m classified files.

His [Greenwald’s] plan to publish names will further unnerve an American intelligence establishment already reeling from 11 months of revelations about US government surveillance activities. […]

“One of the big questions when it comes to domestic spying is, ‘Who have been the NSA’s specific targets?’,” he said. 

“Are they political critics and dissidents and activists? Are they genuinely people we’d regard as terrorists?

What are the metrics and calculations that go into choosing those targets and what is done with the surveillance that is conducted? Those are the kinds of questions that I want to still answer.”

Greenwald said the names would be published via The Intercept, a website funded by Pierre Omidyar, the billionaire founder and chairman of eBay. […]

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2014/05/26/greenwalds_finale_naming_victims_of_surveillance_122747.html

From a Commondreams article :

And in an interview with The Sunday Times published over the weekend, the award-winning journalist spoke about a coming “finale” that would expose specific individuals who have been targeted by the powerful spy agency. […]”

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2014/05/27-3

Now hold on just a daggone minute.  Greenwald has repeatedly stated that one reason he has vetted the releases with the US government prior to publication is that he and Snowden wanted to make sure that the innocent targets of the NSA would not have their lives disrupted and possibly put in danger by revealing their names.  He has also made numerous times, in what is basically the same wording, the remark that a major factor explaining the slow release of documents is the painstaking work of making sure that the names of individuals targeted by the NSA have their identities (including other potential identifying information aside from their names) redacted prior to public release of any given document.

And the “grand finale” will be…releasing these victims’ names??

I want to be clear: I’m not speculating on what the names are.  I personally don’t care whose names are on the list and am repulsed by the people who are speculating about which names will be revealed.  I am not speculating on whether or not the targets are “innocent”, or what level of “innocence” they hold.  (They are all “innocent” in that none of us should have had our communications spied on, collected, and stored.  Actually, I thought that was one of the major points Snowden had to make.)   Once the list is released, are we all going to pore over the names and opine on who deserved to be spied on?  Are we going to join the NSA in picking out the targets who “deserved” to be targets (based on who we “dislike”) and feign horror over other outed names, saying, “Oh, so-and-so shouldn’t have been a victim of the spying”?

I am not going to play along with that game because it makes me complicit.  It turns us –  all of us the victims and targets in this governmental shredding of our rights – into the same “judge and jury” the spy agencies have been acting as (illegally) all these years.  But that isn’t my main point here.  My point is that when Greenwald has been taken to task for working with the government in vetting the releases, one part of his answer has always been that he needs to keep the targets’ identities secret and secure.  When people complain that the leaks are happening too slowly, he says that it takes a considerable amount of time to redact the names and any identifying information of the victims of the NSA spying in order to protect their privacy and possibly their lives.  He has made these points over and over.

Has Greenwald tried to get in touch with these NSA surveillance victims privately to warn them that they were among the specific targets?  Has he contacted them to ask their permission to out their names on this “grand finale” list?  Is he going to publish every single name he has in his possession, only the names of the people he doesn’t like, or just the names that he thinks will have some shock value?  If he is only publishing some of the names (I am of the opinion that releasing any names is grotesque), how is it that he thinks he is the one who should choose which names to display to the public?  If he is picking and choosing the names on his own, well, by God, what a misuse of power; power that came into his hands only through fate and accident.

I have to say that if the “grand finale” is indeed the naming of the targets’ names, this is weird, inexplicable, and completely contradictory given the lengths Greenwald supposedly went through to protect these people from the beginning.

UPDATE, 3 July:

Turns out Greenwald is going to delay the Big Reveal based on “last-minute claims” from the government that he needs to “investigate”, so my concern over the the so-called list  of names was premature.  He made this announcement via Twitter, where he does his most prolific writing.  That is also where he made the announcement (earlier the same day) that the article was going to be published at midnight on The Intercept:

GG Twitter feed, June 30, 11:56 am:
Tomorrow at 9am ET, I’m doing a @reddit_AMA with @MazMHussain about our new NSA story to be published tonight at midnight on @the_intercept

GG Twitter feed, June 30, 7:32 pm:
After 3 months working on our story, USG today suddenly began making new last-minute claims which we intend to investigate before publishing

So all his fans were waiting breathlessly at the comment section for midnight.  Midnight happened and then someone pointed out the second “tweet”.  Now they are all making a gazillion excuses for him and praying for his safety.  No-one seems to much question that he claims to have been working on this article for three whole months or that the intrepid whistleblowers can’t blow the whistle on the government because, gosh darn it, once again, the mean old government won’t let them.  It would all be pretty funny if it weren’t so stupid.  Some other reporter just published an article a day or two ago which states the NSA has been collecting emails on the entire planet based on “suspicions” raised regarding 230 individuals.  He did not name the names.  Still, kind of a scoop on Greenwald.

Me, I’m just glad that something is preventing Greenwald from publishing the names of the innocent and illegally targeted.  But I must say, this whole weird episode – the really small number of articles Greenwald has written since getting the Snowden documents, the abrupt statement that he was done with what he was going to write about them (aside from this last Grand Finale) despite the dearth of articles and information, the odd notion that the whistleblower and his chosen oracle vet everything through the same government they are whistleblowing on prior to publication of any articles, Snowden’s recent claim that he still works for the government, Greenwald’s and Snowden’s defense of “some spying” as being “useful and necessary”, the very idea behind the “Grand Finale” and now the indefinite postponement of said “fireworks” – makes it look like Greenwald just pulled the best freaking rick-roll in the history of rick-rolling.

Here’s your Grand Finale, people:

 
3 Comments

Posted by on May 28, 2014 in security state, Uncategorized

 

News round up, week ending 5/3/14.

Updated below.

Today’s post is brought to you by our corporate sponsor, the BigusFawk Co. [Big United States Fuckers Aligned for the World Kill.  Their slogan: Fuck you!  And you, and you, and you!].

First, we see that Ukraine not only got an unelected, US-picked junta installed courtesy of USA/CIA/NED/USAID interference in their country and now have to suffer under the austerity measures forced on them by the IMF, they also just got their draft reinstated.  It’s a free bonus gift they weren’t even expecting.

Ukraine reinstates military draft as NATO threatens Russia

NATO officials escalated their military build-up against Russia yesterday, as the pro-Western puppet regime in Kiev reinstated conscription in order to boost its crackdown on spreading pro-Russian protests in eastern Ukraine. […] [Teri’s note:  The acting  (e.g., installed, or interim government) President  Turchinov signed a decree (what we in the US call an executive order, as it comes from the president rather than going through Congress, or in Ukraine’s instance, through their parliament) reinstating compulsory military service for men aged between 18 and 25.]

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/05/02/ukra-m02.html

38 people, all of them protesters against the neo-Nazi regime we have installed in Ukraine,  have been killed as a building was set on fire in Odessa. God help these people, who are being used as pawns in our games.  They had it bad enough before we decided to meddle in their affairs.

Washington responsible for fascist massacre in Odessa

3 May 2014

In what can only be described as a massacre, 38 anti-government activists were killed Friday after fascist-led forces set fire to Odessa’s Trade Unions House, which had been sheltering opponents of the US- and European-backed regime in Ukraine.

According to eye-witnesses, those who jumped from the burning building and survived were surrounded and beaten by thugs from the neo-Nazi Right Sector. Video footage shows bloodied and wounded survivors being attacked.

The atrocity underscores both the brutal character of the right-wing government installed in Kiev by the Western powers and the encouragement by the US and its allies of a bloody crackdown by the regime to suppress popular opposition, centered in the mainly Russian-speaking south and east of Ukraine.[…]

Despite Western media attempts to cover up what happened in Odessa—with multiple reports stating that “the exact sequence of events is still unclear”—there is no doubt that the killings in the southern port city were instigated by thugs wearing the insignia of the Right Sector, which holds positions in the Kiev regime, along with the like-minded Svoboda party. […]

The Odessa massacre is the largest death toll so far since the Ukrainian regime, at the urging of the Obama administration, renewed its full-scale military assault on anti-government protests and occupations. […]

At his press conference with Merkel, Obama seized on reports that two Ukrainian helicopters had been struck by ground fire. He cited unconfirmed allegations by the Ukrainian intelligence agency SBU that one was hit by a heat-seeking missile as proof that Russian forces were involved. By the evening, however, even the New York Times admitted that no evidence had been produced of heat-seeking missiles.

Along with Obama’s incendiary claim, his backing for Kiev’s military onslaught points to a drive by the US and its European partners to create civil war conditions and goad Russian President Vladimir Putin’s administration into intervening, in order to provide the pretext for crippling economic sanctions and a NATO confrontation with Russia. […]

Russia called another emergency UN Security Council meeting Friday to denounce Ukraine’s actions. Moscow’s ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, warned of “catastrophic consequences” if the military operation continued, only to be denounced by his US counterpart, Samantha Power, who called the attack “proportionate and reasonable.”

Power, who made a name for herself by championing US military interventions in Libya and elsewhere in the name of “human rights” and the “protection of civilians,” declared that Russia’s concern about escalating instability was “cynical and disingenuous.” In keeping with US government propaganda since the beginning of the crisis, she baldly asserted that Russia was the cause of the instability. […]

Ukraine’s initial military assault last month began after CIA Director James Brennan surreptitiously visited Kiev. A second push followed a visit by US Vice President Joseph Biden.

There is evidence of ongoing US involvement. The Russian Foreign Ministry said English-speaking foreigners had been seen among the Ukrainian forces mounting the assault on Slavyansk on Friday, echoing its previous charges that Greystone, a US military contractor, is working alongside the Ukrainian military. […]

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/05/03/ukra-m03.html

Also see: http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2014/05/02/washington-intends-russias-demise-paul-craig-roberts/

and:

http://chewhatyoucallyourpasa.blogspot.com/2014/05/what-happened-in-odessa.html

The US has worked out an agreement with the Philippines which will allow us access to five military bases there, despite the Philippine constitution, which has barred US forces from operating bases since the 1990’s.  Obama makes the repeated point that we are not opening new bases,  which is true enough.  We are just stationing our Navy in 5 already-existing bases “temporarily“;  the new agreement stipulates that we will have this access for ten years.   The US is claiming that this re-deployment, which is what it really is, is being done in part to help with “disaster response and humanitarian assistance”.  I’m a little surprised any country on earth falls for that line any more.  I wonder where we found the money for this – perhaps China gave us another loan?

United States troops will soon have access to upwards of five military bases across the Philippines as the result of an agreement signed earlier this week between nations, the Asian country’s chief negotiator told reporters on Friday. […]

Soon, officials are expected to announce which bases will formally be opened up to the US based off of maritime security, maritime domain awareness and humanitarian assistance and disaster response, according to Rappler’s report.

http://rt.com/usa/156428-philippines-edca-five-bases/ 

Azcueta’s announcement opens the door for the first American military deployments to Clark Air Force Base and the naval base in Subic Bay since DOD officially shuttered the facilities in 1991 and 1992, respectively. […]

Manila will receive $30 million in foreign military funding from the the United States this year, according to news reports — nearly three times the $11.9 million in military funds Washington pledged to the Philippines in 2011.  

That money will likely help support the hundreds of Marines expected to flood into the Philippines in the coming years. […]

http://thehill.com/policy/defense/231257-philippines-re-opens-military-bases-to-us-forces-

Here at home, we have a new proposal coming from the White House regarding highway maintenance.  [Spoiler alert: POTUS is not suggesting that we spend less money blowing up bridges, roads and other infrastructures abroad and instead spend that money on US infrastructure.]  My personal notes, not to be confused with the original text, are, as always, bracketed and in red.

White House opens door to tolls on interstate highways, removing long-standing prohibition.

With pressure mounting to avert a transportation funding crisis this summer, the Obama administration Tuesday opened the door for states to collect tolls on interstate highways to raise revenue for roadway repairs.  [As opposed to, for instance, taking the money from the bloated Pentagon budget, or reducing the amount we spend on spying programs, or making corporations pay their taxes, or ending the practice of sending “aid” money to affluent foreign countries, or any number of other more commonsense and fair ideas that would reduce the amount of already burdensome taxes the average person forks over every fucking day.]

The proposal, contained in a four-year, $302 billion White House transportation bill, would reverse a long-standing federal prohibition on most interstate tolling.  [I’ll say – the entire idea of the Federal Highway system was to avoid a toll system being imposed by the various states.]

Though some older segments of the network — notably the Pennsylvania and New Jersey turnpikes and Interstate 95 in Maryland and Interstate 495 in Virginia — are toll roads, most of the 46,876-mile system has been toll-free.

“We believe that this is an area where the states have to make their own decisions,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We want to open the aperture, if you will, to allow more states to choose to make broader use of tolling, to have that option available.”  [I will, out of respect for my gentle reader, decline to take the opportunity of making the obvious joke about “open aperture” offered by Mr. Foxx in his remarks.]

The question of how to pay to repair roadways and transit systems built in the heady era of post-World War II expansion is demanding center stage this spring, with projections that traditional funding can no longer meet the need.

That source, the Highway Trust Fund, relies on the 18.4-cent federal gas tax, which has eroded steadily as vehicles have become more energy efficient.  [We can thus infer that the decline in funds is caused by the stupid taxpayers themselves, who should now pony up.  You did not think you were going to be allowed to save money on gas and keep that savings, did you?  You haven’t any idea how this capitalistic model works.]

“The proposal comes at the crucial moment for transportation in the last several years,” Foxx said. “As soon as August, the Highway Trust Fund could run dry. States are already canceling or delaying projects because of the uncertainty.”

While providing tolling as an option to states, the White House proposal relies on funding from a series of corporate tax reforms, most of them one-time revenue streams that would provide a four-year bridge to close the trust-fund deficit and permit $150 billion more in spending than the gas tax will bring in.  [Corporate tax reform?  Corporate tax reform?  The Obama proposals on corporate tax reform always include reducing corporate taxes. I am perplexed.  However, since this article declines to state what these reforms are, exactly, I will have to remain mystified.]  […]

Details of the president’s proposal, which he first outlined almost two months ago, were welcomed as a sign of growing momentum toward a resolution, even by those who couldn’t fully embrace his plan. […]

Terry O’Sullivan, president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, said the bill helped “advance the discussion” but said a federal gas tax increase should be used to fund it.

“The gas tax remains the most tested and logical way of meeting our critical investment needs,” O’Sullivan said.

“For too long, Congress’s duct-tape approach has made our roads and bridges unsafe, destabilized the construction industry and slowed our economy.”  [Well, the duct tape approach, combined with austerity measures, while banks and corporations get free money and pay no taxes.]
The federal tax last was raised in 1993 and has not been adjusted for inflation.  [Neither has my pay, but I digress] […]

“Congress has an opportunity to not only save the transportation program, but to recommit to investing in the repairs and improvements our communities and businesses need,” said James Corless, the group’s director [the nonprofit Transportation for America].

Corless predicted that most Americans would accept tax increases to fund transportation.  [By this he means that most Americans will have tax increases foisted upon them whether they like it or not, and aside from some minor and insignificant written protests by unknown bloggers, most will be dumbly clueless about the issue.  Besides, the only alternative currently in play being the President’s proposed every-road-a-toll-road scheme, a gas tax increase might, in the end, be more digestible for the public.  Here in Maryland, the state just increased its state gas taxes by 3 cents per gallon this year.  This is what is known as a regressive tax.]

“When people understand where the dollars are being spent, the direct impact to their lives, they support paying their fair share,” he said.
Foxx said the highway trust fund would face a $63 billion shortfall over the next four years.  [Ironically, on Tuesday, the House Ways and Means Committee “sent a package of bills to the House floor that would cost American taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars over the next ten years by making permanent tax provisions multinational corporations use to avoid paying U.S. taxes”.  I will give quotes from an article which covers this BigUSFawk project below the article you are currently reading.]   […]

The proposal emphasizes a fix-it-first approach that would give funding priority to existing roads, bridges and transit systems rather than expanding their network.

It would expand reforms intended to streamline environmental reviews and project delivery that were begun in the current federal highway bill.  [Ah, yes, streamlining environmental reviews.  The same procedure that brings BP back into the Gulf, allows rampant fracking without regard to consequences to the water we drink, and gives us many opportunities to view exciting youtube videos of oil-transport trains exploding into flames.  In for a penny, in for a pound, I always say; streamline it all.]

It also would expand popular loan-guarantee programs that have been used by state and local governments to fund projects. The White House plan would almost double funding — from $12.3 billion to $22.3 billion — for transit systems and intercity passenger rail.  [This sounds suspiciously like some public/private partnership deal in the works.  It also sounds much like the bond programs the big banks have been using to scam local governments for a decade now, and which have resulted in the broke-ass states having to cut public pension funds and, uh, do away with stuff like road repairs.]

In addition, the plan would increase the fine an automaker could face for a safety violation from the current $35 million to $300 million.
Though that proposal is not new, it takes on greater significance amid the debate over General Motors’s delayed recall of 2 million cars with faulty ignition switches that are alleged to have led to at least 13 deaths.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/white-house-opens-door-to-tolls-on-interstate-highways-removing-long-standing-prohibition/2014/04/29/5d2b9f30-cfac-11e3-b812-0c92213941f4_print.html

Well, hey now, it turns out Yves Smith over at Naked Capitalism also thinks the above proposal might be a public/private partnership piece of shit:

Will “Highway Cliff” Allow Obama to Revive “Public/Private Partnership” Infrastructure Scam?:

http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2014/05/will-highway-fiscal-cliff-allow-obama-to-revive-public-private-partnerships-for-infrastructure.html

Now, let’s take a gander at the latest “corporate tax reform” as envisioned by our Congress.

Do-Nothing Congress Continues Helping GE, Apple, Other Multinational Tax Dodgers

On Tuesday, the House Ways and Means Committee sent a package of bills to the House floor that would cost American taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars over the next ten years by making permanent tax provisions multinational corporations use to avoid paying U.S. taxes.

“For all of the talk in Washington about getting our fiscal house in order, the Committee did not consider how to pay for these expensive tax breaks,” said Dan Smith, U.S. PIRG Tax and Budget Advocate, “despite repeated attempts by Ranking Member Sandy Levin to raise the issue.”

H.R. 4429 would re-enact the currently expired “active financing” provision, and make it permanent. This provision is known as the “GE” loophole, because General Electric not only prodigiously benefits from it, but also because the company has sent an army of lobbyists to ensure the provision, which expired last year, was re-enacted.

Making the GE loophole permanent would cost nearly $60 billion over ten years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. The relevant Senate Committee took a slightly different approach, sending a two-year extension to the Senate floor that would cost “only” $7 billion. Another bill that cleared committee Tuesday was H.R. 4464, which would re-enact the “CFC look through” rule and make it permanent.

This provision is known as the Apple loophole, because Apple innovated it and uses it to protect billions it would owe U.S. tax on, if the tax code looked at where the money was earned – where the value was actually generated – rather than where companies can assign the profits. Making the Apple loophole permanent would cost $20.3 billion over ten years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.

The Senate bill, since it would extend the provision for two years, would cost “only” $2 billion. “While Wall Street banks, tech giants, and pharmaceutical companies would get a windfall from these loopholes,” Smith added, “average taxpayers and small business owners would get stuck footing the bill through cuts to public programs, higher taxes, or a larger deficit.”  [Cuts to public programs like road and transportation upkeep, addressed in the preceding article.]

Two other corporate tax cuts that cleared committee Tuesday were not about tax havens, however. They reflected other problematic policies. One is called the “Research Credit.” As Steve Wamhoff, Legislative Director for Citizens for Tax Justice, explained, “The so-called research credit does not encourage research. Congress should not re-enact it, much less make it permanent until it addresses the problems so that it actually encourages research.”

If the House gets its way, the “Research” Credit would cost $155 billion over 10 years. Again, the Senate is considering a two-year extension of a slightly different version of the credit, which also does not address the issues that concerns Wamhoff.

The last and arguably least problematic tax cut bill to clear committee Tuesday aims to inspire smaller businesses to invest in their businesses by making the tax treatment of such investment more favorable. But, Wamhoff says, “I do not expect it to encourage investment or help grow the economy. We work with some small business folks, and they say what will get them to invest is more customers, not more tax breaks.”  [These customers would be the now mythical “US consumer base”.  Since the current labor participation rate is only 62.8% and 1 in 5 American households have no-one in the house actually working, the “US consumer base” is largely a rumor not related to any fact in evidence.]

The smaller business tax cut would cost $73 billion over 10 years. Wamhoff, like Smith, praised Michigan Democrat Sandy Levin: “Under Levin’s leadership,” Wamhoff said, “even those Democrats who support the tax breaks decided that if the country couldn’t afford to deficit-finance unemployment insurance and food stamps, it couldn’t afford to deficit-finance these tax breaks.”

Unfortunately for taxpayers, House Republicans didn’t agree and sent these bills to the House floor.

http://www.benzinga.com/news/14/04/4508611/do-nothing-congress-continues-helping-ge-apple-other-multinational-tax-dodgers?utm_campaign=partner_feed&utm_source=marketfy_partners_bobz&utm_medium=marketfy_partners&utm_content=site

On my note in the above article, “1 in 5 American households have no-one in the house actually working”:

“[…] In 20% of American families in 2013, according to new data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), not one member of the family worked.  A family, as defined by the BLS, is a group of two or more people who live together and who are related by birth, adoption or marriage. In 2013, there were 80,445,000 families in the United States and in 16,127,000—or 20%–no one had a job. The BLS designates a person as ’employed’ if ‘during the survey reference week’ they ‘(a) did any work at all as paid employees; (b) worked in their own business, profession, or on their own farm; (c) or worked 15 hours or more as unpaid workers in an enterprise operated by a member of the family.’ […]”

http://www.theautomaticearth.com/debt-rattle-apr-30-2014-the-boy-in-the-bubble/

Furthermore, although the official unemployment rate went down for the month of April (to 6.3 %), this was largely because the labor force participation rate [LFPR] also went down again.  I explained the LFPR in my last post; this number basically tells us how many people, out of the number of people eligible to work, who are actually employed.  The labor force number has suddenly dropped again, from the previous 63.2% to 62.8%, the lowest since 1978.  800,000 people dropped out of the labor force in March.  These are people who have simply abandoned  the search for nonexistent jobs.  That is simply a staggering number.

This means that, despite the bogus, heavily massaged, and virtually meaningless number given to us as the “unemployment rate”, the population of job-eligible people who are working is declining rapidly.  Average wages have also remained completely stagnant, but I suppose we must be grateful that the oligarchy didn’t cut our wages significantly last month.

Moving on, the Supreme Court has once again offered irrefutable proof that it has no interest in upholding the Constitution.  There is no need to mention the WH or Congressional positions on constitutional law; that horse left the barn some years (and administrations) ago.

Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to NDAA Detention Power
By Jason Ditz On April 28, 2014

The US Supreme Court has further enhanced the administration’s ability to detain anyone, at any time, on any pretext today, when it refused to hear the Hedges v. Obama case, meaning an Appeals Court ruling on the matter will stand.

The case stems from a 2012 lawsuit brought by Chris Hedges, Daniel Ellsberg, Noam Chomsky and others, and sought to block the enforcement of a 2012 National Defense Authorization Act statute that allows the president to unilaterally impose indefinite detention on anyone, without access to courts, if he personally believes something they did “aided” the Taliban or al-Qaeda.

Courts initially banned such detentions, over intense objection from President Obama, who argued that prohibiting the detentions would be an unconstitutional restriction of presidential power.

The Appeals Court eventually restored the detention power, however, insisting that Hedges et al didn’t have standing to contest their future detention because they couldn’t prove that the president might decide to detain them at some point in the future.

The standing argument effectively makes it impossible to challenge the NDAA statute, as it precludes challenges before the detention takes place, and once a person has been disappeared into military custody under the NDAA, the law explicitly denies them any access to the courts.

http://news.antiwar.com/2014/04/28/supreme-court-rejects-challenge-to-ndaa-detention-power/

There have been a number of articles about the EPA’s proposal to allow a massive increase in the use of the herbicide known as 2,4-D, one of the main ingredients in the defoliant used during the Vietnam War (Agent Orange). Because the weeds in fields where genetically modified foods are grown (commonly referred to as GMOs, or as genetically engineered – GE – crops) are becoming resistant to glyphosate, the Big Ag growers would like to resort to more powerful herbicides.  The GMO crops are inherently immune to RoundUp (glyphosate) and 2,4-D; that was the whole point in developing them and why they are called “RoundUp Ready”.  Another GMO crop, Bt Corn, was created to act as a pesticide in and of itself.  However, insects feeding on the Bt Corn are likewise becoming immune to the pesticide within the corn.  Time to spray stronger crap and lots of it.  Monsanto, Dow, Bayer, et.al., are quick to point out that it was not the 2,4-D which turned out to be the big human killer in Agent Orange, but another active ingredient called 2,4,5-T, which was itself contaminated with something else (dioxins). Studies conducted by independent scientists and research labs (e.g., those not employed by Monsanto) are now showing that glyphosate and 2,4-D do, in fact, have an adverse effect on people and animals, especially given the massive amounts of the stuff being sprayed on the crops throughout the growing cycle.

It’s all bullshit and flim-flammery, of course; the fact is that the problem is not glyphosate alone, or 2,4-D alone, or any of the other major ingredients of these herbicides and pesticides alone, all of which are questionable enough, but the addition of inert ingredients.  These additions create entirely new compositions with their own unique hazards.  Although the combinations can be highly toxic, the EPA does not test these cocktails.  Why?  Hey, I’m glad you asked.  Turns out the mixtures are “proprietary trade secrets” and don’t have to be disclosed to anyone.  Exactly like the protected “proprietary” mix of toxic sludge going into fracking fluids and then dumped into our water supplies.  When Agent Orange was created, it was produced expressly for the purpose of chemical warfare.  Were we a more alert and informed society, we might still recognize it as such.

Used in yards, farms and parks throughout the world, Roundup has long been a top-selling weed killer. But now researchers have found that one of Roundup’s inert ingredients can kill human cells, particularly embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells.

The new findings intensify a debate about so-called “inerts” — the solvents, preservatives, surfactants and other substances that manufacturers add to pesticides. Nearly 4,000 inert ingredients are approved for use by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.[…]

Until now, most health studies have focused on the safety of glyphosate, rather than the mixture of ingredients found in Roundup. But in the new study, scientists found that Roundup’s inert ingredients amplified the toxic effect on human cells—even at concentrations much more diluted than those used on farms and lawns.[…]

“This clearly confirms that the [inert ingredients] in Roundup formulations are not inert,” wrote the study authors from France’s University of Caen. “Moreover, the proprietary mixtures available on the market could cause cell damage and even death [at the] residual levels” found on Roundup-treated crops, such as soybeans, alfalfa and corn, or lawns and gardens. […]

Inert ingredients are often less scrutinized than active pest-killing ingredients. Since specific herbicide formulations are protected as trade secrets, manufacturers aren’t required to publicly disclose them. Although Monsanto is the largest manufacturer of glyphosate-based herbicides, several other manufacturers sell similar herbicides with different inert ingredients.

The term “inert ingredient” is often misleading, according to Caroline Cox, research director of the Center for Environmental Health, an Oakland-based environmental organization. Federal law classifies all pesticide ingredients that don’t harm pests as “inert,” she said. Inert compounds, therefore, aren’t necessarily biologically or toxicologically harmless – they simply don’t kill insects or weeds.

But some inert ingredients have been found to potentially affect human health. Many amplify the effects of active ingredients by helping them penetrate clothing, protective equipment and cell membranes, or by increasing their toxicity. […]

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/weed-whacking-herbicide-p/

On to this week’s news about 2,4-D then:

The US Environmental Protection Agency has revealed a proposal for mass use of Dow Chemical’s herbicide 2,4-D on the company’s genetically-engineered corn and soybeans.

The GE [genetically engineered] crops were developed to withstand several herbicides, including 2,4-D. Dow would be allowed to sell the herbicide if the EPA approves it following a 30-day public comment period.[…]

Dow’s genetically-engineered corn and soybeans – known as Enlist – have received preliminary approval from the US Department of Agriculture. Should Enlist crops win ultimate authorization, the USDA said that would increase the annual use of 2,4-D (2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid) in the United States from 26 million pounds per year to possibly 176 million pounds.

The crops are designed to withstand high doses of glyphosate – brought to market by biotech giant Monsanto as their Roundup weed killer – and 2,4-D. […]

Scientists, human and environmental health advocates, farming organizations, and food transparency groups have urged government regulators to think twice about unleashing more 2,4-D. […]

Medical researchers have linked exposure to 2,4-D, and other chemicals like it, to increased rates of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, endocrine disruption, and low sperm counts, among other conditions. Higher rates of birth anomalies have been found where there is heavy use of 2,4-D.

Health concerns had prompted the Natural Resources Defense Council to petition the EPA to halt use of the herbicide, though that effort was defeated in 2012.  “With this decision it is clear that the EPA is serving the interests of Dow Chemical and the biotech industry rather than protecting our health and the environment,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety.

In an agribusiness chemical arms race, Dow’s development of 2,4-D-resistant crops came about once first-generation genetically-modified crops made by Monsanto evolved to resist the company’s Roundup herbicide. The flood of new GE crops increased the use of glyphosate, which has its own links to a host of ill health effects, and glyphosate-resistant “superweeds.”

“2,4-D is not a solution to glyphosate-resistant weeds,” Kimbrell said. “Weeds will rapidly evolve resistance to 2,4-D as well if these crops are approved, driving a toxic spiral of ever-increasing herbicide use. Dow’s Enlist crops are a textbook example of unsustainable farming, profiting pesticide companies to the detriment of American farmers, public health and the environment.”

Nevertheless, Dow maintains that farmers need an answer for “hard to control” weeds. […]

http://rt.com/usa/156272-epa-dow-agent-orange-herbicide/

Monsanto’s GMO “Bt Corn”, which now makes up 86% of the corn crop in the US, is not technically a food product.  If you were confused by the references to both the EPA and the USDA in the above article, part of that is because Bt Corn is registered and regulated by the EPA as a pesticide.  The bacteria, bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, is genetically inserted into the corn.  Thus the pesticide is actually produced inside the plant, as part of the plant, so not only can it never be washed off: it makes the plant itself a pesticide.  Which you are eating every time you eat anything containing corn or corn syrup; the latter ingredient is found in damn near every food product on American grocery store shelves.  The EPA lists these GMOs as Plant-Incorporated Protectants (PIP).  You can find the list of GMOs thus recognized on the “Type of Pesticide: Plant-Incorporated Protectant (PIP)” chart at:
http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/biopesticides/pips/smartstax-factsheet.pdf

One might think that being listed as a pesticide would automatically create the need for mandatory labeling on food products containing this ingredient.  One would be, in a word, wrong.  There is an inherent doublespeak going on with GMOs in general anyway, and has been since they were first formulated.  The biotech firms were allowed to patent their grotesque creations based on the idea that they were “unique”, which they sure as shit are.  Bt could have never naturally become part of corn seed, for example.  Another GMO patent exists on tomatoes combined with salmon genes (yes, the fish), done to make the tomatoes viable into the cold weather season.  But when it comes to labeling and regulating these things, we are told that the products needn’t be labeled because they are “just the same” as the traditional food products.  They obviously shouldn’t be allowed to have it both ways.  And, no, these products are not equivalent to hybrids, an argument I see all the time presented by GMO proponents.  Hybrids can occur naturally between closely related species, especially among plants.  A cross between a tomato and a salmon would never occur in nature, nor would a cross between corn and the Bt bacteria.

GMO “RoundUp Ready” crops are genetically altered so the plant can take multiple hits of glyphosate and/or 2, 4-D without being killed.  The weeds around them are deader than dead, but the RoundUp Ready crops are not.  This does not mean they aren’t absorbing the herbicide; they are.  They just aren’t killed by it.  When you eat these foods, you are eating the glyphosate as well.  The crops are sprayed many, many times during the growth period and right before harvest are put through what is called “crop desiccation”; i.e., fully saturating the fields with RoundUp to kill off all the green matter (as opposed to the fruit or vegetable itself) to make it easier for the harvesting equipment to go through.  Desiccation is done immediately before the harvest; it is absorbed by the crop, just like the earlier applications of herbicide and cannot be washed off.  Then the “food” is harvested, processed, packaged, and sold to you.  I don’t know how much RoundUp a human can safely eat before getting sick or dying, but since the warning label on RoundUp reads, in part, “Keep out of reach of children, harmful if swallowed, avoid contact with eyes or prolonged contact with skin,” I suspect it is much less than what we are being fed.

Pre-harvest crop desiccation (also siccation) refers to the application of a herbicide to a crop shortly before harvest. The herbicide most widely used is glyphosate, while use of diquat and glufosinate is much more limited. For potatoes, carfentrazone-ethyl is used. Other desiccants are cyanamide, cinidon-ethyl, and pyraflufen.

Uneven crop growth is a problem in northern climates, with wet summers, or poor weed control. With desiccation a number of advantages are cited: More even ripening is achieved and harvest can be conducted earlier; weed control is initiated for a future crop; earlier ripening allows for earlier replanting; desiccation reduces green material in the harvest putting less strain on harvesting machinery. Some crop may be mechanically destroyed when crop desiccation machinery moves through the field.

The application of glyphosate differs between countries significantly. It is commonly used in the UK where summers are wet and crops may ripen unevenly. Thus in the UK 78% of oilseed rape is desiccated before harvest, but only 4% in Germany. Other countries have banned desiccation practices, such as Austria[6] and Switzerland.

Pre-harvest desiccation has been applied to a wide variety of plants including: cereals, oilseed rape, legumes, linseed, lupins, flax, linola, maize, sunflower, kiwi, wine grapes, raspberries, apples, soy, alfalfa, and potatoes.

Criticism:
Glyphosate is applied to plants just before harvest and absorbed by plants; it cannot be washed out prior to human use. Herbicides can also reach humans through meat and milk of cattle that has been fed herbicide-treated fodder. It has been identified in the urine of urban dwellers who do not handle glyphosate at concentrations of 0.5-2ng/ml, much higher than allowed in drinking water (<0.1ng/ml).  The extent and the effects of an accumulating glyphosate contamination of humans and animals deserve further studies.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crop_desiccation

Suggested further reading on GMOs:
http://www.gmfreeze.org/site_media/uploads/publications/glyphosate_residues_in_UK_food_final.pdf

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/10/23/glyphosate-found-in-human-urine.aspx

http://www.globalresearch.ca/monsanto-roundup-the-impacts-of-glyphosate-herbicide-on-human-health-pathways-to-modern-diseases/5342520

http://www.organicconsumers.org/monsanto/roundup.cfm

EPA denies petition to halt use of 2,4-D in 2012:
http://www.epa.gov/oppfead1/cb/csb_page/updates/2012/2-4d-petition.html

A new study reveals an insecticide produced in GM corn actually gets absorbed into the human body:
http://foodintegritynow.org/2011/05/19/gmo-study-omg-you’re-eating-insecticide/

and:
http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/toxin-from-gm-crops-found-in-human-blood/1/137728.html

An accessible intro and explanation of genetically engineered products and why there is cause for concern with genetic splicing.  If you choose only one article to read out of the list, this is probably the one you want:   http://thegeneticengineeringdebate.blogspot.ca/2014/02/genetics-101-why-you-should-be.html

Update Sunday, 4 May:

On the US military agreement with the Philippines, we are finally seeing the document itself.  I will remind you that the Philippines’ president, Aquino, signed this agreement without any consultation with his legislature: this is basically another “presidential executive order”, which bypasses the normal legal processes in a country.

US military basing deal sets legal framework for neocolonial rule in the Philippines

The US basing deal signed during US President Barack Obama’s recent visit to the Philippines, and now surreptitiously published in the “Historical Papers” section of the Philippine government’s web site, marks a reactionary political milestone in the Philippines and Asia. […]

Under the EDCA [Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement], Washington receives exclusive access to bases, referred to as “agreed locations,” throughout the Philippines. The list of “agreed locations,” which the document does not even bother to specify, can also be added to at the request of the US military. The “agreed locations” are to be exclusively accessed by US forces and contractors. […]

Effectively, moreover, the US military is being given free rein throughout the country. The EDCA states that, in addition to the “agreed locations,” US forces have access to “public land and facilities (including roads, ports, and airfields), including those owned or controlled by local government.” There is no space or facility within the Philippines exempted from this clause.

The agreement authorizes the deployment of unlimited numbers of US military and civilian personnel and US military contractors to the Philippines. Once there, they are authorized to conduct “training, transit, support, and related activities; refueling of aircraft; bunkering of vessels; temporary maintenance of vehicles, vessels and aircraft; temporary accommodation of personnel; communications; prepositioning of equipment, supplies and materiel; deploying of forces and materiel; and any other such activities as the Parties may agree.”

Any US war materiel in the country is for the “exclusive use of United States forces,” which shall be provided with “unimpeded access to Agreed Locations.”

These terms provide a legal framework for Washington to use the Philippines as a staging area for war against China, or whatever other target is selected by US imperialism. During the Vietnam War, Washington used its bases in the Philippines to launch bombing raids targeting North Vietnam and Cambodia. […]

The agreement is being imposed in blatant violation of the Philippine constitution, which bans the presence of any foreign troops or bases in the country without the approval of a treaty by a two-thirds majority in the Senate. The Philippine legislature, which is not party to the agreement, has been left with no legal recourse to contest it. […]

The agreement exempts US forces from oversight under Philippine or international law—a measure recalling US policy in occupied countries like Iraq, or imperialist extraterritoriality clauses on colonial countries of 19th-century Asia. Instead, US forces and contractors will “operate under US law, regulations and policies.” […]

Article XI of the EDCA states, “Disputes and other matters subject to consultation shall not be referred to any national or international court, tribunal or other similar body, or to any third party for settlement.”

This article precludes the review of the EDCA by either the Philippine judiciary or legislature. Should a US serviceman shoot or rape a Filipino, or run over a child with his car—events which have repeatedly occurred around US military bases in Asia—he will be subject to US law and jurisdiction. Any disputes over the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the United States within the Philippines, or any other aspect of the agreement, may not be reviewed by the Philippine judiciary.

The United States is to pay no rent whatsoever for its Philippine bases. The document even arrogantly specifies that if Washington chooses to vacate a particular base, it can exact from Manila “compensation for improvements” it has made.

Washington is also guaranteed access to “water, electricity, and other public utilities” at the same rate paid by the Philippine government. All taxes and fees exacted on these utilities, which all Filipinos are obliged to pay, will be paid for the US military by the Philippine government. […]

In one of the few restrictions imposed on US forces, the agreement stipulates that, as dictated by the Philippine constitution, Washington may not “preposition” any nuclear weapons in the country.

Declassified documents from the period of the US occupation of Subic naval base and Clark Airbase have shown that in the past Washington illegally stored nuclear weapons in the Philippines. What is more, Washington routinely refuses to comment on which of its ships carry nuclear weapons. Given the limits imposed by the EDCA on the inspections that can be conducted by the Philippine “authorized representative,” this clause is toothless.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/05/03/phil-m03.html

On Ukraine, I would like to note that this weekend, I have seen the repeated use of the word “rebels” by the Western media (i.e., US and Europe) to describe the protesters in Ukraine.  The protesters are not “rebels”, a word used to deliberately provoke images of insurgents and terrorist groups.  They are Ukrainian citizens who are protesting against the junta installed in Kiev.  Some of the protesters want to rejoin Russia, but not many, and certainly not most of them.  Some agreed with their ousted president that Ukraine would have been better served by financial aid coming from Russia rather than through the EU.  The EU/US aid comes via the IMF, and includes serious austerity measures and steps to make Ukraine a NATO border country.  Most of the protesters are federalists.  Seeing that the new government, which they did not elect, is largely comprised of fascists, who are making distasteful agreements with the IMF and NATO, this group – by far the majority in the protest movement – want autonomous states within Ukraine, each having a locally-elected government allowed some independence from the central Ukraine government, which they would like to be weaker.

The BBC, the Washington Post, and Reuters have all begun using the word “rebels” to describe these Ukrainians, as evidenced by this Reuters headline, “Moscow May Day parade lauds Putin as rebels seize more Ukraine buildings”, and this quote from the WaPo, in an utterly over-the-top, rancid piece of jingoistic filth: “Ukraine suffered its bloodiest day in nearly three months on Friday, with at least nine people killed when the army launched its first major assault on a rebel stronghold and 34 killed in clashes between pro-Ukrainian and pro-Russian mobs in the Black Sea port city of Odessa. […]”.  [http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/ukraine-army-launches-assault-on-rebel-stronghold/2014/05/02/b1c589e8-be8f-43a1-9927-13310c24b653_story.html?hpid=z1]

A poll taken in Ukraine mid-April revealed the following (this was a poll in which Ukrainians themselves were invited to participate; not one of those stupid “what do Americans think” things):

2/3 of the respondents think Ukraine should remain a united country.  Only a minority support reunification with Russia.  Majorities also favor the idea of autonomous states with locally elected officials rather than power concentrated in Kiev.  [Hence, we see that protesters are not necessarily “pro-Russian”.  That label is a simplistic political term used by the media.  The Ukrainian citizens themselves are obviously much more capable of thinking about and forming opinions on complex issues than are western media and western leaders.]

Over 50% believe acting President Turchynov is “illegally occupying his post,” and just under half felt the same way about about acting Prime Minister Yatsenyuk [“Yats”].

74% in Donetsk and 70% in Luhansk feel that the entire interim government is “illegitimate”.

Ukraine is supposed to hold an actual national election on May 25.  Despite the fact the acting government is merely a temporary, interim group (more accurately called a junta) and was not elected, the IMF is releasing the first $3 bb of its $17 bb loan to this acting government immediately.  In other words, an illegally installed “government” gets to make the decision of putting the entire country in debt to the western banking cartel and additionally, to decide how to start spending that money.  An IMF staff report reads that should the central government in Kiev “lose control” over the eastern section of Ukraine, the terms of the loan will have to be re-designed.  The US and Europe do not seem to regard this as blackmail or an instigation toward civil war: the IMF is sort of goading the junta into further violence against protesters as Turchynov and Yatsenyuk try to keep their deal with the IMF in place.

The US State Dept. announced that USAID is giving another $1.2 mm to “support Ukrainian media outlets” as they prepare for the Ukrainian presidential election.

“This additional funding will help to protect vulnerable journalists while also advancing press freedoms and democratic governance in Ukraine. USAID supports respect for universal rights around the world as central to its mission that we’ve talked a lot about in here as well.” – State Dept briefing, 2 may ’14

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2014/05/225545.htm

Yessirreebob, that good old USAID (CIA) and its love of press freedom and democratic governance.

There had been an interesting exchange during the previous day’s press briefing where a reporter asked the State Dept. spokeswoman what she thought about the May Day demonstrations in Russia, which the reporter first mistakenly called “protests”.  Because he opened with that word, and because Ms. Harf was completely clueless as to what he was talking about (callowness being the predominant trait exhibited by State Dept personnel), this amusing conversation took place:

QUESTION: It’s the first time – well, apparently since the break-up of the Soviet Union that they’ve had such large May Day protests in Moscow.

MS. HARF: Well, we – I actually haven’t seen those reports, but we do support the rights of people to peacefully protest.

QUESTION: So – but they were shouting out things like Putin is right, proud of their country, let’s support Putin’s decisions.

MS. HARF: Well, just because I disagree with what they’re saying doesn’t mean I don’t think they should be able to say it.

QUESTION: So given that you support the right to protest, did you see the similar protests that were happening in the Red Square as well in Russia?  But, I mean, obviously, we’ve talked a lot in here about the propaganda that the United States feels that the Russian people are being fed through such things as RT. Do you – are these – are the hundred thousand people who turned out in Moscow, are they deluded?

MS. HARF: Again, I haven’t seen all those reports. But we don’t agree with the notion that what President Putin and Russia has done is right, that there’s any legal basis for it, certainly, and that’s why we’ve been very clear that there will be continued consequences.

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2014/05/225493.htm

Since Ms. Harf cannot tell you about it, I will.  100,000 people gathered in Moscow’s Red Square to celebrate May Day.  The crowd was jubilant and carried signs supporting Russia itself, Putin, and the joining of Crimea back into Russia.  Putin currently has an 82% approval rating in Russia.  There has been an upswell of patriotism and loyalty in Russia.  This is only to be expected: as I have said before, when a country is threatened from without, either through military actions or economic sanctions (a form of warfare), the people do not tend to start hating their own government, but instead protectively “circle the wagons” around their country and respond with heightened feelings of unity and loyalty.

Americans would react the same way, were some country to sanction us and try to ruin us economically.  We don’t much notice or care when this is done to us by our own leaders and corporate oligarchy, but you won’t hear me accusing Americans of being overly discerning and insightful.

May Day was also joyfully celebrated in Cuba.  You won’t read about that either, Cuba being another country we have been sanctioning and trying to ruin for generations, so our media won’t report on anything which shows Cubans actually liking their country.  Nonetheless, 600,000 Cubans marched through Revolution Square and millions more held celebrations in other cities, exhibiting signs, waving Cuban flags, and expressing support for their revolution and leaders.  There were thousands of banners honoring Fidel and Raul Castro, Che Guevara, and the late Venezuelan president Chavez.   And I doubt the Cubans, by and large, much give a shit if our reporters cover their holidays.

 

The incoherent ramblings of a dying empire.

The signs of an empire dying are found both in its foreign policies and in its domestic.  The US is dying as an empire, that is certain, and in its last vain attempts to hang on, there are increasing signs that the end stages will be brutal for Americans and for the world at large.  I would like to think there are enough men of good will to turn the tide away from the angry lashing out of the wounded beast, but I find little to encourage the hope.  We long ago began ceding the country over to the corporate sector and the wealthy oligarchs, and now their ownership is complete.  They run our government at all levels, design the laws, decide our monetary policies, create and control our currency, and hold sway over the highest courts in the land.  We call this “free market capitalism”, a system which most of us defend vociferously despite not having a clue what the words mean, and which we unerringly confuse with “democracy”.  Democracy cannot exist in a capitalistic/corporate system, which constantly accrues control and power through monopoly and money.  This ownership and rule of the many by the wealthiest few individuals and companies successfully kills off all competition.  It might have been possible for the free market idea and true democracy to coexist for awhile, and the argument may be made that this occurred in the US for some time.  However, with the erosion of the independence from corporate influence upon our government that is necessary for such a wedding to result in a long, perhaps uneasy but at least workable, marriage, the inevitable has happened.  There is a divorce, and the corporations and oligarchs have won the whole house in the settlement.

We got here through policies of constant deregulation, corrupt politicians willing to take grift rather than serving the people, the dumbing down of the public, tax policies that unduly favor the rich and punish the poor, and the overt corporate control of the media.  Remember, we were trying to make capitalism work with democracy; this requires that the government act as a control mechanism on the oligarchic tendencies of capitalism so that the welfare of the commons is protected from predation.

This is where the Ayn Rand/ Libertarian viewpoint escapes me.  Get rid of the government, let the monied rule as they will, let the “free market” choose the winners and losers, they say, and all will be right in the land and everyone will be happy.  We are getting a taste of that now, and I have to say in response, “How’s it working out for you?”  We have Bill fucking Gates allowed to design our education policies simply because he is wealthy.  You want to understand why our schools are failing?  I suggest we might find a clue in the fact that under both Bush and Obama, the system has been totally remade in a corporate model.  Our agricultural policies are decided by a cartel of big-ag companies; as a result, everything we eat is drenched in glyphosate, a massive experiment on the population’s ability (or lack thereof) to withstand the constant onslaught of genetic manipulation, food additives, chemicals, and toxins is being undertaken almost completely unchecked by any agency.  The weapons industries run our military and foreign policies.  We have a few big banks, replete with the endless cash they provide themselves through the sham of the Fed, lending this free money back to the government at interest, collected from the taxpayers.  And this was after they intentionally destroyed the global economy.  Here’s your free market: now these same banks, under the guise of the IMF and World Banks, are given the power to demand austerity from pretty much each and every country on the planet, manipulate interest rates, totally rig the commodities markets (driving up food and oil prices), whimsically create new derivatives to the point where currently the derivatives market (you remember that a couple hundred trillion dollars of housing derivatives were the main driver of the crash of ’08, right?) is notionally valued at over 2.3 quadrillion dollars.  That this is an entirely impossible and unrecoverable number eludes the imaginations of our politicians, who call the Dodd-Frank Bill “re-regulation” and claim that the SEC, run by former bankers, is on top of it all.  Who is going to bail out the banks when this mother of all con-games blows up?  Me?  You?  Rwanda?  I think the answer is all the aforementioned.   I could go on, but the point I am making is that according to libertarian, e.g., Koch Brothers, philosophy, these are the terms under which we should be happy to exist.  These monolithic companies are the winners and we shouldn’t complain if we are the losers.  The theory is that we are the losers because we are, well, losers.  Take all this down to the final end of the game and you have Monsanto deciding what you will be allowed to eat, Xe mercenaries deciding where you are allowed to go, Haliburton free to tear up the entire country for natural gas without restraint on the chemicals dumped back into our water and permitted to use up all the fresh water, Shell drilling in all the oceans with no repercussions for accidental toxic spills, and every corporation free to operate without safety regulations, limits on how far down they can drive workers’ wages, how far up they can raise CEO earnings, and no limits on how many hours or under what conditions the employees work.  The libertarian ideal is already failing – I would submit we are already well into that system – and yet they would have us go further.  I simply do not believe that governments per se are bad, but I do believe that this government has sold us out and forgotten what their only duty is; that of seeing to the good of the society it is supposed to serve.  It has reneged on its prime directive and is rife with corruption and shysters.  Of course the empire is dying.  There are no honest statesmen running the place, and the voters are too bamboozled by ideology, too confused by the obfuscation of factual information and propaganda, and too busy trying to hold on to the scraps they have been left with to change the situation.

As America fails, we see ever more outlandish and unlikely statements coming from its leaders and increasingly incoherent and abusive policies taking hold.  Thus, after spending $5 bb taxpayer dollars and sending in our covert agents to provoke a coup in Ukraine and after installing a junta to take the place of a government that was elected there, Obama and John Kerry make complaint about Crimea voting to join Russia as though, yeah, Crimea holding that vote, that was the non-democratic way to do things.  Congress joins the administration to sanction Russia for what they call violations of international law, violations which they aver the US never commits.  This, after Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, drone-bombings in multiple countries, the use of torture, secret rendition, white phosphorus and depleted uranium weapons, and repeatedly orchestrating the overthrow of governments on every continent.

For her part, Russia responded to the US by pointing out that the US has embedded 150 members of the mercenary group Greystone in the country to destabilize Ukraine further.  There are ongoing uprisings in several Ukrainian cities.  Jay Carney, White House spokesman, said that “there is strong evidence that some of these demonstrators were paid.”  He was suggesting, of course and despite evidence to the contrary, that it was Russia who was doing the paying and the infiltrating.
[http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-04-07/russia-accuses-us-mercenaries-inciting-civil-war-ukraine]

Russia is also in the midst of negotiating an oil-for-goods deal with Iran, which will bypass the US dollar and help to negate the sanctions from the US on both countries.  The two US Senators who authored the Iran sanctions bill (Menendez and Kirk) are very pissed off and told Obama that if this Iran/Russia deal goes through, the US should broaden and strengthen the sanctions.  They are overlooking the implications of Iran and Russia, and potentially other countries who might follow their lead, going off the petro-dollar and the effects it would have on the US economy if we lost reserve currency status, but goddamnit, we will sanction every country on the planet if we have to.  Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister pointed out that Russia has the right to reject unilateral US sanctions as having no basis in international law.  Juan Cole recently wrote an article in which he observes that while UN Security Council sanctions are binding on UN members, the US assumes its own sanctions must be binding on everyone.
[http://www.nationofchange.org/russian-sanctions-busting-putin-s-bruited-500k-bd-oil-deal-iran-draws-us-threats-1397224316]

Not content to threaten only Russia, our officials are now threatening our allies in NATO countries.  Turns out the EU is righteously miffed at our NSA spying on everyone and several countries are talking about creating an internet system which would bypass US companies, who, after all, provide data to the NSA.  Because we are so determined to keep our universal spy apparatus in place, the US Trade Representative made swift to threaten the EU with trade penalties for “violating trade laws”.  (This is the same guy who is currently working on the TPP trade negotiations that will give corporations immunity from the laws of all countries who sign the fucker.)  [http://rt.com/news/us-europe-nsa-snowden-549/]

Obama issued an executive order last week placing sanctions on “certain persons” with respect to South Sudan.

I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, find that the situation in and in relation to South Sudan, which has been marked by activities that threaten the peace, security, or stability of South Sudan and the surrounding region, including widespread violence and atrocities, human rights abuses, recruitment and use of child soldiers, attacks on peacekeepers, and obstruction of humanitarian operations, poses an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States, and I hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat. I hereby order:

Section 1. (a) All property and interests in property that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of any United States person (including any foreign branch) of the following persons are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in: any person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State:

(i) to be responsible for or complicit in, or to have engaged in, directly or indirectly, any of the following in or in relation to South Sudan:
(A) actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, or stability of South Sudan;
(B) actions or policies that threaten transitional agreements or undermine democratic processes or institutions in South Sudan;
(C) actions or policies that have the purpose or effect of expanding or extending the conflict in South Sudan or obstructing reconciliation or peace talks or processes;
(D) the commission of human rights abuses against persons in South Sudan;
(E) the targeting of women, children, or any civilians through the commission of acts of violence (including killing, maiming, torture, or rape or other sexual violence), abduction, forced displacement, or attacks on schools, hospitals, religious sites, or locations where civilians are seeking refuge, or through conduct that would constitute a serious abuse or violation of human rights or a violation of international humanitarian law;
(F) the use or recruitment of children by armed groups or armed forces in the context of the conflict in South Sudan; […]

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/04/03/executive-order-blocking-property-certain-persons-respect-south-sudan

The order does not mention, of course, that South Sudan only even exists because the US interfered in the civil war in Sudan in order to carve out the oil-rich south through referendums we wrote for that purpose.  We continue to pour billions of dollars into the new country, since the civil war between Sudan and South Sudan remains ongoing and vicious.  We have no humanitarian concerns for the people there; our interest is in getting lucrative contracts for US oil companies firmly set into place.  The executive order makes much to-do about the use of child soldiers in South Sudan, which is interesting, given that despite signing the Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008,  Obama has signed waivers every year since for several countries that recruit child soldiers, including South Sudan.  The Child Soldiers Act makes it law that we cannot give military aid to any country using children in their armed forces.  In other words, while sanctioning “certain persons” who may be encouraging the use of child soldiers in South Sudan, the US gov’t is itself providing military and other aid to the armed forces in that country.

1 Oct., 2013
The White House on Monday afternoon announced that it had issued blanket waivers to three countries, allowing them to receive military aid despite their ongoing use of child soldiers despite a 2008 law to the contrary.

The Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008 (CPSA) is meant to bar the United States from providing military assistance to countries who have “governmental armed forces or government- supported armed groups, including paramilitaries, militias, or civil defense forces, that recruit and use child soldiers.” As per the Optional Protocol on the Convention of the Rights of the Child, “child soldiers” include children under 18 who have been forced into service, those under 15 who have volunteered to fight, and and those under 18 who have joined up with any force aside from an army. It also includes those who serve in a “support role such as a cook, porter, messenger, medic, guard, or sex slave.”

A national security interest waiver was built into the law, however, giving the President the authority to override the law should he deem it necessary to do so. That’s precisely what the Obama administration did on Monday, issuing blanket waivers to three countries known to use child soldiers: Yemen, Chad, and South Sudan. Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo received partial waivers as well; this means that they’ll be granted lethal aid only in support of the peacekeeping missions currently ongoing in the country. […]

http://thinkprogress.org/security/2013/10/01/2704611/child-soldier-waivers/

October 7, 2013
[…]  For the past three years, the Obama administration has routinely waived sanctions on countries subject to withholdings – including in 2010, the first year they were to go into effect.  At that time, the White House failed to inform Congress or the NGO community of its decision in advance, setting off a fierce backlash that has continued since. In February 2013, a United Nations committee further urged the U.S. president to take a tougher stance. […]

http://securityassistancemonitor.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/u-s-approves-withholds-military-aid-to-countries-with-child-soldiers/comment-page-1/

We are also now giving anti-aircraft weapons to members of the “rebel forces” in Syria.  (The US media and political classes don’t want us to confuse this with arming terrorist organizations or trying to overthrow a foreign government, although it is in reality both those things.)
[http://rt.com/usa/us-syria-moderate-opposition-weapons-921/]

On another front, we have some twisted blather from a federal judge regarding the Obama assassination-of-Americans program.  Judge Rosemary Collyer just threw out the lawsuit against the Obama administration for the murder of three US citizens abroad brought on behalf of the now-dead Anwar al-Awlaki, Samir Khan, and Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman.  Last July, when she heard oral arguments in the case, she repeatedly asked the Obama lawyers, “where is the due process here?” and stated, ““the executive is not an effective check on the executive”.  She has apparently since changed her mind (or had it changed for her) and her decision to dismiss the case is based pretty much on the notion that we have to “trust” any executive decisions on these matters in the interest of national security and that these officials have acted in accordance with the AUMF enacted after 9/11.  Are you digging this?  The president can kill anyone he wants for any reason he wants, without any oversight from, recourse to, or relief available via, the US legal system.  And there goes the heart of the Constitution, based on the Magna Carta, that we have the basic right to be presumed innocent and to have our cases heard in court, swirling right down the toilet.

Here is how a “The New American” article put it:

[…] According to the lawsuit:
The U.S. practice of “targeted killing” has resulted in the deaths of thousands of people, including many hundreds of civilian bystanders. While some targeted killings have been carried out in the context of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, many have taken place outside the context of armed conflict, in countries including Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, Sudan, and the Philippines.These killings rely on vague legal standards, a closed executive process, and evidence never presented to the courts…. The killings violated fundamental rights afforded to all U.S. citizens, including the right not to be deprived of life without due process of law.

All those reasonable arguments are moot now, in light of the court’s tossing of the case. […]

Although Obama administration officials finally admitted that the three men were killed by the United States, they argued to the federal court that national security concerns should preclude the matter from being adjudicated.

While Judge Rosemary M. Collyer refused to accept the concept of the executive branch judging the constitutionality of its own actions, she dismissed the suit.

On the CCR website, the group’s lead attorney, Maria LaHood, commented on the effect of Collyer’s refusal to judge the legality of the murders:
Judge Collyer effectively convicted Anwar Al-Aulaqi posthumously based on the government’s own say-so, and found that the constitutional rights of 16-year-old Abdulrahman Al-Aulaqi and Samir Khan weren’t violated because the government didn’t target them. It seems there’s no remedy if the government intended to kill you, and no remedy if it didn’t. This decision is a true travesty of justice for our constitutional democracy, and for all victims of the U.S. government’s unlawful killings.

LaHood’s understanding of the constitutional standards for government-sanctioned assassination is accurate. Any killing by the government must conform to the standards established by the Fifth Amendment. That key provision of the Bill of Rights guarantees that “no person shall … be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

While every person killed in the name of the United States who has not received the due process the Constitution guarantees is a tragedy and a significant weakening of our moral and constitutional foundation, the case of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki is particularly disturbing and his killing unconscionable. […]

Judge Collyer’s decision to dismiss this historic lawsuit witnesses the era into which our Republic has entered. The president of the United States sits in a chair in the White House rifling through dossiers of suspected terrorists. After listening to the advice of his claque of counselors, it is the president himself who designates who of the lineup is to be killed. As the New York Times explained in 2012:
Mr. Obama has placed himself at the helm of a top secret “nominations” process to designate terrorists for kill or capture, of which the capture part has become largely theoretical. He had vowed to align the fight against Al Qaeda with American values; the chart, introducing people whose deaths he might soon be asked to order, underscored just what a moral and legal conundrum this could be.

The legal conundrum has apparently now been solved in favor of the president’s power to add names to and subtract them from kill lists worthy of the bloodthirstiest Roman dictators.

http://www.thenewamerican.com/usnews/constitution/item/18019-federal-court-drone-killing-of-u-s-citizens-is-constitutional

And lest we forget about the economy as we tumble downwards, let us look at some numbers.  No, no, no, not the “official” unemployment number.   The mainstream media, being comprised of willful idiots and outright liars in the time of our decline, was pleased to offer up the happy news last week that the unemployment number was 6.7 % and that we have regained all the jobs lost since ’08.  Okay, first of all, the jobs weren’t “lost”; they were outsourced, taken away to fatten corporate profits, replaced with part-time jobs where the employees are squeezed to produce full-time output, stolen.  Being idiots, none of the reporters mentioned the fact that replacing the 8 million jobs “lost immediately after the downturn” does nothing about the jobs needed to keep up with the population growth which has occurred since.  We need roughly 190,000 new jobs each month to match the number of new people entering the work force.

Let’s look at a more honest number: the labor force participation rate.  A brief explanation of what constitutes the LFPR is offered here:

(CNSNews.com) – The average annual labor force participation rate hit a 35-year-low of 63.2 percent in the United States in 2013, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).[…]

The BLS bases its employment statistics on the civilian noninstitutional population, which consists of all people in the United States 16 or older who are not on active duty in the military or in an institution such as a prison, nursing home or mental hospital.  The labor force participation rate is the percentage of people in the civilian noninstitutional population who either had a job or who actively sought one in the previous four weeks.

The 63.2 percent average annual labor force participation rate for 2013 means that in the average month of 2013 only 63.2 percent of the civilian noninstitutional population held a job or actively sought one.

The BLS has been tracking the labor force participation rate since 1947, when it was 58.3 percent. Over five decades, it climbed to a peak of 67.1 percent in 1997–a rate it maintained in 1998, 1999, and 2000.

As the civilian noninstitutional population has increased and the labor force participation rate has dropped, the number of people not in the labor force has climbed to record highs. In 2000, there was an annual average of 69,994,000 Americans not in the labor force. By 2013, there was an annual average of 90,290,000 not in the labor force.

In January 2014, according to BLS, there were 92,535,000 not in the labor force.[…]

In 2013, according to BLS, there was an annual average of 245,679,000 in the civilian noninstitutional population. On average, 155,389,000 (or 63.2 percent) of those people participated in the labor force. Another 90,290,000 (or 36.8 percent) of them did not have a job or actively seek one–and, thus, were not in the labor force. […]

http://cnsnews.com/news/article/ali-meyer/labor-force-participation-2013-lowest-35-years

These numbers are straight-forward and give the accurate reading of unemployment in the US.  The BLS has correctly removed from its count anyone in jail, the military and those who can’t work due to long-term physical or mental disabilities.  What the current number tells us is that more than one third of Americans who are of age and capable of working do not have jobs.  This obviously gives us an unemployment rate of over 33 %.

I will give but two more short vignettes of the nation’s dismal state as it brings on its own collapse.  I offer these as brief examples of how little the current crop of American leaders, both political and industrial, care about the health and welfare of the people.

The first has to do with the radiation leaks at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).  This is a facility for storing radioactive waste, located within a salt mine in New Mexico.  Two immediate questions should be: why are we even housing nuclear waste in a salt pit, given that salt is highly corrosive, and: of what materials are the storage containers constructed, given that salt is particularly harsh on metals?  Unfortunately, no-one has asked the questions of anyone who might have the answers.

In any case, the place began leaking radioactive particles in Feb.  At first, we were told that no-one had been affected or sickened.  Now, however, some of the workers are showing signs of radiation sickness.  The site is still leaking.  You can find a number of articles if you ‘google’ “leak at WIPP”; I am only going to give a few unbelievable sentences from a local NM paper.

[…] the DOE is not giving up hope that all radiation particles in WIPP’s south salt mine can be eradicated. […]

Radiation was first detected below ground on the evening of Feb. 14 and traces of americium and plutonium were later found outside the site as far as a half mile away from the nation’s only nuclear repository for transuranic waste. […]

A couple of the plans cleanup crews are considering underground at WIPP include mining some of the salt off the existing wall which is done regularly and using sprayable concrete over the contamination areas to get it off the walls. […]

Scientists will also eventually begin testing the salt mined in the north mine for radiation contamination. WIPP currently sells the salt to local private industry, including for use as salt feed at local dairies. Franco [DOE Field Office manager] said he thinks the DOE should be able to continue selling the mined salt.[…]

http://www.currentargus.com/carlsbad-news/ci_25292180/robot-probe-underground-at-wipp

They have been selling the salt from a radiation storage mine to use as animal feed at local dairies, which provide milk to the area.  Are you fucking shitting me?

Okay, here’s another.   The new food labels, touted by our FLOTUS, Michelle Obama, a month or so ago.  The FDA and the White House have unveiled changes (coming soon to a store near you!  Well, okay, this may take a few years, but we are making an effort here) to the nutrition facts printed on food products, ostensibly made to enhance consumer information.   Mrs. Obama said as she introduced the new labels, “As consumers and as parents, we have a right to understand what’s in the food we’re feeding our families. Because that’s really the only way that we can make informed choices – by having clear, accurate information. Our guiding principle here is simple: that you as a parent and a consumer should be able to walk into a grocery store, pick an item off the shelf, and tell whether it’s good for your family.”  The labeling changes are relatively simple and will affect all packaged foods except certain meat, poultry and processed egg products.  Calories will appear in larger font. Serving sizes are updated to reflect the amounts Americans actually eat; i.e., since we eat ridiculous amounts of food at one time, the “serving size” will reflect that.  A 20 oz soda, currently listed as 2.5 servings, will be labeled as 1 serving.  A “serving” of ice cream will increase from 1/2 cup to a full cup.  Some serving sizes are (seriously) going to be based on the current, typical container sizes, perhaps so the food industry does not have to retrofit the factory equipment.  So, for example, right now a typical single-serve yogurt container holds 6 oz, but is labeled as less than one serving (the calories, etc. on the label are based on 8 oz being a single serving); rather than change the packaging, the FDA is just going to call 6 oz a single serving.  Other stuff like muffins and toaster pastries (are those still considered real food?) will have the “serving” size doubled to reflect the packaging already used.  We’ll get a new category called “added sugars”, which will show sugars that are not naturally occurring in food.  They are not going to highlight the corn syrup content or give its percentage by volume.  Whether this disastrous ingredient will be listed as “sugars” or “added sugars” is not clarified.  Vitamin D and potassium will be added to the labels, but vitamins C and A are no longer required to be listed.  If you are like most parents, you tend to pick your kids’ juices based on vitamin C content.  That’s going to disappear from the labels.

Despite the estimated $2 bb it will cost them to implement the changes, the Grocery Manufacturers Association and other industry groups “applaud the announcement” and “look forward to working with the FDA on these updates to the nutrition labels” to “help consumers build more healthful diets for themselves and their families.”

[http://gma.yahoo.com/blogs/abc-blogs/nutrition-labels-facelift-reflect-reality-122521120–abc-news-health.html?vp=1]

The Grocery Manufacturers Association and other industry groups are exactly the same entities that claim adding the two words “Contains GMOs” is too costly for them to absorb, that such labeling is unrelated to nutrition and health, and that it is completely unnecessary information.  One of their representatives actually admitted in a printed outburst that labeling GMOs would cause people to avoid those products.

Over 90% of the population wants GMO labeling.  Countries all over the world are fighting the invasion of our GMO crops and consider them dangerous.  Our First Lady, on the other hand, is helping the food industry giants obfuscate the widespread use of GMOs through this deceptive labeling initiative, ostensibly designed to let the public know which food items are “good for their families”, but which does not include any demand for the inclusion of the the number one piece of information that the public needs and wants.  You can be sure that the food industry will use this “new label” ploy to avoid forevermore the idea of displaying GMO content on product labels (or highlighting the amounts of corn syrup, now known to bring its own health risks); they will say that they have just earmarked a tidy sum of money to modernize labels and, by the way, they followed the guidelines offered by the White House.  For his part, Mr. Obama has loaded the FDA, EPA, and USDA with former Monsanto executives and employees.  The Dept. of Agriculture, thanks to pressure from companies like Monsanto, Dow, and Syngenta, is now considering legalizing the usage of the herbicide 2,4-D (the primary ingredient in Agent Orange, for God’s sake) on US food crops, as apparently the vast amount of glyphosate housed within the GMO crap we have been force-fed, not to mention the GMOs themselves, has not been killing us off fast enough.
[http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2014/03/12-4]

Based on what I see in comment sections, I think more people are beginning to catch on that something is awry, but are very confused about who to trust and what to do, a situation expressly encouraged and largely instigated by the powers that be.  We talk about electing “better politicians” or we idealize one political group or candidate, each promising “the solution” and argue over which is “the best”.  But this country was built by hustlers and is now entirely run by sociopathic con-men.  I doubt there is any changing the trajectory of the fall.  This is the Thunderdome, baby.  There is no hero waiting in the wings to make it all right again.  All I can suggest, if you aren’t one for active revolution, is that you keep your loved ones close, be as kind as you can to those you meet, as they are stuck in this with you, and try to avoid the flying monkeys.

 

Today is referendum day in Crimea.

UPDATE below

UPDATE 2 below

Today is the referendum vote for the citizens of Crimea, where they will chose whether or not to join Russia.  Obama has said the US and the international community will not recognize the results of this vote, whatever these results may be.  I suspect that if the Crimeans reject Russia, however, we will hear how the “people” “voted democratically” and the results will be acceptable enough, all right.  The coup in Ukraine, engineered by the US government, the CIA, and various NGOs, all supporting what have turned out to be neo-Nazi groups, and which has resulted in an unelected government replacing a democratically elected one, is a sign of “democracy at work”, while the people of an autonomous region holding an actual vote on whether or not to secede from this new government is not democratic.  I also find it interesting that Obama mentions that the vote in Crimea is not in accord with the Ukrainian Constitution.  Does that constitution even exist any more?

Following a White House meeting with interim Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk designed to underscore US support for the newly installed government and ratchet up pressure on Russia, President Barack Obama issued new threats against Moscow.

Obama declared that Washington and the “international community” would “completely reject” the referendum to be held Sunday in Crimea on secession from Ukraine and affiliation with the Russian Federation. He reiterated the US demand that Russia withdraw its forces from Crimea and recognize the new right-wing, anti-Russian regime in Kiev, which was installed last month in a US- and European Union-backed coup led by armed fascist militias.[…]

Obama also declared that Ukraine “cannot have an outside country dictate to them how to manage their affairs,” and added that the “interests of the US are solely to ensure that the people of Ukraine are able to determine their own destiny.” This is presumably why the US poured billions of dollars into assembling proxy forces in the country and hand-picked “Yats”—in the memorable words of US State Department official Victoria Nuland—to succeed Yanukovych.[…]

On the ground, the US is all but running Ukraine through its representatives in Kiev. Announcing Yatsenyuk’s visit on Sunday, Tony Blinken, Obama’s deputy national security adviser, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that teams from the Treasury and Justice departments and the FBI were in Kiev working to unravel the “kleptocracy” of Yanukovych’s deposed government.[…] [Teri’s note: Having fairly recently watched in silence as the global economy was looted by a couple of big banks and ensuring that none of the criminals would face charges, I imagine that the US Treasury and Justice departments, along with the FBI – an agency I thought only handled internal US crimes – are certainly the best equipped to recognize kleptocracy when they see it.  Perhaps the Ukrainians will receive greater benefit from their investigations than we did.]

As well as funding the government and running its campaign against its political opponents, the US is expected to whip Ukraine’s army into shape.

On Tuesday Ukraine’s president, Oleksandr Turchynov, declared, “The parliament’s primary task is to ask countries that are guarantors of our security to fulfil their commitments” so that Ukraine could re-forge its armed forces. Turchynov stated that there were presently only 6,000 combat-ready infantry in the army out of a nominal force of 90,000.

The US has already effectively taken operational control of the military activities of Ukraine’s neighbours, launching joint exercises with Poland, Romania, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania and dispatching Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) jets from airbases in Geilenkirchen, Germany and Waddington in Britain. The AWACS flights were recommended by NATO’s top military commander, US Air Force General Philip Breedlove.

On Monday, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, told PBS that Russia’s interference in Ukraine “exposes Eastern Europe to some significant risk.” He did not rule out US military intervention…

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/03/13/ukra-m13.html

In a funny little “as an aside”, Paul Craig Roberts notes the following:

[…] Having falsely accused Russia of invading Crimea, the Obama regime now demands that Russia interfere in Crimea and prevent the referendum set for next Sunday. Unless Russia uses force to prevent the people of Crimea from exercising their right of self-determination, John Kerry declared that the Obama regime will not discuss the Ukrainian situation with Russia.

So, Kerry has given Russia the green light to send in troops to prevent Crimean self-determination.

The presstitute Western media has not noticed that out of one corner of his mouth Kerry denounces Russia for intervening and out of the other corner of his mouth Kerry demands that Russia intervene in behalf of Washington’s interest and suppress Crimean self-determination. […]

http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2014/03/12/obama-regimes-hypocrisy-sets-new-world-record-paul-craig-roberts/

Oh, and it turns out we have money to burn.  Not for anyone in the actual United States of America, you understand; we are undergoing austerity due to budget constraints.  No, Congress is working on an aid package (this is beyond the $5 bb we already spent over the past several years in Ukraine doing some “nation building”):

[…] Aid package clears early hurdle

Eight U.S. senators, led by Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, are scheduled to travel to Ukraine in coming days. [Teri’s note: Ever notice how any time we wreck a country, John McCain is the first one in afterwards to pass out cookies on behalf of American business interests?]

Meanwhile, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a package of loans and aid for Ukraine on Wednesday, along with sanctions against Russia for its military intervention. The measure, which now heads to the full Senate, also includes the approval of long-delayed reforms at the International Monetary Fund.

The aid package includes $1 billion in loan guarantees from the United States as well as $50 million to boost democracy-building in Ukraine and $100 million for enhanced security cooperation for Ukraine and some of its neighbors. [Teri’s note: Wait, didn’t the $5 bb we already spent go for “democracy-building”?  Didn’t that go far enough?  And “enhanced security cooperation” – would that be more money for NATO forces and nuclear armament in the area?  If so, just say it out loud.]

The full Senate will vote on the package after the chamber returns from a recess.

“It always takes time to make good things,” Yatsenyuk said Wednesday night, adding that his country praised the United States for its support. [Teri’s note: You betcha, Yats.  No problem.  Although to be honest, most of the US population is completely unaware that we were being so helpful and supportive.] […]

http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/12/world/europe/ukraine-crisis/

There is a story going around that Ukraine’s gold has been confiscated and flown out of the country.  This is, as I recall, what we did to Libya: we declared that Ghaddafi had illegally hoarded his country’s money, so we seized Libya’s Central Bank funds (worth $30 bb) and there is evidence that we also stole her gold reserves.  I have not heard anything about the cash or the gold being returned to the Libyan people.  Where did the money go?  No doubt John McCain and Bill Clinton know.  But they aren’t telling. The $30 billion belonging to the Libyan Central Bank was earmarked as the Libyan contribution to three key projects: the African Investment Bank in Sirte, Libya (Sirte was bombed to hell and back during the US’ “humanitarian intervention” in Libya), the establishment in 2011 of the African Monetary Fund to be based in Cameroon, and the African Central Bank to be based in Nigeria.

A few weeks ago, evidence was discovered that Saudi Arabia’s gold holdings in London were being stolen by central banks in the West and re-hypothicated without the Arab kingdom’s permission.  However,this confiscation doesn’t appear to be only theft in play as just weeks after the Western led coup helped overthrow the rightfully elected Ukrainian leader, rumors are coming out of Kiev on March 10 that show planes being loaded with what is believed to be Ukrainian gold, and flown back to either the U.S. or London for an unknown purpose. […]

Both the U.S. and London are incredibly short of physical gold, as seen last December when the U.S. was unable to deliver the 42 tons it promised Germany in 2013 to satisfy their seven-year plan of gold reclamation back to its original owner. Additionally, one well documented scandal concerning J.P. Morgan Chase and a potential default stemming from the $100 Billion London Whale bet, led the bank to have to sell their Wall Street headquarters to a Chinese conglomerate because the loss was collateralized by gold they didn’t own.

Motives behind the central bank’s gold confiscation programs in the West, which are in essence the stealing of gold holdings from other sovereign nations, may be due to a another scandal being uncovered by the German agency known as Bafin, which came out in January to declare that gold price manipulation is greater than even the mutli-trillion dollar LIBOR scandal.

“Later, in received call back, one of the senior officials of the former Ministry of Income and Fees, which reported that, according to him, tonight, on the orders of one of the ‘new leaders’ of Ukraine in the United States has been taken all the gold reserves in Ukraine …”  – Zerohedge 

There is a growing trend for the U.S., and it involves covert and overt operations leading to coups and overthrows of sovereign nations with the purpose of stealing that nation’s gold supply. When you add in the validated evidence of Iraqi, Libyan, Saudi Arabian gold being stolen or confiscated after the leaders were overthrown of killed, then today’s rumor that a U.S. transport flew in under the radar and stole the gold holdings of the Ukrainian people is not a conspiracy theory, but a carefully executed chain of events that have been done by America several times in recent years.

http://www.examiner.com/article/rumors-abound-of-gold-theft-by-u-s-from-ukrainian-vaults

I have no idea how reliable the above report is.  But this is about oil and energy supplies, ultimately.  You might have noticed, in my last post, that Chevron was immediately after the coup given a 50-year contract to develop shale oil in Ukraine.

There is much concern over the possibility that Russia will cut off her vital energy supplies to the EU over the Ukraine/Crimea events.  To that end, we see the US and the EU rapidly going all-out to make sure that Russia’s natural gas supplies are replaced.  Some of this involves nonsensical moves, of course, as it would take several years to put any other systems in place and all of it involves instituting major fracking plays and the concomitant destruction of water supplies in the US and Europe in order to achieve the desired ends.   In any case, there are some rapid developments in the past couple of days which indicate that our leaders, here and in the EU, are more than willing to allow toxic chemicals in the water supply and use up our fresh water in an effort to thwart Russia.  We would like to preemptively undermine any moves by the BRIC countries to get off the petro-dollar and stop the emerging Shanghai Co-op, as well.  Fracking may eventually cause so many earthquakes that we will have destroyed our land mass altogether, but since there is no longer any concern over how many people die as a result of the toxins being dumped in our water, etc., we may not need so much land.  In the long run, I mean.  Look, shit happens and then you die.

EU politicians on Wednesday voted for tougher rules on exposing the environmental impact of oil and conventional gas exploration, while excluding shale gas.

Member states such as Britain and Poland are pushing hard for the development of shale gas, seen as one way to lessen dependence on Russian gas, as well as to lower energy costs as it has in the United States.

The plenary vote of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France follows a compromise deal on the draft law in December, which was struck only after negotiators agreed to leave out references to shale gas. […]

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/mar/12/eu-parliament-shale-gas-environmental-code

 

US gas production is projected to rise 44% by 2040, according to the US Energy Information Administration, and producers have been pressing the Obama administration to expand exports of natural gas. […]

“A senior US official said the State Department was supportive of introducing substantial gas exports abroad as a move to counteract Russia’s influence. Carlos Pascual, a former American ambassador to Ukraine, who leads the State Department’s Bureau of Energy Resources, told the New York Times that opening global markets to US exports ‘sends a clear signal that the global gas market is changing, that there is the prospect of much greater supply coming from other parts of the world’.”

The EIA is an organization of overpaid cheerleaders that haven’t had one prediction right in forever and a day. It’s perhaps because they have no track record to defend that they issue such double or nothing claims; it’s hardly interesting anymore. That claim that US gas production will be 44% more in 26 years than it is today is simply bonkers, and not supported by anything other than industry interests, loud as they may be. […]

[T]he early big American shale gas plays (Barnett in Texas, Haynesville in Louisiana, Fayettville in Arkansas) are already winding down after just ten years of production[…]

“Even the idea that we will have enough natural gas for our own needs in the USA beyond the short term ought to be viewed with skepticism. What happens, for instance, when we finally realize that it costs more to frack it out of the ground than people can pay for it? I’ll tell you exactly what will happen: the gas will remain underground bound up in its “tight rock,” possibly forever, and a lot of Americans will freeze to death. […]

http://www.theautomaticearth.com/debt-rattle-mar-9-2014-big-oil-and-gas-wars/

 

BP won the right to again compete for U.S. contracts and new leases in the Gulf of Mexico, where its massive 2010 oil spill prompted regulators to bar it from new government business.

The agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency will allow BP, which had been the Pentagon’s biggest fuel supplier, to seek lucrative federal contracts again and bid for oil exploration leases. Next week, a U.S. auction is set for the right to drill in the Gulf, where the London-based company is the second-largest producer.

The end of the suspension is a milestone in BP’s recovery from the worst U.S. offshore oil spill, which forced it to sell about $38 billion in assets to meet the costs of cleaning up pollution and compensating victims. A judge in New Orleans is considering BP’s degree of responsibility for the disaster and the scale of fines to impose under the Clean Water Act.[…]

The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, part of the Interior Department, on March 19 plans to auction leases covering more than 40 million acres on the Gulf for oil and gas exploration.[…]

The company’s 45-page administrative agreement with the EPA announced yesterday will last five years. […]

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-03-13/u-s-lifts-bp-s-ban-on-contracting-imposed-after-spill.html

On BP, also see: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2014/03/15  One might speculate that BP so suddenly winning its rights to bid for further ruination of the Gulf of Mexico has something to do with the US trying to persuade the UK to support sanctions on Russia.  The following approval also happened within the past week:

WASHINGTON—The Interior Department endorsed seismic testing in Atlantic waters on Thursday, a first step toward allowing oil and gas drilling from Delaware Bay to Florida’s Cape Canaveral.

In its long-awaited environmental impact statement on what’s known as seismic air gun testing, Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said it would demand that the oil and gas companies exploring in the Outer Continental Shelf meet tough environmental standards to protect marine life from the underwater seismic blasts.

Environmental groups oppose the use of the controversial geological survey technology, contending that the seismic blasts pose a significant risk to whales, dolphins, fish and sea turtles. Seismic surveys are used to locate oil and gas deposits below the ocean floor. The guns, towed by ships, shoot compacted air to the bottom of the ocean, creating sound waves that reflect geological formations. […]

The Natural Resources Defense Council called the environmental report “a capitulation to the forces of drill-baby-drill.” […]

Oil and gas industry contractors have already submitted nine applications to do seismic surveys covering hundreds of thousands of miles, according to the Interior Department. […]

The area, particularly off the coasts of Virginia and the Carolinas, are estimated to hold some 3.3 million barrels of oil and 3.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, though the calculations were based on outdated technology, an Interior official said.

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304071004579409621926543690

See also this on the Cove Point [Baltimore] terminal:

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2014/02/21-3

While we race around the world, sacking countries and violating international law over energy supplies (and seeking hegemony over the entire globe, PNAC-style), I have to wonder who is running this show.  The CIA?  The Council on Foreign Relations?  The oligarchs in the US?  (Yes, we have them, too.  Frankly, they own the place.)  The Pentagon?  They have the money, that’s for sure.  An article by Winslow Wheeler points this out: “Pentagon costs, taken together with other known national security expenses for 2015, will exceed $1 Trillion.  How can that be?  The trade press is full of statements about the Pentagon’s $495.6 billion budget and how low that is.”  He offers a great chart to explain his numbers; see:

http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/03/14/americas-1-trillion-national-security-budget/

What are we becoming?  A nation of looters and thugs?  We have a President who claims the right to kill us if some secret panel decides we are “terrorists”.  He claims the right to kill any person in the world.  The CIA angrily avers that it doesn’t have to answer to Congress and the president backs the CIA.  We spy on everyone and seek to control every living thing on the planet.  Who the fuck are we?  Maybe the answer is that we are simply a dying empire, angrily lashing out in our death throes.  See: Roman Empire; decline of.

Many articles I have read in the past couple of weeks have offered excuse after excuse for poor Obama in regards to Ukraine.  It’s the neocons he allowed into high places, his cabinet of “adversaries”; they have him in a rope-a-dope; he wants to do the right thing and work with Putin and only needs to come out and tell the public that.  Or it’s the fault of the weak liberals he listens to; he needs to toughen up.  Blah, blah, blah.  But the truth is that we, as a nation, seem to have accepted the reemergence of the neocon point of view with some equanimity.  We are not, on the whole, a nation that espouses especially “liberal” viewpoints any more.  We are already turning on our weakest numbers with extreme prejudice.  Hillary Clinton is considered the “natural” Democratic contender to follow Obama in 2016, as though there would be anything natural in establishing a de facto monarchy in the US.  As though either Hillary or Barack represented traditional Democratic values in the first place.  This would be Hillary we-came-we-saw-he-died, Hillary who giggles at the thought of invading Iran, Hillary who is a neocon through and through.  We seem to be moving willingly, spinelessly, in the direction that the Bush and Obama administrations and the military industrial complex, along with the media, have pushed us.  Sadly, the feeling I get is not that the public is weary of war so much as tired of losing the ones we start.

I think that this is how we are seen by more and more of the world: we are the neighbors who demand what we want, never replace what we destroy, and then threaten everyone who objects to the arrangement.  Sadly, we deserve this assessment.

UPDATE:

“About 93 percent of voters in the Crimean referendum have answered ‘yes’ to the autonomous republic joining Russia and only 7 percent of the vote participants want the region to remain part of Ukraine, according to first exit polls. […]”

http://rt.com/news/crimea-vote-join-russia-210/

UPDATE 2:

The exit polls were very accurate.  Crimea overwhelmingly voted to rejoin Russia, with 80% of the population voting.

Immediately upon hearing the results this morning, Obama issued a new executive order sanctioning specific individuals in the Russian government, along with several people in Ukraine; most notably the former president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych.  The EU followed suit right away.  I am not sure what anyone gains by these maneuvers, which merely serve to escalate the situation.  The Crimean voters went to their polling places and voted to secede from Ukraine.  There were some international observers to witness the vote (despite what you may read in the American MSM), and there did not seem to be any problems or signs of intimidation.  They decided to take their chances with the oligarchic system in Russia rather than facing the IMF austerity measures being demanded of Ukraine under the new neo-Nazi regime imposed there.  Ironically, the White House said it is targeting “those responsible for the deteriorating situation in Ukraine” in these new sanctions, although it was distinctly the US that created the situation in the first place.  In another strange piece of rhetoric, the EU and US are calling on Russia to de-escalate the situation.

It remains to be seen what Putin’s response will be, although I would think that imposing more and more sanctions against Russia, given the oil and trading she supplies to the EU and the fact that Russia may well take economic measures of its own in retaliation, would make the EU and US think twice about using such threatening postures.   Let’s not forget that it would be easy enough for some of the Asian countries to join Russia in going off the dollar, and that Russia (despite its bad economy) holds a big stack of US Treasuries.  I will mention in passing, as well, that Russia has nukes.  Let’s hope Putin is willing to be a tad more diplomatic than the US is.

In any case, below is an article summarizing the sanctions.  You may want to read the executive order and the press office fact sheet for yourself, as well as the letter Obama sent to Congress explaining them.

Executive Order — Blocking Property of Additional Persons Contributing to the Situation in Ukraine:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/03/17/executive-order-blocking-property-additional-persons-contributing-situat

WH Press Office fact sheet on EO:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/03/17/fact-sheet-ukraine-related-sanctions

 Letter to Congress:

WASHINGTON –  The White House has announced new sanctions against seven Russian officials in retaliation for Ukraine’s Crimea region voting to join Russia, as the European Union announced similar penalties. 

While stopping short of singling out Russian President Vladimir Putin himself, President Obama sanctioned several members of Putin’s inner circle. The White House also announced sanctions against separatist leaders in Crimea and former president of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych. 

“We have fashioned these sanctions to impose costs on named individuals who wield influence in the Russian government and those responsible for the deteriorating situation in Ukraine,” the White House said in a statement. “We stand ready to use these authorities in a direct and targeted fashion as events warrant.” 

The expanded U.S. sanctions, announced in an executive order, would target the assets of the listed Russian officials and bar them from entering the U.S. These include Putin aides Vladislav Surkov and Sergey Glazyev.

It’s unclear what other steps the U.S. might take in the coming days, as western leaders try to prevent Moscow from attempting to formally annex Crimea. Obama told Putin on Sunday that the vote “would never be recognized” by the United States, as he and other top U.S. officials warned Moscow against making further military moves toward southern and eastern Ukraine.

Meanwhile, European Union foreign ministers slapped travel bans and asset freezes Monday on 21 people from Russia and Crimea who they linked to the push for the secession of Ukraine’s strategic Black Sea peninsula. 

The sanctions came hours after Crimea’s parliament declared the region an independent state, following its residents’ overwhelming vote Sunday to break away from Ukraine and seek to join Russia.

The ministers meeting in Brussels did not immediately release the names of those targeted by the sanctions. [Teri’s note: Obama’s new EO does name names.]

Two diplomats said the sanctions targeted 13 Russians and eight people from Crimea. The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because the breakdown of the nationalities had not been officially announced.

The 28-nation EU and the United States say Sunday’s Crimean referendum was illegitimate and unconstitutional. 

The EU is walking a tightrope between punishing Moscow and keeping open lines of communication with Russia for a diplomatic resolution of one of the worst geopolitical crises in years on its eastern doorstep.

Before Monday’s meeting in Brussels, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said sanctions must leave “ways and possibilities open to prevent a further escalation that could lead to the division of Europe.”

The EU has already suspended talks with Russia on a wide-ranging economic pact and a visa agreement. The bloc’s leaders are meeting Thursday and Friday and could start slapping economic sanctions on Russia this weekend if Moscow does not back down. 

Western allies are calling on Putin to “de-escalate” the crisis, support Ukrainian plans for political reform, return Russian troops in Crimea to their barracks and halt advances into Ukraine and military buildups along its borders.

Ukraine’s new government in Kiev called Sunday’s referendum a “circus” directed at gunpoint by Moscow. Putin, however, insisted it was conducted in “full accordance with international law and the U.N. charter” and cited Kosovo’s independence from Serbia as its precedent.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/03/17/visa-bans-asset-freezes-among-possible-sanctions-against-russia/

 

 

Obama issues executive order on Ukraine.

Please note that I will be adding to this post later in the day.  I just wanted to get at least this much up right now.

Last night, President Obama issued an executive order barring the entry into the US of any person who is “undermining the democratic process” in Ukraine.  He calls the Ukrainian situation a national emergency and writes in the EO that threatening the peace or security of Ukraine is “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States”.   The order further seizes any property currently held in the US belonging to these persons.

March 06, 2014

BLOCKING PROPERTY OF CERTAIN PERSONS CONTRIBUTING TO THE SITUATION IN UKRAINE

I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, find that the actions and policies of persons — including persons who have asserted governmental authority in the Crimean region without the authorization of the Government of Ukraine [Teri’s note: This is obviously aimed at Russia, its officials and its oligarchs.  However, it’s also interesting in that the parliament in Crimea has just voted to become once again a part of Russia.  A full referendum vote will take place later this month so all the people of Crimea can vote yes or no on the parliament’s decision.  Does this mean that everyone who votes to rejoin Russia is now barred from the US?  Obama is also here subtly claiming that Crimea must bow to the new government in Ukraine, put in place by a coup; but Crimea is actually an autonomous republic with its own parliament and holds a relationship with the government in Ukraine; the relationship is defined in several treaties written since 1992.]— that undermine democratic processes and institutions in Ukraine; threaten its peace, security, stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity; and contribute to the misappropriation of its assets, constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States, and I hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat. I hereby order:

Section 1. (a) All property and interests in property that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of any United States person (including any foreign branch) of the following persons are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in: any person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State:

(i) to be responsible for or complicit in, or to have engaged in, directly or indirectly, any of the following:

(A) actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions in Ukraine [Teri’s note: The CIA, NED, USAID, the several neo-nazi groups backed by the US, and various billionaires (notably Omidyar) who helped instigate the recent overthrow of the elected government there come to mind.];

(B) actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine; or

(C) misappropriation of state assets of Ukraine or of an economically significant entity in Ukraine;

(ii) to have asserted governmental authority over any part or region of Ukraine without the authorization of the Government of Ukraine;

(iii) to be a leader of an entity that has, or whose members have, engaged in any activity described in subsection (a)(i) or (a)(ii) of this section or of an entity whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order;

(iv) to have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, any activity described in subsection (a)(i) or (a)(ii) of this section or any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order; or

(v) to be owned or controlled by, or to have acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order. […]

Sec. 3. I hereby determine that the making of donations of the type of articles specified in section 203(b)(2) of IEEPA (50 U.S.C. 1702(b)(2)) by, to, or for the benefit of any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to section 1 of this order would seriously impair my ability to deal with the national emergency declared in this order, and I hereby prohibit such donations as provided by section 1 of this order. [Teri’s note: once again, we wonder about USAID, NED, and the Omidyar donations.]

Sec. 4. The prohibitions in section 1 of this order include but are not limited to:

(a) the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order; and

(b) the receipt of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such person.[…]

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/03/06/executive-order-blocking-property-certain-persons-contributing-situation

As is pointed out in the following article, the executive order is worded loosely enough that it may include any critics of the Ukraine coup, including journalists.

R.I.P. Freedom of Speech? Obama Bans Critics of Ukraine Coup From Entering U.S.

Executive order suspends entry rights of anyone who “undermines” Ukrainian “democracy”

by Paul Joseph Watson

Under the sweeping language of President Barack Obama’s executive order issued today, critics of the US-backed coup in Ukraine could find themselves being banned from entering the United States.

As CNS News’ Craig Bannister notes, this would effectively ban entry for anyone deemed to be a ‘Russian sympathizer’, or anyone who has expressed a view similar to Moscow, which was that the Kiev uprising was a violent coup d’état and not a democratic uprising, since that could easily be characterized as an indirect action or policy which undermines Ukraine’s post-coup government.

By extrapolation, this would mean anyone who has drawn attention to the mountain of evidence that the Kiev protest groups were funded by the U.S. State Department in concert with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the US government-backed National Endowment for Democracy.

It would also ensnare anyone who has highlighted the leaked phone call in which US Assistant Secretary of State for Europe Victoria Nuland was caught red handed plotting with top diplomat Geoffrey Pyatt to pick Ukraine’s future puppet leaders. Nuland specifically approved Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who later became Prime Minister after the coup.

The executive order could also target critics of the fact that both Nuland and John McCain met with the leader of the neo-nazi affiliated Svoboda Party before the election, an organization that was subsequently handed three top positions within the newly formed Ukrainian government despite its clear links to fascism and anti-Semitism.

The irony of Washington targeting anyone who took actions to “undermine democratic processes or institutions in Ukraine” is painful given that the Kiev revolt led directly to the overthrow of a democratically elected government.

The broad language of the executive order is also a chilling move towards discriminating against people for their political opinions. Obama is seemingly intent on mirroring the United Kingdom, where people like radio host Michael Savage are banned from entering the country and labeled “extremists” for daring to dissent from political correctness.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/r-i-p-freedom-of-speech-obama-bans-critics-of-ukraine-coup-from-entering-u-s/5372226

I read the following article yesterday, and wonder if Obama means to include people like Dennis Kucinich in this order.  Hell, I wonder if my assets will be seized for writing this.  (I do have a twenty-year-old car and about two bucks in the bank…)

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was spurred by U.S. behind-the-scenes actions, says former Ohio congressman and Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich. 

Fox News host Bill O’Reilly on Tuesday accused Kucinich of being a pacifist because of his opposition to the Iraq war, and Kucinich countered that war is wrong but not all U.S. military action is so.

O’Reilly then asked how Kucinich would have handled the Ukraine crisis had he been president.

“What I’d do is not have USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy working with U.S. taxpayers’ money to knock off an elected government in Ukraine, which is what they did,” Kucinich answered. “I wouldn’t try to force the people of Ukraine into a deal with NATO against their interest or into a deal with the European Union, which is against their economic interest.”

“So, it’s the USA’s fault that Putin rolled in? We made them do it?” O’Reilly asked.

“Bill O’Reilly, if you don’t believe in cause and effect, I don’t know what I can do for you,” Kucinich responded.

Kucinich said the United States has been involved covertly and behind the scenes with the CIA and two government foreign aid groups, the National Endowment for Democracy and the United States Agency for International Development, to “stir up trouble in Ukraine.”

He didn’t specify what the groups had done, but said the democracy endowment had sponsored 65 programs. He said the United States should stay out of Ukraine’s affairs and let its people decide their future without outside interference.

As a result, “you’ve got neo-Nazis that are in control,” Kucinich said. He was referring to a statement by Russia’s U.N. ambassador in which he called pro-European Ukrainians “anti-Semites and fascists,” a claim disputed by many, including CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.

O’Reilly was having none of it.

“From what I’m hearing, you’re blaming the USA for subverting Ukraine in the first place, thereby giving Putin a pass to go in and invade,” he told Kucinich.

“That’s close,” Kucinich answered. “We should be concerned about the Ukrainian people, because they’re being used right now. They would be used by the IMF in a new austerity program, by NATO to go on the doorstep of Russia.”

O’Reilly said the Ukrainian people “threw out a puppet president,” but Kucinich argued, “That wasn’t democratic. That was stirred up from behind the scenes.” […]

Kucinich wrote an op-ed in December for The Huffington Post as the protests began in Kiev after then-President Viktor Yanukovych failed to sign a trade deal with the European Union. In the piece, Kucinich called the deal a “NATO Trojan horse” that would have forced Ukraine to spend more money on its military and less on social welfare programs.

http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/russia-ukraine-covert-operations-Dennis-Kuchinich/2014/03/04/id/556082#ixzz2v3asEVD0

Regarding the parliamentary vote in Crimea, Obama called the vote to enter into the Russian Federation a “violation of international law.”  Here is the latest information on this vote:

Crimean parliament and Sevastopol’s city council have voted in favor of joining Russia. The decision will only come in force if it is approved by the Crimeans at a referendum which will be held in 10 days.

Crimean MPs voted on Thursday for the region to “to become part of the Russian Federation as its constituent territory,” says the text of the regional parliament’s statement. […]

The parliament has also made a decision to ask the Russian leadership to “launch the procedure of Crimea becoming part of Russia.”

Sevastopol’s city council also voted to become a subject of the Russian Federation and backed Crimea’s referendum. The city’s residents will take part in the March 16 referendum despite the city enjoying a special status and not officially being part of Crimea. […]

Kiev has reacted by describing the referendum illegitimate.[…]

Acting Ukrainian President Oleksander Turchinov said authorities in Crimea region were “totally illegitimate, both the parliament and the government.” […]

Russia’s State Duma (parliament) is ready to consider the possibility of Crimea joining Russia, according to the head of the Duma committee on the affairs of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Leonid Slutsky.[…]

More than half the Crimean population are Russian and use only this language for their communication.

Crimean authorities denounced the self-proclaimed government in Kiev and declared that all Ukrainian law enforcement and military deployed in the peninsula must take orders from them. The majority of troops in Crimea switched sides in favor of the local authorities.

http://rt.com/news/crimea-referendum-status-ukraine-154/

I think what we are seeing may well be a gladio-type operation that takes us to WW3; at the least, it ushers in a new cold war era.  Based on comments I see attached to various articles about Ukraine and Russia in the past several days, I do believe the American public will be just dumb and propagandized enough to actually go along with it.  While our leaders haughtily talk about “international law” and the “wrongness” of Russia’s actions, as though the US had never done any such things herself, the public appears eager, if the comments are any measure, to wipe any memories of how we became involved in Iraq or Afghanistan from their minds and seem to forget that we are still in those countries.  Gone is worry over budget deficits or the amount of money spent on bank bailouts.  They don’t remember how we recently invaded and ruined Libya and that we still threaten to intervene in Syria.  No thought is wasted on the drone bombings in numerous countries that we are not at war with.  And although most Americans couldn’t have located Ukraine on a map until about a week ago, the public is bellicose about “getting Russia”, even if it means giving up their social security and unemployment benefits forever, foregoing any repairs to the infrastructure in this country, and risking our financial collapse; all to support the war machine and fight another war of choice, mislead by false information from the media and the US government.  Yes, we are just that stupid.  It has been reported the U.S. spent $5 billion to support the protesters who succeeded in removing the pro-Russian president of Ukraine from office.  Where do you suppose that money came from?  Your tax dollars at work.

On Tuesday, the new government in Ukraine signed a 50-year shale oil deal with Chevron.  Another country fucked up for its energy supplies – that didn’t take long, did it?

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/11/05/us-ukraine-chevron-idUSBRE9A40ML20131105

This new Cold War thing may also have some relationship to the Magnitsky Act instituted under Obama a few years ago.  I have more to say on this subject and will update this article later in the day.

Article continued:

The executive order issued by Obama a day ago seems to be an extension of the 2012 Magnitsky Act, which was aimed at a few of Russia’s oligarchy.  It is a peculiar Congressional Act in that it targets only a few wealthy Russians, rather than sanctions on an entire country.  This was thought to hinder Russia’s trade and banking influence in the US economy without imposing a diplomatic crisis.  The Russians responded by creating their own list of Americans who are now refused entry into Russia for human rights violations; notables on the list include John Yoo and David Addington, as well as several assistant US attorneys and some military personnel involved in running Guantanamo Bay.  Now why we particularly find Russia’s oligarchs a threat, but not our own, is good question.  Our oligarchic class is very busy imposing itself globally, interfering in the agriculture, business, and social mores of countries everywhere, Ukraine being but the latest example.

The man behind the Magnitsky Act explains why now is the time to go after the Russian elite’s assets.

By Adam Taylor, Updated: March 3 at 7:07 pm [Teri’s note: this was written before the Obama executive order at the top of this post.]

As much as everyone is very mad at Russia right now for its actions against Ukraine, it still isn’t exactly clear what will happen next. Might the United States and Western Europe send troops into battle against Russia? Even if Russia weren’t a nuclear power, that seems incredibly dangerous.

Instead, the discussion is moving to economic measures, with the Obama administration saying it is “highly likely” they will use sanctions against Russia.

However, at least one person is arguing that there may be another option, one that could zero in on the interests of the Russian elite more accurately without hurting the Russian public in general: a 2012 human rights law known as the Magnitsky Act.

“This is exactly what the Magnitsky Act was created for,” Bill Browder, founder of the investment fund Hermitage Capital Management explained in a phone call from his London base Monday morning. For Browder, his link to the act isn’t just political — it’s also personal. The man for whom “the Magnitsky Act” is named worked for him.

The story of the Magnitsky Act began in 2008, when Sergei Magnitsky, a Moscow-based lawyer working for the Hermitage Fund, testified in a Russian court that he had uncovered a huge scam by top police officials. According to Magnitsky, the officials had embezzled $230 million in taxes from money that Hermitage Fund companies had paid in 2006, with corrupt police officers using stolen corporate seals and documents seized in a 2007 raid on Hermitage’s Moscow offices to set up fake companies under the same names, and then used these fake companies to get a tax rebate.

Instead of a more thorough investigation he apparently hoped for, Magnitsky was himself charged with tax evasion. He was taken to prison for pretrial detention, where he died unexpectedly in 2009. The circumstances of his death remain murky, though officially it was said to be a heart attack.

Browder never accepted that version of events: In his phone call with The Washington Post, he referred to Magnitsky’s death as a “murder,” perhaps alluding to one report from Russia’s Presidential human rights council that said torture contributed to the lawyer’s death. Browder, who had been barred from entering Russia himself, began to lobby back in Washington for the introduction of a “black list” of Russian officials involved in the crime. Those on the list would have bank accounts frozen and assets seized.

The Magnitsky Act passed in December 2012, and a few months later 18 names were released. Importantly, the scope of the act was expanded to include a number of people not related to Magnitsky’s case. Browder feels that now is a perfect time for the list to be updated again. “You can’t just let Russia take over another country without consequences,” he said, reasoning that the Magnitsky Act worked better than sanctions as going after individuals made them “face real personal consequences which their commanders can’t protect them from.”

“The main reason Magnitsky has been so successful is that it addresses the state of the world in modern Russia vs. the Soviet Union,” Browder explained, arguing that nowadays officials who commit human rights violations for profit in Russia often keep their money in the West as they fear the instability of Russia. “I guarantee you, if put them on a sanction list, they’d think twice about what they are going to do next in Ukraine and elsewhere.” […]

Of course, the Magnitsky Act was initially envisaged as a response to one particular incident, and it’s hard to foresee how it might be used in the case of Russia’s state-sanctioned aggression in Ukraine. How many people, for example, would it target? Browder argued that it should be easy to work out the target, and that it could even go all the way to the top. When e-mailed about the possibility of targeting Russian President Vladimir Putin with the Magnitsky Act, Browder e-mailed back: “I don’t see why not. He is said to be the richest man in the world holding lots of money offshore, which could be frozen.”

© The Washington Post Company

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2014/03/03/the-man-behind-the-magnitsky-act-explains-why-now-is-the-time-to-go-after-the-russian-elites-assets/

One must note that all this awful mess in Ukraine is part and parcel of neoliberal privatization and IMF rule, as well as the obvious raison d’etre: getting Ukraine included in the NATO territories.

Here’s the new guy we installed through this coup in Ukraine:
“He told reporters at a news conference at the central bank that the interim government is determined to make the reforms called for by the International Monetary Fund in return for loans: ‘A key priority is resuming the programme of collaboration with the International Monetary Fund. And we will fulfill all the conditions, I repeat, all the conditions, that are necessary for this loan, and Ukraine’s parliament and the coalition will vote for the laws that are necessary for receiving this money.’ ”
http://www.euronews.com/2014/02/28/ukraine-hopes-for-aid-soon-pm-says-will-fulfill-imf-conditions/

And:
“The government of Ukraine has the idea of privatization of the energy sector in the country, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk has said.
‘I’ll tell you about the idea of privatization of the energy sector at transparent auctions: Chornomornaftogaz and other companies, which are part of Naftogaz Ukrainy,’ he said at a meeting with the business community in Kyiv on Monday.
The premier stressed that Naftogaz Ukrainy is ‘a burden for the budget and a non-transparent monster.’ According to him, privatization will help stop corruption in the energy sector.
http://en.interfax.com.ua/news/economic/194102.html

The old guy,Yanukovych, famously did NOT want the austerity measures and privatization reforms insisted on by the IMF for his country. And we see where it got him.

Paul Craig Roberts has a series of articles on the situation in Ukraine.  I will give excerpts from them below; they offer a good summation of recent events, a scathing diatribe against various members of the Obama administration who orchestrated the whole thing, explanations of Russia’s moves in Crimea, and the real-life results of this US interference on the Ukrainian people, who now have to accept IMF austerity.  I know the excerpts are long, but I think you will find that they bring you up to speed on the events.

You will note Roberts’ mention of Michel Chossudovsky in the first article.  Chossudovsky writes for Global Research; I highly recommend that website.  [ http://www.globalresearch.ca/ ] I also recommend friend and fellow blogger, Che Pasa, for his series of articles on Ukraine and his research into the various front groups supporting the coup.  [http://chewhatyoucallyourpasa.blogspot.com/ ]

Washington’s Arrogance, Hubris, and Evil Have Set the Stage for War.

March 3, 2014, Paul Craig Roberts

In some quarters public awareness is catching up with Stephen Lendman, Michel Chossudovsky, Rick Rozoff, myself and a few others in realizing the grave danger in the crisis that Washington has created in Ukraine.

The puppet politicians who Washington intended to put in charge of Ukraine have lost control to organized and armed neo-nazis, who are attacking Jews, Russians, and intimidating Ukrainian politicians. The government of Crimea, a Russian province that Khrushchev transferred to the Ukraine Soviet Republic in the 1950s, has disavowed the illegitimate government that illegally seized power in Kiev and requested Russian protection. The Ukrainian military forces in Crimea have gone over to Russia. The Russian government has announced that it will also protect the former Russian provinces in eastern Ukraine as well. […]

Under Washington’s pressure, Ukraine became a separate country retaining the Russian provinces, but Russia retained its Black Sea naval base in Crimea.

Washington tried, but failed, to take Ukraine in 2004 with the Washington-financed “Orange Revolution.” According to Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, since this failure Washington has “invested” $5 billion in Ukraine in order to foment agitation for EU membership for Ukraine. EU membership would open Ukraine to looting by Western bankers and corporations, but Washington’s main goal is to establish US missile bases on Russia’s border with Ukraine and to deprive Russia of its Black Sea naval base and military industries in eastern Ukraine. EU membership for Ukraine means NATO membership.

Washington wants missile bases in Ukraine in order to degrade Russia’s nuclear deterrent, thus reducing Russia’s ability to resist US hegemony. Only three countries stand in the way of Washington’s hegemony over the world, Russia, China, and Iran.

Iran is surrounded by US military bases and has US fleets off its coast. The “Pivot to Asia” announced by the warmonger Obama regime is ringing China with air and naval bases. Washington is surrounding Russia with US missile and NATO bases. The corrupt Polish and Czech governments were paid to accept US missile and radar bases, which makes the Polish and Czech puppet states prime targets for nuclear annihilation. Washington has purchased the former Russian and Soviet province of Georgia, birthplace of Joseph Stalin, and is in the process of putting this puppet into NATO.

Washington’s Western European puppets are too greedy for Washington’s money to take cognizance of the fact that these highly provocative moves are a direct strategic threat to Russia. The attitude of European governments seems to be, “after me, the deluge.”

Russia has been slow to react to the many years of Washington’s provocations, hoping for some sign of good sense and good will to emerge in the West. Instead, Russia has experienced rising demonization from Washington and European capitals and foaming at the mouth vicious denunciations by the West’s media whores. The bulk of the American and European populations are being brainwashed to see the problem that Washington’s meddling has caused in Ukraine to be Russia’s fault. Yesterday, I heard on National Public Radio a presstitute from the New Republic describe Putin as the problem.

The ignorance, absence of integrity, and lack of independence of the US media greatly enhances the prospect for war. The picture being drawn for insouciant Americans is totally false. An informed people would have burst out laughing when US Secretary of State John Kerry denounced Russia for “invading Ukraine” in “violation of international law.” Kerry is the foreign minister of a country that has illegally invaded Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, organized the overthrow of the government in Libya, tried to overthrow the government in Syria, attacks the civilian populations of Pakistan and Yemen with drones and missiles, constantly threatens Iran with attack, unleashed the US and Israeli trained Georgian army on the Russian population of South Ossetia, and now threatens Russia with sanctions for standing up for Russians and Russian strategic interests. The Russian government noted that Kerry has raised hypocrisy to a new level.

Kerry has no answer to the question: “Since when does the United States government genuinely subscribe and defend the concept of sovereignty and territorial integrity?”

Kerry, as is always the case, is lying through his teeth. Russia hasn’t invaded Ukraine. Russia sent a few more troops to join those at its Black Sea base in view of the violent anti-Russian statements and actions emanating from Kiev. As the Ukrainian military in Crimea defected to Russia, the additional Russian troops were hardly necessary.

The stupid Kerry, wallowing in his arrogance, hubris, and evil, has issued direct threats to Russia. The Russian foreign minister has dismissed Kerry’s threats as “unacceptable.” The stage is set for war.

Note the absurdity of the situation. Kiev has been taken over by ultra-nationalist neo-nazis. A band of ultra-nationalist thugs is the last thing the European Union wants or needs as a member state. The EU is centralizing power and suppressing the sovereignty of the member states. Note the alignment of the neoconservative Obama regime with anti-semitic neo-nazis. The neoconservative clique that has dominated the US government since the Clinton regime is heavily Jewish, many of whom are dual Israeli/US citizens. The Jewish neoconservatives, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and National Security Adviser Susan Rice, have lost control of their coup to neo-Nazis who preach “death to the Jews.” […]

This is the situation that Washington created and defends, while accusing Russia of stifling Ukrainian democracy. An elected democracy is what Ukraine had before Washington overthrew it.

At this time there is no legitimate Ukrainian government.

Everyone needs to understand that Washington is lying about Ukraine just as Washington lied about Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, just as Washington lied about Iranian nukes, just as Washington lied about Syrian president Assad using chemical weapons, just as Washington lied about Afghanistan, Libya, NSA spying, torture. What hasn’t Washington lied about?

Washington is comprised of three elements: Arrogance, Hubris, and Evil. There is nothing else there.

http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2014/03/03/washingtons-arrogance-hubris-evil-set-stage-war/

*******

The end could be nearer than you think.

March 3, 2014, Paul Craig Roberts

[…] Eastern and southern Ukraine are Russian-speaking former Russian territories added to Ukraine in the 1950s by the Communist Party leadership of the Soviet Union. These provinces are agitating to be returned to Mother Russia where they certainly belong. They are determined not to be part of a neo-nazi regime that will be looted by Western bankers and corporations and be forced to host US missile bases that will make western Ukraine a target for nuclear annihilation, like Poland and Czech Republic.

The propagandistic rhetoric issuing from the mouths of the White House Fool and the excrement that the Fool placed in charge of the Department of State is designed to cover up the abject failure of the Obama regime’s plot to install its puppets as Ukraine’s new rulers. The Obama regime is too stupid to comprehend that its rhetoric is preparing the gullible and ignorant American population for war with Russia. The neoconservative ideologues, who have been lusting for war with Russia ever since the 1980s when I was a member of the Committee on the Present Danger, will take advantage of the war preparation, which the White House Fool and his State Department excrement are creating with their rhetoric, to start a war that will destroy life on earth.

The neoconservatives are insane. They believe that nuclear war can be won, and that the US has the advantage to destroy Russia in a first strike.

Americans are so ignorant and gullible that they do not realize that their very existence is on the line, and that the insane neoconservatives who control the weak Obama puppet are determined to cross the line. […]

God help the American people. Their ignorance and gullibility make them an enormous threat to life on earth. […]

War will be the result of the ignorance, gullibility, and stupidity of the American population, its prostitute media, and the hegemonic ambitions of the evil neoconservatives. The corrupt rulers of Europe will sell out their peoples for American money until they are all vaporized in nuclear explosions.

The total corruption of truth, integrity, and morality that Washington has imposed on the Western world has aligned the West with the powers of Darkness and death. No greater evil exists than the government of the United States.

http//www.paulcraigroberts.org/2014/03/03/end-nearer-think-paul-craig-roberts/

*******

Propaganda Rules The News

March 5, 2014, Paul Craig Roberts

Gerald Celente calls the Western media “presstitutes,” an ingenuous term that I often use. Presstitutes sell themselves to Washington for access and government sources and to keep their jobs. Ever since the corrupt Clinton regime permitted the concentration of the US media, there has been no journalistic independence in the United States except for some Internet sites.[…]

Even Abby Martin and Greenwald, both of whom bring us much light, cannot fully escape Western propaganda.

For example, Martin’s denunciation of Russia for “invading” Ukraine is based on Western propaganda that Russia sent 16,000 troops to occupy Crimea. The fact of the matter is that those 16,000 Russian troops have been in Crimea since the 1990s. Under the Russian-Ukrainian agreement, Russia has the right to base 25,000 troops in Crimea. […]

Russia has done nothing but respond in a very low-key way to a major strategic threat orchestrated by Washington. […]

It is not only Martin and Greenwald who have fallen under Washington’s propaganda. They are joined by Patrick J. Buchanan. Pat’s column calling on readers to “resist the war party on Crimea” opens with Washington’s propagandistic claim: “With Vladimir Putin’s dispatch of Russian Troops into Crimea.” http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37847.htm
No such dispatch has occurred. Putin has been granted authority by the Russian Duma to send troops to Ukraine, but Putin has stated publicly that sending troops would be a last resort to protect Crimean Russians from invasions by the ultra-nationalist neo-nazis who stole Washington’s coup and established themselves as the power in Kiev and western Ukraine. […]

It appears that the power of Washington’s propaganda is so great that not even the best and most independent journalists can escape its influence. […]

The entire story that the presstitutes have told about the Ukraine is a propaganda production. The presstitutes told us that the deposed president, Viktor Yanukovych, ordered snipers to shoot protesters. On the basis of these false reports, Washington’s stooges, who comprise the existing non-government in Kiev, have issued arrest orders for Yanukovych and intend for him to be tried in an international court. In an intercepted telephone call between EU foreign affairs minister Catherine Ashton and Estonian foreign affairs minister Urmas Paet who had just returned from Kiev, Paet reports: “There is now stronger and stronger understanding that behind the snipers, it was not Yanukovych, but it was somebody from the new coalition.” Paet goes on to report that “all the evidence shows that the people who were killed by snipers from both sides, among policemen and then people from the streets, that they were the same snipers killing people from both sides . . . and it’s really disturbing that now the new coalition, that they don’t want to investigate what exactly happened.” Ashton, absorbed with EU plans to guide reforms in Ukraine and to prepare the way for the IMF to gain control over economic policy, was not particularly pleased to hear Paet’s report that the killings were an orchestrated provocation. You can listen to the conversation between Paet and Ashton here: http://rt.com/news/ashton-maidan-snipers-estonia-946/ [2]

What has happened in Ukraine is that Washington plotted against and overthrew an elected legitimate government and then lost control to neo-nazis who are threatening the large Russian population in southern and eastern Ukraine, provinces that formerly were part of Russia. These threatened Russians have appealed for Russia’s help, and just like the Russians in South Ossetia, they will receive Russia’s help.

The Obama regime and its presstitutes will continue to lie about everything.

http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2014/03/05/propaganda-rules-news-paul-craig-roberts/

**************

The Looting Of Ukraine Has Begun

March 6, 2014, Paul Craig Roberts

According to a report in Kommersant-Ukraine, the finance ministry of Washington’s stooges in Kiev who are pretending to be a government has prepared an economic austerity plan that will cut Ukrainian pensions from $160 to $80 so that Western bankers who lent money to Ukraine can be repaid at the expense of Ukraine’s poor. http://www.kommersant.ua/doc/2424454 [2] It is Greece all over again.

Before anything approaching stability and legitimacy has been obtained for the puppet government put in power by the Washington orchestrated coup against the legitimate, elected Ukraine government, the Western looters are already at work. Naive protesters who believed the propaganda that EU membership offered a better life are due to lose half of their pension by April. But this is only the beginning.

The corrupt Western media describes loans as “aid.” However, the 11 billion euros that the EU is offering Kiev is not aid. It is a loan. Moreover, it comes with many strings, including Kiev’s acceptance of an IMF austerity plan.

Remember now, gullible Ukrainians participated in the protests that were used to overthrow their elected government, because they believed the lies told to them by Washington-financed NGOs that once they joined the EU they would have streets paved with gold. Instead they are getting cuts in their pensions and an IMF austerity plan.

The austerity plan will cut social services, funds for education, layoff government workers, devalue the currency, thus raising the prices of imports which include Russian gas, thus electricity, and open Ukrainian assets to takeover by Western corporations.

Ukraine’s agriculture lands will pass into the hands of American agribusiness.

One part of the Washington/EU plan for Ukraine, or that part of Ukraine that doesn’t defect to Russia, has succeeded. What remains of the country will be thoroughly looted by the West. […]

At this time of writing it looks like Crimea has seceded from Ukraine. Washington and its NATO puppets can do nothing but bluster and threaten sanctions. The White House Fool has demonstrated the impotence of the “US sole superpower” by issuing sanctions against unknown persons, whoever they are, responsible for returning Crimea to Russia, where it existed for about 200 years before[…] Having observed the events in western Ukraine, those Russian provinces want to go back home where they belong, just as South Ossetia wanted nothing to do with Georgia. […]

In the former Russian provinces of eastern Ukraine, Putin’s low-key approach to the strategic threat that Washington has brought to Russia has given Washington a chance to hold on to a major industrial complex that serves the Russian economy and military. The people themselves in eastern Ukraine are in the streets demanding separation from the unelected government that Washington’s coup has imposed in Kiev. Washington, realizing that its incompetence has lost Crimea, had its Kiev stooges appoint Ukrainian oligarchs, against whom the Maiden protests were partly directed, to governing positions in eastern Ukraine cities. These oligarchs have their own private militias in addition to the police and any Ukrainian military units that are still functioning. The leaders of the protesting Russians are being arrested and disappeared. Washington and its EU puppets, who proclaim their support for self-determination, are only for self-determination when it can be orchestrated in their favor. Therefore, Washington is busy at work suppressing self-determination in eastern Ukraine. 

This is a dilemma for Putin. His low-key approach has allowed Washington to seize the initiative in eastern Ukraine. The oligarchs Taruta and Kolomoyskiy have been put in power in Donetsk and Dnipropetrovsk, and are carrying out arrests of Russians and committing unspeakable crimes, but you will never hear of it from the US presstitutes. Washington’s strategy is to arrest and deep-six the leaders of the secessionists so that there no authorities to request Putin’s intervention.

If Putin has drones, he has the option of taking out Taruta and Kolomoyskiy. If Putin lets Washington retain the Russian provinces of eastern Ukraine, he will have demonstrated a weakness that Washington will exploit. Washington will exploit the weakness to the point that Washington forces Putin to war.

The war will be nuclear.

http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2014/03/06/looting-ukraine-begun/

Be aware of propaganda.  Inform yourself.  Don’t be bamboozled by the paranoia offered by our media.  Let’s not get involved in another rich man’s war of choice.  Perhaps the PNAC people have decided to take out Russia, China and Iran sooner rather than later; we do not need to be their fodder.  What if they gave a war and nobody came?

Buffalo Springfield – “For What It’s Worth”.

 
7 Comments

Posted by on March 7, 2014 in austerity, MIC, peace, Russia, Ukraine

 

"Freedom" of the press.

Huh.  So first they made propaganda legal (again) in the US.  You may remember this story, or a similar version of it, from last year.

US Government-Funded Domestic Propaganda Has Officially Hit The Airwaves

by Michael Kelley, provided by Business Insider.

Published 6:54 am, Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The U.S. government’s mammoth broadcasting arm has begun the “unleashing of thousands of hours per week of government-funded radio and TV programs for domestic U.S. consumption,” John Hudson of Foreign Policy reported on Sunday. 

The content arrives with the enactment of the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012, sponsored by Rep. Mac Thornberry (R- Texas) and Rep. Adam Smith (D- Wash.), which was inserted into the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The reform effectively nullifies the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, which was amended in 1985 specifically to prohibit U.S. organizations from using information “to influence public opinion in the United States.”  [Teri’s note: another confusing and misleading title for a Congressional Act.  The old Smith-Mundt Act prohibited propaganda.  The new “Smith-Mundt Modernization Act” does exactly the opposite, despite invoking the same names as the old one.  This is done deliberately to confuse the voters, very much like Elizabeth Warren’s disarmingly named “21st Century Glass-Steagal Act”.]

The new law enables U.S. government programming such as Voice of America (VoA) — an outlet created in 1942 to promote a positive understanding of the U.S. abroad — t0 broadcast directly to domestic audiences for the first time.

VoA and other programs are now produced by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which shares a “strategic communications budget” with the State Department and has an annual budget of more than $700 million. [Teri’s note: See more on the State Dept.’s cost of propaganda below.] 

Nevertheless, BBG spokeswoman Lynne Weil insisted to FP that the BBG presents “fair and accurate news” and is not a propaganda outlet.

A former U.S. government source explained that the BBG can now reach local radio stations in the U.S., meaning that the programming can target expat communities such as the significant Somali population in St. Paul, Minnesota.

“Those people can get Al-Shabaab, they can get Russia Today, but they couldn’t get access to their taxpayer-funded news sources like VoA Somalia,” the source told FP. “It was silly.”

An alternative function was detailed last year by Lt. Col. Daniel Davis, a highly-respected officer who released a critical report regarding the distortion of truth by senior military officials in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Davis stated that the effective repeal of the Smith-Mundt Act is a strategic move in influencing U.S. public perception in regards to the Global War on Terror (GWOT). 

He cites Colonel Richard B. Leap, who recommends that lawmakers “specifically address all prior legislation beginning with the Smith-Mundt Act that is limiting the effectiveness of Information organizations in the GWOT environment.”

From Lt. Col. Davis:

In context, Colonel Leap is implying we ought to change the law to enable Public Affairs officers to influence American public opinion when they deem it necessary to “protect a key friendly center of gravity, to wit US national will.” 

The Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012 appears to serve this purpose by allowing for the American public to be a target audience of U.S. government-funded information campaigns. 

Davis also quotes Brigadier General Ralph O. Baker — the Pentagon officer responsible for the Department of Defense’s Joint Force Development — who defines Information Operations (IO) as activities undertaken to “shape the essential narrative of a conflict or situation and thus affect the attitudes and behaviors of the targeted audience.” 

Brig. Gen. Baker goes on to equate descriptions of combat operations with the standard marketing strategy of repeating something until it is accepted: 

For years, commercial advertisers have based their advertisement strategies on the premise that there is a positive correlation between the number of times a consumer is exposed to product advertisement and that consumer’s inclination to sample the new product. The very same principle applies to how we influence our target audiences when we conduct COIN.

And those “thousands of hours per week of government-funded radio and TV programs” appear to serve Baker’s strategy, which states: “Repetition is a key tenet of IO execution, and the failure to constantly drive home a consistent message dilutes the impact on the target audiences.” 

So it appears the new content stream is an outlet for “uncensored news, responsible discussion, and open debate,” as Weil told FP, as well as a vehicle for U.S. Information Operations.

http://www.sfgate.com/technology/businessinsider/article/US-Government-Funded-Domestic-Propaganda-Has-4668001.php

The State Dept. spends a lot of money on “diplomatic outreach”,  otherwise known as propaganda, in its desperate attempts to get people in foreign lands to like us.   That we might remove our military from their countries, simply stop bombing the hell out of them, or end such “diplomatic” practices as economic sanctioning, and that this might do more for our reputation abroad than overt propaganda is a concept that seems to elude both the State Dept. and the Pentagon.  Aside from the Broadcasting Board of Governors (mentioned in the above article) with its $751 mm budget (as of 2012), the State Department runs the Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP), which is a 276-person agency with a 2013 budget of $137 million.  The IIP publishes various booklets and licenses old PBS series to be broadcast in foreign countries.  State also has the Bureau of Public Affairs operating on a budget of $43.5 mm (2013 budget), whose main function seems to be the responsibility of handling State Dept. “tweets” and arranging all-expense-paid trips to the US for foreign journalists (the topics of the stories are pre-selected by the State Dept.).

The Pentagon has its own outreach program, of course, entirely separate from the State Dept. According to a February 2012 USA Today article, the Pentagon spent as much as $580 million annually in recent years on leaflets, billboards, radio and TV programming, and other forms of “information operations” in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Excited and emboldened by the successful reinstatement of the Cold War-style propaganda pushed onto the sleepy, witless public and codified into law through the 2013 NDAA, the Obama administration now moves forward with the next step: it will tell the media what that propaganda should consist of,  “advise” the media on how to properly disseminate the approved “information” to the public, and “oversee” how well the media is fulfilling this “duty”.  Oh, and the “advisors” will be government contractors; i.e., your own taxpayer dollars will be used to direct the media on what it is allowed to tell you, via private companies hired by the government.  I am exaggerating the case somewhat, but as history has taught us, these things progress in an orderly and predictable fashion; it is only a matter of a relatively small period of time before full-on control of the press is achieved.  This latest move, combined with Obama’s overt war on journalists and whistleblowers (done with the blessings of most of Congress, I might add), clearly demonstrate where all this is headed.

New Obama initiative tramples First Amendment protections

BY BYRON YORK | FEBRUARY 20, 2014 AT 5:48 PM

The First Amendment says “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…” But under the Obama administration, the Federal Communications Commission is planning to send government contractors into the nation’s newsrooms to determine whether journalists are producing articles, television reports, Internet content, and commentary that meets the public’s “critical information needs.” Those “needs” will be defined by the administration, and news outlets that do not comply with the government’s standards could face an uncertain future. It’s hard to imagine a project more at odds with the First Amendment. 

The initiative, known around the agency as “the CIN Study” (pronounced “sin”), is a bit of a mystery even to insiders. “This has never been put to an FCC vote, it was just announced,” says Ajit Pai, one of the FCC’s five commissioners (and one of its two Republicans). “I’ve never had any input into the process,” adds Pai, who brought the story to the public’s attention in a Wall Street Journal column last week.  [Teri’s note:  It is most peculiar that the commissioners themselves knew nothing of this initiative beforehand.  Where did it originate?  Perhaps it is the singular idea of the acting chair, Mignon Clyburn?  Maybe some sort of Presidential Order?  It’s a mystery.  In any case, please read Commissioner Pai’s WSJ editorial by clicking on the embedded link above.  His piece is articulate and rather alarming, especially in light of the fact that someone is making decisions about FCC policies without having the input from all its commissioners.]

Advocates promote the project with Obama-esque rhetoric. “This study begins the charting of a course to a more effective delivery of necessary information to all citizens,” said FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn in 2012. Clyburn, daughter of powerful House Democratic Rep. James Clyburn, was appointed to the FCC by President Obama and served as acting chair for part of last year. The FCC, Clyburn said, “must emphatically insist that we leave no American behind when it comes to meeting the needs of those in varied and vibrant communities of our nation — be they native born, immigrant, disabled, non-English speaking, low-income, or other.” (The FCC decided to test the program with a trial run in Ms. Clyburn’s home state, South Carolina.)

The FCC commissioned the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Communication and Democracy to do a study defining what information is “critical” for citizens to have. The scholars decided that “critical information” is information that people need to “live safe and healthy lives” and to “have full access to educational, employment, and business opportunities,” among other things.

The study identified eight “critical needs”: information about emergencies and risks; health and welfare; education; transportation; economic opportunities; the environment; civic information; and political information.

It’s not difficult to see those topics quickly becoming vehicles for political intimidation. In fact, it’s difficult to imagine that they wouldn’t. For example, might the FCC standards that journalists must meet on the environment look something like the Obama administration’s environmental agenda? Might standards on economic opportunity resemble the president’s inequality agenda? The same could hold true for the categories of health and welfare and “civic information” — and pretty much everything else.

“An enterprising regulator could run wild with a lot of these topics,” says Pai. “The implicit message to the newsroom is they need to start covering these eight categories in a certain way or otherwise the FCC will go after them.” 

The FCC awarded a contract for the study to a Maryland-based company called Social Solutions International. In April 2013, Social Solutions presented a proposal outlining a process by which contractors hired by the FCC would interview news editors, reporters, executives and other journalists.

“The purpose of these interviews is to ascertain the process by which stories are selected,” the Social Solutions report said, adding that news organizations would be evaluated for “station priorities (for content, production quality, and populations served), perceived station bias, perceived percent of news dedicated to each of the eight CINs, and perceived responsiveness to underserved populations.” 

There are a lot of scary words for journalists in that paragraph. And not just for broadcasters; the FCC also proposes to regulate newspapers, which it has no authority to do. (Its mission statement says the FCC “regulates interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable…”)

Questioning about the CIN Study began last December, when the four top Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee asked the FCC to justify the project. “The Commission has no business probing the news media’s editorial judgment and expertise,” the GOP lawmakers wrote, “nor does it have any business in prescribing a set diet of ‘critical information.’ ” [Teri’s note:  Obama and the Democrats couldn’t give any more talking points to the GOP than they have lately if they had planned it intentionally.  I’d be amazed at this political ineptitude if I weren’t so convinced we actually have only one party in this country.]

If the FCC goes forward, it’s not clear what will happen to news organizations that fall short of the new government standards. Perhaps they will be disciplined. Or perhaps the very threat of investigating their methods will nudge them into compliance with the administration’s journalistic agenda. What is sure is that it will be a gross violation of constitutional rights. 

http://washingtonexaminer.com/new-obama-initiative-tramples-first-amendment-protections/article/2544363

On the Maryland contractor mentioned in the article, Social Solutions International:  these guys appear to survive as a company exclusively through governmental contracts.  In regards propaganda, here is one of their contracts as summarized on their home page, and you will note how well it fits with the new (and improved!) propaganda law in the 2013 NDAA, which is the subject of the first article I quoted:

International evaluation expertise promotes public diplomacy.

Social Solutions is entering the second year of a five year contract funded by the Department of State (DoS) to provide evaluation and performance measurement expertise and leadership to the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). The ECA serves both as a critical element and extension of the State Department’s traditional diplomacy function. The diversity of programming, activities, thematic emphases and content, participants, and program goals enables ECA to realize its overarching Public Diplomacy and Citizen Diplomacy goals: fostering mutual understanding and forging linkages between citizens and institutions in the U.S. and overseas. The Evaluation Division in ECA’s Office of Policy and Evaluation (ECA/P) serves as the locus of program evaluation and performance measurement functions for ECA’s programs and for the Bureau as a whole.  It provides critical performance measurement and evaluative data – both qualitative and quantitative – to Senior Managers in ECA and the DoS as part of annual or occasional USG mandated strategic planning and performance measurement exercises. It also provides performance data on highly visible initiatives and offers analysis and reports on the data collected.

http://www.socialsolutions.biz/cms/index.php

 

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2014 in Congress, security state, State Dept/diplomacy