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Friday, February 15, 2019

Fighting Vampires

Lights of Truth,

Technically, Ilhan Omar's grilling of Elliot Abrahms Vampire for the House Foreign Affairs Committee was yesterday's news, but she got further attacked by the Neocon-Amen-section, and Caitlin Johnstone jumped to her defense.
US warmongering is the most aggressively protected part of the establishment narrative matrix, because US warmongering is the glue that holds the unipolar empire together. Without it, our rulers cannot rule, so you’ll see imperial lackeys fiercely attacking anyone who draws attention to America’s bloodbaths around the world, even if they are good servants of the empire in other areas.
The difficulty for our rulers, though, is that warmongering is a very difficult thing to paint a pretty picture of, especially with our newfound ability to quickly share ideas and information around the globe. I mean, look at Elliott Abrams. Seriously, just watch him talk. That demonic grimace is the prettiest face they could find to put on their Venezuela agenda. I find that very encouraging.
The reason they work so hard to manufacture our consent for warmongering agendas is because they need that consent. They wouldn’t propagandize us so aggressively if they didn’t need us all trusting them and believing their stories, so the best way to fight establishment warmongering is to circulate disbelief in their stories. Whenever you see someone like Ilhan Omar drawing attention to the gaping plot holes in agendas like regime change interventionism in Venezuela, go ahead and help draw attention to it.

H.R. 1, better known as the For the People Act, has won praise from many Democrat-friendly pundits.
The first proposed legislation of the Democratic House would, among other things, expand voting rights by encouraging same-day registration, force presidents and vice presidents to release tax returns, and ban members of Congress from serving on corporate boards...
Page 268 of the bill, which was sponsored by Maryland Democrat John Sarbanes, features “Section 3201: National Strategy to Protect Democratic Institutions.”
The section mandates that the president work with the secretaries of Defense, State, and Education, along with the director of national intelligence, the chair of the Federal Election Commission and the “heads of any other appropriate federal agencies” to develop a “national strategy” against “cyber attacks, influence operations, disinformation campaigns” and other operations that could “undermine the security and integrity of United States democratic institutions.”
There’s nothing particularly odd about the president working with security agencies to come up with a plan to prevent cyber attacks and other foreign incursions. But this provision also specifically describes a strategy to combat domestic actors, and its mandate is couched in language that raises questions about its true purpose.

Moon of Alabama lays out what looks more and more like a failed US attempt at a coup d'Etat in Venezuela.
On January 25, two days after Random Guyidó declared himself President of Venezuela, the lack of planing in the U.S. coup attempt was already obvious:
My impression is that Trump was scammed. It was long evident that he gives little attention to details and does not think things through. Most likely Bolton, Pompeo and Rubio presented him with a three step plan:
Phase 1. Support the self declared president Guaidó; Phase 2: ... (wishful thinking) ...; Phase 3: Take half of their oil! ​...​
Bolton and Pompeo are both experienced politicians and bureaucrats. They likely knew that their plan was deeply flawed and would require much more than Trump would normally commit to. My hunch is that the soon coming mission creep was build into their plan, but that they did not reveal that.
The U.S. coup planners and their Venezuelan puppets had hoped that the Venezuelan military would jump to their side. That was wishful thinking and unlikely to happen. They also thought up some "humanitarian aid" scheme in which pictures of trucks crossing a long blocked bridge would soon shame the Venezuelan president into stepping down. That was likewise nonsense.
Unless the U.S. is willing and able to escalate, the coup attempt is destined to fail...The little spontaneous support the Random Guyidó had in some parts of the population is already lessening. Yesterday's demonstration he had called for saw less attendance than the one on January 23. He now says that he will force the 'aid' crossing on February 23 but he does not seem to have a real plan to achieve that:
President of the National Assembly Guaido also promised the country that US-delivered humanitarian aid will “enter the country no matter what” on February 23, issuing an “order” for the military to allow it to enter. However, military leaders have dismissed these calls, with the Central Defense Region tweeting in response that the armed forces would not take any orders from an “imperial lackey.”
If the U.S. does not do more than it has done so far the government under President Maduro can sit this out. The sanctions and the lack of oil revenue will create many immediate problems. But in a few weeks Venezuelan oil will have found new buyers. Fresh money will come in and new sources for imports of medicine and staple food will have been found.
Over the same time the Random Guy will lose support. The party he nominally leads only won 20% of the votes. The other opposition parties were never informed of his plan to declare himself president. Their support for the step was lukewarm and will cool further. They may in the end support the mediation talks Maduro has offered and which the UN, Uruguay and Mexico also support. The talks could lead to new parliament and/or presidential elections in a year or two and thereby solve the situation.
The U.S. would not be satisfied by a compromise solution. Trump is now committed to 'regime change' in Venezuela. But how can he do it?
Waging an open war against that country would be very messy, expensive and difficult to justify. To start and support a guerilla war - Elliott Abrams specialty - takes time also costs a lot of money. The chances to win it are low. Moreover Trump wants to get re-elected but could lose many votes over both scenarios.

"Friend of Bill"...​
The Jeffrey Epstein 2008 sex scandal that cast shadows on many prominent world figures has resurfaced again, raising questions about how the billionaire managed to get away with so many sex abuse cases. Speaking to Sputnik, Wall Street analyst Charles Ortel shared his views on ex-FBI chief Robert Mueller and the Clintons' role in the Epstein saga.  
On 6 February, the Department of Justice (DOJ) opened a probe into the handling of the Epstein child molesting case by Labour Secretary Alex Acosta — then the US attorney for Southern Florida — and other DOJ attorneys in 2008.
"The Epstein saga has long fascinated many who wonder how he managed to become a billionaire 'trading', starting with a thin resume, and, then, why so many powerful, rich, and well-connected people would travel to his various exotic locations in the company of young, beautiful women. It certainly is reasonable to wonder why interest in the case has bubbled up now, more than 10 years following Epstein's lenient plea agreement in late June 2008", Wall Street analyst and investigative journalist Charles Ortel told Sputnik, commenting on the timing of the DOJ investigation.

Oil, Agriculture and Imperialism​
We need to place greater emphasis on producing food rooted in the principles of localisation, self-reliance, (carbon sequestrating) regenerative agriculture and (political) agroecology and to acknowledge the need to regard the commons (soil, water, seeds, land, forests, other natural resources, etc) as genuine democratically controlled common wealth. This approach would offerconcrete, practical solutions (mitigating climate change, job creation in the West and elsewhere, regenerating agriculture and economies in the Global South, etc) to many of the world’s problems that move beyond (but which are linked to) agriculture.
This would present a major challenge to the existing global food regime and the prevailing moribund doctrinaire economics that serves the interests of Western oil companies and financial institutions, global agribusiness and the major arms companies. These interlocking, self-serving interests have managed to institute a globalised system of war, poverty and food insecurity.
The deregulation of international capital flows (financial liberalisation) effectively turned the world into a free-for-all for global capital. The further ramping up of US militarism comes at the back end of a deregulating/pro-privatising neoliberal agenda that has sacked public budgets, depressed wages, expanded credit to consumers and to governments (to sustain spending and consumption) and unbridled financial speculation. This relentless militarism has now become a major driver of the US economy.

​Can you call me back later? I'm still feeling pretty sick today. New phone works ok, though...
In the first instance, 5G is likely to make people electro-hypersensitive (EHS).[2] Perhaps it was sitting in front of two big computer screens for many of the 18 years I worked at the UN that made me EHS. When the UN Office at Vienna installed powerful WiFi and cellphone access points – designed to serve large, public areas – in narrow, metal-walled corridors throughout the Vienna International Centre in December 2015, I was ill continuously for seven months...
 Seemingly overnight a forest of 5G infrastructure has sprouted in Austria. In the space of three weeks one friend has gone from robust health to fleeing this country, where she has lived for 30 years. Each person experiences EMR differently. For her, it was extreme torture so she and I spent her last two nights in Austria sleeping in the woods. Interestingly, as she drove across southern Germany, she suffered torture even worse than in Austria, while in northern Germany she had no symptoms at all and felt completely normal, which suggests that there has been as yet no 5G rollout there.


Thursday, February 14, 2019

Stamping Out Insects


Rep. Ilhan Omar clashed with newly minted Venezuela Envoy Elliott Abrams during a Wednesday hearing in front of the House Foreign Relations Committee discussing the role of the US military in Central America.
"Mr. Abrams, in 1991 you pleaded guilty to two counts of withholding information from Congress regarding your involvement in the Iran-Contra affair, for which you were later pardoned by president George H.W. Bush," began Omar. "I fail to understand why members of this committee or the American people should find any testimony that you give today to be truthful."
"If I could respond to that..." interjected Abrams.
"It was not a question," shot back Omar.
After a brief exchange in which Abrams protested "It was not right!" Omar cut Abrams off, saying "Thank you for your participation."
Omar: "On February 8, 1982, you testified before the Senate foreign relations committee about US policy in El Salvador. In that hearing you dismissed as communist propaganda, a report about the massacre of El Mozote in which more than 800 civilians - including children as young as two-years old - were brutally murdered by US-trained troops. During that massacre, some of those troops bragged about raping 12-year-old girls before they killed them. You later said that the US policy in El Salvador was a "fabulous achievement." 
"Yes or no - do you still think so?" asked Omar.
Abrams replied: "From, the day that Duarte was elected in a free election, to this day, El Salvador has been a democracy. That's a fabulous achievement."
Omar shot back: "Yes or no, do you think that massacre was a fabulous achievement that happened under our watch?" 
Abrams protested: "That is a ridiculous question---
to which Omar shot back, "Yes or no," cutting him off.
"No!" exclaimed Abrams, who added "I am not going to respond to that kind of personal attack - which is not a question."
Omar pushed back: "Yes or no, would you support an armed faction within Venezuela that engages in war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide, if you believe they were serving US interests as you did in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua?" 
"I am not going to respond to that question, I'm sorry. I don't think this entire line of questioning is meant to be real questions, and so I will not reply." said Abrams.  

While the de jure role of state sponsored propaganda is to convince a population to adopt a certain line of thinking on the issues of the day, the de fato function of state sponsored propaganda is rather different. In a society in which even a sizeable minority of the public are capable of critical thinking, few will immediately believe everything they are told, even if they can’t quite put their figure on a specific point of contention.
Because of that, in educated societies as the Soviet Union’s was, state propaganda serves a purpose of alerting people as to what they are forbidden to disagree with in public. In other words, if the official state line as delivered through state sanctioned newspapers, radio and television is that the economy is booming, people are being paid well and on time and that the new housing stock is superior to any other in the world – the authors of such propaganda do not expect those who are under-paid, living in mediocre housing and unable to elevate themselves into a higher living standard, to believe the self-evident nonsense that forms the core of the propaganda...
But while the USSR’s old adversary, the United States is having its own problems with a less and less free market that is overly taxed, overly regulated, back in love with tariffs and all at the mercy of an inflation happy yet unaccountable Federal Reserve, there is alas a giant free speech problem, one that is all the worse in America’s European allied states who don’t even bother to pretend to have something akin to America’s constitutional first amendment...
But while Soviet propaganda worked on a linear business model, today’s American and European propaganda machine works on a triangular model. At the top of the triangle is big business. At the bottom two points of the triangle are government and media – both of which want the help of big businesses in order to enrich themselves...
Thus, the American and European media constantly send messages that it is impermissible to have an opinion contrary to the standard line on the following issues:  invading other people’s nations in the name of “human rights”, climate change being the fault of anyone with a car, the wonders of narcotics and pornography, why strict education is somehow evil and why fiat currencies are just swell.
Thus, just as Soviet propaganda had slogans that insulted the intelligence of the ordinary person like “brotherhood of nations” in order to keep people from questioning why certain investments were going to far off hinterlands while Russia’s heartlands were being economically destroyed, so too do western propagandists use terms like “fact checking” to imply that anyone who disagrees with a corporate (and hence government) sanctioned “fact” is a deceitful liar that should be shunned, shamed and insulted as such. While terms like “fact checking” are mostly used by social elites who author the propaganda, ordinary people tend to use the phrase “politically incorrect” to signal to their fellow man what cannot be said under fear of social and economic punishment.

Pipelines are a critical battlefield-lifeline-chokehold going forward. Ranks have broken at the periphery of the empire.
In the end, Macron and Washington – albeit working for different objectives – were defeated in their attempts to sabotage the emerging energy trade between Germany, Europe and Russia. Nord Stream 2, as with Russia’s Turk Stream to the south of Europe, seems inevitable by sheer force of natural partnership...
   Iraq is crippled by electricity and power shortages because of the criminal war that the US waged on that country from 2003-2011 which destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure. Iraq critically needs Iranian gas supplies to keep the lights and fans running. Yet, here we have the US now dictating to Iraq to end its lifeline import of Iranian fuel in order to comply with the Trump administration’s sanctions against Tehran. Iraq is furious at the latest bullying interference by Washington in its sovereign affairs.

U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton has warned countries and companies against buying crude oil from Venezuela, after the Latin American country’s Oil Minister Manuel Quevedo said during a surprise visit to India that Venezuela wants to sell more oil to the fast-growing Indian market.
In a tweet with a Bloomberg article on Venezuelan-Indian oil relations attached, Bolton wrote: “Nations and firms that support Maduro’s theft of Venezuelan resources will not be forgotten. The United States will continue to use all of its powers to preserve the Venezuelan people’s a​s​sets and we encourage all nations to work together to do the same.”

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Tuesday that Venezuelan gold would be processed in the Central Anatolian province of Çorum...
 On Monday Reuters reported that Venezuela uses some of the proceeds to buy consumer goods such as pasta and powdered milk, citing people with direct knowledge of the trade.
Trade between the two nations grew eightfold last year... 
A Nov. 1 executive order signed by US President Donald Trump bars US persons and entities from buying gold from Venezuela. It does not apply to foreigners. Ankara has assured the US Treasury that all of Turkey’s trade with Venezuela is in accordance with international law.

Venezuela's Envoy to Russia says Guaido was recruited by the US 10 years ago. (Sour Grapes! Who would believe such a thing?)

President by Proclamation, Guaido wants to restore Venezuela's ties with Israel, which has recognized him as the rightful leader of Venezuela.

Salvage whatever can be salvaged for the Empire, I guess...
Netanyah​u​ Asks Arabs to "Advance The Common Interest Of War With Iran"
The U.S. had called for a high level anti-Iran meeting in Poland. The purpose of the meeting was to bring with its allies and poodles into line with the U.S. agenda on Iran, to press them at least into issuing harsher sanctions. But the European rejected that...
The State Department went to some length to obfuscate the real purpose of the conference.​..
That State Department effort to somewhat hide the real agenda was sabotaged when the Prime Minister of Israel arrived and made it clear what the meeting is all about:
I am going to a meeting with 60 foreign ministers and envoys of countries from around the world against Iran. What is important about this meeting – and this meeting is not in secret, because there are many of those – is that this is an open meeting with representatives of leading Arab countries, that are sitting down together with Israel in order to advance the common interest of war with Iran."

The Empire needs to enforce more discipline internally!
The House voted Wednesday to withdraw U.S. support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen, delivering a rebuke of President Trump’s policy and bringing closer the prospect of the first veto of his tenure.  

This is probably just Russian propaganda...
Trillion-dollar-company Amazon skated through 2018's tax filings without paying a cent for the second year in a row. The e-commerce behemoth, which made $11 billion last year, will pay no taxes at all, thanks to 2017's tax reform.
Rather than pay the standard 21 percent corporate income tax rate, Amazon is actually claiming a tax rebate of $129 million, which works out to a logic-defying rate of -1 percent.

The president said Tuesday that he was open to letting the March 1 deadline for more than doubling tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods slide, if the two countries are close to a deal that addresses deep structural changes to China’s economic policies -- though he added he was not “inclined” to do so. The people said that Trump is weighing whether to add 60 days to the current deadline to give negotiations more time to continue...
Trump has indicated he will need to meet Xi to agree on a final deal. While no date has been set, a White House aide this week said the U.S. president still wants to meet his Chinese counterpart soon in a bid to end the trade war.  

Just reset the algorithms, right?
The Dutch government is working with Germany and Belgium on establishing “truck platooning” – where one human-driven vehicle leads a convoy of autonomous ones — on major roads.
Under the plans, about 100 driverless trucks would drive the “Tulip corridors” at night – from Amsterdam to Antwerp, and from Rotterdam to the Ruhr valley – fully maximising the routes through which the Netherlands distributes its goods using 5G technology and 1,200 smart traffic lights...
But a report by the professional service company KPMG highlights a major problem for Dutch ministers in introducing the technology to urban centres, where the bicycle is increasingly king.
Driverless cars detect other road users using a variety of cameras or laser-sensing systems to ensure that they stop if an object is detected in their path.​ ​But the varying sizes and agility of cyclists, with their sudden changes in speed and loose adherence to the rules of the road, present a major challenge to the existing technology.​..​ 
More than a quarter of all trips made by Dutch residents are by bike. Of all trips of a distance of up to five miles, a third are made by bicycle, with the rate only dropping to 15% for trips up to 10 miles in length.
Stijn de Groen, an automotive expert at KPMG, said in the report that for this reason the government would be best to focus on motorways. “We have a lot of bicycles,” he said. “In urban, crowded areas it will be very difficult to start autonomous driving.”

The world’s insects are hurtling down the path to extinction, threatening a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems”, according to the first global scientific review.
More than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered, the analysis found. The rate of extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. The total mass of insects is falling by a precipitous 2.5% a year, according to the best data available, suggesting they could vanish within a century.

Politicians and policymakers have failed to grasp the gravity of the environmental crisis facing the Earth, a report claims.
The think-tank IPPR says human impacts have reached a critical stage and threaten to destabilise society and the global economy.
Scientists warn of a potentially deadly combination of factors.
These include climate change, mass loss of species, topsoil erosion, forest felling and acidifying oceans.
The report from the centre-left Institute for Public Policy Research says these factors are "driving a complex, dynamic process of environmental destabilisation that has reached critical levels.

​RoundUp/glyphosate exposure increases risk of the worse type of lymphoma by over 40%. What else will eventually be found?​

Doing everything we are used to with renewables is different from doing some things with renewables. 
It's impossible.
Even renewable energy relies on certain decidedly non-renewable resources. Even the eco-friendliest solutions such as solar panels can’t be made without the use of finite rare earth elements. Batteries, too, are completely dependent on finite earth-sourced materials for their fabrication. What’s more, China currently has an overwhelming monopoly on a great number of these rare earth elements (although not all are as rare as this label implies). This means that in a renewable energy-based world, energy security could become a major issue. In addition to rare earth elements, there are myriad other non-renewable materials used in the production of renewable energy. Currently, the one that has everyone talking is lithium.

​Bike-to-work Day

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Making America Gape again


So how did Trump finally get the liberal corporate media to stop calling him a fascist? He did that by acting like a fascist (i.e., like a “normal” president). Which is to say he did the bidding of the deep state goons and corporate mandarins that manage the global capitalist empire … the smiley, happy, democracy-spreading, post-fascist version of fascism we live under.
I’m referring, of course, to Venezuela, which is one of a handful of uncooperative countries that are not playing ball with global capitalism and which haven’t been “regime changed” yet. Trump green-lit the attempted coup purportedly being staged by the Venezuelan “opposition,” but which is obviously a U.S. operation, or, rather, a global capitalist operation. As soon as he did, the corporate media immediately suspended calling him a fascist, and comparing him to Adolf Hitler, and so on, and started spewing out blatant propaganda supporting his effort to overthrow the elected government of a sovereign country...
Unfortunately, there is no America. There is nothing to make great again. “America” is a fiction, a fantasy, a nostalgia that hucksters like Donald Trump (and other, marginally less buffoonish hucksters) use to sell whatever they are selling … themselves, wars, cars, whatever. What there is, in reality, instead of America, is a supranational global capitalist empire, a decentralized, interdependent network of global corporations, financial institutions, national governments, intelligence agencies, supranational governmental entities, military forces, media, and so on. If that sounds far-fetched or conspiratorial, look at what is going on in Venezuela. 

Kyle Bass is a capitalist warrior of great acumen. He says Trump should press the attack hard in the trade war with China.
Reducing tariff rates and adjusting foreign ownership rules would be a good thing, but this would not end China’s long-standing policy of bulk economic espionage and theft, which annually costs America’s economy at least $300 billion, according to U.S. government estimates. Multiple U.S. administrations have sought to engage China on these issues for more than two decades, and the commitments made to the U.S. have rarely been fulfilled. America needs a commitment from China’s government that it will put an end to espionage and theft and agree to legal and financial repercussions for their theft. Trump’s administration should continue to push for this and not end talks until there is permanent change in China’s behavior.
For China to be a constructive member of the multilateral world trading system it must grant foreign companies, operating either inside China or outside, the same rights and privileges as Party-affiliated national champions. The current mercantilist system, based on subsidies and preferences, needs to be dismantled, but the concessions offered to date lack commitment.
The Trump administration needs to fully understand the leverage it has today — and the increased leverage that it will have after March 1, the end of the 90-day reprieve from the imposition of additional tariffs — is the most the U.S. will ever have. To squander this opportunity would be a catastrophe not only for Trump’s administration but for the West.

Two weeks after President Trump sent a spasm of enthusiasm through US markets by meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He in Washington during the last round of trade negotiations, President Xi is reportedly set to return the favor this week by meeting with a delegation led by Trade Rep Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, according to South China Morning Post.  (Feeling some urgency​?​)

​Charles Hugh Smith on 3 themes to watch in 2019:
Final Stages of Debt Supercycle:
The basic idea of the debt supercycle is simple: resolving every crisis of over-leveraged speculative excess, evaporation of collateral and over-indebtedness by radically increasing debt eventually leads to an implosion of the entire credit-based financial system...  
Decay of Social Order/Social Contract​
Look no further than Brexit in Britain, the yellow vests in France and the Deplorables in the U.S. for manifestations of a broken social contract and decaying social order. The politically invisible / financially vulnerable have declared we're still here to their globalized elite aristocrats, and this rebellion against elite domination and profiteering is being demonized by the corporate-state media as populism rather than what it really is: a full-blown revolt of the working class.
Social controls: Surveillance capitalism  
In response, the ruling elites have instituted social controls via ramped up official propaganda, Social Credit Scoring in China and private-sector Surveillance Capitalism in the U.S.
All these forms of social control seek to marginalize, suppress and censor dissent, alternative sources of information, alternative narratives and financial independence: hence the sudden eltist interest in Universal Basic Income (UBI) and similar central-state dependency programs: nothing suppresses a working class revolt quite like free money for keeping quiet, passive and obedient.
But some sectors of the working class are not willing to accept the bribes; they're holding out for actual political power, and this is why the ruling elites of France have responded to the yellow vest movement with such savagery.

​Battle Stations!​
Russian authorities and major internet providers are planning to disconnect the country from the internet as part of a planned experiment, Russian news agency RosBiznesKonsalting (RBK) reported last week...
 A first draft of the law mandated that Russian internet providers should ensure the independence of the Russian internet space (Runet) in the case of foreign aggression to disconnect the country from the rest of the internet...
A date for the test has not been revealed, but it's supposed to take place before April 1.

The autonomous system would ensure that Russia doesn’t face a total internet shutdown if relations with the West completely collapse and the US goes as far as cutting off Russian IP addresses from the World Wide Web.
Back in 2012, then-US President Barack Obama signed an executive order allowing him to take control of all communications on American soil, including those crucial for the normal operation of the internet.
The US National Security Agency actually caused a three-day internet blackout in Syria in November 2012, whistleblower Edward Snowden told Wired magazine. NSA hackers accidently ‘bricked’ one of the core routers while trying to install spyware on it.

​IMF and World Bank are used militarily as "Unconventional Weapons" by US 
In a leaked military manual on “unconventional warfare” recently highlighted by WikiLeaks, the U.S. Army states that major global financial institutions — such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) — are used as unconventional, financial “weapons in times of conflict up to and including large-scale general war,” as well as in leveraging “the policies and cooperation of state governments.”
The document, officially titled “Field Manual (FM) 3-05.130, Army Special Operations Forces Unconventional Warfare” and originally written in September 2008, was recently highlighted by WikiLeaks on Twitter in light of recent events in Venezuela as well as the years-long, U.S.-led economic siege of that country through sanctions and other means of economic warfare. 

​How The Media Manufactures Consent for regime Change in Venezuela, Alan MacLeod
The latest extraordinary chapter in the bizarre world of Venezuelan politics is playing out before our eyes. After winning the 2018 presidential elections, Nicolás Maduro was inaugurated in January, only for the head of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó -- a man whom, at the time, less than 20 percent of the country had even heard of -- to declare himself President.
Guaidó was immediately backed by the governments of the U.S. and U.K., with Vice President Mike Pence stating, "Nicolás Maduro is a dictator with no legitimate claim to power. He has never won the presidency in a free and fair election, and has maintained his grip of power by imprisoning anyone who dares to oppose him."...
In a recent study, I analyzed how the media presented the 2018 elections in Colombia and Venezuela. Looking at how these two elections were covered can help us understand why there's so little nuance in the media coverage of U.S.-Venezuela relations.
To study the 2018 elections, I used the propaganda model media scholars Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky outlined in their book Manufacturing Consent. Their propaganda model contends that mainstream, corporate media is not a neutral venue for truth. Instead, it is a vehicle that advances the interests of media owners and their advertisers.
The authors argue that, in contrast to the top-down censorship of authoritarian states, these outlets achieve uniform opinions through the pre-selection of "right-thinking" editors and reporters who have been trained at the "right" schools. They then disseminate information – or, at the very least, self-censor – in a way that protects or advances the ideology of ownership, advertisers and official sources.

​Ellen Brown, Killing the Public Banking Revolution in Venezuela
The banking crisis of 2009-10 exposed the corruption and systemic weakness of Venezuelan banks. Some banks were engaged in questionable business practices.  Others were seriously undercapitalized.  Others were apparently lending top executives large sums of money.  At least one financier could not prove where he got the money to buy the banks he owned.
Rather than bailing out the culprits, as was done in the US, in 2009 the government nationalized seven Venezuelan banks, accounting for around 12% of the nation’s bank deposits.  In 2010, more were taken over.  The government arrested at least 16 bankers and issued more than 40 corruption-related arrest warrants for others who had fled the country. By the end of March 2011, only 37 banks were left, down from 59 at the end of November 2009.  State-owned institutions took a larger role, holding 35% of assets as of March 2011, while foreign institutions held just 13.2% of assets.
Over the howls of the media, in 2010 Chavez took the bold step of passing legislation defining the banking industry as one of “public service.” The legislation specified that 5% of the banks’ net profits must go towards funding community council projects, designed and implemented by communities for the benefit of communities. The Venezuelan government directed the allocation of bank credit to preferred sectors of the economy, and it increasingly became involved in the operations of private financial institutions.  By law, nearly half the lending portfolios of Venezuelan banks had to be directed to particular mandated sectors of the economy, including small business and agriculture.

​10 Reasons the Gilets Jeunes are The Real Deal (yeah, missed a few...)
1. They don’t speak in Abstractions/idealisms: abstraction is the language of power, hierarchy and representation. Abstraction and its use in a political context are what unite all regimes be they communist, Nazi or neo-liberal.
2. The mainstream media blackout: It is only necessary to go onto Gilets websites to witness the violence being metered out to the yellow vests. Does any of this appear in the mainstream media?
4. The lack of celebrities or leaders. Even after 12 demonstrations and 3 months of agitation, there are still no spokesmen or leaders or celebrities, ‘speaking’ for the people. This by itself tells you it’s a genuine grassroots movement.
5. The manner in which the globalisers have no response but violence.
8. The presence of many poor baby boomers and retirees: these sorts of people don’t usually attend demonstrations partially because they’re too busy, too old, don’t care or are driven away by the orchestrated police violence created expressly for that purpose. Yet they constitute the majority of people at the roundabouts, particularly outside Paris. Their presence tells you everything about the veracity of this movement.

​Caitlin Johnstone,
Well, now we all know what happens when a public official criticizes AIPAC. And of course, that was the whole idea.
Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has published an apology for making self-evident observations about the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), an immensely influential lobbying firm which, like all lobbying firms, works to influence government policy toward a specific agenda, in this case the interests of the Israeli government. She issued the apology after hours upon hours of shrill, hysterical shrieking accusations of antisemitism from the entire establishment political-media class...
This wasn’t a random outburst, it was a political means toward political ends. This fact-free smear will be used to try and kill Omar’s re-election bid, and the damage that has been done to her reputation will serve as a head on a spike to deter any other would-be AIPAC critics on Capitol Hill in the future.​..
 For the last two years the mainstream liberal establishment has been endlessly bleating about the need to elevate women of color to positions of leadership; then the first Black Muslim and first Somali American ever to get elected to Congress begins taking the leadership for which she was elected, and it turns out they actually meant they just wanted women with dark skin who will advance the status quo of the white imperialist patriarchy.

IN 2005, STEVEN Rosen, then a senior official with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, sat down for dinner with journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, then of the New Yorker. “You see this napkin?” Rosen asked Goldberg. “In twenty-four hours, [AIPAC] could have the signatures of seventy senators on this napkin.”  

​Kunstler on "Mistaken Futures"​
Which opens the door to a great quandary. If industrial society is disintegrating (literally), then what takes its place? Many suppose that it is a robotic utopia powered by some as-yet-unharnessed cosmic juice, a nirvana of algorithms, culminating in orgasm-without-end (Ray Kurzweil’s transhumanism). Personally, I would check the “no” box on that outcome as a likely scenario.
The self-proclaimed socialists are actually seeing the world through a rear-view mirror. What they are really talking about is divvying up the previously-accumulated wealth, soon to be bygone. Entropy is having its wicked way with that wealth, first by transmogrifying it into ever more abstract forms, and then by dissipating it as waste all over the planet. In short, the next time socialism is enlisted as a tool for redistributing wealth, we will make the unhappy discovery that most of that wealth is gone.
The process will be uncomfortably sharp and disorientating. The West especially will not know what hit it as it emergently self-reorganizes back into something that resembles the old-time feudalism.  We have a new kind of mass squalor in America: a great many people who have nothing to do, no means of support, and the flimsiest notions of purpose in life. The socialists have no answers for them. They will not be “retrained” in some imagined federal crusade to turn meth freaks into code-writers for Google.

​Sharing Poverty​

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Petrobuck Waterloo

Arrayed for War,

Michael Hudson, who has the clearest views of international flows of finance and goods, of any economist I have read, looks at the American ("Super Imperialist") relationship with Venezuela.
There is no way that’s Chavez and Maduro could have pursued a pro-Venezuelan policy aimed at achieving economic independence without inciting fury, subversion and sanctions from the United States. American foreign policy remains as focused on oil as it was when it invaded Iraq under Dick Cheney’s regime. U.S. policy is to treat Venezuela as an extension of the U.S. economy, running a trade surplus in oil to spend in the United States or transfer its savings to U.S. banks.
By imposing sanctions that prevent Venezuela from gaining access to its U.S. bank deposits and the assets of its state-owned Citco, the United States is making it impossible for Venezuela to pay its foreign debt. This is forcing it into default, which U.S. diplomats hope to use as an excuse to foreclose on Venezuela’s oil resources and seize its foreign assets much as Paul Singer’s hedge fund sought to do with Argentina’s foreign assets.
Just as U.S. policy under Kissinger was to make Chile’s “economy scream,” so the U.S. is following the same path against Venezuela. It is using that country as a “demonstration effect” to warn other countries not to act in their self-interest in any way that prevents their economic surplus from being siphoned off by U.S. investors.

​Moon of Alabama:
Venezuela - U.S. Aid Gambit Fails - War Plans Lack Support
A day after the U.S. coup attempt in Venezuela the U.S. game plan was already quite obvious:
The opposition in Venezuela will probably use access to that 'frozen' money to buy weapons and to create an army of mercenaries to fight a 'civil' war against the government and its followers. Like in Syria U.S. special forces or some CIA 'contractors' will be eager to help. The supply line for such a war would most likely run through Colombia. If, like 2011 in Syria, a war on the ground is planned it will likely begin in the cities near that border.

​Pepe Escobar:
Caracas has committed the ultimate cardinal sin in the eyes of Exceptionalistan; oil trading bypassing the US dollar or US-controlled exchanges.//
Venezuela is a key cog in the machine. Psycho killer Bolton admitted it on the record; “It will make a big difference to the United States economically if we could have American oil companies invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela.” It’s not a matter of just letting ExxonMobil take over Venezuela’s massive oil reserves – the largest on the planet. The key is to monopolize their exploitation in US dollars, benefitting a few Big Oil billionaires.
Once again, the curse of natural resources is in play. Venezuela must not be allowed to profit from its wealth on its own terms; thus, Exceptionalistan has ruled that the Venezuelan state must be shattered.​..​
By now it’s firmly established what happened in Caracas was not a color revolution but an old-school US-promoted regime change coup using local comprador elites, installing as “interim president” an unknown quantity, Juan Guaido, with his Obama choirboy looks masking extreme right-wing credentials...
 Contrary to Western corporate media fake news, the latest elections in Venezuela were absolutely legitimate. There was no way to tamper with the made in Taiwan electronic voting machines. The ruling Socialist Party got 70 percent of the votes; the opposition, with many parties boycotting it, got 30 percent...
In a country where a full tank of gas still costs less than a can of Coke, there’s no question the chronic shortages of food and medicines in local clinics have forced at least two million people to leave Venezuela. But the key enforcing factor is the US embargo...
It’s enlightening to see how the “Venezuelan people” see the charade. In a poll conducted by Hinterlaces even before the Trump administration coup/regime change wet dream, 86% of Venezuelans said they were against any sort of US intervention, military or not,..
Psycho killer Bolton’s by now infamous notepad stunt about “5,000 troops to Colombia”, is a joke; these would have no chance against the arguably 15,000 Cubans who are in charge of security for the Maduro government; Cubans have demonstrated historically they are not in the business of handing over power...
It all comes back to what China and Russia may do. China is Venezuela’s largest creditor. Maduro was received by Xi Jinping last year in Beijing, getting an extra $5 billion in loans and signing at least 20 bilateral agreements.
President Putin offered his full support to Maduro over the phone, diplomatically stressing that “destructive interference from abroad blatantly violates basic norms of international law.”...
By January 2016, oil was as low as $35 a barrel; a disaster to Venezuela’s coffers. Maduro then decided to transfer 49.9% of the state ownership in PDVSA’s US subsidiary, Citgo, to Russian Rosneft for a mere $1.5 billion loan. This had to send a wave of red lights across the Beltway; those “evil” Russians were now part owners of Venezuela’s prime asset.
Late last year, still in need of more funds, Maduro opened gold mining in Venezuela to Russian mining companies. And there’s more; nickel, diamonds, iron ore, aluminum, bauxite, all coveted by Russia, China – and the US. As for $1.3 billion of Venezuela’s own gold, forget about repatriating it from the Bank of England...
Eurasia energy integration will mostly bypass the petrodollar; this is at the very heart of both the BRICS and SCO strategy. From Nord Stream 2 to Turk Stream, Russia is locking down a long-term energy partnership with Europe. And petroyuan dominance is just a matter of time. Moscow knows it. Tehran knows it. Ankara knows it. Riyadh knows it.
So what about plan B, neocons? Ready for your tropical Vietnam?

Paul Craig Roberts figures that Russia and China protecting Venezuela could change the world. (It would...)
Maduro, despite being the duly elected president with the mass of the people and military behind him, apparently lacks the power to arrest the American puppet who, despite the absence of any law or election as a basis, has declared himself to be president, thus creating a Washington-backed “government” as an alternative to the elected one. The inability of Maduro to defend democracy from within is a sign of the weakness of his office. How can Maduro possibly be a dictator when he is helpless in the face of open sedition?
If Russia and China quickly established a military presence in Venezuela to protect their loans and oil investments, Venezuela could be saved, and other countries that would like to be independent would take heart that, although there is no support for self-determination anywhere in the Western World, the former authoritarian countries will support it. Other assertions of independence would arise, and the Empire would collapse.

​Ruling Class Consciousness in Venezuela:
A former USAID/OTI member who helped devise US efforts in Venezuela said the “objective was that you had thousands of youth, high school, and college kids that were horrified of this Indian-looking guy in power. They were idealistic.
Being "horrified" that the "Indian-looking" Hugo Chávez was in power does not seem "idealistic". One might call it racist though. A number of those white, well off, U.S. trained college kids joint politics in right wing parties. They wanted to take power. But to sell one of theirs as a leader of a country where the majority is mestizo was a problem.
To solve that problem the Random Guy, despite being known only by 20% of Venezuelans, was selected to lead the U.S. coup attempt:
A figure named Juan Andrés Mejía would have been next in line but for reasons that are only now clear, Juan Guaido was selected.
“There is a class reasoning that explains Guaidó’s rise,” Sequera, the Venezuelan analyst, observed. “Mejía is high class, studied at one of the most expensive private universities in Venezuela, and could not be easily marketed to the public the way Guaidó could. For one, Guaidó has common mestizo features like most Venezuelans do, and seems like more like a man of the people.
Guaido is a stand in. He was selected because he somewhat looked like the majority of the people of the country.

​French Elites have no Plan-C. The escalation of violence against the citizens of France is their final offer. 
These TNT-grenades with rubber shrapnel work well. He'll never hold a camera again. Take a look.
A man's hand was blown off by a police grenade in Paris on Saturday during the 13th straight week of Yellow Vest protests.
Capturing the graphic aftermath of the incident was Ruptly - the video agency of Russia's RT...
An eyewitness said that the injured man is a photographer for the Yellow Vests who was taking photos of people outside the National Assembly as several protesters tried to force their way inside...
An eyewitness told the AFP that the grenade which obliterated the protester’s hand was fired by police to disperse the crowd. -RT

​5 Fights Between France and Italy. It's not just the meeting of Italian government populists with Gilets Jaunes. Italy has some serious scores to settle with France. (Also:France holds over 280 billion Euros of Italian government debt, and would be hurt more severely than any country but Italy by a default.)​

​Global Corruption Map is interesting, and it does not identically match my perceptions, nor likely yours, but it;s interesting to look at the global corruption rankings, forms of government (US: "flawed democracy" ranks marginally more corrupt than France, and nowhere near the real leaders in propriety)

Iran Is Cornered, Thierry Meyssan, Thanks Eleni.
At the end of Ahmadinejad’s second mandate, President Barack Obama attended secret negotiations in Oman with the Rafsandjani-Rohani team. The principle for the nuclear agreement was then approved. Ayatollah Khamenei side-lined the candidature of Ahmadinejad for the Presidential election by using Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, and favoured the election of Cheikh Rohani, probably ignoring certain aspects of the agreement he had concluded with Obama. Cheikh Rohani was betting on his secret agreement with the US Democrats. He anticipated the cancellation of US sanctions, and promised a better life for his electors. Once he was elected, he dismantled the system that had enabled Iran to avoid the sanctions, then pretended to negotiate in Switzerland with the major powers the agreement which already been recorded with the USA alone. However, the signature of the 5+1 agreement was not followed by the lifting of sanctions. Since the Iranian economy could no longer avoid them, it collapsed. When Donald Trump entered the White House, he scrapped the agreement with Iran, plunging the Rohani team into panic. Rohani had committed the error of believing that the President would quickly be removed and that the Democrats would shortly be back in power. Iran rejected Donald Trump’s offer of negotiation and is today economically strangled.  

Mike Kreiger:
When it comes to “the system” as it pertains to the U.S., I can think of several key things I expect to change radically by 2025:
​ ​U.S. dominance of the global financial system and the USD as sole and indispensable global reserve currency will end.
​ ​Unipolar geopolitical world order through which the U.S. empire and its military beats all non-client states into submission one way or the other will end. Multi-polar world order to emerge.
​ ​Death of the neocon and neoliberal political consensus, both domestically and in the realm of foreign policy.
​ ​Peak Corporatism — Populist politics on both the right and left will unite around the idea that corporations are too powerful and harm competition. Tech giants, banks, etc, will finally be put in their place one way or the other.
​ ​Massive Spending — Populism + recession = massive government spending. Everyone will talk about how we have unlimited funds to bailout banks and start wars, but no money to actually help people and improve infrastructure. This will resonate with most people.
These are just a few of the very big picture changes I foresee, and they can happen a lot faster than people realize, particularly once the economy tanks. I think many expect the status quo to survive the next downturn and consolidate power and wealth even more, like they did the last time around. On this point I strongly take the other side. The status quo and its institutions will not survive the next turn of the cycle. Beyond that, it’s still anyone’s guess as to what emerges on the other side.

Charles Hugh Smith, Telltale Signs of Recession:
Though every recession is unique, all recessions manifest in similar ways in the real economy. By real economy, I mean the on-the-ground economy we observe with our own eyes, as opposed to the abstract statistical model reflected in official declarations of when recessions begin and end.
One characteristic that never makes it into the abstract statistical representation of recession is the light switch phenomenon: business suddenly dries up, as if someone turned a light switch off. This is especially visible in discretionary purchases, which include everything from smart phones to vehicles to eating out.

​Feeling Queasy​

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Facing Loss

Losing Face,

France recalls Ambassador from Italy over the tremendous insult of an official Italian State meeting with representatives of the Gilets Jaunes movement. So who represents "French democracy" now? (French banks hold the most Italian government debt outside Italy. )
The diplomatic row between France and Italy is escalating. More than half a year after Italy summoned the French ambassador over Europe's migrant row, on Thursday France one-upped Italy when it announced it would recall its ambassador to Italy over what it said were "outrageous" verbal attacks...
Luigi di Maio, Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement hailed the "winds of change across the Alps" yesterday on Twitter after meeting with Yellow Vest activists Cristophe Chalencon and Ingrid Levavasseur.
"The latest interference is an additional and unacceptable provocation,” according to a statement issued by the Foreign Ministry on Thursday. It added that this “violates the respect that democratically and freely elected governments owe each other."
"All these acts create a serious situation that questions the intentions of the Italian government" towards France.

​John Ward, The Slog, summarizes Brexit negotiations:  ​The EU is facing an existential crisis. The UK isn’t. That’s the reality.
This clarification explains the reason why the EU cannot negotiate in good faith, but has to take the hardest possible line, a position of betting everything upon reversing the Brexit vote, by creating fear and despair in the UK. If Brexit happens, it will hasten the inevitable demise of the common currency. That is death, so Eurocrats must bluff hard and gamble everything against that death. They have no room to negotiate, nor can they come to any other consensus. No-deal Brexit hastens Eurodeath faster, but it's all-or-nothing at this point.

President Trump on Wednesday said he would nominate David Malpass, the Treasury Department undersecretary for international affairs and a critic of the modern development finance system, to be next president of the World Bank...
Malpass has more than four decades of financial policy experience in the federal government and private sector. He previously served in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations and as chief economist for the now-defunct investment titan Bear Stearns...
Malpass has argued that “globalism and multilateralism have gone substantially too far,” and said international lenders like the World Bank failed to accomplish their goals.
“They spend a lot of money. They are not very efficient. They are often corrupt in their lending practices, and they don’t get the benefit to the actual people in the countries,” Malpass told the House Financial Services Committee at 2017 hearing. “They get the benefit to the people that fly in on a first-class airplane ticket to give advice to the government officials.”
Malpass’s defenders say his critical eye will help bring sorely needed reforms to the World Bank. In a Wednesday telephone briefing with reporters, a senior administration official called Malpass “a happy warrior and champion of pro-growth policies.”
“The goal is the ensure that these institutions serve their targets, in this case developing countries,” the official said. “Sometime that requires real reform.”Malpass is one of Trump's chief negotiators with the Chinese government as administration and Beijing seek a deal to end an 11-month trade battle. The senior administration official said Malpass will continue to work on trade issues until he's confirmed by the World Bank board. 

Venezuela’s self-proclaimed interim president, Juan Guaido, coordinates his every step with a foreign country and Moscow sees no point in communicating with a dependent figure, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.  

A Taliban official said on Wednesday the United States had promised to withdraw half of its troops from Afghanistan by the end of April, but the US military said no timeframe had been set.

​"A Direct Order From The President"​
The first such order, according to a senior officer of the U.S. Central Command, which oversees American military operations in the Middle East, came during Trump’s surprise Christmas visit to the al-Asad Airbase in Iraq. There the president (and First Lady Melania Trump) not only joined U.S. soldiers in a high-profile meet-and-greet, but, along with national security adviser John Bolton, huddled with the U.S. high command in a tent set aside for the meeting. Among the team that met with Trump was U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Douglas Silliman and Lieutenant General Paul LaCamera. Of the two, LaCamera was the more important, as he is the commander of the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), the military organization established in October 2014 to “degrade and defeat” ISIS.
After an extended question and answer session with the press on December 26, Trump was privately briefed on the anti-ISIS effort by LaCamera, who told the president that only a few pockets of ISIS militants remained in Syria’s Euphrates Valley. Trump praised the effort, I was told, but then issued his order. “I want us out of Syria,” the Centcom officer with whom I spoke quoted Trump as saying. “There wasn’t anything ambiguous about it,” the Centcom senior officer added. “There were no qualifiers, no conditionals, and so far as I know, nothing about that conversation has changed.” Put another way, while any number of civilian Pentagon officials speculate that the military has been given leeway in implementing the president’s directive, that is not the understanding among senior Centcom officers. “Nothing has changed since that meeting,” I was told. “We’re out.”​...
Which is only to say that, while Trump’s Syria withdrawal decision has been derided by a cross-section of the foreign policy establishment, the announcement was greeted with a collective shrug by most senior military officers. A planner at Centcom headquarters in Tampa was puzzled by the controversy over the Trump announcement, saying that the only response he received was from officers “whose immediate reaction was not whether this was a good or bad decision” but how quickly and effectively it could be implemented. “It was more like, ‘fine, but you know, how many trucks is it going to take? What do we need to do? When do we start? What do we need to move?'”

An undiplomatic public statement produces a predictable response...
The Iraqi government insists that there are no exclusively American bases in the country. Rather, US troops act as trainers and are embedded with Iraqi troops on Iraqi bases.
The deputy speaker of the house, Hasan al-Kaabi (another Sa’irun stalwart), said, “Iraqi will never be the springboard for an attack on or for surveillance of any country, and everyone must mobilize to end the American presence.”
Al-Ka`bi added, “Once again Trump has violated the legal and constitutional norms of the Iraqi state, after his visit to the Ayn al-Asad base. Today, he visited on us a new outrage with his statement affirming that US troops will stay in the country in order to commit aggression against a neighboring country.”
Al-Kaabi addressed the American president, saying, “Iraq is not your father’s estate, and we will never allow any foreign troops on our soil.”

​Gotta' love Persian diplomacy...
Iran to the Iraqis: Do Not Attack US Forces Unless They Refuse to Withdraw Following a Parliamentary Decision

​Tulsi Gabbard Is Driving The MSM Bat Shit Crazy, Caitlin Johnstone​  :-)
Military interventionism is by far the most depraved and destructive aspect of the US-centralized power establishment, and it is also the most lucrative and strategically crucial, which is why so much energy is poured into ensuring that the American people don’t use the power of their numbers to force that interventionism to end. Anyone who throws a monkey wrench in the works of this propaganda machine is going to be subjected to a tremendous amount of smears, and I’m glad to see Gabbard fighting back against those smears. From personal experience I know that smear campaigns must be fought against ferociously, because the only alternative is to allow your detractors to control the narrative about you, which as far as your message goes is the same as allowing them to control you. It’s not fun, it’s not clean, but it’s necessary.
The narrative control war keeps getting hotter and hotter, ladies and gentlemen. Buckle up.

Senator Brian Schatz, a Hawaii Democrat, is working on a plan that would tax financial trades, according to his spokesman, Michael Inacay, who declined to provide details on how, exactly, it would be structured.
Financial transaction taxes typically place a levy of a fraction of a percent on the price of a securities trade. The idea has gained popularity within the Democratic Party as a way to curb high-frequency trading as well as raise revenue for progressive policies such as free college tuition...
Critics of such taxes say they would make capital more expensive for companies, meaning they’d raise less of it, and that they reduce liquidity in markets.
Overseas, the idea for a tax on financial trades in gaining steam. Stock buyers in Europe would pay a 0.2 percent tax under a plan that Germany and France proposed last month.

Today Tasmania is burning. Its fires are so large that a firefighting team was reportedly called out in New Zealand to investigate a heavy smoke haze that turned out to have drifted across 2,500km of ocean from the Tasmanian fires. Firefighters are confronted with 1,629km of fire front, with fires having consumed 190,000 hectares, or 3% of Tasmania’s land, with authorities warning there is no sign of the fires abating for several weeks, and the potential for catastrophic consequences still a distinct possibility.​..
What has become clear is that another global treasure in the form of Tasmania’s ancient Gondwanaland remnant forest and its woodland alpine heathlands are at profound and immediate risk because of climate change.​..​  
At the same time Tasmanians find themselves living in a frightening new world where summer is no longer a time of joy, but a period of smog-drenched dread that goes on week after week, and it seems inevitable, month after month. Whole communities have been evacuated and are living in evacuation centres or bunking down with friends and families. Those that remain live in a fug of sleeplessness and fear, never knowing when the next ember attack will occur or a nearby fire will break containment lines, a gut-clutching terror of wind, smoke and heat. Volunteer firefighters find themselves no longer fighting fires for a week but for a season. Government is confronted with the extraordinary cost of fighting fires of this size and scale for months.

​Who pays for THAT?​
French and German farmers have been forced to dig up thousands of hectares of rapeseed fields after authorities found an illegal GMO strain mixed in with the natural seeds they’d bought from Bayer-Monsanto. Authorities discovered the illicit seeds in three separate batches of rapeseed seeds last fall, but the public has only just been notified. While Bayer issued a recall, by the time the farmers learned of it some of the seeds had already been planted, covering 8,000 ha in France and 3,000 ha in Germany.​..​ 
The agrochemical giant refused to estimate the total cost of the GMO contamination, which knocks out not only this season’s crop but also the next season’s, as farmers will be barred from growing rapeseed next year “to avoid re-emergence of the GMO strain,” according to Bayer-Monsanto’s French COO Catherine Lamboley. They offered to compensate farmers €2,000 per hectare, which would work out to about €20 million between both countries.  

​Our Plastics, Our Selves
The scientific exploration of the hormonal effects of compounds in plastics dates back to July 1991, when physician and biologist Ana Soto traveled to Wisconsin to attend a conference on the potential effects of chemical exposure on human sexual development. She had been invited because her lab had made an important, impromptu discovery two years earlier: The suppliers of a plastic tube that Soto and her colleague Carlos Sonnenschein used in their lab had changed the tube’s formula, in order to make it stronger. The researchers then noticed that the nutrient mixture they stored in these new tubes was causing cells in their test cultures to proliferate when they hadn’t before. Soto and Sonnenschein eventually figured out the cells were responding to a compound leaching from the new tubes, nonylphenol, as if it were the natural sex hormone estrogen.​..
Nearly 30 years of research have transpired between that Wisconsin conference and today, Soto explained. And that work has produced a body of evidence that prenatal exposure to EDCs is tied to a higher incidence of various disorders. Animal experiments link prenatal EDC exposure to a higher incidence of altered behavior and cancer. These results, Soto said, “provide strong support to the idea that environmental chemicals that have hormone-like properties are at least one of the causes of the increase in breast and prostate cancer and reproductive problems throughout the population.”​...
Just that possibility is concerning considering that the list of endocrine-disrupting chemicals now includes some phthalates — a component in many plastics, like Saran wrap, that makes them soft and pliable — which have been banned from products for small children in the European Union and are now starting to be phased out of products there and in the U.S. An estimated 1,000 others, many derived from plastics, are suspected to also interfere with normal hormonal function.
The problem is that our ingenuity in developing plastics has led to a bewildering variety of possible culprits to test — more than any scientist can ever hope to explore. “If we have to do all the research that we have done to determine endocrine-disrupting characteristics of BPA and nonylphenol and some phthalates, we will exterminate the rats and mice produced for research,” Soto said.​..
In 2009, Katsuhiko Saido, then a researcher at Nihon University in Japan, found that plastics are actually far less stable than believed; they decompose into pieces and particles. Saido’s research showed that as they break down into tinier and tinier pieces, plastics release endocrine-disrupting compounds such as BPA. Due to this process, he says, plastic debris in the ocean will give rise to new sources of global contamination that will persist long into the future.​..
According to Arizona State’s Halden, plastics can concentrate those contaminants up to 100,000-fold, and then, at least in theory, carry that super-concentrated contaminant into the next creature that consumes it — a bit of plankton, a shrimp, a fish, and, continuing on down the food chain, maybe eventually to a human.

​Facing Consequences​

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Criminal Union


I couldn't watch much of the speech last night, just up to the point of glorifying all the poor farm-boys who died on the beaches at Normandy. It was clear that the unifying theme was going to be the goodness of Americans at war, and that 75 years was the necessary reach back into the past, necessary to pull that off. 
This was a speech of conciliation between the Republicans and Democrats. This was the common ground, upon which they could agree, and they did. 
The agreement is that the empire goes on bleeding the rest of the world, and that drug prices will come down.
Reduce the costs of health care and price of prescription drugs.
Immigration that is safe lawful and secure
And pursue a foreign policy that puts Americans first.

​The biggest problem which I see all of us facing is the same problem which was identified in The Limits To Growth, in 1972. 
In 1972, Nixon had gotten off the gold standard, and US oil production had already peaked (as predicted in the 1950s). That book presented the best possible systemic analysis of the trajectories of all the aspects of global economy and population going forward. Systems Analysis was the new science, which programmed multiple variables, which all affected each other in certain ways, into the biggest mainframe computer of the day at MIT. The first model, tested against the history of the 20th century was Word-1. The second model, somewhat refined, was World-2, and that created the projections that showed the peak of industrial economy around 2014-2015. The limits to growth were resource depletion, environmental degradation, and the increasing inefficiencies of larger and larger layered complex economic systems.​
This analysis seemed intuitively obvious through the rest of the 1970s, and Jimmy Carter's efforts to get Americans to conserve fuel typified the rational acceptance of it.
After Carter, we got Reagan/Bush decrying the analysis as false, and claiming that there was no limit to the growth of American prosperity.
That went over well, much better, but I think Dick Cheney and other henchmen of the elites still understood the validity of the analysis. They merely abandoned the majority of society in their plans going forward with "Continuity of Government" preparations. They have prepared a separate world for the elites in their well supplied bunkers, but it seems sterile, like a zoo. Zoo life is already a huge part of what makes us sick critters. The elite approach so far has been to goose the fuel-burning economy as much as possible, promise a rosy future, and to secretly prepare their own nests, by robbing the cookie jar. We can't know the full extent of it, and there is increasing discord in the ranks of our rulers. It's going to be hard to implement, and might stray as far from projections as the invasion of Iraq did.
We are not included in any of that, anyway, and we can reasonably expect our world to have much less fuel, much less electricity, much less information and supply chain problems with groceries and utilities. 
Painting this as being necessitated by war is the traditional approach to accomplish vast societal change. The problem with that approach this time is that war sucks out every bit of available resource rapidly. The side that can burn more fuel faster usually wins. There is nothing left to pay the victors this time. The risks of major-power war are just too high, and the benefits are hard to imagine at all.
Global warming is a noble threat, but it is exactly not the kind of threat that humans are biologically wired to mobilize for. It creeps over generations. 
Human societies have collapsed before, when the combination of maximal use and bad weather destroyed their systems of food and fuel provision. It's part of our cycle. 
We have never had this much benefit of fossil fuel wizardry ever. We can't imagine living without it. Each of us has the equivalent of 50 to 60 "energy slaves", fossil fuel equivalent slaves. That is invisible to us. All of the products and materials we use have lots of fossil fuel energy embedded. How do we get shovels?
The question is whether we human members of industrialized society can reset our ways in a couple of generations to use vastly less coal, oil and iron ore, maybe 80% less, maybe 90% less.
We will need a completely different approach, if we can do it at all. We will need to become loving stewards of life on earth. In the short term, whoever burns more fuel wins. How can we possible make a transition to stewardship, when anybody burning more fuel can kill us and take whatever we have made? 
It is a koan. We will have to solve the koan to survive, and not just a few of us. It is a test we have to pass as a species.
That seems very unlikely, but I would rather die in the attempt than die in a bunker with big screen TV.
Unless we get WW-3, this will be long and hard. I want to die without regrets. How about you?
​The "Black Block" agents provocateur are being used by ruling elites to justify increased violence against the yellow vests. This is very clear to the yellow vests, but not clear to the mass media at all. The Black Block come in and attack small businesses and small-owner property and pro-yellow-vest reporters.  The police shoot yellow vests "in response to the violence". Thanks Eleni.

Socialist Venezuela donated free heating oil to poor American households hit by disaster in 2005-2013. That's been forgotten, or those who remember it favorably do not affect US policy.

UK Labor Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn gets roundly abused for failing to support unelected US puppet Guaido in Venzuela.

A lot of the Strategic culture stories are shut down today, including one looking at the relationships of global elites to the yellow vests and Venezuelan socialism, both populist waves, which seek to redirect resources into the hands of working people. I also can't get access to their story about the false charges of "Russian collusion" against America's only anti-war candidate, US Army Reserve Major Tulsi Gabbard.
Here is their home page. Maybe later...

Moon of Alabama:  
Trump Says U.S. Will Leave But Pentagon Keeps Adding Forces
The U.S. retreat from northeast Syria is still not happening. In yesterdays interview with CBS President Trump again said the troops would leave, but the the Pentagon is doing the opposite of retreating.

Pepe Escobar says that America has missed the Eurasian train, but he does not seem to be aware of the impact of suddenly declining energy resources, which lies just ahead. Dominance under current and recent past conditions is different from what it will take to do better in coming years, which will be resilience and depth of fallback positions. (To my analysis, Russia is poised to do best, having already collapsed, rebuilt, having lots of natural resources, and in a position to benefit from global warming. He focuses on Chinese ascendancy.)

In case of No Deal Brexit EU goods will just be waved through UK ports to prevent supply shortages to Britons. (Winning hearts and minds)

The Coming Global Financial Crisis, Debt Exhaustion, Charles Hugh Smith (wherein it is discovered that debts which can't be paid, won't be paid, and that's most of them.)

The Earth's "third pole" is the massive glacier field of the Himalayas and Karakoram. It stabilizes global temperature and the flow of water through the great rivers of Asia, which supply the agriculture which directly feeds hundreds of millions of people. The very best case scenario is that they lose 1/3 of that ice mass and the rivers get more unreliable. The worst case is 2/3 ice loss and mass starvation. Sea level is bound to rise.
At least a third of the huge ice fields in Asia’s towering mountain chain are doomed to melt due to climate change, according to a landmark report, with serious consequences for almost 2 billion people.