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Israel agrees to EU deal excluding settlements

RT | December 31, 2017

Israel’s government has approved an agreement with the EU that includes a provision excluding funding for settlements, seemingly consenting to the EU’s boycott of settlements.

The agreement centers on Israel’s part in the EU’s ENI Cross-Border Cooperation in the Mediterranean (CBC Med) program, which provides funds for projects for non-EU countries in the Mediterranean area, such as Israel, Egypt and Jordan, Haaretz reports. The projects are largely focused on promoting development, education, technology and environmental sustainability.

As per EU policy, the ENI CBC Med agreement contains a provision which excludes areas outside Israel’s 1967 borders from receiving grants. This means Israeli settlements inside the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights (which were occupied by Israel in the conflict) cannot receive funding under the program.

Israeli settlements inside Palestinian territories are considered both an impediment to the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, and to be in violation of a number of UN resolutions and the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Israel’s Culture and Sport Minister, Miri Regev, voiced her objections to the agreement to the cabinet secretary earlier in the month. She fought against the deal at the cabinet meeting, the Jewish Press reports, but no other minister agreed to second her motion to delay the vote pending further debate.

The deal was given final approval by the government Sunday, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed off on the measure last week. It’s also been approved by the Justice Ministry and Foreign Ministry, Haaretz reports. The foreign ministry is said to have led the charge for Israel to be part of the program.

The agreement is at odds with the Israeli government’s stance on settlements, which it continues to develop within the occupied territories in disregard of the EU and others’ condemnation. Netanyahu is also a fierce opponent to the international Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement which calls for boycotts and sanctions against Israel.

“My fundamental position is that the Israeli government should reject agreements from the outset that require us on a de facto basis to boycott portions of the homeland or populations living in the Golan Heights, Jerusalem or Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] other than with very limited exceptions,” Regev wrote in her letter.

“I do not see the justification to compromise and with one hand sign the agreement while with our other demanding that the world give de facto recognition to our right to a united Jerusalem and even to move embassies to Israel’s capital,” she added.

Aside from the settlement matter, Regev’s letter to Cabinet Secretary Tzachi Braverman also took issue with the text of the agreement referring to the Palestinian Authority “as if it were a neighboring country.”

It is “not acceptable to me,” she said.

 The far-right Regev managed to halt a similar agreement with the EU last year. A Creative Europe culture and media program contained a similar provision excluding settlements, and, although Netanyahu had given consent, Regev stopped it from going ahead. Earlier this month, Regev succeeded in forcing  the NBA remove a reference to Palestine as being “occupied territory.”

Read more:

‘Enough is enough’: Norway’s trade unions vote to boycott Israel over Palestine

December 31, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

Peaceful Protests Constitutional Right of Iranians – President Rouhani

© Sputnik/ Aleksey Nikolskyi
Sputnik – 31.12.2017

Protests and criticism, not involving violence, are the constitutional rights of the Iranians, the country’s President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday.

Since Thursday, Iran has been rocked by the largest protests over the past years. Thousands have been protesting across Iran against poverty and unemployment. The protesters have been chanting slogans, criticizing Rouhani and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Earlier in the day, Tehran’s mayor Mohammad Ali Najafi said that traffic in some part of the city had been disrupted due to the rallies, adding that some municipal properties, including a number of bus stations, suffered damages during the protests.

“Protest, criticism constitutional rights of people… Criticism different from violence, inflicting damage on public properties,” Rouhani said as quoted by Iranian Press TV broadcaster in the outlet’s Twitter post.

The protests have been suppressed in Iran’s second most populous city of Mashhad by the authorities who used tear gas against the demonstrators.

Earlier on Sunday, authorities of the country’s western Lorestan province confirmed that two people had died during the protests in the province. The local authorities added, however, that the security forces had not opened fire at protesters.

Officials from several countries, including UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, have expressed concerns over the rallies in Iran, calling on the country’s authorities to ensure the citizens’ right to peaceful demonstration.

December 31, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , | 2 Comments

Flashback: Police, Basij ‘imposters’ arrested in Iran

Press TV | June 29, 2009

Iranian police officials have reportedly arrested the armed imposters who posed as security forces during post-election violence in the country.

Iran’s Basij commander, Hossein Taeb, said Monday that the imposters had worn police and Basij uniforms to infiltrate the rallies and create havoc.

Taeb added that the recent anti-government riots have killed eight members of the Basij and wounded 300 others.

Iranian security officials –and in particularly the Basij volunteer forces– have been accused of killing and injuring protestors who took to the streets to protest the outcome of the June 12 election — which saw incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad win by a landslide.

“Basij forces are not authorized to carry weapons,” said Taeb, asserting that armed groups are the main culprit behind the killings.

Tehran Police Chief Azizallah Rajabzadeh has also insisted that his department had no role in the shoot-out that has become the focus of most media outlets in the West.

“Policemen are not authorized to use weapons against people,” said Rajabzadeh. “They are trained to only use anti-riot tools to keep the people out of harms way,” said Rajabzadeh.

Last week saw some of the worst violence since the election after some ‘terrorist elements’ infiltrated the rallies on Saturday, according to Iranian officials.

The insurgents set fire to a mosque, two gas stations and a military post in Western Tehran, leaving scores of people dead and wounded.

Supporters of the defeated candidates have staged a torrent of rallies, which have provoked unprecedented mayhem in the country over the past nine days.

Mir-Hossein Mousavi election campaign officials, however, have insisted that the defeated candidate’s supporters are not within the rioters.

December 31, 2017 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Timeless or most popular | | Leave a comment

2018 will see US fighting three and a half wars in Middle East

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | December 31, 2017

At a ‘press gaggle’ at the Pentagon on Friday, US Defence Secretary James Mattis revealed that there isn’t going to be any withdrawal from the Syrian conflict. The Trump administration, on the contrary, plans to expand the presence by deploying diplomats and contractors to the north of Syria. Mattis called this a shift “from what I would call an offensive, terrain-seizing approach to a stabilizing” one.

That is to say, he explained, while the diplomats would work toward the “initial restoration of services” and to manage and administer rebuilding cities, the Pentagon will “bring in contractors” for training people on how to clear IEDs” (improvised explosive devices), etc. and alongside there will be a continuing military component to the US presence that “would move our diplomats around, protect them.” Mattis insisted that there is a “demarcation line” separating the US military zone in north and northeastern Syria, which the “Russian regime” and Syrian government are well aware of and are tacitly respecting so far.

Evidently, the US will continue its alliance with the Syrian Kurdish militia (known as YPG) in northern Syria, including the supply of weapons. The US defense spending bill for 2018 has made provision for sending weapons worth $393 million to US partners in Syria. Overall, $500 million, which is an increase of $70 million over 2016) is the allocation for Syria under ‘Train and Equip’ requirements. The budget mentions the opposition forces supported as a part of the train and equip program in Syria as 25,000 strong. The figure will now go up to 30,000 in 2018. Besides, the US and British military are training several hundred militants to create a New Syrian Army to fight the Syrian government forces in the south. (According to Russian estimates, most of the recruits are from ISIS and al-Qaeda groups.)

To be sure, the US’ ‘regime change’ agenda in Syria is back on track. But the Syrian conflict is also transforming as another template of a broader regional confrontation with Iran (and Russia) in the Middle East. The petard of Iran is useful to encourage the Sunni Arab petrodollar states to bankroll the war and overall make the US military interventions in the Middle East to be “self-financing”. (Mattis said, “We’ve got a lot of money coming from international donors for this, including Syria.”)

Meanwhile, this also means that the wars in Syria and Yemen are going to get fused at the hips, as it were. While the Obama administration was inclined to acknowledge that Iran’s interference in the war in Yemen, if at all, has been very minimal, the Trump administration has swung to the other extreme and brands the war as quintessentially a manifestation of Iran’s expansionist policies in the region. This creates the raison d’etre for more direct US intervention in the war in Yemen.

That makes it two full-bodied wars. Then, there is half a war to be added, which is in the nature of the Trump administration’s agenda to generally push back at Iran anywhere and everywhere (eg., Iraq, Lebanon), and, if possible, to bring about a ‘regime change’ in Tehran. According to a report in the Jerusalem Post last week, the US and Israel have set up 4 working groups to advance their “joint work plan” against Iran. This decision has been taken apparently at a secret meeting at the White House in Washington two weeks ago and will be put into the pipeline in 2018.

These two and a half wars become three and a half wars if we are also to add the Afghan war, which is entering its 17th year in 2018. The US has upped the ante by seeking a military solution to the Afghan war, disregarding the saner advice that a political solution is the best way out. The big question is whether 2018 will witnesses a US-Pakistani showdown.

A report in the New York Times on Friday hinted at the Trump administration “strongly considering whether to withhold $255 million in aid that it had delayed sending to Islamabad… as a show of dissatisfaction with Pakistan’s broader intransigence toward confronting the terrorist networks that operate there.” Evidently, the US’ capacity to leverage Pakistani policies is touching rock bottom. The next step could be to deliver on the threat to punish Pakistan. If that happens, there will be hell to pay.

Indeed, in the above cauldron, one hasn’t included the succession in Saudi Arabia, which can likely happen during 2018; the growing instability in Egypt; the continuing anarchy in Libya; or the Saudi-Qatar rift and the consequent unraveling of the GCC. Who says the US is about to cut loose from the Middle East and escape to the ‘Indo-Pacific’? Do not overlook that an overarching priority of the US’ Middle East strategy is also to evict Russia from the region as it managed to do in the early 1970s so as to contain the bear in its lair in Eurasia.

December 31, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

NYT Trumpwashes 70 Years of US Crimes

By Adam Johnson | FAIR | December 30, 2017

Trumpwashing—defined as whitewashing, obscuring or rewriting the broader US record by presenting Donald Trump as an aberration (FAIR, 6/3/16)—was on full display Thursday in a nominally straight news report from the New York Times’ Mark Landler (12/28/17) on how Trump has reshaped US foreign policy. Buried in the otherwise banal analysis was this gem of US imperial agitprop:

Above all, Mr. Trump has transformed the world’s view of the United States from a reliable anchor of the liberal, rules-based international order into something more inward-looking and unpredictable. That is a seminal change from the role the country has played for 70 years, under presidents from both parties, and it has lasting implications for how other countries chart their futures.

There’s lots of ideology to unpack here, but let’s start with the empirically false assertion that the “world” viewed the United States as a “reliable anchor of the liberal, rules-based international order.” Poll (Guardian, 6/15/06) after poll (Pew, 3/14/07) after poll (PRI, 1/3/14) throughout the years has shown that much of the world views the United States as threat to peace, often taking the top spot as the single greatest threat. What evidence Landler has for the world viewing the US as a sort of good-natured global babysitter is unclear, as he cites nothing to support this hugely important claim (since if Trump’s cynical disregard for “human rights” is nothing new, then there’s no real story here). It’s just thrown out with the assumption the Times readership is sufficiently nationalistic and/or amnesiac to either not notice or not care. It’s designed to flatter, not to elucidate.

"Shock and Awe" in Iraq.

The US invasion of Iraq in defiance of international law

The second dubious assertion is the idea that the US is “viewed” as being (or, by implication, objectively is) concerned with “liberal, rules-based international order.” Perhaps Landler missed the part where the US runs offshore penal colonies for untried political prisoners, and a decade-long drone war that’s killed thousands—both entirely outside the scope of international law. Or the time the US invaded and destroyed Iraq without any international authorization, killing hundreds of thousands. Or perhaps he missed the part where the United States refuses to sign “liberal, rules-based international order” treaties such as the International Criminal Court or the ban on bombs and or a prohibition on nuclear weapons. Or the part where the US not only doesn’t recognize the International Criminal Court, but has a law on its books (dubbed “the Hague Invasion Act,” passed in 2002) that if an American is ever held by the ICC for committing war crimes, the US is obligated to literally invade the Hague and free them.

And this is just in the past 15 years. Landler, even more laughably, starts the clock in 1947, which would include dozens of non-“liberal,” non-“rules-based” coups, invasions, bombing campaigns, assassinations, extrajudicial murders and so forth. The number of actions carried out by the US not sanctioned by even the thinnest pretext of “international order” is too long to list.

What exactly is this “liberal, rules-based international order,” and when did “the world” view the United States as its most reliable anchor? Landler doesn’t say, he simply asserts this highly contestable and ideological claim, and moves on to pearl-clutch about Trump ruining the US’s hard-won moral authority. He has some 100 percent uncut pro-US ideology to push under the guise of criticizing Trump, and no amount of basic historical facts will get in his way.

December 31, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | 2 Comments

IRAN PROTEST CRISIS: Everything you need to know

By Joaquin Flores – Fort Russ news – December 30, 2017

Across the websites of the Associated Press, Reuters, and the U.S establishment’s own ‘Twitter’ and ‘Facebook’, news stories covering apparent violence in Iran and a radical change in the demands of protests have today sprang up, with a tone of extreme urgency.

So what’s the problem? And why are Iranians protesting?

Problematic, however, has been any way to independently verify these claims. The Iranian government has generally been clear that there are two unrelated types of protests going on, simultaneously. However, these claims can only be juxtaposed to claims from Iranian ‘activists’ associated with the radical reformist Green Movement, originally of former Iranian PM Mousavi. But today are themselves divided, and a branch exists today aiding in organizing the smaller protests and ‘stunts’, which is organized in connection with US support.

But the other branch was actually reeled in, absorbed, tamed, and redirected by Rouhani under the auspices of the Ayatollah Khamenei. At the same time, this had the effect of bringing elements of radical reformism closer to vectors of power than they had been since the mid 1990’s.

The elected government’s official view, as reported internationally and by Iranian state media, is actually supportive of the legitimate demands of the mainstream protests. They have already announced this to the protesters, and are working at the level of civil society intervention to de-escalate the protests and usher in a series of new policies and programs aimed at ameliorating some of the legitimate concerns. Meanwhile, government supporters have also turned out en mass to counter the international image being projected by Western media.

With official unemployment at 12% and negative economic growth for a number of years until the 2016 GDP boom that saw 12% growth, without these gains properly trickling down, and a whole period of inflation which hasn’t been recovered from yet (as sellers saw what price maximums were possible), what we are also seeing in Iran are real people protesting about real problems.

To be clear – the government of Iran is not blaming the legitimate protesters as ‘Western agents’. They have said that the protests, correctly, are chiefly related to inflation and other economic related concerns. Rouhani himself has publicly stated that he shares precisely these concerns.

Are Iran’s problems its own doing? Or are there global factors at play?

It isn’t so easy simply to dismiss these complaints from the mainstream of protesters, and dismissively point instead to the economic encirclement the west has placed upon Iran. Iran is nevertheless still a class society with a wide and growing disparity between income groups. There are Iranian billionaires, private owners of firms and joint stock companies, who while operating within the parameters of Iranian sovereignty, also acquire their economic success on the backs of countless Iranians. Their wealth and stature in Iranian society grew significantly under Rafsanjani’s tenure.

That some of these firms themselves are, or had been, the subject of sanctions, is not entirely relevant to the fact that the economic policies of some of the reformists have led to the enrichment of a few at the expense of many. And this is the discourse we are seeing and hearing from Iranians today. What therefore is being presented in Western media, is an inversion of reality.

If anything, a plurality of protesters would likely want to see a return to the policies of Ahmadinejad. Unemployment, for instance, was lowest under his administration. He also placed price controls, and subsidized other goods, in response to the spiraling inflation caused by western imposed sanctions.

Is there anything more we should say about this?

Indeed, opposition to the privatizing and anti-social policies of Rafsanjani, is where the Alliance of Builders of Islamic Iran comes from. Rafsanjani, president in the late 80’s through mid 90’s, was of course not entirely unsuccessful in any number of projects important to Iran, including increasing ties with post-Soviet central Asian countries. But significant to the average Iranian laborer or small shop keeper, were his anti-popular measures. So the economic leftism of the Alliance of Builders of Islamic Iran is a response to this, and Ahmadinejad rose to prominence in large part through this movement, which he leads.

All this leads to only one conclusion – the Western media is manufacturing a story, with little basis in Iran’s reality and recent history.

So there is something very clear now we must understand about the legitimate mass protests, however, which is that they have nothing substantively to do with the solution set proposed by the Green Movement or, for example, the National Trust party of Karroubi (another prominent reformist). Western media would have you believe that all of this, what you are seeing, is homogeneous in its message, and reformist or even Green, in nature.

Now, understanding the political composition of the mass protests is not so easy – some of course are critical of Rouhani for not being reformist enough, and not open enough. They may parallel some of the demands and concerns of both wings of the Green Movement, or of Karroubi’s National Trust.

What’s the history here?

The Green’s spiritual leader, who was also a leader of the 1979 Revolution, but later fell out of favor in the mid 80’s for reasons we will mention now, is Montazeri. Montazeri himself was demoted and finally pushed out of leadership circles for having liberal criticisms of the Iranian Revolution, and also opposed the regionalization or exporting of the revolution.

So these are themes from the 80’s, which still in some prominent ways are dominating the internal debate within Iranian society today.

So who is protesting?

The vast majority of protesters are either not particularly partisan, or they are – contrary to how the western media blitzkrieg over the last 48 hours has painted it – sympathetic to Ahmadinejad’s criticisms of reformist economic and foreign policy, insofar as this is a policy which has favored an increased polarization of the distribution of wealth and opportunities in the Islamic Republic. So their chief issues are economic concerns, corruption, and distribution of wealth and human services. There is enough sophistication in Iran to understand that in terms of regional politics, everything Iran does in Syria and Iraq is an important move to counter and contain Israel. This is a ‘popular militancy’ that is carried on from the revolution of 1979 itself.

So to understand Rouhani, he has pursued a very similar foreign policy – in effect – as the conservatives and ‘revolution exporters’, as seen in the way that Iran today supports Shiite brigades in Iraq and Syria, and also has their own special forces fighting there in Syria and Iraq, as well as very close support and funding for Hezbollah in Lebanon. Again, these are contrary to what both the Green movement reformists, National Trust reformists, and run-of-the-mill moderate reformists want.

But the economic policy pursued by Rouhani – with a following proviso – has been that of the reformists. That policy has been to have warm economic relations with the west. While there are some divisions there about whether Europe or the US would be a better partner, nevertheless this has been pursued, and for that we saw the government of Rouhani enter into the anti-nuclear agreement that was supposed to be the pathway out of sanctions – one that has, with mixed results, generally worked.

And internally, that policy, again, favors the individual rights of owners and bosses against the middling and lower classes.

Yet the proviso we must insert here, is that the economic policy of the reformists, in their eyes, isn’t responsible for the economic crisis – they view and criticize Rouhani for not in fact succeeding in opening up ties as much as they could be.

Sanctions is a somewhat misleading framework to understand an underlying fact, which is that there is no mechanism or impetus to force seller and buyers in two countries to come to terms, and there are plenty of mechanisms within a country hostile to Iran to nudge its firms not to trade with Iran, even if ‘sanctions’ are not in place. In this way, we can understand the significance of sanctions, but also understand all of the more complex realities that may fall under that general concept, while not being in fact ‘sanctions’ per se.

Membership in the WTO, for example, would work to overcome the problem of this de facto category of sanctions, but the US has blocked Iran’s entrance since reformists pushed for its application in 1996. But just a few months back in September 2017, Iran announced it was officially withdrawing its application. This was a major turning point, and a very ‘anti-reformist’ move by the ostensibly reformist Rouhani.

Two unrelated protest movements happening

In other words, there are at least two sets of protests going on, and while they are mirroring some similar talking points and general descriptions of grievances, their solutions are wildly at odds. We should note that in the north-west of the country, where there have been numerous but small protests, among the demands are a mixture of populist and left economic demands, with greater autonomy demands which mirror the reformists – the later of which the US would very much support as it creates opportunities and pretexts, the likes we have seen in places as far and away from each other as the former Yugoslavia and Syria re the Kurdish question.

To understand this: imagine genuine socialists and genuine libertarians both protesting in the U.S. about the failures of the public education system, with socialists urging greatly more funding, and libertarians urging that the system be abolished — literally opposite solutions to the same identified problem.

That’s how we might better understand what we are seeing today with the various protests in Iran.

CIA and Soros stunts, and Astroturfing

With the more radical wing of the Green Movement (et al, and similar), we see them pulling off various stunts. These are stunts, and not protests as such, because they involve at most several dozen ‘activists’ using camera angles, and unpopular chants, to simulate a larger protest with, what we are told are, popular radical chants.

This simulation of reality is only possible using a combination of western media hyperventilated coverage surrounding demonstrably isolated events carried out by less than a dozen individuals. A ‘twitter storm’, is being used – this is a centrally planned weaponized information method – and is essentially what one would conceive it to be, by its designation.

These are astroturf, not grass-roots type demonstrations. … Full article

December 31, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | 1 Comment

Russia Responds to US Provocation: Open Skies Treaty Faces Hard Times

By Peter KORZUN | Strategic Culture Foundation | 31.12.2017

The Open Skies Treaty (OST) is in jeopardy. Signed in 1992 and in force since 2002, the treaty, a fundamental trust-building measure, permits its 34 ratified member-states to conduct observation flights over one another’s territory while capturing aerial imagery of military personnel and materiel. The compliance is monitored by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Over 1,200 flights have been conducted worldwide through the treaty, which allots active and passive quotas to the signatory states based on the size of their territories. Over the past 15 years, the US and Russia have made a combined 165 flights.

On Dec. 28, Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Russia limits the scope of US military observation flights over its territory starting from Jan. 1, 2018. Moscow cancels overnight stops at three airfields for US observation planes, as well as scraps a number of bilateral agreements that were made to facilitate observation flights. The step is taken in response to US curbs on similar Russian flights over Hawaii and Alaska coming into force on the first day of 2018. The restrictions are reversible and could be lifted if the US backtracked on its policies.

In September, the US warned Russia that the restrictions on flights over the Kaliningrad region – a non-contiguous section of Russian territory squeezed between Lithuania, Poland and the Baltic Sea – were seen as a violation of the treaty. Russia restricted flights over the Kaliningrad region because some parties to the treaty crossed the length and breadth of the flight path, causing problems in the use of the region’s limited airspace and to the Kaliningrad international airport. It prompted Moscow to restrict the maximum flight distance over the Kaliningrad Region to 500 kilometres without changing the total flight distance of 5,500 km and hence coverage of Russia’s territory. The regulation does not run contrary to the OST or the signatories’ subsequent decisions. The flight range of 500 km is sufficient for observing any part of the region. The US, Canada, Turkey and Georgia have established restrictions within the treaty on flying over their territories.

Russia has been accused of the unlawful denial to permit observation flights in the 10 kilometer border area of the so-called Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. But the two entities are sovereign states recognized as such by Russia. The Open Skies Treaty states that the flights must not violate a ten-kilometer corridor along the border of another state.

Another accusation said Moscow overused the force majeure provision to change the coordinated plans of observation flights due to flights made by the country’s leaders in close proximity to the planned paths of observation flights. But the provision was invoked only once.

Why has the US chosen to keep Russian surveillance aircraft away from Alaska and the Hawaii? Alaska is home to four air bases, three naval facilities, Minuteman III ICBMs sites. On November 2, the military finished installing the 44th Ground-based Interceptor (GBI) at the Missile Defense Complex at Fort Greely, Alaska, completing the deployment of 14 additional GBIs ordered by President Obama in 2013. Hawaii is where United States Air Force Hickam Air Force Base and the Naval Station Pearl Harbor as well as the Pacific Missile Range Facility are located.

Actually, it’s not a severe blow; Russia can use satellites to observe these areas. But it’s a start. The restrictions could unleash a chain reaction to bury the treaty as part of a broader process of arms control erosion. For instance, Georgia has closed its skies to Russian observation flights in a clear and gross violation of the OST. It calls the 2018 flights into question. The decision could be explained by the desire to conceal from observers the construction of military facilities.

The Open Skies Treaty continues to be a valuable instrument for security and stability at the time of arms control crisis. The OST enhances transparency and [reduces] the risk of war. With the treaty in force, the US gains as much as Russia but by having provoked Moscow into taking retaliatory measures it has made one more step to make the world slide into an unfettered arms race.

December 31, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

Syrian Army Thwarts Israeli Plan to Control Mutual Border

Sputnik – 30.12.2017

On Saturday buses arrived in the villages of Mugr al-Mir and Mazaria Beit Jinn in the so-called ‘Hernon Pocket’ to transport the fighters of al-Nusra Front to Idlib and Daraa governorates. The pocket extended into government-held territory southwest of Damascus from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. According to a Syrian Arab Army (SAA) military strategic analyst, Brig. Gen. Heitham Hassun, the move will help liberate the southwestern part of Syria from terrorists.

“This will allow [the SAA] to free the entire southwestern region of Damascus from terrorists,” Brig. Gen. Hassun told Sputnik Arabic. “It is especially important to take under the SAA’s control [the territories] north of the province of Quneitra, which the Israelis had planned to manage with the assistance of the militants. Now, by retaking Mugr al-Mir and Mazaria Beit Jinn, the army will be able to conduct an operation to liberate all the terrorist-controlled areas adjacent to the occupied Golan Heights.”

The local government managed to strike a deal with the al-Nusra jihadists through intermediaries on joining the program of reconciliation and establish a ceasefire regime in the area. The victories of the SAA, which allowed the government forces to gain control over the dominant terrain, contributed to the success of the talks.

According to the military analyst, residents of local villages are making every effort to facilitate the advancement of the Syrian government forces. For instance, they provide information to the SAA about the location and the numerical force of jihadists.

Brig. Gen. Hassun said that, for its part, Israel is providing the extremists with intelligence concerning Syrian government troops. Additionally, the Israelis continue to supply weapons to terrorist groups and provide fire support if necessary, the military analyst underscored. It appears that Syria’s southern neighbor is unwilling to give up its plans for this part of Syria, the brigadier general suggested.

The Golan Heights remain an apple of discord for Damascus and Tel Aviv, prompting tit-for-tat strikes in border areas. Israel’s occupation of the western two-thirds of the Golan Heights (known in Syria as Quneitra governorate) prevents the states from signing a peace treaty. The annexation of the disputed area started during the Six-Day War in 1967 and has been repeatedly condemned by the UN in 1981 and 2008.

The eastern Golan Heights, which remained in Syrian hands following the Six-Day War and 1973 Yom Kippur War, became the target of the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front, as well as Daesh terrorists and other Syrian opposition forces, during the ongoing war.

Meanwhile, according to Sputnik’s source, on Friday the Syrian government forces expelled terrorists from the Abu Dali settlement in the north-east of Hama province.

Located on the border between Hama and Idlib, the settlement was used by the terrorists to disrupt the supplies from one city to another.

The SAA continues to crack down on terrorists following Russia’s partial withdrawal from Syria after a two-year-long aerial campaign. The decision to pull out was announced on December 11 by Russian President Putin, who specified, however, that the bases in Tartus and Hmeymim, as well as the center for Syrian reconciliation, would continue to operate.

On December 26, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu signaled that Russia has started to form a permanent group in Syria’s Tartus and Hmeymim. The Russian military contingent is armed with advanced weaponry systems including the cutting edge S-400 system, while S-300 surface-to-air missile systems, as well as the Bastion coastal missile systems with cruise missiles.

December 31, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Immigration and Capital

By Maximilian Forte | Zero Anthropology | August 3, 2016

Immigration, rightly or wrongly, has been marched to the frontline of current political struggles in Europe and North America. Whether exaggerated or accurate, the role of immigration is situated as a central factor in the Brexit referendum in the UK, and the rise of the “America First” Trump movement in the US. It seems impossible that one can have a calm discussion about immigration today, without all sorts of agendas, assumptions, insinuations and recriminations coming into play. Staking a claim in immigration debates are a wide range of actors and interests, with everything from national identity and national security to multiculturalism, human rights, and cosmopolitan globalism. However, what is relatively neglected in the public debates is discussion of the political economy of immigration, and especially a critique of the role of immigration in sustaining capitalism.

Before going forward, we have to first dismiss certain diversionary tactics commonly used in public debate, that unfortunately misdirect too many people. First, being “anti-immigration” does not make one a “racist”. One does not follow from the other. Being a racist means adopting a racial view of humanity as being ordered according to what are imagined to be superior and inferior, biologically-rooted differences. Preferring “one’s own kind” (whatever that means) might be the basis for ethnocentrism, but not necessarily racism as such. It’s important not to always lunge hysterically for the most inflammatory-sounding terms, just because your rhetorical polemics demand an instant “win” (because you don’t win anything; you just sound like someone who doesn’t know what he or she is talking about). Also, xenophobia neither implies racism nor ethnocentrism, because it can exceed both by being a fear or dislike of anyone who is “foreign” or “strange”. Conversely, one can be entirely racist, and quite pro­-immigration at the same time, as long as immigration is restricted to members of one’s own race. Other forms of racist pro-immigration policies would include slavery itself, indentured labour, down to the casual racism of “let’s have Mexicans, they make such wonderful gardeners”. Furthermore, the available survey data in the US suggests that, “far from being rooted in racism, opposition to immigration in the U.S. seems to be rooted in concerns about the ability of less-skilled immigrants to support themselves without Medicaid, SNAP, the earned-income tax credit, and various other supports” (Salam, 2016b). Salam adds this point: “My guess is that if immigration policy were not viewed through a racial lens, opposition to immigration would in fact increase substantially”. Also, there is a distinction to be drawn between opinions that are anti-immigrant and policies that are anti-immigration, even if there can be overlap between the two. Finally, all of this obscures the basic questions that are seemingly never asked today in most public debates: 1) Are questions about racism, identity, and openness the most important ones to be asked about immigration? And, 2) Why must workers be pro-immigration?

When we turn our attention to the current political economy of immigration in Europe and North America, and the relationship between immigration and capital, we might discover two odd absences. One is that those on the left who in past years were vocal critics of mass immigration, especially of the illegal kind, have either been silent on the topic in current debates, or have reversed positions without any explanation. Second, you may find Marxist writers who, armed with all of the necessary conceptual and empirical tools, avoid drawing explicit connections in their own work that could be the basis for a critique of immigration. My guess is that what explains both absences is this fear of being stigmatized as xenophobic, or worse yet, racist—but as shown above, such fear is illogical and should be pushed aside.

From the Left: Past Public Criticism of Immigration

In the not-too-distant past, leftist activists and politicians, such as Naomi Klein and Bernie Sanders, have both gone public in criticizing immigration for its role in depressing wages, increasing unemployment, deepening proletarian dependency and despair, and fostering an elitist form of cosmopolitan detachment from place. For the record, let’s review the two.

Naomi Klein argued that “rooted people” are “the biggest threat” to neoliberal capitalism because they have “roots and stories,” so the global capitalists prefer to “hire mobile people”. Klein also recognized that this “economic model creates armies of surplus labour,” and migrant labourers are useful in “keeping wages very, very low”. Naomi Klein also spoke of the rebuilding of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, where those who lost their homes, mostly African-Americans, did not get the jobs—instead, “a migrant workforce” was used.

Second, Bernie Sanders, who would later denounce “open borders” as a plot by the right-wing oligarchs, the Koch brothers, told Lou Dobbs the following in 2007:

“If poverty is increasing and if wages are going down, I don’t know why we need millions of people to be coming into this country as guest workers who will work for lower wages than American workers and drive wages down, even lower than they are right now.”

Dobbs added,

“And as we know, the principle industries which hire the bulk of illegal aliens—that is construction, landscaping, leisure, hospitality—those are all industries in which wages are declining….I don’t hear that discussed on the Senate floor by the proponents of this amnesty legislation.”

To which Sanders responded:

“That’s right. They have no good response.”

You can view/listen to the complete exchange here:

I am not playing this out here to rub salt into the wounds of Sanders supporters. Instead, it is simply to point how far back the left has retreated when it comes to a critique of the political economy of immigration, such that they can hardly have any legitimate complaint that the ground they vacated has been taken up by the Trump movement in the US, or by right-wing advocates of Brexit in the UK. As the Bloomberg article pointed out, “it’s Sanders’s rhetoric against guest-worker programs for legal immigrants that has brought him trouble with the left”. Should it have? Should Sanders have gone back on his record, and adopted his enthusiastically pro-immigrant stance (embracing even those who entered illegally)?

Yet Sanders is not the focus of this article; instead my broad purpose here is to argue for the negative in answering these questions. I will do so first by revisiting the work of a Marxist writer, David Harvey, even though he seems to evade the critique of immigration in his 2014 book on the contradictions of capitalism. While the writings of Marxist scholars can be useful for understanding how immigration works to uphold capitalism, and especially its neoliberal form, the writers themselves seem reluctant to draw out those connections too clearly, creating an eerie silence around what should be obvious.

Immigration: Serving the Owners of Capital

Those who consider themselves leftist and anti-capitalist while being pro-immigration with few if any restrictions, might be on the wrong side of the argument in one way or another. In David Harvey’s 2014 book, Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism, there are some useful insights about immigration’s role in propping up capital. However, the material is scattered throughout the book (I gathered the relevant elements below), and one might wonder if Harvey thus missed the eighteenth contradiction—the contradiction between unrestricted capitalism and the anti-immigration politics of working class movements. At least capitalists would think of the contradiction as an important one, given their now extreme public panic over the working class gaining the political upper hand, under the leadership of populist nationalists.

In Seventeen Contradictions Harvey notes that for many Marxists the contradiction between capital and labour is the primary contradiction of capitalism, not that Harvey (himself a Marxist) agrees that this contradiction can stand alone as an explanation for all capitalist crises (p. 65). Harvey’s own definitions of capital, and the way he distinguishes it from capitalism, leave much to be desired (see pps. 7, 73).1 Having fixed the place of labour in the unfolding history of capitalism—whether paramount or not it remains central—Harvey in his usual anthropomorphosis of capital says that “capital strives to produce a geographical landscape favourable to its own reproduction and subsequent evolution” (p. 146)—although it’s actual capitalists who do that, and not capital as such. What he could have added is that reworking the geographical landscape means how humans fit into landscapes, and moving workers around the planet is a definite reworking of “geography”. Having established the centrality of the capital-labour contradiction, and having introduced the significance of geographic changes, Harvey adds the third key component of his analysis: “that an economy based on dispossession lies at the heart of what capital is foundationally about” (p. 54). How are workers dispossessed?

The usefulness of immigration in the capitalist system lies in the ability of capitalists to use immigration to break the monopoly power of labour (p. 120). Simply put, labourers can assert a virtual monopoly over their work, especially when such work is specialized and the number of labourers is contained. The inflow of immigrants can thus help to break the labourers’ monopoly, by creating competition among the ranks of workers. Harvey explains this in detail—but without speaking of immigration—using an example which ends up being very relevant to the present in the US:

“What is on capital’s agenda is not the eradication of skills per se but the abolition of monopolisable skills. When new skills become important, such as computer programming, then the issue for capital is not necessarily the abolition of those skills (which it may ultimately achieve through artificial intelligence) but the undermining of their potential monopoly character by opening up abundant avenues for training in them. When the labour force equipped with programming skills grows from relatively small to super-abundant, then this breaks monopoly power and brings down the cost of that labour to a much lower level than was formerly the case. When computer programmers are ten-a-penny, then capital is perfectly happy to identify this as one form of skilled labour in its employ…” (pp. 119-120).

Now we can update that explanation by factoring in immigration. Harvey highlights increased access to training as means of increasing the numbers of skilled workers, but he misses—and this is odd, because he has worked in universities for most of his life—the fact that another key way to increase the numbers is by bringing in foreign students to undergo such training, and then retaining those foreign students, or otherwise importing specialists from abroad through formal immigration. This is in fact a central plank in the platform of Hillary Clinton in her 2016 presidential run—around which silence generally prevails thanks to the diversionary tactics of political correctness that I mentioned above. Thus in Hillary Clinton’s Initiative on Technology & Innovation, we can read the following:

Attract and Retain the Top Talent from Around the World: Our immigration system is plagued by visa backlogs and other barriers that prevent high-skilled workers and entrepreneurs from coming to, staying in, and creating jobs in America. Far too often, we require talented persons from other countries who are trained in U.S. universities to return home, rather than stay in here and continue to contribute to our economy. As part of a comprehensive immigration solution, Hillary would ‘staple’ a green card to STEM masters and PhDs from accredited institutions—enabling international students who complete degrees in these fields to move to green card status. Hillary will also support ‘start-up’ visas that allow top entrepreneurs from abroad to come to the United States, build companies in technology-oriented globally traded sectors, and create more jobs and opportunities for American workers. Immigrant entrepreneurs would have to obtain a commitment of financial support from U.S. investors before obtaining the visa, and would have to create a certain number of jobs and reach performance benchmarks in order to pursue a green card”.

Thus US students who acquired massive debts to gain degrees in STEM disciplines, will find it increasingly harder to get their heads above water when they have to compete with immigrants for a finite number of positions, or when their salaries drop as the availability of replacement workers increases. What Clinton is proposing is nothing very new: she would be formalizing and making more efficient the already existing realities of competition from foreign white-collar workers (see Munro, 2016).

At the root of capitalists’ power to depress wage levels, is the depression of employment opportunities. In the US case, it is not just the fact that immigrant workers are competing for jobs, it’s that they are also getting a disproportionate share of the available employment opportunities. Thus while foreign-born workers make up only 15% of all workers, they gained 31% of new jobs (see Kummer, 2015).

In Marx’s analysis, the interest of capitalists is in possessing a vast “industrial reserve army” in order to contain the ambitions of the employed (Harvey, 2014, pp. 79-80). And, as Harvey adds, “if such a labour surplus did not exist, then capital would need to create one” (p. 80). How would it do that? Harvey identifies two ways to create a labour surplus: technologically induced unemployment (automation), and opening access to new labour supplies (such as outsourcing to China) (p. 80). It is again peculiar that Harvey does not list another obvious option: expand the “domestic” supply of labour by importing labourers (immigration). Since immigration can play an important role in creating a labour surplus, then why not mention it?

So far we have talked about how immigration is used to break the monopoly power of labour, by expanding the domestic supply of labour, or by outsourcing. Harvey does mention in passing that immigration can serve as a spatial fix for the capitalist system, by redistributing surplus labour where it is needed most (p. 152). But spatial fixes of a contemporary kind appear in two forms—one of them is what we call outsourcing or offshoring (p. 148). Offshoring essentially makes workers subsidize capital—it is one of the absurdities of contemporary “free trade” that all sorts of government subsidies to workers are banned, but workers can be super-exploited at atrociously low wage levels that account for the competitive global cheapness of their products. That is a subsidy, just not a voluntary one, and not a state subsidy. However, offshoring, where jobs go overseas, is just one way to increase competition among workers. A second method is what we might call onshoring: it’s not the jobs that go to meet workers overseas, it’s workers overseas who migrate to meet the jobs—immigration. Unfortunately, Harvey does not mention onshoring as part of a pair of options along with offshoring.

Historically, immigration has been used to depress the wages of workers in the receiving nation. This is especially true in the US case. As Paul Street recently explained,

“The ever-shifting supply and demand for labor power is a factor that holds no small relevance to the triumphs, trials and tribulations of the American working class past and present. As the leading left U.S. economist Richard Wolff explains, the long historical rise in real wages in the United States ended more than thirty years ago thanks to ‘the combination of computerization, exported jobs, women surging into the labor market, and a new wave of immigration… this time mainly from Latin America, especially Mexico and Central America…. Capitalists from Main Street to Wall Street quickly realized that employers could slow or stop wage increases, given that supply now exceeded demand in the labor market…’

“If you don’t believe immigration is used by employers to depress living and working standards in the U.S., then take a job in any U.S. factory that has a significant number of unpleasant low-skill tasks. You will see your capitalist bosses keeping wages down and workers cowed and oppressed by (among other things) hiring immigrants whose experience of extreme poverty, violence, and other forms of misery in their lands of origin make them more than ready to work obediently and without outward complaint for $10 an hour or less in ‘modern manufacturing’”.

Nonetheless, “expert opinion” persists in creating the myth that immigration has no negative impact on workers.

Another key way that immigration can sustain capital has to do with the purchasing power of wages. As we have seen, it’s in the interest of capitalists to keep wages as low as possible. However, the contradiction that arises—and Harvey devotes considerable attention to this—is that lower wages means less money available to purchase goods, which shrinks market size, and reduces the profit gained by capitalists. So if workers all have less money, what to do to sustain demand? One option is to increase wages—bad. Another option is to increase credit, as is being done. A third option is to increase the total mass of workers—as is also being done. Workers may all have less money to spend, but by importing more workers, you have a greater number of people spending (however little). Thus immigration can help to sustain or even increase demand, without increasing wages (see p. 82).

“A phenomenal rate of growth in the total labour force,” Harvey writes, “would augment the mass of capital being produced even though the individual rate of return was falling” (p. 107). However, Harvey does not mention that one way to engineer a phenomenal growth in the total labour force is by fostering mass immigration, or tacitly allowing for large numbers of people to enter illegally. What Harvey does say is that immigration can help to support future economic growth, but it’s not clear how as soon after he says that, in the US case, “job creation since 2008 has not kept pace with the expansion of the labour force” and that the seeming decline in the unemployment rate instead reflects “a shrinkage in the proportion of working-age population seeking to participate in the labour force” (pp. 230-231). Again, he fails to consider the impact of millions entering the work force from abroad.

Why David Harvey would appear reticent about producing a focused critique of immigration, might be explained by one very peculiar line in his book, where he seems to blame the working class itself, and its attitudes toward others, for its own unemployment through offshoring:

“When a rising anti-immigrant fervour among the working classes grabbed hold, capital migrated to the Mexican maquilas, the Chinese and Bangladeshi factories, in a mass movement to wherever surplus labour was to be had”. (Harvey, 2014, p. 174)

What a disappointing statement. Suddenly, capital is no longer in charge, in this abrupt deviation from Harvey’s central narrative. It is the working classes that have somehow “grabbed hold”. How did they achieve such power as to grab hold of the very production processes that they never owned? And if the working classes had a cheerier view of competition from immigrant labour, would those jobs not have still gone overseas? Do capitalists make their decisions on where to gain the most profit, by first consulting workers on what they feel about others? I don’t know that there is any evidence at all that can remotely validate such an absurd conclusion.

Where Harvey might have found a more fruitful point of entry, in his own discussion, is where he wrote that “three of the most lucrative businesses in contemporary capitalism” are “trafficking women, peddling drugs or clandestinely selling arms” (p. 32). Trafficking “women”? Why not trafficking workers—as is the case with illegal immigration, which is exploited by human traffickers in far greater numbers than the trade in women alone? Either way, “open” or weak borders are a boon to the “three most lucrative businesses” of contemporary capitalism. The best way to maximize the growth in the total labour force is precisely by illegal means, because as should be obvious “illegal” means that the movement is: (a) unregulated by the state, and not subject to political debate; (b) unrestricted in volume; and, (c) the situation where workers cannot avail themselves of rights under labour laws.

In the frame of current political debates in the US, Harvey reminds us of some important points. One is that it was under the administration of President Bill Clinton that the US saw a vast increase in the number of poverty-ridden unemployed workers. In return, Harvey points out, “Clinton has been handsomely rewarded since by business organisations, earning some $17 million in 2012 from speaker’s fees mainly from business groups” (p. 176). One of the many things shared in common between Bill and Hillary Clinton is therefore a consistent set of policy-making designed to ensure the growth of the “reserve army” of workers. Otherwise, with current debates in mind, there is little in the book to explain how Mexico, as an example, gains from the outflow of migrants to the US (producing remittances) along with the production of cheap goods for export. One would think this was important, because it disturbs established neo-Marxist models of the one-way flow of capital from the periphery to the centre—or maybe it doesn’t, but that is why further discussion would be useful.

Otherwise, Harvey does have some useful insights into how we are witnessing a conflict between “politics” and “economics” over migration policies (p. 156). By politics, he means the state, and the territoriality of state power, and by economics he means the interests of capital. As Harvey observes, “the constructed loyalty of citizens to their states conflicts in principle with capital’s singular loyalty to making money and nothing else” (p. 157). In what again should have been an opening for Harvey to reflect on immigration, he writes that, “affections and loyalties to particular places and cultural forms are viewed as anachronisms” which he follows by asking: “Is this not what the spread of the neoliberal ethic proposed and eventually accomplished?” (p. 277). Here we might revisit Naomi Klein’s comments above.

A less charitable argument about Seventeen Contradictions would be that the persistent reluctance of David Harvey in allowing his critiques to incorporate the realities of immigration is troubling, in part because it suggests a weakness not just in the analytical frame, but also in the ability or willingness to analyze. A more charitable argument would say that Harvey explicitly admits to leaving out race and gender among the contradictions he studies (p. 7), and therefore immigration might just be another of the contradictions he did not address. His reasoning is that race and gender conflicts are not specific to capitalism—and one might say that mass migrations of human populations long preceded capitalism too. However, contemporary inter-state migration definitely is a phenomenon of the modern capitalist system, and thus his logic of exclusion would not apply, and I might add that his argument is also on particularly shaky grounds when it comes to racism (which is not a prehistoric form of labour discipline and discrimination).

Immigration: Serving the Owners of Votes

If you agree with Marx, that it’s in the interest of capitalists to possess a large reserve army of unemployed workers to keep wage levels down and to possibly break the back of collective labour organization, then you would not think that the creation of disposable workers was in any way new. (You also do not need to be a Marxist to agree with what is in fact an observation of reality.) However, it should also be clear that in the US, Canada, and parts of Europe, deindustrialization that stems from free-trade deals has left many more unemployed than previously. The phenomenon of increased job loss due to globalized free trade is particular to neoliberal capitalism. Clearly for those benefiting from this state of affairs—the political and economic elites who rule this system to their own advantage—a crisis has set it in for them now that they experience a backlash from those they dispossessed. Liberal democracy, a system of power, was only permitted once politics were divorced from economics, and voting did not appear to threaten the economic system (Macpherson, 1965, pp. 12, 13, 51). However, once dispossessed workers find a way to register their protests through elections, then that boundary begins to break down. No wonder then that liberal democratic elites now routinely proclaim that what we are witnessing today is the “suicide of democracy,” writing even in apocalyptic terms that “the end is nigh” and that “tyranny” is coming. What is at an end—because it had to be, it was so obviously irrational and unsustainable—is the “democratic elitist” system the rulers created that they hoped would preserve the economic system by removing popular politics (Bachrach, 1980). Instead, voters now realize that in exceptional cases they can, in effect, cast a vote on globalization, free trade, and neoliberalism—as in the case of the UK’s Brexit vote and in the case of the Trump movement in the US.

(But who knew that the elites could be so delicate, and hysterical, that now when they are richer than ever before in human history any talk of a reduction in their ability to take more is conceived in terms of suicide and apocalypse?)

Otherwise liberal democracy never makes such questions about free-trade or immigration available for popular decision-making. It never meant to, as workers are held in deep disdain (see Krugman, 2016; Confessore, 2016). In the case of Brexit, there has been open disregard for democracy by those who voted for Remain—everything from calling on parliament to simply ignore the result of the referendum, to calling for a second referendum with a higher threshold for victory for Brexit to be possible, and both efforts have failed. Members of the metropolitan left have turned on the working class. That some of the advocates of Remain were motivated by the prospects of new quantities of cheap labour, is something that did not escape attention. The oligarchs are in deep trouble, and they would like the rest of us to save them.

An oligarchic system that is in trouble, looks for solutions of course. Having rendered the majority of existing workers disposable, the key lies in finding ways to also make them disposable as voters. Fortunately for the oligarchs, history offers them solutions. On the US State Department’s own website, there are lessons for regime survival from politicians who imported grateful immigrants as a new supply of voters. One of these cases concerns Guyana under the rule of Forbes Burnham and the People’s National Congress (PNC). With a working class divided between Afro- and Indo-Guyanese, with the latter supporting the opposition party and having greater numbers, what Burnham did was to import black immigrants from some of the nearby smaller islands of the Caribbean, who would vote PNC in thanks for Burnham’s patronage. Similar things happened in Trinidad & Tobago, under the US-allied government of Eric Williams and the People’s National Movement (PNM). In this it was widely suspected that the large growth in the immigrant population from Grenada and St. Vincent boosted the PNM voter base.

In the US, there seems to be relief bordering on glee when Democrats can pronounce the decline in the number of white working class voters, and the rise in number of Hispanic voters—thanks to both immigration, both legal and illegal, which their policies helped to support. I would not argue that the current rulers of the US directly took hints on regime survival from states that used immigration to engineer new demographic bases of support—nor do I think that the logic is so exotic that it needs to be imported. Instead, the point is to understand how immigration is used as a tool for regime survival in an ethnically-divided nation. An unusually wise insight came from one of the right-wing talk radio hosts in the US who, in mocking the political correctness of calling illegal immigrants “undocumented workers,” he instead called them “undocumented Democrats”.

“Open borders” provide the opportunity for extending the lifespan of an unpopular regime. The ruling elites realize that: (a) disposable workers are disposable voters, and, (b) that they can always import a new voter base, grateful for their patronage—as long as they can make their pro-immigration talk stick. This is where they turn to identity politics, the neo-tribal lobby, and righteous moral narcissism that exploits calculated expressions of outrage. As the oligarchs turn to the rest of us to save them, many have fallen for the seductive, exploitative politics of identity and moral outrage. Some do so under the illusion that they are in some age-old fight against “fascism,” and they come to the fight appropriately armed with photos posted to social media of the classic Marxist texts from the 1800s and early 1900s that they are proudly reading. Others do so because once again they let instant emotional reactions guide them toward aims they barely perceive.

What is instructive is that the real Fascism did not take root in a nation that was experiencing high levels of immigration. Instead, it emerged in one of the world’s leading producers of emigrants: Italy, where the very concept of fascism was invented. Indeed, actually existing historical Fascism included a plan for colonization in order to settle and employ a burgeoning population at home—none of which describes Trump’s positions.

While immigration can sustain regime survival at home, it can also be a destabilizing factor when it stems from regime change abroad. Immigration was a leading factor motivating the recent Brexit victory in the UK (see Kummer, 2016a, for details). As some have explained, “British society has been transformed by a wave of immigration unprecedented in its history”: since the advent of Tony Blair’s government, “roughly twice as many immigrants arrived in the United Kingdom as had arrived in the previous half-century” (Salam, 2016a). As a result, some have argued that Brexit is a victory for Britain’s working class.

eu-poll-immigration-as-top-concern-2 poll-most-important-issue-facing-the-eu

In the European case, the aftermath of the massive inflow of refugees and migrants during the past two years, traveling via Turkey, Greece, and Libya, has not promoted stability for the dominant political class. Here we see European governments, some of which actively supported/support US regime change campaigns in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria, reaping the blowback of a refugee influx. Having created weakened states or virtual non-states in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, while severely undermining the Syrian state, the unprecedented levels of violence in those nations have generated massive refugee populations. For a while, it was possible to transfer the burden to nations little or least able to afford hosting refugees, such as Jordan, Turkey, and even a badly crippled Greece. Syria itself hosted hundreds of thousands of Iraqis after the US invasion. Once a portion of the region’s refugee populations began to move northward, into the European Union, the ruling political elites effectively transferred the costs to the working class, by crowding them out of already reduced social services that have shrunk under austerity, and expecting them to be accommodating. Protests from the working class were then labelled “racist” and “xenophobic,” especially by supposed “progressives”. The point here ought not to have been whether those who can least afford making room for refugees and migrants should be welcoming or hostile—the point is that Western nations should not have created those refugee populations in the first place, as they did with their invasions, occupations, and bombing campaigns.

Conclusion: The Vanishing Left?

Thus far we have witnessed a number of cases where the left, broadly speaking, has abandoned any effort to articulate a critical perspective on immigration. We see it in cases such as,

  • the retreat of leftist politicians and activists from critiques of immigration, as with Naomi Klein and Bernie Sanders, who have either gone silent or reversed themselves;
  • the clear reluctance of Marxist academics like David Harvey in drawing obvious connections within their own work;
  • leftists denouncing working classes resisting the added austerity of losing access to health, education, and social services to make room for migrants; and,
  • political elites who try to appeal to the left, claiming to be progressives who support migrants from Mexico and Central America.

However, given the way immigration has been enmeshed in sustaining neoliberal capitalism, and given the current collapse of neoliberal rule, the left is threatening itself with extinction by following along the tracks of neoliberal politicians. “I won’t vote for a racist or bigot” can easily be translated as “I am saving the oligarchy”. What we may be witnessing in the West then is an even bigger historical turning point than some of us might have previously imagined—where the future will be shaped by the left’s absence from the future. Even if one is less pessimistic, the left could amount to little more than a residue, a legacy, that occasionally appears in the form of various surface appearances or a series of phrases and motifs, rather than a substantial social force.

Without a left, current left-right distinctions (which are already blurred and evaporating, on all sides) will become increasingly meaningless, especially as the right begins to take over key issues and concerns that were once the domain of the left. Taken a few steps further, in the US case what could happen is a new reversal: the Democrats will be more clearly positioned as the Party of Big Business, while the Republicans will become the Party of Workers, but in no absolute fashion as both parties are essentially multi-class alliances. Whatever left there may be, whatever left may mean, it will have to rework its alignments accordingly and write new core texts for itself.

The most important thing we should do now, in broad political terms, is to subject immigration to democratic decision-making. It needs to be debated thoroughly, and there should be broad public consultation. Simply shaming people into silence, with the aid of facile and sometimes hypocritical charges of “racism,” will not do as a substitute for democracy. The public needs to know how immigration can impact wages, prices, employment opportunities, social services, and union organizing—given that the subject is so deeply tied to economic, welfare, and trade policy. At present in the US I suspect that, for too many on the left, the US should be held more answerable to non-US citizens for its immigration policy than to US citizens, and this is a harmful and irrational approach. In addition, too often immigration policy-making has been sequestered behind the closed doors of committees that are laced with influence from private interests, producing twisted and shady immigration programs, and deflecting debate until momentous turning points—by which time the political field has become so polarized, that debate proceeds only in the most absolute terms. Finally, in terms of US foreign policy, what needs to be reversed is the decades-long practice of promoting the US internationally as a beacon, a model, the highest point of human achievement in wealth and development, that makes it the automatic choice of destination for so many, who choose it with little question and without knowing better.

Notes

  1. I confess that sometimes I find Harvey’s explanations and definitions to be murky—for example, at one point he defines capital in a manner that seems to include everything economic: capital is money, land, resources, factories, and labourers labouring (p. 73). If labour is capital, then how can there be a contradiction between capital and labour? At other moments, his distinction between capital and capitalism becomes cloudy, such that we may not know if he means a contradiction of capital, or a contradiction in capitalism—and the title of his book (“the end of capitalism”) does not help to make the case for the former. He says he is making a clear distinction between capital and capitalism, and where he says he does that he only offers his definition of capitalism (p. 7). So no distinction is actually offered, and nearly 70 pages later capital is defined basically as a thing or maybe as processes for making things—and since things do not make history, and processes are processes of something, it would seem that capitalism is what makes sense of capital. As I confessed, it was quite confusing. However, given the routine anthropomorphosis of capital in Harvey’s work, such that “capital” takes on human qualities of initiative, decision-making, and action, this suggests that he too might not be all that clear on when to write “capital” and when to write “capitalists”.

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December 31, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Earth is ‘Pretty Prepared’ for Upcoming Mini Ice Age – Researcher

Sputnik – December 29, 2017

Fluctuations in solar activity could mean a mini ice age on Earth in the 2030s, according to a mathematical model of the sun’s magnetic field produced by scientists in the UK and Russia. Professor Valentina Zharkova of Northumbria University, who led the research, told Radio Sputnik that the Sun regularly goes through a “hibernation stage.”

Sputnik: Are there any historical records of similar ice ages and what impact did they have on the environment and people?

Professor Valentina Zharkova: Yes, of course there are. The closest was the Maunder Minimum the 17th century, which lasted from 1655 to 1715, about 70 years, and we will have a slightly shorter ice age than there was 300-370 years ago.

Prior to that was the Wolf Minimum, which was something similar, during Roman times. They keep repeating every 350-400 years because the Sun goes through this [period of] minimum activity.

Sputnik: You’ve previously said that the magnetic waves from the Sun could become more active again in the 2050’s and that we have to be ready for the next big solar activity. What measures can be taken to prepare our planet for this?

Professor Valentina Zharkova: The planet is pretty prepared, it’s obviously been doing this for billions of years and survived. It has natural mechanisms which respond to solar activity in different ways. The problem will be for us to pass through the minimum of current magnetic field activity, which will come in the next 30 years, because I can only guess that the vegetation period will start reducing.

If you have less [solar] emissions, less radiation and a dropping temperature it means that vegetables won’t be able to grow properly, wheat can’t grow properly, so we might have a problem with some sorts of food which we will probably need to think through.When the Sun comes back, it will be like the previous 100-200 years, there will be some fluctuating activity but mostly a standard which people at the moment are very used to and have very nice models describing it.

Sputnik: Have you had any communication or reaction from other researchers regarding your study?

Professor Valentina Zharkova: I have strong support from a few hundred [researchers], maybe more. They invite me to international conferences for talks. I also have some people who criticize [my work] very strongly, these are mostly people who rely on the single [solar] dynamo model.

We just invited a Russian dynamo expert Elena Popova to help us to understand what we found, and this is how we got involved with the model. In our case, we assume there are two layers where the dynamo layers are generated and this is how our observations can be explained.

Those people who have worked all their lives producing rays from a single layer, they strongly resist [a different theory] for the reason that they invested so much time and effort in papers and other work. To some extent, it takes a while to accept new ideas but things are moving on because seismic observations show that the Sun has two cells with different regional circulations in the solar interior.

So, this idea of two dynamos is not alien, the Sun is trying to tell us, “Guys, look at me more carefully! And if they look more carefully they will discover that indeed it has these two cells which have been discovered.

We found two waves from magnetic field observations, not from theory. We got two of them [waves] with similar values. So, the Sun is telling us, “look, we have two waves, not one!” This is how we came up with the two dynamo waves, because the Sun has shown us this during observations.

December 30, 2017 Posted by | Environmentalism, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

Who Is In The Right In The Canada-Venezuela Diplomatic Dispute?

By Yves Engler | Venezuelanalysis | December 29, 2017

Lying is so common in diplomacy that it can be hard to tell heads from tails in international disputes. In the recent tussle between Caracas and Ottawa, for instance, Venezuela says it is trying to protect itself from foreign “interference” while Canada claims it is promoting “democracy and human rights”. Given the ever-present possibility of a complete disregard for truth on both sides, which government might be more credible in this instance?

Let us consider the background.

Last week Venezuela declared Canada’s chargé d’affaires in Caracas persona non grata. In making the announcement the president of the National Constituent Assembly Delcy Rodriguez denounced Craib Kowalik’s “permanent and insistent, rude and vulgar interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela.”

Is Rodriguez’s explanation for expelling Kowalik convincing?

In recent months foreign minister Chrystia Freeland has repeatedly criticized Venezuela’s elected government and reiterated that Canada is part of the so-called Lima Group of foreign ministers opposed to President Nicolás Maduro.

Following Washington’s lead, Ottawa has also imposed sanctions on Venezuelan officials and supported opposition groups.

In one project, the Canadian embassy distributed $125,212 through the Canadian Funding to Local Initiatives program, which “provided flexible, modest support for projects with high visibility and impact on human rights and the rule of law, including: enabling Venezuelan citizens to anonymously register and denounce corruption abuses by government officials and police through a mobile phone application in 2014-15.”

In August outgoing Canadian ambassador Ben Rowswell, a specialist in social media and political transition, told the Ottawa Citizen: “We established quite a significant internet presence inside Venezuela, so that we could then engage tens of thousands of Venezuelan citizens in a conversation on human rights. We became one of the most vocal embassies in speaking out on human rights issues and encouraging Venezuelans to speak out.”

(Can you imagine the hue and cry if a Venezuelan ambassador said something similar about Canada?)

Rowswell added that Canada would continue to support the domestic opposition after his departure from Caracas since “Freeland has Venezuela way at the top of her priority list.”

So, obviously it’s hard to argue with Rodriguez’ claim that Canada has been “interfering in the internal affairs of Venezuela.”

But, what to make of Freeland’s statement when Ottawa declared Venezuela’s top diplomat persona non grata in response, stating that “Canadians will not stand by as the government of Venezuela robs its people of their fundamental democratic and human rights”?

A series of decisions Freeland’s government has pursued over the past two weeks make it hard to take seriously Canada’s commitment to democracy and human rights:

  • Canada signed a defence cooperation arrangement with the United Arab Emirates. According to Radio Canada International, the accord with the monarchy “will make it easier for the Canadian defence industry to access one of the world’s most lucrative arms markets and bolster military ties between the two countries.”
  • Canada sided with the US, Israel and some tiny Pacific island states in opposing a UN resolution supporting Palestinian statehood backed by 176 nations.
  • Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen promoted Canadian energy and mining interests during a meeting with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is seeking international legitimacy after winning a controversial election (re-run) boycotted by the opposition.
  • The Liberals added Ukraine to Canada’s Automatic Firearms Country Control List, which allows Canadian companies to export weapons to that country with little restriction. President Petro Poroshenko, who has a 2% popular approval rating, needs to make gains in the Ukraine’s civil war to shore up his legitimacy.

Just before expelling Venezuela’s chargé d’affaires Ottawa officially endorsed an electoral farce in Honduras. Following Washington, Global Affairs tweeted that Canada “acknowledges confirmation of Juan Orlando Hernandez as President of #Honduras.” But, Hernandez defied the country’s constitution in seeking a second term and since the election fraud on November 26 his forces have killed more than 30 pro-democracy demonstrators.

Author of Ottawa and Empire: Canada and the Military Coup in Honduras, Tyler Shipley responded: “Wow, Canada sinks to new lows with this. The entire world knows that the Honduran dictatorship has stolen an election, even the Organization of American States (an organization which skews right) has demanded that new elections be held because of the level of sketchiness here. And — as it has for over eight years — Canada is at the forefront of protecting and legitimizing this regime built on fraud and violence. Even after all my years of research on this, I’m stunned that Freeland would go this far; I expected Canada to stay quiet until Juan Orlando Hernandez had fully consolidated his power. Instead Canada is doing the heavy lifting of that consolidation.”

During the past two weeks Canadian decision makers have repeatedly undermined or ignored democracy and human rights.

While Caracas’ rationale for expelling Canadian diplomats appears credible, the same cannot be said for Ottawa’s move. In the tit-for-tat between Canada and Venezuela Canadians would do better to trust Caracas.

December 30, 2017 Posted by | Deception | , , , | 1 Comment

Iraq-Raping Neocons Are Suddenly Posing As Woke Progressives To Gain Support

By Caitlin Johnstone | Medium | December 28, 2017

The invasion of Iraq was unforgivable. It remains unforgivable. It will always be unforgivable. Its architects should be tried in The Hague and imprisoned, and nobody who helped inflict that unfathomable evil upon our world should ever be employed anywhere they could do any more damage or mislead anyone else. All behaviors of the mainstream media, US intelligence agencies and US defense agencies should be viewed through the lens of those unforgivable lies and murders forevermore, and nobody should ever take them at their word about anything ever again.

Instead what has actually happened is that nothing whatsoever has changed since the invasion, Americans still take it on faith that Vladimir Putin, Bashar al-Assad and Kim Jong Un are world-threatening enemies in sore need of ousting, and bloodthirsty psychopaths like Max Boot who have been consistently wrong about everything are still hailed as experts worth listening to.

Oh yeah, and now they’re being adored as progressive heroes.

Boot, who is a PNAC signatory and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, published an article yesterday in Foreign Affairs which perfectly matches the newfound love of progressivism in his neocon soulmate Bill Kristol. The article, titled “2017 Was the Year I Learned About My White Privilege”, details in halting, equivocation-laden prose the months-long journey into awakening that this lying warmonger claims to have experienced during the Trump administration.

This spectacularly evil man, who wrote an essay titled “The Case for American Empire” just weeks after 9/11 in which he called in plain English for America to “unambiguously to embrace its imperial role,” is now seeing his latest essay shared eagerly by Democrats everywhere enthusiastically exclaiming “Look! See? This conservative gets it!”

I’m seeing some progressives arguing that Boot’s sudden public recognition of his white male privilege is intrinsically worthy of praise and acceptance, and that the proper response is to applaud him for it, not spit in his face. These people are wrong. Max Boot did not have some personal epiphany about race and gender dynamics which he felt like sharing in Foreign Policy magazine (the obvious place everyone goes for publication of their enlightening insights into privilege and inequality); Max Boot is courting Democrats because his war-hungry ideology is being increasingly rejected by Republicans.

If you want to see why neocons are courting Democrats with increasing desperation, check out the response to Boot’s latest essay by Fox’s Tucker Carlson, who has come to align with the popular anti-interventionist sentiments of Trump’s base, or Carlson’s debate with Boot on his show back in July:

Meanwhile what have Democrats been doing? Supporting escalations with Russia based on accusations with no evidence that are reported as fact by the mainstream media in the exact sort of manic, violent, fact-free climate we saw in the lead up to the Iraq invasion (an invasion that Max Boot says nobody needs to repent for). Resistance hero Keith Olbermann says he owes George W Bush and John McCain an apology for the times he disagreed with them, and MSNBC’s Joy Reid openly admitted that she prefers people like Boot as allies instead of actual leftists and progressives:

One of the most amazing outcomes of the Trump administration is the number of neo-conservatives that are now my friends and I am aligned with. I found myself agreeing on a panel with Bill Kristol. I agree more with Jennifer Rubin, David Frum, and Max Boot than I do with some people on the far left. I am shocked at the way that Donald Trump has brought people together. [Laughs.]
~ Joy Reid

Reid’s comments are typical of the way the cult of anti-Trumpism has mainstream Democrats swooning over Bush-era neocons like they’re the Kennedys reincarnated instead of a bunch of child-butchering war profiteers. Just check out the top comments under this “Gosh I’m so woke all of a sudden!” tweet by neocon psychopath Bill Kristol.

In reality, nothing Trump has done in his administration so far is anywhere remotely close to as evil as the invasion of Iraq. The fact that hatred of the sitting president has Democrats so desperate they’re not only forgiving the crimes of vestigial Bush neocons but also helping them in their agenda to sabotage any movements toward detente with Russia shows just how brutally efficient the psychological manipulations of the establishment propaganda machine have become.

It was just in 2012 that these same Democrats were laughing along with their president at the Russia fearmongering of Mitt Romney.

Neoconservatism first rose to prominence in the 1970s, and right off the bat one of its key principles was an opposition to detente with the USSR. This never changed. Not when neocons moved from the Democratic party to the Republican party, not when the Soviet Union fell, and not when neocons began migrating back from the Republican party to their old home in the Democratic party. Neocons have always been fixated on the world-threatening agenda of aggressively crushing Russia, and today the Democrats have picked up that flag and run with it right alongside them.

Which is why now we have depraved psychopaths like Max Boot and Bill Kristol acting out the bizarre performance of suddenly woke progressives. Their new Democratic buddies have already helped them resurrect the cold war on the same amount of evidence as was needed to manufacture support for the Iraq invasion, and with a little tweaking they hope to eventually convince them to help satiate their bloodlust in Iran and Syria as well.

The neocons don’t oppose Trump because he is evil, they oppose Trump because he isn’t evil enough. The slight bit of inertia he’s been placing on their death cult has been enough for them to pivot full-scale toward the Democratic party, which they hope to rebuild and lead into power with full sympathy for all the wars on their infernal wish list.

The extremely influential neocon think tank Project for a New American Century’s most well-known publication, “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategies, Forces, and Resources For a New Century”, argued extensively in the year 2000 that America’s victory in the Cold War against the USSR means the US must step into a planetary leadership role and maintain that leadership role by any means necessary, including military force.

“As the 20th century draws to a close,” PNAC’s 1997 Statement of Principles reads, “the United States stands as the world’s preeminent power. Having led the West to victory in the Cold War, America faces an opportunity and a challenge: Does the United States have the vision to build upon the achievements of past decades? Does the United States have the resolve to shape a new century favorable to American principles and interests?”

The answer to this question came after 9/11: yes, yes it does. The New American Century has seen an immense increase in military interventionism across the globe to ensure the hegemony of the US dollar and prevent Russia and China from climbing the global power ladder unchecked.

That’s all we’re seeing here in Woke Max Boot and Woke Bill Kristol. Neoconservatism has always been an ideology/military-industrial complex war profiteering scheme which advocates bullying and sabotaging all governments that could pose a threat to the planetary dominance of the US power establishment, and lately rank-and-file Republicans have been proving less useful in facilitating that agenda than rank-and-file Democrats. So they’re saying and doing whatever they need to in order to win the approval of the Dems.

And by golly, it sure looks like it’s working.

It’s not okay to be a neoconservative. In a healthy world, being a neocon would carry as much social weight as being a child molester or a serial killer. These people should not be embraced, they should be recoiled from. Always.

Until Democrats turn away from neoconservatism, the fact that they don’t should be pointed to at every opportunity. The correct response when any Democrat tries to tell you about Russia or Syria is “Get out of here with that Saddam-has-WMDs filth, neocon.”

That omnicidal death cult deserves nothing but our most sincere revulsion.

__________

December 30, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment