Saturday, September 21, 2013

Reporter Pressured to Recant Saudi Supply of Chemical Weapons to Syria Opposition

Official Statement On Dale Gavlak’s Involvement In Syria Exclusive 

by Mnar Muhawesh, executive director and editor at large for MintPress News

Mint Press News Desk | September 21, 2013

Statement: Thank you for reaching out to me in regards to statements made by Dale Gavlak alleging MintPress for incorrectly attributing our exclusive report titled: “Syrians in Goutha claim Saudi-supplied rebels behind chemical attacks.”Gavlak pitched this story to MintPress on August 28th and informed her editors and myself that her colleague Yahya Ababneh was on the ground in Syria. She said Ababneh conducted interviews with rebels, their family members, Ghouta residents and doctors that informed him through various interviews that the Saudis had supplied the rebels with chemical weapons and that rebel fighters handled the weapons improperly setting off the explosions.

When Yahya had returned and shared the information with her, she stated that she confirmed with several colleagues and Jordanian government officials that the Saudis have been supplying rebels with chemical weapons, but as her email states, she says they refused to go on the record.

Gavlak wrote the article in it’s entirety as well as conducted the research. She filed her article on August 29th and was published on the same day.

Dale is under mounting pressure for writing this article by third parties. She notified MintPress editors and myself on August 30th and 31st via email and phone call, that third parties were placing immense amounts of pressure on her over the article and were threatening to end her career over it. She went on to tell us that she believes this third party was under pressure from the head of the Saudi Intelligence Prince Bandar himself, who is alleged in the article of supplying the rebels with chemical weapons.

On August 30th, Dale asked MintPress to remove her name completely from the byline because she stated that her career and reputation was at risk. She continued to say that these third parties were demanding her to disassociate herself from the article or these parties would end her career.

On August 31st, I notified Dale through email that I would add a clarification that she was the writer and researcher for the article and that Yahya was the reporter on the ground, but did let Gavlak know that we would not remove her name as this would violate the ethics of journalism.

We are aware of the tremendous pressure that Dale and some of our other journalists are facing as a result of this story, and we are under the same pressure as a result to discredit the story. We are unwilling to succumb to those pressures for MintPress holds itself to the highest journalistic ethics and reporting standards.

Yahya has recently notified me that the Saudi embassy contacted him and threatened to end his career if he did a follow up story on who carried out the most recent chemical weapons attack and demanded that he stop doing media interviews in regards to the subject.

We hold Dale Gavlak in the highest esteem and sympathize with her for the pressure she is receiving, but removing her name from the story would not be honest journalism and therefore, as stated before, we are not willing to remove her name from the article.

We are prepared and may release all emails and communications made between MintPress and Dale Gavlak, and even Yahya to provide further evidence of what was provided to you in this statement.

The Perils of Peace: Not Taking Yes for an Answer on Syria and Iran

US Struggle With Iran's Peace Offensive

by Eric Margolis

Iran’s newly elected president, Hassan Rouhani, has lost no time in trying to end the 34-year old political and economic siege imposed on his nation by the United States and its allies.

President Barack Obama, having just been wrong-footed over Syria, now faces a surprise Iranian diplomatic and public relations offensive that will be hard to resist. America’s war party is furious: its dreams of seeing US power crush Syria, then Iran are in jeopardy.

Ever since a popular revolution ousted the US-installed regime of Shah Pahlavi in 1979, Washington has sought to overthrow Iran’s Islamic republic.

Iran has been isolated, put under intense economic and diplomatic siege, become the target of subversion and the US-backed invasion by Iraq in 1980 that killed up to 500,000 Iranians.

The US challenge to Iran is always depicted for public consumption as an effort to stop Tehran getting nuclear weapons. Iran is routinely accused of supporting “terrorism” and subversion.

In reality, US hostility towards Iran is mostly about old-fashioned power politics. In 2003, US Secretary of State Colin Powell let the cat out of the bag by admitting that Iran’s acquisition of a few nuclear weapons would “limit” US ability to use force in the region.

Control of the Mideast is one of the pillars of US world power. The US has dominated the Mideast since 1945, as I detail in my book “American Raj – How America Rules the Mideast.” Islamic Iran emerged after 1979 as the most potent challenge to US regional domination and control of its energy.

Iran and US ally Saudi Arabia have waged a bitter proxy war in Afghanistan, Central Asia, and East Africa by arming and funding extremist groups. Syria is the latest example.

Washington and Israel have used the nuclear arms issue to isolate Iran and make it an outcast state, much as was done with Cuba in the 20th Century.

It’s easy to forget that nearly all of Iran’s nuclear energy industry is under very tight UN supervision, not to mention incessant monitoring by western intelligence agencies and Israel. By contrast, Israel refuses UN inspection and maintains a sizeable nuclear and chemical arsenal.

It’s also easy to forget that the original signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty – the US, Russia, Britain, France (and later China) – have all violated the pact’s pledge to swiftly reduce, then eliminate their nuclear arsenals.

Iran is now making a major push to convince the world it has no nuclear weapons ambitions, starting with its spiritual leader, Ayatollah Khomenei who has issued a fatwa condemning all nuclear weapons.

So far, the US, strongly pressed by Israel, is responding cautiously but positively.

Israel has made it clear it wants the US to attack Iran and crush its nuclear and non-nuclear military capabilities. Equally important, says Israel, is the need to liquidate Iran’s scientific nuclear cadre of scientists.

My sources in Iraq report that since the US invasion in 2003, over 200 Iraqi nuclear scientists and technicians have been mysteriously assassinated. A number of Iranian nuclear personnel have also been assassinated by bombs, widely believed to be the work of Israel’s Mossad spy agency.

The logical course for the United States to follow is to welcome Iran’s overtures and restore normal relations between the two powers. An Iran aligned to the outside world is less likely to be troublesome than the angry, frightened, besieged Iran of today.

Furthermore, Washington has at some point got to accept that Iran is an influential regional power with its own legitimate interests. If Iran truly has no nuclear weapons ambitions, then the only reason for Tehran to suffer punishing sanctions is national pride. Iran needs economic growth, not pride.

If Washington really wants stability rather than just obedience, then it should welcome Iran’s overtures.

As for the near-war state between Iran and Israel, the crux of this confrontation is the lack of a Palestinian state. If Israel ever agrees to such a viable state, hostility with Tehran will sharply lessen. Recall that amidst mutual threats in the 1980’s, Israel quietly sold Iran $5 billion of US arms.

Eric S. Margolis is an award-winning, internationally syndicated columnist. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune the Los Angeles Times, Times of London, the Gulf Times, the Khaleej Times, Nation – Pakistan, Hurriyet, – Turkey, Sun Times Malaysia and other news sites in Asia.

Copyright 2013 Eric S. Margolis

Bernanke's Mirage: Quantitative Feeding for the Parasites

QE Is A Farce: Bernanke's Head Fake Sends Stocks Soaring

by Mike Whitney

Fed chairman Ben Bernanke shocked the world on Wednesday when he announced there would be no change in the Fed’s $85 billion-per-month asset purchase program dubbed QE. The announcement sparked a buying frenzy on Wall Street where all three major indices shot to record highs. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) climbed 146 points to 15,676 while the S & P 500 logged another 38 points to 1,725 on the day. Bonds and gold also rallied big on the news with the yield on the benchmark 10-year US Treasury dipping sharply to 2.69 percent (from 2.85 percent the day before) while gold rose more than 4.1 percent to $1,364. The US dollar was hammered savagely on the news, dropping to a seven-month low against a basket of major currencies. According to Reuters, the buck “saw its biggest one-day slide in more than two months” and “has fallen to levels not seen since well before Fed Chief Ben Bernanke first floated the idea of reducing the stimulus in May.”

Bernanke attempted to justify his reversal (some are calling it a “head fake”) on continuing weakness in the economy, particularly high unemployment and tightening in the financial markets. He also implied he was worried about the possibility of a government shutdown and the impact that would have on the anemic recovery.

While Bernanke presented a rational defense for his pet program, he was not convincing. The truth is, the Princeton professor is out on a limb and doesn’t know how to get down. That’s why he didn’t trim his bond buying by even a measly $5 billion per month, because he’s afraid the announcement would trigger a selloff that would unravel his $2.8 trillion reflation effort. So he decided to stand pat and do nothing.

But standing pat is not a long-term option, eventually the Fed will have to end the program and wind down its balance sheet. Investors know this, which is why Thursday’s giddiness quickly morphed into somber reflection and head scratching on Friday. Everyone wants to know “what’s next”, especially since QE’s impact is diminishing, financial markets are getting frothy, and improvements in the economy are marginal at best. Can the Fed really inflate its balance sheet by another 1 or $2 trillion hoping that the economy picks up in the meantime, or will Bernanke simply call it quits and let the chips fall where they may? Who really knows? This is the problem with unconventional policies; it’s impossible to predict the downside risks because they’re, well, unconventional, and haven’t been thoroughly tested before.

In the case of QE, we can see now that Bernanke forged ahead without developing a coherent exit strategy. That’s a big no-no; you never want to paint yourself into a corner especially when trillions of dollars and the stability of the financial system are at stake. But that’s where Bernanke finds himself today four years after embarking on a policy path that has boosted corporate profits to all-time highs, widened income inequality to levels not seen since the Gilded Age, and pushed Dow Jones Industrial Average up by 146% since its March 2009 low.

And that’s what made QE such an irresistible policy, because the upside rewards were so great. QE created a vehicle for transferring incalculable wealth to the investor class while concealing its real purpose behind public relations blather about lowering unemployment and strengthening the recovery.

As we have pointed out before in this column, QE has no effect on unemployment. The swapping of Treasuries for bank reserves does not create a transmission mechanism for increasing demand that leads to additional hiring. As Lee Adler of the Wall Street Examiner says:

“Job growth has not accelerated as a response to the flood of money printing…The growth rates were actually stronger before the Fed started pumping money into the economy in November when it settled its first MBS purchases in QE3…Money printing works to inflate asset prices, but it does nothing to stimulate job growth…

House prices and stock prices have inflated, thanks to too many dollars chasing too few assets. But job growth has been slow–steady, but slow, growing at slightly above the rate of population growth…..” (“Here’s How BLS Data Proves QE Has Had Zero Effect As Jobs Growth Plods Along”, Wall Street Examiner)

QE does not lower long-term interest rates either, in fact, long-term rates have edged higher during QE1, QE2 and now QE3. (Presently, rates are a full percentage point above what they were when the program was first announced on 13 September 2012) Similarly, rates should fall again when Bernanke finally settles on an exit strategy and stock holders pile back into Treasuries acknowledging the feeble state of the economy. Long-term yields will fall because the demand for funds remains weak. When the demand for money is weak, the price of money decreases which means that rates fall. It’s another sign that we are in a Depression. Now check this out from Reuters:

“Since the bottom of the recession just over four years ago, commercial bank loans and leases have grown 4.0 percent, one of the weakest post-recession recoveries in terms of borrowing since the 1960s, according to Paul Kasriel, the former chief economist of Northern Trust Company. For comparison, over the same period after the July 1990-March 1991 recession, loans and leases grew over four times faster…..” (“Time to taper? Not if you look at bank loans”, Reuters)

Once again, credit expansion is weak, because the economy is still on the ropes.

Consumers and households aren’t borrowing because they are still deleveraging from the big bust of ’08 that wiped out their home equity and a good part of their retirement savings. They’re not borrowing because their wages have stagnated and their income is falling. Also, they’re not borrowing because they’ve lost confidence in the institutions which they used to think were governed by regulations and the rule of law. They know now that that’s not how things work, so they have become more cautious in their spending.

QE doesn’t even increase inflation which is why the Fed is still unable to hit its target rate of 2 percent. The fact that inflation has stayed so low (The Consumer Price Index was up just 0.1% in August) while stock prices have more than doubled at the same time, proves that Bernanke’s nearly $3 trillion in liquidity has not “trickled down” to the real economy at all. The injections have merely boosted profits on inflated asset prices for financial parasites and speculators.

Even hedge fund managers like Duquesne Capital’s Stanley Druckenmiller are now willing to admit that QE is a farce. Here’s what Druckenmiller said in an interview with CNBC following Bernanke’s announcement on Wednesday:

“This is fantastic for every rich person. This is the biggest redistribution of wealth from the middle class and the poor to the rich ever.”

Indeed, while the dwindling middle class faces deeper budget cuts and tattered safety net programs, the rich have never had it so good. And much of the credit goes to Ben Bernanke and his bond buying program, QE.

As economist Anthony Randazzo of the Reason Foundation wrote last year QE “is fundamentally a regressive redistribution program that has been boosting wealth for those already engaged in the financial sector or those who already own homes, but passing little along to the rest of the economy. It is a primary driver of income inequality.” (“Druckenmiller: Fed robbing poor to pay rich”, CNBC)

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached at

Harper's War in the Pipeline: Awaiting Declaration of 'National Interest' for Enbridge and Kinder Morgan

Harper's War in the Pipeline: Awaiting Declaration of 'National Interest' for Enbridge and Kinder Morgan

by C. L. Cook -

It's coming to the sharp end of the stick now for the energy role Canada is expected to play "going forward" as they say. British Columbia is to be the first battlefield in a war against those who would preserve the nation's wild places from coast to coast to coast, protecting the unique natural heritage that makes this place the envy of the world.

First Nations, and their allies, declared "enemies of the state" by the Canadian prime minister's energy man, minister of natural resources, Joe Oliver are targets of what will be a desperate and ugly disintegration of both the nation's Charter of Rights and Freedoms and its environmental viability to sustain nature as known here, and taken for granted. But, they're not the first in the Harper cross-hairs.

Aided and abetted by a deep-pocketed corporate propaganda campaign, the New Canadian Government has launched an all out media blitz on Canadians. It's an effort to convince the population, inculcated with a reverence for the natural wonders of Canada since childhood, it is now in our collective best interest to transform the True North Strong and Free into an environmental sacrifice zone for the benefit of trans-national energy operators bent on feeding the industrial maw of emerging Asia.

The television campaign's effectiveness, in concert with a controversy-tainted travelling Joint Review Panel (JRP) meant to assuage vexed locals in the paths of impending bitumen-laden pipelines, has so far proven insufficient to sway overwhelming opposition to the schemes; especially amongst First Nations in British Columbia.

First Nations' distrust of the Queen's representatives is well-founded. In British Columbia, where most lands taken by the expansive ambitions of Her Majesties' men were never ceded, and where few treaties have been ratified even today, few benefits of the capitalist system have trickled down to them. Poverty and a lack of opportunity are hallmarks on the majority of the province's reserves, (an apartheid-like system set up in and evolving little since the 19th century). The economic desperation of these reserves has too been exploited to split communities in the age-old colonial fashion, using the few who can benefit from collaboration to provide some semblance of legitimacy for the dispossession of the larger community. This odious, all-to-familiar formula is in full bloom now, creating what many in B.C. are calling a second-coming of colonialism.   

In mid-September, minister Oliver made a surprise call to B.C. First Nations leader, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, head of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs. According to Linda Solomon, editor-in-chief of the Vancouver Observer, the request for a meeting, coming after months of no word in response to numerous public manifestations opposing plans to run the pipelines through their territories came as more than a surprise. Phillip says of the subsequent meeting with Oliver;
"It was somewhat of a strange exchange, given the fact  Minister Oliver sat there and repeated by rote, speaking points reflective of the government of Canada’s position on the pipeline issue. We took the opportunity to continue to express our ongoing concerns with respect to these pipeline proposals. My point is there wasn’t any engagement, or dialogue in terms of Minister Oliver saying "What will it take? What are your recommendations?" There was nothing of that nature. He just sat there and repeated his talking points."
But, the bizarre pow wow with Oliver was not to be the only meeting. Grand Chief Phillip also reports a "flurry" of meetings being requested by various ministries, giving him the feeling something big is in the wind. Phillip says;
"We’re somewhat mystified, given the fact that we’ve been pretty much ignored for the last couple of years and suddenly in the 11th hour, given the fact that the JRP report is due at the end of December, we are all of the sudden overwhelmed with this flurry of meeting requests from federal government ministries."
"I have a very unsettling feeling that the PM is poised to declare these projects in the national interest, and firstly, he’s gathering information that he hopes to use as to buttress the rationale that will be brought forward when those decisions are made public in terms of green-lighting these projects. Secondly, I believe that concurrently they are ensuring that they have a very robust record of consultations that they would hope to rely on when these matters go to the court, in the event that the Harper government simply ignores the JRP findings and declares these projects in the national interest. That’s my gut feeling. It’s a very  uneasy feeling about this whole affair."
Harper's New Government of Canada has done more though than just marry the nation's interests with trans-national and foreign sovereign energy interests like China's CNOOC, the latter spending billions developing its interests in the Tar Sands, (and beginning to complain, development delays and uncertainty caused by native intransigence are a threat to inter-country relations) it has too gutted, through omnibus Bills C-38 and C-45, environmental protections that would certainly prove a more formidable barrier to the passage of the proposed B.C. pipelines than even the province's daunting topography.

Grand Chief Phillip is now calling for a mass mobilization to stop the government's seeming obsessive determination to ram the pipelines through. Of his meetings with Joe Oliver, Phillip observes;
"[W]hen Oliver began to talk about the Government of Canada's "interest in strengthening environment regulation" I sat there in amazement reflecting on bills C38 and C45, which gutted environmental regulation... it was truly astonishing."
Here history is catching up with the prime minister. Throughout his tenure in Ottawa, Stephen Harper's arrogant, unilateral, top down approach to governance, his dismissal of Canadians' disparate opinions and values, barely concealed contempt of Parliamentary procedure and protocols - the foundations of our democracy, and his steadfast determination to serve the interests of only capital whether from near or afar are conspiring to create a confrontation in British Columbia that may well prove his legacy, more than deal maker to be nation breaker.

Chris Cook serves as managing editor to and hosts the weekly public affairs program, Gorilla Radio.

Israel's Strange Syrian Bedfellows: Better an Ugly Patch?

Israel Sides with Syrian Jihadists

by Robert Parry  - Consortium News

September 18, 2013  - Israel’s pronouncement that it wants Syrian President Bashar al-Assad toppled even if al-Qaeda-aligned rebels replace him puts into sharper focus the intensifying lobbying and P.R. campaigns underway in the United States to get President Obama to engage militarily against Syria and ultimately against Iran.

Until the declaration by Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren on Tuesday, Israel’s precise position on the Syrian civil war was ambiguous, but now it is clear that Israel again is lining up with its new de facto ally, Saudi Arabia, in a regional conflict to undermine Iranian influence.

“The greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc,” Oren told the Jerusalem Post in an interview scheduled for publication on Friday but excerpted by Reuters on Tuesday.

Saudi Arabia, which is spearheading the military and intelligence assistance for the Syrian rebels, is concerned itself about what is called the “Shiite crescent” extending from Iran through Iraq and Syria to the Hezbollah enclaves of Lebanon. The Saudis, who follow an ultraconservative form of Sunni Islam, are now viewed in the region as the geopolitical bulwark against the Iran-led Shiite coalition.

Ambassador Oren, who is considered very close to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is cited in the Reuters article as saying that while Israel favors the more moderate elements among the Syrian rebels, it still wants Assad’s ouster even if it results in radical Sunni Islamists coming to power in Damascus.

“We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran,” Oren said. Reuters added, “Oren, a Netanyahu confidant, did not say in the interview whether or how Israel was promoting Assad’s fall.”

However, Oren’s decision to lift the veil on Israel’s behind-the-scenes role in seeking Assad’s removal is certain to fuel suspicions that some of the recent events in Syria may have been manipulated by the sophisticated intelligence agencies in Riyadh and Tel Aviv. Saudi intelligence is now headed by Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the smooth-talking former ambassador to the United States.

Though Saudi Arabia and Israel have historically been enemies, the two countries – in recent years – have seen their interests align, especially in their hostility toward Iran as well as in their preference for an authoritarian regime in Egypt over the populist Muslim Brotherhood. Now, it appears they also have been on the same page regarding Syria.

In complementary ways, Israel and Saudi Arabia are masters of soft-power geopolitics, both with world-class intelligence services and with the ability to influence the actions of other global players, Israel through its unparalleled propaganda and political skills and Saudi Arabia with its grip on oil supplies and financial markets.

To the degree that the two countries can cooperate, they present a fearsome coalition, rivaling the hard-power nations like the United States and Russia. President Barack Obama would have to worry about the influential Israel Lobby causing him political trouble in Washington while the Saudis could disrupt oil supplies and stock prices.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin could see pro-Israeli propagandists step up the media attacks on him while Saudi intelligence could increase support to Islamist terrorists in Chechnya and elsewhere in the Russian Federation, including against next year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi. [See’s “The Israeli-Saudi Superpower.”]

Masters of the Dark Arts

Israel and Saudi Arabia are masters of the dark arts of intelligence. Israel’s intelligence services are legendary in their cleverness and ruthlessness, while Saudi intelligence has had deep experience in financing major covert operations, including the Afghan war against the Soviet Union in the 1980s, an effort that gave rise to the scion of a Saudi fortune, Osama bin Laden, and al-Qaeda.

The Saudis also have a history of financing violent jihadists whose actions are directed against the United States and the West. According to the 9/11 Commission report, 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 were Saudi nationals and the one part of the report blacked out addressed the issue of Saudi financing for al-Qaeda.

The de facto alliance between Israel and Saudi Arabia also should be factored in when evaluating evidence of the Syrian chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21, just after United Nations inspectors had arrived to examine other CW attacks that the Syrian government was blaming on the rebels.

While the major U.S. newspapers and non-governmental organizations are now nearly unanimous in blaming President Assad’s regime for the attack which killed hundreds of civilians, some of those assumptions – especially regarding rebel military capabilities – may not hold if the rebels had access to materiel from Saudi Arabia or Israel. [See’s “Murky Clues from UN’s Syria Report.”]

Israel is one of a handful of nations that has balked at ratifying the Convention Against Chemical Weapons, a short list of rogue states that Syria has agreed to leave by accepting international prohibitions and destroying its supplies of CW. Israel is widely believed to have a stockpile of high-quality chemical weapons as well as an undeclared nuclear weapons arsenal.

Saudi Arabia, with its near-bottomless pit of money, also could have arranged for the rebels to get Sarin or other chemical weapons along with rockets to deliver them, if that’s what its intelligence agency decided.

Now, with the emerging U.S. consensus that Assad’s forces were to blame for the Aug. 21 attack and Oren’s pronouncement that Israel would rather have al-Qaeda extremists governing in Damascus than the pro-Iranian Assad, the pressure is likely to build on Obama to take ever stronger action against Syria.

The other option that Obama may have is to opt for further collaboration with Putin, seeking progress in negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program (as the new Iranian government signals an eagerness to compromise) and pressing to get the Syrian rebels to join peace talks in Geneva (so that the killing and disorder finally can be stopped).

Assad’s regime has agreed to participate in the talks but the fractious rebels have refused, first demanding more sophisticated U.S. weapons to give them the upper hand and insisting that Assad step down as a precondition to negotiations. [See’s “Who Blocked Syrian Peace Talks?”]

Realizing they now have the backing of Israel as well as Saudi Arabia, the Syrian rebels are likely to resist any U.S. pressure for a cease-fire or peace talks. It’s less clear whether Obama can withstand the political and propaganda pressure that Israel and Saudi Arabia can be expected to direct against him.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

British Columbia, Canada Actions for Our 5 Cuban Heroes

Report from British Columbia, Canada Actions for Our 5 Cuban Heroes

by Free the Cuban 5 Committee-Vancouver

7 Events in 4 Days Marked 15 Years of the Unjust Imprisonment of the 5 Cuban Heroes

September 12, 2013 marked 15 years since the original imprisonment in the United States of the Cuban 5 anti-terrorist Heroes. A lot has changed since 1998 - for the world and for Gerardo, René, Antonio, Fernando and Ramon. Their children are no longer children, 3 US Presidents have come and gone, and the Cuban 5 themselves have begun to show grey hairs. One thing, however, which has never changed, is the love and determination which has radiated from these five men as they continue to fight for justice from behind bars - convinced both of the justness and the success of their struggle.

The international campaign for the Cuban 5 Heroes has itself changed. It has become more diverse, more international, more coordinated, and more effective. The judge acknowledged the decisive role it had played in having the sentences of Ramon, Fernando, and Antonio reduced in 2009. Public outcry was also an important factor in the US government’s decision to allow René González to return to Cuba permanently before the end of his vindictively scheduled parole.

When René arrived back home to Cuba, he made it clear he would not rest until all of his four other brothers returned permanently to Cuba as well, and the campaign demand became, “Free ALL of the Cuban 5 Now!” In early September, René went on Cuban television to announce a, “Yellow Ribbon Campaign” to mark the 15th anniversary of the imprisonment of the Cuban 5.

In British Columbia (BC), Canada, the Free the Cuban 5 Committee – Vancouver responded by organizing and coordinating 7 actions in 4 days across BC for the Cuban 5 Heroes. From September 12th to 15th, a wave of yellow ribbons travelled from the four corners of Vancouver, across ocean waters to Vancouver Island and Bowen Island, and hundreds of kilometres east to the city of Kamloops. This took place as Cubans responded by turning their island bright yellow with thousands of ribbons, and many others took up the campaign with actions on every continent around the world...


~ Vancouver
~ Nanaimo
~ Kamloops
~ Bowen Island
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Free the Cuban 5 Committee-Vancouver
604-518-7361 |
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Informe de la Columbia Británica, Canadá acciones para nuestros 5 Héroes Cubanos:
7 Eventos en 4 días marcados 15 años del injusto encarcelamiento de los 5 Héroes Cubanos
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~ Vancouver
~ Nanaimo
~ Kamloops
~ Bowen Island

El 12 de septiembre de 2013 se cumplieron 15 años del encarcelamiento en los Estados Unidos de los Cinco Héroes antiterroristas. Mucho ha cambiado desde 1998 —para el mundo y para Gerardo, René, Antonio, Fernando y Ramón. Sus hijos ya no son niños, tres presidentes norteamericanos han llegado y se han ido, y los Cinco han comenzado a mostrar canas. Una cosa, sin embargo, que no ha cambiado, es el amor y la determinación que ha emanado de esos cinco hombres mientras continúan luchando por la justicia desde sus cárceles— convencidos ambos de la justeza y el suceso de su lucha. El reclamo mundial fue también un factor importante para que el gobierno de los Estados Unidos tomara la decisión de permitir que René González regresara a Cuba de manera permanente antes del fin de su vengativa libertad supervisada.

Cuando René regresó a casa, dejó claro que no descansaría hasta que sus otros cuatro hermanos regresaran a Cuba de manera permanente, y el reclamo de la campaña se convirtió en “Free ALL of the Cuban 5 Now!” (Liberten a TODOS los Cinco Cubanos Ahora). A principios de septiembre, René compareció en la televisión cubana para anunciar una “Campaña de Cintas Amarillas” para marcar el 15 aniversario del encarcelamiento de los Cinco.

En Columbia Británica (B.C.) el Comité de Vancouver por la Liberación de los Cinco (Free the Cuban 5 Committee – Vancouver) respondió a René y al pueblo cubano organizando y coordinando siete acciones en cuatro días por toda B.C. a favor de los Cinco. Desde el 12 hasta el 15 de septiembre, un ola de cintas amarillas viajó por los cuatro rincones de Vancouver, a través de las aguas del océano hasta la Isla de Vancouver y la Isla Bowen, y cientos de kilómetros hacia el oeste en la ciudad de Kamloops. Esto tuvo lugar mientras los cubanos pintaban a su isla de amarillo brillante con miles de cintas, y muchos otros siguieron la campaña con acciones en cada continente y por todo el mundo...


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Comité de Vancouver por la Liberación de los Cinco (Free the Cuban 5 Committee-Vancouver)
604-518-7361 |
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Traducido por Reynaldo Cruz Diaz

-- | 778-882-5223

Israel's Dog in Syria Fight

Pt 1. Israel's Ambassador Admits Toppling Assad a Longtime Goal


Robert Parry: Israeli Ambassador's omission points to Israel backing Syrian jihadist, making Saudi Arabia and Israel strange bedfellows in the Syrian conflict - September 20, 13.
Robert Parry is an American investigative journalist. He was awarded the George Polk Award for National Reporting in 1984 for his work with the Associated Press. In 1995, he established Consortium News as an online ezine dedicated to investigative journalism. From 2000 to 2004, he worked for the financial wire service Bloomberg. Major subjects of Parry's articles and reports on Consortium News include the presidency of George W. Bush, the career of Army general and Bush Secretary of State Colin Powell (with Norman Solomon), the October Surprise controversy of the 1980 election, the Nicaraguan contra-cocaine investigation, the efforts to impeach President Clinton, right-wing terrorism in Latin America, the political influence of Sun Myung Moon, mainstream American media imbalance, United States Defense Secretary Robert Gates, as well as international stories . Parry has written several books, including Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & "Project Truth." (1999) and Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq (2004). 

Powershift BC and Wildcoast

Powershift BC in Victoria October 4-7 

by Zoe Blunt -

Happy fall! Good news - I'll be presenting at Powershift BC in Victoria October 4-7. 
It's a climate action strategy conference with workshops and panels especially for youth (but everyone is invited.) The keynote speakers are David Suzuki and Maude Barlow. I'm leading the workshop on Non-Violent Direct Action at the University of Victoria.

Registration and details:

Winter is coming to Unis'tot'en Camp, and a crew is working to finish the roofs and walls of the new traditional-style pithouses so visitors are comfortable when the snow comes. 

The blockade camp has been going in a big way for over two years, every day, around the clock. 

Hundreds have contributed their time, labour, and funds to make the camp what it is today - a force to be reckoned with. Please support the fall construction camp. Visit the Caravan to Unis'tot'en Camp page.

Great news: It looks like one of the pipeline projects that was "approved" to go through Wet'suwet'en territory is way behind schedule. There's no official announcement yet, but work was supposed to start in earnest a year ago. Could it be all the publicity and support for the Unis'tot'en blockade in the pipelines right-of-way scared the investors away? Or did we slow them down enough that a competitor beat them to the finish line? Stay tuned!
Here on Vancouver Island, we're putting together a Solidarity Peacekeepers team. We'll give training in non-violence and conflict resolution and keep the peace at local events. Solidarity means we stand up to protect indigenous people, people of colour, environmentalists, feminists, LGBT people, immigrants, workers, low-income people, differently-abled people, and grassroots groups if they are under attack. We're looking for a few good people to start. To volunteer, please message

Corporations have money and the backing of the government, but we have people power, and we're holding our ground. Please share your ideas on leveling the playing field. You can call or text me anytime at 250-813-3569. Thank you for your support!

Zoe Blunt

Want More? Call 250-813-3569

Petitioners: Decision on Texada Island Coal Port Expansion Looming

Regarding the proposed coal port expansion on Texada Island

by Pebble in the Pond Environmental Society

To add your name to her letter (Deadline Sept.25), please email at including your full name and address.
She's also set up an online petition (Deadline Sept 25):

Please pass this message along.

To the Board and Chair of the Powell River Regional District

September 15th, 2013

I apologize for the lengthy report but I have a lot of information that I keep receiving on a daily basis that you may not have had the time to research on your own.

As you know Lafarge Canada has applied for a permit to expand its coal storage capacity on Texada Island. This seems like a simple case of the Regional District Board saying you support it as long as you add a disclaimer to the approval that it will be “subject to rigorous and ongoing environmental monitoring by the province to mitigate potential impacts of coal dust on human health and the marine environment.” But think very carefully before you make this public declaration of support to the world and take into consideration that there is much more to what you are effectively giving your stamp of approval to.

This project expansion is much more than simply increasing the amount of coal to be stored and transported through Texada and it is much more than the promise of a few jobs on Texada. By supporting this application you would be effectively supporting the supply and transport of the dirtiest thermal coal on the planet from Wyoming & Montana in the United States to China and other Asian markets encouraging the continued use of dirty coal energy production and turning the catastrophic air pollution levels in China to un-liveable levels with very little economic benefit to BC but with all the risks & environmental & health impacts attached to it on our end.

This is not Canadian coal that will be shipped with this expansion and it is not metallurgical coal that will be used to produce steel; it is US thermal coal, the dirtiest low-grade coal on the planet that the US no longer wants due to new federal regulatory changes towards a more sustainable future and none of the coastal ports in the US will ship it so they have turned to BC to be the coal transporters.

By supporting this permit application the Powell River Regional District will be going down in history as being the first and possibly only Regional District or Municipality to publicly endorse the expansion of thermal coal exports through the Pacific Northwest effectively making BC the largest exporter of coal in North America. According to an International Greenpeace study published in January 2013 titled “The Point of No Return; The Massive Climate Threats We Must Avoid”- “The US plans to export an additional 190 million tonnes of coal a year, mainly through the Pacific Northwest. This would add 420 million tonnes of CO2 a year to global emissions before 2020.” The report goes on to warn:
“The key to avoiding climate chaos is to act immediately to reduce emissions in this decade. Climate scientists calculate that the carbon that has already accumulated in the atmosphere will likely increase the average temperature by another 0.8ºC. Therefore, the room to maneuver to reduce emissions is getting smaller all the time, given the continued ineffective action of governments.”

And further in the report: 
“Coal burned to produce electricity already pumps more CO2 into the atmosphere than any other source of conventional power. Coal-fired power plants are responsible for three-quarters of “locked in” emissions in the power sector. Coal burning also produces pollutants and toxic emissions that cause hundreds of thousands of deaths a year.”

By endorsing this expansion permit you are giving a clear message to all the residents of not only Powell River and Regional District but also to Sechelt and the Lower Sunshine Coast and everyone between Fraser Surrey Docks and Wyoming and Montana USA including Delta, Surrey and White Rock that you don’t care about the health, safety and environmental implications this expansion will cause to their communities when open rail cars nearly two miles long loaded with thermal coal will pass through their towns on a daily basis past parks, schools and housing developments creating not only increased respiratory conditions like asthma, lung cancer and COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) due to not only coal dust blowing off the open rail cars because the dust-control agents are not very effective but also due to the diesel particulate matter from the massive increase in train traffic that they will have to live with on a daily basis. What are the economic implications of the side effects to these communities that effectively will come out of BC health care budgets?

By endorsing this expansion project you think you are giving the thumbs up to industry and the local economy but I can tell you from a reliable source who works for Lafarge on Texada “there would be no additional jobs created for the coal expansion. Two of the men currently working there would be up in a tower supervising/overseeing the automated coal handling equipment. They'd be taken from their regular jobs at the quarry. At the most, when the coal handling got as huge as expected, there would be at most one, or possibly two, new hires.”

The possibility of blowing coal dust contaminating our pristine air and water is not only a possibility but a likelihood if this project expansion proceeds. What do you imagine the economic implications will be to our area if the salmon die off because coal dust and run-off contaminates the foreshore around Texada and Lasqueti Island killing off the eel grass where the herring spawn? How do you think our Fishing or Tourism sectors will be affected if there are no fish, no shellfish, no marine life left in our waters? Will it be too late to take back your endorsement?

Fraser Surrey Docks has been ordered by Port Metro Vancouver to complete an environmental assessment of the expansion project assessing the health and ecological effects of this project. In addition Fraser Surrey Docks are significantly altering the coal handling in Surrey in response to concerns about the health impacts of open storage and coal dust dispersal.

Why are these same safeguards not being demanded of the project expansion on Texada Island and why are the same safeguards not going to be in place for the areas the open barges loaded with coal will pass through on their 12 hour journey between FSD and Texada Island or as they pass by three Provincial Parks? And is the Regional District Board aware that the environmental assessment being ordered by Port Metro Vancouver of Fraser Surrey Docks does not extend to the Straight of Georgia or Texada or Lasqueti Island?

Why are you not ensuring that any safeguards or requirements are in place? Are you really satisfied with the vague suggestion in your motion of assuming that the Province or some other authority will take care of your requirement “subject to rigorous and ongoing environmental monitoring by the province to mitigate potential impacts of coal dust on human health and the marine environment”?

You do realize that will not happen as we have seen at other coal shipping ports in BC such as Ridley Terminals in Prince Rupert that was recently accused of deliberately dumping coal into the ocean and allowing coal-laden water to cover the shoreline. Is that really as far as you are willing and able to go to protect our air, land and water? Do you really think there will be Provincial inspectors on-site on a consistent basis making sure operations are being strictly and safely carried out and that mishaps are not taking place?

Furthermore have you asked yourself why the coal is coming to BC? Could we possibly consider that our regulations in Canada are of a lower standard and they allow a back door for the US to use us as their exporter? These back-handed federal standards are currently allowing us to continue to ship asbestos for example, which is banned for use in Canada as a building material, and yet we are shipping it to overseas markets in mainly developing countries even though our own regulations ban it and we recognize that it is the number one cause of workplace related death in Canada and approximately 107,000 workers die each year in Canada alone from exposure to asbestos in the workplace.* And yet our federal regulations allow us to continue mining it and selling it to other countries. (*World Health Organization July 2010)

With the increase of tanker traffic to our area is an increased chance of a mishap like a tanker running aground in foul weather or due to mechanical failure causing a spill of diesel or oil in our waters. In a recent Globe and Mail article published Aug 25th “B.C. Environment Ministry bureaucrats voiced a range of misgivings for Environment Minister Mary Polak. “The Ministry of Environment, as the ministry responsible for preparedness, prevention, response and recovery for spills, is not adequately staffed and resourced to meet the existing and emerging expectations to address spills,” they wrote in the briefing book.

“Even a moderately-sized spill would overwhelm the province’s ability to respond and could result in a significant liability for government. The industry requirements, established by Transport Canada, are perceived as being insufficient in both scope and scale. For example, in both Washington State and Alaska industry requirements are far in excess of what is required in B.C.” 

Do we really want to rely on the Province to look after safety and inspection or to put blind faith that an incident is handled efficiently and thoroughly when it does happen?

On July 22 2010 the Powell River Regional District formally adopted a Sustainability Charter for Powell River and Region that sets out parameters and guidelines for local government to utilize in making decisions that will affect the future of the community at large including the global community that is our planet.

As stated in the Charter:
“Practically, the Charter is very important to local government. It formally demonstrates an ongoing commitment to sustainability. The Charter will also set clear criteria that elected officials and staff of local governments can use to assess proposed projects.”

The following are some of the Charter Principles that absolutely direct the Regional District Board to not vote in favour of supporting a project such as coal export expansion.

Charter Principles

Principles are foundational statements that encapsulate the essence of sustainability. We will use them to guide us when deciding on priorities and actions. Higher priority principles are listed first:
1. Recognize and respect Tla’amin Aboriginal rights, title and cultural history, and existing
agreements among governments
2. Recognize ecological limits. We begin with an understanding of the earth’s limited capacity
to support us, so we will design social and economic systems to recognize and respect
indicators of ecological stress.
3. Take the long view. Sustainability is both a journey and a destination. We will address
urgent issues while also setting long-term goals, adjusting our approach along the way.
4. Promote self-reliance. Sustainability recognizes that we are all part of a global community.
In the context of continued trade and links between communities, however, we will embrace
self-reliance as an important facet of long-term community health.
9. Manage uncertainty. Exercise caution: when in doubt about the impacts of a project or
initiative, we will take action to safeguard the environment and society.
10. Consider local and global sustainability. While the sustainability of our local community is
important, we will not forget that our actions and choices have impacts elsewhere, and act

When you further read the goals of the three pillars for the sustainability charter and especially the description of the healthy environment pillar it becomes clear that expanding coal exports in this region is not consistent with the charter in any way.

I would consider very heavily before voting to support this project whether the First Nations have been adequately consulted on this permit application and how they feel about putting their traditional territory at such great a risk when these Panamax single-hulled freighters with questionable safety records will be coming into our fragile waters, dumping their polluted bilge water brought over from China full of parasites, toxins and bacteria and contaminating our marine life here. I want you to weigh the responsibility very dearly on your shoulders and make sure you are prepared to live with the ramifications of this project going very wrong for our area and potentially threatening our salmon stocks and giving residents in our community increased incidents of asthma and lung disease not to mention threatening our tourism industry.

These are a few of the concerns. Considering Lafarge must resubmit their storm water plan, and has yet to submit an application under the Environmental Management Act explaining what waste (coal runoff) and what volume of said waste is involved; how can there possibly be enough necessary information to make an informed vote?

I hope you will seriously consider reversing your stance on this highly impactful project expansion and not endorse it publicly because this project is bad for the planet, bad for BC and potentially worse for Powell River and Region and if you endorse it now you can expect some very negative National media coverage which will not be good for Powell River’s image or future.

Please don’t let us go down in the history books as the community who turned a blind eye to our global ethical responsibilities and gave the green-light to one of the worst environmental energy projects of the century that could be one of the major causes of an irreversible shift in the climate change freefall that we might otherwise possibly avoid if we could just think in a more sustainable frame of mind locally and globally.

CaroleAnn Leishman
founder of Pebble in the Pond Environmental Society, PR
2064 Ramsay Rd
Powell River BC V8A 0K4

Friday, September 20, 2013

Us and Them: From China to Syria the 1%'s Long March

Mob Versus Snob

by Peter Lee - China Matters

Do you remember the end of history?

I do.

You know, when the collapse of Soviet communism signaled the final triumph of American style democratic republican politics and free market economics…the victory that underlies the somewhat more scientific brand of American exceptionalism practiced by President Obama and excuses the often extralegal and violent insertion of the United States in world affairs?

But looking back at how the last twenty years have played out, I have a different theory of history: mob vs. snob.

By my reading, what keeps regimes in power is not the slavishness of their allegiance to democracy and free market tropes.

It’s whether they can command the united support of their elites, largely by ensuring that there are no plausible and ready alternatives for increasing and securing wealth and privilege regardless of whatever violence is done to the slogans of “free markets” and “democracy”.

That’s what happening in China, where the Chinese Communist Party has successfully fostered a “hang together or hang separately” vibe for the political and business elites; it’s what’s happened in Egypt as elites have rallied and united once again behind the army over the cadaver of the MB…and in Syria, where Bashar al Assad’s minority, undemocratic, and none too impressive regime has shown an astounding ability to retain the allegiance of its elites and exhibited a remarkable resilience.

Thanks to serial miscalculations and misunderestimations of the survival skills of Bashar al Assad, the grim history of Western cheerleading for the Syrian revolution is usually ignored. However, the defeat of the genuine Syrian revolution was the inability of the rural rebels to enlist the support of the urban elites or their offspring in 2011. The first fatal moral and tactical failing of the revolution—and its cynical Western and Gulf backers--was to substitute armed insurrection for popular uprising in Damascus and Aleppo as punishment for the cities’ lack of revolutionary fervor, as well as an expression of the hope that a push for regime collapse would…well, usher in something better than the obscene carnival of murder, extremism, misery, and banditry that resulted.

Perhaps Syrian elites are now cleaving even more closely and desperately to the Assad regime than they were back in 2011.

Elite solidarity is not what happened in the Soviet Union, thanks to Gorbachev’s abandonment of the Communist monopoly and the subsequent rush for the national exits by appalled apparatchiks, not into the dustbin of history, but into control of government organs and enterprises throughout the ex-Soviet empire.

And elite solidarity is not the best one-word description of what’s happening in the United States.

I will illustrate my thesis by a romp through early American history.

During the “end of history” period, Alexander Hamilton was often invoked as the architect of the triumph of the Western system. I am something of a pro-Hamiltonian revisionist, since the original critique of Hamilton that prevailed until the end of the 20th century (elite-adoring crypto aristo) was initially put forth by a pair of Virginia slaveowners, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, who adored democracy in the abstract but had definite difficulties practicing it in the concrete.

Hamilton advocated a strong national government and orchestrated its establishment in the United States through his energetic participation in the composition, promotion, and, as first Treasury Secretary and George Washington’s most trusted counselor, implementation of the central-government friendly US constitution . He frequently sparred with Jefferson and Madison, whose advocacy of (to editorialize here) la-di-da pastoralism on a foundation of slavery looks a lot like an effort to protect Virginian parochialism and particularism from the commercial and industrial transformation of the United States—a transformation that Hamilton, with his early and positive exposure to the British example, clearly saw coming, and which he enabled with a powerful central government with strong fiscal, legislative, and enforcement powers.

From the 21st century perspective the key element was Hamilton’s extremely successful attempt to create a robust alliance between the federal government and northern and northeastern business interests. Hamilton was desperately invested in a strong, extensive federal union because the greater the sway of the federal government, the more unique and attractive it looked as a bulwark of power, stability, and property rights, and the better it could secure the loyalty of the elite.

Elite loyalty was, to put it mildly, an issue. Not just because of pervasive Loyalist (to Britain) sentiment in the upper classes in the colonies that carried over into the early days of the Republic. Also because the United States was created on a foundation of elite disloyalty, amplified by seditious incitement of populist forces.

It should be remembered that the American revolution was driven to a significant extent by the alienation of US elites, especially in New England, from Great Britain, and the creation of a potent alliance of “mob” and “snob” fatal to British rule. The Sons of Liberty were despised as rabble by most of the founding fathers, but elite folk like John Adams, John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, et. al. made the historic decision to stand with them, or maybe just exploit them as anti-British shock troops and provocateurs, instead of denouncing them.

The revolutionary elite retained its affection for independence and local impunity after the British were gone, and simply transferred it to the hapless and impotent post-1776 US confederation.

However, after independence—and by the time the constitution was written--US elites lost their love for the masses; Hamilton and his Federalists, in particular, lived in terror of the mob, thanks to the outbreak of Shays’s rebellion, the example of the French revolution and to the endless willingness of poor and disenfranchised folk, especially in the rural western reaches, to create a rumpus.

The normally phlegmatic George Washington was vocally dismayed by the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania, and joined Hamilton in organizing an overwhelming federal force to march into the countryside and overawe the miscreants. A similar exercise in federal shock and awe occurred when Hamilton marched a federal force against another Pennsylvania upset, Fries’ Rebellion, in 1799.

In the midst of the “Quasi War” with France in the late 1790s, Hamilton had lobbied President John Adams frantically (and, for the sake of his relationship with Adams, fatally) for a federal army that Hamilton would lead under the aegis of the largely retired George Washington. This was held against Hamilton, both by Adams and Jefferson, as an open admission of Hamilton’s caesarism, since it was assumed that this army, while defending against the unlikely prospect of an invasion of the United States by Napoleon, could be used to cow the federal government or serve as the vehicle for some extra-curricular nationbuilding by Hamilton, such as the seizure and annexation of western lands—and maybe even South America--from their Spanish masters.

It seems more likely that Hamilton was carried away by the fear of a French-style rural jacquerie and Jacobin-style urban purge, perhaps sparked by some French military adventure and supported by a Jeffersonian fifth column, and wanted a federal army as a shield—and sword--against both. And, admittedly, he wouldn’t have minded leading the army through the Americas after putting paid to the French menace, thereby winning more glory for himself and more territorial swag for the USA.

But Hamilton’s efforts to create a strong federal edifice involved more than giving the central government independent military might to cow local “mobocracy” when the compromised state militias weren’t up to the task. Strengthening the bond between the federal government and US elites—and weaning them from political collusion with the ever-present and easily aggrieved “mob”—was a key feature of Hamilton’s policy.

He famously bound elites to the federal government by promising to fund all federal debts (currently trading at ten or fifteen cents to the dollar) at par, to assume all state debts dating back to the revolution, and coming up with a plausible way of paying them. He also rebuffed criticisms by Jefferson and Madison that this policy was a sell-out of the revolutionary war veterans who had been paid with these bonds but sold them at a deep discount to speculators, and an unfair windfall for Hamilton’s well-heeled and well-informed buddies.

There’s a little more to this than “the rich got richer and the poor got fucked” (though, of course, that’s exactly what happened).

Hamilton was intentionally giving the business elites some (inordinate) skin in the federal game, so that they would cleave to the federal government and not side with the mob—or their states--as they had in revolutionary times against Britain, or during any of the serial crises that would occur as the United States embarked on its bloody and highly successful campaign exploit the resources of the land, the labor and creativity of its people, the capital and energies of the elites, and the enormous potential of national and global markets.

Specifically, Hamilton devoted a great deal of intellect and energy to creating a bond between rich guy and the central government that would address the biggest threat to the federal system: secession.

You know, like the kind of secession the 13 colonies carried out only a decade before against the British government, and was threatened every time some cluster of US states weren’t getting their way. The kind of secession that actually happened in 1861. And the kind of secession that Tea Party enclaves like northern Colorado now invoke as a solution for their Obama-related grievances. And the kind of secession (by the various Soviet SSRs and satellites) that brought the Soviet Union to its knees. And the uprising in eastern Libya (capital: Benghazi) that brought down Qaddafi with a little outside help.

In each instance of secession, the secret sauce of freedom wasn’t democracy and free markets; it was the fact that local elites abandoned their allegiance to the center and sided with the locals instead.

Before the constitution was even ratified, secession was already on the American agenda.

The most famous of the Federalist papers, No. 10, written by Madison, rebutted the idea that democracy only works in small, homogenous states and couldn’t work in an extensive empire that the United States was clearly going to become. Specifically, he argued that the republican form of government would interpose a civic-minded and unfactional elite between gormless voters and the operating levers of the government machinery.

Guess what. Madison was wrong.

Madison was also guilty of ironic foreshadowing, since he and Jefferson connived to create the first rebellious, elite-splitting faction in the US government, during the administration of John Adams.

The United States was bedeviled from its inception by the centripetal tendencies of its states and regions. Stability and a significant measure of unity was only achieved after eighty years of escalating confrontation, through the rather undemocratic means of a massive civil war and a ten year occupation of the south.

And guess what. You can blame Madison for that, too.

To me, the alpha and omega for Jefferson and Madison was southern privilege. They recognized early on that southern privilege was based on a rickety, limited foundation of slavery-based agriculture, which was increasingly at risk in a strong federal system as the nation grew and industrialized and decisively moved away from the southern model. If the constitution didn’t adequately support pretensions to southern political, economic, and social agency for the white crowd, it could go out the window.

Jefferson and Madison pioneered the state nullification doctrine in their Kentucky and Virginia resolutions and initiated seventy years of efforts to maintain southern autonomy which culminated in the Civil War. After Hamilton shattered his Federalist faction with some unwise political maneuvers, Jefferson and Madison ruled the federal roost and the contradictions between the slave-owning priorities of the south and the rest of the union were papered over. Pro-Jeffersonian history usually excuses Jefferson and Madison’s transgressions on the grounds that their nullification and state’s rights doctrines embodied in the Resolutions were a desperate and limited riposte to the flagrantly partisan and unconstitutional Alien and Sedition Acts.

Not so fast. Secession, which I define as elite disloyalty combined with populist politics, a.k.a. the “mob and snob” revolutionary alliance, is as American as apple pie and suited the tastes of Jefferson and Madison.

It wasn’t just the south that toyed with secessionist impulses. Northern secession was advocated by northern business classes frustrated by southern resistance to Federalist fiscal and economic policies and the fear that the “Virginia faction” had permanently captured the Federal government thanks to the inordinate weight of the south at the center thanks to the 3/5 rule (slaves counted at 3/5 for representation purposes) and the ceaseless, united obstructionism of southern delegations anxious to safeguard their dominance (and the future of the slave system) as the nation expanded.

One of the many reasons for Hamilton’s disdain for Aaron Burr that provoked the fatal duel was that Burr was looking to resurrect his political fortunes by conniving to bring his home state of New York into a nascent northern secessionist camp championed by elites in the New England states.

When the Federalist party imploded thanks to Hamilton’s spectacular political misjudgment and Jefferson and his acolytes controlled the Federal government for decades, northeastern interests organized the Hartford Convention during the War of 1812 to advance their pro-British/anti-embargo/pro-manufacturing interests and priorities. Their activities carried the faint but undeniable whiff of secession. The governor of Massachusetts even dispatched an emissary to discuss a separate peace with Great Britain. This treasonous exercise never caught on, as the war ended rather abruptly and favorably for the United States, much to the discomfiture of the northerners and, in any case, the subsequent peace provided the economic benefits that had previously been denied them.

After three decades of southern domination, federal power inexorably shifted to the north and west, and the US government, while sedulous in preserving the financial, legal, and coercive foundations of northern prosperity, proved itself fatally ambivalent about protecting a key southern elite interest and the foundation of the southern agricultural economy—slaves as property. When southern elites felt threatened by the prospect of loss of political primacy at the federal level and the threat of a growing abolitionist consensus in Congress, they were wedged off from the union (much as the business interests in the colonies were wedged off from Britain in the 1770s) and turned their efforts to creating a “mob and snob” integrated power base within their own states.

The result was decades of dismal extortion as the south used the threat of resistance/nullification/secession to extract assurances of continued passivity from the federal government on the slavery issue.

When the civil war came, many of the southern elite quickly abandoned their allegiance to the federal government and jointed the CSA.

I also might point out that the mayor of New York City, with its textile and export economy tied to southern cotton, actually proposed New York secession in 1861. The dreaded “mob and snob” alliance between some disgruntled New York plutocrats, Tammany politicians, Copperheads (anti-war Democrats willing to accept southern slavery) and the municipal lumpen re-emerged, culminating in the gruesome draft riots of 1863.

When the end came, it didn’t come thanks to the invincible ideas of democracy and free markets (with the obvious and execrable exception of slavery, southern economic and political practices did not differ significantly from those of the north); it came because the elites of the north united with the federal government to crush the south with their armies and industrial power.

With the civil war, the southern elites and their determinedly non-industrial, non-financial slave-shackled economy lost the argument to the determinedly industrial and financially sophisticated north. Conquest, the end of slavery, and the increasing industrialization of the United States made secession, southern or otherwise, an unfeasible option.

Despite the awkward fact of southern elite treason, the importance of elite support for the federal government was reaffirmed as, after a brief interlude of carpetbagging, blacks were disenfranchised, and southern elites were welcomed back into local and federal governments and the heart of the southern economy.

This is not the triumph of democratic republicanism and free markets; it was the successful reaffirmation of elite solidarity with the federal government.

With the disappearance of the secessionist option, the impetus toward a “mob and snob” alliance evaporated, and elites and the federal government eagerly joined hands to protect property, privilege, and the well-being of elites, by gun and bayonet if needed.

The robust national alliance of elites and the federal government has survived the multiple crashes and cockups of capitalism—and racist states’ rights rabblerousing--and has endured to this day. It’s not just in the republic of the United States; elites of fascist Germany and imperial Japan have similar if more distasteful epics of survival after national calamities. Russian elites did a pretty good job of coming out on top after the USSR collapsed. I have a feeling that, if the jerks in suits who run China are kicked out in some democratic upheaval, in ten years China will be run by…jerks in suits.

So what we were seeing at the end of the 20th century was not the “end of history”; it was the temporary, local, and situational cessation of elite mischief against central governments.

Things changed, in Russia and the Middle East. Maybe things are about to change, here, in the United States, as well.

The US federal government in all its present day incarnations, be they Democratic or Republican, are desperately committed to keeping the rich folk happy and their property safe. That counts for a lot, even with some pretty major mismanagement of the world portfolio over the last 15 years.

The US still has effective means to secure the support of increasingly globalized elites. First, of course, as in Hamilton’s day, is the role of US government debt as the linchpin of the world economy. The PRC government still puts most of its pin money in US treasury bonds; the world’s businessmen may be smarter in their investments, but they all want their acumen backstopped by the ready availability of a financial instrument of immense liquidity with a fixed rate of return backed by the taxing authority of the US government on the American economy.

So the elite consensus in favor of keeping the US government in business, at least as a bucket shop that underwrites global liquidity by the creation and marketing of hundreds of billions of dollars of securities, remains strong.

Having an immense military establishment in an atmosphere of perpetual threat doesn’t hurt, either. Nor does, for that matter, absolute dominance of the global Internet/surveillance space. These all attract the attention and engagement and, to a significant extent, the loyalty of Western elites.

Trouble is, nation-state advantages are less significant in a multi-polar, coexistence-based international regime. What’s left if we wind down the Global War on Terror, as President Obama suggests? There is a dearth of plausible threats and diminishing decent opportunities for the United States to invoke in return for the active support of an increasingly globalized elite.

In the end, it’s not Iraq, derivatives, China or the BRICS that’s kicking America’s ass; it’s the planet.

This state of affairs is illustrated by “the two Gs”: globalization and global warming.

Obviously, corporations have become multi-national, capital has been largely freed from national constraints, and the loyalty of capitalists—and their enthusiasm for supporting the US government—has become less enthusiastic and more conditional.

Mitt Romney is a clueless ass, but he voiced the sincere feelings of his fellow plutocrats as he expressed their resentment that the US government was trying to harvest the global riches of these almost accidental citizens in order to pursue domestic political and policy goals that seemed to them increasingly remote and incomprehensible.

As a result, the United States is harvesting increasing elite disdain and its sullen handmaiden, perpetual political gridlock.

The Koch brothers may very well fear and detest the rabble. But the US federal government is only one of several resources available to them around the world to protect their personal and financial well-being. They have, obviously, little affection for the federal government. And they have no qualms about bankrolling the Tea Party.

But the ultimate threat to global well-being is climactic, not human—global warming.

Global warming is triggered by the runaway free-market capitalism that the nation-state fosters through its ideology, financial and legal system, and use of violence in order to secure the allegiance of the rich. And it seems there’s nothing that the modern, republican, free-market-oriented, elite nurturing nation state can do about that.

Given the perhaps terminal limitations of the existing structure of nation-states, maybe all we can do is buckle our seatbelts and hope for the best—and cast our envious eyes at the climate-controlled fortresses the rich can construct on their remote mountaintops.

Does that mean that the US system of democratic republicanism and free markets does not offer a solution? Is America, not history, dead, killed by absentee capitalists and an overheating planet?

I am not sanguine concerning any revolutionary alternatives—although “mob” and “snob” did come together for a brief moment in 1776, and a few, less glorious interludes since then.

However, the capitalist system is infinitely creative, and the government is always on the lookout to demonstrate the relevance of its big, fancy financial system and gigantic military capabilities.

A nice, apocalyptic war against China might create enough profitable creative destruction to engage the elites, even those with significant interests inside China. Maybe Susan Rice can gin up a “responsibility to protect” the environment to keep the capitalist ball rolling. Can coal-burning power plants can be a casus belli?

Green war, anybody?

American Grotesque: Obama's Towering Hypocrisy on Cluster Munitions

Obama’s Grotesque Hypocrisy over Cluster Munitions

by Dave Lindorff - CounterPunch

Syrian civilians and children should count themselves lucky that mass opposition in the US, the UK and much of the rest of the world to the idea of a US bombing blitz aimed at punishing the Syrian government for allegedly using Sarin gas in an attack on a Damascus neighborhood forced the US to back off and accept a Russian deal to get rid of Syria’s chemical weapons.

Unexploded BLU-97s "look like cardboard drink containers"

Had the US attacked, primarily with a two- or three-day barrage of Tomahawk missiles, many of those rockets would likely have carried warheads containing BLU-97 cluster munitions, according to the United States Campaign to Ban Cluster Munitions — cluster bombs that would have assuredly killed or maimed many Syrian children.

This news should come as no surprise. The US made heavy use of deadly body-shredding cluster munitions in its invasion of Iraq in 2003 and during the subsequent bloody war and occupation there, as well as in its invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Some 30 tons of cluster bombs were dropped or fired into urban neighborhoods of Iraq during the first few weeks alone of the 2003 US invasion of that country. Another 250,000 antipersonnel bomblets were dropped or fired into Afghani neighborhoods during the 2001-2002 US invasion of that country.

The US Campaign to Ban Cluster Munitions notes that the last documented US use of cluster munitions was in 2009. The organization writes that was:

“…in Yemen, when one or more Tomahawk cruise missiles loaded with BLU-97 bomblets struck the hamlet of al-Majala in the southern Abyan province. The strike killed at least 41 civilians and at least four more civilians were killed and 13 wounded by unexploded bomblets after the attack. Four years later, the site of the attack remains contaminated by cluster munition remnants.”

In fact, cluster weapons, whether bombs dropped from planes, warheads fired by missiles, or shells fired by cannons or tanks, are among the deadliest and most untargetable weapons devised by man, holding the distinction of being particularly lethal to civilians and children. They work by having a larger bomb, warhead or shell deliver a payload of smaller “bomblets” to a target (each Tomahawk cluster warhead contains 166 of the lethal bomblets). These casings burst open, releasing the small devices, either on the ground, or lowered by little parachutes. Many burst on impact, sending small deadly spinning flechettes out in all directions to tear the flesh off of bones, maiming and killing anyone in the vicinity, while others routinely fail to explode, and then lie around, sometimes for years, until someone steps on one, or a child picks it up to see what it is (Unexploded BLU-97s look like cardboard drink containers and are bright orange).”’

I remember a visit to Laos in 1995. It had been over two decades since the US had been relentlessly bombing that small peasant country day and night, primarily with anti-personnel bombs, and the country seemed to have returned to its tranquil past. But walking around the sleepy capital city of Vientiane, I was puzzled at seeing a surprising number of young children of varying ages hobbling around on crutches with one and sometimes parts of two legs missing, or arms missing, often with faces disfigured. I asked a Lao official why there were so many such kids, and he explained they were victims of the “bombis” — small fragmentation bomblets dropped by US forces in the secret war on Laos that had not exploded, and that remained buried in farmers’ fields until found or inadvertently disturbed by peasants or, more often, children working or playing. (The US has refused to help locate and clear these relics of war, claiming, ridiculously, that the Communist Laotian government is still secretly holding captured US soldiers–a position that the then US ambassador shamefacedly admitted to me was nonsense, but that was dictated by right-wingers holding onto the myth of long-suffering MIAs “abandoned” in Southeast Asia.)

When President Obama went on national television on Tuesday, Sept. 10, and passionately evoked images of suffering Syrian children dying on hospital floors from a Sarin attack in Damascus, he might have looked sincere to some, but most of those US viewers probably didn’t realize that as commander in chief, he was asking them to support a bombardment of Syria which would have likely included thousands of similar bomblets that he surely knows would inevitably end up, over time, killing far more children in far more horrible ways than the Sarin attack that was his casus belli.

According to experts, 98% of the victims of cluster bombs are civilians, not soldiers (as horrible as the deaths or maiming of even soldier-targets are from these insidious weapons). And 40% of the victims are children.

Since 2008, there has been a UN Convention against the use of cluster weapons. It has been signed by 112 nations, 83 of which have ratified it. The US is a key holdout, along with China, Israel, Pakistan and Russia. The US in fact, not content to simply not sign the convention, is arguing strenuously against the treaty, claiming that its bomblets, at least by 2018, will boast a 1% failure rate, and thus supposedly would not pose the danger of leaving unexploded, attractive or interesting-looking bomblets scattered around the landscape for months or years, waiting to be picked up by curious children. It’s an absurdly low failure rate the government is claiming, and is also wholly unprovable. (At least the US is consistent; it also refuses to sign a Convention banning landmines, which kill many civilians in the same way as antipersonnel bomblets.) Critics of the cluster munitions, like the US Campaign to Ban Cluster Weapons, say the failure rate of current US weapons like the BLU-97, the most common cluster anti-personnel device used by US forces, is closer to 30%. Besides, as demonstrated by the Yemen Tomahawk attack, a lot of the killing and maiming of civilians and children by cluster weapons happens when the bomblets explode as planned and “on target.”

Talk about brazen hypocrisy! A child killed or injured by Sarin gas is an atrocity, to be sure. But so is a child whose body is turned into chopped meat, or who is painfully rendered limbless by an exploding BLU-97 weapon. Worse yet, the US has had the audacity to accuse the Syrian government of an atrocity for allegedly using cluster weapons, voting earlier this year in the UN to condemn Syria for use of a weapon which the US used liberally in its wars against Iraq and Afghanistan, and in massive amounts in Indochina, and which it stockpiles and continues to design for more lethality and destructiveness for future use by American forces, including in Syria. (The US also sells these horrific weapons of child destruction to its “allies,” including countries ruled by dictators, like Saudi Arabia, which notably is known to be supplying arms to Syrian rebels.)

Of course, Americans themselves can be hypocritical about this stuff. Much horror was expressed after the Boston Marathon bombing over the use of BB pellets in the home-made pressure cooker bombs alleged to have been used, which killed several and lacerated the bodies of others. “How could people be so evil,” many asked. And yet the US provides its military with weapons that are far more efficient at shredding bodies, using taxpayer money, and has done so for decades, with few Americans expressing outrage, even at the carnage the weapons cause among children. Some 270 million cluster bombs were dropped on Indochina between 1964-73, 80 million of which failed to explode and remain to pose a threat to civilians today.

Textron Defense Systems, the maker of the most widely used cluster bomb in the US arsenal, which contains the BLU-97 bomblets, and which is being sold by the US to Saudi Arabia and other “allies,” offers this marketing motto for its deadly product: “Clear victory, Clear battlefield.” Given that most of the “battlefields” these days are urban areas, not classic battle fronts, the “clear battlefield” concept bodes ill for civilians and children.

Obama would be standing on stronger ground in demanding that Syria’s government eliminate its stocks of poison gas, if the US would sign onto the UN’s 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions. His call for Americans to stand against the use of poison gas weapons by the Syrian government would not ring so hollow if he ordered the US military to destroy its massive stockpiles of cluster weapons, and vowed never to use them again.

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

Fukushima 4 Crisis - A Dread Silence Before an Unthinkable Catastrophe

The Crisis at Fukushima 4

by Harvey Wasserman - CounterPunch

We are now within two months of what may be humankind’s most dangerous moment since the Cuban Missile Crisis.

There is no excuse for not acting. All the resources our species can muster must be focussed on the fuel pool at Fukushima Unit 4.

Fukushima’s owner, Tokyo Electric (Tepco), says that within as few as 60 days it may begin trying to remove more than 1300 spent fuel rods from a badly damaged pool perched 100 feet in the air. The pool rests on a badly damaged building that is tilting, sinking and could easily come down in the next earthquake, if not on its own.

Some 400 tons of fuel in that pool could spew out more than 15,000 times as much radiation as was released at Hiroshima.

The one thing certain about this crisis is that Tepco does not have the scientific, engineering or financial resources to handle it. Nor does the Japanese government. The situation demands a coordinated worldwide effort of the best scientists and engineers our species can muster.

Why is this so serious?

We already know that thousands of tons of heavily contaminated water are pouring through the Fukushima site, carrying a devil’s brew of long-lived poisonous isotopes into the Pacific. Tuna irradiated with fallout traceable to Fukushima have already been caught off the coast of California. We can expect far worse.

Tepco continues to pour more water onto the proximate site of three melted reactor cores it must somehow keep cool.Steam plumes indicate fission may still be going on somewhere underground. But nobody knows exactly where those cores actually are.

Much of that irradiated water now sits in roughly a thousand huge but fragile tanks that have been quickly assembled and strewn around the site. Many are already leaking. All could shatter in the next earthquake, releasing thousands of tons of permanent poisons into the Pacific. Fresh reports show that Tepco has just dumped another thousand tons of contaminated liquids into the sea ( ).

The water flowing through the site is also undermining the remnant structures at Fukushima, including the one supporting the fuel pool at Unit Four.

More than 6,000 fuel assemblies now sit in a common pool just 50 meters from Unit Four. Some contain plutonium. The pool has no containment over it. It’s vulnerable to loss of coolant, the collapse of a nearby building, another earthquake, another tsunami and more.

Overall, more than 11,000 fuel assemblies are scattered around the Fukushima site. According to long-time expert and former Department of Energy official Robert Alvarez, there is more than 85 times as much lethal cesium on site as was released at Chernobyl.

Radioactive hot spots continue to be found around Japan. There are indications of heightened rates of thyroid damage among local children.

The immediate bottom line is that those fuel rods must somehow come safely out of the Unit Four fuel pool as soon as possible.

Just prior to the 3/11/11 earthquake and tsunami that shattered the Fukushima site, the core of Unit Four was removed for routine maintenance and refueling. Like some two dozen reactors in the US and too many more around the world, the General Electric-designed pool into which that core now sits is 100 feet in the air.

Spent fuel must somehow be kept under water. It’s clad in zirconium alloy which will spontaneously ignite when exposed to air. Long used in flash bulbs for cameras, zirconium burns with an extremely bright hot flame.

Each uncovered rod emits enough radiation to kill someone standing nearby in a matter of minutes. A conflagration could force all personnel to flee the site and render electronic machinery unworkable.

According to Arnie Gundersen, a nuclear engineer with forty years in an industry for which he once manufactured fuel rods, the ones in the Unit 4 core are bent, damaged and embrittled to the point of crumbling. Cameras have shown troubling quantities of debris in the fuel pool, which itself is damaged.

The engineering and scientific barriers to emptying the Unit Four fuel pool are unique and daunting, says Gundersen. But it must be done to 100% perfection.

Should the attempt fail, the rods could be exposed to air and catch fire, releasing horrific quantities of radiation into the atmosphere. The pool could come crashing to the ground, dumping the rods together into a pile that could fission and possibly explode. The resulting radioactive cloud would threaten the health and safety of all us.

Chernobyl’s first 1986 fallout reached California within ten days. Fukushima’s in 2011 arrived in less than a week. A new fuel fire at Unit 4 would pour out a continuous stream of lethal radioactive poisons for centuries.

Former Ambassador Mitsuhei Murata says full-scale releases from Fukushima “would destroy the world environment and our civilization. This is not rocket science, nor does it connect to the pugilistic debate over nuclear power plants. This is an issue of human survival.”

Neither Tokyo Electric nor the government of Japan can go this alone. There is no excuse for deploying anything less than a coordinated team of the planet’s best scientists and engineers.

We have two months or less to act.

For now, we are petitioning the United Nations and President Obama to mobilize the global scientific and engineering community to take charge at Fukushima and the job of moving these fuel rods to safety.

You can sign the petition at:

If you have a better idea, please follow it. But do something and do it now.

The clock is ticking. The hand of global nuclear disaster is painfully close to midnight.

Harvey Wasserman edits and is author of SOLARTOPIA! Our Green-Powered Earth. His SOLARTOPIA GREEN POWER & WELLNESS SHOW is at