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Member since: Tue Feb 9, 2010, 11:51 PM
Number of posts: 2,680

About Me

Long time reader on DU and liberal/progressive. Up until recently I have not posted a lot. But I am very concerned about the situation in Ukraine and the people there. Liberals need to understand what is really happening, because Ukrainians are in a very dangerous situation and the geopolitical thing (US/Russia) is actually distracting from the realities that Ukrainians are facing on the ground there. So I have been posting a fair amount about that situation.

Journal Archives

The New World Disorder

The New World Disorder

Three decades ago, with the end of the Cold War and the dismantling of the South American dictatorships, many hoped that the much talked about ‘peace dividend’ promised by Bush senior and Thatcher would actually materialise. No such luck. Instead, we have experienced continuous wars, upheavals, intolerance and fundamentalisms of every sort – religious, ethnic and imperial. The exposure of the Western world’s surveillance networks has heightened the feeling that democratic institutions aren’t functioning as they should, that, like it or not, we are living in the twilight period of democracy itself.

The twilight began in the early 1990s with the implosion of the former Soviet Union and the takeover of Russia, Central Asia and much of Eastern Europe by visionless former Communist Party bureaucrats, many of whom rapidly became billionaires. The oligarchs who bought up some of the most expensive property in the world, including in London, may once have been members of the Communist Party, but they were also opportunists with no commitment to anything other than power and lining their own pockets. The vacuum created by the collapse of the party system has been filled by different things in different parts of the world, among them religion – and not just Islam. The statistics on the growth of religion in the Western world are dramatic – just look at France. And we have also seen the rise of a global empire of unprecedented power. The United States is now unchallengeable militarily and it dominates global politics, even the politics of the countries it treats as its enemies.

If you compare the recent demonisation of Putin to the way Yeltsin was treated at a time when he was committing many more shocking atrocities – destroying the entire city of Grozny, for example – you see that what is at stake is not principle, but the interests of the world’s predominant power. There hasn’t been such an empire before, and it’s unlikely that there will be one again. The United States is the site of the most remarkable economic development of recent times, the emergence on the West Coast of the IT revolution. Yet despite these advances in capitalist technology, the political structure of the United States has barely changed for a hundred and fifty years. It may be militarily, economically and even culturally in command – its soft power dominates the world – but there is as yet no sign of political change from within. Can this contradiction last?

There is ongoing debate around the world on the question of whether the American empire is in decline. And there is a vast literature of declinism, all arguing that this decline has begun and is irreversible. I see this as wishful thinking. The American empire has had setbacks – which empire doesn’t? It had setbacks in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s: many thought the defeat it suffered in Vietnam in 1975 was definitive. It wasn’t, and the United States hasn’t suffered another setback on that scale since. But unless we know and understand how this empire functions globally, it’s very difficult to propose any set of strategies to combat or contain it – or, as the realist theorists like the late Chalmers Johnson and John Mearsheimer demand, to make the United States dismantle its bases, get out of the rest of the world, and operate at a global level only if it is actually threatened as a country. Many realists in the United States argue that such a withdrawal is necessary, but they are arguing from a position of weakness in the sense that setbacks which they regard as irreversible aren’t. There are very few reversals from which imperial states can’t recover. Some of the declinist arguments are simplistic – that, for example, all empires have eventually collapsed. This is of course true, but there are contingent reasons for those collapses, and at the present moment the United States remains unassailable: it exerts its soft power all over the world, including in the heartlands of its economic rivals; its hard power is still dominant, enabling it to occupy countries it sees as its enemies; and its ideological power is still overwhelming in Europe and beyond.


Why We Must Return to the US-Russian Parity Principle

Why We Must Return to the US-Russian Parity Principle

The choice is either a New Détente or a more perilous Cold War.
Stephen F. Cohen
April 14, 2015
The Nation Magazine

A pro-Russian separatist stands in front of damaged buildings following a shelling by
Ukrainian forces in Donetsk, 2014. (Reuters/Sergei Karpukhin)

(The text below is a somewhat expanded version of remarks I delivered at the annual US-Russia Forum in Washington, DC, held in the Hart Senate Office Building, on March 26.)

When I spoke at this forum nine months ago, in June 2014, I warned that the Ukrainian crisis was the worst US-Russian confrontation in many decades. It had already plunged us into a new (or renewed) Cold War potentially even more perilous than its forty-year US-Soviet predecessor because the epicenter of this one was on Russia’s borders; because it lacked the stabilizing rules developed during the preceding Cold War; and because, unlike before, there was no significant opposition to it in the American political-media establishment. I also warned that we might soon be closer to actual war with Russia than we had been since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

I regret to say that today the crisis is even worse. The new Cold War has been deepened and institutionalized by transforming what began, in February last year, as essentially a Ukrainian civil war into a US/NATO-Russian proxy war; by a torrent of inflammatory misinformation out of Washington, Moscow, Kiev and Brussels; and by Western economic sanctions that are compelling Russia to retreat politically, as it did in the late 1940s, from the West. Still worse, both sides are again aggressively deploying their conventional and nuclear weapons and probing the other’s defenses in the air and at sea. Diplomacy between Washington and Moscow is being displaced by resurgent militarized thinking, while cooperative relationships nurtured over many decades, from trade, education, and science to arms control, are being shredded. And yet, despite this fateful crisis and its growing dangers, there is still no effective political opposition to the US policies that have contributed to it—not in the administration, Congress, mainstream media, think tanks, or on campuses—but instead mostly uncritical political, financial, and military boosterism for the increasingly authoritarian Kiev regime, hardly a bastion of “democracy and Western values.”

Indeed, the current best hope to avert a larger war is being assailed by political forces, especially in Washington and in US-backed Kiev, that seem to want a military showdown with Russia’s unreasonably vilified president, Vladimir Putin. In February, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande brokered in Minsk a military and political agreement with Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko that, if implemented, would end the Ukrainian civil war. Powerful enemies of the Minsk accord—again, in both Washington and Kiev—are denouncing it as appeasement of Putin while demanding that President Obama send $3 billion of weapons to Kiev. Such a step would escalate the war in Ukraine, sabotage the ceasefire and political negotiations agreed upon in Minsk, and provoke a Russian military response with unpredictable consequences. While Europe is splitting over the crisis, and with it perhaps shattering the vaunted transatlantic alliance, this recklessness in Washington is fully bipartisan, urged on by four all-but-unanimous votes in Congress. (We must therefore honor the 48 House members who voted against the most recent warfare resolution on March 23, even if their dissent is too little, too late.)


'Sub' outside Stockholm was civilian boat

Source: The Local

'Sub' outside Stockholm was civilian boat

Published: 13 Apr 2015 07:43 GMT+02:00

Rear Admiral Anders Grenstad at a press conference after Sweden's October submarine hunt. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

A suspected submarine spotted in the Stockholm archipelago a week after Sweden's extensive hunt for Russian underwater vessels outside the capital last autumn was only a civilian boat, Sweden's Armed Forces have now said.

On October 31st, 2015, retired naval officer Sven Olof Kviman snapped a picture of what looked like a 20-30 metre long, black submarine in waters just outside Lidingö in Stockholm. The incident has remained unconfirmed, but has been classed by the military as a “potential” submarine.

But Rear Admiral Anders Grenstad has now told Swedish newspapers that the Armed Forces reported to the Swedish government last Wednesday that the suspected underwater vessel was in fact only a civilian “working boat”.

Read more: http://www.thelocal.se/20150413/suspected-sub-in-swedish-waters-was-working-boat

Sweden confirms mystery ‘Russian sub’…was in fact a workboat
Published time: April 13, 2015

ARCHIVE PHOTO: Swedish corvette HMS Visby patrols the Stockholm Archipelago October 19 2014, searching for what the military says is a foreign threat in the waters (Reuters / Marko Savala)

The unknown foreign vessel the Swedish Navy searched for near Stockholm last autumn was actually a “workboat,” a senior navy official says. Local media had alleged a hunt was on to try and find a Russian submarine, which was believed to be in the area.

Swedish Rear Admiral Anders Grenstad told the Swedish TT news agency on Saturday that what was thought to be a vessel or a foreign submarine was actually just a “workboat.”

READ MORE: Swedish military wants $700mn to hunt subs after autumn ‘chase’

The Swedish Navy changed the wording from “probable submarine” to “non-submarine” when referring to the reconnaissance mission connected to the unidentified vessel spotted in the Stockholm archipelago.


The massive hunt was used by the Swedish Defense Ministry to justify a six billion kronor ($696 million) hike in defense spending between 2016 and 2020.

The Least Among Us: The War in the Donbas Is Terrorizing Ukraine’s Most Vulnerable Citizens

The Least Among Us: The War in the Donbas Is Terrorizing Ukraine’s Most Vulnerable Citizens

The Western media have forgotten those who have suffered the most in the Ukrainian civil war—the eastern Ukrainians.
James Carden
April 6, 2015
The Nation Magazine

An apartment that sustained damage from shelling; an 80-year-old woman lives there alone. Oktyabrskaya district, Donetsk (All photos by James Carden)

On a bluff overlooking the Sea of Azov in the southwest corner of Russia—tucked between the city of Rostov-on-Don and the town of Taganrog—sits a series of six unprepossessing buildings on dirt lot roughly the size of an acre. Living in these plain cinderblock dwellings are over fifty school-age children and their mothers, refugees from the war that has been raging in the cities, villages and towns of East Ukraine’s Donbas region for nearly a year. These mothers and children probably do not have very good chances for happy futures; they lack means and they lack opportunity. Their separatist husbands and fathers are still in Donbas fighting against Keiv’s regular army and ultra-nationalist battalions or else have been killed. For many, the homes they once knew have been destroyed and the country they were born into is now very far along the process of disintegrating. Yet. for all that. these refugees in Russia, by the sea, are the lucky ones. They got out.

Many have not. For four days last week (March 24-27) I and a small group of other foreign journalists*, visited the largest city in the Donbas, Donetsk, and several surrounding towns and villages. Today, Donetsk, which had a pre-war population of well over 1 million inhabitants, seems on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe. In several shelters in and around Donetsk we saw scores of children—some as young as three days old—and their mothers (and many cases their grandmothers) living in cramped, dirty hovels with limited access to electricity, food and water. The sound of artillery shelling could be heard not far off from the Donetsk airport where fighting between the separatists’ Army of Novorossiya and the Ukrainian forces has sporadically flared up, despite the fact the the second Minsk cease-fire has, for now, largely held in other parts of Donbas.

The cease-fire, which is being actively undermined by Kiev’s refusal to negotiate directly with the rebel government, has, according to several rebel fighters we spoke to, not prevented snipers from taking up positions in abandoned apartments throughout the city. Though the targets of sniper fire have mainly been rebel parliamentarians and members of the burgeoning Donetsk government, the fear they inspire among the non-combatants is real.

Unremarked upon by the American media, eastern Ukraine’s elderly, women and children are living in a city that is effectively under an economic and military blockade by the Western-backed government in Kiev; which has resulted in a very real sense of privation throughout the city. The Poroshenko government, as one of its first moves, cut off all social services and benefits to the citizens of the Donbas; because people are living without medical insurance, hospitals are offering their services for free. Kiev has also cut the area off from the banking system; there is no access to credit or even the most rudimentary banking services. Unsurprisingly, commerce has ground to a standstill; in the city center only small markets selling flowers, crafts and, occasionally, food seem to be doing much business. Medium-sized enterprises, retailers and restaurants, are shuttered, as are, according to one parliamentarian we spoke to, most of the Donbas’s primary large-scale industry: coal and steel enterprises. Only the main Donbas Metallurgical facility is still operating.


Donbass: ‘The War Has Not Started Yet’ - PEPE ESCOBAR

OP commentary: Our media is fairly quiet at the moment and not reporting much on the region. But there is a general concern building that while things are quiet, there are indications more war is on it's way.

Kiev Wants War
Donbass: ‘The War Has Not Started Yet’


Two top Cossack commanders in the People’s Republic of Donetsk and a seasoned Serbian volunteer fighter are adamant: the real war in Donbass has not even started.

It’s a spectacular sunset in the People’s Republic of Donetsk and I’m standing in the Cossack ‘holy land’ – an open field in a horse-breeding farm – talking to Nikolai Korsunov, captain of the Ivan Sirko Cossack Brigade, and Roman Ivlev, founder of the Donbass Berkut Veterans Union group.

Why is this Cossack ‘holy land’? They take no time to remind me of the legendary 17th century Cossack military hero Ivan Sirko, a.k.a. “The Wizard”, credited with extra-sensory powers, who won 55 battles mostly against Poles and Tatars.

Only three kilometers from where we stand a key battle at a crossroads on the ancient Silk Road called Matsapulovska Krinitsa took place, involving 3,000 Cossacks and 15,000 Tatars.

Now, at the dawn of the Chinese-driven 21st century New Silk Road – which will also traverse Russia – here we are discussing the proxy war in Ukraine between the US and Russia whose ultimate objective is to disrupt the New Silk Road.

Commander Korsunov leads one of the 18 Cossack brigades in Makeevka; 240 of his soldiers are now involved in the Ukrainian civil war – some of them freshly returned from the cauldron in Debaltsevo. Some were formerly part of the Ukrainian Army, some worked in the security business. Korsunov and Ivlev insist all their fighters have jobs, even if unpaid – and have joined the Donetsk People’s Republic army as volunteers. “Somehow, they manage to survive.”

What’s so special about Cossack fighters? “It’s historical – we’ve always fought to defend our lands.”Commander Korsunov was a miner, now he’s on a pension – although for obvious reasons he’s receiving nothing from Poroshenko’s Kiev set up; only support from the Berkut group, the Ministry for Youth and Sports of the People’s Republic, and humanitarian food convoys from Russia.

Korsunov and Ivlev are convinced Minsk 2 will not hold; fierce fighting should resume “in a matter of weeks.” According to their best military intelligence, Kiev’s army, after the recent IMF loan, was allocated no less than $3.8 billion for weapons.


Some Disturbingly Relevant Legacies of Anticommunism

Some Disturbingly Relevant Legacies of Anticommunism

The impact of Cold War anticommunism on our national life has been so profound that we no longer recognize how much we’ve lost.

Victor Navasky
March 23, 2015 , The Nation Magazine


In 1956, Jack O’Dell was subpoenaed to appear before Senator James Eastland’s Internal Security Subcommittee, the intersection of the red scare and white supremacy. (AP Images)

More than once, when i’ve been introduced to someone as the former longtime editor of The Nation, that person has asked me: “Did you found the magazine?”

And more than once, I have resisted the temptation to denounce the questioner.

I am old (82 last July), but not that old. However, the truth is that when, in the late 1970s, I had the chance to become The Nation’s editor, I said yes largely because of The Nation’s long and noble history.

Even though I grew up in a home where The Nation (along with The New Republic) arrived weekly, my parents found it hard to understand why I would give up what looked like a promising career at The New York Times (where I worked as an editor on the Sunday magazine).

I had taken a leave from the Times in the early 1970s to write Naming Names, the story of the Hollywood blacklist, which focused on the role of the informer during the so-called phenomenon of McCarthyism. I say “so-called” because the anticommunist hysteria that was its signature began before Senator Joseph McCarthy arrived on the scene and persisted long after he drowned in alcohol. (The historian Ellen Schrecker tells us that knowing what we know now, we should probably call it “Hooverism,” after J. Edgar, who did so much behind and in front of the scenes to promote the anticommunist hysteria.)

In the course of my research, I read through all the magazines and journals of the period, and I came to admire The Nation’s coverage more than any other’s. I also got to read, interview and know The Nation’s editor during those years, the late, great and wise Carey McWilliams, who gave a parade of informed and eloquent writers capacious space to document the paranoia of the period, not least among them the lawyer-historian Frank Donner, who so accurately and definitively reported in 1961:



Free Trade Isn’t about Trade. It’s About Bureaucrats—and Guns.

Free Trade Isn’t about Trade. It’s About Bureaucrats—and Guns.

Free trade agreements like the TPP have provisions that are designed less for trade, and more about replacing public bureaucrats with private, corporate ones.

(Reuters/Larry Downing)

Free trade isn’t about trade. Free trade is about bureaucrats. And guns. Simple stories about how one country is good at making wine, and should trade with another country that is good at making cloth, explain very little about today’s trade agreements. Instead, agreements are about which bureaucrats make decisions about markets that operate between countries. Who has the power to settle international disputes between massive multinational corporations and the states they do business with? This issue, otherwise known as investor-state dispute settlement, is at the heart of the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) President Obama is seeking to sign with twelve Asia-Pacific region countries.

Investor-state dispute settlement is a method of private arbitration by which private companies operating in foreign countries can bring lawsuits if that country violates the terms of agreed-upon trade. It’s a core element of modern trade agreements. Senator Elizabeth Warren has warned about these agreements, and economist Joseph Stiglitz has argued that they “most seriously threaten democratic decision-making.” On the other hand, economists David Autor, David Dorn, and Gordon H. Hanson recently argued that “this mechanism would protect U.S. firms against predatory regulatory interventions by member governments. “

Let’s dig into an example. In 2011, Australia passed the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011, designed “to discourage the use of tobacco products” by, among other things, requiring cigarette packages to have larger warnings, ugly colors, and no logos or advertisements. This act is clearly a “predatory intervention” against tobacco companies, designed explicitly to reduce their business in Australia by lowering smoking rates. As a result, Philip Morris Asia, a part of the American company Philip Morris International, is using an investor-state dispute settlement to stop enforcement and demand compensation, claiming this is a discriminatory “expropriation.” Instead of just the bureaucrats at the Australian government creating and administering rules for the selling of cigarettes, there’s an additional layer of international bureaucrats—positions created by trade agreements—who can overrule them.

Many people argue that this is corporate welfare, and it is. But it also goes deeper than that. This episode perfectly encapsulates the problem described by David Graeber in his new collection of essays, The Utopia of Rules. He argues that globalization now isn’t about technology leveling distances or speeding trade, but about piling private bureaucracies on top of public ones.


The Victory of National Democracy in Ukraine

And the Crushing of the Political Opposition
The Victory of National "Democracy" in Ukraine


What is democracy? It is a political, economic and social arrangement of a territorial unity of people in which the majority rules but minority rights are protected and there is a robust political opposition. How does Ukraine measure up to this standard? Very badly. A failure, I would say. And here is why.

Is there any real political opposition in Ukraine? No. The official opposition party, the Opposition Bloc, which includes deputies from the former Party of Regions, has forty seats in the current Ukrainian parliament out of 422 . In the last election to the Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine’s Parliament) on October 26, 2014, this party won the majority of votes in five oblasts (regions) of Eastern Ukraine – Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Luhansk, Donetsk, and Zaporizzhia. It obtained the second largest number of votes in Mykolaiv and Odessa oblasts, and the third largest number in Kherson. The participation in the election in the whole of Southeastern Ukraine reached an all-time low – less than 50 per cent in all of the oblasts. This is a clear indicator of the population’s apathy and mistrust of the current Ukrainian parliament.

In the Verkhovna Rada, the ruling coalition for the first time in the history of independent (post-1991) Ukraine has the largest majority in the Parliament – 303 deputies. The breakdown of the majority is 150 deputies from the Poroshenko Bloc, 82 deputies from the Narodnyi (Peoples) Front of Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk, 31 deputies of the Samopomich party of Lviv mayor Andriy Sadovyi, 21 deputies of the Radical Party of Oleh Lyashko, and 19 deputies of the Batkivshchyna Party of former Ukraine’s prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

The Opposition Bloc is the only official opposition party in the Verkhovna Rada. Deputies of the Bloc have stated on several occasions that they are ignored in the Parliament and their work is blocked. For instance, Vadym Rabynovych said that he has registered 19 bills but none of them has been proposed for examination by the Rada.

Tatiana Bakhteeva has been a Rada deputy since 2002 and has experience working in the opposition as well in the ruling coalition in the Rada. She stated recently that for the first time in the history of the Ukrainian Parliament, there is not a single deputy from the opposition in the executive of the Rada – for instance, the positions of speaker or vice-speaker. Not a single member of the opposition chairs a parliamentary committee, whereas in the previous Parliament under President Victor Yanukovych, 12 out of 26 parliamentary committees were chaired by the opposition. Bakhteeva also says that the first 100 days of work of the Euromaidan parliament have shown it to be the most unprofessional Parliament in the history of independent Ukraine.


The New (Deplorable) American Order

The full article is well worth the read:

The New (Deplorable) American Order


1% Elections, The Privatization of the State, a Fourth Branch of Government, and the Demobilization of "We the People"
by Tom Engelhardt

'Don’t for a second think,' writes Engelhardt, 'that the American political system isn’t being rewritten on the run by interested parties in Congress, our present crop of billionaires, corporate interests, lobbyists, the Pentagon, and the officials of the national security state.'

Have you ever undertaken some task you felt less than qualified for, but knew that someone needed to do? Consider this piece my version of that, and let me put what I do understand about it in a nutshell: based on developments in our post-9/11 world, we could be watching the birth of a new American political system and way of governing for which, as yet, we have no name.

And here’s what I find strange: the evidence of this, however inchoate, is all around us and yet it’s as if we can’t bear to take it in or make sense of it or even say that it might be so.

Let me make my case, however minimally, based on five areas in which at least the faint outlines of that new system seem to be emerging: political campaigns and elections; the privatization of Washington through the marriage of the corporation and the state; the de-legitimization of our traditional system of governance; the empowerment of the national security state as an untouchable fourth branch of government; and the demobilization of "we the people."

Whatever this may add up to, it seems to be based, at least in part, on the increasing concentration of wealth and power in a new plutocratic class and in that ever-expanding national security state. Certainly, something out of the ordinary is underway, and yet its birth pangs, while widely reported, are generally categorized as aspects of an exceedingly familiar American system somewhat in disarray.


Uncle Pentagon: Growing Up in the Shadow of the American War State

Very interesting story from a family deeply committed to "nonviolent resistance to war and nuclear culture".

Uncle Pentagon: Growing Up in the Shadow of the American War State

For the daughter of two radical pacifists, antiwar advocacy runs in the family.
Frida Berrigan
March 10, 2015

Frida Berrigan speaks at an antiwar seminar in Sweden in 2011. (Credit: YouTube)

The Pentagon loomed so large in my childhood that it could have been another member of my family. Maybe a menacing uncle who doled out put-downs and whacks to teach us lessons or a rich, dismissive great-aunt intent on propriety and good manners.

Whatever the case, our holidays were built around visits to the Pentagon’s massive grounds. That’s where we went for Easter, Christmas, even summer vacation (to commemorate the anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki). When we were little, my brother and sister and I would cry with terror and dread as we first glimpsed the building from the bridge across the Potomac River. To us, it pulsated with malice as if it came with an ominous, beat-driven soundtrack out of Star Wars.

I grew up in Baltimore at Jonah House, a radical Christian community of people committed to nonviolent resistance to war and nuclear culture. It was founded by my parents, Phil Berrigan and Liz McAlister. They gained international renown as pacifist peace activists not afraid to damage property or face long prison terms. The Baltimore Four, the Catonsville Nine, the Plowshares Eight, the Griffiss Seven: these were anti–Vietnam War or antinuclear actions they helped plan, took part in and often enough went to jail for. These were also creative conspiracies meant to raise large questions about our personal responsibility for, and the role of conscience in, our world. In addition, they were explorations of how to be effective and nonviolent in opposition to the war state. These actions drew plenty of media attention and crowds of supporters, but in between we always went back to the Pentagon.

As kids, horrific images of war were seared into our brains from old documentaries about Hiroshima and Nagasaki and newer dispatches from Vietnam, and later El Salvador and Guatemala. And all of them seemed traceable to that one place, that imposing five-sided building overlooking the Potomac and surrounded by parking lots and sylvan acres of lawns and paths.

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