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War Is A Racket…On romanticizing and glorification of war.

By: cmaukonen Tuesday January 27, 2015 4:39 pm

John Wayne Randolph Scott

We’ll send them all we’ve got,
John Wayne and Randolph Scott,
Remember those exciting fighting scenes?
To the shores of Tripoli,
But not to Mississippoli,

What do we do? we send the marines! – Tom Lehrer

Hollywood has itself  another blockbuster movie with American Sniper. A film that once again portrays some soldier as a hero that gives his all in a very justified war.


And that is precisely what Gordon Duff  in this essay says .

The job of sniper has nothing to do with the stories of movie and television, nothing related to the heavily fictionalized books foisted on the public decade after decade.  Snipers with high kill numbers shoot primarily armed American allies they “mistake” for enemy or unarmed civilians.  The best of them protect American bases and small units with precision fire and take great risks.

If you kill more than dozen people as a sniper and you aren’t guilty of murdering innocent civilians, I would be very surprised.  If you are insane enough to convince yourself, let’s say you are in Afghanistan or Iraq, countries where it is legal for any civilian to carry a weapon and no sane person would go outside without one, that shooting “armed Muslims” makes you a hero, you are both a liar and a fool.  You are probably also a psychopath.

Duff is a Vietnam War veteran and as such gives his view on the role of the sniper as well as what the fighting was really like. His take is fairly tough and yet nuanced.

Most of the armed “insurgents” the US has killed during the War on Terror were friendly militias, local herdsmen or, at best, armed tribal units that were armed tribal units when they fought the British and Russians as well for hundreds of years.  We are talking about “patriots” defending their country against foreign invaders who support drug cartels and criminal politicians like the governments the US has placed in power over and over.

I do expect this; I expect an American Sniper to use his skills to protect American personnel from attack even if America is there as part of an armed aggression on the part of whoever it is that runs America, which sure as hell isn’t the American people.  At best it can be considered a sad necessity and any moral person would, as soon as possible, rectify that mistake.  When wars were fought by draftees, that was harder.  Today you can simply not sign up again or ask for another job.

Oh, I am forgetting “stop loss,” that the US stopped letting people simply quit when their enlistment was over.  We don’t talk about that either.  We don’t talk about not thousands of suicides but hundreds of thousands.  Yes, this is not a simple story and there are no entire good or bad people.  Welcome to reality.

I was a sniper in Vietnam.  I held that occupation for a short time, seen as a “relief” from every day life there which for Marines involved 3 hours sleep, starvation, sleeping on the ground “behind enemy lines,” and the rigors of the backpacking trip from hell.  Here, decades later, the weapon I used isn’t even officially listed and doesn’t exist.

Sniper “talk” is largely mythology and, far too often, simply crazy.

Anyone ever find a .243 M14 National Match with Gen1.5 Starlight Scope? Shooting a handful of people at night from 400 meters away could be done in less time than it takes to open a can of beer and this was with what some might consider “junk” by today’s standards.


Mining & Fracking Whirl: 27 Jan 2015

By: KateCA Tuesday January 27, 2015 12:06 pm

“Dirty Water, Dirty Money: Coal Ash and the Attack on North Carolina’s Courts”

*Worldwide.  It’s now 3 minutes ’til Doomsday, according to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Due to  human-caused climate change.

*Worldwide.  Ocean warming is accelerating rapidly as “more than 90 percent of human induced planetary warming goes into the oceans.  Alarming charts and other info at the link.  Update: Auklets are dying in unprecedented numbers from AK to CA.  Update: Ice “disappearing at a truly astonishing rate in Austfonna”,  Norway—very far north.  Update: Melting glaciers predicted to contribute 48 million metric tons of organic carbon into the oceans by 2050, and nobody’s sure of the impact (see “Australia” below). Video.

*Davos.  $100 billion in Europe could have been better spent on renewable power plants if there were “better cross-border coordination and bigger power cables between countries”.  Update:  Some of our oligarchs are worried.  Update:  Summary of the meeting at Davos (scroll down to video).

*Worldwide.  Martyn Day of law firm Leigh Day, which won a protracted legal case against Shell oil in Nigeria, has a novel idea about legal representation of ordinary folks up against multinational corporations.

*Worldwide.  BP’s Bob Dudley, sent to clean up after Tony Hayward messed up, says oil prices could remain low for 2 – 3 years.  Meanwhile, an OPEC high muckety-muck said oil prices should take off “very soon” and hit $200/barrel.

*USA.  Rep Peter DeFazio (D-OR) is urging the US Transportation Secretary“to take immediate action” to ensure oil-train tank cars are safe.  The old, unsafe DOT-111s  are still hauling oil on the rails despite the tragic conflagration in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec July 6, 2013.

*USA.  The ‘80s world oil glut led to a 54% reduction in oil producers in the US.  Will that be repeated?  This article breaks it down, including companies that seem at greatest risk.

*USA.  Around two-thirds of US conservatives support expanding oil, coal and natural gas, while large majorities of five groups of non-conservatives are for developing the alternatives.  When it comes to the Keystone XL pipeline, however, only a majority of “Solid Liberals” oppose it.

*USA. Republicans’ Keystone XL pipeline bill may soon be amended to include offshore oil drilling in the Atlantic from FL to DE.  Update: Senate Democrats managed to stall the Keystone XL pipeline bill, much to Mitch’s embarrassment.

*USA. The US Supreme Court “declined to hear an appeal [by former BP exec David Rainey] . . . who contested whether he can be charged with obstruction of Congress for downplaying the severity” of the Deepwater Horizon blowout.

*USA.  Coal production is down for the first time in 20 years and its slow decline is expected through at least 2016 as natural gas replaces coal.  International use of coal is expected to grow, but at a slowed growth rate.

*AK.  Sen Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced a bill Friday that would allow “oil production in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.”  On Monday President Obama (D) proposed putting 12.28 million acres of the Arctic under wilderness protection, which means banning oil and gas drilling.

*AK.  Saga of the Kulluk, Royal Dutch Shell’s huge ocean-going oil rig—a series of major crises each step of the way.

*CA. CA’s “shale formation holds less promise than . . . expected.  Aging conventional wells are drying up.”  Only half the oil rigs are operating now and drilling new wells is down 66%.  Jobs?  Ensign Energy Services may ax 700 of them.

*MA.  Leaky natural gas pipelines in Boston are releasing “high levels of heat-trapping methane.”

*MD In-coming Gov Larry Hogan (R) has tossed “regulations proposed in the final weeks of the previous Democratic administration”,  such as restricting spreading even more chicken manure on fields saturated with it and taking firmer action against “smog-forming air pollution from coal-burning power plants.”

*MI.  Uh-oh.  “The first wind farm in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has reduced the property values of nearby residents, ruined people’s sleep and put . . . birds at risk, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court.”  Heritage Sustainable Energy and the US are being sued “to block any expansion”.

*MT. River ice will not contain the oil leaking from the Poplar Pipeline into the Yellowstone River since the oil is coming directly up from the pipeline running beneath the river.   Benzene present in public water samples downstream.  Drinking water distribution center set up in Glendive.  Update: Now they’re telling residents it’s ok to drink the water.  Update: Pipes that were supposed to be underneath the riverbed are, in fact, on top of it.

*MT.  $1 million federal fine against Exxon Mobil Corp for its Silvertip pipeline rupture “in 2011 that spilled 63,000 gallons of crude into Montana’s Yellowstone River.” That’s on top of a “$2 million to settle a [landowners’] civil lawsuit”, which is in addition to the $1.6 million settlement with MT over water pollution violations. Seems there was a huge flood in July 2011 and all companies ordered their under-the-Yellowstone pipelines shut down—except Exxon.

*NE.  TransCanada has filed eminent domain petitions against those  landowners fighting to keep the pipeline off their properties (h/t wendydavis).  It’s “just another step in the process” for them.  Update:  Hillary Clinton, in Winnipeg, “‘You won’t get me to talk about Keystone’.”

*TX.  With oil down from $100/barrel in June to around $46 now, TX is anticipating a 2% growth rate for 2015.  Jobs and tax revenues are at risk.

*TX. Schlumberger oil field services recently announced cutting 9,000 jobs.  Now they’ve announced they’ll “pay $1.7 billion for a stake in Eurasia Drilling Co” in Russia’s energy industry.

*TX.  Baker Hughes will be laying off some 7,000 workers (or 11%), anticipating a “downturn in orders because of the plunge in crude oil prices”.

*TX.  BHP Billiton, based in the UK and Australia, is reducing its US shale oil rigs from 26 to 16 by mid-year, mainly in its Black Hawk operation in TX.  They’re hurting: iron ore, one of their “core commodities” is down 47%.

*TX.  More earthquakes in Irving, topping out at 3.0 mag.

*Peru.  Recently we celebrated Maxima Acuna de Chaupe’s major legal victory against the mining company.  Of course, this cannot go unpunished, so a local “police and [Yanacocha Mine Co.] security contingent”—with no warrants—have prevented her and her husband from “attending to their farm” and actually threatened them when they protested.

*Egypt.  All eyes upon Egypt as it rolls out the “region’s most ambitious renewable energy programs” for its people, while “curbing reliance on fossil fuel imports”.

*Saudi Arabia It’ll be  eight years longer than previously thought to bring “nuclear [17 gigawatts] and solar [41 gigawatts] energy projects” to completion.  Gee, wonder why.

*Iraq.  Iraq has set a new record for pumping oil, some 4 million barrels/day, contributing nicely to the global glut.

*Iran.  Iran says  it’ll pump oil even if oil gets to $25/barrel.  Iran has also agreed to “expand military ties” with RussiaAnd Iran says it’s ready to have far-ranging “straight talks” with Saudi Arabia.

*South Africa.  Some  58,000 gallons of oil gushed from an old underground pipeline and flooded the gardens and grounds of a posh neighborhood.

*England.  Parliament rejected a shale gas fracking moratorium, but did accept “13 new conditions to be met before shale gas extraction can take place.”  (Labour proposed them.)

*Russia.  Lessons from Siberia:  the Industrial Revolution and permafrost melt.

*India.  A “pact that will allow American companies to supply India with civilian nuclear technology” is on the horizon.  Probably eight reactors, joining the 20 Russia plans to build and the six France is building in India.  So timely, since nuclear power is otherwise on the decline—except of course in China.

*China.  Slowing prices of coal and copper in China, “owing to lack of demand”—are “expected to slow further over the next three years”.

*Australia.  The shortsighted allowed dredge waste dumping on the Great Barrier Reef; now realize they should ban it, “‘once and for all’.” Finally.

*Australia. Ancient eyewitness’ memories of the last time the sea rose 10,000 years ago prove to be accurate, and accurately retold over all those generations.

*Antarctica.  Unprecedented erosion of ice sheets, accelerating, irreversible.

The Invisible Man: Jeffrey Sterling, CIA Whistleblower

By: Norman Solomon Tuesday January 27, 2015 11:31 am

The mass media have suddenly discovered Jeffrey Sterling — after his conviction Monday afternoon as a CIA whistleblower.

Sterling’s indictment four years ago received fleeting news coverage that recited the government’s charges. From the outset, the Justice Department portrayed him as bitter and vengeful — with the classic trash-the-whistleblower word “disgruntled” thrown in — all of which the mainline media dutifully recounted without any other perspective.

Year after year, Sterling’s case dragged through appellate courts, tangled up with the honorable refusal of journalist James Risen to in any way identify sources for his 2006 book State of War. While news stories or pundits occasionally turned their lens on Risen, they scarcely mentioned Sterling, whose life had been turned upside down — fired by the CIA early in the Bush administration after filing a racial discrimination lawsuit, and much later by the 10-count indictment that included seven counts under the Espionage Act.

Sterling was one of the very few African American case officers in the CIA. He became a whistleblower by virtue of going through channels to the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2003 to inform staffers about the CIA’s ill-conceived, poorly executed and dangerous Operation Merlin, which had given a flawed design for a nuclear weapons component to Iran back in 2000.

Long story short, by the start of 2011, Sterling was up against the legal wall. While press-freedom groups and some others gradually rallied around Risen’s right to source confidentiality, Sterling remained the Invisible Man.

Like almost everyone, for a long time I knew close to nothing about Sterling or his legal battle. But as I began to realize how much was at stake in the government’s ongoing threat to jail Risen for refusing to betray any source, Sterling started to come into my peripheral vision.

Last spring, I worked with colleagues at to launch a petition drive titled We Support James Risen Because We Support a Free Press. As petitions go, it was a big success, for reasons well beyond the fact that it gained more than 100,000 signers with plenty of help from other initiating groups (The Nation, FAIR, the Freedom of the Press Foundation, The Progressive and Center for Media and Democracy).

The Justice Department, which had been aggressively pursuing Risen for a half-dozen years at that point, was set back on its heels by the major favorable publicity that came out of our mid-August presentation of the Risen petition in tandem with a news conference at the National Press Club.

Quick media ripple effects included a strong column by Maureen Dowd in support of fellow New York Times journalist Risen (though she didn’t mention the petition or the news conference, which she attended). In the fall, I teamed up with a colleague at, the incisive investigative journalist Marcy Wheeler, to write what turned out to be a cover story in The Nation, The Government War Against Reporter James Risen, providing the first in-depth account of the intertwined cases of Risen and Sterling.

But throughout the fall, for the mass media as well as all but a few progressive media outlets, Jeffrey Sterling remained the Invisible Man.

The principle of supporting whistleblowers as strongly as journalists is crucial. Yet support for the principle is hit-and-miss among individuals and organizations that should be clear and forthright. This need is especially great when the government is invoking “national security” claims.

As the whistleblower advocate Jesselyn Radack of the Government Accountability Project has said: “When journalists become targets, they have a community and a lobby of powerful advocates to go to for support. Whistleblowers are in the wilderness. … They’re indicted under the most serious charge you can level against an American: being an enemy of the state.”

We encountered this terrain when the same initiating groups launched a new petition — this one in support of Jeffrey Sterling — Blowing the Whistle on Government Recklessness Is a Public Service, Not a Crime.

Some groups that had been wonderfully supportive of the Risen petition — notably the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the Committee to Protect Journalists — opted not to have anything to do with the Sterling petition. In sharp contrast, quick endorsement of the Sterling petition came from Reporters Without Borders and the Government Accountability Project.

Two weeks ago, Jeffrey Sterling went to trial at last. He was at the defense table during seven days of proceedings that included very dubious testimony from 23 present and former CIA employees as well as the likes of Condoleezza Rice.

When a court clerk read out the terrible verdict Monday afternoon, Sterling continued to stand with the dignity that he had maintained throughout the trial.

At age 47, Jeffrey Sterling is facing a very long prison sentence. As a whistleblower, he has done a lot for us. He should be invisible no more.

Upstairs Downstairs: The new American class-system economy

By: Jane Stillwater Tuesday January 27, 2015 10:36 am
     This has been a busy month for me, including helping my daughter prepare for the birth of my next granddaughter, getting a bunch of surgical procedures out of the way so I can be bionic by the time I become our new arrival’s caregiver after her new mum goes back to work, worrying about the role of the CIA in creating radical “Islam,” and still struggling through Thomas Piketty’s 600-page book on modern economics.  And the more that I read in “Capital for the 21st Century,” the angrier I get.

According to Piketty, Europe and America have traditionally been divided into two basic classes for a long long long time:  The “haves” and the “have-nots”.  Traditionally, the “haves” have owned the capital (most of it inherited) and the “have-nots” have provided the labor.  For many past centuries, it had been pretty much upstairs and downstairs in Western economies, just like on TV.

     But then two world wars came along and totally shook up these two formerly set-in-stone class lines, creating a unique glitch in time wherein a new large middle class was suddenly born — in both Europe and America.

According to Piketty, this was an almost-unique experience in Western economic history — where the wealthy were taken down a notch and the poor were elevated up.  However, this “accidental equality” was too good to be true for long, and the wealthy classes fought back and the dream died — and so here we are, back again, deja vu, once more playing at “Upstairs Downstairs” like our ancestors have all done since even before the fall of Rome.  Sigh.

     Dontcha just wish that Piketty is wrong about the recent disappearance of the new middle class?  But unfortunately he’s not.
     And here in America, those of us who grew up being middle-class and who liked being relatively free of money worries are now suddenly appalled at this sudden change in our status from “Almost Upstairs” to “Definitely “Downstairs” because, silly us, we hadn’t realized that our relative economic freedom was only just a temporary economic glitch.

I myself can remember when I used to only have to work weekends and summers in the post office in order to make enough money to put myself through graduate school at Cal — and with no student loans.  And before that, back in the early 1960s, I lived in New York City for two whole years with only an occasional part-time job for income.  Those days are totally long gone!

But, even more important, what is the average American today doing in response to this tragic new economic turn of events as he or she watches his or her financial status erode from home ownership to unemployment or worse?  Do we protest?  Demand justice?  Seek redress?  Try to end corporate corruption?  React logically to this dreadful new “Upstairs Downstairs” situation?

Hell no.

Most Americans today do the unthinkable instead.  He or she sides with the wealthy, sides with the bankers, sides with the weapons manufacturers, sides with Wall Street and War Street and sides with the top 1%.

      Almost no one in America today (except for me of course) has started pointing his or her finger at the wealthy who have just stolen all of our stuff.  No, he or she is too busy pointing his or her finger at his or her neighbors instead — or at those poor unfortunate souls who are lower down on the economic and social totem pole than him (or her).  It’s like the butler getting yelled at by his greedy-bastard master and then the butler taking it out on the scullery maid and kicking her backside good — instead to telling the greedy-bastard master where to shove it instead.
     Excuse me for having to state the obvious here, but it is the backsides of the inappropriately wealthy that we all should be kicking right now; the insanely wealthy billionaires who are stealing our jobs — and our souls.

So what can we do about it now, in order to get back to the economic Eden that was just stolen from us by a handful of greedy rich dudes?  This is what all patriotic Americans should be asking ourselves right now.  First, we could raise tax rates on the wealthy to match ours — so that they can give at least a little back to the country that has given them so much in the first place.  That would be a good start.

Then we could refuse to vote for anyone who represents banksters, weapons manufacturers, feudal-lord wannabees, billionaires or jerks.  We could actually do that.  All it would involve would be doing a little research on electoral candidates’ funding and priorities, plus using a little anger finally being directed appropriately.  And making sure that every American votes.  How hard could that be?

PS:   And speaking of childbirth, according to Women’s Weekly E-News, “The United States ranks 60th in the world when it comes to maternal mortality, according to a 2014 report by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, below almost every other developed nation.  And the U.S. infant mortality rate is higher than most other developed nations, according to the CDC.”

This means that being preggers here in America is much more risky than in sixty other developed countries.  In America today, it really sucks eggs to be a woman of childbearing age.  How “Upstairs Downstairs” is that!  So if you want to become pregnant (or not become preggers at all for that matter), it would be best to move to Iceland or Singapore or Estonia immediately.

PPS:  Europe is also having an “Upstairs Downstairs” moment right now for a different reason; because unemployed refugees from the Middle East are swarming into the EU by the millions and lowering wage prices there a lot — as a clear result of having allowed the US, the UN, the UK and NATO (an alphabet soup that always spells trouble wherever it is served) to kick that particular Middle Eastern hornets’ nest again and again and again.

And now, Europe, you need to get ready for a whole new swarm of unemployed “Downstairs” immigrants about to descend on you from Ukraine too, because the US, UN, UK and NATO alphabet soup has also been kicking the hell out of Kiev and Donbass this whole past year as well — and Ukraine’s borders are a hecka lot closer to Europe than Iraq’s.  Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

In terms of nurturing and protecting the nascent middle classes that Piketty described, the US, UN, UK and NATO have clearly screwed up.

To quote Syrian president Bashar Assad on the subject, “[America,] you are the greatest power in the world now; you have too many things to disseminate around the world: knowledge, innovation, IT, with its positive repercussions.  How can you be the best in these fields yet the worst in the political field?  This is a contradiction.  That is what I think the American people should analyze and question.  Why do you fail in every war?  You can create war, you can create problems, but you cannot solve any problem.  Twenty years of the peace process in Palestine and Israel, and you cannot do anything with this, in spite of the fact that you are a great country.”

Our “alphabet soup” has clearly screwed up.

John Feffer: Europe’s End?

By: Tom Engelhardt Tuesday January 27, 2015 10:32 am

This article originally appeared at To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

Remember the glory days of the 1990s, when our interconnectedness — the ever-tighter embrace of Disney characters, the Swoosh, and the Golden Arches — was endlessly hailed?  It was the era of “globalization,” of Washington-style capitalism triumphant, and the planet, we were told, would be growing ever “flatter” until we all ended up in the same mall, no matter where we lived.  Only a few years later in a twenty-first-century world that, from Ukraine to Libya, Syria to Pakistan, seems to be cracking open under the strain of religious-political conflicts of every sort, isn’t it curious how little you hear about that interconnectedness?  And yet, through time as well as space, we couldn’t be more linked (and not just online), as the Charlie Hebdo murders and the response to them indicated.

Think of the Parisian killers of that moment as messengers from the European past.  After all, the place we have long called “the Middle East” was largely a post-World War I European creation.  The map of the area was significantly drawn, and a number of the countries in the region cobbled together, by and for the convenience of European colonial powers France and England.  Jump slightly less than a century into the future and what one set of powers created, a successor power, the last “superpower” on planet Earth, helped blow a hole through in 2003 with its invasion of Iraq — and the damage is still spreading.

In the rubble of American Iraq, that old European “Middle East” has collapsed in a paroxysm of violence, chaos, and religious extremism (hardly surprising given the circumstances).  And on a planet that’s been “globalizing” since the first European ships with cannons appeared off the coasts of Asia, Africa, and the Americas, how could that crumbling region not send a message back to the world that created it?  That message has been arriving regularly in rusty cargo vessels, as well as in Islamic State videos aimed at the Muslim communities of Europe, and two weeks ago in the outrages in Paris.  Now, the Middle East is threatening to blow a hole in Europe.

It’s a grim irony that TomDispatch regular John Feffer, the director of Foreign Policy In Focus, takes up today.  The disintegration of the Middle East is visibly blowing back on Europe and its hopes for an integrated future.  It will certainly be blood-drenched years before we can hope to know what shape the post-colonial, post-European, possibly even post-superpower Middle East might take.  In the meantime, the shape of a Europe in which the right (and in some places, the left) is rising amid an upswelling of Islamophobia remains remarkably undetermined.

The European Union, that great integrating experiment of the last century, may now, as Feffer writes, be tottering.  There is, however, at least one new form of “integration” that might be emerging.  In France (which, in seeming imitation, if not parody, of the post-9/11 Bush administrationdeclared “war” on Islamic extremism in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo killings), Belgium, Germany, and possibly elsewhere, national security states built on the American model are being strengthened in the American fashion.  We may, in other words, be seeing the sinews of a new, increasingly integrated global security state taking form amid the ruins of the old Middle East and at a moment when the European Union threatens to dissolve. Tom

The Collapse of Europe? 
The European Union May Be on the Verge of Regime Collapse 
By John Feffer

Europe won the Cold War.

Not long after the Berlin Wall fell a quarter of a century ago, the Soviet Union collapsed, the United States squandered its peace dividend in an attempt to maintain global dominance, and Europe quietly became more prosperous, more integrated, and more of a player in international affairs. Between 1989 and 2014, the European Union (EU) practically doubled its membership and catapulted into third place in population behind China and India. It currently boasts the world’s largest economy and also heads the list of global trading powers. In 2012, the EU won the Nobel Peace Prize for transforming Europe “from a continent of war to a continent of peace.”

In the competition for “world’s true superpower,” China loses points for still having so many impoverished peasants in its rural hinterlands and a corrupt, illiberal bureaucracy in its cities; the United States, for its crumbling infrastructure and a hypertrophied military-industrial complex that threatens to bankrupt the economy. As the only equitably prosperous, politically sound, and rule-of-law-respecting superpower, Europe comes out on top, even if — or perhaps because — it doesn’t have the military muscle to play global policeman.

And yet, for all this success, the European project is currently teetering on the edge of failure. Growth is anemic at best and socio-economic inequality is on the rise. The countries of Eastern and Central Europe, even relatively successful Poland, have failed to bridge the income gap with the richer half of the continent. And the highly indebted periphery is in revolt.

Politically, the center may not hold and things seem to be falling apart. From the left, parties like Syriza in Greece are challenging the EU’s prescriptions of austerity. From the right, Euroskeptic parties are taking aim at the entire quasi-federal model. Racism and xenophobia are gaining ever more adherents, even in previously placid regions like Scandinavia.

Perhaps the primary social challenge facing Europe at the moment, however, is the surging popularity of Islamophobia, the latest “socialism of fools.” From the killings at the Munich Olympics in 1972 to the recent attacks at Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket in Paris, wars in the Middle East have long inspired proxy battles in Europe. Today, however, the continent finds itself ever more divided between a handful of would-be combatants who claim the mantle of true Islam and an ever-growing contingent who believe Islam — all of Islam — has no place in Europe.

The fracturing European Union of 2015 is not the Europe that political scientist Frances Fukuyama imagined when, in 1989, he so famously predicted “the end of history,” as well as the ultimate triumph of liberal democracy and the bureaucracy in Brussels, the EU’s headquarters, that now oversees continental affairs. Nor is it the Europe that British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher imagined when, in the 1980s, she spoke of the global triumph of TINA (“there is no alternative”) and of her brand of market liberalism. Instead, today’s Europe increasingly harkens back to the period between the two world wars when politicians of the far right and left polarized public debate, economies went into a financial tailspin, anti-Semitism surged out of the sewer, and storm clouds gathered on the horizon.

Another continent-wide war may not be in the offing, but Europe does face the potential for regime collapse: that is, the end of the Eurozone and the unraveling of regional integration. Its possible dystopian future can be glimpsed in what has happened in its eastern borderlands. There, federal structures binding together culturally diverse people have had a lousy track record over the last quarter-century. After all, the Soviet Union imploded in 1991; Czechoslovakia divorced in 1993; and Yugoslavia was torn asunder in a series of wars later in the 1990s.

If its economic, political, and social structures succumb to fractiousness, the European Union could well follow the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia into the waste bin of failed federalisms. Europe as a continent will remain, its nation-states will continue to enjoy varying degrees of prosperity, but Europe as an idea will be over. Worse yet, if, in the end, the EU snatches defeat from the jaws of its Cold War victory, it will have no one to blame but itself.

The Rise and Fall of TINA

The Cold War was an era of alternatives. The United States offered its version of freewheeling capitalism, while the Soviet Union peddled its brand of centralized planning. In the middle, continental Europe offered the compromise of a social market: capitalism with a touch of planning and a deepening concern for the welfare of all members of society.

Cooperation, not competition, was the byword of the European alternative. Americans could have their dog-eat-dog, frontier capitalism. Europeans would instead stress greater coordination between labor and management, and the European Community (the precursor to the EU) would put genuine effort into bringing its new members up to the economic and political level of its core countries.

Then, at a point in the 1980s when the Soviet model had ceased to exert any influence at all globally, along came TINA.

At the time, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and American President Ronald Reagan were ramping up their campaigns to shrink government, while what later became known as globalization — knocking down trade walls and opening up new opportunities for the financial sector — began to be felt everywhere. Thatcher summed up this brave new world with her TINA acronym: the planet no longer had any alternative to globalized market democracy.

Not surprisingly, then, in the post-Cold War era, European integration shifted its focus toward removing barriers to the flow of capital. As a result, the expansion of Europe no longer came with an implied guarantee of eventual equality. The deals that Ireland (1973) and Portugal (1986) had received on accession were now, like the post-World War II Marshall Plan, artifacts of another era. The sheer number of potential new members knocking on Europe’s door put a strain on the EU’s coffers, particularly since the economic performance of countries like Romania and Bulgaria was so far below the European average. But even if the EU had been overflowing with funds, it might not have mattered, since the new “neoliberal” spirit of capitalism now animated its headquarters in Brussels where the order of the day had become: cut government, unleash the market.

At the heart of Europe, as well as of this new orthodoxy, lies Germany, the exemplar of continental fiscal rectitude. Yet in the 1990s, that newly reunified nation engaged in enormous deficit spending, even if packaged under a different name, to bring the former East Germany up to the level of the rest of the country. It did not, however, care to apply this “reunification exception” to other former members of the Soviet bloc. Acting as the effective central bank for the European Union, Germany instead demanded balanced budgets and austerity from all newcomers (and some old timers as well) as the only effective answer to debt and fears of a future depression.

The rest of the old Warsaw Pact has had access to some EU funds for infrastructure development, but nothing on the order of the East German deal. As such, they remain in a kind of economic halfway house. The standard of living in Hungary, 25 years after the fall of Communism, remains approximately half that of neighboring Austria. Similarly, it took Romania 14 years just to regain the gross national product (GDP) it had in 1989 and it remains stuck at the bottom of the European Union. People who visit only the capital cities of Eastern and Central Europe come away with a distorted view of the economic situation there, since Warsaw and Bratislava are wealthier than Vienna, and Budapest nearly on a par with it, even though Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary all remain economically far behind Austria.

What those countries experienced after 1989 — one course of “shock therapy” after another — became the medicine of choice for all EU members at risk of default following the financial crisis of 2007 and then the sovereign debt crisis of 2009. Forget deficit spending to enable countries to grow their way out of economic crisis. Forget debt renegotiation. The unemployment rate in Greece and Spain now hovers around 25%, with youth unemployment over 50%, and all the EU members subjected to heavy doses of austerity have witnessed a steep rise in the number of people living below the poverty line. The recent European Central Bank announcement of “quantitative easing” — a monetary sleight-of-hand to pump money into the Eurozone — is too little, too late.

The major principle of European integration has been reversed. Instead of Eastern and Central Europe catching up to the rest of the EU, pockets of the “west” have begun to fall behind the “east.” The GDP per capita of Greece, for example, has slipped below that of Slovenia and, when measured in terms of purchasing power, even Slovakia, both former Communist countries.

The Axis of Illiberalism

Europeans are beginning to realize that Margaret Thatcher was wrong and there are alternatives — to liberalism and European integration. The most notorious example of this new illiberalism is Hungary.

On July 26, 2014, in a speech to his party faithful, Prime Minister Viktor Orban confided that he intended a thorough reorganization of the country. The reform model Orban had in mind, however, had nothing to do with the United States, Britain, or France. Rather, he aspired to create what he bluntly called an “illiberal state” in the very heart of Europe, one strong on Christian values and light on the libertine ways of the West. More precisely, what he wanted was to turn Hungary into a mini-Russia or mini-China.

“Societies founded upon the principle of the liberal way,” Orban intoned, “will not be able to sustain their world-competitiveness in the following years, and more likely they will suffer a setback, unless they will be able to substantially reform themselves.” He was also eager to reorient to the east, relying ever less on Brussels and ever more on potentially lucrative markets in and investments from Russia, China, and the Middle East.

That July speech represented a truly Oedipal moment, for Orban was eager to drive a stake right through the heart of the ideology that had fathered him. As a young man more than 25 years earlier, he had led the Alliance of Young Democrats — Fidesz — one of the region’s most promising liberal parties. In the intervening years, sensing political opportunity elsewhere on the political spectrum, he had guided Fidesz out of the Liberal International and into the European People’s Party, alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats.

Now, however, he was on the move again and his new role model wasn’t Merkel, but Russian President Vladimir Putin and his iron-fisted style of politics. Given the disappointing performance of liberal economic reforms and the stinginess of the EU, it was hardly surprising that Orban had decided to hedge his bets by looking east.

The European Union has responded by harshly criticizing Orban’s government for pushing through a raft of constitutional changes that restrict the media and compromise the independence of the judiciary. Racism and xenophobia are on the uptick in Hungary, particularly anti-Roma sentiment and anti-Semitism. And the state has taken steps to reassert control over the economy and impose controls on foreign investment.

For some, the relationship between Hungary and the rest of Europe is reminiscent of the moment in the 1960s when Albania fled the Soviet bloc and, in an act of transcontinental audacity, aligned itself with Communist China. But Albania was then a marginal player and China still a poor peasant country. Hungary is an important EU member and China’s illiberal development model, which has vaulted it to the top of the global economy, now has increasing international influence. This, in other words, is no Albanian mouse that roared. A new illiberal axis connecting Budapest to Beijing and Moscow would have far-reaching implications.

The Hungarian prime minister, after all, has many European allies in his Euroskeptical project. Far right parties are climbing in the polls across the continent. With 25% of the votes, Marine Le Pen’s National Front, for instance, topped the French elections for the European parliament last May. In local elections in 2014, it also seized 12 mayoralties, and polls show that Le Pen would win the 2017 presidential race if it were held today. In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shootings, the National Front has been pushing a range of policies from reinstating the death penalty to closing borders that would deliberately challenge the whole European project.

In Denmark, the far-right People’s Party also won the most votes in the European parliamentary elections. In November, it topped opinion polls for the first time. The People’s Party has called for Denmark to slam shut its open-door policy toward refugees and re-introduce border controls. Much as the Green Party did in Germany in the 1970s, groupings like Great Britain’s Independence Party, the Finns Party, and even Sweden’s Democrats are shattering the comfortable conservative-social democratic duopoly that has rotated in power throughout Europe during the Cold War and in its aftermath.

The Islamophobia that has surged in the wake of the murders in France provides an even more potent arrow in the quiver of these parties as they take on the mainstream. The sentiment currently expressed against Islam — at rallies, in the media, and in the occasional criminal act — recalls a Europe of long ago, when armed pilgrims set out on a multiple crusades against Muslim powers, when early nation-states mobilized against the Ottoman Empire, and when European unity was forged not out of economic interest or political agreement but as a “civilizational” response to the infidel.

The Europe of today is, of course, a far more multicultural place and regional integration depends on “unity in diversity,” as the EU’s motto puts it. As a result, rising anti-Islamic sentiment challenges the inclusive nature of the European project. If the EU cannot accommodate Islam, the complex balancing act among all its different ethnic, religious, and cultural groups will be thrown into question.

Euroskepticism doesn’t only come from the right side of the political spectrum. In Greece, the Syriza party has challenged liberalism from the left, as it leads protests against EU and International Monetary Fund austerity programs that have plunged the population into recession and revolt. As elsewhere in Europe, the far right might have taken advantage of this economic crisis, too, had the government not arrested the Golden Dawn leadership on murder and other charges. In parliamentary elections on Sunday, Syriza won an overwhelming victory, coming only a couple seats short of an absolute majority. In a sign of the ongoing realignment of European politics, that party then formed a new government not with the center-left, but with the right-wing Independent Greeks, which is similarly anti-austerity but also skeptical of the EU and in favor of a crackdown on illegal immigration.

European integration continues to be a bipartisan project for the parties that straddle the middle of the political spectrum, but the Euroskeptics are now winning votes with their anti-federalist rhetoric. Though they tend to moderate their more apocalyptic rhetoric about “despotic Brussels” as they get closer to power, by pulling on a loose thread here and another there, they could very well unravel the European tapestry.

When the Virtuous Turn Vicious

For decades, European integration created a virtuous circle — prosperity generating political support for further integration that, in turn, grew the European economy. It was a winning formula in a competitive world. However, as the European model has become associated with austerity, not prosperity, that virtuous circle has turned vicious. A challenge to the Eurozone in one country, a repeal of open borders in another, the reinstitution of the death penalty in a third — it, too, is a process that could feed on itself, potentially sending the EU into a death spiral, even if, at first, no member states take the fateful step of withdrawing.

In Eastern and Central Europe, the growing crew who distrust the EU complain that Brussels has simply taken the place of Moscow in the post-Soviet era. (The Euroskeptics in the former Yugoslavia prefer to cite Belgrade.) Brussels, they insist, establishes the parameters of economic policy that its member states ignore at their peril, while Eurozone members find themselves with ever less control over their finances. Even if the edicts coming from Brussels are construed as economically sensible and possessed of a modicum of democratic legitimacy, to the Euroskeptics they still represent a devastating loss of sovereignty.

In this way, the same resentments that ate away at the Soviet and Yugoslav federations have begun to erode popular support for the European Union. Aside from Poland and Germany, where enthusiasm remains strong, sentiment toward the EU remains lukewarm at best across much of the rest of the continent, despite a post-euro crisis rebound. Its popularity now hovers at around 50% in many member states and below that in places like Italy and Greece.

The European Union has without question been a remarkable achievement of modern statecraft. It turned a continent that seemed destined to wallow in “ancestral hatreds” into one of the most harmonious regions on the planet. But as with the portmanteau states of the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia, the complex federal project of the EU has proven fragile in the absence of a strong external threat like the one that the Cold War provided. Another economic shock or a coordinated political challenge could tip it over the edge.

Unity in diversity may be an appealing concept, but the EU needs more than pretty rhetoric and good intentions to stay glued together. If it doesn’t come up with a better recipe for dealing with economic inequality, political extremism, and social intolerance, its opponents will soon have the power to hit the rewind button on European integration. The ensuing regime collapse would not only be a tragedy for Europe, but for all those who hope to overcome the dangerous rivalries of the past and provide shelter from the murderous conflicts of the present.

John Feffer is the director of Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies, the editor of LobeLog, a TomDispatch regular, and the author of several books, including Crusade 2.0.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me, and Tom Engelhardt’s latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2015 John Feffer

Interview by Christina Vasilaki of SYRIZA’s radio stoKokkino
 with Eric Toussaint of the CADTM

By: GREYDOG Tuesday January 27, 2015 7:09 am

Posted by SnakeArbusto, 99GetSmart

The Troika imposes policies that are destroying social rights in Greece

“An audit committee of the Greek debt could show that 80% of the debt required by the troika is illegal,” said Mr. Toussaint on an interview with Christina Vasilaki, stoKokkino`s correspondent in Brussels.

Éric Toussaint, Senior Lecturer at the University of Liège, is president of CADTM Belgium (Committee for the Abolition of Third-World Debt), and a member of the Scientific Committee of ATTAC France.

“An audit committee of the Greek debt could show that 80% of the debt required by the troika is illegal,” said Mr. Toussaint making reference to Article 7, paragraph 9 of the European Regulation on countries in program adaptation, according to which:

“A Member State subject to a macroeconomic adjustment programme shall carry out a comprehensive audit of its public finances in order, inter alia, to assess the reasons that led to the building up of excessive levels of debt as well as to track any possible irregularity”.

Radio interview transcribed by SnakeArbusto:

CV Which is the EU Regulation that Syriza’s demand for an audit of debt could be based on?

ET In May 2013 the European Parliament and the European Commission adopted a Regulation requiring all countries who sign a Memorandum of Agreement–as in the present case of Greece,  Ireland, Portugal, and Cyprus. Article 7 of this Regulation says that governments will carry out a comprehensive audit of the debt contracted by the country and to identify possible irregularities. So, Paragraph 9 of this Article of the Regulation allows a government headed by SYRIZA to create, immediately, such a commission in implementation of the Regulation.

CV What can be revealed by this audit?

ET For me it’s very clear that the debt contracted by Greece with the Troika, which represents 80% of the Greek debt now, is clearly illegitimate because the Troika has imposed policies on Greece which have destroyed part of the economy of Greece and destroyed the social rights and the economic rights of the population.

CV Do you believe that it’s necessary to write off part of the Greek debt? And what would be the result for access to the international markets in the long term?

ET As you know we have had more than 600 restructurings of debt since 1950. A lot of countries have suspended payment of the debt, and in the case of Greece, if Greece succeeds in imposing a large cancellation of its debt, which is totally possible, I think there is no real problem, after several years, (for Greece) to go back to the market if Greece needs it. But also you could imagine some alternative way of financing Greek development – fiscal reform (), reducing the taxes paid by the poor and increasing the taxes paid by the richest 1% of the population and big private enterprises could allow the government to raise sufficient money to not be obliged to go to the market and contract new debt.

CV Could the extension of the maturity of the loan and the reduction of the interest rates be an alternative solution?

ET Greece needs a real cancellation of a big part of its debt. And for the other part of the debt which will not be cancelled, abolished, a reduction of the interest rates and an extension of the maturity of payment is necessary, I suppose, too. But it’s not an alternative to the cancellation. It’s complementary to cancellation. You need both things.

Radio Interview @

The Estate Liquidation Scam/How to Protect Your Assets

By: perris Tuesday January 27, 2015 6:25 am

Our parents estate was embezzled by an “estate liquidator” after my father’s death a few years ago.

Mom and Dad were accomplished and well known antique dealers in the NY area. Mom had a keen eye with a sense for art and craftsmanship that proved invaluable. They purchased items that had little or unknown value at that time, but most would increase in collectability exponentially by the end of their lives.

The embezzler used a common scam that’s being run throughout the country. The scam targets those vulnerable who’ve just lost a loved one, or the elderly who have to liquidate assets for emergencies and/or important expenses.

The con begins with the predator forming an “estate liquidation” corporation. They work hard creating a false reputation for services by posting good reviews themselves. In addition, many times after just a few consignments at reputable auction houses and antique stores, they may even get these businesses vouching for their credibility.

Once that reputation is established they go to work.

The scam exploits a loophole in the law called “the right of possession”. This “right of possession” means that if you give someone your property for ANY reason, (i.e. to polish your jewelry, get an appraisal, etc), they can do whatever they want with those possessions! They do not have to provide you with any information about your property’s whereabouts or pay you for your property!

They can sell the items without reporting the sale or remitting proceeds to you. They can claim anything happened to the items, since they now have “the right of possession”. By not returning your items or paying you for them it will not be considered theft (a crime). It becomes a civil issue, as a breach of contract.

When it happens to you/your family, there is little recourse. You can sue (which I did); and although you’ll probably win, these predators dissolve their corporation claiming “no assets”. They simply re-emerge after your suit, as a new corporate entity. Voila!, They have happily acquired a family’s life long collections, with no reason to pay for it. They have “converted” your property to their property using fraud and deception -and they’ve done it LEGALLY (by using legal loop holes)!

That’s right, this form of theft is actually technically LEGAL! (Unless there is a pattern that can be proven; however proving a pattern can be difficult, time consuming and costly).

This con is being run all around the country with nearly identical scripts. It’s as if this is a cottage industry where these con men/women share ideas and legal concepts with each other for converting assets.

Our lawyer advised us NOT to sue. He told us that although we would probably win, it could easily cost us over $20,000 for this legal pursuit and most likely get nothing back for our trouble and time. Our attorney predicted the predator would simply declare insolvency, and walk away from any judgment Scott free.

Although our lawyer advised against the law suit, I DID pursue this predator, vigorously, in spite of the futility. I wanted to prove fraud and “pierce the corporate veil”.

Our lawyer also correctly advised me these types of con men hide their personal assets too and are often referred to as “financial ghosts”. I was advised that “it won’t help even if you do “pierce the veil” (another costly and time consuming process) as most likely, there will not be personal assets to attach in the con man’s name busines(s).

My family decided that in honor of our parents lifelong passion and their often times back breaking labor, we could not allow this man to steal their decades of hard work. We WOULD pursue this man, not only suing him (in spite of the futility), to at least begin establishing a paper trail, a record of fraud. But also, to do everything in our power, and do our best to have him criminally investigated and hopefully prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We wanted to begin setting an official court record that might eventually facilitate prosecution for when he targets new victims. We prayed he would eventually be brought to the bar of justice under all criminal fraud statutes.

The plan went well, even better than I thought we could accomplish at first. We not only prevailed in Civil Court, but in the process this predator (in trying to cover his tracks) dug his own grave. He unwittingly provided me with information which helped us track his previous corporate entities for well over a decade. We in fact discovered OVER 40 PREVIOUS LAW SUITS. MILLIONS of his victims assets converted to his own property.

We were dumbfounded and AGHAST this had not been prosecuted before us. His court record existed, is long, consistent and clear.

I’ll talk about just ONE of these victims;

An elderly women that was selling her long held art and antique collections so she could enter assisted living, entrusted this very same con man (who embezzled our parents estate) with almost her entire life’s resources. He left her almost penniless, and no longer able to pay for her care. The courts document he took her for nearly 800k in property. And this ‘man’ simply claimed to “have no assets”. He dissolved the corporation she hired him under, then re-emerged, going on to target dozens of other victims. Among these new victims, was my family, and I lost our parents lifelong legacy. All of this is documented in public court records.

With my personal court win and these previous law suits in hand, I enlisted the help of a former federal prosecutor, someone who had SUCCESSFULLY tried a very similar case a few years prior in another state.

He put together a “memorandum” which he said the DA would find impossible to refuse.

And now, after almost 2 years of constant contact from my family (pleading with them to stop this predator, to no avail) the DA in Nassau county NY FINALLY agreed there should be “an investigation”.

Here comes the part that’s mind boggling;

Believe it or not, even with this paper trail of serial embezzlement, they STILL might not prosecute this predator. Yes, even with this paper trail, DOZENS of previous victims and an ongoing scheme amassing millions of dollars in assets, they may not prosecute!

I have devoted this part of my life to seeking justice for my parents lifelong work. I will not rest until this man and his con is finally legally stopped, and he can no longer victimize families and people who are at their most vulnerable and fragile times of their lives.

HOPEFULLY I can also initiate legislation that will put this common con game to an end.

That’s the story. It is ongoing, with hills and valleys of both successes and disappointments. This story won’t be over as far as I am concerned until this man is brought to justice and prosecuted.

How you can Guard Against This Con;
I am NOT a lawyer, I am not giving legal advice. I cannot give legal advice. I can only speak from my own experience about what has worked for not only us, but for the many we have helped who have also been this man’s victims.

The following are suggestions I believe will help guard against the con.

Even if you follow the suggestions below, you STILL might become a victim, this is NOT inoculation, These suggestions MAY help if you or someone you know is faced with a similar situation.

1)You CANNOT trust an internet reputation. Internet reputations can be and are gamed all the time. Nor can you trust recommendations provided by the predator (even though this is an obvious statement, they rely on your trust and this method of recommendation is used successfully).

2) Do NOT trust a BBB rating as they do NOT report negative issues which have been adjudicated in court EVEN IF THE COMPANY LOST EVERY COURT CASE the Better Business Bureau might STILL give the company an A+ rating and they may even post, in spite of court documentation, that “there are no unresolved claims”.

3) When the company uses a term like “we have been in business for over 25 years”, check their corporate records If they exaggerated established dates even a little, find someone else.

4) Their “Insurance” Is NOT insurance for you!!
When they say they are “licensed, bonded and insured” CHECK THE LICENSE. Make sure it is in the industry, and that it is a long standing license.

Disregard any existing insurance policy the company might present that does not name you specifically, preferably as “the insured”, if not that, the least you must be named as “additionally insured”. Even if their document is authentic, insurance that has their name as the insured means it is for THEIR loss not for yours. You need them to take out an insurance policy with YOU as either insured or additionally insured.

Speak with the insurance company personally
, record the conversation if possible.

These con men can easily create a false insurance policy

DO NOT ACCEPT A CERTIFICATE OF INSURANCE (even with your name on it); it is a worthless piece of paper that gives you NO protection or guarantees.

You need to contact the insurance company personally, and get it IN WRITING, (email documentation should be enough). Have them authenticate the fact that YOU will be compensated EVEN IF THE COMPANY YOU ARE HIRING AND IS PAYING FOR THE INSURANCE CAUSES THE LOSS DELIBERATELY!


This is probably the most important safeguard. If they are not bonded you cannot trust them with your estate, not bonded would be the biggest red flag. You MUST have that bond in hand. You MUST contact the bond company and make sure YOU will get compensation if the contractor causes loss, even if he causes loss on purpose, and you MUST get in writing that YOU will be informed IN WRITING if the bond or insurance is going to be cancelled for any reason, at least 30 days before it is cancelled.

The bond and or insurance should probably be around 5 times the value you believe your property is worth (which is usually a value placed by the con man). I thought my parent’s store was worth a few hundred thousand (based on the con man’s appraisal) when in fact it was worth millions.

Claiming they are bonded doesn’t mean they are

Yup, you see “licensed bonded and insured” all over the place, many of those claims are false, the ada actually told me (paraphrased); “it’s common for that claim to be made without truth behind it”
Maintain your own homeowners insurance

In the event something similar happens to you, there is a good chance your own personal insurance company will entertain the claim, check with them, you might need to get a rider and appraisals for your valuables, the appraiser should come to your home and should not be too expensive.

The Legislative FIX
I expect to create a web page and make this a permanent public document, and I will begin my campaign getting protective legislation enacted.

The legislative fix is so simple it’s laughable. The only legislation that needs to be passed is “if you are handling other peoples assets without sufficient bond, and there is loss, it is a criminal matter”


How Torture Wins In the US Marketplace of Ideas

By: spocko Monday January 26, 2015 10:57 pm

Over two thirds of Christians support the torture of terrorist suspects.

Washtington Post Poll, January 3, 2015

How did this happen? How did actions considered morally repugnant and war crimes in World War II, become acceptable now? And by Christians, goddamnit! Who made this happen, who let this happen, who helped it happen? And finally, is there a way to change this opinion?

My friend Dr. Rebecca Gordon, goes into detail on some of these questions in her book Mainstreaming Torture, but recently I saw a TV show and heard a radio program that illustrated how some of it happened. It took a mix of secrecy, rhetorical tricks and proactive marketing to make torture become acceptable in the US.

First I watched a tv series set in 1962 in a slightly different America. Here’s the opening scene:

Fade in: Two men are watching a color newsreel in an elegant theatre. The title reads, “A New Day in America.” We see images of smiling workers in factories, farms and office settings. The announcer says, “Everyone has a job, everyone knows the part they play keeping our country strong.” he adds, “but our greatest days lie ahead.”

In the seats a note is handed off. As one of the men leaves he is silhouetted by the American flag flying on the screen. As the flag unfurls you see the stars have been replaced by a white swastika on a blue background. The announcer ends with, “Sieg Heil.” 

This is the opening scene from the new Amazon TV series “The Man in the High Castle.” (The first episode is free.)

In this alternative history, based on the Phillip K. Dick book, the Nazi’s won World War II, the US is split between the Japanese in the west and the Nazi’s in the east.

In this timeline Hitler wasn’t defeated. The Nuremberg Trials never happened. The atrocities committed by one group of humans on another were never revealed, condemned or punished.

 Additionally, the ideas behind the justification and need for torture weren’t discredited, nor were the people who suggested them. This also means the people who provided the intellectual, legal, moral or religious foundation for torture, genocide and other war crimes were not repudiated.

 Imagine a United States in which the people who provided the justification for torture weren’t discredited, shunned or marginalized by their various communities.

In the show it’s fifteen years after World War II. What do people normally do after a war? They go on with their lives. Some go back to academia, others to law firms or into government positions as “senior advisers.”

 Christian religious leaders go back to their churches to give Sunday sermons about the Bible and the New Testament. 

 People write books, become pundits and experts in their field. They talk to the media, go on talk shows to plug their latest books and go on the speaking circuit to explain how they won the war.

In this alt-US, do they allow some dissension, or do they attack, smear and jail people who try to reveal the whole story

 We often hear this question, “How could Germans gone along with the atrocities that were happening?” Lots of answers.

  • They didn’t know.
  • They knew but were afraid to speak up because of the fear of their own safety.
  • They knew, but were told these actions were necessary for safety and success.
  • They agreed with the actions.
  • They were angry at the people whom they believed hurt them and their country and wanted to hurt them back.
  • They rejected previously agreed upon legal, practical, moral and religious views about torture and accepted new definitions, rationals and priorities that were provided to them for justification of torture and other war crimes.

Who’s Selling Torture In the Marketplace Of Ideas?

Which leads me to the radio program I heard,  Does Mass Phone Data Collection Violate The 4th Amendment? It was a debate hosted by Intelligence Squared with John Yoo arguing that mass phone data colletion does NOT violate the 4th Amendment.

Yoo is introduced  as “controversial” by ABC correspondent John Donvan. Yoo makes a few jokes about Berkeley liberals, the audience laughs and claps and it’s off to the races.

The intro reminded me of a guest on the Tonight Show offering up a funny story before he sets up the clip from his latest fish-out-of water buddy film. 

Here’s the video link to the intro. Here’s the transcription link to the debate.

Spoiler Alert! Yoo’s side lost. The audience’s minds were changed.





After watching the debate I thought about all the people who promoted and are still promoting Yoo and his ideas vs those who challenged them. Conservatives love to talk about winning in the “Marketplace of Ideas.” I laugh when I hear this. It reminds me of the sales people I knew who would half jokingly say, “All I want is an unfair advantage.”

The pro-torture forces look for venues where they have an unfair advantage like one sided “debates” where they control the microphone or use strawmen instead of guests.

They want to talk to people and venues they can control via fear and rhetoric. For example, Dick Cheney on Meet the Press talking to Chuck Todd about torture.  Todd wasn’t going to really push Cheney, he might be seen to have an option, or worse, risk Cheney not coming on the show again.

 (BTW, listen to this great clip from the Jimmy Dore Show where Todd admits if he “barks” at guests they won’t come back on the show. Audio clip, starts at 24:45 )

If Todd and the rest of the corporate media aren’t going to challenge these ideas can we get them to book an anti-Dick Cheney to go on shows and challenge him?

When only the sellers of torture are being bought by the media as public the best guests and leading experts, we get an United States like in The Man in the High Castle. We have won the war but lost the values that we believed made us special.

Is this our flag?
american flag in the breeze










Or is it really this flag? What are our current values? 








Next, what will it take to change this opinion? Who will do it? Will anyone pay for doing it in the marketplace of ideas? Or should we just accept Dick Cheney’s reality has won and move on?? What are our current values?

*American Flag, by Eric Lynch via Creative Commons license

*Flag from screen grab of The Man in The High Castle via Amazon Production’s