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Kamala Harris Steps Up

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 13/08/2020 - 1:49am in

Kamala Harris is perceived as solidly in the moderate wing of the Democratic Party. A former DA, she can battle the GOP on issues of law and order. Harris is the first Democratic nominee for the top of the ticket who has ever hailed from California, and one of the first from the far West. The right took aim at her selection immediately. In other news, Russia and Ukraine are back on the top of the president's topic list. Continue reading

The post Kamala Harris Steps Up appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

Just Another Friday Night News Dump

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 09/08/2020 - 12:40am in

America’s top news continues to touch on the upcoming election. The Friday night news dump was about the United States Postal Service. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Trump loyalist, has recently created new rules for the agency that have dramatically … Continue reading

The post Just Another Friday Night News Dump appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

The NRA within the Sights

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 08/08/2020 - 2:02am in

On August 6, Attorney General Letitia James announced that she was launching a lawsuit to disband the National Rifle Association (NRA). Continue reading

The post The NRA within the Sights appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

‘Spitting Image’ Returning on BritBox

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 06/08/2020 - 12:44am in

I found this promising little snippet in today’s I for 5th August 2020. It seems that satirical puppet show, Spitting Image, will be returning to TV after nearly a quarter of a century. The article runs

Johnson’s ‘Spitting Image’ revealed

Boris Johnson, his chief adviser Dominic Cummings and the Duke of York feature among the latest Spitting Image puppets unveiled ahead of the show’s return;. The satirical series will air later this year on BritBox after running on ITV for 18 series between 1984 and 1996. Donald Trump, Beyonce, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and Vladimir Putin will also feature prominently.

There were plans to bring it back a few years ago following a retrospective on the programme as long ago as 2004, I believe. Channel 4 looked into it, but turned it down because it would be too expensive. Health and Safety legislation also meant that the conditions in which the puppets were made back in the ’80s and ’90s, which did use dangerous chemicals, would be illegal and need to be improved. In the meantime, we briefly had Newzoids on ITV, which also mixed puppets and CGI to satirise politicos and celebs, but was obviously cheaper.

I thought, however, that Britbox was a streaming service for oldshows broadcast by the Beeb and ITV. This suggests that they aren’t just showing re-runs, but have commissioned new material. It’ll be interesting to see how this works out.

And to see if the new, revived Spitting Image is as vicious, incisive and hilarious at its previous incarnation.

Sidney and Beatrice Webb’s Demand for the Abolition of the House of Lords

This weekend, our murderous, clown Prime Minister Boris Johnson added more weight to the argument for the House of Lords. At the moment the membership of the upper house is something like 800+. It has more members than the supreme soviet, the governing assembly of assembly of China, which rules a country of well over a billion people. Contemporary discussions are about reducing the size of this bloated monster, many of whose members do zilch except turn up in the morning in order to collect their attendance before zipping off to what they really want to do. Since Blair, it’s become a byword for corruption and cronyism, as successive prime ministers have used it to reward their collaborators, allies and corporate donors. The Tories were outraged when Blair did this during his administration, but this didn’t stop David Cameron following suit, and now Boris Alexander DeFeffel Johnson. Johnson has appointed no less than 36 of his friends and collaborators. These include his brother, who appears to be there simply because he is Johnson’s sibling, Alexander Lebedev, a Russian oligarch and son of a KGB spy, who owns the Metro and the Independent,  which is a particular insult following the concerns about Russian political meddling and the Tories’ connections to Putin; the Blairite smear-merchants and intriguers, who conspired against Jeremy Corbyn to give the Tories an election victory, and Claire Fox.

Fox has managed to provoke outrage all on her own, simply because of her disgusting views on Northern Irish terrorism. Now a member of the Brexit Party, she was a former member of the Revolutionary Communist Party which fully endorsed the IRA’s terrorism campaign and the Warrington bombing that killed two children. She has never apologised or retracted her views, although she says she no longer believes in the necessity of such tactics. But rewarding a woman, who has absolutely no problem with the political killing of children has left a nasty taste in very many people’s mouths. It shows very clearly the double standards Johnson and the Tories do have about real terrorist supporters. They tried smearing Corbyn as one, despite the fact that he was even-handed in his dealings with the various parties in northern Ireland and was a determined supporter of peace. Ulster Unionists have come forward to state that he also good relations with them and was most definitely not a supporter of terrorism. The Tories, however, have shown that they have absolutely no qualms about rewarding a real terrorist sympathiser. But even this isn’t enough for Johnson. He’s outraged and demanding an inquiry, because he was prevented from putting his corporate donors from the financial sector in the House of Lords.

Demands for reform or the abolition of the second chamber have been around for a very long time. I remember back c. 1987 that the Labour party was proposing ideas for its reform. And then under Blair there were suggestions that it be transformed into an elected senate like America’s. And way back in the first decades of the twentieth century there were demands for its abolition altogether. I’ve been reading Sidney and Beatrice Webb’s A Constitution of the Socialist Commonwealth of Great Britain, which was first published in the 1920s. It’s a fascinating book. The Webbs were staunch advocates of democracy but were fiercely critical of parliament and its ability to deal with the amount of legislation created by the expansion of the British state into industry and welfare provision, just as they were bitterly critical of its secrecy and capitalism. They proposed dividing parliament into two: a political and a social parliament. The political parliament would deal with the traditional 19th-century conceptions of the scope of parliament. This would be foreign relations, including with the Empire, the self-governing colonies and India, and law and order. The social parliament would deal with the economy, the nationalised industries and in general the whole of British culture and society, including the arts, literature and science. They make some very interesting, trenchant criticisms of existing political institutions, some of which will be very familiar to viewers of that great British TV comedy, Yes, Minister. And one of these is the House of Lords, which they state very clearly should be abolished because of its elitist, undemocratic character. They write

The House of Lords, with its five hundred or so peers by inheritance, forty-four representatives of the peerages of Scotland and Ireland, a hundred and fifty newly created peers, twenty-six bishops, and half a dozen Law Lords, stands in a more critical position. No party in the State defends this institution; and every leading statesman proposes to either to end or to amend it. It is indeed an extreme case of misfit. Historically, the House of Lords is not a Second Chamber, charged with suspensory and revising functions, but an Estate of the Realm – or rather, by its inclusion of the bishops – two Estates of the Realm, just as much entitled as the Commons to express their own judgement on all matters of legislation, and to give or withhold their own assent to all measures of taxation. The trouble is that no one  in the kingdom is prepared to allow them these rights, and for ninety years at least the House of Lords has survived only on the assumption that, misfit as it palpably is, it nevertheless fulfils fairly well the quite different functions of a Second Chamber. Unfortunately, its members cannot wholly rid themselves of the feeling that they are not a Second Chamber, having only the duties of technical revision of what the House of Commons enacts, and of temporary suspension of any legislation that it too hastily adopts, but an Estate of the Realm, a coordinate legislative organ entitled to have an opinion of its own on the substance and the merits of any enactment of the House of Commons. The not inconsiderable section of peers and bishops which from time to time breaks out in this way, to the scandal of democrats, can of course claim to be historically and technically justified in thus acting as independent legislators, but constitutionally they are out of date; and each of their periodical outbursts, which occasionally cause serious public inconvenience, brings the nation nearer to their summary abolition. Perhaps of greater import than the periodical petulance of the House of Lords is its steady failure to act efficiently  as revising and suspensory Second Chamber. Its decisions are vitiated by its composition  it is the worst representative assembly ever created in that it contains absolutely no members of the manual working class; none of the great classes of shopkeepers, clerks and teachers; none of the half of all the citizens who are of the female sex; and practically none of religious nonconformity, or art, science or literature. Accordingly it cannot be relied on to revise or suspend, and scarcely even to criticise, anything brought forward by a Conservative Cabinet, whilst obstructing and often defeating everything proposed by Radical Cabinet.

Yet discontent with the House of Commons and its executive – the Cabinet – is to-day  a more active ferment than resentment at the House of Lords. The Upper Chamber may from time to time delay and obstruct; but it cannot make or unmake governments; and it cannot, in the long run, defy the House of Commons whenever that assembly is determined. To clear away this archaic structure will only make more manifest and indisputable the failure of the House of Commons to meet the present requirements. (Pp. 62-4).

When they come to their proposals for a thorough reform of the constitution, they write of the House of Lords

There is, of course, n the Socialist Commonwealth, no place for a House of Lords, which will simply cease to exist as a part of the legislature. Whether the little group of “Law Lords”, who are now made peers in order that they may form the Supreme Court of Appeal , should or should not continue, for this purely judicial purpose, to sit under the title, and with the archaic dignity of the House of Lords, does not seem material. (p.110)

I used to have some respect for the House of Lords because of the way they did try to keep Thatcher in check during her occupation of 10 Downing Street. They genuinely acted as a constitutional check and wasn’t impressed by the proposals for their reform. I simply didn’t see that it was necessary. When Blair was debating reforming the Upper House, the Tories bitterly attacked him as a new Cromwell, following the Lord Protector’s abolition of the House of Lords during the British Civil War. Of course, Blair did nothing of the sort, and partly reformed it, replacing some of the peers with his own nominees. Pretty much as Cromwell also packed parliament.

The arguments so far used against reforming the House of Lord are that it’s cheaper than an elected second chamber, and that there really isn’t much popular enthusiasm for the latter. Private Eye said that it would just be full of second-rate politicos traipsing about vainly trying to attract votes. That was over twenty years ago.

But now that the House of Lords is showing itself increasingly inefficient and expensive because of the sheer number of political has-beens, PM’s cronies and peers, who owe their seat only because of ancestral privilege, it seems to me that the arguments for its reform are now unanswerable.

Especially when the gift of appointing them is in the hands of such a corrupt premier as Boris Johnson.

Old ‘Financial Times’ Review by Caryl Phillips of Books on Afrocentrism and Black Identity

This is another very old clipping from my scrapbooks. Titled ‘Burdened by white men’s perceptions’, its a review by the Black British writer Caryl Phillips of the books Afrocentrism: Mythical Pasts and Imagined Homes by Stephen Howe, and Masks: Blackness, Race and the Imagination by Adam Lively. Its from the Financial Times’ edition for August 15th/16th 1998, and so nearly a quarter of a century old. Nevertheless, these are issues that are still present and which are still strongly influencing contemporary racial politics and motivating activist movements like Black Lives Matter.

Phillips begins his review with the book on Afrocentrism. This is a Black historical view that sees ancient Egypt as a Black African civilisation and the true source of the western cultural and intellectual tradition, which was appropriated by the ancient Greeks and Romans. He then moves on to the second book, which is about the issue of Black identity in majority White culture and the effects of White perceptions. Phillips writes

Stephen Howe’s candid book goes right to the heart of one of the most vexing of contemporary America’s problems: the question of “Afrocentrism”, and its legitimacy as an alternative system of thought to the “white racism” which has dominated American intellectual, social and political life. Howe (who is white) quotes the African-American professor, Manning Marable, who defines Afrocentrism as a system of thought which “looks to a romantic, mythical reconstruction of yesterday to find some understanding of the cultural basis of today’s racial and class challenges.” Howe agrees with Marable that Afrocentrism is not only romantic and mythical, but he sees it as ultimately dangerous.

His book is divided into three parts. In the first section Howe looks at the “roots” of Afrocentrism, rightly identifying the writings o the 19th-century writer Edward Wilmot Blyden as being perhaps at the head of this tradition. In 1866 Blyden travelled to Egypt, determined to see evidence of great Black achievements. He was overwhelmed by a sense of racial pride on first seeing the Pyramids: “This, thought I, was the work of my African progenitors … Feelings came over me far different from those I have ever felt when looking at the mighty works of European genius. I felt that I had a peculiar heritage in the Great Pyramid built … by the enterprising sons of Ham, from which I am descended …”

In the second part of his book, Howe focuses largely upon the Senegalese scholar Cheikh Anta Diop (1923-86), identifying him as the originator of many of the ideas that form the basis of modern Afrocentrism. Diop believed that the biological origin of humanity took place in Africa, and that Egypt was the cradle of a Black civilisation that was appropriated by the Ancient Greeks. His writings and scholarship all speak to a need for those of Africa to see beyond the obfuscation created by European racism and colonialism,  and reclaim their glorious past.

The final part of Howe’s book looks at the current manifestations of Afrocentric thought, particularly in American academic life. He rightly castigates the anti-Semitism of Afrocentric “scholars”  such as Leonard Jeffries and Tony Martin, and is tough but even-handed in his case against Molefi Asante (whom Howe calls the “Godfather of Afrocentrism”). The pseudo-scientific racism, the homophobia, and the lack of any serious scholarship which underpins the work of modern-day Afrocentrism is laid bare in a devastating, and at times humorous manner.

This book performs a great service for all who are interested in the intellectual study of race and racism in the US. Howe builds his case upon facts, which most Afrocentric “scholars” seem incapable of doing. However, what Howe does not do is to ask the pressing question which arises out of his book: why is it that so many African Americans both leaders and followers, are prepared to invest in such an ahistorical sense of their world and their history?

The first half of Adam Lively’s book provides some kind of an answer, castigating as it does the European attempts to place Africa and people of African origin at the bottom of the evolutionary chain. Lively traces what he terms “the invention of race” in the modern world, and looks at racial theories in 18th and 19th-century Britain, examined how they clashed with Christianity, and Darwinism.

The second half of the book turns to the US. Lively announces his shift of locale and time, by stating that in the earlier period “If the African answered back, the European didn’t hear. In America by contrast … the American Negro could and did answer back to the White man.” This is not strictly true. Olaudah Equiano’s autobiographical narrative published in 1789 went into eight British editions, and was also published in German, Dutch and Russian. Equiano was but one of a host of contemporary Black writers who were undoubtedly heard by Europeans.

The American half of Lively’s book is largely composed of readings in 20th century American literature which support his central thesis that the contemporary imagination has great difficulty coping with a blackness that has been so deeply demonised by theories which originated in earlier centuries. However, whereas the first half of his book is underpinned by solid research, the second half becomes more speculative.

The book concludes with a short epilogue entitled “Beyond Race?” Unfortunately, here the text collapses into the infuriating academic doublespeak that the author has so eloquently avoided. “The idea of postethnicity accords with the modern tendency to see ethnicity as performative than essentialist. Blackness becomes a cultural style, a signifier that has floated free of its moorings in pigmentation. Stripped of any deterministic associations, its gift is the freedom (or, negatively, the alienation) of the mask.”

Blackness is not, and never will be, simply “a cultural style”. Being Black in the western world still means that one is burdened by White people’s perceptions of  one as either an object of taboo or one of sentiment. To scamper off into an imagined past of Afrocentric “achievement” is as foolish as the attempt to construct an imagined present of redemptive cultural equality based around baggy jeans and rap music. Lively ends his book with the following sentence: “The racial past cannot be erased, but it can be rendered impotent.” Neither Lively’s faith in postmodernism nor the Afrocentric’s “fake” history, will produce any viable solution to a problem that will dog us far into the next millennium.

I hope this prediction is far too pessimistic, and that this millennium won’t be as burdened with issues of race and racism as the previous. Regarding Afrocentrism, there is a serious point behind the romanticism. Egypt is geographically part of Africa, and the ancient Egyptians certainly portrayed themselves as darker skinned than the European peoples to the north. They traded extensively in the Mediterranean, including as far west as Spain, and did influence Greek and Roman culture. The White Afrocentrist historian, Basil Davidson, states that he believes that the Romans took their intellectual culture from Egypt because the Romans themselves said they did. On the other hand, it appears that the ancient Greeks took their mathematical knowledge from the ancient Near East, particularly Phrygia, rather than Egypt.

My problem with Afrocentrism is that, at its extreme, it just becomes a form of anti-White racism, the mirror image of White racist views of Black and African history. In the view of Afrocentric writers like Garakai Chengu, ancient Egypt was a superior Black civilisation that bestowed culture and learning on the backward White tribes of Europe. The Moors of Islamic Spain were ‘obviously Black’, and through their conquest brought backward, superstitious White Europeans enlightened philosophy and science. This isn’t history so much as a Black racist fantasy of imperialism and benign colonialism projected into the past. Chengu has apparently taught at Harvard, but when Counterpunch saw fit to publish a piece by him on their website the standard of scholarship was so poor that I really wondered how he got the job.

Ancient Egypt and the other great civilisations of Africa are awesome, inspiring and worth studying along with all the world’s great cultures. But this needs to be done without the grotesque distortions of racism, whether by Whites or Blacks.

Austria Confirms OPCW Report On Skripal Faking by the British – Vienna Exposes Financial Times Lies and Cover-Up

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 01/08/2020 - 5:14pm in

Revealing a big hole in the official Skripal story.

The Milestone that Nobody Wanted to Reach

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 31/07/2020 - 2:51am in

For all that Trump seems eager to win reelection, he appears to have little interest in governing. Continue reading

The post The Milestone that Nobody Wanted to Reach appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

Barr Doubles Down

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 29/07/2020 - 2:10am in

Attorney General William Barr will testify before the House Judiciary Committee tomorrow for the first time. The Attorney General of the United States is, of course, not the president’s lawyer. The AG is supposed to be the attorney for the United States, protecting the rule of law. (The office of the president has its own lawyer—the White House Counsel—and the president has his own bevy of personal lawyers.) Continue reading

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US Threatens European backers of Nord Stream 2 Pipeline, NATO in DC’s Crosshairs

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 29/07/2020 - 12:35am in

The U.S. is starting to fret about the imminent completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, the second of two underwater gas pipelines running from the Russian Baltic city of Ust-Luga to Greifswald, Germany, and has begun issuing informal threats of repercussions to companies who are backing the nearly-finished project. 

According to unnamed sources, at least a dozen American officials from three separate departments held video conference calls with European contractors working on the pipeline, while U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo reportedly warned private European backers of “risk[ing] the consequences” of continuing their support for the key energy infrastructure project.

Several European energy concerns, such as France’s Engie, Germany’s Wintershall Dea and Uniper and Anglo-Dutch Royal Dutch Shell have indirect financial ties to the massive $11.7 billion-dollar underwater oil pipeline being constructed by Russia’s partially state-owned Gazprom, which will double Russia’s oil export capacity to Europe and seriously infringe on Atlanticist designs over the old continent.

Only six percent of the 1,200-mile pipeline remains to be laid in Danish waters, which is stalled due to U.S. sanctions against the European contractors working on that particular stretch. However, Denmark has recently circumvented the sanctions by licensing different vessels, and construction is set to resume by September.

Gazprom CEO, Alexei Miller disregarded claims that U.S. sanctions would stop the project from being completed, and Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that the pipeline would be commissioned before the end of this year. The completion of the Russian pipeline would mean a practical end to the viability of American LNG exports to Europe; a fate the U.S. has been trying to avoid since the project’s beginning in 2012.

 

US economic warfare

On July 15, the U.S. State Department updated its public guidance on sanctions against Russia and singled the pipeline project, imposing “sanctions on “a person” that “knowingly” invests in Russian energy export pipelines, or that sells Russia goods, technology or services for such pipelines where certain monetary thresholds are met.”

The revised Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) reverses previous stipulations, which contained explicit exemptions for any pipeline projects that were signed before the sanctions were made law. Nord Stream 2 falls within this category and given that the investment threshold for triggering sanctions is relatively low, practically “any significant work done to advance the Nord Stream II pipeline” could be at risk of being targeted by U.S. economic warfare.

The potential ramifications of the new guidance are significant in light of Germany’s clear interest in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project as well as their recent ascent to several key leadership roles within NATO and the EU. Tensions between the U.S. and Germany regarding the Atlanticist organization – punctuated by Trump’s intention to withdraw U.S. troops from the Teuton nation – have started to rise as a result of the pipeline’s unique potential to diminish American influence over its European partners.

 

The end of NATO

German Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, admitted that the relationship between his country and the U.S. while remaining cordial, was now “complicated.” Meanwhile, a member of the German Bundestag (parliament), Christian Schmidt, called for the resumption of talks surrounding the inclusion of Russia into NATO; a topic that was last seriously considered in the 1990s during the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Such rhetoric coming from a key U.S. ally in Europe and a vital NATO member could be the canary in the coal mine for an eventual trade war between the U.S. and the EU. In addition to Schmidt, who was Germany’s Minister of food and agriculture and the Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, a group of German MPs have outright stated that the revised CAATSA targeting the Nord Stream 2 project was nothing less than a “threat to European sovereignty.”

America’s unilateral strategy of economic aggression against its traditional allies in Europe is facilitated by its position as the number one trading partner of Europe and its second provider of goods and services after China. But the pressure to bow down to Washington’s dictates is starting to fray the boundaries of diplomacy and the threat of an actual trade war between the U.S. and Europe is becoming a strong possibility.

Even the Atlantic Council, a U.S.-controlled think tank for NATO policy, is beginning to question whether the military alliance “will still be relevant in the future” in a recent article recapping a debate similarly titled “Is NATO still relevant?.” The panelists were mostly of the same mindset when it came to the diminishing importance of the post-war Atlanticist alliance from the American perspective and making the argument that it no longer served U.S. “defense needs.”

Participants stressed China’s preeminent role as America’s new main antagonist and expressed skepticism over NATO countries’ willingness to provide any “military assistance” in U.S. efforts to contain China. “I don’t dislike NATO,” said Chicago University Professor, John Mearsheimer, “but we live in a completely different world. For most of my life, Europe was the most important area of the world. That’s no longer the case. The distribution of power has changed. Asia is the area that really matters the most to the United States today. The question is, what can Europe do [about China]? What can NATO do? My argument is it can do hardly anything. We have to wake up and smell the coffee.”

Feature photo | Tubes are stored in Sassnitz, Germany, to construct the natural gas pipeline Nord Stream 2 from Russia to Germany, Dec. 6, 2016. Jens Buettner | DPA via AP

Raul Diego is a MintPress News Staff Writer, independent photojournalist, researcher, writer and documentary filmmaker.

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