A Decalogue: The Ten Theses of American Empire-Building: A Dialogue

Global Research, November 10, 2018

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First published by Global Research on August 11, 2018

Introduction

Few, if any, believe what they hear and read from leaders and media publicists. Most people choose to ignore the cacophony of voices, vices and virtues.

This paper provides a set of theses which purports to lay-out the basis for a dialogue between and among those who choose to abstain from elections with the intent to engage them in political struggle.

Thesis 1

US empire builders of all colors and persuasion practice donkey tactics; waving the carrot and wielding the whip to move the target government on the chosen path.

In the same way, Washington offers dubious concessions and threatens reprisals, in order to move them into the imperial orbit.

Washington applied the tactic successfully in several recent encounters. In 2003 the US offered Libyan government of Muammar Gaddafi a peaceful accommodation in exchange for disarmament, abandonment of nationalist allies in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. In 2011, the US with its European allies applied the whip – bombed Libya, financed and armed retrograde tribal and terrorist forces, destroyed the infrastructure, murdered Gaddafi and uprooted millions of Africans and Libyans. . . who fled to Europe. Washington recruited mercenaries for their subsequent war against Syria in order to destroy the nationalist Bashar Assad regime.

Washington succeeded in destroying an adversary but did not establish a puppet regime in the midst of perpetual conflict.

The empire’s carrot weakened its adversary, but the stick failed to recolonize Libya ..Moreover its European allies are obligated to pay the multi-billion Euro cost of absorbing millions of uprooteded immigrants and the ensuing domestic political turmoil.

Thesis 2

Empire builders’ proposal to reconfigure the economy in order to regain imperial supremacy provokes domestic and overseas enemies. President Trump launched a global trade war, replaced political accommodation with economic sanctions against Russia and a domestic protectionist agenda and sharply reduced corporate taxes. He provoked a two-front conflict. Overseas, he provoked opposition from European allies and China, while facing perpetual harassment from domestic free market globalists and Russo-phobic political elites and ideologues.

Two front conflicts are rarely successful. Most successful imperialist conquer adversaries in turn – first one and then the other.

Thesis 3

Leftists frequently reverse course: they are radicals out of office and reactionaries in government, eventually falling between both chairs. We witness the phenomenal collapse of the German Social Democratic Party, the Greek Socialist Party (PASOK), (and its new version Syriza) and the Workers Party in Brazil. Each attracted mass support, won elections, formed alliances with bankers and the business elite – and in the face of their first crises, are abandoned by the populace and the elite.

Shrewd but discredited elites frequently recognize the opportunism of the Left, and in time of distress, have no problem in temporarily putting up with Left rhetoric and reforms as long as their economic interests are not jeopardized. The elite know that the Left signal left and turn right.

Thesis 4

Elections, even ones won by progressives or leftists, frequently become springboards for imperial backed coups. Over the past decade newly elected presidents, who are not aligned with Washington, face congressional and/or judicial impeachment on spurious charges. The elections provide a veneer of legitimacy which a straight-out military-coup lacks.

In Brazil, Paraguay and Venezuela, ‘legislatures’ under US tutelage attempted to ouster popular President. They succeeded in the former and failed in the latter.

When electoral machinery fails, the judicial system intervenes to impose restraints on progressives, based on tortuous and convoluted interpretation of the law. Opposition leftists in Argentina, Brazil and Ecuador have been hounded by ruling party elites.

Thesis 5

Even crazy leaders speak truth to power. There is no question that President Trump suffers a serious mental disorder, with midnight outbursts and nuclear threats against, any and all, ranging from philanthropic world class sports figures (LeBron James) to NATO respecting EU allies.

Yet in his lunacy, President Trump has denounced and exposed the repeated deceits and ongoing fabrications of the mass media. Never before has a President so forcefully identified the lies of the leading print and TV outlets. The NY Times, Washington Post, the Financial Times, NBC, CNN, ABC and CBS have been thoroughly discredited in the eyes of the larger public. They have lost legitimacy and trust. Where progressives have failed, a war monger, billionaire has accomplished, speaking a truth to serve many injustices.

Thesis 6

When a bark turns into a bite, Trump proves the homely truth that fear invites aggression. Trump has implemented or threatened severe sanctions against the EU, China, Iran, Russia, Venezuela, North Korea and any country that fails to submit to his dictates. At first, it was bombast and bluster which secured concessions.

Concessions were interpreted as weakness and invited greater threats. Disunity of opponents encouraged imperial tacticians to divide and conquer. But by attacking all adversaries simultaneously he undermines that tactic. Threats everywhere limits choices to dangerous options at home and abroad.

Thesis 7

The master meddlers, of all times, into the politics of sovereign states are the Anglo-American empire builders. But what is most revealing is the current ploy of accusing the victims of the crimes that are committed against them.

After the overthrow of the Soviet regime, the US and its European acolytes ‘meddled’ on a world-historic scale, pillaging over two trillion dollars of Soviet wealth and reducing Russian living standards by two thirds and life expectancy to under sixty years – below the level of Bangladesh.

With Russia’s revival under President Putin, Washington financed a large army of self-styled ‘non-governmental organizations’ (NGO) to organize electoral campaigns, recruited moguls in the mass media and directed ethnic uprisings. The Russians are retail meddlers compared to the wholesale multi-billion-dollar US operators.

Moreover, the Israeli’s have perfected meddling on a grand scale – they intervene successfully in Congress, the White House and the Pentagon. They set the Middle East agenda, budget and priorities, and secure the biggest military handouts on a per-capita basis in US history!

Apparently, some meddlers meddle by invitation and are paid to do it.

Thesis 8

Corruption is endemic in the US where it has legal status and where tens of millions of dollars change hands and buy Congress people, Presidents and judges.

In the US the buyers and brokers are called ‘lobbyists’ – everywhere else they are called fraudsters. Corruption (lobbying) grease the wheels of billion dollars military spending, technological subsidies, tax evading corporations and every facet of government – out in the open, all the time and place of the US regime.

Corruption as lobbying never evokes the least criticism from the mass media.

On the other hand, where corruption takes place under the table in Iran, China and Russia, the media denounce the political elite – even where in China over 2 million officials, high and the low are arrested and jailed.

When corruption is punished in China, the US media claim it is merely a ‘political purge’ even if it directly reduces elite conspicuous consumption.

In other words, imperial corruption defends democratic value; anti-corruption is a hallmark of authoritarian dictatorships.

Thesis 9

Bread and circuses are integral parts of empire building – especially in promoting urban street mobs to overthrow independent and elected governments.

Imperial financed mobs – provided the cover for CIA backed coups in Iran (1954), Ukraine (2014), Brazil (1964), Venezuela (2003, 2014 and 2017), Argentina (1956), Nicaragua (2018), Syria (2011) and Libya (2011) among other places and other times.

Masses for empire draw paid and voluntary street fighters who speak for democracy and serve the elite. The “mass cover” is especially effective in recruiting leftists who look to the street for opinion and ignore the suites which call the shots.

Thesis 10

The empire is like a three-legged stool it promotes genocide, to secure magnicide and to rule by homicide. Invasions kills millions, capture and kill rulers and then rule by homicide – police assassinating dissenting citizens.

The cases are readily available: Iraq and Libya come to mind. The US and its allies invaded, bombed and killed over a million Iraqis, captured and assassinated its leaders and installed a police state.

A similar pattern occurred in Libya: the US and EU bombed, killed and uprooted several million people, assassinated Ghadaffy and fomented a lawless terrorist war of clans, tribes and western puppets.

“Western values” reveal the inhumanity of empires built to murder “a la carte” – stripping the victim nations of their defenders, leaders and citizens.

Conclusion

The ten theses define the nature of 21st century imperialism – its continuities and novelties.

The mass media systematically write and speak lies to power: their message is to disarm their adversaries and to arouse their patrons to continue to plunder the world.

*

Prof. James Petras is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization.

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Great Recession at 10: $500k wine & jailing Black footballers for insider trading

by Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker BlogGreat Recession at 10: $500k wine & jailing Black footballers for insider trading

November 02, 2018

Ten years ago my life was all screwed up by the economic crisis I had nothing to do with.

In August 2008 AFP (Agence France Presse) said that if I learned French they’d give me a job. I moved in with my parents and studied five hours a day seven days a week for five months. By the time I arrived in France in February AFP, along with everyone else, was no longer hiring. The crisis had started in September with the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers.

So I had wasted all that time and effort. I was in France but sans job – a big problem on multiple levels. I could translate French copy into English adequately but I immediately realised I could not understand anything the French were saying to me, nor could I say hardly anything to them. I was a jobless, isolated, unneeded immigrant with no income and questionable prospects in an overcrowded field now undergoing a second recession (the internet provided the first recession in journalism jobs).

Ten years later, I consider myself lucky: that is hardly the worst story you’ve heard caused by capitalism’s ever-guaranteed, always-exacerbated failures.

What have we learned?

Why are you asking me? Well, I better have something to say because, very fortunately (and rather undeservedly, given the many better journalists here in Paris), for most of the last decade I seem to have been one of the busiest on-the-ground English-language TV reporters in Paris.

Covering the Great Recession from Europe is, I think, far different than covering it from the United States because Europeans often insist that their democracy, economy and mindset is qualitatively different from those in America.

The Great Recession in America was just a case of bad getting worse – dilapidated infrastructure from the Depression or Eisenhower eras remaining dilapidated, widespread drug and alcohol addiction falling deeper into the rabbit hole, near-zero government assistance remaining near-zero, tons of crime devolving into tons of crime now committed by people with tattoos on their faces – i.e., no real change and no real hope for change.

But Europe – ooh la la, they have too much class for tattoos on their faces. They have long-represented the alleged “Third Way”, which gracefully sidestepped American yahoo-ism and (alleged) Soviet totalitarianism, and were recently united in the (alleged) ever-greater fraternity which was the European Union and the Euro.

So what have we learned in 10 years? Last month a former employer of mine reported on the correct price for the best bottle of wine – $558,000.

What on earth is that, besides grounds for a public near-lynching? That is asset inflation of the worst, most socially-useless type. In 2008, that same price got you 27 bottles of wine, which was then the highest price ever paid for a single lot.

This two reports perfectly describe what has been the West’s fiscal policy since the Great Recession began: using taxpayer money to inflate the assets only owned by the rich and the propertied class in order to increase only their wealth. They have spent 10 years re-creating a bubble for upper-class assets – wine is never worth $93,000 a glass any more than a bottle was worth $19,000.

In the same vein, a Leonardo da Vinci painting is not worth the $450 million Mohammad Bin Salman paid for it last year. These massive, heinous, sinful sums are not being forked over because “that is what the market will bear” – they are being paid because the ultra-rich have become ultra-richer in the last 10 years and…you gotta spend your money somewhere.

No, the rich have not let taxpayer trillions burn holes in their pocket: Our money has only re-pumped new bubbles in the primary asset classes of the 1% – luxury goods, real estate, stocks (overvalued companies) and investment funds.

I will get straight to the point: Because our trillions have gone into these wasteful investments, instead of investments which improve overall societal well-being, we are certainly WORSE OFF than ten years ago.

Not all bubbles or debt is the same, despite what German-minded minds will insist. Instead of creating bubbles or debt to do any of a million positive things – improving business efficiency through better infrastructure, inventing cheaper solutions via increased education and research & development, injecting money to circulate into the “real economy” just by giving Joe Schmoe a job to uselessly move a bag of dirt from point A to point B and back again – the lack of socialist central planning has allowed the real economy to be gutted in favor of the economy of the 1%….again.

Of course, there are other bubbles which affect more than just the 1%: Western inflation over the past 10 years has been much more impactful in sapping (my) wages than the upper class realizes, but the US housing market had no reason to have reached 11% above the July 2006 Housing Bubble peak in August 2018.

For those of us who hold no property in real estate or property in corporations (stocks), we are left out in the cold. We still are yoked to debt and can be bankrupted by bubbles, though.

But the bubbles and debt of the 99% are good and even necessary: we need houses to live in, we need our sub-prime auto loans not to lead to repossession, we need our medical bills paid for, we need our elderly care bills paid for because we simply cannot stand how loud Grandpa has the TV any longer. All of this is “good debt” which sends money into the real economy (even if you can’t hold on to it for more than one payday).

The effects of the FIRE economy – Finance, Investment & Real Estate – in the recent history of capitalism has been studied and popularized by American economist Michael Hudson, but we are about to find out AGAIN just how pernicious its influence has been.

The Lost Score: not the stash of swapped prescription medication you have misplaced

Don’t think the Eurozone is lost? The Eurozone’s GDP is 12% lower than in 2008Chinas is up 266% over the same timeframe.

Your problem must be that you believe what you read in the Western Mainstream media: China’s 6.5% growth in the 3rd quarter was “weak” to Reuters, while France’s 3rd quarter growth of just 0.4% was (per my would-be AFP colleagues) a “boost as economy rebounds”. Sure, Frenchy, sure, you’re a real star. Both those articles are from the past fortnight, but it’s the same absurd spin I’ve reported on for nearly 40 economic quarters.

Europe’s Quantitative Easing was scheduled to end September 2017, so back then I wrote a 7-part series which showed how the world’s biggest macro-economy – the Eurozone (but China is about to surpass it – remains the weak link the global economy despite the “whatever it takes” (alleged) solution of European Central Bank President Mario Draghi in 2012. What I did was combine a decade of on-the-street reporting with some basic (leftist) economic sense (FYI, all economic sense is leftist) to write about what will happen when this bubble – the “bailed out by taxpayers” bubble – finally re-bursts.

That is the biggest bubble, and it is about to pop.

Because they no doubt read and agreed with my analysis, the Eurozone’s leaders postponed the end of QE for 1 year. However, come January 1st, no more 30 billion euros in free money to high finance every month – they have been given 2.5 trillion euros in total. Again, we in the Eurozone have gotten zero from all that because the center- and right-wing forms of capitalism do not allow strings to be attached (such as delivering jobs, community betterment, etc.) in return for these fiscal gifts. CEOs, not workers, rule – the Eurozone has never been a socialist republic.

The problem is us:

This policy was not at all wanted by the Eurozone’s population…but this is a liberal democracy: that means public opinion is aggregated once every four or five years, and then the sheep must shut up and take it. That’s why it made no difference when Francois Hollande was elected on an anti-austerity platform: in classic modern liberal democracy form, he simply introduced a divisive, deflecting plan to approve gay marriage on the very same day – November 7, 2012 – that he announced his backtracking acceptance of austerity.

It is only in socialist countries where pubic opinion is actually reflected in policy making – empowering the average citizen is one of the two pillars of socialism (redistribution of wealth being the other) and what do you think “empowering” means? Hint: it is not synonymous with “ignoring”.

The Chinese Communist Party, it has been accurately written, is the world’s biggest public polling firm. There is no doubt that Cuban socialists are reflecting the People’s will when they are counting up their few unblockaded pesos and prioritising education, housing, medicine and food. North Korea is not funding nuclear research because they want to, but because all North Koreans are in agreement that they were the most-attacked, most-threatened, most-surrounded nation in the 2nd-half of the 20th century. You are totally unaware if you think the Iranian Revolution has endured similar violence and menacing by wasting their oil money on policies which the Iranian People cannot immediately and tangibly see have improved their quality of life since 1979: Iran’s economy, essentially 100% state-controlled, reflects the People’s will to a great degree (it is structurally impossible for it to reflect the will of private Iranian CEOs).

However, the West’s beloved liberal democracies do not at all care or reflect popular opinion – liberal democracies are designed to please the bourgeois/aristocratic/top 10%/technocrat/brahmin/genetically-superior/culturally-superior class. We hold these truths to be more self-evident in 2018 than 2008.

But what will happen when QE ends in the Eurozone? My prediction last year was based on capitalist logic: high finance, no longer bought off by free money (and thus less able to pay for $500k wine), will go back to doing what they did at the height of the crisis in Europe – the 2012 Sovereign Debt Crisis – and start squeezing the poorer countries of the Eurozone in the bond market. This time, Italy and Spain will be in their sights. This will soon spark the same chaos and instability as back then.

But worse: as illustrated, the Eurozone is far, far weaker than in 2012. They have spent trillions but bought $500k wine instead of productive, economy-safeguarding, preparing-for-capitalism’s-next-inevitable-rainy-day investments for the 99%. How could anybody possibly see it differently? I guess it’s the same answer to how AFP can see France’s 0.4% Q3 growth as a “boost as economy rebounds”. Keep the faith – success is right around the trickle-down corner, LOL!

You cannot tell me that the bankers have been totally bought off and will be content to roll around in their filth for the next 50 years, because they never are: there is always some young, Martin Shkreli-like, hedge fund-managing punk who wants to make his billions, and he will gladly hold Spain and Italy hostage to do so. Shkreli was not jailed for changing a pill’s price from $13.50 to $750 – that’s totally legal in capitalism – he was jailed because of his big mouth. But his usury and his rapper-like ego is simply how he was raised (in a non-socialist, non-religious Western culture). Nobody can stop him in the capitalist system – there is no central planning, there is total opposition to the idea of a “collective”, and they have even lost that longtime feeling of “positive racism” which formerly lent a sliver of unity to Western imperialist societies (“I can’t ruin my Color tribe and will do some things in their general interest because I hate your Ethnic tribe and fear that Religious tribe could be right.”).

And you can’t say that we are safer now because the criminals of 2008 have been brought to justice: look at the case of Mychal Kendricks, a 27-year old professional American football player convicted of insider trading.

Kendricks is the Black son of a crack addict, so from a socialist perspective his “class label” could not be more perfect – he succeeded despite tremendous obstacles, and he would be listened to with sympathy, targeted for public assistance and given affirmative action policies. He has admitted to insider trading and should be punished, but was the 2008 crisis orchestrated by football players, perhaps in between their concussion protocols and MRIs?

The case illustrates the priority of liberal democratic/bourgeois justice systems: Mychal Kendricks, from the bottom of the socio-economic ladder, faces prison while the 1%ers who gamed the system did much more than escape justice – they were hailed as our only saviours to financial ruin, as too important (big) to fail, and subsequently entrusted with many no-strings-attached trillions.

Corruption must be punished, but Kendricks is not the problem…..

The problem is the lack of socialist central planning, the lack of democratic input (worker empowerment) on public policy, and the lack of prioritising the bottom 90% – the top 10% is prioritised, lauded and excused, instead.

The lack of all those three things created Europe’s Lost Decade of economic growth; created a situation where little-old-me was one of the few journalists to do some basic economic math and to openly say it was a Lost Decade (but which was noticed only by a small group of powerless intelligentsia on the fringe); this lack created today’s reality where things have only gotten worse since 2008, that more crisis is coming, and that the next crisis will necessarily be even worse.

The age of European austerity can be summed up quite simply: creating such a desperate labor market that the 1% was able to roll back Europe’s better-than-average social safety net, regulations, wages and working conditions.

That’s all it was – a wilful economic depression in order to turn the the EU’s work culture (and financial culture) into that of the US. The same process happened during Japan’s Lost Score – the Eurozone is now entering part two of their Lost Score.

These truths are more self-evident in 2018 than 2008. If you haven’t learned that, you obviously remain resolutely pro-capitalism and pro-liberal democracy/West European bourgeois democracy despite ten years of proof in your face.

Socialism has changed much in 10 years – a new generation of leaders in Cuba, the possible reintegration of North Korea into global affairs, a possible rapprochement between Iran and Europe (but not the US), the increasing acceptance of “socialism with Chinese characteristics” as a reproducible and admirable model – but if capitalism has changed at all it is only for the worse.

Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. His work has appeared in various journals, magazines and websites, as well as on radio and television. He can be reached on Facebook.

RT: Netanyahu – Past and Future-

October 26, 2018  /  Gilad Atzmon

GA: A great RT documentary covering the past and present of the Israeli PM, his ideological commitment, the current police probe into the Netanyahu family’s activity and more..

Youtube: The four-term Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu has been in office on and off since 1996. But the veteran politician is at risk of losing his grip on power after a series of corruption cases he’s linked to came to light. RT America correspondent Anya Parampil tracks his career from an Israeli diplomat to the leader of the right-wing Likud party, as well as corruption scandals surrounding first family members.

Future of Western Democracy Being Played Out in Brazil

October 09, 2018

Future of Western Democracy Being Played Out in Brazil

by Pepe Escobar (cross-posted with Consortium News by special agreement with the author)

Stripped to its essence, the Brazilian presidential elections represent a direct clash between democracy and an early 21st Century neofascism, indeed between civilization and barbarism, writes Pepe Escobar.

Nothing less than the future of politics across the West – and across the Global South – is being played out in Brazil.

Stripped to its essence, the Brazilian presidential elections represent a direct clash between democracy and an early 21st Century, neofascism, indeed between civilization and barbarism.

Geopolitical and global economic reverberations will be immense. The Brazilian dilemma illuminates all the contradictions surrounding the Right populist offensive across the West, juxtaposed to the inexorable collapse of the Left. The stakes could not be higher.

Jair Bolsonaro, an outright supporter of Brazilian military dictatorships of last century, who has been normalized as the “extreme-right candidate,” won the first round of the presidential elections on Sunday with more than 49 million votes. That was 46 percent of the total, just shy of a majority needed for an outright win. This in itself is a jaw-dropping development.

His opponent, Fernando Haddad of the Workers’ Party (PT), got only 31 million votes, or 29 percent of the total. He will now face Bolsonaro in a runoff on October 28. A Sisyphean task awaits Haddad: just to reach parity with Bolsonaro, he needs every single vote from those who supported the third and fourth-placed candidates, plus a substantial share of the almost 20 percent of votes considered null and void.

Meanwhile, no less than 69 percent of Brazilians, according to the latest polls, profess their support for democracy. That means 31 percent do not.

No Tropical Trump

Dystopia Central does not even begin to qualify it. Progressive Brazilians are terrified of facing a mutant “Brazil” (the movie) cum Mad Max wasteland ravaged by evangelical fanatics, rapacious neoliberal casino capitalists and a rabid military bent on recreating a Dictatorship 2.0.

Bolsonaro: Danger for Brazil.

Bolsonaro, a former paratrooper, is being depicted by Western mainstream media essentially as the Tropical Trump. The facts are way more complex.

Bolsonaro, a mediocre member of Congress for 27 years with no highlights on his C.V., indiscriminately demonizes blacks, the LGBT community, the Left as a whole, the environment “scam” and most of all, the poor. He’s avowedly pro-torture. He markets himself as a Messiah – a fatalistic avatar coming to “save” Brazil from all those “sins” above.

The Goddess of the Market, predictably, embraces him. “Investors” – those semi-divine entities – deem him good for “the market”, with his last-minute offensive in the polls mirroring a rally in the Brazilian real and the Sao Paulo stock exchange.

Bolsonaro may be your classic extreme-right “savior” in the Nazi mould. He may embody Right populism to the core. But he’s definitely not a “sovereignist” – the motto of choice in political debate across the West. His “sovereign” Brazil would be run more like a retro-military dictatorship totally subordinated to Washington’s whims.

Bolsonaro’s ticket is compounded by a barely literate, retired general as his running mate, a man who is ashamed of his mixed race background and is frankly pro-eugenics. General Antonio Hamilton Mourão has even revived the idea of a military coup.

Manipulating the ticket, we find massive economic interests, tied to mineral wealth, agro-business and most of all the Brazilian Bible Belt. It is complete with death squads against Native Brazilians, landless peasants and African-American communities. It is a haven for the weapons industry. Call it the apotheosis of tropical neo-pentecostal, Christian-Zionism.

Praise the Lord

Brazil has 42 million evangelicals – and over 200 representatives in both branches of Parliament. Don’t mess with their jihad. They know how to exercise massive appeal among the beggars at the neoliberal banquet. The Lula Left simply didn’t know how to seduce them.

So even with echoes of Mike Pence, Bolsonaro is the Brazilian Trump only to a certain extent: his communication skills – talking tough, simplistically, is language understandable to a seven-year old. Educated Italians compare him to Matteo Salvini, the Lega leader, now Minister of Interior. But that’s also not exactly the case.

Bolsonaro is a symptom of a much larger disease. He has only reached this level, a head-to-head in the second round against Lula’s candidate Haddad, because of a sophisticated, rolling, multi-stage, judicial/congressional/business/media Hybrid War unleashed on Brazil.

Way more complex than any color revolution, Hybrid War in Brazil featured a law-fare coup under cover of the Car Wash anti-corruption investigation. That led to the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff and Lula being thrown in jail on corruption charges with no hard evidence or smoking gun.

In every poll Lula would win these elections hand down. The coup plotters managed to imprison him and prevent him from running. Lula’s right to run was highlighted by everyone from Pope Francis to the UN’s Human Rights Council, as well as Noam Chomsky. Yet in a delightful historical twist, the coup plotters’ scenario blew up in their faces as the front-runner to lead the country is not one of them, but a neofascist.

“One of them” would ideally be a faceless bureaucrat affiliated with the former social democrats, the PSDB, turned hardcore neoliberals addicted to posing as Center Left when they are the “acceptable” face of the neoliberal Right. Call them Brazilian Tony Blairs. Specific Brazilian contradictions, plus the advance of Right populism across the West, led to their downfall.

Even Wall Street and the City of London (which endorsed Hybrid War on Brazil after it was unleashed by NSA spying of oil giant Petrobras) have started entertaining second thoughts on supporting Bolsonaro for president of a BRICS nation, which is a leader of the Global South, and until a few years ago, was on its way to becoming the fifth largest economy in the world.

It all hangs on the “vote transfer” mechanism from Lula to Haddad and the creation of a serious, multi-party Progressive Democratic Front on the second round to defeat the rising neofascism. They have less than three weeks to pull it off.

The Bannon Effect

Bannon: Danger for Europe.

It’s no secret that Steve Bannon is advising the Bolsonaro campaign in Brazil. One of Bolsonaro’s sons, Eduardo, met with Bannon in New York two months ago after which the Bolsonaro camp decided to profit from Bannon’s supposed “peerless” social engineering insights.

Bolsonaro’s son tweeted at the time, “We’re certainly in touch to join forces, especially against Cultural Marxism.” That was followed by an army of bots disgorging an avalanche of fake news up to Election Day.

A specter haunts Europe. Its name is Steve Bannon. The specter has moved on to the tropics.

In Europe, Bannon is now poised to intervene like an angel of doom in a Tintoretto painting heralding the creation of a EU-wide Right Populist coalition.

Bannon is notoriously praised to high heavens by Italian Interior Minister Salvini; Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban; Dutch nationalist Geert Wilders; and scourge of the Paris establishment, Marine Le Pen.

Last month, Bannon set up The Movement; at first sight just a political start-up in Brussels with a very small staff. But talk about Boundless Ambition: their aim is no less than turning the European parliamentary elections in May 2019 upside down.

The European parliament in Strasbourg – a bastion of bureaucratic inefficiency – is not exactly a household name across the EU. The parliament is barred from proposing legislation. Laws and budgets can only be blocked via a majority vote.

Bannon aims at capturing at least one-third of the seats in Strasbourg. He’s bound to apply tested American-style methods such as intensive polling, data analysis, and intensive social media campaigns – much the same as in Bolsonaro’s case. But there’s no guarantee it will work, of course.

The foundation stone of The Movement was arguably laid in two key meetings in early September set up by Bannon and his right-hand man, Mischael Modrikamen, chairman of the quite small Belgian Parti Populaire (PP). The first meeting was in Rome with Salvini and the second in Belgrade with Orban.

Modrikamen defines the concept as a “club” which will “collect funds from donors, in America and Europe, to make sure ‘populist’ ideas can be heard by the citizens of Europe who perceive more and more that Europe is not a democracy anymore.”

Modrikamen insists, “We are all sovereignists.” The Movement will hammer four themes that seem to form a consensus among disparate, EU-wide political parties: against “uncontrolled immigration”; against “Islamism”; favoring “security” across the EU; and supporting “a Europe of sovereign nations, proud of their identity.”

The Movement should really pick up speed after next month’s midterms in the U.S. In theory, it could congregate different parties from the same nation under its umbrella. That could be a very tall order, even taller than the fact key political actors already have divergent agendas.

Wilders wants to blow up the EU. Salvini and Orban want a weak EU but they don’t want to get rid of its institutions. Le Pen wants a EU reform followed by a “Frexit” referendum.

The only themes that unite this mixed Right Populism bag are nationalism, a fuzzy anti-establishment drive and a – quite popular – disgust with the EU’s overwhelming bureaucratic machine.

Here we find some common ground with Bolsonaro, who poses as a nationalist and as against the Brazilian political system – even though he’s been in Parliament for ages.

There’s no rational explanation for Bolsonaro’s last-minute surge among two sections of the Brazilian electorate that deeply despise him: women and the Northeast region, which has always been discriminated against by the wealthier South and Southeast.

Much like Cambridge Analytica in the 2016 U.S. election, Bolsonaro’s campaign targeted undecided voters in Northeastern states, as well as women voters, with a barrage of fake news demonizing Haddad and the Workers’ Party. It worked like a charm.

The Italian Job

I’ve just been to northern Italy checking out how popular Salvini really is. Salvini defines the May 2019 European Parliament elections as “the last chance for Europe.” Italian Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero sees them as the first “real election for the future of Europe.” Bannon also sees the future of Europe being played in Italy.

It’s quite something to seize the conflicting energy in the air in Milan, where Salvini’s Lega is quite popular while at the same time Milan is a globalized city crammed with ultra-progressive pockets.

At a political debate about a book published by the Bruno Leoni Institute regarding exiting the euro, Roberto Maroni, a former governor of the powerful Lombardia region, remarked: “Italexit is outside of the formal agenda of the government, of the Lega and of the center-right.” Maroni should know, after all he was one of the Lega’s founders.

He hinted however that major changes are on the horizon. “To form a group in the European parliament, the numbers are important. This is the moment to show up with a unique symbol among parties of many nations.”

It’s not only Bannon and The Movement’s Modrikamen. Salvini, Le Pen and Orban are convinced they can win the 2019 elections – with the EU transformed into a “Union of European Nations.” This would include not just a couple of big cities where all the action is, with the rest reduced to fly over status. Right Populism argues that France, Italy, Spain, and Greece are no longer nations – only mere provinces.

Macron: Perfect “progressive” wolf to be released among the sheep.

Right Populism derives immense satisfaction that its main enemy is the self-described “Jupiter” Macron – mocked across France by some as the “Little Sun King.” President Emmanuel Macron must be terrified that Salvini is emerging as the “leading light” of European nationalists.

This is what Europe seems to be coming to: a trashy, Salvini vs. Macron cage match.

Arguably the Salvini vs. Macron fight in Europe might be replicated as Bolsonaro vs. Haddad in Brazil. Some sharp Brazilian minds are convinced Haddad is the Brazilian Macron.

In my view he is not. His has a background in philosophy and he’s a former, competent mayor of Sao Paulo, one of the most complex megalopolises on the planet. Macron is a Rothschild mergers and acquisitions banker. Unlike Macron, who was engineered by the French establishment as the perfect “progressive” wolf to be released among the sheep, Haddad embodies what’s left of really progressive Left.

On top of that – unlike virtually the whole Brazilian political spectrum – Haddad is not corrupt. He’d have to offer the requisite pound of flesh to the usual suspects if he wins of course. But he’s not out to be their puppet.

Compare Bolsonaro’s Trumpism, apparent in his last-minute message before Election Day: “Make Brazil Great Again,” with Trump’s Trumpism.

Bolsonaro’s tools are unmitigated praise of the Motherland; the Armed Forces; and the flag.

But Bolsonaro is not interested in defending Brazilian industry, jobs and culture. On the contrary. A graphic example is what happened in a Brazilian restaurant in Deerfield Beach, Florida, a year ago: Bolsonaro saluted the American flag and chanted “USA! USA!”

That’s undiluted MAGA – without a “B”.

Jason Stanley, professor of philosophy at Yale and author of How Fascism Works, takes us further. Stanley stresses how “the idea in fascism is to destroy economic politics… The corporatists side with politicians who use fascist tactics because they are trying to divert people’s attention from the real forces that cause the genuine anxiety they feel.”

Bolsonaro has mastered these diversionist tactics. And he excels in demonizing so-called Cultural Marxism. Bolsonaro fits Stanley’s description as applied to the U.S.:

“Liberalism and Cultural Marxism destroyed our supremacy and destroyed this wonderful past where we ruled and our cultural traditions were the ones that dominated. And then it militarizes the feeling of nostalgia. All the anxiety and loss that people feel in their lives, say from the loss of their healthcare, the loss of their pensions, the loss of their stability, then gets rerouted into a sense that the real enemy is liberalism, which led to the loss of this mythic past.”

In the Brazilian case, the enemy is not liberalism but the Workers’ Party, derided by Bolsonaro as “a bunch of communists.” Celebrating his astonishing first round victory, he said Brazil was on the edge of a corrupt, communist “abyss” and could either choose a path of “prosperity, freedom, family” or “the path of Venezuela”.

The Car Wash investigation enshrined the myth that the Workers’ Party and the whole Left is corrupt (but not the Right). Bolsonaro overextended the myth:  every minority and social class is a target – in his mind they are “communists” and “terrorists.”

Goebbels comes to mind – via his crucial text The Radicalization of Socialism, where he emphasized the necessity of portraying the center-left as Marxists and socialists because, as Stanley notes, “the middle class sees in Marxism not so much the subverter of national will, but mainly the thief of its property.”

That’s at the center of Bolsonaro’s strategy of demonizing the Workers Party – and the Left in general. The strategy of course is drenched in fake news – once again mirroring what Stanley writes about U.S. history: “The whole concept of empire is based on fake news. All of colonization is based on fake news.”

Right Against Left Populism?

Haddad: Three weeks to head off Bolsonaro

As I wrote in a previous column, the Left in the West is like a deer caught in the headlights when it comes to fighting Right populism.

Sharp minds from Slavoj Zizek to Chantal Mouffe are trying to conceptualize an alternative – without being able to coin the definitive neologism. Left populism? Popularism? Ideally, that should be “democratic socialism” – but no one, in a post-ideology, post-truth environment, would dare utter the dreaded word.

The ascent of Right populism is a direct consequence of the emergence of a profound crisis of political representation all over the West; the politics of identity erected as a new mantra; and the overwhelming power of social media, which allows – in Umberto Eco’s peerless definition – the ascent of “the idiot of the village to the condition of Oracle.”

As we saw earlier, the central motto of Right populism in Europe is anti-immigration – a barely disguised variation of hate towards The Other. In Brazil the main theme, emphasized by Bolsonaro, is urban insecurity. He could be the Brazilian Rodrigo Duterte – or Duterte Harry: “Make my day, punk.”

He portrays himself as the Righteous Defender against a corrupt elite (even though he’s part of the elite); and his hatred of all things politically correct, feminism, homosexuality, multiculturalism – are all unpardonable offenses to his “family values.”

Brazilian historian says the only way to oppose him is to “translate” to each sector of Brazilian society how Bolsonaro’s positions affect them: on “widespread weaponizing, discrimination, jobs, (and) taxes.” And it has to be done in less than three weeks.

Arguably the best book explaining the failure of the Left everywhere to deal with this toxic situation is Jean-Claude Michea’s Le Loup dans la Bergerie – The Wolf Among the Sheep – published in France a few days ago.

Michea shows concisely how the deep contradictions of liberalism since the 18th century – political, economic and cultural – led it to TURN AGAINST ITSELF and be cut off from the initial spirit of tolerance (Adam Smith, David Hume, Montesquieu). That’s why we are deep inside post-democratic capitalism.

Euphemistically called “the international community” by Western mainstream media, the elites, who have been confronted since 2008 with “the growing difficulties faced by the process of globalized accumulation of capital,” now seem ready to do anything to keep its privileges.

Michea is right that the most dangerous enemy of civilization – and even Life on Earth – is the blind dynamics of endless accumulation of capital. We know where this neoliberal Brave New World is taking us.

The only counterpunch is an autonomous, popular movement “that would not be submitted to the ideological and cultural hegemony of ‘progressive’ movements that for over three decades defend only the cultural interests of the new middle classes around the world,” Michae says.

For now, such a movement rests in the realm of Utopia. What’s left is to try to remedy a coming dystopia – such as backing a real Progressive Democratic Front to block a Bolsonaro Brazil.

One of the highlights of my Italian sojourn was a meeting with Rolf Petri, Professor of Contemporary History at the Ca Foscari University in Venice, and author of the absolutely essential A Short History of Western Ideology: A Critical Account.

Ranging from religion, race and colonialism, to the Enlightenment project of “civilization”, Petri weaves a devastating tapestry of how “the imagined geography of a ‘continent’ that was not even a continent offered a platform for the affirmation of European superiority and the civilizing mission of Europe.”

During a long dinner in a small Venetian trattoria away from the galloping selfie hordes, Petri observed how Salvini – a middle-class small entrepreneur – craftily found out how to channel a deep unconscious longing for a mythical harmonious Europe that won’t be coming back, much as petty bourgeois Bolsonaro evokes a mythical return to the “Brazilian miracle” during the 1964-1985 military dictatorship.

Every sentient being knows that the U.S. has been plunged into extreme inequality “supervised” by a ruthless plutocracy. U.S. workers will continue to be royally screwed as are French workers under “liberal” Macron. So would Brazilian workers under Bolsonaro. To borrow then from Yeats, what rough beast, in this darkest hour, slouches towards freedom to be born?

Pepe Escobar, a veteran Brazilian journalist, is the correspondent-at-large for Hong Kong-based Asia Times. His latest book is 2030. Follow him on Facebook.

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Times of Israel: Ex-Mossad chief: israel (apartheid state) ‘dangerously sick’ under Netanyahu’s leadership

Times of Israel: Ex-Mossad chief: Israel ‘dangerously sick’ under Netanyahu’s leadership
Five former spymasters say PM eroding country’s core values, decry ‘pervasive’ culture of corruption under his tenure

Top row: Former Mossad chiefs from L to R: Danny Yatom, Tamir Pardo, Zvi Zamir, Shabtai Shavit, Nahum Admoni and Efraim Halevy. Bottom row: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and President Reuven Rivlin host a candle lighting ceremony for of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah at the President's residence in Jerusalem on December 18, 2014. (Haim Zach / GPO)

Top row: Former Mossad chiefs from L to R: Danny Yatom, Tamir Pardo, Zvi Zamir, Shabtai Shavit, Nahum Admoni and Efraim Halevy. Bottom row: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and President Reuven Rivlin host a candle lighting ceremony for of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah at the President’s residence in Jerusalem on December 18, 2014. (Haim Zach / GPO)

Five former chiefs of the Mossad spy agency leveled harsh criticism at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week, with one saying that Israel was “dangerously sick” under his leadership.

“I feel so bad about what is happening in the country, the corruption is so deep, so pervasive,” Shabtai Shavit told the Yedioth Ahronoth daily in an excerpt of a joint sit down interview ahead of Independence Day. “There are no red lines, no taboos and add to that the deepening rift among the people.”

Shavit was joined by Zvi Zamir, Nahum Admoni, Danny Yatom, Efraim Halevy and Tamir Pardo in expressing serious concerns about Israel’s future.

“As intelligence people, our most important skill is being able to anticipate the future,” Shavit added. “So I ask myself what kind of country will my grandchildren inherit, and I cannot give an answer to that.”

Ex-Mossad director Shabtai Shavit speaks at press conference in Tel Aviv on March 11, 2015. (photo credit: Ben Kelmer/FLASH90)

“It’s a problem of values, of divisions,” Pardo said. “We need leadership that is able to navigate between crises at the right places, but unfortunately, that does not exist today.”

Zamir, the oldest of the group at age 93, fired off the sharpest criticism of Netanyahu, saying the prime minister and his powerful cronies were only serving their own interests.

“I’m not sure that for the prime minister and the senior officials surrounding him that public interests prevail over their personal interests of more money and more power,” he said.

“We are dangerously sick,” he said. “Netanyahu may have inherited a country with symptoms, but he has ushered it into a state of malignant disease.”

Yatom echoed Zamir’s sentiment, saying it was unsurprising that Netanyahu and a growing number of his associates are under investigation for corruption, because they put their own interests ahead of the country’s.

Israel, he warned, was “on a downward spiral,” and called on the prime minister to resign.

In his interview, Halevy criticized Netanyahu, saying his “need for headlines and obsession with his public image verses running the country and managing its security matters is problematic.”

Efraim Halevy (L) is interviewed by the Times of Israel’s David Horovitz, February 26, 2017. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

“I think something very bad has happened to leadership in Israel,” he added. “There is a major flaw in the political system that everything that isn’t illegal is kosher.”

88-year-old Admoni said his main concern with Israel today is the growing rift between Israelis, asserting the divide between religious and secular populations was “worse than its ever been.”

“The divide just keeps growing,” Admoni lamented.

Nearly all of the former intelligence officials have publicly censured Netanyahu in the past, though the extensive criticism leveled against him in Yedioth on Tuesday was unprecedented.

The full interview with the six former Mossad chiefs will run in Yedioth’s weekend magazine, 7 Days, on Friday.

Netanyahu is embroiled in several corruption scandals and was questioned again by police on Monday in connection with the Bezeq scandal, known as case 4000.

The probe involves suspicions that Netanyahu, who has served as communications minister for several years over his past two terms as premier, advanced regulatory decisions benefiting Bezeq controlling shareholder Shaul Elovitch in exchange for flattering coverage of the Netanyahus from the Elovitch-owned Walla news site.

In addition to Case 4000, Netanyahu is also suspected of wrongdoing in so-called cases 1000 and 2000, in which police have recommended he be indicted for bribery, breach of trust and fraud.

Police investigators arrive at the prime minister’s resident in Jerusalem to interrogate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, March 2, 2018 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In Case 1000, Netanyahu and his wife are suspected of receiving illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, amounting to some NIS 1 million ($282,000) worth of cigars and champagne from the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and Australian resort owner James Packer, allegedly in return for certain benefits.

Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid-pro-quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes that would have seen the prime minister weaken a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.

Netanyahu denies wrongdoing in all the cases.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/ex-mossad-chiefs-israel-dangerously-sick-under-netanyahus-leadership/

Michael Cohen Tells Court Trump Directed Him to Break Law

 August 22, 2018

Cohen Trump

US President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, admitted he violated campaign laws at the direction of “the candidate” and his former campaign manager was convicted of bank and tax fraud.

Cohen, pleaded guilty to violating campaign laws at a Manhattan court and said he was acting for the “purpose of influencing the (presidential) election”.

Cohen did not name the candidate, but was working for Trump at the time.

He told the judge that he was aware of what he was doing before pleading guilty to the charges, admitting that he worked “at the direction of candidate” when he attempted to buy the silence  of Karen McDougal, a former Playboy playmate who has claimed she had an affair with Mr Trump in 2016.

Cohen also admitted that he worked “with and at the direction of the same candidate” to deliver a $130,000 (£100,000) payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels to silence her claims about an affair.

Although did not mention Trump’s name, he was employed by the billionaire businessman, then a presidential candidate, at the time the payments were made.

Cohen’s admission came minutes after the jury in the trial of Paul Manafort, the president’s former campaign manager, returned a guilty verdict in eight counts of bank and tax fraud.

The jury took four days to find Manafort guilty on five counts of tax fraud, one count of failing to disclose his foreign bank accounts, and two counts of bank fraud.

Cohen is known for his previously close relationship with Trump, and has repeatedly been described as his “fixer” for difficult matters. That proximity means Cohen could potentially create substantial legal headaches for Trump, whose 2016 presidential campaign is being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller for collusion with Russia.

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