The Mueller Indictments and The Trump-Putin Summit: Triumph of the Deep State?

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The term “deep state” has been so over-used in the past few years that it may seem meaningless. It has become standard practice to label one’s political adversaries as representing the “deep state” as a way of avoiding the defense of one’s positions. President Trump has often blamed the “deep state” for his political troubles. Trump supporters have created big conspiracies involving the “deep state” to explain why the president places neocons in key positions or fails to fulfill his campaign promises.

But the “deep state” is no vast and secret conspiracy theory. The deep state is real, it operates out in the open, and it is far from monolithic. The deep state is simply the permanent, unelected government that continues to expand its power regardless of how Americans vote.

There are factions of the deep state that are pleased with President Trump’s policies, and in fact we might say that President Trump represents some factions of the deep state.

Other factions of the deep state are determined to undermine any of President Trump’s actions they perceive as threatening. Any move toward peace with Russia is surely something they feel to be threatening. There are hundreds of billions of reasons – otherwise known as dollars – why the Beltway military-industrial complex is terrified of peace breaking out with Russia and will do whatever it takes to prevent that from happening.

That is why Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s indictment on Friday of 12 Russian military intelligence officers for allegedly interfering in the 2016 US presidential election should immediately raise some very serious questions.

First the obvious: after more than a year of investigations which have publicly revealed zero collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, why drop this bombshell of an allegation at the end of the news cycle on the last business day before the historic Trump/Putin meeting in Helsinki? The indictment could not have been announced a month ago or in two weeks? Is it not suspicious that now no one is talking about reducing tensions with Russia but is all of a sudden – thanks to Special Counsel Robert Mueller – talking about increasing tensions?

Unfortunately most Americans don't seem to understand that indictments are not evidence. In fact they are often evidence-free, as is this indictment.

Did the Russian government seek to interfere in the 2016 US presidential elections? It’s certainly possible, however we don’t know. None of the Justice Department’s assertions have been tested in a court of law, as is thankfully required by our legal system. It is not enough to make an allegation, as Mueller has done. You have to prove it.

That is why we should be very suspicious of these new indictments. Mueller knows he will never have to defend his assertions in a court of law so he can make any allegation he wants.

It is interesting that one of the Russian companies indicted by Mueller earlier this year surprised the world by actually entering a “not guilty” plea and demanding to see Mueller’s evidence. The Special Counsel proceeded to file several motions to delay the hand-over of his evidence. What does Mueller have to hide?

Meanwhile, why is no one talking about the estimated 100 elections the US government has meddled in since World War II? Maybe we need to get our own house in order?

The Rocky Road to Helsinki

This is written July 14, two days before the Helsinki summit between Presidents Trump and Putin, and everything is on schedule in very predictable fashion – according to script.

In the US, Rod Rosenstein has released “indictments” of 12 Russians who are accused of “hacking” Democratic National Committee servers other Democratic Party associated computers.  These mysterious hackers are allegedly associated with the Russian government, for which there is not a shred of evidence.  Right on cue, Schumer, Pelosi and other leading Democrats called on Trump to cancel his meeting with Putin.  How lucky for them that these indictments came down precisely at this moment.  It does not take a genius to understand that Rosenstein could have withheld them for a week so as not to undermine the President as he pursues Détente 2.0.

Likewise the discredited Skripal case has been thrust into the headlines again in good time for the summit.  Even Greece, normally very friendly with Russia, expelled a few diplomats several days back due to the resurrection of l’affaire Skripal, thus jeopardizing an upcoming visit by Russian FM Lavrov.

Finally, Trump attended the NATO meetings to assure the “allies” that Putin of the taiga that they so fear would not frighten him.  He even promised to hold fast to “obsolete” NATO if the Europeans provided more Euros for the Cold War behemoth now lumbering about from Afghanistan to Libya and beyond tearing up the place and killing innocents far and wide.  In this way did Trump armor himself against the hawks.

And, of course, the pundits have been shrieking at the top of their lungs that Trump is disrupting the Cold War order.  The air is thick with such emanations as Russian expert Stephen F. Cohen reminds us thus:

As a rule, American presidents have departed for summits with bipartisan support and well-wishes. Trump’s upcoming meeting with Russian President Putin, in Helsinki on July 16, is profoundly different in two respects. US-Russian relations have rarely, if ever, been more dangerous. And never before has a president’s departure—in Trump’s case, first for a NATO summit and then the one with Putin—been accompanied by allegations that he is disloyal to the United States and thus cannot be trusted, defamations once issued only by extremist fringe elements in American politics. Now, however, we are told this daily by mainstream publications, broadcasts, and “think tanks.” According to a representative of the Clintons’ Center for American Progress, “Trump is going to sell out America and its allies.” The New York Times and The Washington Post also feature “experts”—they are chosen accordingly—who “worry” and “fear”that Trump and Putin “will get along.” The Times of London, a bastion of Russophobic Cold War advocacy, captures the mainstream perspective in a single headline: “Fears Grow Over Prospect of Trump ‘Peace Deal’ with Putin.

An anti-“peace” Washington establishment is, of course, what still-unproven Russiagate allegations have wrought, as summed up by a New Yorkmagazine writer who advises us that the Trump-Putin summit may well be “less a negotiation between two heads of state than a meeting between a Russian-intelligence asset and his handler.””

The roots and ramifications of this hysteria are explored by CJ Hopkins in the fashion they richly deserve in his essay “Hardcore Hitler on Hitler in Helsinki” here.  And on it goes.

Amidst all this perfervid consternation Trump is enjoying a few rounds of golf in Scotland.  He has also declared that Putin is a “competitor” but not an “enemy,” a distinction the politically anencephalic Cold War set cannot grasp.   But Trump continues to insist that it is a “good thing not a bad thing” for the US “to get along with Russia” – and China and North Korea and others. So Trump continues to stick with this motif from the 2016 campaign even though it eats up a lot of political capital and exposes him to the barrage of hysterical attacks outlined above.  That is a sound sign that his declared intent is genuine.

The Russiagate witch hunt makes it nearly impossible for Trump to make concessions to Russia in return for concessions to us.  Absent that, there is no way forward, no deals, no Détente 2.0.  So the witch hunters are willing to risk nuclear confrontation to preserve the old Cold World Order or to indulge a blanket hatred for all things Trump.  Such monsters do not deserve the time of day, let alone a vote, no matter whether they call themselves conservatives or liberals – and more of them seem to bear the liberal label these days.

This summit will present far more difficult political problems than did the Singapore meeting with Kim Jong-un.  In Singapore all the interested parties wanted denuclearization of the Korean peninsula – Kim, Moon, the people of Korea, Trump, Xi and Putin, and even Abe.  So to begin this deal was a no-brainer, and it is quite astonishing in retrospect that the previous administration failed to do so.

But the Summit poses great problems, because of the political pressures brought to bear on Putin and Trump.  Each leader has hawks in his country opposing Détente 2.0.  Trump’s are headquartered in the “Think” Tanks, the Dem Party Elite, the Main Stream Media, the Military Industrial Congressional Complex and the punditry associated with them all.  Just as important is Israel which does not want peace with Iran, an ally of Russia.  And unfortunately the space between the ears of virtually every US politician, with the exception of a few libertarians, is Israeli occupied territory, and its US Amen Corner stands careful watch over this prized conquest.  The issue of Iran is therefore the Achilles heel of the struggle for Détente 2.0.

But in the midst of all the commotion let us not forget the stakes. According to the Stockholm International Peace and Research Institute, the US and Russia each have about 6500 – 7000 nuclear warheads with over 1600 on each side “deployed,” that is placed on missiles or located on bases with operational forces.  These are ready to go at a moment’s notice and cause suffering of a sort never before seen in human history, with the death of billions and perhaps the end of all human life, as Daniel Ellsberg informs us in chilling detail in The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner.  The carpings of our hawks are as nothing compared to the opportunity to move out from under this nuclear cloud.

If this essay serves any purpose, it is to call more attention to the dangerous atmosphere being created by our media, the Dem pols and our “opinion shapers” in the lead up to the summit.  A plan of action is in order.  Complain like hell to every media outlet guilty of this disgraceful behavior.  It only takes an email and the lords of the media, ever concerned about their bottom line, count them.  Same with our hawkish pols.

And afterwards if the Summit does not take us in the direction of peace, complain like hell to the White House.  But if the outcome of the Summit inches us away from Armageddon and toward Detente, as did the Singapore summit, have at the naysayers – they are standing in the way of our survival.  And likewise praise to the skies a positive outcome.  It is this attitude that the press is trying to prevent.  Let them not instill in the populace a hatred of Trump that is stronger than the hatred of war.

• First published at Anti-war.com

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The Woes of Luka Modrić: Croatia, Nationalism and Football

Juraj Vrdoljak of Telesport was convinced.  “I think half the population didn’t show up to work on the morning after the win against England.” The victory had inspired early shop closures, a feeling of rampant escapism. “Croatia is a country with a deep economic crisis.  Every day, life is really hard.  It’s full of bad stories and tough times.  There is lot of poverty.  A lot of people are emigrating.”

Members of Croatia’s football team have become national talismans of endurance, the shock troops of resilience and hope.  Ivan Rakitić, when he takes the field against France, will be playing his 71st match of the season, the most than any top-flight player this year.  Luka Modrić remains unflinching in the midfield as the team’s general.  Domagoj Vida has been granite in defensive solidity.

Football teams can be held up as mirrors of the nations they represent. This sociological gazing can always be taken too far, a scholar’s fruitless pondering, but Croatia’s national side is instructive.  It was Dinamo Zagreb’s Zvonimir Boban who stirred matters with his heralded assault on a police officer engaged in a violent scuffle with fans in a match against Red Star Belgrade.  Croatian football was fashioned as a vehicle of protest and dissent against what was seen as a Serb-dominated federation.

In time, football kicks became shells and bullets in the murderous dissolution of Yugoslavia.  To this day, a legend stubbornly holds that the truculent Bad Blue Boys of Dinamo and the countering Deljie of Red Star precipitated the first shots of that war.

Starting with its current inspirational captain, the link between social ill and patriotic performance can be seamless.  When he finishes the tournament in Russia, Modrić will have to turn his mind back to his relationship with mentor and former Dinamo Zagreb executive Zdravko Mamić, a towering figure who finds himself facing a six-and-a-half year prison sentence for corruption and fraud.  From Bosnia and Herzegovina, he does battle with the authorities, attempting to avoid extradition after fleeing Croatia.

A bursting feature of the case mounted against Mamić involved claims of ill-gotten gains from transfers of Modrić from Dinamo Zagreb to Tottenham Hotspur in 2008 and Dejan Lovren to Lyon in 2010.  Modrić, it seemed, was implicated in signing an annex to his Dinamo contract, suggesting a 50-50 split of any future transfer fee.  What was significant was the timing – 2015 as opposed to any earlier dates.  Through his tenure, suggestions that Mamić had conducted a “silent privatisation” of the club were rampant, producing inflated transfer prices and a cult of acquisitiveness.

Modrić, having been billed as a star witness who initially supplied anti-corruption investigators with gold dust on Mamić’s penchant for cooking the accounts, notably in terms of pocketing millions of euros of the transfer fee, froze in the dock.  His memory, it seemed, had failed him; the contract annex was not signed, as he initially claimed, in 2015 but 2004.  This testimony was effectively rendered worthless.  Croatia’s captain now faces the prospect of a perjury charge that carries a possible sentence of five years in prison.

The Croatian Football association, in an official statement in March, was not having a bar of it, unsurprising given the powers that be within the country’s football hierarchy.  The body insisted upon “the principle of innocence and considers every person innocent until proven otherwise.”  It was also “deeply convinced of the correctness of Luka Modrić’s testimony before the court in Osijek, and especially because of Modrić’s behaviour since his first appearance for the Croatian U-15 team in March 2001 to date.”

While every inch the commander in the field, with his team keen to impress in their following, not all Croatian supporters are in the Modrić tent of fandom. The Bad Blue Boys have found themselves split in loyalties over the years, with some, such as Juraj Ćošić, forming a breakaway team, Futsal Dinamo. “Zdravko Mamić,” claims football sociologist Ben Perasović, “is a typical member of the new rich class.”  It is a class that continues to afflict Croatian football with their depredations, a looting tendency that is only now being reined in with mixed success.

The other team members have also shown this side to be rather prickly. Vida, and the now sacked assistant coach Ognjen Vukojević, were caught on film making comments supportive of Ukrainian nationalists in the aftermath of the side’s defeat of Russia in the quarter-finals.  FIFA’s benevolence prevailed, and the centre-back was permitted to play in the semi-final against England.

Such a background adds more than a touch of complexity, with all its discomforts, to the World Cup final against France.  Croatia’s team will not merely be facing their opponents on the field in a battle of wits and tenacity. Off it, pens and knives are being readied and sharpened, with prosecutions being prepared.

Even now, the team is being written off by the smug pundits of football orthodoxy, though with less disdain than before.  Three matches on the trot into extra-time suggest imminent exhaustion, a possible overrunning by a more refreshed French team. But desperation, in meeting talent, can be the most potent of elixirs.  This Croatian team has pushed the sceptics to the edge, and threatens to leave them there.  And with players like Modrić, adversity remains their closest companion.

Starving and Bombed Children of Yemen Seek Entrapment in Flooded Thai Cave

While the world watched and waited with bated breath for the outcome of the substantial global effort – involving over 100 cave divers from various countries, 1,000 members of the Thai Army and 10,000 others in various roles – to rescue a team of 12 young football players and their coach, who were trapped inside a flooded cave in Thailand for 17 days, 850,000 children were killed by human adults in other parts of the world, many of them simply starved to death in Yemen or other parts of Africa, Asia and Central/South America.

But other children were killed in ritual sacrifice. Many children were killed after being sexually trafficked, raped and tortured, many were killed in wars (including in Yemen), many were killed while living under military occupation, many died as child soldiers or while working as slave laborers, and vast numbers of other children suffered violence in a myriad other forms ranging from violence (including sexual violation) inflicted in the family home to lives of poverty, homelessness and misery in wealthy industrialized countries or as refugees fleeing conflict zones.

Why did the world’s corporate media highlight the flooded Thai cave story so graphically and why do so many ordinary people respond with such interest – meaning genuine emotional engagement – in this story? But not the others just mentioned?

And what does this tell us about human psychology and geopolitics?

Needless to say, a great deal.

During the Thai cave drama, major corporate media outlets, such as the Washington Post and the BBC, were routinely releasing ‘breaking news’ updates on the status of the rescue effort. At high points in the drama, reports on this issue were overshadowing major political and other stories of the day. At the same time, there were no ‘breaking news’ stories on any of the many myriad forms of violence against children, which were (and are still) killing 50,000 children each day.

So why the corporate media interest in this essentially local (Thai) story about a group of 12 children trapped in a cave? And why did it attract so much support, including foreign cave divers, engineers and medics as well as technology billionaire Elon Musk, who flew in to investigate rescue options and assist with the rescue effort. They and their equivalents are certainly not flying in to rescue children in a vast number of other contexts, including where the provision of simple, nourishing meals and clean water would do wonders.

Well, in essence, the story was a great one for the corporate media, simply because it reported on something of little consequence to those not immediately impacted and enabled the media to garner attention for itself and other (western) ‘heroes’ drawn into the story while engaging in its usual practice of distracting us from what really matters. And it was an easy story to sell simply because the media could use a wide range of safe emotional triggers to draw people into the dramatized story without simultaneously raising difficult questions about the (appalling) state of the world and responsibility for it.

In simple language: like sports events and other forms of entertainment, the cave rescue provided a safely contained time and space for people to feel emotionally engaged in (this case) a real-life drama (with feelings like fear and relief allowed an outlet) while carefully reinforcing their unconscious feeling of powerlessness to do anything about it and their acceptance of this. This is why it was so important that expert rescue efforts were highlighted: the key media message was that ‘there is nothing you can do’.

Of course, in this context, this was largely true. The problem is that the corporate media coverage wasn’t aimed at this context. It was aimed at all those other contexts which it wasn’t even discussing, let alone highlighting: the vast range of issues – including the many ongoing wars and endless military violence, the threat of nuclear war, the climate catastrophe and innumerable threats to our biosphere posed by such activities as rainforest destruction, the refugee crisis, military occupations, as well as the ongoing violence against children in so many contexts as touched on above – that need a great deal of our attention but for which the elite uses its corporate media to distract us and reinforce our sense of powerlessness.

Another aspect of the story was the way in which it highlighted the ‘accidental’ nature of the incident: no one was really responsible, even the hapless coach who was just trying to give his young players an interesting excursion and whom, according to reports, none of the parents blamed.

By focusing on the logistical details of the story (the distance into the cave, the narrowness of certain passages, rescue possibilities, equipment, the threat of monsoon rains…), without attributing blame, the media could reinforce its endless message that ‘no-one’ is responsible for the state of the world. Hence, no individual and no organization is responsible for doing anything either. Again, this message is designed to deepen a sense of powerlessness and to make people disinclined to act: to make them powerless observers rather than active participants in their own fate.

As an aside, of course, it should be noted that in those contexts where it serves elite interests to attribute blame, it certainly does so. Hence, elites might contrive to blame Muslims, Russians, Palestinians or the other latest target (depending on the context) for some problem. However, in these contexts, the story of ‘blame’ is framed to ensure that elites have maximum opportunity to act as they wish (often militarily) while (again) engendering a sense of powerlessness among the rest of us.

The tragedy of the Thai cave incident is that one man died and many boys spent 17 days in a situation in which they were no doubt terrified and suffering genuine physical privation. But elite media cynically used the event to distract us from vitally important issues, including ongoing grotesque violence against children in a large number of contexts, and to reinforce the delusion “I Am Not Responsible“.

In short, while the 12 boys and their coach were rescued after 17 days trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand which required a sophisticated and expensive international effort, during the same period around the world, 850,000 children were killed by human adults. Even in Thailand during this 17-day period, apart from those children violated and killed as a result of sex trafficking and other violence, 119 children drowned (at the rate of seven each day). Obviously, these children were ignored because there was no profit in reporting their plight and helping to mobilize an international effort to save them.

So what can we do?

Well, for a start, we can boycott the corporate media and certainly not spend any money on it. What little truth it contains is usually of even less value (and probably gets barely beyond a good sports report). Instead, invest any money you previously spent on the corporate media by supporting progressive news outlets. They might not have reported events in relation to the Thai cave rescue but they do report on the ongoing violence inflicted on children in more grotesque circumstances such as the war in Yemen. They will also report and analyze important global events from a truthful and life-enhancing perspective and will often offer strategies for your engaged involvement.

If you want to understand why most people are suckered by the corporate media, whose primary function is to distract and disempower us, you will get a clear sense from reading how adults distract and disempower children in the name of ‘socialization’.

If you want to nurture children to be powerful agents of change who will have no trouble resisting attempts (whether by the corporate media or any other elite agent) to distract and disempower them, you are welcome to consider making ‘My Promise to Children‘.

If you are easily conned yourself, you will vastly enhance your capacity to discriminate and focus on what matters by ‘Putting Feelings First‘ which will, among other things, restore your conscience, intuition and ‘truth register’, vital mental functions suppressed in most people.

You are also welcome to consider participating in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth‘ which maps out a fifteen-year strategy for creating a peaceful, just and sustainable world community so that all children (and everyone else) has an ecologically viable planet on which to live.

And for the vast range of other manifestations of violence against children touched on above, you might consider using Gandhian nonviolent strategy in any context of particular concern to you.

You might also consider signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World‘ which explicitly identifies the role of the corporate media, among many other elite agencies, in promoting violence.

Am I pleased that the 12 children and their coach in Thailand were rescued? Of course I am. I just wish that an equivalent effort was being made to rescue each of the 50,000 children we will kill today, tomorrow, the next day and the day after that…

Education and the Mental Health Epidemic

Across the western world June is exam time; in Britain, written tests taken in halls of silence and tension have triggered a mini-epidemic of anxiety rooted conditions. Pupils have reported mental exhaustion, panic attacks, crying, nosebleeds, sleepless nights, hair loss and outbreaks of acne.

Over the past 25 years, depression and anxiety amongst teenagers in the UK has increased by 70%. This pattern is repeated across the developed world, and is the result of a cocktail of pressures, pressures that result in 10% of under 18-year-olds in America being dependent on mental health medication.

In parts of Asia things are just as bad or worse: the pressure to achieve high marks in exams in Hong Kong is driving some students to suicide: “71 students took their lives between 2013 and 2016,” reports The South China Morning Post. In Singapore, which produces children who excel in standardized tests, an 11-year-old jumped to his death from the 17th floor of an apartment building in 2016 because he was afraid to tell his parents his exam results. The inquest heard that the boy’s parents relentlessly pushed him to achieve at school: his mother would cane him for every mark he received under 70%. In 2015 a record 27 suicides were reported amongst children between 10 and 19, which was double the previous year’s total.

Suicide or attempted suicide is a raw scream revealing the internal agony a child is living with; pain that he/she feels suffocated by, and unable to openly acknowledge. In most cases children don’t kill themselves, they just become ill, some, chronically. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that neuropsychiatric conditions are the primary cause of disability in under 25-year-olds worldwide and says that globally between 10% and 20% “of children and adolescents experience mental disorders,” feeding what are often long-term conditions. Research shows that 75% of all mental health issues begin before a person reaches 18, with 50% taking root before age 15.

Engines of conformity

There are various interconnected reasons for this mental health epidemic; the burden to conform and the relentless pressure to succeed are primary causes and are present throughout institutionalized education. For many young people education has become a bi-word for competition and anxiety, school or university a place where uniformity is demanded and individuality denied: a hostile place in which pressure and stress dominate.

Despite the best efforts of teachers, many of whom are doing wonderful work, the goal of academic institutions in many countries has been reduced to passing exams and achieving good-to-high grades. This is anathema to what education ought to be. At the heart of education should be the aim of creating happy human beings free from fear. This requires establishing environments that allow an individual to discover innate talents, to explore him/herself and slowly, perhaps clumsily, give expression to that; a stimulating, nurturing space where mistakes can be made, failure allowed, independent thinking fostered and responsibility for society and the natural environment engendered.

Like all aspects of contemporary life, education has been tainted by the values of a particular approach to life, a materialistic methodology that fosters negative tendencies instead of feeding the good and liberating the spirit. Competition is encouraged instead of cooperation, placing people in opposition to one another, cultivating division instead of unity. Individual success is championed at the expense of group well-being and life is reduced to a battleground ruled by desire and the pursuit of pleasure.

The focus within this paradigm of misery is on material success and the accumulation of status and things. Hedonism is sold as the source of all happiness, feeding perpetual discontent. It is an extremely narrow approach to life that denies mystery and wonder, pours cynicism on the miraculous and attempts to crush self-investigation and silence opposition.

Whilst the majority of humanity suffer and struggle to live healthy fulfilling lives within this mode of living, there are those who, economically at least, profit handsomely. As a result, and failing to recognize that they too are trapped, they do everything to maintain it; they are the wealthy and powerful, the ‘ruling elite’. Money begets power and political influence under the pervading paradigm; such influence is used to shape (and draft) government policies that strengthen systems, which maintain the existing unhealthy order.

To uphold the status quo, freedom of thought and true individuality is curtailed, social conformity insisted upon. The major tools of conditioning are the media, which is commonly owned by corporations or controlled by governments, organized religion, and education. The policies of schools and colleges are set by central government, and, consistent with the pervasive ideology politicians ensure that conformity and competition are built into the working methodology.

Students are set in competition with one another, with established standards and with themselves, and are regularly forced to sit written examinations to evaluate how much they can remember or know, about any particular subject. Taking exams dictates the passage of a child’s education and establishes the benchmark against which young people are judged, and by extension often judge themselves. Using tests as a way of assessing a person’s ability and knowledge is archaic; sitting exams exerts colossal pressure, and although some may be able to cope and ‘do well’ the majority feel suffocated.

In Britain, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) relates that in 2016/17 Childline delivered “3,135 counseling sessions on exam stress – a rise of 11% over the past 2 years.” Children aged between 12 and 18 reported that exam stress was causing “depression and anxiety, panic attacks, low-self-esteem, self harming and suicidal thoughts.” This pattern is common in many developed and developing countries, where ideologically-driven corporate governments obsessed with trade, continue to pursue methods, that are, by design, detrimental to the well being of children.

Instead of policies rooted in competition, cooperation and sharing need to be encouraged in all aspects of education and standardized exams consigned to the past. The educational environment needs to be one in which children are encouraged to support each other, to share their own particular gifts with the group and build a sense of social responsibility. Many teachers naturally employ such inclusive methods, but working within divisive systems, which promote individual success, conformity and competition, their efforts are often frustrated.

An Alternative way

A more enlightened approach to education is found in Finland. Here, children don’t start school until they are seven, there is no streaming or selection in schools, so children of varying abilities work side by side, no homework is set, school holidays are long and there is only one standardized test, administered in the final year of high school. The result is happier children than in countries where testing, homework, selection and competition reign supreme. Not only are children happier (according to the World Happiness Report, Finland is the happiest country in the world), they achieve higher academic marks than students in many other countries; according to The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) organized annually by the OECD, Finland ranks fourth for reading and 5th for Math in the world; 93% of students graduate from High School, compared to 78% in Canada and 75% in America.

Teachers in Finland are well qualified – all have a Master’s Degree – and are highly valued. They are not dictated to by misguided politicians who come and go, but are trusted to do their job independently, and the country has a long-term approach to education policy, which “means plans remain in place for a significant amount of time, giving them a chance to work, ” says Russell Hobby, leader of the National Association of Head Teachers.

An education system is part of a society’s overall approach to living. As well as being a happy place to live and having a relaxed attitude to education, Finland has some of the lowest levels of wealth and income inequality in the world and the highest level of community trust. In contrast, Britain, USA, Singapore and Hong Kong have some of the highest levels of inequality. The Finland education system is inseparable from the culture, which it serves. Saku Tuominen, director of the HundrEd project says that Finland has “a ‘socially cohesive’, equitable and efficient society, and it gets a consistently reliable school system to match.”

Systems of education built around the ideals of the market that use competition, selection and examinations are contributing to a collective atmosphere of division, injustice and anxiety. Such methodologies need to be fundamentally changed, replaced by creative environments in which children and young adults can simply be, without pressure to achieve or become anything in particular. In such an atmosphere, true intelligence, which is beyond the limitations of knowledge, can flower.

Five Things That Would Make The CIA/CNN Russia Narrative More Believable

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As we just discussed, some major news stories have recently dropped about what a horrible horrifying menace the Russian Federation is to the world, and as always I have nothing to offer the breathless pundits on CNN and MSNBC but my completely unsatisfied skepticism. My skepticism of the official Russia narrative remains so completely unsatisfied that if mainstream media were my husband I would already be cheating on it with my yoga instructor.

I do not believe the establishment Russia narrative. I do not believe that Donald Trump colluded with the Russian government to rig the 2016 election. I do not believe the Russian government did any election rigging for Trump to collude with. This is not because I believe Vladimir Putin is some kind of blueberry-picking girl scout, and it certainly isn’t because I think the Russian government is unwilling or incapable of meddling in the affairs of other nations to some extent when it suits them. It is simply because I am aware that the US intelligence community lies constantly as a matter of policy, and because I understand how the burden of proof works.

At this time, I see no reason to espouse any belief system which embraces as true the assertion that Russia meddled in the 2016 elections in any meaningful way, or that it presents a unique and urgent threat to the world which must be aggressively dealt with. But all the establishment mouthpieces tell me that I must necessarily embrace these assertions as known, irrefutable fact. Here are five things that would have to change in order for that to happen:

1. Proof of a hacking conspiracy to elect Trump.

The first step to getting a heretic like myself aboard the Russia hysteria train would be the existence of publicly available evidence of the claims made about election meddling in 2016, which rises to the level required in a post-Iraq invasion world. So far, that burden of proof for Russian hacking allegations has not come anywhere remotely close to being met.

How much proof would I need to lend my voice to the escalation of tensions between two nuclear superpowers? Mountains. I personally would settle for nothing less than hard proof which can be independently verified by trusted experts like the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

Is that a big ask? Yes. Yes it is. That’s what happens when government institutions completely discredit themselves as they did with the false narratives advanced in the manufacturing of support for the Iraq invasion. You don’t get to butcher a million Iraqis in a war based on lies, turn around a few years later and say “We need new cold war escalations with a nuclear superpower but we can’t prove it because the evidence is secret.” That’s not a thing. Copious amounts of hard, verifiable proof or GTFO. So far we have no evidence besides the confident-sounding assertions of government insiders and their mass media mouthpieces, which is the same as no evidence.

2. Proof that election meddling actually influenced the election in a meaningful way.

Even if Russian hackers did exfiltrate Democratic party emails and give them to WikiLeaks, if it didn’t affect the election, who cares? That’s a single-day, second-page story at best, meriting nothing beyond a “Hmm, interesting, turns out Russia tried and failed to influence the US election,” followed by a shrug and moving on to something that actually matters.

After it has been thoroughly proven that Russia meddled in the elections in a meaningful way, it must then be established that that meddling had an actual impact on the election results.

3. Some reason to believe Russian election meddling was unwarranted and unacceptable.

The US government, by a very wide margin, interferes in the elections of other countries far, far more than any other government on earth does. The US government’s own data shows that it has deliberately meddled in the elections of 81 foreign governments between 1946 and 2000, including Russia in the nineties. This is public knowledge. A former CIA Director cracked jokes about it on Fox News earlier this year.

If I’m going to abandon my skepticism and accept the Gospel According to Maddow, after meaningful, concrete election interference has been clearly established I’m going to need a very convincing reason to believe that it is somehow wrong or improper for a government to attempt to respond in kind to the undisputed single worst offender of this exact offense. It makes no sense for the United States to actively create an environment in which election interference is something that governments do to one another, and then cry like a spanked child when its election is interfered with by one of the very governments whose elections the US recently meddled in.

This is nonsense. America being far and away the worst election meddler on the planet makes it a fair target for election meddling by not just Russia, but every country in the world. It is very obviously moral and acceptable for any government on earth to interfere in America’s elections as long as it remains the world’s worst offender in that area. In order for Russia to be in the wrong if it interfered in America’s elections, some very convincing argument I’ve not yet heard will have to be made to support that case.

4. Proof that the election meddling went beyond simply giving Americans access to information about their government.

If all the Russians did was simply show Americans emails of Democratic Party officials talking to one another and circulate some MSM articles as claimed in the ridiculous Russian troll farm allegations, that’s nothing to get upset about. If anything, Americans should be upset that they had to hear about Democratic Party corruption through the grapevine instead of having light shed on it by the American officials whose job it is to do so. Complaints about election meddling is only valid if that election meddling isn’t comprised of truth and facts.

5. A valid reason to believe escalated tensions between two nuclear superpowers are worthwhile.

After it has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Russia did indeed meddle in the US elections in a meaningful way, and after it has then been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Russia actually influenced election results in a significant way, and after the case has been clearly made that it was bad and wrong for Russia to do this instead of fair and reasonable, and after it has been clearly proven that the election meddling went beyond simply telling Americans the truth about their government, the question then becomes what, if anything, should be done about it?

If you look at the actions that this administration has taken over the last year and a half, the answer to that question appears to be harsh sanctions, NATO expansionism, selling arms to Ukraine, throwing out diplomats, increasing military presence along Russia’s border, a Nuclear Posture Review which is much more aggressive toward Russia, repeatedly bombing Syria, and just generally creating more and more opportunities for something to go catastrophically wrong with one of the two nations’ aging, outdated nuclear arsenals, setting off a chain of events from which there is no turning back and no surviving.

And the pundits and politicians keep pushing for more and more escalations, at this very moment braying with one voice that Trump must aggressively confront Putin about Mueller’s indictments or withdraw from the peace talks. But is it worth it? Is it worth risking the life of every terrestrial organism to, what? What specifically would be gained that makes increasing the risk of nuclear catastrophe worthwhile? Making sure nobody interferes in America’s fake elections? I’d need to see a very clear and specific case made, with a ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ list and “THE POTENTIAL DEATH OF LITERALLY EVERYTHING” written in big red letters at the top of the ‘cons’ column.

Rallying the world to cut off Russia from the world stage and cripple its economy has been been a goal of the US power establishment since the collapse of the Soviet Union, so there’s no reason to believe that even the people who are making the claims against Russia actually believe them. The goal is crippling Russia to handicap China, and ultimately to shore up global hegemony for the US-centralized empire by preventing the rise of any rival superpowers. The sociopathic alliance of plutocrats and intelligence/defense agencies who control that empire are willing to threaten nuclear confrontation in order to ensure their continued dominance. All of their actions against Russia since 2016 have had everything to do with establishing long-term planetary dominance and nothing whatsoever to do with election meddling.

Those five things would need to happen before I’d be willing to jump aboard the “Russia! Russia!” train. Until then I’ll just keep pointing to the total lack of evidence and how very, very far the CIA/CNN Russia narrative is from credibility.

Reprinted with permission from Medium.com. Support Ms. Johnstone's writing on Patreon or Paypal.

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Trump Marches Onward and Downward

Journalists, academics, pundits and experts have ignored the complexity of President Trump’s impact on the state of the US Empire.

To properly assess the geopolitical configuration of power, we will consider the military, economic, political and diplomatic advances and setbacks of the Trump regime in Latin America, the European Union and Asia (including the Middle East).

Secondly, we will examine the time frame – the shifting direction of the present configuration of forces.

We will conclude by discussing how the influence and results of foreign policy shape domestic political power.

Background to President Trump’s Empire Building

First and foremost, we must take account of the fact that much of Trump’s policies build on and reflect the policies of his predecessors, namely Presidents Bush and Obama.

The US wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria were started by Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama, The US bombings of Libya and the destruction and uprooting of millions of Africans was inaugurated by Obama.

The expulsion of millions of Central American and Mexican immigrants from the US was common practice prior to Trump.

In brief President Trump continued, and in some cases exacerbated, the socio-economic and military policies, of his predecessors. In a few areas Trump reversed policies, as was the case with Obama’s Nuclear Agreement with Iran.

The successes and failures of Trump’s empire building policies cannot be attributed solely to his regime. Nevertheless, President Trump must be held responsible for the current state of the empire and its direction.

President Trump Marches Forward in Latin America

President Trump has built upon and extended US imperial victories throughout most of Latin America. Satellite regimes are in place in Brazil thanks largely to judicial-legislative coup which overthrew President elect Dilma Rousseff. The puppet regime of Michel Temer has privatized the economy, embraced Trump’s dominance and aligned with efforts to overthrow Venezuela’s government.

Similarly, Trump inherited from Obama the present client regimes in Argentina (President Mauricio Macri), Peru (President Martin Vizcarra) ,Honduras (President Hernandez) Paraguay (President Cartes), Chile (President Piñera), Ecuador (President Moreno), and most of the ruling elites in Central America and the Caribbean. Trump has added to the list current efforts to overthrow the Daniel Ortega regime in Nicaragua.

Under President Trump, Washington succeeded in reversing relations with Cuba and the so-called peace accord in Colombia between the guerrillas and the Juan Manuel Santos regime. In July 2018, Trump succeeded in backing the accession to power of Ivan Duque a protégé of the far-right party of Alvaro Uribe in Colombia. President Obama’s reversal of center-left regimes via coups have been consolidated and expanded by Trump with the important exception of Mexico.

Trump partially reversed Obama’s opening of relations with Cuba and threatens to militarily invade Venezuela.

Trump’s imperial empire in Latin America is, for the most part, inherited and largely sustained . . . for now.

But there are several crucial caveats.

Mexico’s new President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) is likely to pursue independent and progressive foreign and domestic policies, renegotiating NAFTA, oil contracts and border disputes.

Secondly, Brazil and Argentina’s neo-liberal economic policies are in deep crises and the incumbent puppet regimes are economically unstable, face mass social opposition and likely will suffer electoral defeats in 2018.

Thirdly, Venezuela and Cuba have successfully resisted economic and diplomatic sanctions.

Militarily, President Trump retains US military bases in Colombia and has incorporated Bogata into NATO and he has secured military operations in Argentina and Ecuador.

The biggest challenge to Trump’s empire building in Latin America is in the all-important economic realm.

Trump has failed to gain ground in trade, investment and raw materials in the face of competition with China.

Despite the political and military subordination of Latin American regimes to Washington, the bulk of their trade ties are with China. Moreover, Brazil and Argentina will increase their agro-exports to China in line with Beijing’s trade tariffs on US exports. In the so-called trade war not a single Latin American client state has sided with the US. On the contrary, all are taking advantage of Washington’s loss of the China market to enhance their exports.

Clearly the US does not exercise ‘hegemony’ over Latin America’s trading relations.

Worse still, Trump’s dumping of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and threats to withdraw from NAFTA have reduced Washington’s leverage over Latin America and Asia.

Trump’s boasts and claims of dominance over Latin America is largely a product of his predecessors’ imperial policies.

At most, Trump’s policies have hardened the far right, which however, is weakening politically and economically and has provoked the rise of the left to power in Mexico and increased opposition in Colombia, Brazil and Argentina.

In sum the Trump regime’s empire building retain decided influence in Latin America but faces major challenges – and reversals.

Trump in Asia: One Step Forward, Two Step Backward

Washington has gained prestige for its diplomatic overtures to North Korea but is losing the trade war with the world’s second greatest power, China.

China,faced with Trump’s economic war, has diversified its trading partners thus undermining key US agro-business enterprises.

China has implemented tariffs on: canola, soybeans, corn, cotton, pork and beef.

Moreover, China has replaced the US as the main trading partner throughout Asia.

While Japan, South Korea and Australia provide military bases for the US they are eager to replace Washington’s export to China.

Moreover, China’s multi-billion dollar, Belt and Road Initiative has secured sixty-eight nations as partners, with the prominent absence of the self-excluded USA.

US economic sanctions against Iran have failed to undermine the governments’ oil exports, while banking transactions and imports of manufacturing and service products are replaced by China, Russia , India and most of Asia. All of whom will increase their trade with Teheran.

In the Middle East and South Asia, the US can no longer count on clients or allies except for Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Moreover, the Saudi’s rejected Trump’s demand to increase oil production to lower oil prices for US consumers.

Israel is a ‘loyal ally’ to Washington when it suits their own economic advantages and hegemonic aspirations. For example, Israel has continued to expand ties with Russia even in violation of US sanctions.

Pakistan, Myanmar and Cambodia have moved closer to China as a result of increasing financial and infrastructure aid.

In balance, the US continues to exercise military dominance in Asia via its bases in South Korea, Japan and Australia. However, it is losing economic influence and presence in the rest of Asia. If history is any precedent, imperial empires without economic foundations, sooner or later crumble, especially when rising regional powers are capable of replacing them.

The European Union and Trump’s Empire: Partner, Client or Rival?

The European Union (EU) is the largest market in the world and yet remains a political and military dependency of Washington.

The EU has suffered from its lack of an independent foreign policy – its reliance on NATO, a US subsidiary is one of the main reasons.

President Trump has exploited the EU’s weakness to defy its policies on several strategic issues, ranging from the Paris Agreement on climate change, to the nuclear agreement with Iran, to Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. Trump’s tariff on EU exports is the latest and most provocative effort to defy and dominate the region.

Moreover, the EU is increasingly divided over immigration, the UK departure (Brexit), as well as the economic and political and economic split between Germany , Italy and Poland.

In effect the Trump regime can no longer count on a powerful unified alliance at its behest,in its quest for a global empire.

Rather, under Trump, the US seeks to secure economic supremacy and supreme political-military dominance.

President Trump demands that the EU countries double their military budgets in order to increase the Pentagon’s arms spending.

As a result of the divisions and hostilities between the US and EU, President’ Trump’s imperial policies have adopted a contradictory strategy of enhancing economic protectionism with overtures to ‘enemy’ Russia. By adopting the nationalist slogan, “Making America Strong” by ‘Making the EU Weak’ it appears Trump pursues nationalist slogans to promote imperial goals.

Domestic Growth and Imperial Decline

To date, mid 2018, Trump is riding a wave of domestic growth of the economy, trade and employment.

Critics claim that this is a short-lived conjuncture which faces powerful counter-currents. They argue that the trade war and decline of the overseas markets of China, the EU, Mexico, Canada and elsewhere will provoke a decline of the US.

Trump’s strategic gamble is that the US trade war will succeed in opening China’s market while reducing China’s exports. Trump hopes US MNC will relocate to the US and increase jobs and exports. So far this is a pipe dream.

Moreover, the corporate tax windfall has not been accompanied with a decrease in inequalities and increases in wages.

The result is that Trump faces the real prospects of a decline in exports and popular electoral support – especially from those adversely affected by declining markets and deep cuts in health, education and the environment.

Political Consequences of “America First” in a Corporate Setting

Trump’s nationalist economic policies are highly unlikely to enhance empire building ; on the contrary, the trade war will force the major corporate tax beneficiaries to turn against Trump. Their overseas trade links with the EU, North America and China will cause them to turn against Trump.

Empire building trumps America First. Without an economic empire the US will lack the means to secure the markets necessary to stimulate local exports and production.

Conclusion

President Trump has benefited, and to some extent, succeeded in temporarily gaining dominance in Latin America, expanding the domestic economy and imposing demands on China, the EU and North America.

Nevertheless, his policies have undermined allies, antagonized competitors and provoked retaliation. All of which increases the economic cost of running an empire.

Trump has failed to provide viable substitutes for the EU and China markets. Nor has he secured the markets of his remaining clients in Latin America. The notion that Trump can build ‘national capitalism in one country’ is a chimera. At most it would require intensive exploitation of US labor and high rates of investment, sacrificing profits and salaries. The electoral oligarchy and the mass media will force him to retreat from the trade wars and surrender to the globalizing elites.