America: It’s Going to Be a Wild Ride

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Peace, Nuclear Policy, Justice, War on January 22, 2017 at 10:12 am

I watahed Donald Trump’s inaugural speech yesterday with three other housemates and none of us were impressed. He’s living in another age – I see Trump trying to hang on to the long passed time of American military supremacy and economic domination. One last gasp before the US empire crashes under the weight of its own hypocrisy and contradictions.

He said a few things that were decent but one must question them as pure political rhetoric as just a quick review of his cabinet appointments (full of corporate operatives) strongly undercuts his claims that he will return the power to the people that the ‘elites in Washington’ have unfairly taken from them.

Trump blames other nations (especially China) for ‘stealing our jobs’ but we all know that it was the absolute greed of the corporations that drove them to close production plants across America and move jobs to places overseas where labor was cheaper and environmental regulations were virtually non-existent. Just look at the air quality in India and China for example. Now in order to ‘bring those jobs home’ Trump, and the right-wing dominated Congress, want to finish turning the US into a third-world dictatorship where ‘regulations on the job creators’ are a thing of the past.

Trump will likely finish off what little good will might still exist toward America around the globe. The inevitable collapse of the US imperial project will now accelerate.

Obama often fooled many people overseas (and at home) with his slick talk and friendly demeanor – even while he was dropping bombs on Libya as he did just the day before Trump took his oath of office. Donald Trump won’t be able to pull off that magic trick so easily.

I believe the key organizing strategy in the coming four years on an international level will be to utterly reject US leadership on virtually every issue – from climate change to NATO and beyond. The world must isolate the US as a reactionary and undemocratic rogue state. Protests around the world should not just focus on Trump but on the US imperial project that is now totally committed to global domination for the benefit of corporate interests. Concern for the people of the world or the environment is off the table in Washington. Democracy is a meaningless word now.

The people of the world must demand that their leaders completely reject the US as a role model or a voice of reason.

This corporate take over of the US government runs far deeper than Trump. He is not an aberration from the norm – Trump represents the norm in Washington. We are now ruled by Christian fundamentalism (the American Taliban), an economic expansion ideology that has no concern for the planet, and a military ethic that carries with it strong Puritan evangelical strains. Greatness only means domination – of everything.

For those of us living here in America we must not restrict our protests to calling out Trump. We must recognize how the Democrats regularly collaborate with the right-wing reactionary corporate forces. Just days ago in the US Senate 12 Democrats joined with Republicans to kill a bill that would have allowed American citizens to purchase cheaper medicines from Canada. The Democrats support swung the vote to satisfy the interests
of big pharma. In the US we must see that we don’t have a legislative solution to our problems as the corporations have the government under lock down and they have the key$.

Public protest and non-violent civil resistance in the tradition of Gandhi, ML King, and Dorothy Day are where we must move now – collectively as a nation.

In Washington we now have the classic definition of fascism – the wedding of government and corporations. It would have been the same story if Hillary Clinton had been elected. She would have been more ‘sophisticated’ and not come across quite as brash and impolite as Trump does. That would have been enough for many Americans – to them it is no problem that we rule the world just as long as we do it with a reassuring smile. Trump has broken that mold.

Folks had better hang on because this is going to be a wild ride. Victory will not come to those who think that building support for their single-issue agenda is the way out of this dark moment. The old business model of every organization fending for itself won’t work any more.

Only by connecting all the dots and working to build a broad and unified movement across the nation – linked with our friends internationally – can we put the brakes on this fall over the cliff that the new corporate government in Washington is pushing us toward.

We need to create a unified positive vision such as converting the military industrial complex to build solar, wind turbines, commuter rail systems and more. This would serve the interests of labor, environmental groups, the unemployed, and the peace movement. A win-win for all.

Bruce K. Gagnon
Coordinator, Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
PO Box 652
Brunswick, ME 0401,

When Bill Clinton Put His Thumb on the Scale for Yeltsin: “Boris? Good Enough!”

In Democracy, Human rights, Justice on January 20, 2017 at 10:29 am

By Nick Alexandrov


The veterinarian lives in a “region of rolling green hills, broad horizons and abysmal poverty,” where he chain-smokes “the cheapest brand of cigarettes,” unfiltered. His wife, a librarian by training, “works on a nearby cattle ranch” sometimes. “The Government does not care for simple people,” she laments. That’s why she backs the candidate who, if elected, might not herald a “return exactly to old times”—though “maybe something similar.” This is the north Caucasus, late spring, 1996, in Michael R. Gordon’s New York Times depiction.

In Russia’s presidential race that year, incumbent and eventual victor Boris Yeltsin “was floundering. Five candidates, led by Communist Gennadi Zyuganov”—the man the Caucasus couple liked—“were ahead of Yeltsin in some polls,” Andrew Felkay notes in Yeltsin’s Russia and the West. “The president was favored by only 6 percent of the electorate and was ‘trusted’ as a competent leader by an even smaller proportion,” he adds. “In the U.S.,” consultant Richard Dresner remarked, “you’d advise a pol with those kinds of numbers to get another occupation.”

Dresner was one of the “American ‘image-makers’” Yeltsin brought in “to help with the campaign.” The strategists got a quarter million dollars for four months’ work, “an unlimited budget for polling, focus groups and other research,” Felkay explains. Dresner had also been “gubernatorial campaign consultant to Bill Clinton,” but “denied any connections between the Russian campaign and the White House” despite this and other links, Gerald Sussman pointed out in Monthly Review (December 2006). “For Clinton,” regardless, “what mattered most was keeping Yeltsin in power,” writes Nicolas Bouchet in Democracy Promotion as US Foreign Policy.

“Indeed the West supported Yeltsin much more energetically in those elections than either the Russian political class or the public,” Lilia Shevtsova affirms in Lonely Power, stressing that Clinton “kept doing everything in his power to support Yeltsin.” “Under pressure from the White House,” she continues, “the IMF decided in 1996…to loan Russia $10.2 billion”—a move “designed to bolster Yeltsin’s chances,” Shevtsova and Angela Stent observed in Foreign Policy (Summer 1996). Michael Gordon concurred in the New York Times, calling the sum “a major election-year boost” for Yeltsin. And Boris Fyodorov, Russia’s finance minister from 1993-1994, allegedly “declared that no economic argument could be found to justify” the money, unless Washington “wanted to buy Yeltsin’s re-election.” So reported U.S. Lt. Gen William E. Odom, who further testified before the House Committee on International Relations that the loan “did…help buy” Yeltsin’s victory.

“At Clinton’s behest,” moreover, “the G8 held a summit on security issues in Moscow in early 1996,” Shevtsova reminds us. This was “not a regularly scheduled” meeting, but “was transparently a gambit to support Yeltsin’s campaign.” To the New York Times it appeared “primarily designed to burnish Boris Yeltsin’s prestige,” and Yeltsin himself called it “an inestimable moral support.”

So while Zyuganov “went into the campaign as the heavy favorite in virtually every poll;” “had a strong grassroots organization behind him;” and “was widely believed to be the favored candidate” two months before the vote, in the end his party’s “door-to-door campaign was obliterated by the heavily researched, well-financed, media-saturating, modern campaign waged by the Yeltsin team,” Sarah E. Mendelson summarized in International Security (Spring 2001). The European Institute for the Media determined this “media-saturating” facet of Yeltsin’s operation “marred the fairness of the democratic process,” in part because “the media received and accepted specific instructions on how to cover the campaign.”

And there were other problems. “The bias on the national television channels (a breach of the regulations), the pressure on editors and media outlets, the use of the administrative and financial levers”—all created a climate in which “voters were given less information of a professional and objective nature” than they’d received earlier that decade, just after the USSR’s collapse.

The 1996 contest, Shevtsova concludes, “marked the beginning of democracy’s discrediting in the eyes of Russian public opinion,” largely because Washington and its allies did “everything in [their] power to back their protégés in the Kremlin at the expense of free and fair elections.” The fact that “the United States pushed an electoral procedure in which it believed the only acceptable outcome had to be Yeltsin” made the event, as Peter J. Stavrakis put it to the House Committee on International Relations, “deeply disturbing to many Russians who saw in the electoral process much of the sham aspects that were present in the Soviet era.”

But U.S. goals went beyond warping Russian democracy. Washington’s “whole policy was…aimed,” at the time, “at the domestic transformation of Russia, both politically and economically,” Thomas Graham, Chief Political Analyst at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow from 1994–1997, explained. “The U.S. assistance program was driven by the desire to support reformers whose agenda was consistent with U.S. objectives,” the Government Accountability Office (GAO) elaborated. Mendelson described the “virtual army of non- governmental organizations (NGOs) from the United States” swarming Russia in the early 1990s. “From fiscal year 1990 through December 31, 1994,” the GAO reported, the U.S. government threw $3.5 billion at Russian overhaul efforts, as “23 departments and independent agencies implemented 215 programs in the [former Soviet Union].”

Julie Nelson and Irina Y. Kuzes, in Radical Reform in Yeltsin’s Russia, break down the funding. For example, “the Washington, D.C., Sawyer/Miller Group received $7 million to develop a television advertising campaign to promote privatization,” and “an Arlington, Virginia, consulting firm, Haglar Bailly, received a $20 million contract to ‘help privatize Russian utilities and encourage them to install U.S.-made equipment[.]’”

Or consider the Harvard Institute for International Development (HIID). It was Washington’s “operator for its program of aid for economic reform and privatization in Russia,” Shevtsova writes, with budgets of “$57.7 million for Russian economic reform and $20 million for legal reform.” HIID even “drafted many of the Kremlin decrees” pushing for privatization, according to Janine Wedel (Collision and Collusion). In 2000, Shevtsova continues, “a U.S. court found that economics professor and HIID adviser Andrei Schleifer and his assistant Jonathan Hay ‘used their position and substantial influence on Russian officials… to achieve their own financial interests and the interests of their spouses.’” In other words, “they enriched themselves exactly as their Russian colleagues were doing.”

With its vast corruption and sham elections, Yeltsin’s Russia had “no real democracy,” Dimitri K. Simes, President of the Center for the National Interest, concluded. He emphasized that, “because of the Clinton Administration’s embrace of the undemocratic Yeltsin regime and perceived U.S. support for radical and even brutal economic reforms of the 1990s that were rejected by the vast majority of the Russian people, the Russian public is not inclined to accept U.S. guidance on democracy today.” No wonder.

“In the early 1990s, Russia’s economic system collapsed,” David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu explain in The Body Economic. Unemployment “jumped to 22 percent by 1998,” while “one-quarter of the population were living in poverty” in 1995, as “men began to die at an increasing rate.” Stuckler and Basu blame austerity measures, mass privatization—the Russian metamorphosis U.S. power promoted. “Economic genocide,” Yeltsin’s vice president charged. How all this compares to claims [that] Russian hacking undermined the U.S. election, I leave for the reader to decide.

Nicholas Alexandrov lives in Washington, DC.

Backgrounder: 10 key quotes from Xi’s speech at UN Office at Geneva

In Climate change, Environment, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Public Health, War on January 20, 2017 at 3:53 am

GENEVA, Jan. 18 (Xinhua) — Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a keynote speech here on Wednesday at the United Nations Office at Geneva.

Here are 10 key quotes from the 50-minute address, which elaborates on China’s solution to current global challenges: building a “community of shared future for mankind” that features all-win cooperation and sharing:

1. The essence of sovereign equality is that the sovereignty and dignity of all countries, whether big or small, strong or weak, rich or poor, must be respected, their internal affairs allow no interference and they have the right to independently choose their social system and development path.

2. Nuclear weapons, the Sword of Damocles that hangs over mankind, should be completely prohibited and thoroughly destroyed over time to make the world free of nuclear weapons.

3. No country in the world can enjoy absolute security. A country cannot have security while others are in turmoil, as threats facing other countries may haunt itself also. When neighbors are in trouble, instead of tightening his own fences, one should extend a helping hand to them.

4. Fighting terrorism is the shared responsibility of all countries. In fighting terror, we should not just treat the symptoms, but remove its root causes.

5. China has decided to provide an additional 200 million yuan of humanitarian assistance for refugees and the displaced of Syria.

6. As terrorism and refugee crises are closely linked to geopolitical conflicts, resolving conflicts provides the fundamental solution to such problems. Parties directly involved should return to the negotiating table, and other parties should work to facilitate talks for peace, and we should all respect the role the U.N. plays as the main channel for mediation.

7. Trade protectionism and self-isolation will benefit no one.

8. The Paris Agreement is a milestone in the history of climate governance. We must ensure this endeavor is not derailed.

9. Swiss army knife embodies Swiss craftsmanship. When I first got one, I was amazed that it has so many functions. I cannot help thinking how wonderful it would be if an exquisite Swiss army knife could be made for our world. When there is a problem, we can use one of the tools on the knife to fix it. I believe that with unremitting efforts of the international community, such a knife can be made.

10. China’s development has been possible because of the world, and China has contributed to the world’s development. We will continue to pursue a win-win strategy of opening-up, share our development opportunities with other countries and welcome them aboard the fast train of China’s development.


Work Together to Build a Community of Shared Future for Mankind

Speech by H.E. Xi Jinping

President of the People’s Republic of China

At the United Nations Office at Geneva

Geneva, 18 January 2017