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newthinking

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The Victory of National Democracy in Ukraine

And the Crushing of the Political Opposition
The Victory of National "Democracy" in Ukraine
by HALYNA MOKRUSHYNA

http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/03/19/the-victory-of-national-democracy-in-ukraine/

What is democracy? It is a political, economic and social arrangement of a territorial unity of people in which the majority rules but minority rights are protected and there is a robust political opposition. How does Ukraine measure up to this standard? Very badly. A failure, I would say. And here is why.

Is there any real political opposition in Ukraine? No. The official opposition party, the Opposition Bloc, which includes deputies from the former Party of Regions, has forty seats in the current Ukrainian parliament out of 422 . In the last election to the Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine’s Parliament) on October 26, 2014, this party won the majority of votes in five oblasts (regions) of Eastern Ukraine – Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Luhansk, Donetsk, and Zaporizzhia. It obtained the second largest number of votes in Mykolaiv and Odessa oblasts, and the third largest number in Kherson. The participation in the election in the whole of Southeastern Ukraine reached an all-time low – less than 50 per cent in all of the oblasts. This is a clear indicator of the population’s apathy and mistrust of the current Ukrainian parliament.

In the Verkhovna Rada, the ruling coalition for the first time in the history of independent (post-1991) Ukraine has the largest majority in the Parliament – 303 deputies. The breakdown of the majority is 150 deputies from the Poroshenko Bloc, 82 deputies from the Narodnyi (Peoples) Front of Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk, 31 deputies of the Samopomich party of Lviv mayor Andriy Sadovyi, 21 deputies of the Radical Party of Oleh Lyashko, and 19 deputies of the Batkivshchyna Party of former Ukraine’s prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

The Opposition Bloc is the only official opposition party in the Verkhovna Rada. Deputies of the Bloc have stated on several occasions that they are ignored in the Parliament and their work is blocked. For instance, Vadym Rabynovych said that he has registered 19 bills but none of them has been proposed for examination by the Rada.

Tatiana Bakhteeva has been a Rada deputy since 2002 and has experience working in the opposition as well in the ruling coalition in the Rada. She stated recently that for the first time in the history of the Ukrainian Parliament, there is not a single deputy from the opposition in the executive of the Rada – for instance, the positions of speaker or vice-speaker. Not a single member of the opposition chairs a parliamentary committee, whereas in the previous Parliament under President Victor Yanukovych, 12 out of 26 parliamentary committees were chaired by the opposition. Bakhteeva also says that the first 100 days of work of the Euromaidan parliament have shown it to be the most unprofessional Parliament in the history of independent Ukraine.

Continued:
http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/03/19/the-victory-of-national-democracy-in-ukraine/

The New (Deplorable) American Order

The full article is well worth the read:

The New (Deplorable) American Order

http://www.commondreams.org/views/2015/03/19/new-deplorable-american-order

1% Elections, The Privatization of the State, a Fourth Branch of Government, and the Demobilization of "We the People"
by Tom Engelhardt
CommonDreams.org



'Don’t for a second think,' writes Engelhardt, 'that the American political system isn’t being rewritten on the run by interested parties in Congress, our present crop of billionaires, corporate interests, lobbyists, the Pentagon, and the officials of the national security state.'


Have you ever undertaken some task you felt less than qualified for, but knew that someone needed to do? Consider this piece my version of that, and let me put what I do understand about it in a nutshell: based on developments in our post-9/11 world, we could be watching the birth of a new American political system and way of governing for which, as yet, we have no name.

And here’s what I find strange: the evidence of this, however inchoate, is all around us and yet it’s as if we can’t bear to take it in or make sense of it or even say that it might be so.

Let me make my case, however minimally, based on five areas in which at least the faint outlines of that new system seem to be emerging: political campaigns and elections; the privatization of Washington through the marriage of the corporation and the state; the de-legitimization of our traditional system of governance; the empowerment of the national security state as an untouchable fourth branch of government; and the demobilization of "we the people."

Whatever this may add up to, it seems to be based, at least in part, on the increasing concentration of wealth and power in a new plutocratic class and in that ever-expanding national security state. Certainly, something out of the ordinary is underway, and yet its birth pangs, while widely reported, are generally categorized as aspects of an exceedingly familiar American system somewhat in disarray.

http://www.commondreams.org/views/2015/03/19/new-deplorable-american-order

Uncle Pentagon: Growing Up in the Shadow of the American War State

Very interesting story from a family deeply committed to "nonviolent resistance to war and nuclear culture".

Uncle Pentagon: Growing Up in the Shadow of the American War State

For the daughter of two radical pacifists, antiwar advocacy runs in the family.
Frida Berrigan
March 10, 2015


Frida Berrigan speaks at an antiwar seminar in Sweden in 2011. (Credit: YouTube)

The Pentagon loomed so large in my childhood that it could have been another member of my family. Maybe a menacing uncle who doled out put-downs and whacks to teach us lessons or a rich, dismissive great-aunt intent on propriety and good manners.

Whatever the case, our holidays were built around visits to the Pentagon’s massive grounds. That’s where we went for Easter, Christmas, even summer vacation (to commemorate the anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki). When we were little, my brother and sister and I would cry with terror and dread as we first glimpsed the building from the bridge across the Potomac River. To us, it pulsated with malice as if it came with an ominous, beat-driven soundtrack out of Star Wars.

I grew up in Baltimore at Jonah House, a radical Christian community of people committed to nonviolent resistance to war and nuclear culture. It was founded by my parents, Phil Berrigan and Liz McAlister. They gained international renown as pacifist peace activists not afraid to damage property or face long prison terms. The Baltimore Four, the Catonsville Nine, the Plowshares Eight, the Griffiss Seven: these were anti–Vietnam War or antinuclear actions they helped plan, took part in and often enough went to jail for. These were also creative conspiracies meant to raise large questions about our personal responsibility for, and the role of conscience in, our world. In addition, they were explorations of how to be effective and nonviolent in opposition to the war state. These actions drew plenty of media attention and crowds of supporters, but in between we always went back to the Pentagon.

As kids, horrific images of war were seared into our brains from old documentaries about Hiroshima and Nagasaki and newer dispatches from Vietnam, and later El Salvador and Guatemala. And all of them seemed traceable to that one place, that imposing five-sided building overlooking the Potomac and surrounded by parking lots and sylvan acres of lawns and paths.

http://www.thenation.com/article/200881/uncle-pentagon-growing-shadow-american-war-state

FAIR: Funny How Russian Propaganda, US Free Press Produce Exact Same Mood Swings

Funny How Russian Propaganda, US Free Press Produce Exact Same Mood Swings
By Jim Naureckas

http://fair.org/blog/2015/03/09/funny-how-russian-propaganda-us-free-press-produce-exact-same-mood-swings/
(Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License)

"Thought the Soviet Union was anti-American?" asks the Washington Post's Michael Birnbaum (3/8/15). "Try today’s Russia."

Birnbaum, the Post's Moscow bureau chief, reports on a new "torrent of anti-Western fury" there:

"After a year in which furious rhetoric has been pumped across Russian airwaves, anger toward the United States is at its worst since opinion polls began tracking it. From ordinary street vendors all the way up to the Kremlin, a wave of anti-US bile has swept the country, surpassing any time since the Stalin era, observers say….

More than 80 percent of Russians now hold negative views of the United States, according to the independent Levada Center, a number that has more than doubled over the past year and that is by far the highest negative rating since the center started tracking those views in 1988."


The "anti-Western anger" has been "fed by the powerful antagonism on Russian federal television channels" since "Putin cranked up the volume after protest movements in late 2011 and 2012, which he blamed on the State Department." A political analyst is quoted:

"What the government knew was that it was very easy to cultivate anti-Western sentiments, and it was easy to consolidate Russian society around this propaganda."


Wow, must be tough living in a totalitarian society like that, where people respond like puppets to government manipulation of the media, huh?

Funny thing, though–the anti-American sentiment in Russia is pretty much a mirror image of anti-Russian sentiment in the United States, which has likewise risen to record heights since polling began roughly 25 years ago. Here's the polling of Russians about the US:



And here's the polling of Americans about Russia, from Gallup (2/16/15):



Note that the spikes in hostility occur precisely together. The Post describes these as a "list of perceived slights from the United States":

The United States and NATO bombed Serbia, a Russian ally, in 1999. Then came the war in Iraq, NATO expansion and the Russia-Georgia conflict. Each time, there were smaller spikes of anti-American sentiment that receded as quickly as they emerged.


But they could just as easily be described as a list of perceived slights by Russia toward the United States. On both sides, the population seems to object about equally to the rival nation using violence against a smaller country and the rival nation failing to endorse one's own nation's use of violence.

Despite the obvious symmetry in US/Russian public opinion, don't expect the Washington Post to run any articles about how a wave of anti-Russian bile following a wave of furious rhetoric being pumped across US airwaves. That would raise an uncomfortable questions about how easy it for a US president to crank up the volume of anti-whomever sentiment–and the role of media outlets like the Post in facilitating such cranking up.

http://fair.org/blog/2015/03/09/funny-how-russian-propaganda-us-free-press-produce-exact-same-mood-swings/

Breedlove's Bellicosity: Berlin Alarmed by Aggressive NATO Stance on Ukraine

Breedlove's Bellicosity: Berlin Alarmed by Aggressive NATO Stance on Ukraine

By SPIEGEL Staff


Top NATO commander General Philip Breedlove has raised hackles in Germany with his public statements about the Ukraine crisis.

US President Obama supports Chancellor Merkel's efforts at finding a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine crisis. But hawks in Washington seem determined to torpedo Berlin's approach. And NATO's top commander in Europe hasn't been helping either.

It was quiet in eastern Ukraine last Wednesday. Indeed, it was another quiet day in an extended stretch of relative calm. The battles between the Ukrainian army and the pro-Russian separatists had largely stopped and heavy weaponry was being withdrawn. The Minsk cease-fire wasn't holding perfectly, but it was holding.

On that same day, General Philip Breedlove, the top NATO commander in Europe, stepped before the press in Washington. Putin, the 59-year-old said, had once again "upped the ante" in eastern Ukraine -- with "well over a thousand combat vehicles, Russian combat forces, some of their most sophisticated air defense, battalions of artillery" having been sent to the Donbass. "What is clear," Breedlove said, "is that right now, it is not getting better. It is getting worse every day."

German leaders in Berlin were stunned. They didn't understand what Breedlove was talking about. And it wasn't the first time. Once again, the German government, supported by intelligence gathered by the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany's foreign intelligence agency, did not share the view of NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR).

The pattern has become a familiar one. For months, Breedlove has been commenting on Russian activities in eastern Ukraine, speaking of troop advances on the border, the amassing of munitions and alleged columns of Russian tanks. Over and over again, Breedlove's numbers have been significantly higher than those in the possession of America's NATO allies in Europe. As such, he is playing directly into the hands of the hardliners in the US Congress and in NATO.


Continued:
http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/germany-concerned-about-aggressive-nato-stance-on-ukraine-a-1022193.html

Thomm Hartmann - The Ukraine Proxy & the New Cold War

The Ukraine Proxy & the New Cold War

Empire - Towards a post post-Cold War era

Excellent series by Marwan Bishara

Empire - Towards a post post-Cold War era
Al Jazeera English

Reckless in Kiev: Neocons, Putin and Ukraine

This is an excellent read to understand current events in the region.

Reckless in Kiev: Neocons, Putin and Ukraine
Why Obama and Putin must desist from reckless military interventions in other countries' affairs.
Marwan Bishara - Al Jazeera

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/03/reckless-kiev-neocons-putin-ukr-201431053846277945.html

If it walks like a duck...

"...there should be no mistaking her (Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary of State) ideological leaning. Not only because she's the spouse of leading neoconservative, Robert Kagan. Or, that she's the sister-in-law of another prominent Neocon, Fredrick Kagan and wife Kimberly, both think-tank type military historians.

They all belong to a Washington clique of neoconservatives that continue to affect foreign policy who, like most of the other collaborators in the movement, haven't served in the military and are referred to by their detractors as "chicken-hawks"".


Like most of the people speaking about Ukraine,I am no expert. But I know one or two things about the history of the Cold War to recognise a polarising cliche when I hear one, or a demonising characterisation that leads to further escalation of a dangerous situation.

Already, the ripples from Ukraine are having long terms strategic ramifications regardless whether a diplomatic solution is reached soon. Alas, much of that depends not on Ukrainians but rather on Moscow and Washington - my very focus here and in the next episode of EMPIRE . Both have cynically pulled and shoved this country in the name of freedom and security, euphemisms for imperial interests, and pretexts for intervention.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has made bold moves and a few conciliatory statements since the crisis deteriorated, with lots of improvisation in between, in an attempt to achieve the twin goals of preserving Russia's interest in Ukraine and stemming the tide of Western expansion in Ukraine and former republics of the Soviet Union. And in the process reconstitute Moscow's area of influence His abrupt and repressive ways are questionable; indeed reprehensible.
Counting the Cost - The price of military intervention

How Washington reacts depends largely on its original motivations and goals for getting so deeply involved, and on whether the White House was privy to what US diplomats, notably Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland and US ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt,, were cooking in Kiev. In other words, what did Obama know and when did he know it?

Full read here:
http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/03/reckless-kiev-neocons-putin-ukr-201431053846277945.html

OPED by William R. Polk - Foreign Policy expert who worked under JFK

during the Cuban Missile crisis.

William R. Polk is a veteran foreign policy consultant, author and professor who taught Middle Eastern studies at Harvard. President John F. Kennedy appointed Polk to the State Department’s Policy Planning Council where he served during the Cuban Missile Crisis.





Ukraine War: A Reverse Cuban Missile Crisis
February 24, 2015

Guided by an aggressive neocon “regime change” strategy, the United States has stumbled into a potential military confrontation with Russia over Ukraine, a dangerous predicament that could become a Cuban Missile Crisis in reverse, as ex-U.S. diplomat William R. Polk explains.

By William R. Polk

In a rather ghastly Nineteenth Century experiment, a biologist by the name of Heinzmann found that if he placed a frog in boiling water, the frog immediately leapt out but that if he placed the frog in tepid water and then gradually heated it, the frog stayed put until he was scalded to death.

Are we like the frog? I see disturbing elements of that process today as we watch events unfold in the Ukraine confrontation. They profoundly frighten me and I believe they should frighten everyone. But they are so gradual that we do not see a specific moment in which we must jump or perish.


------------------------------------------

Allow me to point out that I had a (very uncomfortable) ringside seat in the Crisis. I was one of three members of the “Crisis Management Committee” that oversaw the unfolding events.

On the Monday of the week of Oct. 22, 1962, I sat with Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Under Secretary George Ball, Counselor and Chairman of the Policy Planning Council Walt Rostow and Under Secretary for Political Affairs U. Alexis Johnson and listened to President John F. Kennedy’s speech to which we all had contributed.

Full article at : https://consortiumnews.com/2015/02/24/ukraine-war-a-reverse-cuban-missile-crisis/

Varoufakis Keeps Greece in the Eurozone, by its Fingernails

A Valiant Effort
Varoufakis Keeps Greece in the Eurozone, by its Fingernails

by MIKE WHITNEY

“Though it’s happening to a stricken country, on the edge of Europe, the choices presented to Greece are being understood throughout Europe… Obey or leave.”

— Paul Mason, Channel 4 News Blog

It’s not easy to negotiate with a gun to your head. Nevertheless, that’s the situation Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis found himself in on Friday preceding a crucial meeting with the Eurogroup. According to one report, the objective of the last-ditch confab “was to prepare a consensus text that would be the basis for the discussion” with the EU’s finance ministers. That might sound innocent enough, but it doesn’t come close to explaining the real purpose of the meeting which was far more sinister. Check out this blurb from Costas Efimeros at the Press Project:

“According to a Greek official who doesn’t want to be named, the Greek delegation were yesterday subject to outright blackmail. Our ‘partners’ informed us that if Eurogroup doesn’t result in an agreement, on Tuesday the Greek government will be forced to implement capital controls. It seemed that they had taken the decision to strangle the Greek economy by cutting off funding to the banks through the ELA system. Furthermore, it seemed that the big Greek banks already knew this. Leaks from the ECB, after all, had suggested that they were preparing for a GREXIT.” (“Europe trashed democracy“, Costas Efimeros, The Press Project)


It’s nice to know that EU leaders ascribe to the same basic moral code as Don Corleone, isn’t it?

The fact is, a slow motion bank run has been underway in Greece for more than a month draining roughly 40 billion euros from the Greek banking system. If a deal hadn’t been struck on Friday, the ECB would have pulled the plug on its liquidity assistance program and blown the whole system to kingdom come. That’s how the Eurocrats planned to say goodbye to their long-struggling member, Greece, by giving them a sharp jolt to the groin before razing their economy to the ground. That tells you everything you need to know about the Eurogroup.


Continued: http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/02/23/varoufakis-keeps-greece-in-the-eurozone-by-its-fingernails/
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