Category Archives: Think Tanks & NGOs

Sphere of Influence: How American Libertarians Are Remaking Latin American Politics

Lee Fang reports for The Intercept:

[…] A rightward shift is afoot in Latin American politics. Triumphant socialist governments had once swept the region for much of the 21st century – from Argentina’s Cristina Fernández de Kirchner to land reform populist Manuel Zelaya in Honduras – championing new programs for the poor, nationalizing businesses, and challenging U.S. dominance in hemispheric affairs.

In recent years, however, leftist leaders have fallen one after another, sometimes in spectacular fashion. Zelaya was led from the presidential palace in his pajamas in a military coup; in Argentina, a real-estate baron swept to the presidency and Kirchner was indicted for corruption; and in Brazil, the ruling Workers’ Party, facing a growing corruption scandal and a mass protest movement, was swept out of office via impeachment over charges of budget chicanery.

This shift might appear as part of a larger regional rebalancing, merely economic circumstances taking hold. And yet the Atlas Network seems ever-present, a common thread nudging political developments along.

The story of the Atlas Network and its profound impact on ideology and political power has never been fully told. But business filings and records from three continents, along with interviews with libertarian leaders across the hemisphere, reveal the scope of its influential history. The libertarian network, which has reshaped political power in country after country, has also operated as a quiet extension of U.S. foreign policy, with Atlas-associated think tanks receiving quiet funding from the State Department and the National Endowment for Democracy, a critical arm of American soft power.

Though recent investigations have shed light on the role of powerful conservative billionaires, such as the Koch brothers, in developing a business-friendly version of libertarian thought, the Atlas Network, which receives funding from Koch foundations, has recreated methods honed in the Western world for developing countries.

The network is expansive, currently boasting loose partnerships with 450 think tanks around the world. Atlas says it dispensed over $5 million to its partners in 2016 alone.

Over the years, Atlas and its affiliated charitable foundations have provided hundreds of grants to conservative and free-market think tanks in Latin America, including the libertarian network that supported the Free Brazil Movement and organizations behind a libertarian push in Argentina, including Fundación Pensar, the Atlas think tank that merged with the political party formed by Mauricio Macri, a businessman who now leads the country. The leaders of the Free Brazil Movement and the founder of Fundación Eléutera in Honduras, an influential post-coup neoliberal think tank, have received financial support from Atlas, and are among the next generation of political operatives that have gone through Atlas’s training seminars.

The Atlas Network spans dozens of other think tanks across the region, including prominent groups supporting right-wing forces behind the unfolding anti-government movement in Venezuela and the campaign of Sebastián Piñera, the right-of-center candidate leading the polls for this year’s presidential election in Chile.

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Amy Goodman speaks with Lee Fang of The Intercept about the above piece on the Atlas Network’s involvement in Latin American politics (Democracy Now!)

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The Right-Wing Machine Behind the Curtain

Theo Anderson reports for In These Times:

The mood was jubilant two days after the November 2016 election at a Washington, D.C., panel co-hosted by two powerhouse conservative thinktanks—the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation.

In his opening remarks, Heritage president Jim DeMint rejoiced that Donald Trump’s election had “preserved our constitutional republic.” Panelist John Yoo, a Berkeley law professor best known as the architect of George W. Bush’s justification for torture, drew laughs with feigned surprise at the audience size. “I thought everyone at Heritage was working over at transition head quarters,” Yoo quipped. “I asked the taxi cab driver to take me to Trump transition headquarters, and he dropped me off here.”

Indeed, Politico reported in November that Heritage, based in D.C., had become “a crucial conduit between Trump’s orbit and the once-skeptical conservative leaders who ultimately helped get him elected.” By Heritage’s own account, “several dozen” of its staff members worked on the transition team, and Trump used its recommendations for his list of potential Supreme Court picks.

Vice President Mike Pence, the head of that transition team, has deep ties to the foundation. In 2006, Heritage co-founder Paul Weyrich, a mentor of Pence’s, said of him, “Nobody is perfect, but he comes pretty close.” In early December, Pence gave the keynote speech at a Heritage event (held at Trump’s D.C. hotel) to honor its biggest donors. He promised that the Trump administration “is now and will continue to draw on” the institution’s work.

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Sharmini Peries speaks to Theo Anderson, staff writer for In These Times, about how the Heritage Foundation’s ties to the Trump administration are very extensive and his budget proposal shows it. (The Real News)

How Corporate Dark Money Is Taking Power on Both Sides of the Atlantic

George Monbiot writes for The Guardian:

Image result for Corporate Dark MoneyIt took corporate America a while to warm to Donald Trump. Some of his positions, especially on trade, horrified business leaders. Many of them favoured Ted Cruz or Scott Walker. But once Trump had secured the nomination, the big money began to recognise an unprecedented opportunity.

Trump was prepared not only to promote the cause of corporations in government, but to turn government into a kind of corporation, staffed and run by executives and lobbyists. His incoherence was not a liability, but an opening: his agenda could be shaped. And the dark money network already developed by some American corporations was perfectly positioned to shape it. Dark money is the term used in the US for the funding of organisations involved in political advocacy that are not obliged to disclose where the money comes from. Few people would see a tobacco company as a credible source on public health, or a coal company as a neutral commentator on climate change. In order to advance their political interests, such companies must pay others to speak on their behalf.

Soon after the second world war, some of America’s richest people began setting up a network of thinktanks to promote their interests. These purport to offer dispassionate opinions on public affairs. But they are more like corporate lobbyists, working on behalf of those who fund them.

We have no hope of understanding what is coming until we understand how the dark money network operates.

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Frightened By Donald Trump? You Don’t Know The Half Of It

George Monbiot writes for The Guardian:

Image result for trump swampYes, Donald Trump’s politics are incoherent. But those who surround him know just what they want, and his lack of clarity enhances their power. To understand what is coming, we need to understand who they are. I know all too well, because I have spent the past 15 years fighting them.

Over this time, I have watched as tobacco, coal, oil, chemicals and biotech companies have poured billions of dollars into an international misinformation machine composed of thinktanks, bloggers and fake citizens’ groups. Its purpose is to portray the interests of billionaires as the interests of the common people, to wage war against trade unions and beat down attempts to regulate business and tax the very rich. Now the people who helped run this machine are shaping the government.

I first encountered the machine when writing about climate change. The fury and loathing directed at climate scientists and campaigners seemed incomprehensible until I realised they were fake: the hatred had been paid for. The bloggers and institutes whipping up this anger were funded by oil and coal companies.

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At Hillary Clinton’s Favorite Think Tank, a Doubling Down on Anti-Iran, Pro-Saudi Policy

Zaid Jilani reports for The Intercept:

The Center for American Progress hosted a sort of preview of Hillary Clinton’s Middle East policy on Tuesday, with a Clinton adviser and a Gulf state diplomat agreeing that the next president should double down on support for the Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, while ramping up action against Iran.

It is a signal that a future Clinton administration would overwhelmingly favor the Gulf states in their ongoing, Middle East-wide power struggle with Iran, implicitly rebuking President Obama, who has come under fire from Gulf states for mild criticism of their foreign policy and his nuclear deal with Iran.

The founder of the Center for American Progress, John Podesta, is the campaign chair for Clinton’s presidential bid; many of the candidate’s closest advisors are alumni of CAP and it is widely viewed as a launching pad for policy staff for Democratic presidents. The center is currently helmed by Clinton transition co-chair Neera Tanden.

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James O’Keefe Accidentally Stings Himself

Jane Mayer writes for The New Yorker:

O’Keefe’s signature method is to entrap targets into breaking the law.As Dana Geraghty recalls it, March 16th was a “rather quiet Wednesday.” That afternoon, she was in her cubicle at the Open Society Foundations, on West Fifty-seventh Street, where she helps oversee the nonprofit group’s pro-democracy programs in Eurasia. The Foundations are the philanthropic creation of George Soros, the hedge-fund billionaire, who is a prominent donor to liberal causes, including Hillary Clinton’s Presidential bid. Soros, who has spent nineteen million dollars on the 2016 Presidential campaign, is regarded with suspicion by many conservatives. National Review has suggested that he may be fomenting protests against Donald Trump by secretly funding what it called a “rent-a-mob.” Geraghty, who is twenty-eight, had programmed her office phone to forward messages from unfamiliar callers to her e-mail inbox. She was about to review several messages when she noticed that one of them was extraordinarily long. “Who leaves a seven-minute voice mail?” Geraghty asked herself. She clicked on it.

“Hey, Dana,” a voice began. The caller sounded to her like an older American male. “My name is, uh, Victor Kesh. I’m a Hungarian-American who represents a, uh, foundation . . . that would like to get involved with you and aid what you do in fighting for, um, European values.” He asked Geraghty for the name of someone he could talk to “about supporting you guys and coördinating with you on some of your efforts.” Requesting a callback, he left a phone number with a 914 area code—Westchester County.

She heard a click, a pause, and then a second male voice. The person who had introduced himself as Kesh said, “Don’t say anything . . . before I hang up the phone.”

That piqued my interest,” Geraghty recalls. Other aspects of the message puzzled her: “Who says they’re with a foundation without saying which one? He sounded scattered. And usually people call to get funding, not to offer it.” Victor Kesh, she suspected, was “someone passing as someone else.”

She continued to listen, and the man’s voice suddenly took on a more commanding tone. The caller had failed to hang up, and Kesh, unaware that he was still being recorded, seemed to be conducting a meeting about how to perpetrate an elaborate sting on Soros. “What needs to happen,” he said, is for “someone other than me to make a hundred phone calls like that”—to Soros, to his employees, and to the Democracy Alliance, a club of wealthy liberal political donors that Soros helped to found, which is expected to play a large role in financing this year’s campaigns. Kesh described sending into the Soros offices an “undercover” agent who could “talk the talk” with Open Society executives. Kesh’s goal wasn’t fully spelled out on the recording, but the gist was that an operative posing as a potential donor could penetrate Soros’s operation and make secret videos that exposed embarrassing activities. Soros, he assured the others, has “thousands of organizations” on the left in league with him. Kesh said that the name of his project was Discover the Networks.

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Clinton, Rubio, Cruz Receive Foreign Policy Advice From Same Consulting Firm

Lee Fang reports for The Intercept:

Consultants affiliated with a small Washington, D.C., firm called Beacon Global Strategies hold the unique privilege of providing high-profile foreign policy guidance to Hillary Clinton, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz, among others.

The bipartisan firm was founded in 2013 by former senior officials from the State Department, Department of Defense, and Central Intelligence Agency, and quickly had more than a dozen clients, primarily defense contractors, according to Defense News.

Philippe Reines and Andrew Shapiro, both considered part of Clinton’s inner circle of foreign policy advisers, are founders of the firm. Reines served as a longtime spokesperson for Clinton and Shapiro served as her assistant secretary of state for military affairs.

Eric Edelman, a former Bush administration Defense Department official, is an advisory board member to Beacon Global Strategies and a leading foreign policy adviser to Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign. “It’s mostly about defense, but I’ve talked to him about the authorization of military force. I’ve talked to him about the campaign against ISIS, about Russia and Ukraine. There’s not a shortage of issues right now,” Edelman told Reuters. The news wire noted that that Edelman “regularly briefs the senator.”

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Neocons Make Rubio Their Favorite

JP Sottile writes for Consortium News:

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida.“We’ll be fine.” That’s what neoconservative scion William Kristol told Beltway insiders on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” when asked about the prospect of Donald Trump winning the GOP nomination.

Although he was initially warm to Trump’s candidacy, Kristol quickly cooled during the “Summer of Trump” as the GOP’s surprise frontrunner began piling up insults and, more importantly, as he began piling-on the disastrous foreign policy legacy of President George W. Bush. Trump’s barrages against the Iraq War on the stump, on Sunday shows and, most entertainingly, on Twitter transformed the main foreign policy “achievement” of the neoconservative movement into a toxic campaign issue for the GOP’s Establishment-friendly candidates.

To wit, Trump’s relentless critique of the neocon-driven Iraq debacle wounded — perhaps mortally — the presidential prospects of “The Next Bush in Line” and, in so doing, jeopardized the most obvious governmental re-entry point for the restive cadre of neocon men and women currently languishing at the American Enterprise Institute. Many are also among Jeb Bush’s closest foreign policy advisers.

With the Bush brand in jeopardy and Trump unwilling to either parrot long-standing GOP talking points or regurgitate their partially-digested tropes on foreign policy, things looked bleak for the Republican Party’s bellicose backbenchers.

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David Cameron’s ‘counter extremism’ experts work with far-right Donald Trump sympathisers

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Insurge Intelligence:

Last week, leading Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump provoked global outrage with his call for a ‘temporary’ ban on all Muslim immigration to the United States.

His remarks also sparked enthusiastic support from neo-Nazi white supremacists, triggered a spike in campaign donations, and maintained his 35% lead in the Republican campaign race.

In Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron described Trump’s proposal as “divisive, unhelpful and quite simply wrong.”

Since then, over half a million Britons have signed a petition demanding the government to ban Trump from entering the UK, making it the most signed UK government petition ever.

But Trump has unlikely allies in Britain — some with close links to the Tory government.

Far from simply popping out of nowhere, Trump’s ideology of hate has been incubated by a trans-Atlantic network of rightwing lobby groups and think-tanks, members of which have advised David Cameron himself.

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Richard Perle: The Disappearing Prince of Darkness

Editor’s Note: You can listen to a recent interview with the author of the Perle piece from the Scott Horton Show.

Jim Lobe recently wrote for LobeLog:

richard_perle_640x0_rozmiar-niestandardowyWhere is Richard Perle?

His virtually total absence from the Iran nuclear debate over the past two years was perhaps one of the most remarkable features of the whole controversy. Ubiquitous in the major media in the run-up to and aftermath of the Iraq war debacle and a long-time advocate of “regime change” by whatever means in Iran, the “prince of darkness,” Washington’s leading neoconservative operative for several decades, seems almost to have entirely disappeared from public view.

[…] If it’s true that Pletka has maneuvered Perle out of AEI, it marks something of a watershed. Probably Washington’s most influential neocon operative of his generation, he played a critical role in driving the U.S. to war in Iraq, along with Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith (another Perle protégé). But he seems to have retired to the fever swamps of Gaffney’s CSP.

His departure, if that indeed is what it is, follows those of his long-time collaborators at the Institute.

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U.S. Military Used Christian NGO as Front for North Korea Espionage

Matthew Cole reports for The Intercept:

HISG_NGO-graphicOn May 10, 2007, in the East Room of the White House, President George W. Bush presided over a ceremony honoring the nation’s most accomplished community service leaders. Among those collecting a President’s Volunteer Service Award that afternoon was Kay Hiramine, the Colorado-based founder of a multimillion-dollar humanitarian organization.

Hiramine’s NGO, Humanitarian International Services Group, or HISG, won special praise from the president for having demonstrated how a private charity could step in quickly in response to a crisis. “In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina,” read Hiramine’s citation, “HISG’s team launched a private sector operation center in Houston that mobilized over 1,500 volunteers into the disaster zone within one month after the hurricane.”

But as the evangelical Christian Hiramine crossed the stage to shake hands with President Bush and receive his award, he was hiding a key fact from those in attendance: He was a Pentagon spy whose NGO was funded through a highly classified Defense Department program.

The secret Pentagon program, which dates back to December 2004, continued well into the Obama presidency. It was the brainchild of a senior Defense Department intelligence official of the Bush administration, Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin. Boykin, an evangelical Christian who ran into criticism in 2003 for his statements about Islam, settled on the ruse of the NGO as he was seeking new and unorthodox ways to penetrate North Korea.

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Hillary Clinton Goes to Militaristic, Hawkish Think Tank, Gives Militaristic, Hawkish Speech

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

Leading Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton this morning delivered a foreign policy speech at the Brookings Institution in Washington. By itself, the choice of the venue was revealing.

Brookings served as Ground Zero for centrist think tank advocacy of the Iraq War, which Clinton (along with potential rival Joe Biden) notoriously and vehemently advocated. Brookings’ two leading “scholar”-stars — Kenneth Pollack and Michael O’Hanlon — spent all of 2002 and 2003 insisting that invading Iraq was wise and just, and spent the years after that assuring Americans that the “victorious” war and subsequent occupation were going really well (in April 2003, O’Hanlon debated with himself over whether the strategy that led to the “victory” in his beloved war should be deemed “brilliant” or just extremely “clever,” while in June 2003, Pollack assured New York Times readers that Saddam’s WMD would be found).

Since then, O’Hanlon in particular has advocated for increased military force in more countries than one can count. That’s not surprising: Brookings is funded in part by one of the Democratic Party’s favorite billionaires, Haim Saban, who is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Israel and once said of himself: “I’m a one-issue guy, and my issue is Israel.” Pollack advocated for the attack on Iraq while he was “Director of Research of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy.” Saban became the Democratic Party’s largest fundraiser — even paying $7 million for the new DNC building — and is now a very substantial funder of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. In exchange, she’s written a personal letter to him publicly “expressing her strong and unequivocal support for Israel in the face of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement.”

So the hawkish Brookings is the prism through which Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy worldview can be best understood. The think tank is filled with former advisers to both Bill and Hillary Clinton, and would certainly provide numerous top-level foreign policy officials in any Hillary Clinton administration. As she put it today at the start: “There are a lot of long-time friends and colleagues who perch here at Brookings.” And she proceeded to deliver exactly the speech one would expect, reminding everyone of just how militaristic and hawkish she is.

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Human rights groups face global crackdown ‘not seen in a generation’

Harriet Sherwood reports for The Guardian:

[…] The causes of increasing restrictions are complex, say organisations that monitor civil society activity, but broadly fall into three categories.

First is the shift in political power away from the west, the main source of funding for domestic civil society groups and the base for most big international NGOs. At the end of the cold war, the US and other western countries stepped in to assist newly democratising countries and burgeoning grassroots organisations.

But, more recently, many governments in the developing and post-communist world have pushed back against what they see as western interference. “This is the end of the post-cold war period in which [the west] felt that liberal democracy and western concepts of human rights were spreading around the world, to a period in which there’s a relativisation of political values and the questioning of a common narrative,” says Carothers.

Second, governments have woken up to the power of civil society – particularly after pro-democracy uprisings in former communist states and the revolutionary wave that swept through the Middle East.

“In most countries where leaders don’t allow a lot of pluralism or democracy, they’ve learned to tame opposition political parties,” Carothers says. “But the deepest fear of repressive governments is that they wake up in the morning, open the shutters of the presidential palace, and look out to find 100,000 citizens in the square saying ‘enough!’. That’s scary and uncontrollable,” particularly, Carothers adds, when coupled with technological skill in harnessing the power of social media to organise and spread messages.

The third cause of the NGO crackdown is the proliferation of counter-terrorism measures – often promoted by the west – that sweep civil society organisations into their embrace, either inadvertently or deliberately. Legitimate measures to curb funding of and money-laundering by terrorist organisations often have a debilitating effect on NGOs.

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Putin Hurts a Think Tank by Not Banning It

Leonid Bershidsky writes for Bloomberg View:

[…] The Kirchick piece offended the staff at Moscow Carnegie Center. “The world of American Kirchick, like the world of a bad Russian TV presenter, is divided into those who work for the State Department and those who work for Putin,” Carnegie.ru editor Alexander Baunov, a polyglot ex-diplomat (also my former colleague at two Moscow publications, and assuredly no fan of Putin), posted on Facebook. “His piece is written as a complaint to the U.S. authorities: Pay attention, these guys are deviating from the party line. There’s only one excuse for the author: Americans have never lived in a totalitarian state and they haven’t developed an immunity to the urge to write such complaints.”

The emotion is familiar to me. I have written many times that while Putin’s policies, both domestic and foreign, are not just illiberal and backward but also criminal, that doesn’t make compromise for the sake of peace impossible. Here I agree with Carnegie’s Trenin, who notes that such compromises were repeatedly made with much nastier Soviet rulers, which in the long run helped topple the Communist regime as Russians realized that the rest of the world didn’t seek to isolate them, only their own leaders did. The debate about how to handle Putin’s Russia, however, is defined by radicals on both sides, and to them I — like Baunov and his colleagues — am either Putin’s stooge at a Western media outlet or an anti-Russian Washington drone.

That falsehood benefits Putin more than anyone. He hates all foreign NGOs as State Department outposts and hotbeds of potential insurgency.

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Humanitarian Warriors

Chase Madar writes for the London Review of Books:

Harold Koh is the former dean of Yale Law School and an expert in human rights law. As the State Department’s senior lawyer between 2009 and 2013, he provided the Obama administration with the legal basis for assassination carried out by drones. And despite having written academic papers backing a powerful and restrictive War Powers Act, he made the legal case for the Obama administration’s right to make war on Libya without bothering to get congressional approval. Koh, who has now returned to teaching human rights law, is not the only human rights advocate to call for the use of lethal violence. Indeed, the weaponisation of human rights – its doctrines, its institutions and, above all, its grandees – has been going on in the US for more than a decade.

Take Samantha Power, US Ambassador to the United Nations, former director of Harvard’s Carr Centre for Human Rights Policy and self-described ‘genocide chick’, who advocated war in Libya and Syria, and argued for new ways to arm-twist US allies into providing more troops for Obama’s escalated but unsuccessful war in Afghanistan. This last argument wasn’t successful in 2012, though she was at it again recently when interviewed on Charlie Rose. Or there’s Sarah Sewall, another former director of the Carr Centre, who was responsible for the material on human rights in the reworked US Army and Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual. Or Michael Posner, the founder of Human Rights First, now a business professor at NYU, who, as assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labour in Obama’s first term, helped bury the Goldstone Report, commissioned by the United Nations to investigate atrocities committed during Israel’s 2008-9 assault on Gaza. Or John Prendergast, a former Human Rights Watch researcher and co-founder of Enough, an anti-genocide group affiliated with the Centre for American Progress, who has called for military intervention to oust Robert Mugabe.’

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The American far-right’s trojan horse in Westminster

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Insurge Intelligence:

There is a violent extremist fifth column operating at the heart of power in Britain, and they stand against everything we hold dear in Western democracies: civil liberties, equality, peace, diplomacy and the rule of law.

You wouldn’t think so at first glance. In fact, you might be taken in by their innocuous-looking spokespeople, railing against the threat of Muslim extremists, defending the rights of beleaguered Muslim women, championing the principle of free speech — regularly courted by national TV and the press as informed experts on global policy issues.

But peer beneath the surface, and an entirely different picture emerges: a web of self-serving trans-Atlantic elites who are attempting to warp public discourse on key issues that pose a threat not to the public interest, but to their own vested interests.

One key organisation at the centre of this web is the Henry Jackson Society (HJS), an influential British think-tank founded a decade ago, ostensibly to promote noble ideals like freedom, human rights and democracy. But its staff spend most of their energies advancing the very opposite.’

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UN accuses Eritrea of “possible crimes against humanity”

Neocons 2.0: The problem with Peter Pomerantsev

Mark Ames writes for Pando Daily:

pomerantsevIn his opening statement last month before a US Congressional Committee hearing titled “Confronting Russia’s Weaponization of Information,” the Russian-born British author Peter Pomerantsev served his Republican-led audience a piping hot  serving of neocon alarmism. Quoting “the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), General Philip M. Breedlove,” Pomerantsev described Russia’s 2014 takeover of Crimea as “the most amazing information warfare blitzkrieg we have ever seen in the history of information warfare.” To which Pomernatsev added his own chilling warning:

“To put it differently, Russia has launched an information war against the West – and we are losing.”

The hearing was put on by Orange County neoconservative Republican Ed Royce; the purpose of the hearings was to drum up fear about Russia’s “unprecedented” information war on the West — a propaganda battle which obviously exists, but whose dimensions and dangers are being cynically exaggerated — and then convert that fear into budget money for US propaganda and NGOs to subvert Kremlin power.

What made Pomerantsev’s lobbying appearance with the neocons so disturbing to me is that he’s not the sort of crude, arrogant meat-head I normally identify with homo neoconius. Pomerantsev’s book, “Nothing is True and Everything is Possible”, is the most talked-about Russia book in recent memory. His many articles on the Kremlin’s “avant-garde” “information war” and its “political technologists” have been hits in the thinking-man’s press: Atlantic Monthly, London Review of Books... His insights into the strategic thinking behind the Kremlin’s “information wars” are often sharp and illuminating; and yet there’s always been something glaringly absent in Pomerantsev’s writings. Not so much what he puts in, but all that he leaves out. Glaring omissions of context, that had me start to question if Pomernatsev wasn’t manipulating the reader by poaching the rhetoric of leftist critical analysis, and putting it to use for very different, neocon purposes . . . as if Pomerantsev has been aping the very sort of “avant-garde” Kremlin political technologies he’s been scaring the Ed Royces of the world with.

And then of course there’s the larger nagging question—what the Hell is a presumed journalist/writer like Pomerantsev, who claims to have been most influenced by literary figures like Christopher Isherwood, doing lobbying the US and UK governments to pass bills upping psychological warfare budgets and imposing sanctions on foreign countries? Where does the independent critical analysis stop, and the manipulative lobbying begin?’

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Extreme finance: the European far-right and its funding

Corporate Observatory Europe reports:

[…] While there is no suggestion that UKIP has itself accepted donations from the Heritage Foundation (that would be illegal under UK party funding rules), the implication of this article is that UKIP has brokered a relationship to try to help another extreme far-right political group in the EU. The Heritage Foundation is a well-known right-wing think-tank espousing “free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense”. It has a record of funding European climate-sceptical thinktanks.

Meanwhile the Front National has admitted accepting (link is external)a €9 million loan from the First Czech Russian Bank, which is based in Moscow and is owned by Kremlin ally oligarch Roman Popov. The loan was apparently brokered by Front National MEP Jean-Luc Schaffhauser. Denying any impropriety, Marine Le Pen has said: “What is scandalous is that French banks aren’t lending”.

On this occasion at least, the European banks who refused to lend to the Front National have got it right. For extreme, far-right groups it seems easy to spout the rhetoric of independence and patriotism, and rather less easy to follow it when it comes to accepting funding.’

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Humanitarians for War on Syria

Rick Sterling writes for CounterPunch:

‘A massive campaign in support of foreign intervention against Syria is underway. The goal is to prepare the public for a “No Fly Zone” enforced by US and other military powers. This is how the invasion of Iraq began. This is how the public was prepared for the US/NATO air attack on Libya.

The results of western ‘regime change’ in Iraq and Libya have been disastrous. Both actions have dramatically reduced the security, health, education and living standards of the populations, created anarchy and mayhem, and resulted in the explosion of sectarianism and violence in the region. Now the Western/NATO/Israeli and Gulf powers, supported by major intervention-inclined humanitarian organizations, want to do the same in Syria. Is this positive or a repeat of past disasters?’

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The Neoconservative Cursus Honorum

Former CIA officer Philip Giraldi writes for The American Conservative:

Having experienced several more weeks of mainstream media jingoism about the “Iranian threat,” culminating in the outrageous Joshua Muravchik op-ed advocating war with Iran as the “best option” for dealing with that country, one has to ask why it is that a gaggle of self-proclaimed “experts” has been able to capture the foreign-policy narrative so completely, in spite of the fact that they have been wrong about nearly everything?

Neoconservatives have two core beliefs. First is their insistence that the United States has the right or even the responsibility to use its military and economic power to reshape the world in terms of its own interests and values. Constant war thus becomes the new normal. As Professor Eliot Cohen, a former State Department adviser under George W. Bush, put it, “For the great mass of the American public … and for their leaders and elites who shape public opinion ‘war weariness’ is unearned cant, unworthy of a serious nation… .”’

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Rationalizing Lunacy: The Intellectual as Servant of the State

Andrew J. Bacevich writes for TomDispatch:

Policy intellectuals — eggheads presuming to instruct the mere mortals who actually run for office — are a blight on the republic. Like some invasive species, they infest present-day Washington, where their presence strangles common sense and has brought to the verge of extinction the simple ability to perceive reality. A benign appearance — well-dressed types testifying before Congress, pontificating in print and on TV, or even filling key positions in the executive branch — belies a malign impact. They are like Asian carp let loose in the Great Lakes.

It all began innocently enough.  Back in 1933, with the country in the throes of the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt first imported a handful of eager academics to join the ranks of his New Deal.  An unprecedented economic crisis required some fresh thinking, FDR believed. Whether the contributions of this “Brains Trust” made a positive impact or served to retard economic recovery (or ended up being a wash) remains a subject for debate even today.   At the very least, however, the arrival of Adolph Berle, Raymond Moley, Rexford Tugwell, and others elevated Washington’s bourbon-and-cigars social scene. As bona fide members of the intelligentsia, they possessed a sort of cachet.

Then came World War II, followed in short order by the onset of the Cold War. These events brought to Washington a second wave of deep thinkers, their agenda now focused on “national security.”  This eminently elastic concept — more properly, “national insecurity” — encompassed just about anything related to preparing for, fighting, or surviving wars, including economics, technology, weapons design, decision-making, the structure of the armed forces, and other matters said to be of vital importance to the nation’s survival.  National insecurity became, and remains today, the policy world’s equivalent of the gift that just keeps on giving.’

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Global Challenges: 12 Risks That Threaten Human Civilisation

The Global Challenges Foundation just issued a report on ’12 risks that threaten human civilisation’:

12riskThis report has, to the best of the authors’ knowledge, created the first list of global risks with impacts that for all practical purposes can be called infinite. It is also the first structured overview of key events related to such risks and has tried to provide initial rough quantifications for the probabilities of these impacts.

With such a focus it may surprise some readers to find that the report’s essential aim is to inspire action and dialogue as well as an increased use of the methodologies used for risk assessment.

The real focus is not on the almost unimaginable impacts of the risks the report outlines. Its fundamental purpose is to encourage global collaboration and to use this new category of risk as a driver for innovation.

The idea that we face a number of global risks threatening the very basis of our civilisation at the beginning of the 21st century is well accepted in the scientific community, and is studied at a number of leading universities. But there is still no coordinated approach to address this group of risks and turn them into opportunities.’

READ THE FULL REPORT…

Meet The Forces That Are Pushing Obama Towards A New Cold War

Christian Stork writes for Medium:

‘[…] Moscow’s national-security interests are clear. Washington’s are as well, albeit unrelated to the security of the nation in any meaningful sense. Given the stakes, the hard line being pushed against Russia can’t solely be attributed to “Great Game” strategy — the long-running chess battle to control global energy flows.

Different players have different motives. At times they overlap; elsewhere they diverge.

As for those in the K Street elite pushing Uncle Sam to confront the bear, it isn’t hard to see what they have to gain: Just take a look at the history behind their Beltway-bandit benefactors.’

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‘Guantanamo of the East’: Ukraine Locks Up Refugees at EU’s Behest

Maximilian Popp reports for Spiegel:

Most asylum seekers trying to make their way to Europe take the dangerous route...‘[…] The European Union has provided Ukraine with €30 million ($34 million) in funding, which Kiev is using to build and renovate migrant detention centers, along with other facilities where they are housed temporarily. The International Organization for Migration received several million euros to support Ukrainian authorities in such areas as the internment of undocumented migrants. Brussels is apparently hoping that the system will reduce the number of asylum seekers in Europe — without attracting too much attention.

In 2010, the human rights organization Human Rights Watch criticized the EU for investing millions to divert flows of refugees from Europe toward Ukraine, while neglecting to take sufficient steps to ensure the humane treatment of refugees in Ukraine.

The refugee crisis along the eastern edge of Europe could now escalate in the course of the Ukraine conflict. The government in Kiev has its hands full caring for almost a million internally displaced persons fleeing the fighting between government troops and rebels in eastern Ukraine. It is hardly capable of providing for asylum-seekers from the Middle East and African countries, as well, warns Ilya Todorovich, the UNHCR representative in Ukraine.’

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The Islamophobia Network’s Efforts to Manufacture Hate in America: Interview with Yasmine Taeb

‘As a federal inquiry begins in the killing of three Muslim students in North Carolina and an Islamic center in Houston, Texas, was intentionally set on fire Friday, we look at a new report that exposes the people who fund and stoke anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States. The investigation by the Center for American Progress is called “Fear, Inc. 2.0, The Islamophobia Network’s Efforts to Manufacture Hate in America,” an update of a 2011 report. We are joined by the report’s co-author, Yasmine Taeb, Islamophobia project manager at the Center for American Progress.’ (Democracy Now!)

Is The World Less Free?

Editor’s Note: It is worth noting that Freedom House receives its funding from the U.S. government via the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. State Department. Past board members have included the likes of Zbigniew Brzezinski, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Samuel Huntington, Jeane Kirkpatrick and Otto Reich. In the past this has lead the organisation to see the world through more pro-America eyes than other freedom indices like the recent report by Reporters Without Borders. You can read more about Freedom House here.

World Press Freedom Index 2015: Decline On All Fronts

Repoters Without Borders reports:

A colour-coded world map depicting the results of the RSF World Press Freedom Index 2015.‘The Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index ranks the performance of 180 countries according to a range of criteria that include media pluralism and independence, respect for the safety and freedom of journalists, and the legislative, institutional and infrastructural environment in which the media operate.

Top of the list, as so often, are three Scandinavian countries: Finland, which has been in first place for five years in succession, followed by Norway and Denmark. At the other end of the scale, Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea, in last place, were the worst performers. France is ranked 38th (up one place), the United States 49th (down three places), Japan 61st (down two places),Brazil 99 (up 12 places), Russia 152 (down four places), Iran 173rd (unchanged) and China 176th (down one place).

The 2015 World Press Freedom Index highlights the worldwide deterioration in freedom of information in 2014. Beset by wars, the growing threat from non-state operatives, violence during demonstrations and the economic crisis, media freedom is in retreat on all five continents.’

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Pentagon thinktank claims Putin has Asperger’s – has Putinology gone too far?

Alan Yuhas reports for The Guardian:

Vladimir Putin If Kremlinology made for a viable career track at the Pentagon during the cold war, Putinology is its pale 21st-century successor, complete with geopolitical guessing games, spycraft and the unknowable machinations of the man inside Red Square. The latest contribution to the field comes courtesy of a Pentagon thinktank: a suggestion that Vladimir Putin has an autistic disorder.

Studies from 2008 and 2011, commissioned by the Pentagon and revealed by USA Today through a freedom of information request, suggest Putin has “an autistic disorder which affects all of his decisions” and may be Asperger syndrome. But the studies, which focused on videos of the Russian president, do not claim to make a diagnosis and are primarily the brainchild of one person, Brenda Connors of the US Naval War College (USNWC) in Newport, Rhode Island.’

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Lee Fang interviewed about his book ‘The Machine: A Field Guide to the Resurgent Right’

Editor’s Note: Lee Fang‘s interview with Thom Hartmann was recorded around the time his book was released in mid-2013. Fang has worked as an investigative journalist most recently at The Nation and has just been hired by The Intercept.