Category Archives: History

Suspect in North Korea killing ‘thought she was taking part in TV prank’

Oliver Holmes reports for The Guardian:

Image result for Suspect in North Korea killingAn Indonesian woman arrested for suspected involvement in the killing of the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un’s half-brother in Malaysia was duped into thinking she was part of a comedy show prank, Indonesia’s national police chief has said, citing information received from Malaysian authorities.

Meanwhile, Malaysian police said on Saturday they had arrested a North Korean man in connection with the murder.

The man was identified as Ri Jong Chol, born in 1970. He was arrested on Friday night in Selangor state, the police said in a statement. He is the fourth suspect to be arrested.

Indonesia’s national police chief, Tito Karnavian, told reporters in Indonesia’s Aceh province that the Indonesian woman, 25-year-old Siti Aisyah, was paid to be involved in pranks .

He said she and another woman performed stunts which involved convincing men to close their eyes and then spraying them with water.

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Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul on Michael Flynn’s Resignation

The first video features former Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich during his appearance on FOX Business Network’s Mornings with Maria. The second video features former Republican Congressman Ron Paul in conversation with Daniel McAdams. Both men, who often came together when serving in the U.S. Congress, give their views on Michael Flynn’s resignation and the who is most likely to benefit from the scandal. (Fox Business/Liberty Report)

Paul Joseph Watson Is A Pop Culture Pleb

Anthony Fantano responds to Paul Joseph Watson’s latest video The Truth About Popular Culture, saying that he makes some of the dumbest assertions about pop culture and contemporary music. Watson has since posted a video titled: Conservatism is the NEW Counter-Culture(The Needle Drop)

The man who declared the ‘end of history’ fears for democracy’s future

Ishaan Tharoor reports for The Washington Post:

Francis Fukuyama, an acclaimed American political philosopher, entered the global imagination at the end of the Cold War when he prophesied the “end of history” — a belief that, after the fall of communism, free-market liberal democracy had won out and would become the world’s “final form of human government.” Now, at a moment when liberal democracy seems to be in crisis across the West, Fukuyama, too, wonders about its future.

“Twenty five years ago, I didn’t have a sense or a theory about how democracies can go backward,” said Fukuyama in a phone interview. “And I think they clearly can.”

Fukuyama’s initial argument (which I’ve greatly over-simplified) framed the international zeitgeist for the past two decades. Globalization was the vehicle by which liberalism would spread across the globe. The rule of law and institutions would supplant power politics and tribal divisions. Supranational bodies like the European Union seemed to embody those ideals.

But if the havoc of the Great Recession and the growing clout of authoritarian states like China and Russia hadn’t already upset the story, Brexit and the election of President Trump last year certainly did.

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Beware Trump’s Reichstag Fire

Paul Waldmam writes for The Week:

I like to think I’m a little less prone to panic than some of my liberal brethren. I haven’t called President Trump a fascist, mostly because the idea of him having a coherent ideology is absurd. Much as I fear how he’d act in a crisis — a fear that has only grown since he became president — I grant that most of what he’ll do in office is exactly what any Republican president would do. I don’t doubt that there will be an election in 2020. And while Trump has a remarkable lack of human virtues and an even more remarkable set of character flaws, I don’t think he’s Hitler.

That doesn’t mean, however, that certain historical events don’t offer us a warning of the kind of thing we should watch out for. In particular, the Trump administration’s move to shut America’s doors to refugees and stop all entry from nationals of seven Muslim countries has me thinking more and more about the Reichstag fire. There will come a moment when something awful happens, and Americans need to be ready for the Trump administration’s effort to exploit it.

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Joe Rogan Experience with Alex Jones and Eddie Bravo

Joe Rogan sits down with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and jiujitsu instructor Eddie Bravo for a lengthy chat about all manner of crazy shit. (Joe Rogan Experience)

Six Other Times the U.S. Has Banned Immigrants

Al Jazeera reports:

On Friday, Donald Trump barred citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries – Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen – from entering the United States for at least the next 90 days.

He also suspended the US refugee programme for 120 days, specifically banning Syrian refugees until further notice, reduced the number of refugees who would be admitted this year to 50,000 and specified that refugees who were from a religious minority and fleeing religious persecution should be prioritised.

A federal judge has blocked part of Trump’s executive order, ruling that travellers who have already landed in the US with valid visas should not be sent back to their home countries, and protests in response to passport holders from some Arab countries, including US green card holders, being blocked from passing through customs or prevented from boarding US-bound planes, have taken place at airports across the country.

But this is not the first time that the US has banned immigrants from its shores. Over the past 200 years, successive American presidents have placed restrictions on the immigration of certain groups.

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How the 19th Century Know Nothing Party Reshaped American Politics

Lorraine Boissoneault reports for Smithsonian:

CWBWMA.jpgLike Fight Club, there were rules about joining the secret society known as the Order of the Star Spangled Banner (OSSB). An initiation rite called “Seeing Sam.” The memorization of passwords and hand signs. A solemn pledge never to betray the order. A pureblooded pedigree of Protestant Anglo-Saxon stock and the rejection of all Catholics. And above all, members of the secret society weren’t allowed to talk about the secret society. If asked anything by outsiders, they would respond with, “I know nothing.”

So went the rules of this secret fraternity that rose to prominence in 1853 and transformed into the powerful political party known as the Know Nothings. At its height in the 1850s, the Know Nothing party, originally called the American Party, included more than 100 elected congressmen, eight governors, a controlling share of half-a-dozen state legislatures from Massachusetts to California, and thousands of local politicians. Party members supported deportation of foreign beggars and criminals; a 21-year naturalization period for immigrants; mandatory Bible reading in schools; and the elimination of all Catholics from public office. They wanted to restore their vision of what America should look like with temperance, Protestantism, self-reliance, with American nationality and work ethic enshrined as the nation’s highest values.

Know Nothings were the American political system’s first major third party. Early in the 19th century, two parties leftover from the birth of the United States were the Federalists (who advocated for a strong central government) and the Democratic-Republicans (formed by Thomas Jefferson). Following the earliest parties came the National Republicans, created to oppose Andrew Jackson. That group eventually transformed into the Whigs as Jackson’s party became known as the Democrats. The Whig party sent presidents William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor and others to the White House during its brief existence. But the party splintered and then disintegrated over the politics of slavery. The Know Nothings filled the power void before the Whigs had even ceased to exist, choosing to ignore slavery and focus all their energy on the immigrant question. They were the first party to leverage economic concerns over immigration as a major part of their platform. Though short-lived, the values and positions of the Know Nothings ultimately contributed to the two-party system we have today.

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Thanks to Trump, the Doomsday Clock Advances Toward Midnight

David Titley and Lawrence M. Krauss write for The New York Times:

[…] This is the closest to midnight that the clock has been since 1953, when it was moved to two minutes to midnight after United States and the Soviet Union tested their first thermonuclear weapons within six months of one another.

We understand that Mr. Trump has been in office only days, that many of his cabinet nominees are awaiting confirmation and that he has had little time to take official action.

But Mr. Trump’s statements and actions have been unsettling. He has made ill-considered comments about expanding and even deploying the American nuclear arsenal. He has expressed disbelief in the scientific consensus on global warming. He has shown a troubling propensity to discount or reject expert advice related to international security. And his nominees to head the Energy Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Office of Management and the Budget have disputed or questioned climate change.

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Hannah Arendt Explains How Propaganda Uses Lies to Erode All Truth and Morality

Open Culture writes:

At least when I was in grade school, we learned the very basics of how the Third Reich came to power in the early 1930s. Paramilitary gangs terrorizing the opposition, the incompetence and opportunism of German conservatives, the Reichstag Fire. And we learned about the critical importance of propaganda, the deliberate misinforming of the public in order to sway opinions en masse and achieve popular support (or at least the appearance of it). While Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels purged Jewish and leftist artists and writers, he built a massive media infrastructure that played, writes PBS, “probably the most important role in creating an atmosphere in Germany that made it possible for the Nazis to commit terrible atrocities against Jews, homosexuals, and other minorities.”

How did the minority party of Hitler and Goebbels take over and break the will of the German people so thoroughly that they would allow and participate in mass murder? Post-war scholars of totalitarianism like Theodor Adorno and Hannah Arendt asked that question over and over, for several decades afterward. Their earliest studies on the subject looked at two sides of the equation. Adorno contributed to a massive volume of social psychology called The Authoritarian Personality, which studied individuals predisposed to the appeals of totalitarianism. He invented what he called the F-Scale (“F” for “fascism”), one of several measures he used to theorize the Authoritarian Personality Type.

Arendt, on the other hand, looked closely at the regimes of Hitler and Stalin and their functionaries, at the ideology of scientific racism, and at the mechanism of propaganda in fostering “a curiously varying mixture of gullibility and cynicism with which each member… is expected to react to the changing lying statements of the leaders.” So she wrote in her 1951 Origins of Totalitarianism, going on to elaborate that this “mixture of gullibility and cynicism… is prevalent in all ranks of totalitarian movements”

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CIA Fears About 1980s Labour ‘Threat’ Revealed

CIA papers naming Jeremy Corbyn as attending a meeting in San SalvadorThe Labour Party is “in the hands of urban leftists given to ideological extremes with only fringe appeal”.

That isn’t an assertion about today’s politics. It was the verdict of the US Central Intelligence Agency on Labour back in 1985, in a memo for the agency’s director on the early phase of Neil Kinnock’s leadership.

This memo is one of millions of the CIA’s historical records which have just been made available online. Previously researchers had to actually visit the US National Archives in Maryland in order to access this database of declassified documents.

The records reveal the deep level of concern inside the CIA about the strength of the Left within Labour in the early 1980s, a political force which the agency regarded as anti-American.

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U.S. Power Will Decline Under Trump, Says Futurist Who Predicted Soviet Collapse

Nafeez Ahmed wrote for Motherboard in December:

Image result for U.S. Power Will Decline Under Trump, Says Futurist Who Predicted Soviet CollapseJohan Galtung, a Nobel Peace Prize-nominated sociologist who predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union, warned that US global power will collapse under the Donald Trump administration.

The Norwegian professor at the University of Hawaii and Transcend Peace University is recognized as the ‘founding father’ of peace and conflict studies as a scientific discipline. He has made numerous accurate predictions of major world events, most notably the collapse of the Soviet Empire.

Galtung has also accurately predicted the 1978 Iranian revolution; the Tiananmen Square uprising of 1989 in China; the economic crises of 1987, 2008 and 2011; and even the 9/11 attacks—among other events, according to the late Dietrich Fischer, academic director of the European University Center for Peace Studies.

Back in 2000, Galtung first set out his prediction that the “US empire” would collapse within 25 years. After the election of President Bush, though, he revised that forecast five years forward because, he argued, Bush’s policies of extreme militarism would be an accelerant.

After the election of Trump, I thought it might be prudent to check in with Galtung to see how he was feeling about the status of his US forecast. Galtung told Motherboard that Trump would probably continue this trajectory of accelerated decline—and may even make it happen quicker. Of course, with typical scientific caution, he said he would prefer to see what Trump’s actual policies are before voicing a clear verdict.

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What Trump Is Throwing Out the Window

Jessica T. Matthews writes for The New York Review of Books:

Related image[…] In to this particularly dangerous moment comes Donald Trump. What he has done is to take the few things on which neocons, realists, and liberal internationalists agree and throw them out the window. These are fundamentals of American foreign policy, taken as givens by both parties for the seven decades since the close of World War II. They include, first, the recognition of the immense value to the security of the United States provided by its allies and worldwide military and political alliances.

Second, there is the belief that the global economy is not a zero-sum competition, but a mutually beneficial growth system built on open trade and investment. Since the 1940s the United States has invested in the growth of the world economy out of considered self-interest, believing that it was building growing markets for itself that would operate under a set of rules that it wished to live by. And third, Americans of all political stripes have believed that while authoritarian governments may temporarily enjoy greater freedom of action than governments that have to consider public support, in the long run democracy will prove superior. Dictators have to be tolerated, managed, or confronted, not admired.

Trump’s foreign policy often seems invented in the moment—a mixture of impulse and ignorance amid a morass of contradictions. But in fact its essence, the opposite of the three core beliefs I’ve cited, has been remarkably consistent for decades.* In 1987, either toying with the possibility of a presidential run or building publicity for the forthcoming publication of The Art of the Deal (or both), Trump paid to publish an open letter to the American people in The New York Times and two other major papers with the headline “There’s Nothing Wrong with America’s Foreign Defense Policy That a Little Backbone Can’t Cure.”

Other nations, he wrote, “have been taking advantage of the United States.” They convince us to pay for their defense while “brilliantly” managing weak currencies against the dollar. “Our world protection is worth hundreds of billions of dollars to these countries”; yet weak American politicians respond “in typical fashion” to “these unjustified complaints.” “End our huge deficits,” he concludes, “reduce our taxes, and let America’s economy grow unencumbered by the cost of defending those who can easily afford to pay us for the defense of their freedom. Let’s not let our great country be laughed at anymore.”

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A Visit to RT: Inside the Belly of Russia’s ‘Propaganda Machine’

Fred Weir reports for The Christian Science Monitor:

[…] Founded in 2005 as Russia Today, the station was handed the modest mission of improving the global discussion about Russia. Its several branches, which now include Spanish and Arabic stations, plus semi-independent operations in the US and Britain, are entirely funded by the Russian government. Last year’s total budget was 18.6 billion rubles, or approximately $310 million.

The network appears to have changed focus about five years ago to become more about promoting the Russian point of view on international affairs, and much less about covering Russia per se. It also became a platform for coverage of social problems in Western societies, government malfeasance, corporate non-accountability, and the dysfunctions of democracy that often contrasts in tone, and sometimes content, with mainstream media fare.

But the ODNI report accuses Russia of launching a multi-faceted campaign to shape the election outcome against Hillary Clinton and in favor of Donald Trump. That included allegedly hacking the Democratic National Committee’s emails and giving them to Wikileaks, as well as unleashing armies of internet trolls and waves of disinformation to skew the national discourse, all on Kremlin orders.

The open face of that campaign, it alleged, is RT and its sister English-language news agency Sputnik, which serve as permanent Kremlin-directed messaging tools “to undermine faith in the US Government and fuel political protest.”

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The CIA’s Secret History Is Now Online

Jason Leopold reports for BuzzFeed News:

Decades ago, the CIA declassified a 26-page secret document cryptically titled, “clarifying statement to Fidel Castro concerning assassination.”

It was a step toward greater transparency for one of the most secretive of all federal agencies. But to find out what the document actually said, you had to trek to the National Archives in College Park, Maryland between the hours of 9 am and 4:30 pm and hope that one of only four computers designated by the CIA to access its archives would be available.

But today the CIA posted the Castro record on its website along with more than 12 million pages of the agency’s other declassified documents that have eluded the public, journalists, and historians for nearly two decades. You can view them here.

The title of the Castro document, as it turns out, was far more interesting than the contents. It includes a partial transcript of a 1977 transcript between Barbara Walters and Fidel Castro in which she asked the late Cuban dictator whether he had “proof” of the CIA’s last attempt to assassinate him. The transcript was sent to Admiral Stansfield Turner, the CIA Director at the time, by a public affairs official at the agency with a note highlighting all references to CIA.

But that’s just one of the millions documents, which date from the 1940s to 1990s, are wide-ranging, covering everything from Nazi war crimes to mind-control experiments to the role the CIA played in overthrowing governments in Chile and Iran. There are also secret documents about a telepathy and precognition program known as Star Gate, files the CIA kept on certain media publications, such as Mother Jones, photographs, more than 100,000 pages of internal intelligence bulletins, policy papers and memos written by former CIA directors.

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The Surprising Origins of ‘Post-Truth’

Andrew Calcutt, Journalism Lecturer at the University of East London, writes for The Conversation:

[…] This interpretation blatantly disregards the actual origins of “post-truth”. These lie neither with those deemed under-educated nor with their new-found champions. Instead, the groundbreaking work on “post-truth” was performed by academics, with further contributions from an extensive roster of middle-class professionals. Left-leaning, self-confessed liberals, they sought freedom from state-sponsored truth; instead they built a new form of cognitive confinement – “post-truth”.

More than 30 years ago, academics started to discredit “truth” as one of the “grand narratives” which clever people could no longer bring themselves to believe in. Instead of “the truth”, which was to be rejected as naïve and/or repressive, a new intellectual orthodoxy permitted only “truths” – always plural, frequently personalised, inevitably relativised.

Under the terms of this outlook, all claims on truth are relative to the particular person making them; there is no position outside our own particulars from which to establish universal truth. This was one of the key tenets of postmodernism, a concept which first caught on in the 1980s after publication of Jean-Francois Lyotard’s The Postmodern Condition: A Report On Knowledge in 1979. In this respect, for as long as we have been postmodern, we have been setting the scene for a “post-truth” era.

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Jeremy Corbyn Accused of Being Russian “Collaborator” for Questioning NATO Troop Build-Up on Border

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

The leader of the UK’s Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, called for a “de-escalation” of tensions between NATO and Russia, adding in a BBC interview on Thursday: “I want to see a de-militarisation of the border between them.” Along with the U.S., the UK has been rapidly building up its military presence in the Baltic region, including states which border Russia, and is now about to send another 800 troops to Estonia, 500 of which will be permanently based.

In response, Russia has moved its own troops within its country near those borders, causing serious military tensions to rise among multiple nuclear-armed powers. Throughout 2016, the Russian and U.S. militaries have engaged in increasingly provocative and aggressive maneuvers against one another. This week, the U.S. began deploying 4,000 troops to Poland, “the biggest deployment of US troops in Europe since the end of the cold war.”

It was in this context that Corbyn said it is “unfortunate that troops have gone up to the border on both sides,” adding that “he wanted to see better relations between Russia, NATO and the EU.” The Labour leader explained that while Russia has engaged in serious human rights abuses both domestically and in Syria, there must be a “better relationships between both sides . . .  there cannot be a return to a Cold War mentality.”

The response to Corbyn’s call for better relations and de-escalation of tensions with Moscow was swift and predictable.

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Abby Martin Responds to a New York Times Article Which Falsely Represented Her Work at RT America

Abby Martin responds to a 7th January New York Times article which falsely represented her work at RT America:

AbbyMartinThe long-awaited report by the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), allegedly proving Russian “interference” in the US election, includes a section solely dedicated to bashing RT, and specifically calls out my former show Breaking the Set, which ended two years ago, as a propaganda vector marking the beginning of the Kremlin attempt to subvert American democracy.

Desperate to push this US intelligence narrative, The New York Times called the report “damning and surprisingly detailed,” while adding that it includes no actual evidence.

The very next day, on Jan. 7, the Times published another piece titled “Russia’s RT, The Network Implicated in U.S. Election Meddling.”

In the article, NYT journalist Russell Goldman used two blatantly false statements about my work at RT to support the argument that the network is simply a Putin-dictated propaganda outlet.

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Why The Arabs Don’t Want Us In Syria

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. wrote for Politico in late February 2016:

In part because my father was murdered by an Arab, I’ve made an effort to understand the impact of U.S. policy in the Mideast and particularly the factors that sometimes motivate bloodthirsty responses from the Islamic world against our country. As we focus on the rise of the Islamic State and search for the source of the savagery that took so many innocent lives in Paris and San Bernardino, we might want to look beyond the convenient explanations of religion and ideology. Instead we should examine the more complex rationales of history and oil — and how they often point the finger of blame back at our own shores.

America’s unsavory record of violent interventions in Syria — little-known to the American people yet well-known to Syrians — sowed fertile ground for the violent Islamic jihadism that now complicates any effective response by our government to address the challenge of ISIL. So long as the American public and policymakers are unaware of this past, further interventions are likely only to compound the crisis. Secretary of State John Kerry this week announced a “provisional” ceasefire in Syria. But since U.S. leverage and prestige within Syria is minimal — and the ceasefire doesn’t include key combatants such as Islamic State and al Nusra — it’s bound to be a shaky truce at best. Similarly President Obama’s stepped-up military intervention in Libya — U.S. airstrikes targeted an Islamic State training camp last week — is likely to strengthen rather than weaken the radicals. As the New York Times reported in a December 8, 2015, front-page story, Islamic State political leaders and strategic planners are working to provoke an American military intervention. They know from experience this will flood their ranks with volunteer fighters, drown the voices of moderation and unify the Islamic world against America.

To understand this dynamic, we need to look at history from the Syrians’ perspective and particularly the seeds of the current conflict. Long before our 2003 occupation of Iraq triggered the Sunni uprising that has now morphed into the Islamic State, the CIA had nurtured violent jihadism as a Cold War weapon and freighted U.S./Syrian relationships with toxic baggage.

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Election Interference? The U.S. Has Done It In 45 Countries Worldwide

Shane Dixon Kavanaugh reports for Vocativ:

2016_12_29 USinterferenceForeignElections.r2[…] Political scientist Dov Levin, a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Politics and Strategy at Carnegie-Mellon University, found that the U.S. attempted to influence the elections of foreign countries as many as 81 times between 1946 and 2000. Often covert in their execution, these efforts included everything from CIA operatives running successful presidential campaigns in the Philippines during the 1950s to leaking damaging information on Marxist Sandanistas in order to sway Nicaraguan voters in 1990. All told, the U.S. allegedly targeted the elections of 45 nations across the globe during this period, Levin’s research shows. In the case of some countries, such as Italy and Japan, the U.S. attempted to intervene in four or more separate elections.

Levin’s figures do not include military coups or regime change attempts following the election of a candidate the U.S. opposed, such as when the CIA helped overthrow Mohammad Mosaddeq, Iran’s democratically elected prime minister, in 1953. He defines an electoral intervention as “a costly act which is designed to determine the election results [in favor of] one of the two sides.” According to Levin’s research, that includes: peddling misinformation or propaganda; creating campaign material for preferred candidates or parties; providing or withdrawing foreign aid, and; making public announcements that threaten or favor certain candidates. Often, it also includes the U.S. covertly delivering large sums of cash, as was the case in elections in Japan, Lebanon, Italy, and other countries. 

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The Long and Painful Journey to World Disorder

Martin Wolf, influential journalist and regular attendee at Bilderberg and Davos, writes for The Financial Times:

It is not true that humanity cannot learn from history. It can and, in the case of the lessons of the dark period between 1914 and 1945, the west did. But it seems to have forgotten those lessons. We are living, once again, in an era of strident nationalism and xenophobia. The hopes of a brave new world of progress, harmony and democracy, raised by the market opening of the 1980s and the collapse of Soviet communism between 1989 and 1991, have turned into ashes.

What lies ahead for the US, creator and guarantor of the postwar liberal order, soon to be governed by a president who repudiates permanent alliances, embraces protectionism and admires despots? What lies ahead for a battered EU, contemplating the rise of “illiberal democracy” in the east, Brexit and the possibility of Marine Le Pen’s election to the French presidency?

What lies ahead now that Vladimir Putin’s irredentist Russia exerts increasing influence on the world and China has announced that Xi Jinping is not first among equals but a “core leader”?

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Literary Agents: Rethinking the Legacy of Writers Who Worked With the CIA

Patrick Iber writes for New Republic:

Czeslaw Milosz, the Polish poet who defected to the West in 1951, was struck by the ostentatiousness of American cultural programs: “You could smell big money from a mile away.” The era’s finest little magazines, titles like Partisan Review and The Paris Review, published enduring fiction, poetry, and essays. The writings of Clement Greenberg and Lionel Trilling set the high-water mark for art and literary criticism. Richard Wright wrote the mournful poem that would provide the title for Ta-Nehisi Coates’s 2015 best-seller, Between the World and Me. The artists who waged the radical political battles of the 1930s emerged in the 1950s as cultural institutions, achieving a prominence—even a celebrity—that has eluded subsequent generations.

Plenty of observers, however, suspected that the free market of ideas had been corrupted. World tours, fancy conferences, prestigious bylines and book contracts were bestowed on artists who hewed to political positions favored by the establishment, rather than on the most talented. In 1966, The New York Times confirmed suspicions that the CIA was pumping money into “civil society” organizations: unions, international organizations of students and women, groups of artists and intellectuals. The agency had produced the popular cartoon version of George Orwell’s anticommunist classic Animal Farmin 1954. It flew the Boston Symphony Orchestra on a European tour in 1952, to counter prejudices of the United States as uncultured and unsophisticated. It promoted the work of abstract expressionist painters like Jackson Pollock because their artistic style would have been considered degenerate in both Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union.

The propriety of such largesse, both for the CIA and its beneficiaries, has been hotly debated ever since. Jason Epstein, the celebrated book editor, was quick to point out that CIA involvement undermined the very conditions for free thought, in which “doubts about established orthodoxies” were supposed to be “taken to be the beginning of all inquiry.” But Gloria Steinem, who worked with the CIA in the 1950s and ’60s, “was happy to find some liberals in government in those days,” arguing that the agency was “nonviolent and honorable.” Milosz, too, agreed that the “liberal conspiracy,” as he called it, “was necessary and justified.” It was, he allowed, “the sole counterweight to the propaganda on which the Soviets expended astronomical sums.”

Today’s intellectuals approach their labors in a very different set of circumstances. The struggle for academic patronage and the strained conditions of nearly all media properties have led to fewer jobs and fewer venues for substantial writing; the possibility of leading a public-facing life of the mind now seems vanishingly small, which only heightens nostalgia for the golden age of the 1950s. Yet the shadow of the CIA lurks behind the achievements of that time. The free play of ideas—the very thing that was supposed to distinguish the United States from the Soviet Union in the first place—turned out to be, at least in part, a carefully constructed illusion. What if the prominence of midcentury intellectuals, the sense that they were engaged in important political and artistic projects, is inseparable from the fact that they were useful to America’s Cold War empire?

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Kissinger’s Washington Is Coming Back Around

Eli Lake writes for Bloomberg:

Let’s take a moment to savor what looks to be Henry Kissinger’s final act. The man is 93 years old. At that age, most people are lucky to have enough energy for “Wheel of Fortune” and a few Facebook posts. Not Kissinger. These days, he’s playing the influence game against insiders who hadn’t even been born when he was Richard Nixon’s secretary of state.

Officials with Donald Trump’s transition team tell me Kissinger has spent several hours since the election advising incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn and his team. He’s also putting his network in place. He recommended his former assistant, K.T. McFarland, to be Flynn’s deputy, and urged Trump to nominate Rex Tillerson, the chief executive officer of Exxon Mobil, as his secretary of state. Kissinger is one of the few people in Trump’s orbit who can get him on the phone whenever he wants, according to one transition adviser.

That’s just behind the scenes. Consider that Kissinger is also an important validator for Trump in the press. When some Republicans questioned Tillerson’s closeness to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kissinger defended the pick on “Face the Nation.” Kissinger helped soften the blow of Trump’s phone call with Taiwan’s president in December before the Committee of 100, which advocates for the U.S.-China relationship. Before that, Kissinger winged his way to Oslo to urge his fellow Nobel laureates to give the next president’s foreign policy a chance. It feels like 1975 all over again. I’m half-expecting to read something in the tabloids about a Kissinger affair with a Hollywood starlet.

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Trump and Revenge of the ‘Realists’

Gilbert Doctorow Consortium News:

Image result for Trump and Revenge of the ‘Realists’During a holiday getaway to India, I picked up the local newspaper, The Times of India, and encountered an article entitled “From Russia with Love” by Indian political observer Swagato Ganguly with the subtitle: “A rapprochement between Putin and Trump could transform the world in 2017.”

The author set this prediction within the broader context of a possible return to the “Westphalian principle of sovereignty, which bars intervention in another state’s domestic affairs.” The article goes on to ask: “What If Trump were to repeat Nixon’s rapprochement in reverse? President Nixon’s handshake with Chairman Mao in 1972 may have decisively tilted the Cold War in America’s favour, as it broke the Chinese away from the Soviet bloc. Today China, rather than Russia is America’s principal strategic rival.”

This Indian international affairs prognosis was based on Henry Kissinger’s identification of the Peace of Westphalia principles as the key to Realpolitik and on implementation of his signature strategy from the past even if Kissinger was not mentioned. Kissinger’s strategy was to ensure that Washington was closer to Beijing and to Moscow than either of the two was to one another, a relevant point again given Kissinger’s reappearance on the political scene in recent days.

The question of Henry Kissinger’s possible designation as a foreign policy adviser to President Donald Trump and specifically as intermediary between Trump and Vladimir Putin for normalization of relations arose after the 93-year-old Kissinger gave a series of interviews to the German newspaper Bild and other media in the days before Christmas.

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Capitalism Is Collapsing, and There Is Nothing Rising to Replace It

Crawford Kilianwrites for The Tyee/AlterNet:

Some anonymous wise person once observed that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. But Wolfgang Streeck, a 70-year-old German sociologist and director emeritus of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, thinks capitalism’s end is inevitable and fast approaching. He has no idea what, if anything, will replace it.

This is the premise of his latest book, How Will Capitalism End?, which goes well beyond Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century. Piketty thinks capitalism is getting back into the saddle after being ruined in two world wars. Streeck thinks capitalism is its own worst enemy and has effectively cut itself off from all hope of rescue by destroying all its potential rescuers.

“The end of capitalism,” he writes in the introduction, “can then be imagined as a death from a thousand cuts… No effective opposition being left, and no practicable successor model waiting in the wings of history, capitalism’s accumulation of defects, alongside its accumulation of capital, may be seen… as an entirely endogenous dynamic of self-destruction.”

According to Streeck, salvation doesn’t lie in going back to Marx, or social democracy, or any other system, because there is no salvation at all. “What comes after capitalism in its final crisis, now under way, is, I suggest, not socialism or some other defined social order, but a lasting interregnum — no new world system equilibrium… but a prolonged period of social entropy or disorder.”

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The Enlightenment Had a Good Run

Stephen Kinzer writes for The Boston Globe:

An angry mob holding torches in a still from the film, 'Frankenstein,' directed by James Whale, 1931. (Photo by Getty Images)Democracy is in retreat around the world. From Poland and Turkey to Russia and the United States, voters have placed their faith in authoritarian leaders. This should not be surprising. In fact, it is remarkable that the democratic ideal survived so long. Three centuries ago, philosophers of the Enlightenment began telling us that reason is more important than tradition, and that people should shape their own lives rather than submitting to leaders. That was an audacious rebellion against all of previous human history. For a time it seemed to be succeeding.

Today’s cry of protest, though, is a rejection of the Enlightenment. Voters are making clear that they want to be ruled with a strong hand, not rule themselves.

With its emphasis on science, the Enlightenment reshaped the world. Modern prosperity is its legacy — but so is the social upheaval that made prosperity possible. Humanity’s immense material progress has not been matched by moral or political progress. Instead, leadership failures have set off explosions of frustration and discord. Even the two countries where the Enlightenment was born, Britain and France, are being shaken by reactionary movements that reject Enlightenment ideals.

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Joseph Goebbels’ 105-Year-Old Secretary: ‘No One Believes Me Now, But I Knew Nothing’

Kate Connolly reports for The Guardian:

Image result for Brunhilde Pomsel[…] Brunhilde Pomsel is giving one of the first, and last, in-depth interviews of her life; at the age of 105, and having lost her sight last year, she says she is relieved that her days are numbered. “In the little time that’s left to me – and I hope it will be months rather than years – I just cling to the hope that the world doesn’t turn upside down again as it did then, though there have been some ghastly developments, haven’t there? I’m relieved I never had any children that I have to worry about.”

So what is the motivation for effectively breaking her silence only now, as probably the last living survivor from the Nazi leadership’s inner circle?

“It is absolutely not about clearing my conscience,” she says.

While she admits she was at the heart of the Nazi propaganda machine, with her tasks including massaging downwards statistics about fallen soldiers, as well as exaggerating the number of rapes of German women by the Red Army, she describes it, somewhat bizarrely, as “just another job”.

A German Life, compiled from 30 hours of conversation with her, was recently released at the Munich film festival. It is the reason why she is willing to “politely answer” my questions. “It is important for me, when I watch the film, to recognise that mirror image in which I can understand everything I’ve done wrong,” she says. “But really, I didn’t do anything other than type in Goebbels’ office.”

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Something About This Russia Story Stinks

Matt Taibbi writes for Rolling Stone:

[…] Did the Russians do it? Very possibly, in which case it should be reported to the max. But the press right now is flying blind. Plowing ahead with credulous accounts is problematic because so many different feasible scenarios are in play.

On one end of the spectrum, America could have just been the victim of a virtual coup d’etat engineered by a combination of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, which would be among the most serious things to ever happen to our democracy.

But this could also just be a cynical ass-covering campaign, by a Democratic Party that has seemed keen to deflect attention from its own electoral failures.

The outgoing Democrats could just be using an over-interpreted intelligence “assessment” to delegitimize the incoming Trump administration and force Trump into an embarrassing political situation: Does he ease up on Russia and look like a patsy, or escalate even further with a nuclear-armed power?

It could also be something in between. Perhaps the FSB didn’t commission the hack, but merely enabled it somehow. Or maybe the Russians did hack the DNC, but the WikiLeaks material actually came from someone else? There is even a published report to that effect, with a former British ambassador as a source, not that it’s any more believable than anything else here.

We just don’t know, which is the problem.

We ought to have learned from the Judith Miller episode. Not only do governments lie, they won’t hesitate to burn news agencies. In a desperate moment, they’ll use any sucker they can find to get a point across.

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25 Years Later: Oliver Stone and Kevin Costner Look Back at the Legacy of ‘JFK’

Kristopher Tapley reports for Vanity Fair:

'JFK' 25th Anniversary: Oliver Stone andOliver Stone didn’t know that “JFK” would define him as it has when the towering political thriller hit theaters on Dec. 20, 1991. But in short order it proved to be at once a source of great pride for the filmmaker — the kind of achievement only possible on a hot streak like the one Stone was enjoying in the late-’80s and early-’90s — and something of an albatross.

“It was a hot potato from the get-go, much hotter than I thought,” Stone says now, reflecting on the film’s 25th anniversary. “I didn’t realize it would hit the central nerve core of the establishment … And it did take its toll. I think it’s changed the perception of me forever. Many now dismiss me as a filmmaker who is political and only into conspiracy theories. It labeled me and I was staggered. I wish, in a way, it had just died off.”

Pity, because what Stone exhibited with the film — which dramatically posits a massive cover-up of president John F. Kennedy’s 1963 assassination through the eyes of then-New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison — was a staggering command of visual storytelling. An admirer of director Costa-Gavras’ own 1969 political thriller, “Z,” Stone went into “JFK” wanting to make something analogous, a fractured film where “you look at a crime, you accept the first version of it, the official version, then you look at it again,” he says.

The director worked feverishly with screenwriter Zachary Sklar for the better part of 1990 developing the project, much of it conjured while he was finishing post-production on his rock biopic “The Doors.” Spinning off of tomes like Jim Marrs’ meticulously reported “Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy” and Garrison’s own “On the Trail of the Assassins,” with further inspirations like former U.S. Chief of Special Operations L. Fletcher Prouty (who became the basis for Donald Sutherland’s enigmatic “Mr. X” character), Stone cranked out a script so massive he felt it best to pull back on some of the details in the version he submitted to Warner Bros. for backing.

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In the Time of Trump, All We Have Is Each Other

Chris Hedges writes for Truthdig:

This Christmas I mourn the long, slow death of our democracy that led to the political ascendancy of Donald Trump. I fear the euphoria of those who have embraced the atavistic lust for violence and bigotry stoked by him. These nativist forces, part of the continuum of white vigilante violence directed against people of color and radical dissidents throughout American history, are once again being groomed as instruments of mass intimidation and perhaps terror. I know that our civil and political institutions, poisoned by neoliberalism and captured by the corporate state, have neither the will nor the ability to protect us. We are on our own. It won’t be pleasant.

A week ago in New York I spoke with Ellen Schrecker, the country’s foremost historian of McCarthyism and the author of “Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America,” “No Ivory Tower: McCarthyism & The Universities” and “The Lost Soul of Higher Education: Corporatization, the Assault on Academic Freedom, and the End of the American University.”

“What am I seeing?” she asked about the nation’s political and cultural condition. “Am I seeing a replay of the McCarthy era? To a large extent some of the parallels are stunning. You can look at a figure like [Sen. Joseph] McCarthy, who symbolized a much broader repressive movement. I would say Trump plays the same role today for what really is a right-wing reactionary movement that has taken over the American government.”

“There are a number of fairly superficial comparisons we can make,” Schrecker went on. “I think both McCarthy and Trump are somewhat abhorrent characters—perhaps there’s a little sociopath involved there. McCarthy was a genius at working the press. He understood how to get himself on the front pages. He knew the deadlines that specific reporters had. He knew how to feed them stories. I think the parallels there are pretty obvious. Trump is a genius with regard to the media.”

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