Saturday, April 14, 2018

'Cynical and illegal': Journalists, activists blast US-led missile strike against Syria



The US-led missile attack against Syria demonstrates Washington's complete disregard for international law, and its timing, before a proper investigation was conducted, raises serious questions, experts told RT. Describing Saturday morning's missile attack as illegal, Joe Lauria, an independent journalist and former Wall Street Journal correspondent, told RT that the strike was shocking - but not surprising. "They did not prove that they were acting under Article 51 of the UN Charter, which is self-defense - the US was not acting in self-defense," Lauria told RT. "They did not get Security Council authorization, and the US Congress did not weigh in on this, so it's illegal internationally and under US law." The decision to launch the missiles just hours before inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) were scheduled to begin a fact-finding mission at the site of the alleged gas attack in Douma on Saturday represents "quite an extraordinary moment," Lauria told RT. "But I should say it's not unusual. The United States has done this kind of thing before," he added.


Attacked by The Times: The academic working group on Syria, Propaganda and Media for looking at the evidence

Friday, April 13, 2018

Here's Why Utah's New Free-Range Kids Law Will Help Parents of Color


Utah kidsJessica Calarco, a sociologist writing in The Atlantic, says that Utah's new Free-Range Kids law represents an "unfair double standard" because parents who are poor, working class, or people of color will be less able to take advantage of it.

"A major shortcoming of their otherwise well-intentioned movement is that the people who have the most to gain from it—poor and working-class parents—will find themselves held to a different set of expectations," she wrote.

But the law strives to protect all parents: those who free-range by choice and those who have no alternative but to let their kids play outside, come home with a latchkey, or wait briefly in the car because mom or dad is busy earning a living.

To bolster her point, Calarco mentions the case of Debra Harrell (a case the country first heard about here at Reason). Harrell, a mother of color, had been thrown in jail for a night and had her child taken away for 17 days simply because she let the girl play in the sprinkler park while she worked her shift at McDonald's. Here is a tape of the harrowing interrogation Harrell had to endure.

I wrote that it was terrible for the state to treat a mom who made a rational, loving parenting decision like a criminal. Judging from the outcry, most of America felt the same.

The new Free-Range Law gives moms like Harrell a leg to stand on. In Utah, at least, it is no longer considered "neglect" to let your kids play outside alone.

The Utah law would also have helped a middle-class family, the Meitivs of Maryland, when they were accused of neglect for letting their kids, 10 and 6, walk home from the park on their own (a story I was also the first to report).

This across-the-board benefit is appreciated by Joyce McMillan, head of the Child Welfare Organizing Project Watkins, a non-profit that works to keep families intact in the face of over-reaching authorities. McMillan became active on free-range parenting issues after authorities took her infant daughter for nearly two years. As she told me in a celebratory phone call about the new law, "They call it 'free-range parenting.' I call it 'the rights of parents.'"

Which is not to say that there isn't a problem with the way some authorities may interpret the law. Calarco's concern is that the law says parents can't be arrested for giving their kids some unsupervised time, provided the kids' "basic needs are met" and the kids are of "sufficient age and maturity to avoid harm or an unreasonable risk of harm." She worries that some authorities will interpret poverty as neglect.

That is a worry of mine, too. That is not the fault of the law. That is the fault of anyone with an inflated idea of "unreasonable harm" or "basic needs." As Diane Redleaf, legal director of the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare, points out on her blog: if a mom is homeless, clearly her children's basic needs are not being met the way anyone would wish. But that cannot be interpreted as negligence.

In Illinois, Redleaf was influential in making sure neglect laws now specify that parents must have "blatantly disregarded" their child's care, not that they were too poor to afford better circumstances.

Like Calarco and like me, Redleaf believes that this needs to be made clear in law and practice across the country. But, she adds, this is "not a defect in the free range law at all. … Free range parenting laws are a good start precisely because they can benefit all children. But they aren't a solution to poverty."

Alas, that's true. But they exist to help the Debra Harrells of the world as much as the Meitivs in Maryland.


Rep. Tulsi Gabbard to President Trump: Do Not Strike Syria

Washington, DC – Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) today (April 12, 2018) called for President Trump to refrain from using military action against Syria that would expand and escalate the conflict, and likely result in additional civilian and military casualties, more refugees, and fewer resources to invest in rebuilding American communities, and instead work toward peace. […]


WATCH: During Raid on Wrong Home Cops Kill Innocent Unarmed Dad—No Charges


After the story of how police shot and killed an innocent father during a raid on the wrong house died down, authorities quietly announced that no charges will be brought against the officer who pulled the trigger.

The post WATCH: During Raid on Wrong Home Cops Kill Innocent Unarmed Dad—No Charges appeared first on The Free Thought Project.


Mattis admits US has ZERO evidence of Assad's supposed chemical attack



The US is "still assessing the intelligence" needed to prove the Assad regime conducted a recent alleged chemical attack in Syria, Defense Secretary James Mattis said Wednesday. Secretary of Defense James Mattis told lawmakers in the US Thursday that the Pentagon does not have any evidence that chlorine or sarin were used in the Syrian city of Douma. Mattis went on to say that the majority of the claims were coming from mainstream media reports and social media posts - in other words, the rising tensions between nuclear superpowers over an alleged chemical attack in Syria, inching closer towards World War 3, has been all based on ZERO evidence, only fake media reports.


Thursday, April 12, 2018

This Is Fake News | This Is Not

Fake News:

Not Fake News:

YouTube restores Health Ranger video channel without explanation as tech giants feel the heat from censorship backlash

Why no mention of now-deleted Las Vegas videos? Seems confirmation of why the channel was banned, so why is Mike Adams not addressing?

XOXO: Russia’s UN Envoy Reveals How He Kisses His US Counterpart

While the relations between Moscow and Washington remain strained amid tensions in the Middle East and in Europe, it appears that interactions between Russian and US diplomats at the United Nations follow a different dynamic.


How a drugmaker turned the abortion pill into a rare-disease profit machine


<a href=''>Milkos</a> via <a href=''>Shutterstock</a>/Salon

Milkos via Shutterstock/Salon

Even though the $550 yellow pills sold as Korlym have a controversial origin as the abortion pill, Leslie Edwin says they “gave me life.”

The 40-year-old Georgia resident lives with Cushing’s syndrome, a potentially deadly condition that causes high levels of the hormone cortisol to wreak havoc on a body. When first diagnosed, she said, she gained about 100 pounds, her blood sugars were “out of control,” and she suffered acne, the inability to sleep and constant anxiety.

“I wouldn’t leave the house,” Edwin said of her first bout with the condition. “I quit my job after a certain point. I just couldn’t keep being in front of people.”

That’s when Edwin endured surgeries, including one to remove her pituitary gland. She went into remission, but then, in 2016, her weight shot up 30 pounds and the anxious feelings returned. Her doctors prescribed Korlym.

The drug’s active ingredient is mifepristone, once called RU-486 and better known as the abortion pill because it causes a miscarriage when taken early in a pregnancy. Nearly two decades ago, Danco Laboratories won approval to market Mifeprex in the U.S. as the abortion drug, with tight restrictions on use. Corcept Therapeutics, a Silicon Valley-based drug company, began marketing Korlym six years ago as a specialty drug for about 10,000 rare-disease patients such as Edwin.

The difference in price between Korlym and Mifeprex is striking, even though the ingredients are the same: One 200-milligram pill to prompt an abortion costs about $80. In contrast, a 300-milligram pill prescribed for Cushing’s runs about $550 before discounts. Patients wanting an abortion take only one pill. People with Cushing’s often take up to three pills a day for months or years.

Dr. Joseph Belanoff, chief executive of the drug’s maker, Corcept, said Korlym’s average cost per patient is $180,000 annually and concedes that “we have an expensive drug. There’s no getting around that.”

The story of Korlym highlights how America’s drug development system can turn an old drug into a new one that treats relatively
few — but often very desperate — patients.

When the Food and Drug Administration approved Korlym in 2012, it was designated as an orphan drug, giving Corcept seven years of market exclusivity as well as other economic incentives. Congress approved orphan drug incentives to encourage the development of medicines for rare diseases that affect fewer than 200,000 patients. Since the drug’s approval, Korlym’s price has risen about 150 percent, and last year the company’s revenue nearly doubled to $159.2 million. (Korlym is the company’s only product and treats about 1,000 patients in the U.S.)

“You can hike that drug [price] 50 percent or 80 percent, and if there is backlash you can walk it back,” said Dr. Joshua Liao, an associate medical director at University of Washington Medicine.

Corcept has steadily increased the price with little backlash.

Belanoff said the profits from Korlym pay for the company’s past spending on the drug’s research and development as well as its effort to create new drugs. The company last month reported an encouraging Phase 2 trial update on Korlym’s successor, relacorilant, a drug that could treat Cushing’s without the side effects for some women of endometrial thickening and possible vaginal bleeding.

The company’s pipeline is also full of potential oncology drugs that hold the promise of using molecules to influence the cortisol receptors, with wide-ranging effects in the body. Korlym in combination with another drug is being tested for the treatment of metastatic triple-negative breast cancer, which tends to be more aggressive than other types of breast cancer. And relacorilant is in the very early stages of testing to treat castration-resistant prostate cancer.

While many of the second-generation drugs are not related to Korlym structurally, Korlym did “provide the funding.… If there had not been orphan-drug pricing and the [Orphan Drug] Act, you would have to look for a different way to develop those drugs,” Belanoff said.

Korlym came to market in 2012 with an average wholesale price of $223.20 per pill before discounts, according to the health care technology firm Connecture. Corcept boosted the price $20 to $50 each year. By December 2017, each pill had an average wholesale price of $549.60 before any discounts or rebates were negotiated for patients.

Alan Leong, senior research analyst and owner of BioWatch, who follows Corcept, said he thought the company might fail at one point but noted that Belanoff “played the odds” with Korlym and won.

So far, incrementally increasing Korlym’s price while adding patients has paid off. Corcept’s stock soared 27.4 percent in January before Teva Pharmaceutical Industries announced it had filed an application for a generic version on the drug. Teva declined to comment for this story.

Belanoff said he would like to know where Teva obtained enough doses of Korlym to successfully test a generic: “We have a single pharmacy and a single manufacturer and the medicine has to be [FedEx’ed] to the patient.”

Talking to analysts last month, Corcept Chief Financial Officer Charlie Robb said the impact of Teva’s generic filing for the next few years is “nothing but litigation, which we can comfortably afford.”

Corcept’s executives expect revenues to keep climbing, reaching $275 million to $300 million in 2018 — an expectation that has not changed despite Teva’s announcement.

A ‘Pioneering Substance’

Cushing’s syndrome happens when the body produces too much of the powerful hormone cortisol, which normally helps keep the cardiovascular system functioning well and allows the body to turn proteins, carbohydrates and fats into energy. But too much cortisol can be destructive. It can cause cognitive difficulties, depression, fatigue, high blood pressure, bone loss and, in some cases, Type 2 diabetes. Those affected by the syndrome can develop a fatty hump between their shoulders and a rounded face. Without treatment, patients can die of a variety of complications, including sepsis after the hormone compromises the immune system.

Mifepristone, the active ingredient in Korlym, helps Cushing’s patients by blocking the body’s ability to process cortisol. It induces an abortion by blocking the body’s receptor for progesterone, which causes the uterine wall to break down.

When the FDA approved Korlym for a specific set of Cushing’s patients, the agency required a “TERMINATION OF PREGNANCY” warning box at the top of the label.

Dr. Constantine Stratakis, a senior investigator and scientific director at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development who specializes in treating people with Cushing’s syndrome, calls mifepristone a “pioneering substance” because it “has a lot of crossover” to other receptors in the body.

That means the drug has a lot of potential uses. Belanoff and Dr. Alan Schatzberg, a Stanford University psychiatrist and scientist, co-founded Corcept in 1998 to explore whether mifepristone could help treat major depression. In 2002, Schatzberg said the drug “may be the equivalent of shock treatments in a pill.”

But clinical trials didn’t back up the claim. Schatzberg rotated off the board and left the company in 2007, saying the company “went in a different direction.” A congressional investigation also questioned whether Schatzberg had conflicts of interest as the government’s principal investigator overseeing clinical trials and a co-founder of Corcept, which had awarded him stock options.

In response to the congressional investigation, Stanford said Schatzberg was fully compliant with its internal conflict-of-interest policy.

Leong of BioWatch recalls the transition to Cushing’s research as a difficult time for Corcept. But after the “psychiatric depression program shut down, [Belanoff] stuck to it,” Leong said.

Social Contract

Corcept’s “Hail Mary” moment came in 2007. The company filed an application to see whether mifepristone might work for Cushing’s patients. (Cushing’s affects about 20,000 people in the U.S., but Corcept executives say the condition often goes undiagnosed.)

Developing the drug cost about $300 million, Belanoff estimates, and involved long-term toxicology tests to ensure that patients could safely take higher doses for months or years. As an orphan drug, a portion of Korlym’s research and development costs could be written off. For example, Corcept reported in 2013 that it had $19.7 million in federal tax credits.

And while Korlym’s annual costs pale against other specialty drugs, which run as high as $750,000 a year, the climbing price tag and increasing number of patients do affect the health care system.

“It’s like an unseen cost and then down the road this is a huge cost burden,” said the University of Washington’s Liao.

Most patients are covered by private insurance, Belanoff said, but Medicare and Medicaid are paying for the drug as well. According to Medicare Part D data, 52 Korlym patients cost Medicare $2.6 million in 2013. Two years later in 2015, 115 beneficiaries filed claims of $11.4 million.

In Georgia, Leslie Edwin is on private insurance and describes herself as being in “a really high tax bracket” yet she never paid more than $25 a month through Corcept’s patient assistance program called SPARK (the Support Program for Access and Reimbursement for Korlym).

“Across the board, it would be very difficult to find any patient that pays the full price,” said Edwin, who volunteers as president of the nonprofit patient advocacy group Cushing’s Support and Research Foundation. The small organization, which reported $50,000 in contributions and grants in 2015, notes on its website that Corcept as well as Novartis Oncology provide financial support to the organization. Edwin is not paid, and the group’s federal tax filing details that the majority of its expenses go to distributing a quarterly newsletter, contacting members and patients “to promote mission,” and providing referrals to doctors.

Belanoff said he believes Corcept has a “social contract” to take care of patients and pledged that any patient who is prescribed Korlym will get it regardless of insurance coverage or costs.

“We were starting with a notorious drug, and the growth has been steady from a very low base over time,” Belanoff said, emphasizing that the “single most important thing” is that the drug works very well.

Dr. Sherwin D’Souza at St. Luke’s Boise Medical Center in Idaho prescribed Korlym for the first time last year to Vonda Huddleston, knowing the company would provide financial assistance until Huddleston could get insurance to pay for surgery.

Huddleston, though, recalled being concerned about the price and what it would cost her out-of-pocket. The company provided her first two months’ worth for free and asked her to call back when she was enrolled for insurance.

“They were so eager to get me on this medication,” she said.


Novichok used in spy poisoning, chemical weapons watchdog confirms

No comments section?
No discussion of where Novichok is produced?
No mention of sister?
No questioning of jumping to conclusions and possible motives for doing so?

ACLU Celebrates Raid on Trump’s Lawyer: ‘The Rule of Law is Alive’

The ACLU has been riding a wave of anti-administration anger to position itself as one of the most high-profile adversaries of President Donald Trump
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has published an article celebrating the FBI raid on Donald Trump’s personal lawyer as a victory for the rule of law — not a violation of attorney-client privilege and the president’s constitutional rights.


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

"There Wasn't A Single Corpse": Russia Claims 'White Helmets' Staged Syria Chemical Attack



Russia claims that the reported chemical attack in Syria last Sunday was staged by the "white helmets," a US-funded NGO lauded by mainstream media for their humanitarian work, while long-suspected of performing less-than humanitarian deeds behind the curtain.

Speaking with EuroNews, Russia's ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizov, said "Russian military specialists have visited this region, walked on those streets, entered those houses, talked to local doctors and visited the only functioning hospital in Douma, including its basement where reportedly the mountains of corpses pile up. There was not a single corpse and even not a single person who came in for treatment after the attack."


Russian Roulette: No Smoking Gun, Six Key Flaws


Michael Isikoff and David Corn, Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump (New York” Twelve, March 13, 2018)

Do you like complicated mystery novels that make you keep a list of names and dates so as not to get overwhelmed by clues and complex chronologies (unless you have a super-strong memory)? Are you prone to conspiratorialism? Do you blame Donald Trump’s presence in the White House on Russia and particularly on Vladimir Putin? Do you like to jump to conclusions before all the facts are in? Do you like to get mad at other countries for the nasty things they do (or may have done) while turning a blind eye to the nasty things the United States does?  Are you a “progressive” fan of the U.S. “intelligence community” – the FBI, the CIA, NSA and the rest?

If you answered yes to all these questions, then boy, do I have a book for you: Democratic Party journalists Michael Isikoff (Yahoo News) and David Corn’s (The Nation) new volume Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump.  

Don’t get me wrong. Russian Rouletteshould be read by anyone interested in the peculiar and fascinating story of Donald Trump’s weird and disturbing relationship with Russia. It’s a riveting account. It’s the best treatment yet in book form of numerous knotty and bizarre chapters in the strange Trump-Russia saga, including:

+ Trump and top Trump associates’ financial, political, and espionage entanglement with Russian oligarchs, officials, and agents.The list of associates includes Trump’s slimy former campaign director Paul Manafort, Trump’s creepy former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, Trump’s longtime crypto-fascistic political adviser Roger Stone, Trump’s despicable son-in-law Jared Kushner, and candidate Trump’s goofball foreign policy advisers Carter Page and George Papadopoulos.

+ Trump’s fabled 2013 Miss Universe trip to Moscow and the mysterious sealed letter (its contents have never been revealed) Trump received inside “a black lacquered box” from Putin after the pageant.

+ A Russian journalist’s discovery of the infamous Internet Research Agency, a Russian “troll farm” (or was it a “troll factory”?) employing hundreds of proletarianized Russians creating and working with fake Web identities to influence U.S. and Western politics.

+ The alleged Russian Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear-Guccifer 2.0-WikiLeaks- hackings of the Democratic National Committee, the Clinton campaign, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2015 and 2016.

+ “Moscow’s …clandestine propaganda endeavor, stretching across social media platforms, and in sync with the cyberattacks and the output of [Russian state media outlets] RT and Sputnik …to persuade U.S. voters to elect a president who would adopt a softer approach to Russia.”

+ Donald Trump, Jr, Manafort, and Kushner’s infamous meeting with Russian nationals promising damaging information on Hillary Clinton in Trump Tower in June of 2016.

+ The famous and controversial Steele Dossier, a summer 2016 report by Britain’s former top Russian intelligence expert alleging that Russia had cultivated Trump for at least five years and possessed compromising and salacious (yo, golden shower video!) information with which to blackmail the future president.

+ The Trump campaign’s squashing of a Republican Party platform amendment that would have called for arming Ukraine in its war with Russia.

+ The Democratic Party’s panicked, paralyzed response to the “intelligence community’s” reports that that it was under Russian cyber-assault.

+ The Obama administration’s reluctance to forcefully and openly confront Russia on the Kremlin’s alleged subversion of U.S. “democracy.”

Anyone who thinks there’s nothing strange or disturbing about Donald Trump’s relationship with Russia and Vladimir Putin has got their head in the sand. Is Trump messed up with Russia? Are you serious? Of course he is. This book is a good place to start on that.

But read it with your bullshit detectors on.  Russian Roulette has six basic flaws. First, it does not live up to its sub-title’s promise on Russian president Vladimir Putin. It comes nowhere close to offering smoking-gun evidence of Putin’s involvement in the 2016 U.S. presidential election or his motives. As the authors admit near the end of the volume, Putin’s role remains “shrouded in mystery.”

Second and related, the volume is technically premature. Special federal prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation of the book’s topic is still ongoing. Who really knows what Mueller’s got – or doesn’t?  Collusion? Golden Don and/or Putin’s smoking gun fingerprints? I don’t know.  Do you, dear reader?  Do Isikoff and Corn? Maybe they should have held off.

Third, Isikoff and Corn refer to Putin’s alleged subversion of something that doesn’t really exist: “American democracy” (a mythical phenomenon, mentioned at least twice – see pages xi and 275). Let’s be honest: The United States is a plutocracy and perhaps now even a full-on capitalist oligarchy. If you think I’m lying, read these two books by eminent liberal U.S. academics: Benjamin Page and Martin Gilens, Democracy in America? What Has Gone Wrong and What We Can Do About it  (University of Chicago Press, 2017) and Ronald Formisano, American Oligarchy: The Permanence of the Political Class (University of Illinois, 2017). Read my recent Counterpunch essay, “Who Will Protect Our Wrecked Democracy from the American Oligarchy?” and my bookThey Rule: The 1% vs. Democracy(Routledge, 2014).

Fourth, and intimately related to the third problem, Isikoff and Corn leave out a critical part of inside story behind Trump’s election: the influence of U.S.-American oligarchs. This missing and big piece of the puzzle includes the remarkable influx of campaign cash Trump received from right-wing U.S. billionaires and equity capitalists in the late summer and fall of 2016.  Even more significant, perhaps, is the way that Hillary Clinton’s remarkable funding by big financial and other business interests (including corporate sectors that normally supported Republicans but o came over the Democrats’ side thanks largely to candidate Trump’s declared protectionism and isolationism) helped create the dismal centrist awfulness and deafening policy silence of Mrs. Clinton’s miserable campaign. A useful source here is leading political scientist and money and politics analyst Thomas Ferguson’s recent study (co-authored with Paul Jorgensen and Jie Chen) “Industrial Structure and Party Competition in an Age of Hunger Games:Donald Trump and the 2016 Presidential Election” (Institute for New Economic Thinking, January 2018).  Ferguson’s research suggests strongly that Putin and Russian oligarchs’ impact on the election was tiny compared to that of U.S. corporate and financial oligarchs who sit atop “America, the Best Democracy Money Can Buy.” “Putin’s war on America” is nothing compared the American ruling class’s war on America when it comes to the inside story of how “American democracy” was pre-empted yet again during and by the last “quadrennial electoral extravaganza.”(Noam Chomsky’s phrase).

Fifth, Isikoff and Corn fail to provide any serious historical context (certainly part of the “inside story” of Russia and Trump) on why the Kremlin might very well have wanted to influence U.S. politics and particularly to (a) help a candidate (Trump) who promised (for whatever reasons, very likely including highly venal ones) to roll-back America’s New Cold War on Russia and (b) defeat a candidate (Hillary Clinton) who stood in the vanguard of that  U.S. policy. A serious accounting of that context would include:

* President Bill Clinton’s decision to annul a 1990 agreement with Moscow not to push North Atlantic Treaty Organization further east after the reunification of Germany and not to recruit Eastern European states that had been part of the Soviet-ruled Warsaw Pact.

* Widespread U.S. interference in Russian electoral politics and civil society before, during, after, and ever since the collapse of Soviet socialism.

* NATO’s decision to renege on its 1997 pledge not to install “permanent” and “significant” military forces in former Soviet bloc nations.

* NATO’s decision two years ago to place four battalions on and near the Russian border.

* The 1999 U.S.-NATO military intervention in the Yugoslav civil war, leading to the dismemberment of Serbia and the building of a giant U.S. military base in the newly NATO-/U.S.-created state of Kosovo.  (This remarkable development has not stopped Washington from shaming Russia for “forcibly redrawing borders in Europe” by annexing Crimea.)

* President George W. Bush’s unilateral withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

* President Obama’s decision to deploy anti-missile systems (supposedly aimed at Iran’s non-existent nuclear weapons and really meant to intercept Russian missiles) in Romania and Poland.

* Obama’s decision to invest more than of $1 trillion on an upgrade of the U.S nuclear weapons arsenal, which was already well enough stocked to blow up the world fifty times over. The upgrade involves “strategic’ bombs with smaller yields, something that dangerously blurs the lines between conventional and nuclear weapons. It has certainly helped spark a new nuclear arms race with Russia and, perhaps, China.

* Longstanding U.S. efforts “to move Ukraine out of Moscow’s orbit and integrated it into the West” (to quote U.S. foreign relations John Mearsheimer).

* U.S. provocation and endorsement of a right-wing 2014 coup against the pro-Russian government in Ukraine, right on Russia’s repeatedly invaded western border – a development that predictably created war in eastern Ukraine and a crisis that led to numerous dangerous incidents between NATO and Russian forces.  (As Diana Johnstone notedhere in June of 2014: “With astonishing unanimity, NATO leaders feign surprise at events they planned months in advance. Events that they deliberately triggered are being misrepresented as sudden, astonishing, unjustified ‘Russian aggression.’  The United States and the European Union undertook an aggressive provocation in Ukraine that they knew would force Russia to react defensively, one way or another…They could not be sure exactly how Russian president Vladimir Putin would react when he saw that the United States was manipulating political conflict in Ukraine to install a pro-Western government intent on joining NATO.  This was not a mere matter of a ‘sphere of influence’ in Russia’s ‘near abroad.’ but a matter of life and death to the Russian Navy, as well as a grave national security threat on Russia’s border.”)

* Washington’s self-righteous denunciation and slandering of Russia’s reasonable and defensive annexation of Crimea, which was overwhelmingly supported by Crimeans as a natural response to the United States’ installation of a right-wing pro-NATO and anti-Russian government in Kiev.

One does not have be either a fan of Vladimir Putin (I’m not) or (something quite different) a Left critic of U.S. imperialism (guilty here) to understand the logic behind the Russian president’s concerns with U.S. and Western policy – and the popularity of Putin’s resistance to that policy among millions of Russians. As the mainstream “realist” U.S. foreign relations scholar John Mearsheimer argued in a 2014 article published (under the title “Why the Ukraine Crisis is the West’s Fault”) in the establishment (Council on Foreign Relations) journal Foreign Affairs, Putin reasonably viewed Washington’s commitment to NATO expansion and NATO’s U.S.-led recruitment of Ukraine as “a direct threat to Russia’s core interests…Who can blame him?”  Mearsheimer asked, adding that “The United States does not tolerate distant great powers deploying forces anywhere in the Western hemisphere, much less on its borders(emphasis added).”

“We need not ask,” Noam Chomsky wrote two years ago, “how the United States would have reacted had the countries of Latin America joined the Warsaw Pact, with plans for Mexico and Canada to join as well. The merest hint of the first tentative steps in that direction would have been ‘terminated with extreme prejudice,’ to adopt the CIA lingo.”  Indeed.

If you don’t want other countries messing, or trying to mess with your nation’s internal politics, don’t mess with theirs and don’t set up armies and hostile regimes on their borders.

If Putin did in fact undertake a “war” on supposed U.S. “democracy” (well, on U.S. major party and big money-big media elections, which should never be confused with real popular sovereignty[please see the sources hyperlinked under points three and four, above]), American imperialism is at the heart of the “inside story” of why the Kremlin took that dangerous step. (Motive is a key part of any good detective story and prosecution, no?)  In Russian Roulette, deadly U.S. and NATO aggression appears primarily if somewhat offhandedly as a figment of evil Putin’s paranoid imagination.  That’s a big mistake.

Isikoff and Corn’s silence on U.S. aggression seem driven by imperial ideology and Western arrogance. Russian Roulette boasts a major back-cover blurb from the leading liberal paranoid-style Russian conspiratorialist and New Cold Warrior Rachel Maddow.  To make matters worse, Isikoff and Corn say nothing about the neo-Nazi affiliations of the pro-Western Ukraine coup regime Putin and Russia quite reasonably feared. That’s a little disturbing.

Sixth, Isikoff and Corn’s reference to Russian election help as the “original sin” of Trump’s presidency is insulting to people of color, immigrants, women, and environmentalists, many of whom could reasonably argue that racism, nativism, sexism, and/or rapacious eco-cidalism are the true original sins of the Trump presidency.

Though they were strong pro-Clinton Democrats in 2016 (I recall Corn telling NPR that people who couldn’t make themselves vote for Hillary Clinton had no business protesting Trump’s inauguration), Isikoff and Corn deserve credit for reporting something we can expect many Democratic Party-affiliated readers to quickly forget on pages 30 and 31 of Russian Roulette:

“The day after …Russian spies were arrested [on June 27, 2010], Bill Clinton arrived in Moscow to deliver the keynote speech at a conference sponsored by Renaissance Capital, a Russian investment banking firm with links to the Kremlin. Clinton was paid a whopping $500,000 for his ninety-minute appearance, which drew an audience of top Russian government officials. Though his wife was secretary of state, the former president had not curbed his lucrative overseas speech-making, even when the gigs were underwritten by groups that might have interests before the State Department…In the case of Renaissance Capital, the firm at that time was promoting a stock offering of a company called Uranium One—a mining firm that controlled about 20 percent of uranium production capacity within the United States. And Russia’s nuclear agency, Rosatom, was in the process of purchasing a controlling interest in Uranium One, pending approval of a U.S. government foreign investment review board on which Hillary Clinton sat with eight other senior U.S. officials…Around the time of the Uranium One deal, the company chairman’s family foundation donated about $2.35 million to Clinton Foundation programs.”

That raises an interesting question: if Hillary Clinton had run a better campaign and fended off the Trump-Steve Bannon-Robert Mercer-Sheldon Adelson- (and Putin/Russian?) assault in the late summer and fall of 2016, would a Clinton45 presidency now be facing Congressional inquiries into the Clinton crime family’s Russian entanglements – as well as Hillary’s 30,000 lost emails and use of a private email server to official government business during her years as Secretary of State?

Will Isikoff and Corn follow up their study of Russia’s subversion of U.S. “democracy” with an equally ambitious account of the United States’ epic, longstanding, and ongoing interference in other nations’ sovereign political affairs (elections and Russia included) across the planet? Don’t hold your breath.


We are in the Last Days before all Hell breaks loose


We are in the Last Days before all Hell breaks loose

Last days of Pompey?  I was just there last week and I saw the future, not the past. To anyone watching the UN Security Council “debate” last night it is crystal clear we are in the last days before all hell breaks out. So, here we are at Judgment Day, and there surely will not be one soul out on Pennsylvania Avenue to raise an anti-war placard. The tattered remains of the American peace movement is rotten to the core. — Gilbert Doctorow

Gilbert Doctorow, a knowledgeable and cautious observer of Russia, who, unlike the US National Security Council, Western think thanks and universities, actually understands Russia, appears to have joined The Saker and me in our pessimistic evaluation of the likely outcome of Washington’s insane treatment of Russia, loading false accusation after false accusation on the Russian government.

Here is Doctorow’s assessment:

What follows here will surely surprise my loyal readers, who expect detailed argumentation and are not put off by 3,000 or even 5,000 words to get to a conclusion. For the same reason, detractors who complain of my long-winded style may take heart.

However that may be, I do not offer a bed-time story today but a shock to the system.

The overriding issue of war or peace, survival of mankind or its utter destruction, is now being decided in Washington and NYC without so much as a ‘by your leave’ for the rest of us. 

Will Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Dunford prevail in warning Trump against any action that will bring a kinetic response from the world’s other nuclear super power. Or will ‘Mad Dog’ Secretary of Defense Matthis win out in pressing Donald Trump to test the Russians’ bluff on their red lines in Syria?  Will the US launch missiles against Damascus or against Iran, as I suggested yesterday as an alternative scenario?  Or will it support Poroshenko in launching a massive attack on Donetsk, as the Russians appear to expect judging by their just putting their entire military on war alert?

Donald Trump has announced very clearly that he will be authorizing some kind of retribution to the CIA-faked chemical attack in Douma, Eastern Goutha in the coming 24 to 48 hours. 

So, here we are at Judgment Day, and there surely will not be one soul out on Pennsylvania Avenue to raise an anti-war placard. The tattered remains of the American peace movement is rotten to the core.  Even Daniel Ellsberg has been suckered into joining the buffoon Noam Chomsky in a cake-walk demo in NYC under the sponsorship of the American Friends Service Committee, once the paragon of pacificism and today just another social action group promoting racial equality.  Uncle Joe Gerson sent out invitations to participate in that theater of the absurd last night.

The anti-war movement was a Leftist movement, and we all know where the Left is today, along with the Progressives.  In denial and Russia-bashing.

To anyone watching the UN Security Council “debate” last night it is crystal clear we are in the last days before all hell breaks out. The wall of mutual contempt between Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya and US Ambassador Nikki Haley was on full display. Nebenzya took to pieces the entire argumentation of the US side regarding Douma and the ‘chemical attack.’

He detailed the rebel caches of chemical weapons and equipment for their manufacture that Russian troops have found in recently liberated territory of Eastern Ghouta and elsewhere. He spoke about the past provocations of faked chemical attacks including the one used to justify the US cruise missile launches on the Syrian air base at Sheirat a year ago. He linked the US training and support for terrorists in fabrication of chemical arms to the faked nerve agent attack on the Skripals in the UK, which he described as a vaudeville act. He heaped scorn on Haley for her denying Russia the status of “friend,”  saying that the US has no friends, only sycophants, whereas Russia has genuine friends, and seeks nothing more in relations with the United States than civilized discourse. 

In response to this unprecedented denunciation of the USA and its policies of global hegemony, we heard from Nikki Haley the familiar story of how the UN Security Council could now either adopt a US resolution condemning the Assad regime, in effect, or  admit its total irrelevance while the US continued on its own unilateral path to resolving the Syrian question.

So, ladies and gents, open the champagne.  Last days of Pompey?  I was just there last week and I saw the future, not the past.

When Doctorow becomes pessimistic I really get worried as he is a level-headed person.

It is difficult not be be pessimistic when we learn that the Washington Insane Asylum has sent a Carrier Strike Group accompanied by seven missile ships to join the one missile ship already offshore the Russian base in Syria. Whether any of these sittling ducks survive or are permitted to launch a single missile or the carrier to launch a single fighter is entirely up to the Russians.

The Russians know that they can, at will within a few minutes, sink the entire US fleet, destroy every US airplane and ship in the Middle East and within range of the Middle East, completely destroy all of Israel’s military capability and wipe out the military of the two-bit punk state of Saudi Arabia. All the sitting ducks have been set up for Russia by the arrogant and stupid Americans. Just a few minutes of Russian attack and all ability to conduct war would be stripped from the Middle East. This would be a good thing.,

All Russia has to do to insure that the US has no choice but to accept instant defeat is to put Russian nuclear forces on red alert. Any resort by the idiots in Washington of a nuclear nature would mean the end of the United States and all of Western Europe along with the UK. It would mean the total end of the West for all time, an event the rest of the world would consider to be a good thing. Hopefully the US military, the last and constantly besieged source of honor in the US, understands this and would not comply with a suicidal order from an insane war cabinet.

In my opinion the Russians will not go so far and will deny themselves a decisive victory, because they do not comprehend the total evil that is concentrated in Washington and Israel. There are enough naive Atlanticist Integrationists left in the Russian government to argue that Russia must give Washington and Europe one more chance to come to their senses. One more chance is what Russia and the world cannot afford.

There is scant possibility that Washington and Israel will ever come to any sense other than hegemony. If Washington had any sense, Washington would not be sending warships to attack Syria, or Iran in order to evade the Russian prohibition on attacking Syria.

Russia cannot allow Iran to be destabilized any more than it can allow that fate for Syria. It was the Russian government’s decision not to include Iran in the prohibition, and this could prove to be another Russian mistake in its dealings with Washington.

Washington thinks that whereas the lone USS Donald Cook missile destroyer standing offshore of Syria could be sunk by Russia without too much of an incident resulting—Israel destroyed the USS Liberty with massive US Navy casualties without any incident resulting— for Russia to sink 9 US ships including an aircraft carrier, is more than the Russians have stomach for.

It will be about 10 days before the US ships, sitting ducks all, reach the point where they can be easily disposed of. This gives the US Joint Chiefs of Staff 10 days to overrule Trump’s insane war cabinet and put the US military’s halt to Armageddon. It would help their decision to overrule Trump’s insane war cabinet if Russia goes ahead and sinks the USS Donald Cook and shoots down every Israeli aircraft in flight even those overflying Israel. What will sober up Washington is Russia coming off the defensive and taking the initiative instead of being always reactive to Washington’s initiative.

Pray that the Christian God, not the blood-thirsty Jewish one, prevails over the Joint Chiefs’ deliberations and struggle with Trump’s insane war cabinet.

In my opinion, with Israel’s servant, John Bolton, as Trump’s trusted national security adviser, war with Russia is inevitable.

Taking Doctorow’s advice, I am opening the chapagne, by which Doctorow does not mean to celebrate but to enjoy the last moments of life.

It remains to be seen whether the conflict set in motion by Israel and its demented puppet in Washington can be avoided. As Washington is lost in its arrogance, only decisive and firm Russian slaps across Washington’s idiot face can save life on earth.

Because of the deluded and stupid Russian Atlanticist Integrationists, Russia might not be up to the task.

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Sunday, April 8, 2018

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