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Spoiling for a Fight: Will Washington Get the War It Wants?

Does Washington want war with Russia?
by Bill Van Auken  - WSWS
Does Washington want a war with Russia? A review of recent US actions surrounding the crisis in Ukraine clearly poses what would have once seemed an unthinkable question. The Obama administration is playing a very dangerous game of Russian Roulette.
 
In the last 48 hours, the Pentagon has announced the deployment of US paratrooper units to Poland and the three former Baltic republics of the Soviet Union—Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania—bringing US troops to Russia’s very border. Another American warship has been dispatched to the Black Sea and more US forces are slated to deploy to Ukraine itself this summer under an exercise known as Operation Rapid Trident.
 
These military moves by Washington are unfolding in the context of an acute crisis within Ukraine that, thanks to the machinations of Washington and its puppets, threatens to erupt into full-blown civil war.
 

Iron Law of Oligarchy Back with a Vengeance

Oligarchs R' US: That "Iron Law" of Oligarchy Is Back to haunts Us
by Danny Schechter - Global Research
For years, it was a term only used in connection with those big bad and sleazy Mafioso-type businessmen in Russia.
 
Russia had Oligarchs; we didn’t.
 
That became a big difference between the official narrative of what separated our land of the free and the home of the brave from THEM, the snakes in the shades and private planes, in the post-Soviet period.
Actually, I first heard the term oligarchy when I was studying labor history at Cornell a half a lifetime ago.
 
We were taught about something called the “Iron Law of Oligarchy.”
 

Nation Breakers: The NED's Venezuela Operation

The Dirty Hand of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in Venezuela
by Eva Golinger - Postcards from the Revolution
endowment-democracy-exit-nationalAnti-government protests in Venezuela that seek regime change have been led by several individuals and organizations with close ties to the US government. Leopoldo Lopez and Maria Corina Machado - two of the public leaders behind the violent protests that started in February - have long histories as collaborators, grantees and agents of Washington.
 
The National Endowment for Democracy “NED” and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) have channeled multi-million dollar funding to Lopez’s political parties Primero Justicia and Voluntad Popular, and Machado’s NGO Sumate and her electoral campaigns.
 
These Washington agencies have also filtered more than $14 million to opposition groups in Venezuela between 2013 and 2014, including funding for their political campaigns in 2013 and for the current anti-government protests in 2014. This continues the pattern of financing from the US government to anti-Chavez groups in Venezuela since 2001, when millions of dollars were given to organizations from so-called “civil society” to execute a coup d’etat against President Chavez in April 2002.
 

Mission Accomplished: FCC Colludes with Media Oligarchs to Kill Net Neutrality

FCC Plots Murder of Blogs on Behalf of Billionaire Media Lords
by Juan Cole - Informed Comment
If you thought corporations played a big role in your life already, just wait until tomorrow, when the FCC gives up the ghost on net neutrality.

Image: By Matt Wuerker for ItsOurNet.org (which, interestingly, has been suspended).

What does this mean?

It means that the companies with more money and more bankrolling (and a better way to bribe services like Comcast) will have more broadband, while other, smaller companies that haven’t curried favor with their corporate overlords are going to be left with the table scraps. 

ISPs cannot legally slow traffic on purpose, but when you have a two tier system and the corporate approach to ethics (that is, “catch me doing something wrong, I dare you”), how do you tell the difference between slow and “slow?”

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The Oligarch that Ate America

American Democracy Now An Oligarchy
by Joel S. Hirschhorn
History has been made. But few Americans are aware of it or angry about it. I say: Wake up Americans. A war has been waged against US democracy, from the inside. Time to pick a side and fight back.
 
If you are not totally brain dead, distracted by pain or pleasure, or consumed by narcissistic obsessions, face the ugly, painful truth.
 
Republicans with political power in Congress and the states and, even more appallingly, on the Supreme Court have succeeded in turning their beloved republic into a-money-buys-power oligarchy. One person, one vote was the enemy and it is being defeated. One dollar, one vote is the new Republican political value. American democracy is more delusional than ever. To think otherwise is even more delusional.
 
I present three arguments supporting the conclusion that there has been a conversion of US democracy into something worse than a plutocracy. Political power is more dependent on money than ever before.
 

FBI Behind "Anonymous" Hacks Against China, and Others

Yes, It Looks Like the US Government Coordinated the 2012 Anonymous China Hacks
by  Peter Lee - China Matters
On April 23, Mark Mazzetti reported in the New York Times that the FBI had used Hector Xavier Monsegur, a hacker it had in its clutches, to coordinate hacks in 2012 against Iran, Syria, Brazil, and Pakistan, and other targets. The actual hacks were carried about by an associate of Monsegur, Jeremy Hammond, who was a dupe in that he did not know that Monsegur was turning over the information and access he gleaned to the US government.

Jeremy Hammond is serving a ten-year jail sentence for other hacks. I’m not clear if Monsegur is currently incarcerated; last reference I saw was to the cancellation of a 2013 court date that was expected to give him a suspended sentence for a previous guilty plea. In addition to running the foreign hacks for the US government, Monsegur also rolled up his own Lulzsec hacking network, which carried out s series of US hacks in a spectacular 50-day campaign, and his months if not years of cooperation with the US government may have netted him some favorable treatment.

Mazzetti’s article does not mention China; but I did! Back in 2012!

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Beau Geste: No Joke for "Legionnaires" Entering America's Minimum-Wage Reality

An Apartheid of Dollars: Life in the New American Minimum-Wage Economy
by Peter Van Buren  - TomDispatch
van buren joad bookThere are many sides to whistleblowing. The one that most people don't know about is the very personal cost, prison aside, including the high cost of lawyers and the strain on family relations, that follows the decision to risk it all in an act of conscience. Here's a part of my own story I've not talked about much before.

At age 53, everything changed. Following my whistleblowing first book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, I was run out of the good job I had held for more than 20 years with the U.S. Department of State.

As one of its threats, State also took aim at the pension and benefits I'd earned, even as it forced me into retirement. Would my family and I lose everything I'd worked for as part of the retaliation campaign State was waging? I was worried. That pension was the thing I’d counted on to provide for us and it remained in jeopardy for many months. I was scared.

My skill set was pretty specific to my old job. The market was tough in the Washington, D.C. area for someone with a suspended security clearance. Nobody with a salaried job to offer seemed interested in an old guy, and I needed some money. All the signs pointed one way -- toward the retail economy and a minimum-wage job.

And soon enough, I did indeed find myself working in exactly that economy and, worse yet, trying to live on the money I made. But it wasn’t just the money. There’s this American thing in which jobs define us, and those definitions tell us what our individual futures and the future of our society is likely to be. And believe me, rock bottom is a miserable base for any future.  
 

Breaking Headlines: NYT Retracts Russian Troop "Scoop"

NYT Retracts Russian-Photo Scoop
by Robert Parry - Consortium News
NYTimes phony photos retractTwo days after the New York Times led its editions with a one-sided article about photos supposedly proving that Russian special forces were behind the popular uprisings in eastern Ukraine, the Times published what you might call a modified, limited retraction.

Photograph published by the New York Times purportedly taken in Russia of Russian soldiers who later appeared in eastern Ukraine. However, the photographer has since stated that the photo was actually taken in Ukraine, and the U.S. State Department has acknowledged the error.

Buried deep inside the Wednesday editions (page 9 in my paper), the article by Michael R. Gordon and Andrew E. Kramer – two of the three authors from the earlier story – has this curious beginning:

“A collection of photographs that Ukraine says shows the presence of Russian forces in the eastern part of the country, and which the United States cited as evidence of Russian involvement, has come under scrutiny.”

In the old days of journalism, we used to apply the scrutiny before we published a story on the front page or on any other page, especially if it had implications toward war or peace, whether people would live or die. However, in this case – fitting with the anti-Russian bias that has pervaded the mainstream U.S. press corps – the scrutiny was set aside long enough for this powerful propaganda theme to be put in play and to sweep across the media landscape.

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Murderous Lessons: Death by Violence Take-Away for America's Internecine Inner City Wars

Apt Pupils: Chicago Violence Reflects the Lessons of the Elite
by Chris Floyd - Empire Burlesque
I wrote here Monday of an Easter weekend full of death in Yemen, ordered up hot and steaming by the progressive American president and his assassins. But death was feasting elsewhere too -- in the president's hometown of Chicago, as the Guardian reports:
 
A senior Chicago police officer said that parts of the city are being overwhelmed by gun violence, after a weekend in which nine people were shot dead and at least 36 – including six children – were wounded.
Ronald Holt, the commander of the Chicago police department’s special activities division, said that the city was witnessing “fratricide” among young men who had come to believe “that the only way to resolve a conflict is to get a gun and go shoot to kill”.
 
“To tackle gun violence where it is overwhelming communities with the extraordinary loss of lives at an alarming pace, we must deal with it as a social disease and health issue,” Holt, whose 17-year-old son Blair was shot dead on a bus in 2007, told the Guardian in an email.
 
His remarks came as Chicago suffered its bloodiest weekend of the year. Dozens of residents were shot in a series of separate incidents. On the city’s south side, five children aged between 11 and 15 were shot while walking home from a park on Sunday evening.
 
This outburst of violence and hopelessness is the "strange fruit" of the implacable, relentless hatred that American society has always felt toward its black citizens. Since the end of slavery -- which was only achieved by a Civil War that killed more than 600,000 people (in contrast to the peaceful end of serfdom, in the same period, achieved by the 'barbaric' Russians) -- African-Americans have been subjected to an unforgiving barrage of legal blockades and economic terrorism to keep them broken down, broken apart, struggling for crumbs of survival in the midst of affluence and opportunity for others.
 

The Idea of Israel: Pappe Review of a Distorted History

Reviewing 'The Idea of Israel - A History of Power and Knowledge' by Ilan Pappe
by Jim Miles - Palestine Chronicle
This is a powerfully written unsettling work that relates the story of Israel from the perspective of how ideas are changed and manipulated for the benefit of the state. Unfortunately the majority of citizens of most countries are susceptible to the ideation/ideology of the mainstream of political thought as it is supported by the mainstream press. In the case of Israel, image and ideation, its narrative and ideology, are of paramount importance for the survival of the state beyond its military strength and relatively successful integration into the globalized corporate governed world.
 
For a brief decade, generally within the 1990s, the Israeli narrative, its foundational ideas, were challenged by a small group of academics known as the new historians. In a factual sense they brought forward many details about the story of Israel - using newly released and openly available IDF archives - that contradicted the narrative preferred by the Israeli government and its supporters.
 
They were successful at opening up a dialogue about the 1948 Nakba/war of independence, the post 1967 settlement plans, and for both dates, the knowledge of expulsions, massacres, and ethnic cleansing. But that success had limited reach within Israel, as the new historians were an academic minority, and only in infrequent media presentations - stage, theatre and film in particular - was there any other real arena of success.
 
It did create some significant stirrings abroad, but the main feature in other countries, again apart from a few vocal academics, was a broad base of apathy and disinterest, cultivated by a corporate controlled media supporting - again, the corporate governed globalized world.
 

Life in Syria: Insights on Bab Touma Mortar Attacks

More Insights into Bab Touma Mortar Attacks
by Eva Bartlett - In Gaza
Two days ago, one of the stream of mortars being fired upon various areas of Damascus hit Bab Touma (Thomas Gate) square, killing 2 and injuring at least 23, according to Sana news.

Bab Touma itself is one of the eight gates leading into Damascus’ Old City. It also happens to be a busy area, filled with market stalls, vendors, pedestrians, and shops. And in terms of the greater area, while I haven’t been hurt by the mortars, I’ve heard many in the old city in the past few days, and many have landed within 500 metres or less (20-30 metres) of places I’m staying or have been in Damascus.
 
A falafel shop was damaged in this latest Bab Touma mortar attack, and many shops surrounding the open area where the shell landed were damaged to varying degrees. A shoe store I visited last night in the area wasn’t too badly damaged; the windows had their original layer of thin plastic on them, which kept the closest window from spraying glass into the room where employees were working. I chatted with the owner, an Armenian, about the attack.