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Boxing Putin In: America's Ukraine Gambit and the Eurasia Pivot

Is Putin Being Lured Into a Trap?
by Mike Whitney - CounterPunch
“Russia … is now recognized as the center of the global ‘mutiny’ against global dictatorship of the US and EU. Its generally peaceful .. approach is in direct contrast to brutal and destabilizing methods used by the US and EU…. The world is waking up to reality that there actually is, suddenly, some strong and determined resistance to Western imperialism. After decades of darkness, hope is emerging.” – Andre Vltchek, Ukraine: Lies and Realities, CounterPunch
Russia is not responsible for the crisis in Ukraine. The US State Department engineered the fascist-backed coup that toppled Ukraine’s democratically-elected president Viktor Yanukovych and replaced him with the American puppet Arseniy Yatsenyuk, a former banker. Hacked phone calls reveal the critical role that Washington played in orchestrating the putsch and selecting the coup’s leaders.
 
Moscow was not involved in any of these activities. Vladimir Putin, whatever one may think of him, has not done anything to fuel the violence and chaos that has spread across the country.
 
Putin’s main interest in Ukraine is commercial. 66 percent of the natural gas that Russia exports to the EU transits Ukraine. The money that Russia makes from gas sales helps to strengthen the Russian economy and raise standards of living. It also helps to make Russian oligarchs richer, the same as it does in the West.
 
The people in Europe like the arrangement because they are able to heat their homes and businesses market-based prices. In other words, it is a good deal for both parties, buyer and seller. This is how the free market is supposed to work. The reason it doesn’t work that way presently is because the United States threw a spanner in the gears when it deposed Yanukovych.
 
Now no one knows when things will return to normal.
 

The Skyline Bowl Parking Lot

“Bart Is Dead: Long Live The Liberal Bloggers”
by Mike Palecek
He asked, “What makes a man a writer?”
“Well,” I said, “it’s simple. “You either get it down on paper, or jump off a bridge.”  ― Charles Bukowski
 
You never know what you’ll do until you do what you do when it’s cold.

So I’m sitting in the parking lot in the afternoon.

The Skyline Bowl parking lot.

I was going to kill myself, but then I didn’t.

And so now I’ve got some extra time on my hands.

Like when The Cold War ended and you’re thinking, oops, I should have studied … something.

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Obama's Mainstream Torture Regime

Torture is Mainstream Now
by David Swanson  - War Is A Crime
As Rebecca Gordon notes in her new book, Mainstreaming Torture, polls find greater support in the United States for torture now than when Bush was president. And it's not hard to see why that would be the case.
 
Fifteen years ago, it was possible to pretend the U.S. government opposed torture. Then it became widely known that the government tortured. And it was believed (with whatever accuracy) that officials had tried to keep the torturing secret. Next it became clear that nobody would be punished, that in fact top officials responsible for torture would be permitted to openly defend what they had done as good and noble.
 
The idea was spread around that the torture was stopping, but the cynical could imagine it must be continuing in secret, the partisan could suppose the halt was only temporary, the trusting could assume torture would be brought back as needed, and the attentive could be and have been aware that the government has gone right on torturing to this day with no end in sight.
 
Anyone who bases their morality on what their government does (or how Hollywood supports it) might be predicted to have moved in the direction of supporting torture.
 

Africom Fox: A Sly Little War for Africa

AFRICOM Goes to War on the Sly: U.S. Officials Talk Candidly (Just Not to Reporters) about Bases, Winning Hearts and Minds, and the “War” in Africa
kill anything-1-1 - copyWhat the military will say to a reporter and what is said behind closed doors are two very different things -- especially when it comes to the U.S. military in Africa. For years, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has maintained a veil of secrecy about much of the command’s activities and mission locations, consistently downplaying the size, scale, and scope of its efforts. 
 
At a recent Pentagon press conference, AFRICOM Commander General David Rodriguez adhered to the typical mantra, assuring the assembled reporters that the United States “has little forward presence” on that continent.

Just days earlier, however, the men building the Pentagon’s presence there were telling a very different story -- but they weren’t speaking with the media. They were speaking to representatives of some of the biggest military engineering firms on the planet.
 
They were planning for the future and the talk was of war.  
 

Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, Camilo Cahis, Finian Cunningham, Janine Bandcroft April 14th, 2014

 
This Week on GR
by C. L. Cook - Gorilla-Radio.com
che kokoWelcome to Springtime in Victoria! All the signs of a new season are exploding all over the city, reminding us - after a mild, but seeming overlong winter - how lucky we are to live here in this beautiful and bountiful land.

Indeed, Canadians from all corners can, even as they shovel April's Maritime snow from the drive, give thanks for their good fortune to abide in peace, carrying out their daily routines secure in the knowledge they will not trod on a landmine, or be indiscriminately targeted for a drone-death dealt from above.

It makes it all the more reprehensible then that those purported "leaders," those who claim to be expressing the desires of the Canadian polity, "our" Parliamentarians, can fulminate for war, societal crackdowns, (and other euphemistically expressed oppressive policies) in foreign places enjoying neither the peace, nor prosperity we so casually receive as blessings due us.
 
 
Last month, the People's House, a place usually fraught with acrimony, quieted its bellicose disharmony to come together to condemn Venezuela's response to violent demonstrations and attempts to overthrow the democratically elected government there. Yes, in a rare display of political unanimity, Canada's parties are as one in their support of a nascent coup, and the demonstrably fascist forces behind it.     
 
Camilo Cahis is National Spokesperson for the Canadian Hands Off Venezuela campaign, part of an international effort to inform the World community of the achievements of the Bolivarian revolution, that's working to build solidarity with Venezuela's working class, and its chronically impoverished. His recent article for Fightback - the Marxist Voice of Labour and Youth, 'Canadian Parliament passes resolution against Bolivarian government; NDP must support the workers and poor of Venezuela' is a damning indictment of this country's dysfunctional democracy.
 
Camilo Cahis in the first half.
 
And; meanwhile, on the other side of the World, Canada's duly elected representatives are vociferously supporting the overthrow of another democratically elected government, and are too supporting the demonstrably seditious - and fascist - perpetrators of the wanton murders of police and protesters alike.
 
Finian Cunningham is an East Africa-based freelance journalist and columnist for PressTV and the Strategic Culture Foundation. A former editor and writer for the Mirror, Irish Times, and Independent, his reporting on human rights violations is cited widely across the internet, and has earned him the enmity of despots like the government of Bahrain. Cunningham's latest focus has been on the despots closer to home, NATO, and its self-appointed role as spearhead for neo-liberalism's second-wave, trans-global colonial project.  
 
Finian Cunningham, and riding the second wave of Washington's new Surrealpolitik in the second half.
 
And; Victoria Street Newz publisher and CFUV Radio broadcaster, Janine Bandcroft will be here at the bottom of the hour to bring us up to speed with some of what's good - and otherwise - going on around our city and beyond. But first, Camilo Cahis and the Canadian Parliament's anti-democratic consensus.

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, airing live every Monday, 5-6pm Pacific Time. In Victoria at 101.9FM, and on the internet at: http://cfuv.uvic.ca.  He also serves as a contributing editor to the web news site, http://www.pacificfreepress.com. Check out the GR blog at: http://gorillaradioblog.blogspot.ca/
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Lies, Damn Lies, and Fracking Lies

Those Fracking Lies
by Stuart Jeanne Bramhall - Dissident Voice
snakeoilSnake Oil: How Fracking’s False Promise of Plenty Imperils Our Future by Richard Heinberg (Post Carbon Institute, 2013) is about the economics of fracking. Also known as hydraulic fracturing, fracking refers to using pressurized water and chemicals to release oil or natural gas trapped in underground rock formations.
 
Heinberg’s new book describes the behind-the-scenes role of Goldman Sachs and other investment banks in driving the present fracking boom.

Technology to extract oil and gas deposits trapped in rock formations was first developed in 1866. Because the process is extremely capital intensive, fracking for oil only became economically sustainable in when the price of oil tripled a decade ago.
 
In the case of natural gas, it took the elimination of price controls and federal tax credits to make fracking financially feasible.

Coming out of the"Fogh": NATO Shows It's Imperial Stripe

NATO’s ‘Fogh’ of War
by Finian Cunningham - PressTV
It's been a busy week for NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen. The week began with him telling lies, spewing propaganda, seeking to please Washington, trying to incite war in Europe with Russia, and ended with a warning to Russia to back down from military aggression.
 
Such is the busy life of a puppet on a string, bouncing in step with the tune called by his master. From here on, Rasmussen should be re-branded as the “Fogh of War.”
 
Earlier in the week, Fogh Rasmussen addressed a meeting in Paris on the “transformation of NATO.” He licked the boots of French leaders by saying:
 
“From Central Africa to Eastern Europe, French forces are helping make our world safer - whether under the banner of NATO, the European Union, or of France.”

Make our world safer? This was homage to French militarism that has ignited wholesale sectarian war in the Central African Republic (CAR) where thousands of people have been slaughtered since French troops landed in that country last December on the pretext of “halting genocide.”
 
As noted in a previous column, France did not halt sectarian killing in the CAR; it unleashed the mass killing when its troops unilaterally disarmed Muslims while giving a free hand to Christian militia there to go on a continuing rampage. All for the purpose of France grabbing rich natural resources, in particular uranium, in its former African colony.
 

Failing State: America's Flailing Foreign Policy Fiascos

The New American Reality
by Ramzy Baroud - PalestineChronicle.com
US Secretary of State John Kerry couldn’t hide his frustration anymore as the US-sponsored peace process continued to falter. After 8 months of wrangling to push talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority forward, he admitted while in a visit to Morocco on April 04 that the latest setback had served as a ‘reality check’ for the peace process. But confining that reality check to the peace process is hardly representative of the painful reality through which the United States has been forced to subsist in during the last few years.
 
The state of US foreign policy in the Middle East, but also around the world, cannot be described with any buoyant language. In some instances, as in Syria, Libya, Egypt, the Ukraine, and most recently in Palestine and Israel, too many calamitous scenarios have exposed the fault lines of US foreign policy. The succession of crises is not allowing the US to cut its losses in the Middle East and stage a calculated ‘pivot’ to Asia following its disastrous Iraq war.
 
US foreign policy is almost entirely crippled.
 

Obama's Twilight Zone: The New Surrealpolitik

Washington and NATO’s New Surrealpolitik
by Finian Cunningham - Strategic Culture Foundation
Anders Fogh RasmussenAs the unelected Kiev junta sends armed balaclava-clad paramilitaries to quell protests in Ukraine’s eastern cities it declares the operation "anti-terrorism". The acting (sic) president in Kiev Oleksandr Turchynov has labeled all those seeking political autonomy in Kharkov, Donetsk, Lugansk and other pro-Russian cities in the east of the country as «terrorists and criminals»; a new set of laws cobbled together by the junta – two months before scheduled official elections have taken place and therefore of dubious legality – gives the self-appointed politicians in Kiev the power to prosecute any one that does not recognize their self-imposed authority…

NATO's Anders Fogh Rasmussen

Meanwhile, NATO has warned Moscow to «step back» from alleged military aggression (from within its own borders!) towards Ukraine – even though the US-led alliance has escalated the presence of its fighter jets and troops in Russia’s neighboring countries.
 
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, secretary general of the 28-member NATO organization, has also led calls for speeding up the incorporation of Georgia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina into the nuclear-armed pact. This is in addition to a deal hastily worked out by NATO and the NATO-backed junta in Kiev for joint military exercises to be carried out on Ukrainian territory.

This constitutes a new genre of politics, which one might dub "surrealpolitik".
 

Ukraine: Obama's Downside World Up

When Is a Putsch a Putsch?
by Robert Parry - Consortium News
kerry testifies april 13The mainstream U.S. news media, which hailed the Feb. 22 neo-Nazi-spearheaded coup overthrowing the democratically elected president of Ukraine as an expression of “democracy,” is now decrying public uprisings in eastern Ukraine as a Russian-instigated “putsch.”

Secretary of State John Kerry testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on April 8, 2014.
 
It apparently has reached the point where the MSM is so tangled up in its propagandistic narrative that it can’t give American readers anything close to an objective reading of what is actually going on in Ukraine or many other places, for that matter.
 
The way the MSM now summarizes the Feb. 22 coup is simply to say that President Viktor Yanukovych fled after weeks of protests by Ukrainians who favored “good government” and opposed “corruption,” as the Washington Post wrote on Tuesday.
 
Airbrushed out of the picture is the fact that the uprising had financial support and political encouragement from U.S. officials, including neocon Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland and the neocon-controlled, U.S.-funded National Endowment for Democracy. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “What Neocons Want from Ukraine Crisis.”]
 
Also, disappearing from the frame was the inconvenient truth that neo-Nazi militants organized themselves from the start as paramilitary units with the intent of staging a violent putsch against Yanukovych’s elected government.
 

How Wars Are Made: Turkey's False Flag in Syria

False Flags and Imperial Facades: Tales of "Progressives" in Power
by Chris Floyd - Empire Burlesque
Sy Hersh has a long piece in the London Review of Books detailing the strong evidence indicating that the Turkish government worked with Syrian rebels in a "false flag" operation of the worst sort: staging a chemical weapons attack near Damascus in August 2013. The intent was to throw blame for the attack on the Assad regime, thereby drawing the United States directly into the conflict; the use of chemical weapons against the rebels was a "red line" repeatedly laid down by Barack Obama as the trigger for an American intervention.
 
As we know, the gambit very nearly worked. In addition to the deep background behind the sarin attack, Hersh's story also reveals the extent of the military operation planned by Obama. Although at the time, administration officials were speaking of "surgical strikes" and a limited response, the White House was in fact planning a massive attack involving the armed forces of three Western powers (the U.S., Britain and France) that would devastate the entire country and topple the regime. As Hersh writes:
 
"In the aftermath of the 21 August attack Obama ordered the Pentagon to draw up targets for bombing. Early in the process, the former intelligence official said, ‘the White House rejected 35 target sets provided by the joint chiefs of staff as being insufficiently “painful” to the Assad regime.’ The original targets included only military sites and nothing by way of civilian infrastructure. Under White House pressure, the US attack plan evolved into ‘a monster strike’: two wings of B-52 bombers were shifted to airbases close to Syria, and navy submarines and ships equipped with Tomahawk missiles were deployed. ‘Every day the target list was getting longer,’ the former intelligence official told me. ‘The Pentagon planners said we can’t use only Tomahawks to strike at Syria’s missile sites because their warheads are buried too far below ground, so the two B-52 air wings with two-thousand pound bombs were assigned to the mission. Then we’ll need standby search-and-rescue teams to recover downed pilots and drones for target selection. It became huge.’ The new target list was meant to ‘completely eradicate any military capabilities Assad had’, the former intelligence official said. The core targets included electric power grids, oil and gas depots, all known logistic and weapons depots, all known command and control facilities, and all known military and intelligence buildings.
"Britain and France were both to play a part. On 29 August, the day Parliament voted against Cameron’s bid to join the intervention, the Guardian reported that he had already ordered six RAF Typhoon fighter jets to be deployed to Cyprus, and had volunteered a submarine capable of launching Tomahawk missiles. The French air force – a crucial player in the 2011 strikes on Libya – was deeply committed, according to an account in Le Nouvel Observateur; François Hollande had ordered several Rafale fighter-bombers to join the American assault. Their targets were reported to be in western Syria."

Yet even while the war plans kept racheting up to new levels of violence -- including the targeting of civilian infrastructure, a blatant war crime which the United States now routinely commits, even celebrates, in all of its major military operations -- the "intelligence" behind the loudly trumpeted charges of the Assad regime's guilt in the attack was rapidly unraveling.
 

Empty Offerings: Israel's Flailing "Peace Process" Feeble Cover for Land Theft/Ethnic Cleansing

As peace talks falter, Israel’s intentions become clearer
by Jonathan Cook in Nazareth
There was a mad scramble by Washington last week to prevent the seemingly inevitable – an implosion of the Middle East peace talks. In a last-ditch effort to stop Israel reneging on a promise to release a final batch of Palestinian prisoners, the US briefly threw in possibly the biggest bargaining chip in its hand: the release of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard.
 
With Israel still dragging its feet, an infuriated Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas submitted applications to join 15 United Nations conventions, thereby reviving a campaign to win international recognition of Palestinian statehood.
 
Although Washington will continue quietly arm-twisting the two sides a little longer, President Barack Obama is reported to be worried that US diplomacy is starting to appear “desperate”.
 
The negotiations’ failure could prove an important clarifying ­moment, signalling the effective demise of the two-state solution.
 
Both the US and Israel have come to rely on the endless theatrics of the two-decade peace process. Settlement freezes, prisoner releases, rows about Palestinian Authority funding and, of course, intermittent negotiations have served as useful distractions from the main developments on the ground.
 

Wall St. Stoops to Conquer the Rentals Market

When Predatory Equity Hit the Big Apple: How Private Equity Came to New York’s Rental Market -- and What That Tells Us About the Future
by Laura Gottesdiener  - TomDispatch
Things are heating up inside Wall Street’s new rental empire.

Over the last few years, giant private equity firms have bet big on the housing market, buying up more than 200,000 cheap homes across the country. Their plan is to rent the houses back to families -- sometimes the very same people who were displaced during the foreclosure crisis -- while waiting for the home values to rise. 

But it wouldn’t be Wall Street not to have a short-term trick up its sleeve, so the private equity firms are partnering with big banks to bundle the mortgages on these rental homes into a new financial product known as “rental-backed securities.” (Remember that toxic "mortgage-backed securities" are widely blamed for crashing the global economy in 2007-2008.)

All this got me thinking: Have private equity firms gambled with rental housing somewhere else before? If so, what happened?

It turns out that the real estate market in my New York City backyard has been a private equity playground for the last decade, and the result, unsurprisingly, has been a disaster for tenants and the market alike.

 

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