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Dear True Environmentalists: Fight Corporate Criminality, not Atmospheric Gases

By Denis Rancourt | Dissident Voice | October 3, 2019

Dear true environmentalists: I am with you.1

Corporate pollution and releasing of toxic substances should be treated as a criminal act, with full power to seize assets for reparations, actual reparations, not just punitive fines.

I would apply the same standard of prosecution to the “medical”/pharma2 and agri-food industries,3 also.

However, the planet and biosphere are not at risk of imminent collapse, and certainly not from CO2.

The “imminent collapse” fabrication serves powerful manipulators, and necessarily diverts us away from attaining actual democracy and fairness.  In the words of Chomsky:4

For example, suppose it was discovered tomorrow that the greenhouse effect has been way underestimated, and that the catastrophic effects are actually going to set in 10 years from now, and not 100 years from now or something. Well, given the state of the popular movements we have today, we’d probably have a fascist takeover—with everybody agreeing to it, because that would be the only method for survival that anyone could think of. I’d even agree to it, because there just are no other alternatives around right now.

Rather than accept fascism or totalitarianism, corporate and finance criminality can best be fought from a position of realistic perspective regarding the end of the world, sober analysis of means regarding leverage for change, and focused political targeting against corporate rule without accountability.

History of imbedded doomsday narratives

All societies are dominance hierarchies, and all large, human dominance hierarchies have hired high-priests that construct and maintain the State doomsday narrative. These high-priests constantly instruct us on required beliefs and behaviours that minimize the deleterious effects of the alleged impending catastrophe. The behavioural instructions fan everything from diet, to hygiene, to dress code, to physical activity, to work ethics, to attitudes and morals, to child rearing, to political positions, to deference to experts, and so on.

It would be delusional to believe that this structural feature of society is any different than it ever was. In present Western society, the high-priests are the “scientists”, which include the medical doctors and all the “experts”.

This does not mean that science itself is not a valid and rigorous method to test and eliminate hypotheses and theories. It only means that establishment scientists are hired high-priests, notwithstanding the rare exceptions that prove the rule. It also does not mean that scientists never tell the truth. It only means that establishment scientists never harm or rebel against the dominance hierarchy, except by accident or solely in appearance.

These days, there is an industry of scientists that indulge in generating, testing and ameliorating ever more creative doomsday predictions, which are hoped to be of utility to the bosses. The said utility is often termed “societal relevance”. As an eminent example, we have the theory of a “tipping point” towards irreversible total collapse of the ecosphere, often referred to as a “species mass extinction”. The notion of a tipping point has also been advanced for planetary climate, wherein, in the absence of any non-human cause, one crosses into a global climate regime of constant extreme weather and flooded continents.

Whereas past planetary transformations have been related to game-changers, such as the advent of photosynthesis, the calming of tectonic (volcanic) activity, and so forth, and whereas the known recurring climate catastrophe of ice ages is believed to be driven by variations in solar isolation, the new “tipping points” spontaneously occur from the gradual changes of increased modern human or industrial activity, including: habitat destruction, burning of fossil fuel, population growth, and dispersal of toxic substances.

The new “tipping point” theory is not unlike the deluge of the Old Testament, which followed an accumulation of human depravity, except that no god is postulated, and building the Ark requires a centralized and globally restructured economy, handled by overarching elite private institutions, of course. War, disease, hunger … are all defeated under the same umbrella, death itself eventually.

The accompanying calls from establishment icons are often shrill.  In the words of Prince Charles, in 2009:5,6

If we do nothing, the consequences for every person on this earth will be severe and unprecedented – with vast numbers of environmental refugees, social instability and decimated economies: far worse than anything which we are seeing today … We have 100 months left to act.

While the leader of the most warring nation on earth, President Barack Obama, concluded in his 2015 State of the Union speech:7

No challenge  poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.

The role of scientists

The scientists follow and are often not more contained than Prince Charles or President Obama:

Earth is rapidly approaching a tipping point. Human impacts are causing alarming levels of harm to our planet. As scientists who study the interaction of people with the rest of the biosphere using a wide range of approaches, we agree that the evidence that humans are damaging their ecological life support systems is overwhelming. We further agree that, based on the best scientific information available, human quality of life will suffer substantial degradation by the year 2050 if we continue on our current path. Science unequivocally demonstrates the human impacts of key concern: Climate disruption – more, faster climate change than since humans first became a species. …8

We maintain that humanity’s grand challenge is solving the intertwined problems of human population growth and overconsumption, climate change, pollution, ecosystem destruction, disease spillovers, and extinction, in order to avoid environmental tipping points that would make human life more difficult and would irrevocably damage planetary life support systems.9

But today, for the first time, humanity’s global civilization—the worldwide, increasingly interconnected, highly technological society in which we all are to one degree or another, embedded—is threatened with collapse by an array of environmental problems. Humankind finds itself engaged in what Prince Charles described as ‘an act of suicide on a grand scale’, facing what the UK’s Chief Scientific Advisor John Beddington called a ‘perfect storm’ of environmental problems. The most serious of these problems show signs of rapidly escalating severity, especially climate disruption. But other elements could potentially also contribute to a collapse: an accelerating extinction of animal and plant populations and species, which could lead to a loss of ecosystem services essential for human survival; land degradation and land-use change; a pole-to-pole spread of toxic compounds; …10

The loss of biodiversity is one of the most critical current environmental problems, threatening valuable ecosystem services and human wellbeing. A growing body of evidence indicates that current species extinction rates are higher than the pre-human background rate, with hundreds of anthropogenic vertebrate extinctions documented in prehistoric and historic times.11

In fact, there is no science of a “tipping point” for earth biodiversity or for earth climate. No such testable theory has been elaborated. The entire notion of “tipping point” is hypothetical and tenuous. It is a product of bias to presume that a large and complex system (planet) would be susceptible to “tipping” rather than extraordinarily stable against internal superficial changes. A recent paper describes how one might begin to define concepts or measures that would allow even discussing the topic of “tipping point” intelligently, for realistic ecological systems.12

Furthermore, even among scientists, still getting their bearings, there is persistent disagreement as to whether species extinction rates are higher in recent decades. A critical review concludes:13

Net species gains or losses should be assessed with respect to common baselines or reference communities. Ultimately, we need a globally coordinated effort to monitor biodiversity so that we can estimate and attribute human impacts as causes of biodiversity change. A combination of technologies will be needed to produce regularly updated global datasets of local biodiversity change to guide future policy. At this time the conclusion that there is no net change in local species richness is not the consensus state of knowledge.

Reality check

There is a large structurally embedded industry of doomsday narrative. In addition, individuals are reared in a dominance hierarchy and therefore constantly seek messaging about fitting in. The result is that we adopt the State religion. Even if the State is occupied by an exploitative elite, we continue to uphold and follow any State religion that has been sufficiently implanted.

In this case, the State religion is that we are cared-for by mother earth but that our bad behaviour is poisoning mother earth and that we are therefore all at risk, unless we adopt the new stringent conditions that should be imposed globally. Non-believers should be rooted out and isolated. We should demand that all our peers and our representatives do what is prescribed by the State religion.

Meanwhile corporate criminality, while dressed in the colours of the State religion, will continue at an accelerated rate, and our minds and bodies will continue to be occupied.3

I say no. To escape this trap, we must realize that the planet is, well, a planet, with huge response capabilities; that the planet is far more resilient and robust than we imagine.

Habitat destruction and industrial practices are grotesque, and these cause real and significant harm to human communities and ecosystems — more so even than actual wars in the present era … although not more so than so-called economic sanctions and exploitative nation financing. In contrast, “warming” itself cannot hurt the biosphere or humans, nor is the planet at risk of “collapse” from all the criminal practices. That is fabricated nonsense.

Our joint efforts should be on justice, attaining actual democracy, the elimination of criminal behaviour, extortion and exploitation, enforcement of reparations, enforcement of corporate transparency and accountability…

The problem is human behaviour against humans and nature, organized by an occupied dominance hierarchy, and the solutions are political; nothing to do with CO2, methane or anything else in the atmosphere.

  1. Questioning Climate Politics: Denis Rancourt says the ‘global warming myth’ is part of the problem” by Dru Oja Jay, The Dominion, 11 April 2007.
  2. Cancer arises from stress-induced breakdown of tissue homeostasis” by Denis Rancourt, Research Gate, December 2015, DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.1.1304.7129.
  3. GEO-ECONOMICS AND GEO-POLITICS DRIVE SUCCESSIVE ERAS OF PREDATORY GLOBALIZATION AND SOCIAL ENGINEERING: Historical emergence of climate change, gender equity, and anti-racism as State doctrines” by Denis Rancourt, Research Gate, April 2019, DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.26897.89449.
  4. Undertanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky”, by Noam Chomsky, edited by Peter Mitchell and John Schoeffet, The New Press, NY, 2002; at page 388, in Chapter 10 “Turning Point – Based on discussions in Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York, and Maryland in 1994 to 1996 and 1999”, ISBN 1-56584-703-2.
  5. As quoted in “Apocalypse Now! Fear and Doomsday Pleasures” by Erik Swyngedouw, Capitalism Nature Socialism, Volume 24, 2013 – Issue 1, pages 9-18.
  6. Climate change must be tackled before global poverty, says Prince Charles” by Andrew Alderson in Santiago, The Telegraph, 10 March 2009.
  7. Obama: No greater threat to future than climate change” by Madison Park, CNN, 21 January 2015.
  8. Introducing the Scientific Consensus on Maintaining Humanity’s Life Support” by Anthony D Barnosky et al., The Anthropocene Review, 2014, 1: 78.
  9. Avoiding collapse: Grand challenges for science and society to solve by 2050, by Anthony D. Barnosky, Paul R. Ehrlich, and Elizabeth A. Hadly, Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene, 4: 000094, doi: 10.12952/journal.elementa.000094.
  10. Can a collapse of global civilization be avoided?” by Ehrlich, P.R. and Ehrlich, A.H. (2013) Proc R Soc B, 280: 20122845.
  11. Accelerated modern human–induced species losses: Entering the sixth mass extinction” by Ceballos et al., Sci. Adv., 2015, 1: e1400253.
  12. Unifying Research on Social–Ecological Resilience and Collapse” by Graeme S. Cumming and Garry D. Peterson, Trends in Ecology & Evolution, Review| Volume 32, ISSUE 9, P695-713, September 01, 2017.
  13. Estimating local biodiversity change: a critique of papers claiming no net loss of local diversity” by Andrew Gonzalez et al., Ecology, 97(8), 2016, pp. 1949–1960.

Denis G. Rancourt is a former tenured full professor of physics at the University of Ottawa, Canada. He is a researcher for the Ontario Civil Liberties Association. He has published more than 100 articles in leading scientific journals, on physics and environmental science. He is the author of the book Hierarchy and Free Expression in the Fight Against Racism. Denis can be reached at denis.rancourt@gmail.com.

October 3, 2019 Posted by | Environmentalism, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | 1 Comment

EU can order Facebook to remove ‘hate speech’ even if it’s outside Europe, top court says in landmark ruling

RT | October 3, 2019

Facebook must comply with demands from EU nations to remove content deemed illegal, even if the material falls outside of their jurisdiction, a top court has ruled. The decision could undermine freedom of speech on the internet.

The European Court of Justice, the bloc’s top court, said on Thursday that an individual country can order Facebook to remove posts, photographs, and videos, and even restrict access to these materials to people all over the world.

According to the Luxembourg-based court, a national court of any EU country has the right to instruct the social media giant to take down posts considered defamatory in regions beyond its jurisdiction.

The ruling upholds a non-binding opinion from an ECJ adviser in June, which Facebook argued “undermines the longstanding principle that one country should not have the right to limit free expression in other countries.”

The initial opinion came after an Austrian Green party politician sued Facebook, demanding that the platform delete defamatory content about her posted by a user, as well as duplicates of the same material. The complaint was referred to the ECJ by Austria’s High Court. The politician, Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek, insisted that Facebook prevent the content from being viewed worldwide.

This is the second major ECJ ruling in as many months concerning freedom of expression on the internet. In September, the court said that Google does not have to apply the EU’s “right to be forgotten” law globally. The directive requires the tech giant to remove search result listings to pages containing damaging or false information about a person. As a result, Google implemented a feature that prevents European users from being able to see delisted links.

October 3, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , | 1 Comment

The New York Times Called a Famous Cartoonist an Anti-Semite. Repeatedly. They Didn’t Ask Him for Comment.

By Ted Rall | CounterPunch | October 3, 2019

Earlier this year the Portuguese cartoonist António Moreira Antunes drew one of the most controversial political cartoons in history. His cartoon about U.S.-Israeli relations sparked so much controversy that The New York Times, whose international edition published it in April, decided to fire its two staff cartoonists, neither of whom had anything to do with it. Then the Times permanently banned all editorial cartooning.

Antunes took the most flak from the Times itself, as it furiously backpedaled from its own editorial decision to publish his cartoon. In five news stories and editorials, the Newspaper of Record unreservedly described Antunes’ cartoon as anti-Semitic. American media outlets followed the Times’ lead.

“I’m not anti-Semitic, I’m anti-Zionist,” Antunes told me. “In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict I am in favor of two countries and I am against all annexations made by Israel.” The Times censored Antunes’ side of the story from its readers.

Was Antunes’ cartoon, a metaphorical illustration depicting Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu holding the leash of a dog in the form of a blind President Trump, anti-Semitic? That question is both inherently subjective and eminently debatable. “The cartoon is not anti-Semitic, but many political and religious sectors classify any criticism of Israeli policies as anti-Semitic,” Antunes said in an interview.

Pro-Israel groups disagreed. On the other hand, many cartoonists thought there was nothing wrong with it.

But that’s not how the Times covered it. In article after article, Antunes’ cartoon was described as anti-Semitic. It was an objective truth. No one could doubt the cartoon’s anti-Semitism more than the fact that Washington is the capital of the United States.

Times Apologizes for Publishing Anti-Semitic Cartoon,” read the headline on April 28th.

Not “allegedly anti-Semitic.”

Not “cartoon criticized as anti-Semitic.”

In an April 30th editorial, the paper called Antunes’ work “an appalling political cartoon” and “an obviously bigoted cartoon.” It explained: “The cartoon was chosen from a syndication service by a production editor who did not recognize its anti-Semitism.” Not “its possible anti-Semitism.”

Two more articles on the subject appeared on May 1st: “Times Disciplines Editor and Cancels Cartoon Contract Over Anti-Semitic Drawing” (we don’t know what that discipline entailed, but unlike the cartoonist, the editor wasn’t fired) and “After the Publication of an Anti-Semitic Cartoon, Our Publisher Says We’re Committed to Making Changes.” The text of both pieces described the cartoon as self-evidently anti-Semitic.

On June 10th a Times article announced the end of political cartooning in the Gray Lady. Antunes’ cartoon, the Times stated flatly, contained “anti-Semitic imagery.”

Accusing a political cartoonist of anti-Semitism is as serious as it gets. So something jumped out at me as I read the Times’ repeated characterizations of Antunes’ cartoon as anti-Semitic, so devoid of mitigating language: where was his response?

“The New York Times never contacted me at any time,” Antunes now says.

I reached out to the Times about this; I asked why they didn’t talk to him and how the paper made the determination that Antunes’ cartoon was anti-Semitic. James Bennet, the editorial page editor who banned cartoons and presumably wrote the editorials, did not reply to my repeated queries. (I gave him nearly a week to do so.) Neither did two reporters who authored pieces about Antunes.

I did hear back from Stacy Cowley, who wrote the April 28th piece. “I dug around online and was unable to find any contact information for Mr. Antunes,” Cowley explained. “He has no publicly posted contact information that I could find, and as of the date I wrote my article, he had not publicly commented to any other news outlets about his cartoon. (Had he done so, I would have linked to and quoted his comments.)” Cowley said she tried to reach the editors of Antunes’ home paper in Portugal. She noted that she was working on a tight deadline.

I reached Antunes via Facebook; he replied via email.

Contacting the subject of a news story for comment is Journalism 101, a basic ethos taught to students at high school newspapers. That goes double when the article is critical.

“Few writers need to be reminded that we seek and publish a response from anyone criticized in our pages,” the Times says in its Guidelines on Integrity. “But when the criticism is serious, we have a special obligation to describe the scope of the accusation and let the subject respond in detail. No subject should be taken by surprise when the paper appears, or feel that there was no chance to respond.” Given the gravity of the criticism leveled against Antunes, the Times appears to have fallen woefully short of its own standards.

OK, Cowley was on deadline. What about the other articles? They appeared days later. One ran six weeks later. Antunes isn’t a recluse—he’s one of the most prominent cartoonists in Europe. I found him. So did other newspapers.

The Times could have contacted the New York-based syndicate from which it bought Antunes’ cartoon; the syndicate has his contact information, as they do of all their contributors.

Though scarred by his experience, Antunes says that he has not lost business. “The U.S. media” he says, “are prisoners of political correctness, right-wing turning [sic] and social media.” Europe, he says, is more tolerant.

What’s clear is that the Times threw its cartoonist under the bus in a shockingly cavalier fashion—a practice that has become so common that it’s contributing to the imminent extinction of political cartooning.

The Times owes Antunes an apology. They owe the two fired cartoonists their jobs back, along with back pay. Political cartoons should resume their rightful place in the paper.

Finally, the Times owes its readers an assurance that they will never again succumb to the siren call of “fake news” as part of an ethically-challenged witch hunt.

Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for ANewDomain.net, is the author of the book “Snowden,” the biography of the NSA whistleblower.<

October 3, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance | , | 6 Comments

Whistleblower Report is US Intel Community ‘Tremor’ Caused by Barr’s Russiagate Origins Probe

Sputnik – October 3, 2019

US Attorney General William Barr traveled to Rome last week as part of his investigation into the origins of Russiagate. Meanwhile, Democrats have tried to paint Barr’s probe as enlisting foreign support for US President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign, but really the probe “has the intelligence community scared,” an expert told Sputnik.

The Daily Beast reported Wednesday that Barr and US Attorney John Durham, who is heading the probe into why Trump’s 2016 campaign was watched by the FBI and CIA, had traveled to Rome last week as part of their investigation. At the Italian Ministry of Justice, they listened to a taped deposition given by Maltese academic Joseph Mifsud before he disappeared into police protection in 2017, explaining why people might want to harm him.

“Mifsud is the key to the whole Russiagate episode – and it’s a very strange episode … Mifsud is the guy who got the ball rolling,” Daniel Lazare, a journalist and the author of three books – “The Frozen Republic,” “The Velvet Coup” and “America’s Undeclared War” – told Radio Sputnik’s Loud and Clear Wednesday.

“Robert Mueller tried to paint Mifsud as apparently a Russian intelligence asset, but that is not true, because there is ample evidence … connecting Mifsud to Western intelligence. So it’s very important to get to Mifsud, to ask him who put him up to this, what they were thinking and why he did what he did. So apparently that is what Bill Barr is doing in Rome,” Lazare told hosts Brian Becker and John Kiriakou.

In March 2016, about eight months before the US presidential election, Mifsud met newly minted Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos at an event at Link University in Rome, a CIA spy school set up to train employees of Italian intelligence services. Papadopoulos told Sputnik this past April that Mifsud offered to become his window to Eurasian politicos, attempting to woo the adviser by telling him that the Russian government had “thousands” of emails belonging to Hillary Clinton, then the Democratic challenger to Trump.

What happened next is in dispute. US special counsel Robert Mueller concluded that a drunken Papadopoulos blabbed the information at a mixer to Alexander Downer, then the Australian high commissioner to the UK, who then tipped off the CIA, which began the Russiagate investigation. However, Papadopoulos maintained he never told Downer, being conscious of staying on his guard that night, since he didn’t trust the diplomat.

That said, Freedom of Information Act requests by Citizens United this past June revealed that the Steele Dossier, another piece of evidence wielded by US intelligence to claim Trump was colluding with Moscow to steal the election, was actually begun well before any such tip could’ve been given. The dossier, really an assemblage of unsubstantiated claims about Trump churned out by a Ukraine-based research firm contracted first by Democrats, then by the FBI, was compiled by an ex-MI6 agent named Christopher Steele. The documents revealed the FBI knew about the political biases of the dossier – something that “should have set off alarms,” Kevin Brock, the former FBI assistant director for intelligence, told The Hill –  but pressed ahead in financing its compilation nonetheless.

However, when Mueller’s report was released this past March, it found no evidence of collusion, raising the question: why and how did several US intelligence agencies begin the Russiagate probe in the first place? In May, Barr set out to answer just that.

Lazare said he “strongly suspects” that the impeachment inquiry and attempts to stifle Barr’s investigation are part of a factional feud between two parts of the US ruling class.

The writer noted that “unlike [US Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo or Mueller, who are both dunderheads, Bill Barr’s a very, very smart guy, a very formidable guy. He seems to be … conducting a very serious investigation, and I think it’s reasonable to suspect that it has the intelligence community scared, and the intelligence community is, therefore, fighting back.”

“It seems that the most important part of this whistleblower’s report, which took … probably a couple weeks to compile with the approval of higher-ups in the intelligence community … it identified Bill Barr as part of Trump’s effort to enlist foreign support in his re-election campaign” for 2020, Lazare told Sputnik. “So it was really a strike against Barr, and I think that may be the most important part of this whole episode – that it’s sort of an attempt to stop Barr, to force him to back off, and to leave the CIA alone, which has a great deal to answer for, great deal, in this whole Russiagate episode.”

“Trump, and presumably Barr as well, are trying to zero in as to how this whole very weird episode got started. It seems that Barr is moving vigorously on this front, and it seems that tremors are being set off in the intelligence community, and I strongly suspect that this whole episode involving this strange whistleblower report is a manifestation – is one of those tremors going off,” Lazare said.

However, Lazare said he thought impeachment would ultimately “backfire” on the Democrats.

“First of all, the amazing incompetence of the Democrats just can’t be overestimated,” he said. “They’re amazing. And essentially what happened here is the CIA barked an order, and the Democrats snapped to attention.”

“But first of all, the first victim is going to be Joe Biden, I mean, Joe Biden is a dead man walking. This corruption involving his son is astonishing. It’s astonishing that Obama never stepped in, it’s a wonder the State Department didn’t raise any flags; they allowed this kind of nonsense to continue,” Lazare said.

“I think this will open up a huge can of worms. This will bring the infighting in the intelligence community up to the surface, and if Barr ever comes out with his report, which of course the Democrats will scramble to discredit, it won’t make the Democrats look good.”

October 3, 2019 Posted by | Deception | , , | 1 Comment

Poroshenko fails to appear for polygraph

Credit Image: © Pavlo_bagmut/Ukrinform via ZUMA Wire
By Padraig McGrath  | October 3, 2019

Former Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko failed to appear at the Kiev Research Institute of Forensic Expertise for a polygraph test on October 1st. The test was scheduled to be conducted by Ukraine’s National Bureau of Investigations, having been authorized by a Kiev court on August 13th. The polygraph test was scheduled to be conducted in connection with a tax-evasion investigation being carried out by NBI. Poroshenko is currently the focus of over a dozen criminal investigations which have been opened by multiple Ukrainian law-enforcement bodies since he lost the presidential election to Volodymyr Zelensky on a landslide in April. These investigations are in connection with indictments for tax-evasion, embezzlement, illegal abuse of authority, interference in judicial proceedings, forgery of documents and of lawmakers’ signatures, money-laundering, and other corruption-schemes.

The criminal exploits of the Yanukovich family seem quite modest by comparison.

On August 1st, the Vesti Ukraine newspaper reported that Poroshenko had made appeals to American lobbyists for protection from prosecution, including to the BGR Group, where former US Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker acts as a senior advisor. This is a shrewd move on Poroshenko’s part. Over the past 70 years, between the United States government and its myriad puppets, there has been an unspoken agreement.

If you do our dirty work for us, impunity is guaranteed.

And indeed Poroshenko did a lot of dirty work. As president, he was an extremely loyal servant of US foreign policy. Even if President Trump has consistently indicated that he has little interest in Ukraine, there will doubtlessly be voices in the State Department advising him that it sets an extremely unhelpful precedent for the future if the US fails to protect Poroshenko now.

This latest controversy involving Poroshenko is just one instance of a pattern which has emerged steadily in Ukraine, in particular over the past 5 years – the country has developed a love-affair with the polygraph. In January, Ukraine’s most senior military prosecutor, Anatoly Matios, announced that he planned to develop a “polygraph program” in order to identify Russian collaborators and “separatists.”

Used in this way, the technology’s express purpose will be to identify thought-criminals.

As it currently stands, polygraph tests have already been made standard components within job-interviews for many positions in banking, the tax-service, anti-corruption agencies and the military. In addition, polygraph-results are admissible as evidence in Ukrainian courts, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists and criminologists worldwide who are familiar with the methodology and theory behind polygraphy regard it as a pseudo-science. There is very little evidence that polygraph-results are reliable, and lots of empirical evidence to the contrary.

The legal codes of the Sumerian king Ur-Nammu and the Babylonian Hammurabi stipulated the practice of “trial by ordeal,” a practice which survived well into the medieval period in Europe. Polygraphy, which involves monitoring physiological reactions during a line of questioning, is obviously a less physically dangerous method of establishing a person’s innocence or guilt than trial by ordeal, but no less superstitious. Honestly, you may as well be attempting to determine a person’s truthfulness or deception by entrails-divination.

The Ukrainian psychotherapist Irina Muzychuk, a vocal critic of polygraphy, has argued that the proliferation of this pseudo-scientific fad has partially ideological and emotional roots. She argues that in what she calls “highly unstable societies” such as Ukraine, the polygraph offers “hope that the truth will be found.” In a society which has been mired in oligarchism and corruption since it untethered itself from the Soviet Union in 1991, with the result that trust has completely broken down not only on the societal level but also on the interpersonal level, the polygraph operates as a fetishistic, pseudo-scientific substitute for trust.

However, if we were to analyze the phenomenon genealogically, we might also admit that it had deeper roots. Every society, every distinct ideological order, has its own ideologically driven, privileged pseudo-sciences. For example, in the United States, the most privileged pseudo-sciences are psychology and macro-economics. In the post-Soviet space, many privileged or legally mandated pseudo-sciences are hangovers from the “scientism” (in Russian “naukoobrazye”) which inhered in “scientific communism.”

For example, the disciplines which we call “political science” (in Russian “politologia”) and “geo-politics” are pseudo-sciences, insofar as they do not have methodologies which essentially distinguish them from the study of history. Their methodologies essentially centre on making historically-grounded comparisons. Nothing essentially wrong with that in itself – this would make “politologia” essentially a sub-discipline within the venerable study of history. The problem is that most political scientists don’t think as deeply or as long-term as historians. They compensate for this by maintaining scientific pretensions.

In the post-Soviet world, most high-profile purveyors of “politologia” are people who managed to crawl from the epistemological wreckage of “scientific communism” 30 years ago.

I would contend that the widespread use of the polygraph in Ukraine’s juridical process is another clear example of a particular type of “scientism,” this naïve trust in methodologies which purport to be “scientific.” As previously stated, almost every ideological order has its own privileged pseudo-sciences. “Scientism” is certainly not unique to the post-communist world. In the case of Ukraine’s contemporary polygraphy-craze, rather than “scientific communism,” it would count as an example of “pseudo-scientific post-communism.” For those under criminal investigation in Ukraine today, this is a somewhat brutal irony, when we consider the spate of “anti-communization” statutes which have been signed into law in Ukraine since the 2014 coup d’etat. Ukrainian society is just the flip-side of everything it thinks it’s reacting against.

You see, just like religions, secular ideologies cannot simply be erased or surgically removed. They can only morph or mutate. In spite of “secularization,” religion never really culturally disappears – it simply morphs into some post-religious form.

Precisely the same point holds for ostensibly secular ideologies such as communism or liberalism.

October 3, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , | 1 Comment

Iran ready to end nuclear standoff with United States once sanctions are lifted

By Sarah Abed | October 3, 2019

Last week’s United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, presented the perfect opportunity for dialogue and diplomacy between the United States and Iran, in what would have been a historical meeting, the first of its kind between American and Iranian leadership, since Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979. World leaders from France, Germany, Britain, among others attempted to bring the two world leaders together, to no avail.

President Rouhani has said that he is ready to end a nuclear standoff with the United States, if they follow through with lifting sanctions.  Last year, President Trump unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a multilateral nuclear deal and imposed harsh sanctions on Iran under its “maximum pressure” campaign.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron prepared a four-point document which both sides agreed to in principle, whereby Iran would renounce their nuclear ambitions in return for the United States lifting sanctions since 2017 and allowing the immediate resumption of Iranian oil exports and free use of revenues.

President Macron made numerous attempts during the UNGA to facilitate a meeting and even set up a confidential phone call so that both President Trump and President Rouhani could speak about his four-point plan, however that same day President Trump contradicted the message that President Rouhani had received from his French counterpart, when he mentioned to media plans to increase sanctions against Iran.

In addition to the attempts made during the UNGA, President Macron has tried to mediate for a few months and bring both leaders back to the table. He even proposed a 15 billion dollar line of credit to Iran, if the United States approved, but the United States has not shown much interest in this or other sanctions relief options and sees them as contradictory to its “maximum pressure” campaign.

The conditions stated in President Macron’s deal include Iran agreeing to never acquire a nuclear weapon, fully complying with its nuclear obligations and commitments under the JCPOA, accepting to negotiate the long-term framework for its nuclear activities, also refraining from aggression and seeking genuine peace and respect in the region through negotiations.

Iran has said that even though these conditions do not fully reflect Iran’s position and there would need to be some adjustments to the wording, that they would have accepted the trade-off and are still interested in the plan. Iran blames the US for being a roadblock in this deal by not publicly stating that they are willing to lift sanctions.

It’s an unlevel playing field…while the United States decides when or if they are ready to re-negotiate a nuclear deal, Iranian civilians are paying the price. Sanctions have made it hard for the most vulnerable members of society to afford medicine and food.

The main reason why President Rouhani refused to speak with his American counterpart at the UNGA was because he does not trust that the United States is sincere about their desire to re-negotiate a nuclear deal, they have already completely disregarded the current multilateral deal that was agreed upon under the previous administration and signed by former president Barack Obama. When said agreement was put into place, after a decade of negotiations and countless meetings through diplomatic channels, it was meant to outlive the previous president and continue through future administrations.

Iran is not interested in a meaningless photo-op or another one of President Trump’s publicity stunts where he meets with a “controversial” world leader simply to bolster public opinion. Iran wants action, and that begins with lifting crippling sanctions. Without establishing trust through sanctions relief, they do not see progress as possible.

While speaking at his weekly cabinet meeting on Wednesday, President Rouhani said that Iran supports the general framework of the plan being pushed by European countries that are part of the JCPOA.

Iran’s allies such as China and Russia have ignored threats by the United States to sanction them if they continue doing business with Iran. While the United States shuns Iran, its leadership has been making strides in increasing diplomatic relations with South and Central American countries, as well as Asian countries with Pakistan even offering to mediate between the United States and Iran.

Iran is set to take its fourth step towards reducing its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) next month if European brokered diplomacy with the United States does not yield favorable results.  Every sixty days a step has been publicly stated and then taken since May by Iran.  Iran has stated that they are willing to be in full compliance with the JCPOA if sanctions are lifted.

Iran has said that these measures are within the framework of the JCPOA and in compliance with articles 26 and 36 of the Iran nuclear deal. Iran has also said that the IAEA can still access its nuclear sites while it reduces its commitments under the JCPOA. These reductions are in response to the United States’ “extensive and regular” violations of the JCPOA.

It’s seemingly evident that Washington’s “maximum pressure” campaign which includes oil and banking embargos has not broken Iran to the point where they are forced to fold on important stances. The Iranian government has called out the United States on their aim to bring Iranian oil exports to zero.

Washington’s on-going attempt at regime-change in Iran has also been noted. Iran hasn’t been shy about exposing the role Washington has played in the Middle East and shining a light on their support for terrorist groups which they claim to be supposedly fighting, while Iran, Russia, Syria and regional partners defeat terrorists.

Iran has called on US troops to leave the Middle East.  Washington’s long-term intentions in northeastern Syria and their use of Kurdish militias revolves around protecting Israel, while keeping a watchful eye on Iran.

October 3, 2019 Posted by | Wars for Israel | , , , | 2 Comments

Ukraine gains from Trump’s impeachment inquiry

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | October 2, 2019

The controversy swirling around the phone conversation between the US President Donald Trump and Ukraine President Vladimir Zelensky regarding the business interests of former vice-president Joe Biden’s son is having a salutary effect on the conflict in Ukraine.

The US Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker has resigned from his official position once it transpired that his name appeared in the whistleblower complaint about Trump’s dealings with Zelensky. (Meanwhile, Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, also implicated Volker saying that the latter encouraged him to speak to Ukrainian officials regarding Biden and his son Hunter Biden.) Volker is expected to testify in the Congress’ impeachment inquiry on Thursday.

Now, Volker also enjoys an impeccable reputation as a Russia hawk with extensive diplomatic experience on that front in NATO previously. He recently said that “there is a long way to go before there would be any normalisation between the two countries (Russia and Ukraine). Russia’s invasion, occupation, and claimed annexation of Crimea will never be accepted by Ukraine.”

Volker’s exit is the surest sign that for the foreseeable future, US-Ukraine relations have become toxic. Put differently, for the first time after the “regime change” in Ukraine in 2014, no US official worth his salt will want to risk hobnobbing with the powers that be in Kiev.

This “hands-off” phase gives Zelensky a free hand to handle his country’s relations with Russia. The same holds good for Moscow which gets an opportunity to deal with Kiev without the Americans breathing over the neck of the Ukrainian president.

It is in this backdrop that we need to asses the outcome of the meeting of the Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine – Ukraine, Russia and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe — in Minsk on October 1. The meeting agreed to a peace process known as the “Steinmeier Formula,” green-lighting local elections in the Russian-controlled regions of Donbas.

The meeting agreed that the warring parties will withdraw their military and equipment in Donbas, dismantle fortifications, and conduct de-mining. The agreement envisages that the separatist regions will get a special self-governing status after they hold local elections. (The pro-Russia separatists are seeking a special status allowing for self-governance in the Donbas region, large parts of which have been under their control since April 2014.)

In preparation for the election, the Ukrainian government and separatist leaders will withdraw troops from two locations in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions next week. No doubt, this development signifies a major step by Zelensky toward resolution of the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

The “Steinmeier Formula” is a concept attributed to then German Foreign Minister (presently president of Germany), Frank-Walter Steinmeier dating back to 2015-2016, designed to implement the political clauses of the Minsk “accords” (2014 and 2015) to settle the conflict in Donbas.

However, the concept could not be implemented due to Kiev’s reservations (under American pressure.) Washington persuaded Kiev that Steinmeier’s Formula in effect served to legitimise Russia’s “proxies” in the separatist regions by means of staging local elections, which in turn aimed at allowing Russia’s de facto control of that territory, even if the territory were to be notionally reinserted into Ukraine.

The former pro-US Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko simply refused to work with Russia, Germany and France to codify Steinmeier’s Formula. Indeed, the US strategy aimed at preventing any “thaw” between Kiev and Moscow.

Poroshenko maintained that holding democratically valid elections in Donbas under the shadow of a Russian presence there was unthinkable. Volker too repeatedly articulated this stance. In early September, Volker was quoted as saying that a secure environment would have to be established in Donbas before implementing the political and technical procedures for holding elections.

Volker underscored that as minimal preconditions to a secure environment, the Russian military must withdraw from Donbas, the Russian-backed separatist forces must be dissolved, and the Ukrainian side of the border has to be brought under non-Russian control.

The Russian interpretation of the Minsk accords has been that all solutions (special status, elections, border control, etc.) be negotiated between Kiev and the separatist leaders in Donbas. Germany and France do not challenge the Russian interpretation.

Therefore, the breakthrough on Tuesday must be equally attributed to the political transition in Kiev leading to the election of Zelensky (on a mandate of resolving the conflict in Donbas and normalising relations with Russia) as well as the elbow room he is getting lately to shake off American pressure. Volker’s exit will do a world of good for resolving the Donbas conflict.

The agreement on October 1 paves the way for a summit between Zelensky and the leaders of Russia, France and Germany within the ambit of the “Normandy Four” (France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine). Russia had previously refused such a meeting, unless Ukraine agreed to hold local election in the Donbas region.

On Tuesday, Zelensky said that nothing should stand in the way of the summit, and that a date would be announced soon. The French President Emmanuel Macron said he expected the summit in the coming weeks.

Germany, which authored the Steinmeier Formula, feels gratified. The German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said, “I am glad that the constructive atmosphere at the session of the Contact Group in Minsk has led to long-awaited progress. This makes way for the Normandy Four summit and further steps in the implementation of the Minsk Agreements.”

The Kremlin concurs, too.

The “big picture” is that Russia’s relations with the European powers are looking up, finally. The close consultations between Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin in the recent weeks and months are resulting in a determined effort to address the frozen conflict in Ukraine, which had led to the EU sanctions against Russia. (See my blog Eurasian politics on the cusp of change.)

On the other hand, liberated from the clutches of manipulative American diplomats, especially following Volker’s exit, Zelensky can be expected to advance his strategy to improve relations with Russia. In fact, Zelensky has lost no time to initiate the first steps to introduce legislation giving “special status” to Donbas.

“We will have a new law, that will be drafted by the parliament in close cooperation with the public after a public discussion. No red lines will be crossed in it, and that is why there will be no capitulation,” Zelensky said on Tuesday.

October 3, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 5 Comments