Archive for April, 2014

Funny Business in Ukraine

April 19, 2014

Victoria Nuland and Geoffrey Pyatt in Kiev in December.

I strongly urge people to read the transcript of the telephone conversation between Assistant Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland and US ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt. It is quite revealing of how the leading members of our government view the rest of the world. They casually talk about who should or should not be in the new Ukrainian government, as if they have a right to make such a decision. The question of what the Ukrainian people want is apparently not important to them. And they show a contempt for Europe in general. (“Fuck the EU”. Can you imagine what the reaction here would be if a European diplomat said that about the US?) This is not a minor matter, since Ukraine is now on the verge of civil war, at least partly as a result of the actions of these people.

The US protested about Russia’s tapping of a diplomatic conversation. This is hypocrisy, since the US has tapped the phones of European leaders such as Angela Merkel. However, we should acknowledge that Russia’s behavior in Ukraine has been no better than that of the US. We on the left should not side with imperial powers, but with ordinary people on both sides who are opposed to war and ethnic violence.

I normally don’t dabble in conspiracy theories, but I can’t help but wonder if the recent “Jews must register” hoax in Donetsk was done as a way of getting back at Russia for the embarrassment of the release of the Nuland phone transcript.

Okay, I’ll put away my tinfoil hat now.

Obamcare’s Tiny Dent

April 10, 2014


President Obama and his supporters are crowing about how 7 million people have signed up for health insurance since Obamacare inched rolled out. This number sounds impressive, until one thinks about what it actually means. Writing in Firedoglake, Jon Walker tells us:

    Not all 7 million who have selected a plan on the exchange will actually get coverage because they won’t follow through with paying their premiums. Sebelius said about 80-90% of people who have signed up so far have actually paid their first premium. If we assume roughly 15% of people won’t fully complete the process the roughly 7 million signups should translates to about 6 million people actually being covered by exchange policies this year.

The Los Angeles Times, on the other hand, tells us that 8 million people have “gained coverage” since last September. For the sake of argument, let’s take the Time‘s more optimistic figure of 8 million. (It’s not clear whether all of these people were uninsured before. For the sake of argument, let’s assume they were.) According to all the sources I’ve consulted, the number of Americans without health insurance before Obamacare seeped rolled out was around 44 million. That would mean that there are still about 36 million uninsured Americans. So, even when we make the most optimistic assumptions, it is still clear that Obamacare has been a failure.

Ah, but we live in the Age of Public Relations, in which every failure can be presented as a success. So we are told, for example, that the Iraq War was a success, even though, by every objective standard, it was a failure.

Single payer is the only way to solve the health care crisis in this country.

Gilad Atzmon and Veterans Today Declare War on the Weimar Republic

April 5, 2014


I was looking at CounterPunch the other day, and I noticed an article by Eugene Schulman entitled “What Heidegger Hysteria Tells Us About the Press”. This piqued my curiosity, so I read it. The article turned out to be only tangentially about Heidegger. It’s main argument is that the New York Times is pro-Israel. (The late Alexander Cockburn made this point about ten million times. I guess Schulman must be new to CounterPunch.) I did find one passage interesting:

    In a recent article published at the Veterans Today website controversial author of “The Wandering Who?”, Gilad Atzmon, takes to task The Guardian newspaper for an article criticizing the publication of Martin Heidegger’s ‘black notebooks’. Heidegger was one of the 20th Century’s most famous philosophers, almost best known for having joined the Nazi party during the war years [Heidegger joined the Nazi Party in 1933] and, thus, gaining the reputation for being anti-Semitic.

I guess that’s what happens when you join the Nazi Party. Anyway, the article provides a link to Veterans Today (which I had never heard of before). I must guiltily confess that I gave in to my morbid sense of curiosity and clicked on it. VT calls itself a “Military & Foreign Affairs Journal”, and it tells us that it has been serving “Military & Veterans for 40+ Years”. Among other things, it provides job listings for veterans and information for how veterans can get loans. Atzmon’s article is titled “The Banality Of The Guardian Of Judea”. In it, he defends Heidegger from the accusation of anti-Semitism. I found this passage particularly interesting:

    Heidegger was a German patriot. As such he knew very well that it was Zionist leadership and German Jewish bankers in America that facilitated the entry of the USA into the first world war (in return in part for the 1917’s Belfour Declaration that promised a national home for Jews in Palestine). In that regard, Heidegger, like his contemporaries, had good reason to believe that Germany was betrayed by its Jewish elite.

There you have it: the “stabbed in the back” lie, dusted off and presented to American military veterans.

My morbid sense of curiosity was now in overdrive. I searched around the VT website. I found out that VT is big on 9/11 conspiracy theories. (One recent article is titled “Malaysian plane disappearance linked to 9/11”). They like Vladimir Putin a lot. I also found an article by someone named Jonas E. Alexis titled “Hitler and Germany’s Sexual Question (Part II)”. It’s a rambling, somewhat confusing article, but it makes clear that Alexis doesn’t care much for Weimar Germany:

    Theater in Germany began to produce films such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), directed and written by Jewish producers Robert Wiene and Hans Janowitz. This particular film was teleological in nature: it was supposed to hypnotize audiences in an expressionist and psychoanalytic form.

    Other films of the same genre included Carl Mayer’s The Last Laugh (1924), Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927), Madchen in Uniform (1931), and Kuhle Wampe (1932).[14] Madchen in Uniform was an explicitly pro-lesbian film, something that was completely contrary to the Prussian education system at the time, and many of the cast in the movie were Jewish.

Yes, we’ve got to point out those Jews, don’t we? Alexis adds:

    Madchen in Uniform became a symbol for feminist movements in the 1970s, one of the weapons used against the existing culture. Moreover, Jewish film directors and producers, like many current Jewish directors in Hollywood (Eli Roth and David Cronenberg come to mind), knew that they were indirectly changing the social and cultural mode of Germany.

Huh? Do Roth and Cronenberg have a time machine? Later on, Alexis writes:

    This anger [Hitler’s] began to escalate after World War I when he [Hitler] saw what was happening in the press and theatre in Germany, when art in general was being used to denigrate the German culture.

    What perhaps moved Hitler’s anger to a new height was that the Jews were less than three percent of the population, yet they largely controlled the theatre and were promoting what he would call “filth” and “pornography.”

    For Hitler, these acts “must have been definitely intentional.” Moreover, he got first-hand knowledge after World War I that pornography was almost exclusively a Jewish phenomenon.

It’s interesting to note that Alexis is black. I wonder if Alexis has ever done any research on Hitler’s views on blacks. (Another black contributor to VT is H. K. Edgerton. VT tells us that he does “Confederate street preaching for the South”.)

I looked at the page listing the editorial board for VT. They list as a board member, Lt. General Hamid Gul, who, they claim, is “Director General ISI (Former Chief of Intelligence Services, Pakistan)”. About another board member, we are told:

    Gordon Duff is an accredited diplomat and is generally accepted as one of the top global intelligence specialists. He manages the world’s largest private intelligence organization and regularly consults with governments challenged by security issues.

I bet. I noticed that one of VT’s Iran bureau chiefs just happens to be none other than our old friend, Ismail Salami. (Small world, isn’t it?) One frequent contributor to VT is Franklin Lamb, who is also a frequent contributor to CounterPunch.

According to, Veterans Today receives a little more than 377,000 views a month in the U.S. That is close to the number of views that CounterPunch receives each month (386,400). It is substantially more than the number of views that Dissident Voice, which also posts articles by Atzmon and Salami, receives (35,600).

I’m not sure what exactly to make of these numbers, but one thing clear to me is that Gilad Atzmon has found a warm, welcoming, safe space.


April 1, 2014


A recent article by Patrick Cockburn in The Independent argues that the “War on Terror” has been a failure. He points out that jihadists have seized control of large areas of Iraq and Syria and that the Taliban have been making a resurgence in Afghanistan. He argues that the main reason for this is that the United States and Britain are allied with the two governments that do the most to spread jihadism: those of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. You can’t win a struggle when you’re allied with your enemies. (Those on the left who advocate the “red-brown” strategy should think about this.)

Wadjda, Haifaa al-Mansour’s 2012 film set in Saudi Arabia, gives us a rare glimpse inside a country that is often misunderstood in the West. (9/11 Truthers will be surprised to learn that people in Saudi Arabia do not live in caves.)

This film tells the story of Wadjda (Waad Mohammed), a young girl who dreams of owning a bicycle. Girls riding bicycles is frowned upon in religiously conservative Saudi Arabia. Wadjda’ mother (Reem Abdullah) works as a teacher. Because women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, she has to be driven to work by a hired driver who treats her rudely. Wadjda’s father (Sultan Al Assaf) is loving and kind, but his parents pressure him into taking a second wife, because Wadjda’s mother can no longer bear children.

At Wadjda’s school, we see the headmistress (Ahd Kamel) scold some girls for laughing in the schoolyard – apparently because men can hear them. This film portrays the bleakness of religious fundamentalism. Wadjda subtly resists, yet she herself succumbs to it at times; for example, she betrays a couple of her fellow students to the headmistress at one point. This film ends on a heart-warmingly optimistic note, however.

Wadjda features strong performances and is beautifully filmed. This is an all the more remarkable achievement considering that this film was made under less than ideal conditions. (It is the first feature film made in Saudi Arabia, as well as the first film directed by a woman there.) Wadjda is about as close to a perfect film as I have ever seen.