Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Little Birch Tree -- Will It Fall To Russiaphobic Axe?

A controversy is raging among instructors in a national preschool music education program: should the Russian folk song that is traditionally part of April's curriculum be taught this year? For your reference, "Little Birch Tree" is performed here by the Seattle Girls Choir in times slightly less rife with hatred for Russia.

The inability of people in the U.S. to reason about the connections -- if any -- between traditional cultural artifacts and current geopolitical realities frightens me. Ban Russian chess players who express support for Russia's invasion of Ukraine, they cry! Guessing they missed The Queen's Gambit film about chess and Russian influence in that sphere? But that's beside the point. The point is, which U.S. chess champions were banned for supporting U.S. imperial wars on Syria, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. ?

Don't teach the authors Dostoevsky or Solzhenitsyn, they demand! Even though both were anti-authoritarian thinkers whose books long since entered the canon of world literature. And are dead. Not to mention that you will not find a book with the depth and breadth of The Idiot to replace it in your syllabus.

Even license plates are suspect these days. Here's an apologia for a vanity plate I saw on the street this morning:

Meanwhile, back in Maine, the home of the late peacemaker Samantha Smith, spring gardeners are facing up to the reality that nearly all varieties of tomatoes that grow well in our state are, um, Russian. Or descended from Russians. (Full disclosure: we have a lot of birch trees as well.)

I'm laughing at all this so I don't cry because, really, it is frightening how aggressively ignorant your average corporate news consumer is showing herself to be these days. Check out some of them spouting off in reply to my tweet after President Biden's gaffe calling for regime change to remove Russia's leader. (My reference is to a U.S. oligarch defending the right to topple Bolivia's elected government after he was blocked from mining lithium there.)

They sure told me, didn't they? The only one that even bothered to mount an argument either believes the Russian invasion was "without provocation" or chooses to say so despite copious evidence to the contrary. (Maybe because he doesn't want to be banned from Twitter for failing to spout the party line?).

As one music teacher commented about the attempt to ban the birch tree song for being Russian, "This is how people end up in concentration camps."

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Burying The Lede: Ice Shelf Collapses In East Antarctica

With corporate media paying nonstop attention to the proxy war in Ukraine and the flood of refugees (at least, those refugees who look like well-fed Europeans) and moderate attention to galloping inflation, and economic sanctions against Russia with consequent fuel and food shortages yet to come, who noticed this catastrophic news?

This morning I had to scroll through a couple of screens of my big daily newspaper to find an article on the subject after I'd seen the headline on Twitter yesterday. I went looking for it because it was a headline that stayed with me, a reminder that the most pressing security threat to humans -- no matter what wars are raging -- is climate crisis.

Both poles experienced temperatures 70 degrees Farenheit (21 degrees Celsius) higher than normal last week, and scientists speculate that their previous belief in the relative stability of the eastern ice sheet may have been in error. 

The East Antarctic Ice Sheet holds so much frozen water that, if it goes, the melting will cause planetary oceans to rise 160 feet (48.768 meters).

That seems like a hell of a lede to me, but what do I know?

One thing I do know is that militarism, and in particular U.S. militarism, is a major driver of global warming and climate crisis.

I've been collecting research and reporting on this for years. It's a little know fact that is routinely ignored in the corporate press, even when they are cheerleading for war.

Space exploration including rocket launches are also in the news, consistently reported in tones of breathless excitement, but it also contributes to climate change as well as other environmental harms (think PFAS and toxic rain) and damage to the ozone layer.

We ignore these realities at our peril. Because one thing I know for certain:

our planet's atmosphere is not patriotic and there are no good or bad emissions.

Scientific information is routinely subject to political control, but that does not change facts on the ground. 

Ground that is not yet underwater, at least for now.


Friday, March 25, 2022

U.S. Peace Council Statement On Russia’s Military Intervention in Ukraine

Memorial to victims burned to death in an Odessa trade union hall by neo-Nazis May 2, 2014, one of the more gruesome events of the civil war in Ukraine. Source: Morning Star online

If I could I would sign on to this excellent U.S. Peace Council statement on Russia's Military Intervention in Ukraine. In lieu of signing, I'm reposting.

U.S. Peace Council Statement

On Russia’s Military Intervention
in Ukraine

What we all hoped would not happen has happened. The Russian Federation sent troops into Ukraine on February 24 in response to decades of relentless US-led NATO provocation. The present situation puts many serious, fundamental questions before the global peace movement.

A fierce propaganda campaign, long simmering with Russiagate and the onset of a new Cold War, demonizing the Russian president and state has intensified. Wholesale condemnation of Russia has assumed global proportions, instigated by the US and allies, and supported by their sycophantic media. Alternative views and voices of opposition to the official anti-Russian narrative have been suppressed or shut down.

Not surprisingly, many people subjected to this toxic bombardment of massive imperialist propaganda have placed all the blame on Russian aggression. Various reasons are given to justify their, in our view dangerous, position. Let us look at some of these justifications and assess the degree of their moral, legal, and political validity.

Applying the UN Charter

The first and most morally justifiable reason given is the argument that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is in violation of the Charter of the United Nations. Based on this fundamental principle, shouldn’t the U.S. Peace Council, a staunch supporter and advocate of the Charter, also condemn Russia as a violator?

Let us look at the UN Charter to see whether we can firmly decide that Russia is in violation:

Article 2

3. All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.

4. All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.

Article 51

Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations....

Looking at Article 2, especially paragraph 4, it can be argued that Russia is in violation. But based on Article 51, the Russian Federation has invoked its right to self-defense and has duly informed the Security Council. Russia presents important arguments in favor of its use of force under Article 51.

The Ukraine government has acted as the US and NATO's proxy in hostilely encircling the Russian Federation. Ukraine military and paramilitaries have attacked Donetsk and Lugansk since 2014, resulting in the deaths of some 14,000 of their own people*, many of whom were Russian speakers and some dual citizens. Most recently, Russia discovered an imminent Ukrainian government plan for a large-scale invasion of the Donetsk and Lugansk that border Russia. Russia now recognizes these two republics as independent states, after they asked Russia to aid in their defense.  

Russia clearly asked for security guarantees from the US and NATO, which refused to adequately respond to Russia's concerns. Ukraine was planning to host US/NATO nuclear weapons on its territory that could reach Moscow in a matter of five minutes. This took place in the alarming context of the US decision in 2019 to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia.

If this is not an act of war against Russia, what is it? Aren’t those who are complicit in an act of murder equally guilty of murder? This is not to say that Russia was right in its decision. Rather we are insisting that the UN Charter should be applied to Ukraine on the basis of facts, as a specific case with a given historical background.

Second, the United Nations itself has been unsuccessful in upholding its own Charter in the face of blatant violations by the NATO states. Here, our intention is not to justify the Russian action, but to provide a realistic context for the need to uphold the UN Charter.

Since the end of the Soviet Union, when the US became the sole superpower, Washington has blatantly ignored the UN Charter in its drive to impose global “full spectrum" dominance. We should understand NATO as more than just an “alliance” of nominally sovereign states, but as an imperial military integrated under US command.

Let us look at two of the relevant articles of the UN Charter that have been trampled upon by the imperialist powers since the end of the century:

Article 6.

A Member of the United Nations which has persistently violated the Principles contained in the present Charter may be expelled from the Organization by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council.

Article 25.

The Members of the United Nations agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council in accordance with the present Charter.

US, NATO, and their allies have increasingly violated these and other articles of the UN Charter over the past two decades. Here are just a few examples:

— In 1998 for 78 days, NATO attacked, dropped 28,000 bombs, and shattered Yugoslavia into pieces without the consent of the United Nations.

— In 2001, as a response to the 9/11 attack, US declared an indefinite “war on terror,” affecting at least 60 countries, including seven targeted for illegal regime change.

— In 2003, US and the members of its “coalition of the willing” illegally attacked and invaded Iraq in defiance of the UN Security Council.

— In 2011 US, UK, and France unilaterally and without the consent of the UN Security Council attacked Libya and killed its leader, Moammar Qaddafi.

— Starting in 2011, US, NATO, and regional allies started a proxy war in Syria by arming and funding terrorist groups, a war which is still taking innocent lives.

— In 2014, the US staged a coup with the help of neo-Nazi forces in Ukraine and established a pro-NATO government, which led to the massacre of Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine.

— Throughout this period, the US and its European allies have imposed illegal unilateral economic sanctions on more than 40 countries of the world, causing the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent people.

— And, of course, one should mention the illegal occupation and annexation of Syrian and Palestinian territories by Israel with full support of the United States.

The crisis facing us in Ukraine today is a result of the UN’s inability to uphold its charter against such illegal actions by the sole superpower and its NATO allies, which has enabled US/NATO to push Russia and other targeted nations of the world into such an impossible situation.

Yes, we should defend the UN Charter, but not selectively as imperialism hypocritically wants us to. We should not allow ourselves to be duped by imperialism’s “blame the victim” narrative when the victim is forced to defend itself.

Inter-Imperialist War

Many, especially on the left, have taken the position that Russia is a capitalist/imperialist state, that this is an inter-imperialist war, and that we have to condemn both sides equally. But whether or not Russia is an imperialist state is irrelevant to the issue at hand.

First, such a position implies that only countries with certain socio-economic systems need to be defended against imperialist aggression and others should be left to fend for themselves. Given the fact that the majority of countries targeted by imperialism are capitalist themselves, such a position leads to weakening the anti-imperialist struggle.

The second and more important problem with this kind of argument is that it removes the whole issue of aggression from the picture. It no longer matters who is the aggressor and who is the victim. It obviates the fact that the US seeks to be the world’s hegemon with global “full-spectrum” dominance. In short, US imperialism generated a war without using US soldiers.

Let us, for the sake of argument, assume that Russia is indeed an imperialist state and that what is going on is nothing but an inter-imperialist war. Even so, isn’t this inter-imperialist war going to impact the future of humanity? Don’t we all have a stake in its outcome?

False Equivalency of US/NATO and Russian Roles

As a peace organization, we cannot principally agree with the escalation of the Ukraine conflict to the level of military confrontation. However, we oppose the one-sided position of condemning Russia alone.

Some others have taken a more “balanced” position of condemning both sides, by simultaneously calling a halt in NATO expansion and the withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukraine. But this position, too, ignores the causal relationships inherent the Ukraine situation. It places the cause and effect on the same level, while ignoring the fact that the NATO expansion is the material cause of the Russian military response. For these reasons, the position of equivalent blame superficially looks balanced but, in reality, isn’t.

Second, the natures of the two demands are different. The first is a general, strategic, long-term demand; the second is an immediate and concrete one. By formulating the demands in this way, such a position inevitably ends up putting the main pressure on Russia alone.

Third, the first demand about NATO expansion is not specific to the case of Ukraine while the second one is. It ignores the fact that US/NATO has flooded Ukraine with hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of military equipment along with dispatching military and covert operations personnel to “advise.” A correct demand would be recognition of Ukraine as a neutral state, removal of all foreign weapons and military personnel (including mercenaries) from Ukraine, and full implementation of Minsk II agreement.

NATO’s success in its effort to expand to the Ukraine-Russia border would create a hellish world and lead to the possibility of a nuclear war. Let us not forget that the story would not end there, and Belarus could be the next target. So, it is imperative for the peace movement to do everything we can to guarantee Ukraine’s neutrality and US/NATO’s recognition of it.

U.S. Peace Council Assessment

The US with its NATO allies have not only provoked this tragedy but have sought to prolong it in their refusal to engage in negotiations for a ceasefire. While no one wins in a war, the US has had the most to gain: further unifying NATO under US domination, reducing Russian economic competition in the European energy market, justifying increasing the US war budget, and facilitating sales of war materiel to NATO vassals. A Europe further divided between the EU/UK and Russia benefits none but the imperial US.

On the basis of this assessment of the present situation in Ukraine, the U.S. Peace Council raises the following immediate demands, in order of priority and urgency:

1. Immediate ceasefire and dispatch of humanitarian aid to Ukraine, including the self-proclaimed independent republics.

2. Recognition of the neutrality of Ukraine.

3. Withdrawal of foreign militaries, weapons, and equipment – including mercenaries – from Ukraine.

4. Resumption of negotiations for a permanent settlement of internal conflicts in Ukraine with the participation of all parties concerned.

U.S. Peace Council
March 24, 2022


U.S. Peace Council • P.O. Box 3105, New Haven, CT 06515 • (203) 387-0370 •
• • • @USPeaceCouncil

*A friend who is a stickler for accuracy did some research into the often cited 14,000 deaths figure and shared the following breakdown:
3,393 civilians (312 foreigners)
4,641 Armed Forces of Ukraine, National Guard of Ukraine, and volunteer forces
5,772 United Armed Forces of Novorossiya
400-500 Russian Armed Forces

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Open Letter To Rep. Chellie Pingree On Ukraine

My photo of members of Maine's peace lobby meeting with Rep. Chellie Pingree in Portland during her first term of office.

I don't live in her district in Maine but I get Rep. Chellie Pingree's newsletter anyway and today it was truly appalling. She ran as an peace candidate with a background in organic family farming. How far she has drifted from serving the people to serving the wealthy during her 13 years in office! 

Here's my response to her recent messaging in the form of an open letter that might reach her.

Dear Rep. Pingree,

I read your email message today with interest. By spreading the demonstrably false claim -- "As Russia continues its unprovoked attack on the people of Ukraine" -- you appear to be either dangerously naive or a knowing promoter of lies about NATO and U.S. involvement in the region.

Where is your moral compass? Did you have one back in the day but years in Washington DC serving the Democratic Party and its corporate ownership eroded it?

If you actually believe Russia's intervention in Ukraine's civil war was unprovoked, and that roughly 14,000 casualties in the Donbas were mythical or perhaps not important, please find some better sources of information. 

Source: Covert Action Magazine

For starters, you might want to read this expose, U.S. Lied About Funding “Dangerous Pathogen” Research in Secret Ukrainian Biolabs, Newly Leaked Documents Reveal, by Dilyana Gaytandzhieva published March 22.

Or maybe you already know about this from your congressional briefings? 

Russia is the enemy du jour and mostly a pathway to rendering China without a major ally as the world moves away from U.S. domination of its trade and finance. 

blocking the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany worth risking a nuclear world war? I suspect your children or grandchildren might have a different opinion. There is no amount of wealth that would compensate them for a WW3 with nukes.

How about supporting diplomacy instead fanning the flames of conflict? 

Or is conflict what your military-industrial campaign donors require? 

Source: Donors to Rep. Pingree's campaign coffers by industry

As the U.S. produces little other than weapons nowadays, endless war is a marketing scheme.

Lisa Savage 


Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Hating On __________ Is What Gives Life Meaning

I suspect that our own oligarchs put 45 in office to pave the way for this war. 

Hating on 45 is what gave life meaning for many. 

Meanwhile, the false narrative that Putin put him in office took hold and dominated the airwaves for years. Once 45 was gone there was a giant hole in the liberal psyche and guess what conveniently came along to fill it?

Narrative managers were counting on ignorance of the 2014 Maidan coup and the civil war that ensued. Counting on the ignorance of those whom Chomsky has called the most propagandized people in history is usually a safe bet.

And in case it's not safe enough, even more ignorance is served up in the daily deluge of sophisticated advertising,

information management,

 and censorship.

I discussed this and more yesterday with Regis Tremblay on his YouTube channel that now has 8,300 subscribers. Catch it now before it, too, falls to the censor's axe.

Link in case embedded video does not work for you:

Monday, March 7, 2022

Turd In The Punchbowl

My husband, Mark, who has opposed any and all wars since evading the draft during the Vietnam War.

For the past five and half years, liberals in the U.S. have salivated on command in response to the messaging "Trump bad" ==> "Trump supported by Putin" ===> "Putin bad" even unto the absurdity of "Putin = Hitler." The president of the Russian Federation's speech about trying to achieve the "denazification" of yes, actual Nazis in Ukraine, fell on deaf ears. Because false dichotomy is about as deep as liberals' analysis is able or willing to go these days. 

The void previously filled by daily outrage at 45 has been ably filled by fresh hate for an associated villain.

When I showed up yesterday at an antiwar vigil in Oakland, California with this sign, about 100 participants saw it but many didn't get it. Some got it and scowled; I was the turd in the punchbowl. The messaging of this crowd was all over the place, but I was the only one with an obvious anti-imperialist message.

This man in a U.S. Air Force jacket saw it and was inspired to add NATO YES to his sign which had previously said only #closethesky. (He added #noflyzone also, possibly for clarity.)

Two older ladies approached me individually to say, "I don't understand your sign." 

They were polite and that helped me resist the temptation to be snarky about what's not to understand. For all I know they really don't know what NATO stands for. 

Source: Media watchdog FAIR's article, "Calling Russia's Attack 'Unprovoked' Lets U.S. Off The Hook"

One of them had clearly been to the ribbon store and was bedecked head to toe in Ukrainian yellow and blue (kudos to whoever conceived of the color revolutions strategy). USAians have been in training for color-themed "revolutions" all their lives as their televisions told them to wear the colors of one sports team in opposition to another sports team. They have derived their identities from which teams they cheer on and which hats they wear while cheering.

The banner you can't quite read here says WELLSTONE Democracy Renewal Club. I believe it makes reference to Paul Wellstone, U.S. Senator from Minnesota who died in a mysterious plane crash while campaigning for re-election as a progressive Democrat.

The lady who was yellow and blue all over asked me why I had brought a "no NATO" message to the event. I explained that I was not supporting Russia's attacks but that I hold NATO's instigating responsible for the suffering of the Ukranian people. She didn't appear to agree but she did nod thoughtfully and thanked me for explaining.

The other lady was not color-themed but looked like a garden variety old hippie. A lot of retirees live in this neighborhood and I'd say the average age of the crowd hovered around 60. Why the organizers had decided to hold the vigil right next to the all day Sunday drum circle held each week by Black drummers and dancers is a mystery to me.

The older woman listened to me explain my sign and asked a few questions. She appeared to actually be interested and at the end she commented, "You sound like you really know what you're talking about." I detected no sarcasm.

How is it that such a mature and affluent crowd doesn't know what I'm talking about? Even if they disagree with my analysis, how can it be that they've never even heard of it?

Because if all your news for the last 50 years came from NPR and the New York Times, you end up quite ignorant. 

Educational level notwithstanding, you have swallowed false dichotomy hook, line, and sinker.

I'm not sure if either woman noticed the reverse of my sign. I see "no NATO" and the symbol for peace derived from symbols for nuclear disarmament as two sides of the same coin, not opposites.

This was one of the more nuanced messages at the vigil (side 1 and side 2):

Before my husband and I had even walked the few blocks back home this tweet I sent from the vigil

had drawn the fire of about twenty Twitter warriors for the status quo. I didn't know any of them and we had not been in contact before yesterday. Most of them insulted me and/or my analysis, usually with name calling. It took a few minutes to block them but was probably time well spent. There are enough liberal Democrats harrassing me online who I actually know, mostly from the Native mascot retirement campaign in Maine.

A few of the comments were ambiguous so I left those. ("Oy" was one and #derusification was another.) 

I welcome disagreement and actual argumentation, but I have no reason to tolerate abusive, denigrating language. Nor do I need to provide a platform for people putting words in my mouth. I challenge them to find a single example of my supporting Putin or the Russian attacks on people in Ukraine. 

Information control is powerful and pervavasive. As of this weekend I can no longer access RT on my chromebook (still can on my phone) which consequently restricts access to lefty commentators like Lee Camp and Chris Hedges. Here's the error message below:

Once the views of folks like those two  humanitarians are "forbidden," we're all in deep shit.

Friday, March 4, 2022

Fog Of War Thickening Rapidly

That truth is the first casualty of war is a bromide I used to think applied to, you know, wars. The forever wars of the project to control energy and its transport have been with us so long at this point that one might assume the fog is ever present. Who knew it could get so much thicker?

Yesterday myriad people here in the U.S. insisted that I toe the line on viewing Russia's attack on Ukraine devoid of context other than the prevailing notion that it is due to one madman, who they literally call "the new Hitler."

They sent me links to CNN of all sources to counter my belief that the current government of Ukraine has neo-Nazi allies who have killed thousands of civilians in the Donbas since the 2014 U.S.-sponsored coup. CNN! The anchor screaming "another of Putin's LIES!" probably seems quite normal to those enveloped in the fog of nationalistic propaganda but instead it reminded me of how long I've been abstaining from the media offered up by our corporate overlords. (Or should I call them oligarchs?) 

The corporate media in the U.S. made a pretense of considering all sides decades ago when I was still consulting it for information. There is no such pretense now.

For years my left-leaning friends have recommended RT (formerly known as Russia Today) as a source for news and analysis you won't get from CNN and its ilk. 

Host to commentators like Lee Camp and Jesse Ventura, RT is now banned in Europe and the U.S. 

Camp delivers social commentary with humor, much like George Carlin did in my younger days. At his suggestion, I've now subscribed to his content via a link on his website where I offered up my email address. 

How much longer will my inbox be a personally curated information feed? I suspect not long.

Australian blogger Caitlin Johnstone has pointed out that "Defending freedom and democracy sure requires an awful lot of censorship." In a trend that began with suppressing debate on the pandemic, labels are slapped on information that does not conform to the official version of reality.

If the U.S. and NATO are so right and Russia is so wrong at this moment in history, why are the U.S. and other NATO countries blacking out the Russian point of view? What are they scared of?

In another sign of troubling times for truth, the information wars began playing out in classrooms almost immediately. 

Back in the day, presenting alternative views was considered both fair and educational. If young people were not given opportunities to practice evaluating information and weighing the merits of competing ideas, how would they learn critical thinking?

As just one example, yesterday the world was inflamed by the lie that Russia had bombed the Babi Yar Holocaust memorial in Ukraine. According to ynet, an Israeli website, that is simply not true. How can we know for sure? We can't, but open access to information supports sifting through falsehoods and truths to continuously adjust our understanding.

Censorship both overt and covert is favored by our corporate overlords because it protects their profit schemes from criticism.

Yes, Russia is wrong to bomb Ukraine. Yes, people are suffering there and suffering as refugees  (especially if they appear to be African).

None of that changes the fact that censorship is dangerous because it disables the flow of ideas that might, if we're lucky, save the world from nuclear Armageddon.