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Dissident Voice

Dissident Voice
28 Feb 2024 | 4:41 am

1. How the West Robbed and Abused the Best Figure Skater in the World While Provoking the War in Ukraine


In the winter of 2021-2, while figure skaters were competing in North America and Europe and preparing for the Beijing Winter Olympics, the tensions around Ukraine were building. NATO trained  Ukrainian troops were intensifying attacks on the border of  the breakaway Donetsk and Lugansk provinces of eastern Ukraine.  Russia was building up its forces on the international border.  In December 2021, Russia proposed treaties with the US and NATO, only to be brushed aside. Neocons running US foreign policy seemed to be intentionally provoking Russia. Perhaps they wanted Russia to invade Ukraine and saw that as a way to defeat Putin and breakup Russia, just as the Soviet Union had broken up? As Hillary Clinton said, "Afghanistan is the model".

On February 7, three days into the Beijing Olympics and after the Russians had won the team skating event, news emerged that one of the Russian skaters had previously tested positive for a banned substance. It soon emerged that the skater in question was the brilliant young Kamila Valieva. The charges created one of the biggest international sport controversies of the past 50 years. A single positive test for a banned medication upended the 2022 Beijing Olympics and resulted in bitter accusations. Although the controversy started over two years ago,  the decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) was only issued a few weeks ago in early February.

The dispute over Valieva's doping test is a reflection of  global political contention and the politicization of sports. In this article I will show how the CAS decision was biased and unfair. I will also show how western media has misreported the situation and how it is likely that US secret services intentionally created this situation to prevent Russian achievements at the Beijing Olympics and "unbalance" the adversary.

Russia's expected medal sweep in figure skating was intentionally sabotaged. The victim was Kamila Valieva. The target was Russia. Disrupting the first winter Olympics in China was a bonus.

What Happened

The key skating milestone are:

30 October 2021 – In her debut as a senior, 15 year old Kamila Valieva wins first place at the Skate Canada International. Her performance leaves the audience and commentators in awe. Her urine sample is "clean" (no prohibited chemicals).

27 November 2021 – Valieva wins the Rostelecom Cup (another event in the International Skating Union (ISU) Grand Prix). She posts the highest score ever recorded. Her urine sample is clean.

25 December 2021 – Valieva wins the Russian national figure skating championship in St. Petersburg. Her urine sample is sent to a certified laboratory in Sweden.

15 January 2022 – Valieva wins gold at the European Figure Skating Championship. Her urine test is clean.

4 February 2022 – Olympic Games begin in Beijing China.

6 February 2022 – Valieva performs skating short program flawlessly, earning first place.

7 February 2022 – Valieva wows the audience in the free skate (long program), again winning first place. Urine sample is clean.

7 February 2022 – Over a month late, Stockholm laboratory reports an "Adverse Analytic Finding" for Valieva's sample which they received 6 weeks earlier. They report the presence of a tiny amount of trimetazadine (TMZ) in Valieva's urine sample.

8 -15 February 2022 – News of the positive doping test rapidly circulates and soon dominates the Olympics. Media and most western athletes assume Valieva's guilt and urge her removal from the Games. Because she is a 15 year old minor, the Court for Arbitration for Sport (CAS) decides that Valieva should be allowed to continue competing at the Beijing Olympics with the consequences of the positive test to be determined later.

17 February 2022 – Under enormous pressure, Valieva falls apart in the free skate (long program). Team skating medal awards are postponed due to uncertainty whether Valieva will be disqualified. The US team which won 2nd place is angry over the postponement of the medal ceremony.

13 January 2023 – After a long delay, the Russian Anti Doping Agency (RUSADA) determines that Valieva bore "no fault or negligence" for the single positive test.

21 February 2023 – World Anti Doping Agency (WADA)  and International Skating Union (ISU), both western dominated organizations, appeal to Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to have Valieva banned and all her winnings after 25 Dec 2021 annulled.

26 September 2023 – Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) begins the hearing regarding the Valieva positive test.

7 February 2024 – CAS announces the decision and reasoning. The panel rules that Valieva  committed an Anti Doping Rule Violation (ADRV), is banned for four years and must forfeit all any titles, awards, medals, profits, prizes, and appearance money subsequent to 25 Dec 2021.

The CAS Decision

Confirming that this was a judgment call, this was a 2-1 split decision. They explain the decision as follows: "The Athlete did not discharge her burden of proving …that her ADRV was not intentional on the balance of probabilities."

The panel said it was NOT proven Valieva intentionally ingested the banned substance."The appellants have not established that the Athlete committed the ADRV intentionally …. there was no evidence that she had acted intentionally."

They also said "The Panel most certainly has not concluded that Ms. Valieva is a cheat or that she cheated on 25 December 2021 at the Russian National Championships or that she cheated  when she won gold at the Beijing Olympics (or at any other time)."

The panel acknowledged that the punishment may be considered "harsh" given that they did not establish that she committed the ADRV intentionally.  That is certainly correct considering the punishment was the same as if she HAD cheated and the punishment is widely seen as confirming GUILT.

Critique of the CAS Decision

 1.  The panel was biased. 

The panel was comprised of adjudicators from the US, UK and France. Valieva's legal team appointed French attorney Mathieu Maisonneuve. The appellants, World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) and Ice Skating Union (ISU), appointed American attorney Jeffrey Mishkin. The CAS Appeals Division appointed the president of the panel, James Drake. He is a citizen of the UK and Australia who studied and worked in the USA.

CAS rules say that the president of a panel should be selected considering the criteria of "expertise, diversity, equality and turnover of adjudicators". Drake was a poor choice for both equality and diversity.  Two of  the adjudicators have strong connections to the US which is hostile to Russia and whose figure skating team stood to benefit if Valieva was disqualified.

James Drake was panel president in two previous cases involving Russian athletes, canoeist Alexandra Dupik and track athlete Natalya Antyukh. Both cases were decided against the appealing Russian athletes. With Drake as president, this had the appearance of a Kangaroo Court.

2.  The panel created a straw man to knock down.

The panel exaggerated the importance of the theory that Kamila accidentally imbibed  TMZ  through her contact with her "grandfather". Mr. Solovyov was called her grandfather but was actually the father of a previous partner of Kamila's mother. Since the mother was working, Mr. Solovyov acted as driver and guardian for Kamila who trained three hours in the morning, went home for lunch and rest, then trained three hours in the afternoon. Presumably Solovyov was being compensated for his help for the family. Solovyov was taking heart medication including TMZ due to previous heart attacks. After the surprise news that Valieva tested positive for the heart medication trimetazadine (TMZ), Kamila and her mother speculated that Kamila may have imbibed TMZ from drinking from the same glass or by consuming a strawberry dessert that grandfather made with a cutting board on which there were TMZ particles from his medication.  Media and the panel poured skepticism on this theory, especially when the grandfather declined to provide basic information or verification. It appears the stress of the situation may have resulted in Solovyov – who had previous heart attacks – not wanting to be further involved. The appellants and panel pounced on this. In the panel's report there are 96 references to "grandfather", 75 references to "dessert", 43 references to "strawberry", and 98 references to "Solovyov". The panel effectively said they are skeptical of the "grandfather" explanation and that is all there is.

In contrast, Valieva's legal team put forward the "grandfather" contact as one of three possibilities. Another theory was that some food or permitted supplement that Valieva consumed was contaminated with TMZ. This happened to a Russian bobsledder at the 2018 Peyongchang Winter Olympics.

The third theory was sabotage. This is the most likely cause of the positive doping test as I will show below.

3.  The panel minimized what was most important: Valieva had no motive to take a banned substance.

As shown at international events in October and November 2021, Kamila Valieva was at the peak of her profession. She was the best figure skater in the world. She was not only winning skate competitions, she was setting all time records.  She was training  6 hours per day under a very successful coach. She was well schooled in the dangers of anti doping violations. Since 2016 Russian athletes have been widely accused of being the worst violators of doping standards. Ugly and unproven accusations, such as from WADA's Richard McLaren, have been widely broadcast. When Russian athletes are exonerated, it is ignored in the West.  The probability that Kamila Valieva would risk her reputation and career to intentionally take a banned medication prior to an event where she will certainly be tested is near zero.

Adding to the unreality of this case, the medication Trimetazadine (TMZ) is of no value to a figure skater. It is for people with heart troubles, not young athletes. When it has been used by athletes, it is for endurance sports where heart palpitations may occur. As heart specialist Dr. Benjamin Levine at University of Texas Southwestern Medical School said, "The chance that trimetazadine would improve her performance, in my opinion, is zero… The only chance would be for it to hurt her."

One of the  side effects of TMZ is dizziness, the worst thing for a figure skater.  The panel dismissed the significance by glibly saying, "It is enough to say that not all side effects manifest in all people."

Dr Levine noted that it is the legs, not the heart, that gets tired in figure skating. If one looks at Valieva's performances, it is clear she in fine shape and not even breathing hard at the end of the performance. The trace amount of TMZ detected once in her system would have no effect at all. Dr. Levine notes that the US equivalent of trimetazadine,  ranolazine, is NOT prohibited.

The legal challenge for Kamila Valieva's team was to show that she did not intentionally take the banned substance. The CAS panel minimized the fact that Valieva had every reason and motive to NOT take a banned substance. Her dedication to the sport and talent is obvious. It should have been also obvious that this sole positive case for a trace amount of  TMZ is odd and suspicious.

4.  The panel minimizes the problems and violations of the Swedish laboratory 

According to International Standards for Laboratories,  "Reporting of "A" Sample results should occur in ADAMS within twenty (20) days of receipt of the Sample. The reporting time required for specific occasions  may be substantially less than twenty (20) days."

So the laboratory in Sweden took TWICE as long as it should have under normal circumstances.  But the circumstances were not normal. The European figure skating championship was in January and the Winter Olympics in February.

Why was this failure ignored? Media has reported the delay was due to staffing shortages caused by Covid 19. However, the report describes a different reason for the extreme delay: there  were two incidents of  "unsatisfactory quality control" plus the need to find a "new confirmation method". A Swedish scientist and chemical analysis expert gave his confidential assessment: "It is obvious that they were not prepared for the task and had even to develop a new procedure." Despite the reporting failure and quality control issues at the Swedish laboratory, there was no criticism or comment by the panel or in the media.

The report says there were "lengthy submissions in relation to the conduct of the Stockholm Laboratory in its analysis and reporting of the AAF" but they do not say more.

5.  Valieva's legitimate medications and supplements were distorted.

WADA and ISU made much of the sixty medications and supplements that Valieva was authorized to take. Evidently this was a list of all the permissible medications that she COULD take if she or her doctor wished. As it was, she only took a few: There is nothing devious about these supplements. Many professional and amateur athletes use them. Here are the ones she was taking:

"Carnitine is naturally present in many foods—especially foods of animal origin—and is available as a dietary supplement…Carnitine plays a critical role in energy production."

"Hypoxen provides a reduction in oxygen consumption with significant physical exertion, improved tissue respiration, a decrease in mental and physical fatigue, and the successful implementation of labor-intensive physical operations."

"Supradyn is a brand name for a multivitamin and mineral supplement."

"Ecdysterone is the main compound in spinach extract."

How and Why Kamila Valieva was Sabotaged

Since 2014, the US and western allies have imposed sanctions, waged information war and treated Russia as an enemy. The US does not hide its animosity and goal to weaken Russia.  The  2019 Rand Report titled Overextending and Unbalancing  Russia is an example. Commissioned by the US Defense Department, the report discusses tactics and strategies to "weaken Russia".

The report recommends, "Undermining Russia's image … diminishing Russian standing and influence …Western efforts to damage Russia's international prestige can be effective if broadly implemented. Further sanctions, the removal of Russia from non-UN international forums, and boycotting of international events are largely within the power of Western states to unilaterally implement and would damage Russian prestige … the loss of international sporting events or access to key forums is likely to deepen concerns within Russia that the current regime might not be effectively pursuing policies that are returning Russia to glory."

International sports, with the Olympics being paramount, is an important part of a nation's image abroad and at home. With its goal of "undermining Russia's image", the US establishment had a MOTIVE in preventing Russians from winning  at  the Olympics. Figure skating is one of the most widely watched Olympics events and a Russian sweep of the medals, with Valieva leading the way, would impress the viewing public and enhance Russia's image. It is impossible to look at Valieva skating and not be impressed with her artistry and skill.

At the end of October 2021, US secret services knew that Valieva was likely to win the figure skating gold.  Commentators at Ice Skate Canada International made that clear.  That may be when the decision was taken to sabotage Valieva.  All they had to do was insure she had one positive doping test. There are numerous ways they could have done this. They might have surveilled Kamila and her guardian grandfather for a couple weeks, learned when and where he went shopping, then sabotaged the fruit he purchased. Or perhaps they contaminated her lipstick or cosmetics with TMZ. Chemicals can enter the body through the skin. Her cosmetics are kept in a locked case, but how hard would it be for a trained CIA agent to unlock it? Cracking locks  is standard training. This is clearly within their MEANS. What is more likely, they could have replaced a legitimate pill with a lookalike pill  contaminated with TMZ. The CIA has their own chemical laboratory.

As to the OPPORTUNITY, the Russian National Championships were a good occasion with less athlete security as mentioned by Valieva in the hearing. Or perhaps the agents entered her house in Moscow or St Petersburg hotel room when she was not there. With a small team of trained people, this would not be difficult. Based on the very low amount of TMZ in her sample from 25 December 2021, the swap may have occurred in Moscow before she left.

Was it incompetence or worse at the Stockholm Lab?

A remaining question is regarding the extraordinary delay in reporting the Adverse Analytic Finding (AAF) by the Swedish laboratory. Some experts have questioned why there is not a time limit. In this case, the finding was extremely late and test analysis involved multiple errors and a "new confirmation method". Why was this allowed?

The late report was hugely disruptive to the Beijing Olympics. Instead of being sorry, the Biden administration may have been pleased. They had already criticized the Olympics and were carrying out a diplomatic boycott.

Senate leader Nancy Pelosi tried to get world leaders to support a boycott with the accusation that China was committing "genocide".  Trying to derail the Olympics, another US official earlier suggested the Beijing Olympics should be "postponed".

Mission Accomplished

The positive doping test for the Russian skater distracted from the other events at the Games, undercut the Russian figure skating team achievements, renewed allegations of excess doping in Russia and disrupted China's first winter Olympics. For the US foreign policy establishment, in a cold war with both China and Russia, this was a victory.

From the comfort of studios and sidelines, jingoistic athletes and commentators derided Kamila, assumed she was guilty, and said she should not be competing. Pretending to "defend" her, many critics accused Valieva's coaches and doctors of "child abuse". Like the athlete herself, Kamila's coach and doctors had no reason to encourage a banned substance. They had very reason and motive to NOT allow that.

Unfortunately, the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) and some athletic federations have become part and parcel of  Western  hybrid warfare against "adversaries" Russia and China. WADA has expended enormous resources and efforts to ban top athletes from China and Russia. The International Skating Union  "welcomed"  the decision to ban 15 year old Kamila Valieva for four years. The top US men's figure skater, Nathan Chen, said  that Valieva's banning was a "win for clean sport." On the contrary, it was a win for dirty politics, the politicization of sport and undermining the Olympic charter and its honorable ideals.

The news had the desired effect of provoking hostility and Russophobia. It is a shame that so few announcers and athletes expressed any skepticism. They immediately assumed her guilt and condemned Valieva's coach Eteri Tutberidze and doctors. This was done with crocodile tears of concern for "child abuse".  When Valieva faltered under the immense pressure, announcer Christine Brennan fumed, "You could not help but see the results of the abuse of a child…. This is one of the greatest talents we have ever seen … Shame on Russia. Shame on those coaches for putting her in this position."  Patrick McEnroe opined, "Russians – are you happy now? … An absolute disgrace."

Kamila had no idea why she tested positive for the banned substance because she was secretly sabotaged. How could she prove that she did not intentionally ingest the banned substance?   Arbitrators Drake and Mishkin came to their decision because of national and political bias.

Only a Temporary Win

On 8 February 2022, as Kamila's positive test was stealing the show in Beijing, US President Joe Biden was in Germany.  With the tensions around Ukraine building, he threatened that if Russia intervened in Ukraine, "There will no longer be a Nordstream pipeline …. we will bring an end to it." Around the same time, the Ukraine military and Azov militias escalated their attacks on the Donbas, perhaps preparing for a major attack. On 24 February Russia crossed the border and thus the Ukraine war began.  Supporting the belief that the US and West intentionally provoked and prolonged the war hoping to "weaken Russia", the US and UK effectively stopped peace negotiations between Kiev and Moscow early in the conflict.

The Ukraine war continues with horrendous loss of life. Russia seems to be slowly winning and the end is hopefully in sight.

Kamila Valieva appears stronger than ever. She is no longer a girl, but a young woman skating in performances with tons of support. She is honored in Russia as the Olympic champion she is.

Provoking the Ukraine war and sabotaging the best figure skater in the world can at best be temporary victories for the US and western elites.

The post How the West Robbed and Abused the Best Figure Skater in the World While Provoking the War in Ukraine first appeared on Dissident Voice.
Dissident Voice
28 Feb 2024 | 2:12 am

2. Trussonomics at CPAC


The silly will make print and leave bursts of digital traces; the idiots will make history, if only in small print.  One such figure is the shortest serving UK Prime Minister in living memory, the woeful, joke-packed figure of Liz Truss who lasted a mere 50 disastrous days in office.  She was even bettered by a satirical, dressed-up lettuce, filmed in anticipation of her brief, calamitous end.

With such a blotted record, the vacuous, inane Truss felt that her experiences were worthy of recounting to the Conservative Political Action Conference, held at National Harbor, Maryland between February 22 and 24.  The gathering, conducted since the 1970s and organised by the American Conservative Union, has become something of a mandatory calendar event for US conservative activists.  Those from other countries have also tried to make a splash – keeping Truss company was the demagogic voice of Brexit, Nigel Farage, arguably the most influential British politician not to hold a seat in Parliament.

A self-believer of towering insensibility, Truss oversaw during her flashpoint stint in office mind boggling budgetary decisions.  On winning the Tory ballot after the fall of Boris Johnson in 2022, she promised £30 billion in tax cuts via an emergency budget, reversing the rise in National Insurance and a range of energy-price guarantees.  That these tax cuts – eventually amounting to £45 billion – were primarily skewed to benefit those at the higher end of the scale did not bother her.  "The people at the top of the income distribution pay more tax – so inevitably, when you cut taxes you tend to benefit the people who are more likely to pay tax."  What logic; what reasoning.

With figures of such incompetence, responsibility for failure is always attributed to someone, or something else.  In Truss's case, blame initially lay with fellow comic villain and Chancellor of the Exchequer, Kwasi Kwarteng, with whom she had taken a wrecking ball to the UK economy and the British pound.  With Kwarteng, she had previously authored a dotty pamphlet "Britannia Unchained", warning that Britain should not emulate the economic model of southern European countries, saddled with poor productivity and growth, along with hefty and inefficient public services.

The Economist tasted the irony of it all, seeing Trussonomics as typical of "Britaly", a country "of political instability, low growth and subordination to bond markets."  A further irony was that the horrified market reaction to Truss suggested her inability to understand the very forces she prefers unleashed over the wickedness of big government and bureaucratic interference.  Live by the free market; die by the free market.

What, then, to tell her New World colleagues?  At first blush, nothing new.  In April 2023, she had already made it across the Atlantic to speak to the Heritage Foundation, where she gave the Margaret Thatcher Freedom Lecture.  Monumental failure can undergo changes in transatlantic journey, and the conservative think tank omitted mentioning her spell of prime ministerial lunacy, impressed, instead, by her "long-standing" advocacy "for limited government, low taxes, and freedom, both at home and the UK and around the world."

The speech was barbed, resentful and absurd, an attempt to channel a politician she resembles in no serious respect, bar certain Little England prejudices, with a smattering of superficially similar economic beliefs.  Truss complained of "coordinated resistance from inside the Conservative Party", "the British corporate establishment", "the IMF [International Monetary Fund] and even from President Biden."  She grumbled of "a new kind of economic model" that was taking hold in the UK and US, "one that's focused on redistributionism, on stagnation and on the imbuing of woke culture into our businesses."  Seen from another perspective, this "anti-growth movement", to use Truss's daft terminology, had been responsible for her demise.

In her CPAC display, we see an attempt to flatter Donald Trump, drawing from the well of Deep State rhetoric, and various scripted points about insecurity, immigration, terrorism, gender, "wokenomics", "the power of the left and the power of those bureaucracies."  There are also some head-scratching remarks that lent a cartoonish feel to the mad bat: "you can't triangulate with terrorists, you can't compromise with communists, you have to fight for what you believe in."

The speech is not entirely nonsensical, though Truss misses the significance of any pertinent observations.  "What has happened in Britain over the past 30 years is power that used to be in the hands of politicians has been moved to quangos and bureaucrats and lawyers so what you find is a democratically elected government actually unable to enact policies."  While the estrangement of the elected from the elector, aided and abetted by unelected bureaucracies, is hard to deny, Truss is merely implying that an unaccountable dictatorship would surely be far better and representative.

To demonstrate the point, Truss raged against the Office of Budget Responsibility and the Bank of England who "sought to undermine the policies."  Again, the IMF, along with Biden, featured as targets.  Again, ignorance of the free market and her ruin by its very dictates, was proudly displayed.

Decoding the Truss basket case of beliefs yields this question: Why were there such impediments to my mad realisation?  It was far better, she proposed, to get "a bigger bazooka in order to be able to deliver.  And I think we have got to challenge the institutions themselves."  A challenge is a good thing, but best bring a well thought out policy with you when going into battle.

The post Trussonomics at CPAC first appeared on Dissident Voice.
Dissident Voice
28 Feb 2024 | 1:15 am

3. Technocensorship: When Corporations Serve As a Front for Government Censors


Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.

— Harry S. Truman

Nothing good can come from allowing the government to sidestep the Constitution.

Unfortunately, the government has become an expert at disregarding constitutional roadblocks intended to protect the rights of the citizenry.

When these end-runs don't suffice, the government hides behind the covert, clandestine, classified language of national security; or obfuscates, complicates, stymies, and bamboozles; or creates manufactured diversions to keep the citizenry in the dark; or works through private third parties not traditionally bound by the Constitution.

This last tactic is increasingly how the government gets away with butchering our freedoms, by having its corporate partners serve as a front for its nefarious deeds.

This is how the police state has managed to carry out an illegal secret dragnet surveillance program on the American people over the course of multiple presidential administrations.

Relying on a set of privacy loopholes, the White House (under Presidents Obama, Trump and now Biden) has been sidestepping the Fourth Amendment by paying AT&T to allow federal, state, and local law enforcement to access—without a warrant—the phone records of Americans who are not suspected of a crime.

The government used a similar playbook to get around the First Amendment, packaged as an effort to control the spread of speculative or false information in the name of national security.

As the House Judiciary Select Subcommittee on Weaponization of the Federal Government revealed, the Biden administration worked in tandem with social media companies to censor content related to COVID-19, including humorous jokes, credible information and so-called disinformation.

Likening the government's heavy-handed attempts to pressure social media companies to suppress content critical of COVID vaccines or the election to "an almost dystopian scenario," Judge Terry Doughty warned that "the United States Government seems to have assumed a role similar to an Orwellian 'Ministry of Truth.'"

Restricting access to social media has become a popular means of internet censorship.

Dare to voice politically incorrect views in anything louder than a whisper on social media and you might find yourself suspended on Twitter, shut out of Facebook, and banned across various social media platforms. This authoritarian intolerance masquerading as tolerance, civility and love is what comedian George Carlin referred to as "fascism pretending to be manners."

Social media censorship runs the gamut from content blocking, throttling, and filtering to lockouts, shutdowns, shadow banning and de-platforming.

In fact, these tactics are at the heart of several critical cases before the U.S. Supreme Court over who gets to control, regulate or remove what content is shared on the internet: the individual, corporate censors or the government.

Yet what those who typically champion the right of corporations to be free from government meddling get wrong about these cases is that there can be no free speech when corporations such as Facebook, Google or YouTube become a front for—or extensions of—government censors.

This is the very definition of technocensorship.

On paper—under the First Amendment, at least—we are technically free to speak.

In reality, however, we are now only as free to speak as a government official—or corporate entities such as Facebook, Google or YouTube—may allow.

Clothed in tyrannical self-righteousness, technocensorship is powered by technological behemoths (both corporate and governmental) working in tandem to achieve a common goal: to muzzle, silence and altogether eradicate any speech that runs afoul of the government's own approved narrative.

Thus far, the tech giants have been able to sidestep the First Amendment by virtue of their non-governmental status, but it's a dubious distinction at best when they are marching in lockstep with the government's dictates.

As Philip Hamburger and Jenin Younes write for The Wall Street Journal: "The First Amendment prohibits the government from 'abridging the freedom of speech.' Supreme Court doctrine makes clear that government can't constitutionally evade the amendment by working through private companies."

It remains to be seen whether the Supreme Court can see itself clear to recognizing that censorship by social media companies acting at the behest of the government runs afoul of the First Amendment.

Bottom line: either we believe in free speech or we don't.

The answer to the political, legal and moral challenges of our day should always be more speech, not less.

That's why James Madison, the author of the Bill of Rights, fought for a First Amendment that protected the "minority" against the majority, ensuring that even in the face of overwhelming pressure, a minority of one—even one who espouses distasteful viewpoints—would still have the right to speak freely, pray freely, assemble freely, challenge the government freely, and broadcast his views in the press freely. He understood that freedom for those in the unpopular minority constitutes the ultimate tolerance in a free society.

The government has no tolerance for freedom or free speech of any kind that challenges its chokehold on power.

At some point or another, depending on how the government and its corporate allies define what constitutes "disinformation," "hate" or "extremism, "we the people" might all be considered guilty of some thought crime or speech transgression or other.

Yet as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, it's a slippery slope from censoring so-called illegitimate ideas to silencing truth.

Eventually, as George Orwell predicted, telling the truth will become a revolutionary act.

Ultimately, the government's war on free speech—and that's exactly what it is—is a war that is driven by a government fearful of its people.

As President John F. Kennedy observed, "[A] nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people."

The post Technocensorship: When Corporations Serve As a Front for Government Censors first appeared on Dissident Voice.
Dissident Voice
27 Feb 2024 | 7:31 pm

4. The Battle for Income Equality


Questioning the statistics in Thomas Piketty's best-selling book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, with intent to undermine his thesis, is futile. Even if Piketty's alert that returns on investment have exceeded the real growth of wages and economic output, which means that the stock of capital is rising faster than overall economic output, is not exactly accurate, criticism has not upset the conclusions ─ severe income inequality and inequitable wealth distribution doom the capitalist system to collapse and a more narrow wealth distribution keeps it going.

Progressive economists connect meager wage growth to limited purchasing power ─ one cause of the 2008 crash ─ and increased concentration of wealth to cautious job growth in the post-crash years. Their conclusions have engineered debates on how to achieve equitable distributions in wages and wealth and raise middle-class wages, and the roles private industry, government, and labor unions play in achieving a more equitable society.

If private industry refuses to meet its obligations to readjust the divide, Thomas Piketty recommends increasing taxes on high earners and large estates and coupling them with a wealth tax. This method for resolving income inequality gives government a major role in correcting the unequal distributions of income and wealth.

In previous decades, unions had a larger membership, greater clout, and more strength to move management to meet wage demands. Government lacks a mechanism to force corporations to transfer productivity gains into wage gains. Only corporations can do the trick. Not likely. Corporations do not realize the social and economic benefits of decreasing income inequality and increasing middle-class purchasing power. Lowering remunerations to those in top pay brackets and increasing them for lower-income workers is more than a moral obligation; it has direct benefits to the economy for everyone. It is a requirement for achieving a stable economy.

Social costs due to less equitable income and wealth distributions

Rationalizing poorly distributed wealth by noting the American poor are wealthier than the middle class in many developed nations is deceiving. Poverty is defined as an absolute number but its effects are relative. The lower wage earners in the United States are unaware of what they earn in relation to foreigners; they are aware of what they do not earn in relation to others living close to them. The wide disparity in wealth creates resentment and tension and leads to psychological and emotional difficulties. Minimizing social problems means combining giving more to the lower classes and taking less by the upper classes.

The social problems and associated costs in developed nations that have wide distributions of income and wealth are well-documented — elevated mental illness, crime, infant mortality, and health problems. One statistical proof is that the United States, classified as the most unequal of the developed nations, except Singapore, had the highest index of social problems. The graph below from 2010-2011 and an earlier article, Health is a Socio-Economic Problem, describe the important relationships.

Every citizen suffers from and pays for the social problems derived from income inequality, an unfair condition in a democratic society. Private industry has an obligation and an opportunity to fix the problem it has caused. If not, Uncle Sam, whom they don't want on their backs, will reach into their pockets, redistribute the wealth and resolve the situation.

Income inequality produces wealth concentration and political consequences. Wealthy individuals have increased control of the political debate, more influence in selection of candidates, tend to place their interests before national interests, and determine the direction of political campaigns. Skewing the electoral process distorts government and the decisions that guide social and economic legislation. Severe disparities in the concentration of wealth reduce democratic prerogatives, fair elections, and equality before the law.

The Sunlight Foundation, in an article, The Political 1% of the 1% in 2012 by Lee Dustman, June 2013, presents a fact-filled discussion of this topic.
Note: Although statistics are from ten years ago, they are interesting statistics and are relevant today.

More than a quarter of the nearly $6 billion in contributions from identifiable sources in the last campaign cycle came from just 31,385 individuals, a number equal to one ten-thousandth of the U.S. population.

Of the 1% of the 1%'s $1.68 billion in the 2012 cycle, $500.4 million entered the campaign through a super PAC (including almost $100 million from just one couple, Sheldon and Miriam Adelson). Four out of five 1% of the 1% donors were pure partisans, giving all of their money to one party or the other.

These concerns are likely even more acute for the two parties. In 2012, the National Republican Senatorial Committee raised more than half (54.2 percent) of its $105.8 million from the 1% of the 1%, and the National Republican Congressional Committee raised one third (33.0 percent) of its $140.6 million from the 1% of the 1%. Democratic party committees depend less on the 1% of the 1%. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raised 12.9 percent of its $128.9 million from these top donors, and the Democratic Congressional Committee raised 20.1 percent of its $143.9 million from 1% of the 1% donors.

To the many billionaires who are tilting election campaigns, add the political contributions by super-sized corporations and industries, and electoral control by the wealthy becomes complete. Campaign contributions from the financial sector, the same financial sector that increased its liabilities from 10 percent of GDP in 1970 to 120 percent of GDP in 2009, and shifted investment from manufacturing to rent-seeking ─ making money the new-fashioned way ─ leads the way.

The Sunlight Foundation article also states:

In 1990, 1,091 elite donors in the FIRE sector (finance, insurance, and real estate).contributed $15.4 million to campaigns ─ a substantial sum at the time. But that's nothing compared to what they contributed later. In 2010, 5,510 elite donors from the sector contributed $178.2 million, more than 10 times the amount they contributed in 1990.

The Debt of each sector as a percentage of GDP tells the story of the financial sector.
Note: 2022 GDP = $25.4T
          2022 Q4 Debt at the following:
          Total = $89.5T, Household = $19.4T, Business = $20.8T, Finance = $19.3T, Government= $26.8
2022 Percent of GDP at the following:
Household = 72.4%, Business = 81.9%, Finance = 76.8%, Government= 105.5%

The graph shows that the FIRE sector increased its wealth by borrowing money, making the economy work for it rather than working for the economy. The credit enabled the financial industry to grow until it led the nation into the 2008 economic disaster.

The Economic Consequences of Wealth Concentration

What has occurred with wealth concentration? A previous decade indicated a deflection of investment from dynamic industrial processes to static rent situations, from industries that employ workers to make goods to industries that employ money to make money. Graphs from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) record the trend.

Note: In 2023, Financial sector employment was 9.2M and manufacturing employment was 12.9M.

The graphs plot employment in the manufacturing and financial sectors, Manufacturing had a slow deterioration during the Reagan presidency, followed by stability during the Clinton administration and a sharp decline during the George Bush era. Some deterioration in manufacturing employment is understandable; administrative jobs (clerical, administration) have been displaced by information technologies and these fields have added jobs; factory floor work of consumer goods has been displaced by machines (robot, numerical control) that have their own factory floors; and labor has been transferred from highly labor-intensive manufacturing to service industries. However, the employment loss is excessive and bewildering when compared to the increase in financial employment. Can a healthy economy result from a steady growth in financial workers and a consistent decrease in industrial workers?

Beginning in the Reagan era, until economic collapse in 2008, employment in the financial sector monotonically increased, except for slight blips during the 1991 recession and a few years of the Clinton administration. From a ratio of 1/3 in 1986, financial sector employment rose to 2/3 that of manufacturing employment by 2014, and increased by more than the changes in their respective additions to the Gross Domestic Product. Since the 2009 mini-depression, employment in the financial industry has remained relatively static. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows the value added by each industry.

Manufacturing rose from $1390.1 billion in 1997 to $2079.5 billion in 2013, an increase of 50 percent.
Finance, insurance, real estate, rental, and leasing rose from $1623.1 billion in 1997 to $3293.2 billion in 2013, an increase of 100 percent.

A comparison between salaries of engineers, those who contribute directly to industrial growth, and financiers, those who drive active and passive investments, also reveals the importance given to those who make money from money.

One of the contributors to Capital, Thomas Philipson, in an article Wages and Human Capital in the U.S. Financial Industry: 1909-2006, NBER Working Paper No. 14644, January 2009, shows that wages for the financial sector started a steady growth during the Reagan administration, and eventually exceeded engineering wages, especially for those who had advanced degrees from the elite universities.

As the FIRE industry expands, the purchasing power contracts, one reason being that part of the rent-seeking covets higher returns and gets sidetracked into endless speculation; money rolling over and over and never available to purchase anything but pieces of paper. Millions of arbitrage transactions per second can earn thousands of dollars per second, which adds up to 3.6 million dollars per hour ─ no positive effect on the economy; only paper dollars continually created.

Stagnant labor wages and weak purchasing power force expansion of credit to increase demand, The wealthy respond to credit expansion with accelerated demand for larger houses, larger cars, and more luxury goods, spending that raises asset values and places middle-class earners at a disadvantage. The bottom ninety percent on the income scale desperately pursue debt to give themselves a temporary share of prosperity. Debt must eventually be repaid. Real wealth remains with a privileged few and others remain stagnant.

What is the Result?

Thomas Piketty has reshaped the thinking of the Capitalist system. Economics enables the understanding of how and when to increase demand, enable sufficient purchasing power, and the true meaning of profit.  A better understanding of economics may come from less regard for the conventional economics of modern theorists and more regard for the classical economics of the fathers of political economy ─ Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and Karl Marx. The latter provided a controversial concept ─ wages provide purchasing power, and beyond what is bought by that purchasing power is surplus, whose value allows profit.

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Piketty shows that profits are being sidetracked into passive investments that produce only more capital and not useful goods, into the accumulation of excessive personal wealth, and into financial speculation that features the constant churning of paper money, which removes dollars from the market and creates difficulties for manufacturing to grow. Accumulation of excessive wealth generates social problems, diminishes the quality of life, and burdens the middle class when taxes are used to seek relief.

Capturing the political system by those most responsible for the problems ─ the privileged wealthy who manipulate a portion of the electoral process for their advantage ─ hinders routes to ameliorating the deterrents to a fair and successful economy. Due to their financial and political clout, the wealthy have their voices more easily heard in Congress and before federal agencies.

Karl Marx claimed that Capitalism contains the seeds of its destruction. Those who foster severe income inequality and inequitable wealth distribution apparently want to prove his statement is correct.

The post The Battle for Income Equality first appeared on Dissident Voice.
Dissident Voice
27 Feb 2024 | 5:10 pm

5. The Clinton-Soros “House Hands”


Another recent article expressing election year hysteria among the credentialed class began with the assertion:

While it is very easy, based on documents, to declare Mr. Trump to be a neo-fascist and/ or a criminal, historical events indicate that the Democratic Party failed over the last five decades to protect and support, and then expand the middle class. DP presidents accomplished occasionally some improvements that benefitted workers; however, only token changes were attempted in key areas. Overall, the goals were and are to look good in the public eye without upsetting the elites in the economic and financial sectors.[1]

Waiting in vain until the end of the article was a disappointment. Although it was "very easy," the author was unable or unwilling to name or cite any documents to declare the former POTUS a neo-fascist or criminal. To declare him a criminal would require at least one conviction of a bona fide crime for which the author could surely find citation, but for the fact trials are still pending. As for the claim that Mr. Trump is a card-carrying neo-fascist, that would first require a definition, which the author fails to provide.

Several years ago now, I pointed to the fact that Donald Trump's unique selling position was the fact that he was the first POTUS in more than a century — if ever — who was not a politician, senior civil servant or military officer prior to his election.[2] In a country whose many worshippers claim anyone can be elected to high office (the Constitution only requires native birth citizenship and 35 years of age), it is remarkable that only in 2016 — 235 years after the national charter entered into force — was it possible for an average millionaire to be elected within the political duopoly that controls the electoral system.

Whether the ideals of the US polity are sincere or even worthy is a matter for its citizens to decide. However if the electoral system is to be lent any faith it certainly cannot be factional alone. The attacks on the Trump presidency began worldwide in the oligarchically controlled mass media from the day of his election until long after his term expired. It is safe to say that no POTUS has ever been subjected to such sustained vilification. It is even more remarkable that even that "evidence" submitted to disparage or condemn him has proven false witness or forgery. Perhaps that is one reason why the documents by which it is so easy to condemn Mr. Trump are not cited.

However, there is a far more insidious accusation in the attacks on Donald Trump, who is only a surrogate. Some will admit that in the early 1970s there was a major change in the class war (a term the credentialed class strenuously avoids except in pure theory or when attacking foreign systems). Others date the seismic event to the collapse of the Soviet Union. The tectonic plates beneath the US really shifted in 1913. The privatization of the country's fiscal policy, based on a model derived from the Bank of England, was the first stage in the consolidation of what would become the world's largest ever war economy. It was this war economy, protected by two vast oceans, that delivered consumer goods as weapons of consciousness and armaments, including today's pharmaments, to the world. A nation last attacked, by its cousins, in 1812, built by bonded and indebted labor on the graves of its native inhabitants reached the pinnacle of power in 1945 as the lords of destruction. One of numerous Austro-Hungarians even provided a theory for this. Schumpeter referred to capitalism's (aka "free enterprise" in the US) creative destruction. Having demonstrated the capacity to destroy competing industrial bases under the pretext of wars against nationalism, communism and only occasionally fascism, it was able to flood the world with whatever manufactures it could produce. The surplus was sold at home on credit to keep the immigrant laborers and their progeny from questioning the virtues ascribed dogmatically to the great destruction machine.

By the 1970s the circulation was more than sclerotic. The Club of Rome, the European Management Forum (later WEF) and other venues e.g., within the UN, were founded to propagate the message among the ruling class and its credentialed courtiers and bootmakers that even this pseudo-democratic wealth sprinkler was no longer desirable. The word chosen was "sustainable".

Nationalism among the newly independent states had been crushed or neutered by counter-insurgency and economic warfare. The only obstacles lay in the persistence of the Soviet Union and the policies of the People's Republic. By 1990, these obstacles had been overcome, at least from the perspective of the Anglo-American Empire, i.e., its ruling class. The long-standing aim to plunder and pillage Russia was being fulfilled under Boris Yeltsin. Some of that loot trickled into the Western Eurasian economy giving a dose of steroids to its stagnating commerce. The rest went to the "pirates of the Caribbean", the secrecy jurisdictions. By natural qualification (as the world's largest national workforce) and development policy, the Anglo-American ruling oligarchy was able to remove almost all its manufacturing to China.

Thus the economic base of the US "middle class" was removed utterly. It should be noted here that the US is a country whose citizens "self-identify" as middle class. There are material and ideological reasons for this oddity.

First of all the "free enterprise" doctrine defines workers as "entrepreneurs" endowed with human capital that they invest freely by taking a job. Personnel departments, now called human resources, are like internal fund managers negotiating the rate of return each worker gets on his capital. Hence pensions were also largely privatized using the fund model.

Second, the real "workers and peasants" in the US economy, excepting migrants from the South, are all the laborers in Central America, Indonesia, the Philippines, Haiti/ Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico — America's empire and brown vassal states. Thus the surplus permitted to the majority of US citizens is extracted from the empire and distributed in slices to blue collar workers and white-collar supervisors or clerks.

Thus the contradiction between the real working class and the domestic intermediate working class exists and is maintained to support the imperial division of labor. Until the Clinton-Soros ascendency the parade figures at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (the address of the official POTUS residence), lip service was still paid to the national labor force. One should bear in mind that the Democratic Party is the historic defender of bonded labor (chattel slavery) and exploitative mass immigration. The Republican Party began in opposition to slavery and with a strong nationalist agenda. The fig leaf of the shallow New Deal is the only policy which can even pretend to demonstrate the Democratic Party as a worker-friendly club. So-called bipartisanism after 1951 purged the New Dealers and other "reds" from both parties. The Clinton-Soros party, as the Democratic Party ought to be called, adopted the policy of its principal benefactor whose business model since the age of 14 has been deportation and confiscation of assets. This model has been translated into the official program of the IOM, a UN public-private partnership for trading in displaced persons worldwide. Consistent with the WEF mantra "own nothing, be happy" all these micro-entrepreneurs are deprived of their birthright and transformed into a continuous flow of denationalized labor – mirroring the hedge funds denationalization of physical assets by conversion into cash streams.

These are ongoing processes which have radically intensified through multiple wars concentrated in the Middle East, Central Europe, North and Central Africa. They are presented as tragedies when they are deliberate and coordinated crimes against humanity. The enforced cognitive isolation of the planet's most brainwashed population renders the causal chain opaque to those affected. Thus they see the symptoms and anticipate the effects in nationalistic terms. Americans have no other language since they were long ago deprived of other bases of affinity or loyalty. The accusations of racism and fascism hurled at the remaining mass of ordinary working Americans is smug dishonesty in the condescending language of aspirant courtiers, in short snobbery.

No later than the second war against Iraq did the recognition of a colossal shell game take hold among the "dangerous" (deplorable) class- the white field hand hated by the domestic staff, just like in Malcolm X parable of the house negro and field negro. The field hands saw that their labor was being stolen to enrich an ever-smaller clique to more and more obscene levels while real jobs evaporated to be rained on foreign soil.

A society so brainwashed and manipulated as that of the US, where its media and ideological institutions are virtually walled against popular intrusion, cannot easily establish oppositional movements. In fact the US is historically one of the most conformist societies on the planet.[3] Nonetheless opposition to this program of downsizing the US working population emerged, largely leaderless, but not surprisingly, in the Republic Party, the historical anti-slavery and protectionist party.

Without at least a galleon figure it is impossible to organize mass politics at a national level. Unlike European party systems the US party is an apparatus from promoting personalities and creating celebrities for elected office. That is partly because the permanent government needs distractions to operate discretely. However it is also due to the religious nature of the American polity. As a country chosen by the Divine its ultimate leaders have to perform like high priests on the public altars. Donald Trump is no exception.

The Clinton-Soros owned Democratic Party (dba the DNC) is a temple of Pharisees. On one hand it is obsessed with purity. The Awakening, sometimes called "wokism", with its DIE dogma is perceived by a substantial majority of US citizens as a formula for destroying their nation, culturally, politically and economically. The facts are known and they support that contention. There is basis to doubt that the metastasis induced by the ruling oligarchy was accelerated in 2016 and burst through the skin on 6 January 2021.

Robert F Kennedy Jr has been the only contender for the high office of POTUS to accurately apply the term fascist in the context of the US political system. His description of corporate capture conforms to Mussolini's definition, where the interests of Capital (corporations) merge with the State. By this classical definition of fascism, Donald Trump hardly qualifies. He is a performer who chose the stage of a nascent mass movement and proceed to market it. That is about as American as one can get.

The documents that are available to the willing do not support the condemnation of Donald Trump. Rather they support the damnation of the Clinton-Soros fleet flying the Jolly Roger of the Democratic Party. If these evil winds continue to fill the sails of the DIE and deportation/ migration ships, then Mr. Trump will be declared an outlaw like all those who have been rotting in federal dungeons since 6 January 2021. The hostage nation will be subjected politically to the Hannibal directive.

ENDNOTES

[1]  Clement Kleinstreuer, "The Enablers of Trump's Rise to Power", Dissident Voice (24 February 2024)

[2] "Reflections on White Elections", Dissident Voice (8 October 2020) and "To the Halls of Montezuma from the Shores of Tripoli: Donald Trump as 'Anti-Wilson'" (6 February 2017)

[3] As testified by pro-American writers as diverse as Alexis de Toqueville, C L R James.

The post The Clinton-Soros "House Hands" first appeared on Dissident Voice.
Dissident Voice
27 Feb 2024 | 4:31 pm

6. The News


The post The News first appeared on Dissident Voice.
Dissident Voice
27 Feb 2024 | 3:25 am

7. Old Problems with the New: Reforming the UN Security Council


The end of the Second World War was a calamitous catalyst, laying the bricks and mortar for institutions that were always going to look weary, almost comically so, after some decades.  The United Nations was meant to be the umbrella international organisation, covering an eclectic array of bodies that seem, to this day, unfathomably complex.  Its goals have been mocked, largely for their dew-eyed optimism: international peace, prosperity, levels of stable development.  The balance sheet is, however, more complex.

In this organisational mix stands the haughty, sometimes interested, sometimes violent club known as the UN Security Council.  On paper – well, the UN Charter, anyway – it remains one of those bodies that is perky, powerful and determined.  It's the only international body with all the cards that matter, capable of exerting near supreme powers.  From the summit of the United Nations, it remains the policing enforcer, capable of adding teeth to what might be otherwise toothless tigers and enfeebled pussycats.

Member states on the Council can authorise, almost tyrannically, the use of force.  They can impose sanctions, create ad hoc tribunals to try war crimes, and set up bodies of their own wish and design.  But the supreme power of the Security Council granted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter has its own, self-stalling measure.  One might even call it retarding, a limitation that makes deliberations often look carnivalesque.  The main participants in the carnival are always the permanent five (P5): the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia and China.  Their continued relevance lies in their unaccountable exercise of the veto, an aborting device that kills off a resolution with swiftness and finality.  And only one of them need exercise it, whatever other Council Members think.

With such an uneven, ramshackle structure, proposals for reform were bound to come.  For two decades, they have haunted the halls of the UN, with little threat of materialising.  Since 2023, the ghosts of such proposals have been inspired by lethargy and inactivity on the part of the Security Council in various areas of conflict, with Ukraine and Gaza featuring prominently.  Any matter concerning the Ukraine-Russia War is likely to end up being blocked by Russia.  The United States performs the same spoiling role when it comes to Israel's war in Gaza: anything deemed against the Jewish state's interests will be stomped and snuffed out with haste.

During his speech at the General Assembly's annual debate last November, GA President Dennis Francis warned delegates that the Council's performance would inevitably continue to suffer in the absence of reform.  "Violence and war continue to spread in regions across the world, while the United Nations seems paralysed due largely to the divisions in the Security Council."  In such a fractious, and fragmenting environment, the Council was "dangerously falling short" of its mandate as the guarding custodian of international peace and security.

The advocating parties for such changes are almost always likely to feel like disgruntled invitees to a party they cannot wholly enjoy.  Exclusive benefits are only available to the blessed, anointed and those with historically appropriate character references.  The pathway is otherwise barred.

Unremarkably, the countries most keen to tout their credentials for admission are those putting the case that their time has come.  The G4, comprising Brazil, Germany, India and Japan, are calling for a total of 11 permanent members (P11): China, France, The Russian Federation, the UK, the US, with six others.  The process sounds wearisome and is outlined at some length by Thalif Deen of the Inter Press Service.  Country candidates, upon adoption of a framework regarding Council reform, would inform the President of the General Assembly, who would then set a date for the election of the six permanent members.  The change would have to be secured by two-thirds of the GA members via secret ballot.  The GA rules of procedure would then apply to the election of the new members.

As with all clubs with stringent requirements, admission would also be subject to Article 23(1) of the UN Charter: "due regard being specially paid, in the first instance to their contributions to the maintenance of international peace and security and to the other purposes of the Organization, and also to equitable geographical distribution."

The G4 proposal further suggests that the six new permanent members be elected with a specific distribution in mind: two from African Member States; two from the Asia-Pacific; one from Latin American and Caribbean Member States; and one from Western European and Other Member States.  To this grouping can also be added four or five new non-permanent members to further swell the Council, to be elected along similar lines.

Other countries are also weighing in.  Turkey, being another proclaimed actor of heft and influence, recently made sharp noises at the G20 international forum on the subject.  On the second day of the G20 Foreign Ministers Meeting in Brazil held this month, Turkey's Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan proved particularly active during the Global Governance Reform session.

Fidan had been appropriately briefed about the imprecise and often crude jargon that has come to characterise the field vaguely called international relations.  According to TRT World, he spoke of the importance of "multinational institutions" and "effective global governance mechanisms" in coping with "geopolitical tensions in the evolving multipolar new world order."  To acknowledge such a change, one vital target stood out: the UNSC.  The Council, he argued, "casts a shadow on the reputation of the entire UN system".  A "more democratic and accountable system" with sound international law foundations was needed.

As always, the impetus for reform is contingent on the jacketed traditionalists, long in the tooth and wary about a change in the furniture.  Not only will a two-thirds majority be required among all GA members; it would have to be approved by a jealous P5 less than enthusiastic in having their power diluted or checked.

Rigidly devoted to their model, the G4 may not necessarily be improving matters. Why assume that enlarging the pool of P5 veto-wielding powers to 11 will necessarily do so?  The lines of power, instead of blurring, would only harden.  The risk of procedure triumphing over the substance of peace and international security is all too apparent.

The post Old Problems with the New: Reforming the UN Security Council first appeared on Dissident Voice.
Dissident Voice
26 Feb 2024 | 9:04 pm

8. Oh, What a Tangled Web We Weave, When First We Practice to Conceive


Is it, or isn't it? If it is, there is absolutely no room to equivocate. If an embryo is truly a human child, pontificating and political posturing must be put aside; drastic and immediate intervention is called for. The lives of real children are at stake.

In Alabama, it's been decided: embryos are children; there's nothing left to debate. Those in the know are absolutely certain that at the moment of conception, when sperm and egg unite to become an embryo, a human being is immediately formed. Those in the know are absolutely certain that every embryo is a child, and each child is a gift from God.

Justice Tom Parker is a man in the know. His Alabama Supreme Court recently ruled that embryos are human children. Embryos are not going to become children; they are already indisputably children and must be recognized as such. Surely recognizing the existence of a child requires some follow-through; the children can't just be left to languish in the hands of their captors. So, what's to be done with them? What's to be done with all the children imprisoned in cryogenic freezers throughout the country? If they are truly children, if they are a gift from God, isn't it mandatory that they be rescued from frozen purgatory and allowed to resume their human lives as quickly as possible (like right now)?

It's not just a few; there may be hundreds of thousands of embryos (children) held captive in cryopreservation. When couples go to fertility clinics to consider in vitro fertilization (IVF) they are often advised to have from two to four embryos frozen for each child that might be planned. Every embryo not immediately used is cryogenically stored for years or even decades. Given time and thousands of prospective parents, the numbers have added up. Way back in 2002, a RAND-SART survey found 396,526 frozen embryos (children) being held in 430 reproductive technology facilities across the United States. It's quite possible that there are even more than that today. There could be half a million (or more) embryos (children) stored (imprisoned) in frozen limbo at this very moment. Surely the clinics and laboratories holding them must be forced to release their hostages – they are real children, right?

But they can't just be released; they have to be saved; and to be saved, they must be biologically nurtured for nine months. How is that to be done? There are thousands upon thousands of embryos (human babies) needing homes, and upon liberation from the freezer, their first and essential home needs to be a warm womb. Will there be enough volunteers for this "coming to Jesus" kind of moment? If you believe as Justice Tom Parker believes, and if you are a woman, won't this be your time to step forward? Won't this be an opportunity (or even an obligation) to put the bumper sticker words into action? If you are a Pro-Life evangelist, if you truly believe that an embryo is a human child and a gift from God, then you know that each embryo is calling out to you. Could you even think to turn away?

Yes, it's both an opportunity to save a child and to serve God, but it will also be a heavy load to bear. Women shouldn't be expected to bear it alone. Justice Parker and strong men like him who know that embryos are living children and God's gift to mankind have to step forward and passionately encourage the women in their lives to do what needs to be done. Their wives, their daughters, and even their granddaughters must be lauded in their blessedness, and then supported physically, emotionally, and financially as they step forward to save the life of a child. It's the right thing to do.

Okay, it's almost unthinkable, but what if there aren't enough volunteers? What if, you know, the timing just isn't quite right for some of the faithful to step forward? What if thousands of frozen children are still left to linger in uncertainty? They can't just be abandoned and allowed to go unclaimed. How might they be saved?

Well, should it turn out that the knowing faithful are not quite up to walking the walk, there is another possibility for rescue, and it lies right at our doorstep. There are thousands of desperate men and women standing at our border every day awaiting the slightest chance for admittance. What if some of the women standing there were offered citizenship in exchange for birthing a child? Rather than putting all those hapless would-be immigrants on busses and abandoning them in strange faraway cities, governors like Greg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis of Florida could offer free rides to fertility clinics. It would be a win, win, win, type of scenario. The children would be rescued, some merciful women would attain citizenship, and those in the know who had really wanted to save the children, but for whom the timing wasn't quite right, would be taken off the hook for coming up short.

So, do they, or don't they? Does the good judge, Tom Parker truly believe in what he decrees? Do Parker, his fellow jurists, Alabama lawmakers, and other Pro-Life adherents really believe that embryos are children? If they do, they should already be doing what needs to be done. If the embryos are children, there's no time to dither; it's a real "house afire" emergency. If embryos are children, there are hundreds of thousands of children awaiting rescue right now, thousands of lives that are prone to dissipating every day. Where is the National Guard that should be surrounding each clinic and protecting the babies? Where are the men and women that should already be out on the streets signing up volunteers? And where are all those volunteers; the Pro-Life evangelists who will dutifully carry a gift from God for just nine months in order to save the life of a child? Do all the Pro-Life men and women really believe in what they proclaim, or are "embryos are children" just words for image promotion and meant to be kept comfortably in the abstract?

Aside from the blaring headlines, it's pretty quiet out there.

InVitroFertilization
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Dissident Voice
26 Feb 2024 | 4:53 pm

9. Losing Innocence


The post Losing Innocence first appeared on Dissident Voice.
Dissident Voice
26 Feb 2024 | 4:26 pm

10. Power Ballads: Don’t catch you slippin’ up!


Abel Meeropol cited this photograph of the lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith, August 7, 1930, as inspiring his poem. Meeropol published the poem under the title "Bitter Fruit" in January 1937 in The New York Teacher, a union magazine of the New York teachers union. Though Meeropol had asked others (notably Earl Robinson) to set his poems to music, he set "Strange Fruit" to music himself.

Power Ballads: Don't catch you slippin' up!

Of all art forms the ballad has the benefit of expediency. From event, to composition, to broadcast: no art form can compete with the efficacy and proliferation of a good song. The reach and emotional impact of a ballad, "a form of verse, often a narrative set to music" allows for any event affecting individuals or groups to rapidly become popularised and understood globally. While historically ballads tended to be sentimental, their descendant, the protest song, sits alongside modern ballads with ease.

While both the ballad and the protest song can have as their basis socio/political narratives, their differences are more in the formal qualities of tempo. Ballads still tend to be slower than protest songs, but conveying in emotion what they lose in excitement.

While the ballad may satisfy with its unhurried melody and storytelling, the protest song has an immediacy of lyric and beat that gives vocal power to mass events like concerts and demonstrations.

History of  the ballad

Ballads have a long history in European culture.They started out as the "medieval French chanson balladée or ballade, which were originally 'dance songs'. Ballads were particularly characteristic of the popular poetry and song of Britain and Ireland from the Late Middle Ages until the 19th century. They were widely used across Europe, and later in Australia, North Africa, North America and South America." In the nineteenth century they were associated with sentimentality which led to the word ballad "being used for slow love songs from the 1950s onwards."

In Ireland ballads have been a very important part of the nationalist struggle against British colonialism since the seventeenth century. They reached the zenith of their popularity in the 1960s with the Dubliners, and the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. Ballad folk groups are still in demand today in Europe and the USA.

Ballads tend to have a slower tempo that allows the audience to experience the nuances of the lyrics. An early and powerful example of this is 'Strange Fruit', a song written and composed by Abel Meeropol (under his pseudonym Lewis Allan) and recorded by Billie Holiday in 1939. A ballad and a protest song, 'Strange Fruit' "protests the lynching of Black Americans with lyrics that compare the victims to the fruit of trees. Such lynchings had reached a peak in the Southern United States at the turn of the 20th century and the great majority of victims were black." 'Strange Fruit' has been described as a call for freedom and is seen as an important initiator of the civil rights movement. The lyrics are full of horror and bitter irony:

"Southern trees
Bearing strange fruit
Blood on the leaves
And blood at the roots
Black bodies
Swinging in the Southern breeze

Strange fruit hangin'
From the poplar trees
Pastoral scene
Of the gallant south"

Woodie Guthrie "Dust Bowl Ballads" 1940

Woodrow Wilson Guthrie (1912–1967) was an American singer-songwriter and composer who was one of the most important figures in American folk music. His songs focused on themes of American socialism and anti-fascism. As a young man he migrated to California to look for work and his experiences of the conditions faced by working class people. This led him to produce Dust Bowl Ballads, an album of songs grouped around the theme of the Dust Bowl storms that destroyed crops and intensified the economic impact of the Great Depression in the 1930s. 'Dust Bowl Ballads' is thought to be one of the earliest concept albums.

The songs lyrics tell of the storms and their apocalyptic effect on the local farmers:

"On the 14th day of April of 1935
There struck the worst of dust storms that ever filled the sky
You could see that dust storm comin', the cloud looked deathlike black
And through our mighty nation, it left a dreadful track

From Oklahoma City to the Arizona line
Dakota and Nebraska to the lazy Rio Grande
It fell across our city like a curtain of black rolled down
We thought it was our judgement, we thought it was our doom

[…]

The storm took place at sundown, it lasted through the night
When we looked out next morning, we saw a terrible sight
We saw outside our window where wheat fields they had grown
Was now a rippling ocean of dust the wind had blown"

Pete Seeger, 'We Shall Overcome' (1967)

Peter Seeger (1919–2014) was a popular American folk singer who was regularly heard on the radio in the 1940s, and in the early 1950s had a string of hit records as a member of The Weavers, some of whom were blacklisted during the McCarthy Era. In the 1960s, Seeger became "a prominent singer of protest music in support of international disarmament, civil rights, counterculture, workers' rights, and environmental causes."

'We Shall Overcome' is believed to have originated as a gospel song known as 'I'll Overcome Some Day'. In 1959, the song began to be associated with the civil rights movement as a protest song, with Seeger's version focusing on nonviolent civil rights activism. It became popular all over the world in many types of protest activities.

The song is a very understated (both musically and lyrically) declaration of protest and unity in the face of oppression:

"We shall overcome
We shall overcome
We shall overcome some day

Oh, deep in my heart
I do believe
We shall overcome some day"

Special A.K.A., 'Free Nelson Mandela' (1984)

In contrast, the  lively anti-apartheid song 'Free Nelson Mandela' written by British musician Jerry Dammers, and performed by the band the Special A.K.A. was a hugely popular song in 1984 that led to the global awareness of the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela by the apartheid South African government:

"Free Nelson Mandela
Twenty-one years in captivity
Shoes too small to fit his feet
His body abused but his mind is still free
Are you so blind that you cannot see?
I said free Nelson Mandela"

Rage Against The Machine, 'Sleep Now in the Fire' (1999)

Rage Against the Machine  was an American rock band from Los Angeles, California. Formed in 1991, "the group consisted of vocalist Zack de la Rocha, bassist and backing vocalist Tim Commerford, guitarist Tom Morello, and drummer Brad Wilk."

The video for 'Sleep Now in the Fire' turned a protest song into an actual protest when the band played on Wall Street in front of the New York Stock Exchange:

"The music video for the song, which was directed by Michael Moore with cinematography by Welles Hackett, features the band playing in front of the New York Stock Exchange, intercut with scenes from a satire of the popular television game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? which is named Who Wants To Be Filthy Fucking Rich. […] The video starts by saying that on January 24, 2000, the NYSE announced record profits and layoffs, and on the next day New York mayor Rudy Giuliani decreed that Rage Against the Machine "shall not play on Wall Street". The shoot for the music video on January 26, 2000 caused the doors of the New York Stock Exchange to be closed."

The lyrics are spartan, yet cover many topics: bible-belt conservatism, the corrupting aspects of wealth and its connection with right-wing politics. The second verse gives a potted history of the USA: 'I am the Nina, the Pinta, the Santa Maria' (Columbus' three ships), 'The noose and the rapist, the fields overseer' (the slave system), The agents of orange (the Vietnam war), The priests of Hiroshima' (Oppenheimer's fascination with mysticism). Any shorter and these lines could almost be described as a haiku embedded within the song. The third verse deals with the future: 'For it's the end of history, It's caged and frozen still, There is no other pill to take, So swallow the one That makes you ill' referencing Francis Fukuyama's argument "that the worldwide spread of liberal democracies and free-market capitalism of the West and its lifestyle may signal the end point of humanity's sociocultural evolution and political struggle, and become the final form of human government", 'caged' because there is no alternative, and will continue this way (of making us 'ill') with no viable socio/political alternative vision:

"The world is my expense
The cost of my desire
Jesus blessed me with its future
And I protect it with fire
So raise your fists and march around
Dont dare take what you need
I'll jail and bury those committed
And smother the rest in greed
Crawl with me into tomorrow
Or i'll drag you to your grave
I'm deep inside your children
They'll betray you in my name

Hey!
Hey!
Sleep now in the fire

The lie is my expense
The scope with my desire
The party blessed me with its future
And i protect it with fire
I am the Nina, the Pinta, the Santa Maria
The noose and the rapist, the fields overseer
The agents of orange
The priests of Hiroshima
The cost of my desire
Sleep now in the fire

For it's the end of history
It's caged and frozen still
There is no other pill to take
So swallow the one
That makes you ill
The Nina, the Pinta, the Santa Maria
The noose and the rapist, the fields' overseer
The agents of orange
The priests of Hiroshima
The cost of my desire
Sleep now in the fire."

Bill Callahan, 'America!' (2011)

In Bill Callahan's (born 1966) song and video 'America!' he contrasts the symbols and perception of America globally with its darker past. He mentions legendary American songwriters and performers Mickey Newbury, Kris Kristofferson, George Jones and Johnny Cash and their past roles in the army, showing the deep connection between culture and the military in the USA. Callahan lists countries where the USA has been: Afghanistan, Vietnam, Iran, and ends with Native America, turning its colonialism and imperialism back on itself. There is also an oblique reference to the system of haves and have-nots ('Others lucky suckle teat') ending with the slight change 'Ain't enough to eat' emphasizing the growing poverty in the richest country on earth:

"America!
You are so grand and golden
Oh I wish I was deep in America tonight

America!
America!
I watch David Letterman in Australia
America!
You are so grand and golden
I wish I was on the next flight
To America!

Captain Kristofferson!
Buck Sergeant Newbury!
Leatherneck Jones!
Sergeant Cash!
What an Army!
What an Air Force!
What a Marines!
America!
[Afghanistan, Vietnam, Iran, Native America]
Well, everyone's allowed a past
They don't care to mention

Well, it's hard to rouse a hog in Delta
And it can get tense around the Bible Belt
Others lucky suckle teat
Others lucky suckle teat

America!"

Childish Gambino, 'This Is America' (2018)

In his video, 'This Is America', Childish Gambino (Donald Glover, born 1983) shocked his viewers, who were not used to seeing the cinematic realism of gun violence in a music video. Gambino focuses more on the present than the past, while using cars from the 1990s probably as a symbol of poverty. The violence and drugs scene behind pleasure-seeking party-goers is emphasised with an execution at the start and followed up by a mass murder of a gospel choir. His demeanor constantly changes very suddenly, from dancing one moment, to exhorting his clients another, then cold-blooded killing, yet despite it all, running for his life in the end as his life style catches up with him:

"We just wanna party
Party just for you
We just want the money
Money just for you
I know you wanna party
Party just for me
Girl, you got me dancin' (yeah, girl, you got me dancin')
Dance and shake the frame
We just wanna party (yeah)
Party just for you (yeah)
We just want the money (yeah)
Money just for you (you)
I know you wanna party (yeah)
Party just for me (yeah)
Girl, you got me dancin' (yeah, girl, you got me dancin')
Dance and shake the frame (you)

This is America
Don't catch you slippin' up
Don't catch you slippin' up
Look what I'm whippin' up
This is America (woo)
Don't catch you slippin' up
Don't catch you slippin' up
Look what I'm whippin' up"

Bob Dylan, 'Murder Most Foul' (2020)

In 2020, Bob Dylan (born 1941) released this seventeen-minute track, "Murder Most Foul", on his YouTube channel, based on the assassination of President Kennedy. It is a long, slow ballad that intertwines culture and politics, contrasting the optimism of the one with the stark brutality of the other. It is the poetry of America re-examing its past at its best, the detail and condemnation in its lyrics reflecting a political undercurrent that refuses to accept modern myths, a murder 'most foul':

"It was a dark day in Dallas, November '63
A day that will live on in infamy
President Kennedy was a-ridin' high
Good day to be livin' and a good day to die
Being led to the slaughter like a sacrificial lamb
He said, "Wait a minute, boys, you know who I am?"
"Of course we do, we know who you are!"
Then they blew off his head while he was still in the car
Shot down like a dog in broad daylight
Was a matter of timing and the timing was right
You got unpaid debts, we've come to collect
We're gonna kill you with hatred, without any respect
We'll mock you and shock you and we'll put it in your face
We've already got someone here to take your place
The day they blew out the brains of the king
Thousands were watching, no one saw a thing
It happened so quickly, so quick, by surprise
Right there in front of everyone's eyes
Greatest magic trick ever under the sun
Perfectly executed, skillfully done
Wolfman, oh Wolfman, oh Wolfman, howl
Rub-a-dub-dub, it's a murder most foul

[…]

Don't worry, Mr. President, help's on the way
Your brothers are comin', there'll be hell to pay
Brothers? What brothers? What's this about hell?
Tell them, "We're waiting, keep coming," we'll get them as well
Love Field is where his plane touched down
But it never did get back up off the ground
Was a hard act to follow, second to none
They killed him on the altar of the rising sun
Play "Misty" for me and "That Old Devil Moon"
Play "Anything Goes" and "Memphis in June"
Play "Lonely at the Top" and "Lonely Are the Brave"
Play it for Houdini spinning around in his grave
Play Jelly Roll Morton, play "Lucille"
Play "Deep in a Dream", and play "Driving Wheel"
Play "Moonlight Sonata" in F-sharp
And "A Key to the Highway" for the king of the harp
Play "Marching Through Georgia" and "Dumbarton's Drums"
Play darkness and death will come when it comes
Play "Love Me or Leave Me" by the great Bud Powell
Play "The Blood-Stained Banner", play "Murder Most Foul""

Hope for the future …

These songs show us that, despite the music industry's continuing avalanche of industrial pop, composers and bands are still able to produce music that as an art form can combine melody and criticism, that can look behind facades and describe the reality they see – which we hear only as background noise. It shows the way to other art forms that take so much time and energy and money to get up and running, that a fight for more radical content is possible and necessary.

 

The post Power Ballads: Don't catch you slippin' up! first appeared on Dissident Voice.
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