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Weekend Edition

Friday, December 2nd, 2022

Individual rights and Islam

Friday, December 2nd, 2022

by FARAH ADEED

A protest by the transgender community in Karachi PHOTO/AFP

“Only free conduct is moral conduct. By negating freedom, and thus the possibility of choice, a dictatorship contains in its premises the negation of morality. To that extent, regardless of all historical apparitions, dictatorship and religion are mutually exclusive.” — Alija Izetbegovi?, former president of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Islamic philosopher

The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2018 was passed in 2018. In 2022, it has been declared ‘unIslamic’ by a specific segment of the society. In response to malicious social media campaigns, the state authorities have sheepishly assured religious parties of prompt amendments to make the Act ‘Islamic’. It is, therefore, important to look at the reasons behind the seemingly widespread disapproval of the act.

Why did religious parties disapprove the Transgender Persons Act? Is it an entirely religious matter? Who benefits from the current debate over the act? The larger political context around the issue might help make sense of the complex interplay of politics and religion in contemporary Pakistan.

Although there has been a deliberate effort to link this act with the promotion and legalisation of homosexuality in Pakistan, the problem lies somewhere else. Religious parties have clarified that the entire act is not a bad law, but that a specific clause is quite problematic in their eyes.

The problematic clause reads as follows:

“Every transgender person, being the citizen of Pakistan, who has attained the age of eighteen years shall have the right to get himself or herself registered according to self-perceived gender identity with the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) on the Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC), Child Registration Certificate (CRC), driving license and passport, in accordance with the provisions of the Nadra Ordinance, 2000 or any other relevant laws.”

Dawn for more

Zelensky and NATO plan to transform post-war Ukraine into ‘a big Israel’

Friday, December 2nd, 2022

by ALEXANDER RUBINSTEIN

The NATO-backed Atlantic Council has proposed apartheid Israel as a blueprint for a hyper-militarized Ukraine. The paper was authored by Obama’s former ambassador to Tel Aviv, now an Israeli spy-tech consultant.

Just forty days after Russia’s military campaign began inside Ukraine, Ukrainian President Vlodymyr Zelensky told reporters that in the future, his country would be like “a big Israel.” The following day, one of Israel’s top promoters in the Democratic Party published an op-ed in NATO’s official think tank exploring how that could be executed.

Zelensky made his prediction while speaking to reporters on April 5, rejecting the idea that Kiev would remain neutral in future conflicts between NATO, the European Union, and Russia. According to Zelensky, his country would never be like Switzerland (which coincidentally abandoned its Napoleon-era tradition of nonalignment by sanctioning Russia in response to its February invasion). 

“We cannot talk about ‘Switzerland of the future,’” the president informed reporters. “But we will definitely become a ‘big Israel’ with its own face.”

For those wondering what a “big Israel” would actually look like, Zelensky quickly elaborated on his disturbing prophecy.

“We will not be surprised that we will have representatives of the Armed Forces or the National Guard in all institutions, supermarkets, cinemas — there will be people with weapons,” Ukraine’s president said, predicting a bleak existence for his citizens. “I am sure that our security issue will be number one in the next ten years.”

Though the web post was based on comments Zelensky made to reporters, the president’s office mysteriously excised a section of his remarks in which he declared a future Ukraine would not be “absolutely liberal, European.” Instead, along with his vision for a heavily militarized Ukraine, the post emphasized Zelensky’s readiness to join NATO “already tomorrow.”

The Gray Zone for more

Michael Hudson: A roadmap to escape the west’s stranglehold

Thursday, December 1st, 2022

by PEPE ESCOBAR

The geoeconomic pathway away from the neoliberal order is fraught with peril, but the rewards in establishing an alternative system are as promising as they are urgent

It is impossible to track the geoeconomic turbulence inherent to the “birth pangs” of the multipolar world without the insights of Professor Michael Hudson at the University of Missouri, and author of the already seminal The Destiny of Civilization.

In his latest essay, Professor Hudson digs deeper into Germany’s suicidal economic/financial policies; their effect on the already falling euro – and hints at some possibilities for fast integrating Eurasia and the Global South as a whole to try to break the Hegemon’s stranglehold.

That led to a series of email exchanges, especially about the future role of the yuan, where Hudson remarked:

“The Chinese whom I’ve talked to for years and years did not expect the dollar to weaken. They’re not crying about its rise, but they are concerned about flight capital from China as I think after the Party Congress [starting on October 16] there will be a crackdown on the Shanghai free-market advocacy. Pressure for the coming changes has been long building up. The spirit of reform to rein in ‘free markets’ was spreading among students over a decade ago, and they have been rising in the Party hierarchy.”

On the key issue of Russia accepting payment for energy in rubles, Hudson touched upon a point rarely examined outside of Russia: “They don’t really want to be paid just in rubles. That’s the one thing Russia doesn’t need, because it can just print them. It only needs rubles to balance its international payments to stabilize the exchange rate – not to push it up.”

Which brings us to settlements in yuan: “Taking payment in yuan is like taking payment in gold – an international asset that every country desires as a non-fiat currency that has a value if one sells it (unlike the dollar now, which may simply be confiscated, or ultimately left abandoned). What Russia really needs are critical industrial inputs like computer chips. It could ask China to import these with the yuan Russia provides.”

Keynes is back

Following our email exchanges, Professor Hudson gracefully agreed to answer in detail a few questions about the extremely complex geoeconomic processes in play across Eurasia. Here we go.

The Cradle for more

Messrs Modi, Shah preside over the world’s largest diarchy

Thursday, December 1st, 2022

by DEREK O’BRIEN

Minister of Home Affairs Amit Shah (left) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi PHOTo/The Wire

It’s amusing to see how Modi-Shah’s BJP is so obsessed with the question of leadership and power centers in political parties opposed to them. BJP diehards – often egged on by a fawning media – pontificate on the key players in the opposition. Instead of sharing plans to resolve issues like price rise or unemployment, the so-called gyan gurus from team Modi-Shah pass judgement on how the election for a new Congress president is a farce or whether KCR’s son deserves, at any point, to take over the party his father founded. Or why Stalin got a free hand-me-down to run the DMK or how Abhishek Banerjee, the national general secretary and two-term TMC MP, is still only “Mamata’s nephew”. Or why there is no internal democracy in the parties founded by the late Mulayam Singh Yadav or Lalu Prasad Yadav. Or is the Thackerays’ Shiv Sena…the list is endless.

It’s rich when Messrs Narendra Modi and Amit Shah raise questions about the state of internal democracy in opposition parties. After all, they preside over the world’s largest diarchy. Yes, a diarchy – a form of government in which power is vested in TWO rulers or authorities.

There are dozens of reasons why the BJP’s power twins qualify as a true diarchy. Let me give you five examples, in no particular order, to drive the point home. 

1. Leader of the House in Rajya Sabha

After Arun Jaitley passed away in 2019, the quietly efficient Thawarchand Gehlot was appointed Leader of the House in Rajya Sabha. But in two years, one of the BJP’s senior most leaders, a Parliamentarian since 1996 (a Dalit who was once also a member of the party’s board) was sent into ‘early retirement’ as the Governor of Karnataka. The diarchy ordered the change. Done. Silence. 

2. BJP’s Parliamentary Board and Central Election Committee

Recently, the BJP’s Parliamentary board and Central Election Committee was reconstituted. One of the big surprises was Nitin Gadkari, former BJP president and Union Minister, being dropped.

There was one more notable removal – Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh. 
Dropped. Why? What? Did the media ask? Did the BJP ever need to answer the hard questions? Did Modi-Shah spell out the rationale behind dropping Gadkari-Chouhan? 

3. BJP president

Even partisan supporters of the right-wing sheepishly admit that the affable JP Nadda is all set to get an extension as BJP chief after his three-year tenure ends in January 2023. Rubber stamps are prized possessions of duos who run diarchies. 

You will recall that Amit Shah’s tenure as BJP president was also extended by a year in 2019. The jodi from Gujarat, now ensconced in Lutyens, call all the shots in the party that receives 85 per cent of all electoral bonds. No one in the BJP dares to question it. Were members of the party consulted before terms were/are extended? Were elections held? Or was it just an edict issued from M&S (Modi and Shah)? 

4. For the BJP, RS stands not for Rajya Sabha – but Royal Shunting.

The pair at the helm of the diarchy have scant respect for parliament (the subject of a forthcoming column). For now, let’s share some brazen superannuation packages worked out in the House of Elders. 

i) In 2020, Sushil Modi was ejected from Bihar and elected to Rajya Sabha. His proximity to Nitish Kumar got him a bungalow in Delhi but weakened him in his home state. From Deputy Chief Minister to a back bencher, or thereabouts, in the Upper House.

ii) In 2021, Sarbananda Sonowal moved to Rajya Sabha, making way for Himanta Biswa Sarma to take over as Chief Minister of Assam. Stamp of the diarchy. 

iii) This year, Biplab Deb was given a one-way ticket from Agartala to Delhi. You guessed it – a Rajya Sabha seat. These kinds of ploys have become the trademark of the diarchy. From Chief Minister of Tripura to back bencher in Parliament. Slayed. 

But no one questions these moves because the world’s most dictatorial (diarchy, to be more correct) party always seems to get a free pass from the godi media.

5. Policy and legislation versus failed stunts 

i) Demonetisation 

The diabolical diarchy has made a habit of taking decisions without consulting anyone, be it other political parties or domain experts. 

Failed stunt. 

Think back to 2016, when over 80% of the country’s currency was demonetised at only four hours’ notice. This hare-brained scheme broke the back of India’s informal economy, led to an estimated loss of 15 lakh jobs and caused many deaths. 

ii) Farm Bills

The proceedings in Parliament are well documented. You all saw how opposition MPs were denied their right to ask for a division of votes (electronic voting) and the Farm Bills were ‘passed’ by a voice vote, breaking every rule in the book. 

A year later, only after sustained protests by farmers, the twins running the diarchy had to backtrack. 

Allies have split with the BJP. Agencies have been reduced to being slaves of the two most powerful gents in the cabinet. The country’s key institutions are being weakened. We really do not know how much worse the situation can get. But what we do know is that Messrs Modi-Shah have effectively turned India into the world’s biggest diarchy.PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.com

NDTV for more

Britain’s new PM Sunak is as wealthy as the King — and as distant from the people

Thursday, December 1st, 2022

by GARETH DALE

Rishi Sunak is greeted by supporters as he arrives at the Conservative Party Campaign Headquarters after being announced the winner of Conservative Party leadership contest in London, United Kingdom, on October 24, 2022.  PHOTO/Wiktor Szymanowicz / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

As so often in recent times, the Tory Party has a new leader, and therefore Britain a new prime minister. In the last leadership contest, Rishi Sunak managed to lose to the inept ideologue Liz Truss, who then, only weeks later when challenged by a tabloid newspaper to outlast a lettuce, lost to the vegetable.

How did the political script twist into this farce? How could former Prime Minister Boris Johnson — a figure so disgraced that he should be auditioning for pantomime villain roles in the run-up to Christmas — countenance a comeback and why did he fall short? Why is Sunak so despised in the Tory Party and how did he nonetheless carry the day? What does his government represent and how will the Labour Party respond?

The trigger came when Truss’s government attempted a Reagan-style borrowing binge.

Truthout for more

Nomi Prins: How the Federal Reserve and Allied Central Bankers Wrote the Obituary for Competitive Capitalism

Wednesday, November 30th, 2022
IMAGE/Bookshop.org

Dr. Nomi Prins examines the games the wealthy elites play while the 99% suffer.

Rising from a world of deep financial sin at Goldman Sachs, where she served as a managing director during the creation of the housing Ponzi scheme that wrecked much of the world’s economy, Dr. Nomi Prins, has written seven books detailing the corruptions of the financial elite that has only intensified its destructive assault on the livelihood of the world’s struggling population.

In her latest book, “Permanent Distortion: How the Financial Markets Abandoned the Real Economy Forever,” Nomi writes the ultimate obituary for the competitive capitalism celebrated by classical economists since Adam Smith. This is the evil doppelgänger distortion bereft of any saving grace accountability of a free market conceived by the evil alchemists of the world’s uber powerful central banks led by our own Federal Reserve at the top of a unipolar world of their creation. It is a concentration of governmental power in alliance with the super-rich of the west determined to cut off any “invisible hand” of market forces being it from workers striking for higher wages or competition from smaller producers. The only hand at play is the one using unchallenged government power to prop up the most voracious of the rich.

From the housing crisis to the pandemic, all disasters are an opportunity for plunder of the vulnerable. As Prins writes: “The world’s 10 richest men more than doubled their fortunes from $700 billion to $1.5 trillion at a rate of $15,000 per second, or $1.3 billion a day during the first two years of a pandemic that has seen the incomes of 99% of humanity fall and over 160 million more people forced into poverty.” She adds a quote from Oxfam International executive director Gabriela Bucher that “if these 10 men were to lose 99.99% of their wealth tomorrow, they would still be richer than 99% of all the people on this planet.”

Meanwhile, Prins tells Scheer: “The Fed has been raising interest rates in a very accelerated way. Why? Ostensibly, to fight inflation, which mostly it can’t control oil and food type prices. What it can control is the cost to real people of borrowing. That cost has now increased or doubled since March for actual real people who don’t have access to tons of cheap money to, for example, afford mortgages, which is one of the reasons they’re staying in rents, which is one of the reason the rents are going so high. So, all of these incidents, whether it’s the Fed inflating markets by inflating its balance sheet, or it keeps its balance sheet as high as it was, but it increases rates to tighten the availability of money for real people, ultimately still helps the markets relative to the real economy. Right now, it’s happening in real time. I believe the Fed’s going to ultimately inflate its balance sheet again when the economy ‘gets bad enough’ or Wall Street more particularly asks for more help, which it will, because its loans are starting to deteriorate again because people cannot afford to pay these rates. But in the meantime, we are in the middle of this permanently distorted environment.”

Scheerpost for more

Chris Hedges and Roger Waters: Ukraine, Palestine, music and more

Wednesday, November 30th, 2022

by CHRIS HEDGES

IMAGE/John Graham via Flickr

Roger Waters, the British rock legend and co-founder of Pink Floyd, is in the midst of his “This Is Not A Drill” tour.

In his concerts he weds his musical genius to the most pressing social issues of our day, including permanent war, police violence, the crimes of Israeli occupation against the Palestinians, including the killing of the Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh by the Israeli military and the imprisonment of Julian Assange.

When Waters performs the song “The Powers that Be” above him on the enormous video screens are animated scenes of police brutality. The names of George Floyd, Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor and others flash on the screens. Their crime is listed as being Black. Their punishment is listed as death.

Back and forth he shows the forces of repression, including images from the Collateral Murder video, the Israeli bombing of Gaza and numerous other police murders including those of the Syrian Ali Al-Hamda, killed by Turkish police, Rashan Charles, killed by British police, and Matheus Melo Castro, shot by police in Brazil.

Slogans of resistance pepper the performance — “Fuck Drones,” “Fuck the Supreme Court” “Fuck Occupation,” “You Can’t Have Occupation And Human Rights.”

He dedicates a song to the water protectors and has a montage of U.S, presidents from Ronald Reagan to Joe Biden, all labeled as war criminals. Waters returns us to the era when artists were not denuded of moral authority by commercial interests.

He stands unequivocally with the oppressed. He stands unequivocally against the forces of repression. Like Victor Jara, Mercedes Sosa or Woody Guthrie he knows who we must fight for and who we must fight against.

Joining me to discuss music and his tour is Roger Waters.

Dandelion Salad for more

Haiti’s four years of nonstop protests against US interference

Wednesday, November 30th, 2022

by VIJAY PRASHAD

Haitians have once again taken to the streets in recent weeks, targeting the banks and NGOs that have taken over the island since the 2010 earthquake.

A cycle of protests began in Haiti in July 2018, and – despite the pandemic – has carried on since then. The core reason for the protest in 2018 was that in March of that year the government of Venezuela – due to the illegal sanctions imposed by the United States – could no longer ship discounted oil to Haiti through the PetroCaribe scheme. Fuel prices soared by up to 50 per cent. On 14 August 2018, filmmaker Gilbert Mirambeau Jr. tweeted a photograph of himself blindfolded and holding a sign that read, ‘Kot Kòb Petwo Karibe a???’ (Where did the PetroCaribe money go?). He reflected the popular sentiment in the country that the money from the scheme had been looted by the Haitian elite, whose grip on the country had been secured by two coups d’état against the democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (once in 1991 and again in 2004). Rising oil prices made life unliveable for the vast majority of the people, whose protests created a crisis of political legitimacy for the Haitian elite.

In recent weeks, the streets of Haiti have once again been occupied by large marches and roadblocks, with the mood on edge. Banks and nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) – including Catholic charities – faced the wrath of the protesters, who painted ’Down with [the] USA’ on buildings that they ransacked and burned. The Creole word dechoukaj or uprooting – that was first used in the democracy movements in 1986 – has come to define these protests. The government has blamed the violence on gangs such as G9 led by the former Haitian police officer Jimmy ‘Babekyou’ (Barbecue) Chérizier. These gangs are indeed part of the protest movement, but they do not define it.

The government of Haiti – led by acting President Ariel Henry – decided to raise fuel prices during this crisis, which provoked a protest from the transport unions. Jacques Anderson Desroches, president of the Fós Sendikal pou Sove Ayiti, told the Haitian Times, ‘If the state does not resolve to put an end to the liberalization of the oil market in favor of the oil companies and take control of it,’ nothing good will come of it. ‘[O]therwise,’ he said, ‘all the measures taken by Ariel Henry will be cosmetic measures.’ On Sept. 26, trade union associations called for a strike, which paralysed the country, including the capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince.

Alborada for more

Is that a chilling echo of Dr. Strangelove we are hearing from Biden’s nominee to oversee America’s nuclear weapons arsenal?

Tuesday, November 29th, 2022

by JEREMY KUZMAROV

A few remarkable scenes from Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 black comedy Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb VIDEO/Okeh Wolf/Youtube

Anthony J. Cotton (IMAGE/; left, Peter Sellers as Dr. Strangelove [Source: commonedge.org ] [Collage courtesy of Steve Brown.]

Anthony J. Cotton Says if Confirmed He Will Prepare U.S. Army Officers to Deploy Nuclear Weapons—Which is No Longer Unthinkable

Stanley Kubrick’s classic 1964 film Dr. Strangelove featured an unhinged Air Force General named Jack D. Ripper, who orders a nuclear strike on the Soviet Union after he becomes convinced that the Soviets were polluting the U.S. water supply.

The scenario presented in the film, unfortunately, is not inconceivable today given the Dr. Strangelove type characters who are prevalent in the upper-ranks of the U.S. military and political establishment.

On September 16, President Joe Biden’s nominee to head the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), which oversees the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal, Anthony J. Cotton was asked at his Senate confirmation hearing by Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) whether he thought nuclear war was unthinkable.

He responded that if confirmed as STRATCOM commander, his role would be to “ensure that the 150,000 men and women supporting strategic command are prepared to do what some folks think may be unthinkable”—that is to deploy weapons from the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Later in the hearing, Senator Joni Ernst (R-IO) asked Cotton whether in light of the 2018 National Defense Strategy’s conclusion that the U.S. would struggle to win a war with China over Taiwan, “the president should have flexible nuclear options to prevent conventional defeat at the hands of our adversaries in this particular scenario.”

Cotton replied: “yes I do.”

Criminally Insane?

Cotton’s predecessor, Carl J. Richard, would have likely responded in the same way. Last year, he wrote in the U.S. Naval Institute’s monthly magazine that the U.S. military had to “shift its principal assumption from ‘nuclear employment is not possible’ to ‘nuclear employment is a very real possibility,’” in the face of threats from Russia and China.

Former Pentagon whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg stated that Richard sounded like he was “criminally insane.”

Covert Action Magazine for more