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By branding Donald Trump a “populist,” the Establishment reveals its anti-democratic face

By labelling political leaders like Donald Trump “Populists” and saying they are a danger to democracy, today’s neoliberal establishment is actually showing its contempt for democracy in a way that threatens future coups.

Alexander Mercouris




Following Donald Trump’s election victory a spectre is haunting the West — the spectre of Populism. All the powers of the old West have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre.  The trouble is none of them can tell us what this spectre actually is, or if it even exists.

Donald Trump’s election victory has produced a further flood of angry and worried commentary from neoliberal writers complaining about the threatening rise of something they like to call “Populism”.  This one by Timothy Garton Ash in the Guardian is a good example, but in truth such articles now exist in their myriad.  A fact common to all these articles is however that none of them ever properly define “Populism”, though they vigorously condemn it whatever it is.

The extent to which this word is empty of any meaning is shown by the sort of people neoliberal writers attach this label to. 

They include Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen, Nigel Farage and Viktor Orban, who all belong to the right (invariably referred to as “the far right”); Jeremy Corbyn, Alexis Tsipras, Bernie Sanders and the Podemos movement in Spain, who all belong to the left (invariably referred to as “the far left”); whilst Italy’s Beppe Grillo, inhabits a strange politically indefinable world of his own, and therefore gets talked about rarely.

Of the other political leaders regularly called “Populists” Vladimir Putin of Russia and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey are impossible to place in conventional Western left-right terms, whilst Poland’s Jarosław Kaczyński combines a socialist economic and welfare policy with a strongly conservative social and cultural policy and a militantly nationalist foreign policy, which also makes him difficult to place easily in conventional Western left-right terms.

Not only is there no ideological unity between these people, but far from being political allies they often detest each other. 

Thus Tsipras has made known his personal loathing for Marine Le Pen (whom he has never actually met), spurning her offer of support during Greece’s bailout crisis last year; Marine Le Pen in turn makes no secret of her loathing for Turkish President Erdogan (whom she has also never met); Erdogan had a major falling out with Putin last year, though the two have now patched things up; whilst Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders both stand in principled opposition to Donald Trump. 

Of the others, Orban is Putin’s friend, Kaczyński is Putin’s enemy, but Orban and Kaczyński are friends.

Despite the absence of any discernible ideological commonality between these people, those who call them “Populists” say they are a “threat to democracy”, Timothy Garton Ash’s article being a case in point.  Little explanation is however given of exactly how this is so. 

Tsipras has now been Prime Minister of Greece for almost two years, and Orban has been Prime Minister of Hungary for almost six.  Despite lurid scaremongering about both countries both are still recognisably democracies.  In the case of Greece the only popular vote which has been set aside since Tsipras came to power was one which he called and which he won but which the EU forced him to set aside.

It is sometimes said that what defines “Populists” is that they tend to glorify the nation, carry out constitutional changes and legal reforms to make the executive power in their countries stronger, and that they oppose immigration, which supposedly makes them racist. 

All that was once true of President De Gaulle of France, who no one ever called a “Populist”, and who certainly was not a racist. 

Besides it is not even true of some of the people who today are called “Populists”.  By way of example Tsipras of Greece is a committed internationalist who takes a very liberal approach to immigration and is a fervid anti-racist.  The same is true of Jeremy Corbyn in Britain and Bernie Sanders in the US.  In Spain Podemos does not want to make the executive power in Spain stronger but wants to make it weaker, and is so uninterested in glorifying the nation state that it is actually prepared to contemplate the secession of Catalonia.

Sometimes it is said that “Populists” are intolerant of alternative views and try to crack down on dissent and seek to control the media in their countries once they gain power.

The relentless campaign by the neoliberal Western establishment against Julian Assange, Wikileaks, Edward Snowden, the Russian media, the Iranian media, and the alternative media (Hillary Clinton’s “alt right”) makes this a strange argument coming from neoliberal writers. 

Some politicians referred to as “Populists” eg. Jarosław Kaczyński in Poland, are more intolerant of independent voices than some other politicians are. 

However it is very much a matter of degree and in no state governed by people called “Populists” except Erdogan’s Turkey has the right or ability to express an opinion so far been suppressed or even limited to any significant degree.  The most repressive government in that respect in Europe by far (much more so than Erdogan’s Turkey) is the post Maidan government in Ukraine, which is never called “Populist”.

Another common claim (very widespread today in America) is that “Populists” are social reactionaries, who hanker for a return to the moral and social certainties of the 1950s with women kept in their place and gay and lesbian people locked up or hidden away.

That may be true of Kaczyński in Poland and Orban in Hungary.  It is certainly not true of Putin in Russia, who is a social conservative who wants to keep things as they are, not a social reactionary who wants to turn the clock back.  It is the diametrically opposite of true in the cases of Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders, Alexis Tsipras and Podemos, all of whom are radical social progressives, as by the way is Marine Le Pen.

Lastly, it is sometimes said that “Populists” are all somehow favourable to Putin and Russia, with the claim commonly made that Putin and Russia back then and control them by giving them money and publicity through its supposed “propaganda channel” RT.

The entirety of the “evidence” for this claim is that Marine Le Pen’s party after being denied access to the French banking system obtained a loan on commercial terms from a Russian bank.  In all other respects it is nonsense.  Kaczyński of Poland is Russia’s resolute enemy not its friend, whilst from November of last year until June of this year Erdogan of Turkey was Russia’s enemy also.

In fact the only thing so-called “Populists” have in common is that though often for completely different reasons they all find themselves in opposition to the West’s post Cold War neoliberal political and economic establishment.

In some though not all cases this also comes with criticism of the EU, and in some cases, though again by no means all – Jarosław Kaczyński in Poland being an important case in point – it comes with a certain skepticism about the present campaign against Russia.

That the one issue which defines whether or not a politician gets called a “Populist” is support or opposition to the existing neoliberal establishment is proved by the case of Bernie Sanders. 

During the contest for the Democratic Party’s nomination he was labelled a “Populist” because he challenged the establishment’s candidate who was Hillary Clinton.  The moment he declared his support for Hillary Clinton he instantly stopped being called a “Populist” and became a statesman instead.

The claim that there is such a thing as “Populism” and that it is supposedly a terrifying and sinister wave that is sweeping the West is nonsense.  There is no intellectual justification for this term, which is actually meaningless.  If anything it appears to criticise politicians for being popular, which in a democracy is absurd since being popular with voters is surely what politics in a democracy is all about.

The term though meaningless is however sinister.  Any term used as a blanket term to label and delegitimize political leaders because for any number of different reasons they find themselves opposed to the West’s neoliberal establishment is sinister by definition.  Moreover it is sinister in the most insidious way, by using the very fact of the popularity of their opposition to the neoliberal establishment against these political leaders, in order to delegitimize them as “anti-democratic”.

This shows from where the true danger to democracy comes: from a neoliberal establishment that has come to conflate democracy with power for itself, and which considers any challenge to its power “undemocratic” and therefore illegitimate, even if it is supported by a majority of the people, at which point it calls it “Populist”. 

Where Abraham Lincoln once spoke of democracy as “government of the people, by the people, for the people”, today’s neoliberal establishment considers democracy to be government of, by and for itself, so that if the people oppose its power then that is “undemocratic” and is “Populist”. 

That is how it came about that the violent and unconstitutional overthrow of a democratically elected government in Ukraine in 2014 by a faction the Western neoliberal establishment supported is called in the West “democratic”. 

The fact the Western neoliberal establishment is starting to use the term “Populist” to describe politicians in the West who oppose it like Jeremy Corbyn and Donald Trump shows that this dangerous and profoundly anti-democratic attitude is now being imported home.  Given that that is so, one can only wonder how long it will take before the first coup in the West takes place.

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Skripal and Khashoggi: A Tale of Two Disappearances

Two disappearances, and two different responses.



Authored by Finian Cunningham via The Strategic Culture Foundation:

Two disappearances, and two very different responses from Western governments, which illustrates their rank hypocrisy.

When former Russian spy Sergei Skripal went missing in England earlier this year, there was almost immediate punitive action by the British government and its NATO allies against Moscow. By contrast, Western governments are straining with restraint towards Saudi Arabia over the more shocking and provable case of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The outcry by Western governments and media over the Skripal affair was deafening and resulted in Britain, the US and some 28 other countries expelling dozens of Russian diplomats on the back of unsubstantiated British allegations that the Kremlin tried to assassinate an exiled spy with a deadly nerve agent. The Trump administration has further tightened sanctions citing the Skripal incident.

London’s case against Moscow has been marked by wild speculation and ropey innuendo. No verifiable evidence of what actually happened to Sergei Skripal (67) and his daughter Yulia has been presented by the British authorities. Their claim that President Vladimir Putin sanctioned a hit squad armed with nerve poison relies on sheer conjecture.

All we know for sure is that the Skripals have been disappeared from public contact by the British authorities for more than seven months, since the mysterious incident of alleged poisoning in Salisbury on March 4.

Russian authorities and family relatives have been steadfastly refused any contact by London with the Skripal pair, despite more than 60 official requests from Moscow in accordance with international law and in spite of the fact that Yulia is a citizen of the Russian Federation with consular rights.

It is an outrage that based on such thin ice of “evidence”, the British have built an edifice of censure against Moscow, rallying an international campaign of further sanctions and diplomatic expulsions.

Now contrast that strenuous reaction, indeed hyper over-reaction, with how Britain, the US, France, Canada and other Western governments are ever-so slowly responding to Saudi Arabia over the Khashoggi case.

After nearly two weeks since Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, the Saudi regime is this week finally admitting he was killed on their premises – albeit, they claim, in a “botched interrogation”.

Turkish and American intelligence had earlier claimed that Khashoggi was tortured and murdered on the Saudi premises by a 15-member hit squad sent from Riyadh.

Even more grisly, it is claimed that Khashoggi’s body was hacked up with a bone saw by the killers, his remains secreted out of the consulate building in boxes, and flown back to Saudi Arabia on board two private jets connected to the Saudi royal family.

What’s more, the Turks and Americans claim that the whole barbaric plot to murder Khashoggi was on the orders of senior Saudi rulers, implicating Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The latest twist out of Riyadh, is an attempt to scapegoat “rogue killers” and whitewash the House of Saudi from culpability.

The fact that 59-year-old Khashoggi was a legal US resident and a columnist for the Washington Post has no doubt given his case such prominent coverage in Western news media. Thousands of other victims of Saudi vengeance are routinely ignored in the West.

Nevertheless, despite the horrific and damning case against the Saudi monarchy, the response from the Trump administration, Britain and others has been abject.

President Trump has blustered that there “will be severe consequences” for the Saudi regime if it is proven culpable in the murder of Khashoggi. Trump quickly qualified, however, saying that billion-dollar arms deals with the oil-rich kingdom will not be cancelled. Now Trump appears to be joining in a cover-up by spinning the story that the Khashoggi killing was done by “rogue killers”.

Britain, France and Germany this week issued a joint statement calling for “a credible investigation” into the disappearance. But other than “tough-sounding” rhetoric, none of the European states have indicated any specific sanctions, such as weapons contracts being revoked or diplomatic expulsions.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “concerned” by the gruesome claims about Khashoggi’s killing, but he reiterated that Ottawa would not be scrapping a $15 billion sale of combat vehicles to Riyadh.

The Saudi rulers have even threatened retaliatory measures if sanctions are imposed by Western governments.

Saudi denials of official culpability seem to be a brazen flouting of all reason and circumstantial evidence that Khashoggi was indeed murdered in the consulate building on senior Saudi orders.

This week a glitzy international investor conference in Saudi Arabia is being boycotted by top business figures, including the World Bank chief, Jim Yong Kim, JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon and Britain’s venture capitalist Richard Branson. Global firms like Ford and Uber have pulled out, as have various media sponsors, such as CNN, the New York Times and Financial Times. Withdrawal from the event was in response to the Khashoggi affair.

A growing bipartisan chorus of US Senators, including Bob Corker, Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham and Chris Murphy, have called for the cancellation of American arms sales to Saudi Arabia, as well as for an overhaul of the strategic partnership between the two countries.

Still, Trump has rebuffed calls for punitive response. He has said that American jobs and profits depend on the Saudi weapons market. Some 20 per cent of all US arms sales are estimated to go to the House of Saud.

The New York Times this week headlined: “In Trump’s Saudi Bargain, the Bottom Line Proudly Stands Out”.

The Trump White House will be represented at the investment conference in Saudi Arabia this week – dubbed “Davos in the Desert” by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. He said he was attending in spite of the grave allegations against the Saudi rulers.

Surely the point here is the unseemly indulgence by Western governments of Saudi Arabia and its so-called “reforming” Crown Prince. It is remarkable how much credulity Washington, London, Paris, Ottawa and others are affording the Saudi despots who, most likely, have been caught redhanded in a barbarous murder.

Yet, when it comes to Russia and outlandish, unproven claims that the Kremlin carried out a bizarre poison-assassination plot, all these same Western governments abandon all reason and decorum to pile sanctions on Russia based on lurid, hollow speculation. The blatant hypocrisy demolishes any pretense of integrity or principle.

Here is another connection between the Skripal and Khashoggi affairs. The Saudis no doubt took note of the way Britain’s rulers have shown absolute disregard and contempt for international law in their de facto abduction of Sergei and Yulia Skripal. If the British can get away with that gross violation, then the Saudis probably thought that nobody would care too much if they disappeared Jamal Khashoggi.

Grotesquely, the way things are shaping up in terms of hypocritical lack of action by the Americans, British and others towards the Saudi despots, the latter might just get away with murder. Not so Russia. The Russians are not allowed to get away with even an absurd fantasy.

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US-China trade war heats up as surplus hits record $34 Billion (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 136.

Alex Christoforou



According to a report by the AFP, China’s trade surplus with the United States ballooned to a record $34.1 billion in September, despite a raft of US tariffs, official data showed Friday, adding fuel to the fire of a worsening trade war.

Relations between the world’s two largest economies have soured sharply this year, with US President Donald Trump vowing on Thursday to inflict economic pain on China if it does not blink.
The two countries imposed new tariffs on a massive amount of each other’s goods mid-September, with the US targeting $200 billion in Chinese imports and Beijing firing back at $60 billion worth of US goods.

“China-US trade friction has caused trouble and pounded our foreign trade development,” customs spokesman Li Kuiwen told reporters Friday.

But China’s trade surplus with the US grew 10 percent in September from a record $31 billion in August, according to China’s customs administration. It was a 22 percent jump from the same month last year.

China’s exports to the US rose to $46.7 billion while imports slumped to $12.6 billion.

China’s overall trade — what it buys and sells with all countries including the US — logged a $31.7 billion surplus, as exports rose faster than imports.

Exports jumped 14.5 percent for September on-year, beating forecasts from analysts polled by Bloomberg News, while imports rose 14.3 percent on-year.

While the data showed China’s trade remained strong for the month, analysts forecast the trade war will start to hurt in coming months.

China’s export jump for the month suggests exporters were shipping goods early to beat the latest tariffs, said ANZ’s China economist Betty Wang, citing the bounce in electrical machinery exports, much of which faced the looming duties.

“We will watch for downside risks to China’s exports” in the fourth quarter, Wang said.

Analysts say a sharp depreciation of the yuan has also helped China weather the tariffs by making its exports cheaper.

“The big picture is the Chinese exports have so far held up well in the face of escalating trade tensions and cooling global growth, most likely thanks to the competitiveness boost provided by a weaker renminbi (yuan),” said Julian Evans-Pritchard, China economist at Capital Economics.

“With global growth likely to cool further in the coming quarters and US tariffs set to become more punishing, the recent resilience of exports is unlikely to be sustained,” he said.

According to Bloomberg US President Donald Trump’s new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement isn’t that different from the North American Free Trade Agreement that it replaced. But hidden in the bowels of the new trade deal is a clause, Article 32.10, that could have a far-reaching impact. The new agreement requires member states to get approval from the other members if they initiate trade negotiations with a so-called non-market economy. In practice, “non-market” almost certainly means China. If, for example, Canada begins trade talks with China, it has to show the full text of the proposed agreement to the U.S. and Mexico — and if either the U.S. or Mexico doesn’t like what it sees, it can unilaterally kick Canada out of the USMCA.

Although it seems unlikely that the clause would be invoked, it will almost certainly exert a chilling effect on Canada and Mexico’s trade relations with China. Forced to choose between a gargantuan economy across the Pacific and another one next door, both of the U.S.’s neighbors are almost certain to pick the latter.

This is just another part of Trump’s general trade waragainst China. It’s a good sign that Trump realizes that unilateral U.S. efforts alone won’t be enough to force China to make concessions on issues like currency valuation, intellectual-property protection and industrial subsidies. China’s export markets are much too diverse:

If Trump cuts the U.S. off from trade with China, the likeliest outcome is that China simply steps up its exports to other markets. That would bind the rest of the world more closely to China and weaken the global influence of the U.S. China’s economy would take a small but temporary hit, while the U.S. would see its position as the economic center of the world slip into memory.

Instead, to take on China, Trump needs a gang. And that gang has to be much bigger than just North America. But most countries in Europe and East Asia probably can’t be bullied into choosing between the U.S. and China. — their ties to the U.S. are not as strong as those of Mexico and Canada. Countries such as South Korea, Germany, India and Japan will need carrots as well as sticks if they’re going to join a U.S.-led united trade front against China.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the escalating trade war between the United States and China, and the record trade surplus that positions China with a bit more leverage than Trump anticipated.

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Via Zerohedge Trump Threatens China With More Tariffs, Does Not Seek Economic “Depression”

US equity futures dipped in the red after President Trump threatened to impose a third round of tariffs on China and warned that Chinese meddling in U.S. politics was a “bigger problem” than Russian involvement in the 2016 election.

During the same interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes”, in which Trump threatened to impose sanctions against Saudi Arabia if the Saudis are found to have killed WaPo reported Khashoggi, and which sent Saudi stock plunging, Trump said he “might,” impose a new round of tariffs on China, adding that while he has “great chemistry” with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and noting that Xi “wants to negotiate”, he doesn’t “know that that’s necessarily going to continue.” Asked if American products have become more expensive due to tariffs on China, Trump said that “so far, that hasn’t turned out to be the case.”

“They can retaliate, but they can’t, they don’t have enough ammunition to retaliate,” Trump says, “We do $100 billion with them. They do $531 billion with us.”

Trump was also asked if he wants to push China’s economy into a depression to which the US president said “no” before comparing the country’s stock-market losses since the tariffs first launched to those in 1929, the start of the Great Depression in the U.S.

“I want them to negotiate a fair deal with us. I want them to open their markets like our markets are open,” Trump said in the interview that aired Sunday. So far, the U.S. has imposed three rounds of tariffs on Chinese imports totaling $250 billion, prompting China to retaliate against U.S. products. The president previously has threatened to hit virtually all Chinese imports with duties.

Asked about his relationship with Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin’s alleged efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, Trump quickly turned back to China. “They meddled,” he said of Russia, “but I think China meddled too.”

“I think China meddled also. And I think, frankly, China … is a bigger problem,” Trump said, as interviewer Lesley Stahl interrupted him for “diverting” from a discussion of Russia.

Shortly before an audacious speech by Mike Pence last weekend, in which the US vice president effectively declared a new cold war on Beijing (see “Russell Napier: Mike Pence Announces Cold War II”), Trump made similar accusations during a speech at the United Nations last month, which his aides substantiated by pointing to long-term Chinese influence campaigns and an advertising section in the Des Moines Register warning farmers about the potential effects of Trump’s tariffs.

Meanwhile, in a rare U.S. television appearance, China’s ambassador to the U.S. said Beijing has no choice but to respond to what he described as a trade war started by the U.S.

“We never wanted a trade war, but if somebody started a trade war against us, we have to respond and defend our own interests,” said China’s Ambassador Cui Tiankai.

Cui also dismissed as “groundless” the abovementioned suggestion by Vice President Mike Pence that China has orchestrated an effort to meddle in U.S. domestic affairs. Pence escalated the rhetoric in a speech Oct. 4, saying Beijing has created a “a whole-of-government approach” to sway American public opinion, including spies, tariffs, coercive measures and a propaganda campaign.

Pence’s comments were some of the most critical about China by a high-ranking U.S. official in recent memory. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo got a lecture when he visited Beijing days later, about U.S. actions that were termed “completely out of line.” The tough words followed months of increases tit-for-tat tariffs imposed by Washington and Beijing that have ballooned to cover hundreds of billions of dollars in bilateral trade.

During a recent interview with National Public Radio, Cui said the U.S. has “not sufficiently” dealt in good faith with the Chinese on trade matters, saying “the U.S. position keeps changing all the time so we don’t know exactly what the U.S. would want as priorities.”

Meanwhile, White House economic director Larry Kudlow said on “Fox News Sunday” that President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping will “probably meet” at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires in late November. “There’s plans and discussions and agendas” being discussed, he said. So far, talks with China on trade have been “unsatisfactory,” Kudlow said. “We’ve made our asks” on allegations of intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers, he added. “We have to have reciprocity.”

Addressing the upcoming meeting, Cui said he was present at two previous meetings of Xi and Trump, and that top-level communication “played a key role, an irreplaceable role, in guiding the relationship forward.” Despite current tensions the two have a “good working relationship,” he said.

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BREAKING: Explosion in Crimea, Russia kills many, injuring dozens, terrorism suspected

According to preliminary information, the incident was caused by a gas explosion at a college facility in Kerch, Crimea.

The Duran



“We are clarifying the information at the moment. Preliminary figures are 50 injured and 10 dead. Eight ambulance crews are working at the site and air medical services are involved,” the press-service for the Crimean Ministry of Health stated.

Medics announced that at least 50 people were injured in the explosion in Kerch and 25 have already been taken to local hospital with moderate wounds, according to Sputnik.

Local news outlets reported that earlier in the day, students at the college heard a blast and windows of the building were shattered.

Putin Orders that Assistance Be Provided to Victims of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The president has instructed the Ministry of Health and the rescue services to take emergency measures to assist victims of this explosion, if necessary, to ensure the urgent transportation of seriously wounded patients to leading medical institutions of Russia, whether in Moscow or other cities,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitriy Peskov said.

The president also expressed his condolences to all those affected by the tragic incident.

Manhunt Underway in Kerch as FSB Specialists Investigate Site of Explosion – National Anti-Terrorist Committee

The site of the blast that rocked a city college in Kerch is being examined by FSB bomb disposal experts and law enforcement agencies are searching for clues that might lead to the arrest of the perpetrators, the National Anti Terrorism Committee said in a statement.

“Acting on orders from the head of the NAC’s local headquarters, FSB, Interior Ministry, Russian Guards and Emergency Ministry units have arrived at the site. The territory around the college has been cordoned off and the people inside the building evacuated… Mine-disposal experts are working at the site and law enforcement specialists are investigating,” the statement said.

Terrorist Act Considered as Possible Cause of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The tragic news that comes from Kerch. Explosion. The president was informed … The data on those killed and the number of injured is constantly updated,” Peskov told reporters.

“[The version of a terrorist attack] is being considered,” he said.

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