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The muddy waters of history – from Latin America to Europe

Is the world of politics being turned on its head?

Greg Simons

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Recent events in Brazil illustrate well the notion of the volatile nature of the perception and practice of politics in the contemporary world. The political events around the resignation of Dilma Rousseff, the first woman in the president’s palace in Brazil and an easily recognizable face of the Brazilian “pragmatic leftists,” in power since 2002, have led to a confused and completely inadequate reaction in the Western mainstream media.

This begs the question are mainstream media only an objective observer and chronicler of political events and processes or are they a subjective participant? Given the falling subscriptions of mainstream newspapers and calls within the European Union to have journalism declared a public good, it seems that mass media are part of the political problem, rather than its solution.

Inside the pages of The New York Times, one can read that Mrs. Rousseff “lifted millions of Brazilians up from extreme poverty into the middle class” and that her rule “led to massive corruption and unemployment.” One can read that 49 senators out of 60 that voted Mrs. Rousseff out of power – that all 49 of them were investigated on accusations of corruption.

But two lines down the text one can read that Rousseff was still arrogant and wrong not to treat this congress with respect and nicety, which that legislature deserved. Which legislature? The one where 49 senators out of 81 are suspected of being corrupt? But this seemingly one small and isolated incident is part of a much wider and interconnected series of political processes and trends.

DECLINE AND CONFUSION

There are numerous analysts, academics and others that are struggling to fathom the course and nature of these mismatching statements. The problem is, however, that confusion around Rousseff’s resignation is typical for contemporary politics. It is like the world of politics has been turned on its head!

Why is this situation the case? The author suggests, at least in part, it is the result of the manner in which we view and measure politics in order to analyse and make sense of it. The political environment is a market place of ideas and relationships.

People choose the idea that resonates with them and form a political relationship with the person or organization that offers it. Politics is the process of priming and mobilizing people through the projection and communication of various ideas and realities.

It so happened that in the case of Latin America, the United States traditionally supports political and economic elite, whom hold right-wing and conservative values, relationships are created with pro-Western dictators. But at the same time the US politicians want to look like “progressive” people, who abhor racism and generally wish some kind of democracy for their southern neighbours.

Hence many moans in the American press about the fact that there were no viable minority races, few women and many Evangelical Christians (and not the generally less affluent Catholics) among Mrs. Rousseff’s detractors. This would project the illusion as if Brazil would be better off, if Rousseff had been ousted, instead of white males, by some analogue of Condoleezza Rice or a Catholic double of Madeleine Albright. The problems are of course, much deeper and not all domestic in origin.

Well, the press always reflected the interests of its owners and the prejudices of its readers, so one might be tempted to say that there is nothing special about the present flood of hypocrisy in the Western media. Latin America, since the 1830’s with the arrival of the geopolitical concept of the Monroe Doctrine was laid claim to as the continental zone of privileged interests for the United States.

This is seemingly at odds with a country born recently from the 1776 War of Independence from Great Britain and professing anti-Imperial values. It was not until other geopolitical interests occupied the United States, namely the Global War On Terrorism from 2001, when Latin American countries were able to briefly pivot away from the orbit of US control and influence. Relationships and cooperation were quickly established with countries such as China, Iran and Russia. These countries were politically symbolic as geopolitical competitors to the US.

One of the organisations born from this period was BRICS. However, with changing geopolitical priorities, US attention returned to the region and soon discovered the loss of influence in the region. The result has been a return of political activism that has affected the governments of those countries deemed as straying too far, such as in Argentina and Brazil.

But was the media really that bad in the more “ideological” times? Whether it was Socialism, Fascism or Democracy, the constituency decided on the basis and perception of which particular political offering matched their wants and needs.

This was an act of political faith on their part, one that was not always rewarded with the desired expectations that they held. The power and reach of the perception and deception carried by mass media may be more intense and wide ranging, but this is still not something that is novel or new to mankind.

Audiences are mobilised and primed according to opposing sets of values and norms, which strike at the right place and time for maximum effect. What happens after the actual goal is achieved, is in some senses, rather superfluous. A recent case in point is the recent the ICTY declared that Milosevic was not responsible for war crimes committed during the 1992-95 Bosnian war. Yet in 1999 he was Europe’s new ‘Hitler’ and the way for a ‘humanitarian war’ was open.

RIGHT VERSUS LEFT

Traditionally, politics has been viewed and measured through and by a political scale that rated people and parties according to a left-right scale. However, in the current political climate this scale is inadequate as it does not and cannot account for the events and processes that are currently underway – BREXIT, the Dutch Referendum and Donald Trump to mention but a few instances.

Both the Dutch referendum and BREXIT were the culmination of a backlash against what has been seen by some as an excessive and unaccountable EU bureaucracy, than an anti-Ukrainian stance in the Dutch case.

In the case of Dilma, she was formally punished not for enriching herself (which she apparently didn’t). She was punished for trying to make Brazil’s budget look better than it was.

And this is a rather typical capitalist and oligarchic practice, one need only look at the common practice of padding the numbers by numerous governments, especially in the run up to elections. But the oligarchs did not forgive Mrs. Rousseff something that they gladly forgive themselves. So, the left and right scale is indeed quickly losing its ability of measuring modern politics.

ESTABLISHMENT VERSUS ANTI-ESTABLISHMENT

There is a need for a new way of looking at and analysing what is happening in the political market place and why it is happening. As such, there is a need to move away from seeing and measuring politics according to a left-right dichotomy. In its current form it has moved to a dichotomy and scale of establishment versus anti-establishment.

Few people agree on who was right and who was wrong in the impeachment saga, but most would agree that it was clearly an example of the OLD establishment (the Brazilian senate) going against the NEW establishment. From an anti-establishment point of view, there is something deeply unfair in the fact that 61 senator undid the decision of 54 MILLION Brazilian voters, who cast their bulletins for Dilma – twice.

The will of the people was clearly ignored in Dilma Rousseff’s case. This is a game of projected perception, but there are many different actors and interests in the same information space vying for attention and influence. The world currently is at a point, where there is no common understanding of information or knowledge, the information space has gradually become more fragmented. This is in part owed to the development of information communication technology, but even more importantly, to the increasing fragmentation of political opinion.

ALIENATION

Why did these 54 million voters fail to protect their vote? Currently, there is an increasing level of political cynicism and alienation of large segments of voters, such as the working class, from mainstream (read establishment) politics. This is even more right about the countries of the European Union than about Brazil.

This is the culmination and the result of the public not having their perceived wants and needs met. There is a growing feeling of having their interests and needs ignored, such as can be witnessed in the growing reaction to the mass migration being experienced in Europe and the United States.

It seems as though their voice is not being heard or listened to by the mainstream political establishment, such as Merkel pledging to stick to her controversial migration policy in face of increasing resentment and alarm in the German public.

COUNTERACTION FOLLOWS ACTION

So, is there little hope? I would not say so. A noticeable shift is occurring in the political market and environment, which is akin to a political version of laws of physics. For each and every action, there is an equal, but opposite reaction.

More people and groups are feeling disenfranchised from mainstream politics and are increasing looking to alternative political offerings. The natural response in an interactive political market place is for politics to evolve and create an offering to appeal to and satisfy the anti-political establishment demand.

Political debate and discussion is becoming much more descriptive than analytical currently. This is used to dumb down the reality in to a subjectively understandable reality as desired by the messenger. These debates and discussions are not intended as a means with which to accurately detail what is happening, but to prime and mobilise publics towards different political causes.

In Europe, much of the anti-establishment sentiment, the one which feeds leftist forces in Latin America, much of that sentiment is expressing itself in the movement of “Russia lovers” or “Putin apologists.” This phenomenon is still awaiting its accurate explanation. Much of sympathy to Mr. Putin may evolve not so much from his actual personage as from crude demonization to which Russia and its president are subjected in the Western media.

Besides, the “demonized” Putin’s image created by Western media has some of the qualities, which the European politicians are lacking: the Western media’s “Putin” stands for traditional values, which are seen as being in opposition to mainstream politics’ rigid adherence to liberal and multi-cultural values in times of an unprecedented crisis brought about by Western-led regime in North Africa and the Middle East.

Those on the left side of the political spectrum also like or admire Putin, not for his traditional values, but for his opposition to US global hegemony. The two ends of the old political spectrum supporting the same person, because of his perceived anti-mainstream political establishment stance.

As a consequence there is a new level of negative politics that is based on emotionally charged perceptions. This is situated within the context of a crisis, a process or event where publics are primed and mobilised through competing sets of norms and values. Information flows and perception are keys to the eventual outcome of this crisis.

Those that are able somehow to manage or control that information and perception are much better placed to emerge as winners in the political environment as they are able to restrict their opponent’s brand potential, his operational choices and strategy. Having said this though, the information space in the political environment is a highly volatile zone, today’s winner may well be tomorrow’s loser.

So, Dilma Rousseff was probably right when she quoted the Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky soon after her ousting. The muddy waters of history really do not give us a reason to be too happy or too sad. We just never know what tomorrow’s discontent of the currently deceived “mainstream” voters’ and media audience will bring us.

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Russian Il-20 downed by Syrian missile. Russia blames Israel. Israel blames Syria (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 110.

Alex Christoforou

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The unthinkable has happened in Syria.

The world now teeters on the brink of all out war in Syria as a Russian Il-20 was downed by Syrian missile after Israeli F-16s used it as cover during attack, according to statements made by the Russian Ministry of Defense.

President Vladimir Putin, answering a reporter’s question during a press conference with Hungarian PM Viktor Orban, said the downing of the Russian Il-20 plane looks like “a chain of tragic circumstances.” 

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the tripwire triggered that has the potential to tip the fragile balance in Syria towards conflict between Russia, Iran and Israel.

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The Russian military says an Israeli raid on Syria triggered a chain of events that led to its Il-20 plane being shot down by a Syrian S-200 surface-to-air missile. Moscow reserves the right to respond accordingly.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said…

“Israel did not warn the command of the Russian troops in Syria about the planned operation. We received a notification via a hotline less than a minute before the strike, which did not allow the Russian aircraft to be directed to a safe zone.”

The statement by the Russian Defense Ministry said that four Israeli F-16 fighter jets attacked targets in Syria’s Latakia after approaching from the Mediterranean.

The Israeli warplanes approached at a low altitude and “created a dangerous situation for other aircraft and vessels in the region.”

The statement further said that 15 Russian military service members have died as a result…

“The Israeli pilots used the Russian plane as cover and set it up to be targeted by the Syrian air defense forces. As a consequence, the Il-20, which has radar cross-section much larger than the F-16, was shot down by an S-200 system missile.”

According to reports from RT, the Russian military said that the French Navy’s frigate ‘Auvergne,’ as well as a Russian Il-20 plane were in the area during the Israeli operation.

Map of the incident on September 17 in Syria provided by the Russian defense ministry.

The Russian ministry said the Israelis must have known that the Russian plane was present in the area, but this did not stop them from executing “the provocation.” Israel also failed to warn Russia about the planned operation in advance. The warning came just a minute before the attack started, which “did not leave time to move the Russian plane to a safe area,”the statement said.

The statement gives a larger death toll than earlier reports by the Russian military, which said there were 14 crew members on board the missing Il-20. It said a search and rescue operation for the shot-down plane is underway.

A later update said debris from the downed plane was found some 27km off the Latakia coast. The search party collected some body parts, personal possessions of the crew, and fragments of the plane.

Meanwhile Israel has come out to blame the Syrian government for the downing of the military plane, according to an IDF statement.

Israel said that it “expresses sorrow for the death of the aircrew members” of the Russian plane. However, it stated that the government of Bashar Assad “whose military shot down the Russian plane,” is “fully responsible” for the incident.

Israel further blamed Iran and Hezbollah for the incident.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) explained that its jets were targeting a Syrian facility “from which systems to manufacture accurate and lethal weapons were about to be transferred on behalf of Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

Israel claimed that the weapons were “meant to attack Israel.”

Via RT

The IDF assumed that the Syrian anti-air batteries “fired indiscriminately” and didn’t “bother to ensure that no Russian planes were in the air.” The Israelis said that when the Syrian military launched the missiles which hit the Russian plane, its own jets were already within Israeli airspace. “During the strike against the target in Latakia, the Russian plane that was then hit was not within the area of the operation.”

According to the Israeli military, both IDF and Russia have “a deconfliction system,” which was agreed upon by the leadership of both states, and “has proven itself many times over recent years.” The system was in use when the incident happened, the IDF stated. The IDF promised to share “all the relevant information” with Russia “to review the incident and to confirm the facts in this inquiry.”

The military presented a four-point initial inquiry into events in Latakia. It insisted that “extensive and inaccurate” Syrian anti-aircraft fire caused the Russian jet “to be hit and downed.”

The Russian Il-20 aircraft, with 15 crew on board, went off radar during an attack by four Israeli jets on Syria’s Latakia province late Monday. Later on Tuesday the Russian Defense Ministry said that an Israeli raid on Syria triggered a chain of events that led to its plane being shot down by a Syrian S-200 surface-to-air missile.

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Trump Orders Immediate Release Of All Text Messages, Carter Page FISA Application From Russia Investigation

Trump has ordered the DOJ to release all text messages related to the Russia investigation with no redactions.

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Via Zerohedge

President Trump has ordered the Department of Justice to release all text messages related to the Russia investigation with no redactions, of former FBI Director James Comey, his deputy Andrew McCabe, now-fired special agent Peter Strzok, former FBI attorney Lisa Page and twice-demoted DOJ official Bruce Ohr.

Also released will be specific pages from the FBI’s FISA surveillance warrant application on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, as well as interviews with Ohr.

The statement reads in full:

“At the request of a number of committees of Congress, and for reasons of transparency, the President has directed the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Justice (including the FBI) to provide for the immediate declassification of the following materials: (1) pages 10-12 and 17-34 of the June 2017 application to the FISA court in the matter of Carter W. Page; (2) all FBI reports of interviews with Bruce G. Ohr prepared in connection with the Russia investigation; and (3) all FBI reports of interviews prepared in connection with all Carter Page FISA applications.

In addition, President Donald J. Trump has directed the Department of Justice (including the FBI) to publicly release all text messages relating to the Russia investigation, without redaction, of James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and Bruce Ohr

***

As we reported last Monday, Trump had been expected to release the documents any time – with specific attention to the Page documents and the “investigative activities of Justice Department lawyer Bruce Ohr” – who was demoted twice for lying about his extensive relationship  with Christopher Steele – the former MI6 spy who assembled the sham “Steele Dossier” used by the FBI in a FISA surveillance application to spy on Page.

Republicans on the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees believe the declassification will permanently taint the Trump-Russia investigation by showing the investigation was illegitimate to begin with. Trump has been hammering the same theme for months.

  • They allege that Bruce Ohr played an improper intermediary role between the Justice Department, British spy Christopher Steele and Fusion GPS — the opposition research firm that produced the Trump-Russia dossier, funded by Democrats. (Ohr’s wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion GPS on Russia-related matters during the presidential election — a fact that Ohr did not disclose on federal forms.)
  • And they further allege that the Obama administration improperly spied on Carter Page — all to take down Trump. –Axios

Ohr, meanwhile, met with Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska in 2015 to discuss helping the FBI with organized crime investigations, according to The Hill‘s John Solomon. The meeting with the Putin ally was facilitated by Steele.

Last month Trump called Ohr a disgrace, while also tweeting: “Will Bruce Ohr, whose family received big money for helping to create the phony, dirty and discredited Dossier, ever be fired from the Jeff Sessions  “Justice” Department? A total joke!”

Trump’s threat came one day after two tweets about Ohr, noting a connection to former FBI agent Peter Strzok, as well as a text sent by Ohr after former FBI Director James Comey was fired in which Ohr says “afraid they will be exposed.”

According to emails turned over to Congressional investigators in August, Christopher Steele was much closer to Bruce Ohr and his wife Nellie than previously disclosed.

Steele and the Ohrs would have breakfast together on July 30, 2016 at the Mayflower Hotel in downtown Washington D.C., days after Steele turned in installments of his infamous “dossier” on July 19 and 26. The breakfast also occurred one day before the FBI formally launched operation “Crossfire Hurricane,” the agency’s counterintelligence operation into the Trump campaign.

“Great to see you and Nellie this morning Bruce,” Steele wrote shortly following their breakfast meeting. “Let’s keep in touch on the substantive issues/s (sic). Glenn is happy to speak to you on this if it would help.”

“After two years of investigations and accusations from both sides of the aisle about what documents indicate, it is past time for documents to be declassified and let the American people decide for themselves if DoJ and FBI acted properly,” Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows told Axios earlier Sunday.

In early August, journalist Paul Sperry tweeted that Trump may use his presidential authority to declassify “20 redacted pages of a June, 2017 FISA renewal, “and possibly” 63 pages of emails and notes between “Ohr & Steele,” and FD-302 summaries of 12 interviews.”

President Trump threatened to declassify documents two weeks ago – one day after the New York Times allegedly published an anonymous Op-Ed claiming to be from a White House official claiming to be part of an unelected “resistance” cabal within the Trump administration.

“The Deep State and the Left, and their vehicle, the Fake News Media, are going Crazy – & they don’t know what to do,” Trump tweeted earlier this month, adding: “The Economy is booming like never before, Jobs are at Historic Highs, soon TWO Supreme Court Justices & maybe Declassification to find Additional Corruption. Wow!”

Trump’s threat comes as calls by frustrated GOP legislators to release the documents have hit a fevered pitch. Spearheading the effort are Republican Reps. Meadows, Jim Jordan, Matt Gaetz and Lee Zeldin – who have repeatedly asked Trump to declassify more of the heavily redacted FISA surveillance warrant on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page in late 2016.

In June, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee asked President Trump to declassify key sections of Carter Page’s FISA warrant application, according to a letter obtained by Fox News.

Carter Page, the DOJ/FBI’s person of interest, weighed in on the matter in late August, tweeting: “The Corrupt DOJ, co-conspirators in the DNC and their high-priced consultants correctly believed they had American democracy and the FISA Court over a barrel in 2016.”

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De-Dollarization Tops Agenda at Russia’s Eastern Economic Forum

The Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) was held in Vladivostok on Sept.11-13. Founded in 2015, the event has become a platform for planning and launching projects to strengthen business ties in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Via Strategic Culture

This year, the EEF brought together delegations from over 60 countries to discuss the topic “The Far East: Expanding the Range of Possibilities”. A total of 100 business events involving over 6,000 participants were held during the three days.

1,357 media personnel worked to cover the forum. Last year, the number of participants was 5,000 with 1,000 media persons involved in reporting and broadcasting. The EEF-18 gathered 340 foreign and 383 Russian CEOs. Nearly 80 start-ups from across South-East Asia joined the meeting.

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This year, a total of 175 agreements worth of 2.9 trillion rubles (some $4.3 billion) were signed. For comparison, the sum was 2.5 trillion rubles (roughly $3.7 billion) in 2017.

They included the development of the Baimsky ore deposits in Chukotka, the construction of a terminal for Novatek LNG at Bechevinskaya Bay in Kamchatka and the investment of Asian countries in Russia’s agricultural projects in the Far East.

Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Mail.Ru Group, Megafon and Chinese Alibaba inked an agreement on establishing AliExpress trade joint venture. Rosneft and Chinese CNPC signed an oil exploration agreement.

The Chinese delegation was the largest (1,096 people), followed by the Japanese (570 members). The list of guests included the president of Mongolia and prime ministers of Japan and South Korea.

It was also the first time Chinese President Xi Jinping attended the event to meet his Russian counterpart. The issue of de-dollarization topped the agenda. Russia and China reaffirmed their interest in expanding the use of national currencies in bilateral deals.

During the forum, Kirill Dmitriev, the head of RDIF, said the fund intends to use only national currencies in its transactions with China starting from 2019. It will cooperate with the China Development Bank.

This “yuanification” is making visible progress with Shanghai crude futures increasing their share of oil markets up to 14 percent or even more. China has signed agreements with Canada and Qatar on national currencies exchange.

READ MORE: Eastern Economic Forum opens new chapter in US-Russia dialogue

De-dollarization is a trend that is picking up momentum across the world. A growing number of countries are interested in replacing the dollar. Russia is leading the race to protect itself from fluctuations, storms and US-waged trade wars and sanctions.

Moscow backs non-dollar trade with Ankara amid the ongoing lira crisis. Turkey is switching from the dollar to settlements in national currencies, including its trade with China and other countries. Ditching the US dollar is the issue topping the BRICS agenda. In April, Iran transferred all international payments to the euro.

The voices calling for de-dollarization are getting louder among America’s closest European allies. In August, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called for the creation of a new payments system independent of the US.

According to him, Europe should not allow the United States to act “over our heads and at our expense.” The official wants to strengthen European autonomy by establishing independent payment channels, creating a European Monetary Fund and building up an independent SWIFT system.

Presenting his annual program, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called on Sept. 12 for the European Union to promote the euro as a global currency to challenge the dollar.

According to him, “We must do more to allow our single currency to play its full role on the international scene.” Mr. Juncker believes “it is absurd that Europe pays for 80 percent of its energy import bill – worth 300 billion euros a year – in US dollars when only roughly 2 percent of our energy imports come from the United States.” He wants the raft of proposals made in his state of the union address to start being implemented before the European Parliament elections in May.

70% of all world trade transactions account for the dollar, while 20% are  settled in the euro, and the rest falls on the yuan and other Asian currencies. The dollar value is high to make the prices of consumer goods in the US artificially low. The demand for dollars allows refinancing the huge debt at low interest rates. The US policy of trade wars and sanctions has triggered the global process of de-dollarization.

Using punitive measures as a foreign policy tool is like shooting oneself in the foot. It prompts a backlash to undermine the dollar’s status as the world reserve currency – the basis of the US economic might. The aggressive policy undermines the US world standing to make it weaker, not stronger.

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