U.S. Sanctions Aimed at Russia Strike Western European Allies
DIANA JOHNSTONE • JULY 28, 2017 • 1,600 WORDS
Under U.S. sanctions, any EU nation doing business with Russia may find itself in deep trouble. In particular, the latest bill targets companies involved in financing Nord Stream 2, a pipeline designed to provide Germany with much needed natural gas from Russia.
By the way, just to help out, American companies will gladly sell their own fracked natural gas to their German friends, at much higher prices.
The United States gets away with this gangster behavior because over the years it has developed a vast, obscure legalistic maze, able to impose its will on the “free world” economy thanks to the omnipresence of the dollar, unrivaled intelligence gathering and just plain intimidation.
European leaders reacted indignantly to the latest sanctions. The German foreign ministry said it was “unacceptable for the United States to use possible sanctions as an instrument to serve the interest of U.S. industry”. The French foreign ministry denounced the “extraterritoriality” of the U.S. legislation as unlawful, and announced that “To protect ourselves against the extraterritorial effects of US legislation, we will have to work on adjusting our French and European laws”.
Let’s start with health care, so called, since the failure to do anything about the current disastrous system is so fresh. What’s the narrative there? That “providers” (doctors and hospitals) can team up with banking operations called “insurance companies” to fairly allocate “services” to the broad population with a little help from the government. No, that’s actually not how it works. The three “players” actually engage in a massive racketeering matrix — that is, they extract enormous sums of money dishonestly from the public they pretend to serve and they do it twice: once by extortionary fees and again by taxes paid to subsidize mitigating the effects of the racketeering.
Reading Philip K. Dick’s Blade Runner on the train this morning. I want to get pastries in Chinatown so I ride all the way to South Station. During the 5 minutes at about 5 miles an hour between Back Bay Station and South Station I’m considering androids obviously and my mind drifts to robot cars and what I frequently think of on this stretch of track. I think about how in 2017 ( I’ve been having these thoughts since about 2011) with all this technology – still – when one is waiting for the Commuter Rail line train at Back Bay Station at night, after say 10pm or 9pm on weekends, and there is no human in either the Commuter Rail office or the Amtrak window – when the train is late leaving South Station (the source and only 5 minutes and half a mile away) – one literally has no idea and no way of finding out if the train even exists.
This problem comes up the buses and subway, particularly the Green-line, but is more complicated and there are actually reliable apps now that give the excact locations of buses and trolleys. For years the MBTA refused to put GPS transponders on Green-line trains. One time an inspector at the front of a car thought I was a tourist and made some hokey comment like I was a 12-year-old from Idaho and I was like,”actually, I have a question…” When he gave me some canned response I let him have my theory with both barrels in like 30 seconds. No response. I must have been spot on. I don’t go to those community forum things that the MBTA has. I’ll wait and ambush you.
The Commuter Rail line, MBCR (Metropolitan Boston Commuter Rail), is now run by a company called Keolis. It is generally very reliable and I am not going to go into my love for public transportation in Boston here, but the fact is that The Commuter Rail has been dealing with financial and public relations issues for some time and in the last couple years it seems like several times a week if not every weekday Keolis has between 5 and 10 staff standing in everybody’s way at Back Bay Station as we try to hustle to work between 6 and 9am. Try to find an MBTA employee at Copley or Park Street when your pass doesn’t work. The kids know this. Even the foreigners. I’ve seen 10 German college kids piggy-back fare-jump at Copley Saturday at noon in the summer. You could probably get away with murder in an MBTA station. Ostensibly these customer service types are there to answer questions and take comments and feedback on MBCR performance. But at this time and place the commuters have all arrived at their destination and know what they are doing – they don’t need help or information and talking to a customer service know-nothing is the last thing they want to do or have time for.
Yet I have stood on the platform at Back Bay Station at 12:05 am, on Sunday night/Monday morning in February, when the privately run server that tracks the train GPS transponders goes offline like it does every night at midnight, waiting for my 11:25pm train, freezing, not knowing if I was ever going to get home, and not even knowing if the train existed at South Station. No customer service people, no number to call. If I was at South Station I would hunt down the Track Master or whatever-the-hell they are called, but they don’t work for Keolis, so frequently they have no idea what is up. And also, we are not at South Station. I have observed this issue for years along with dozens of other passengers. It is mind-boggling that it still exists in 2017. When you mention these issues to the customer service people they literally have no idea what you are talking about. Because they don’t care and have no incentive to care.
This doesn’t just seem like an easy problem to fix – it is a simple problem to fix. But it won’t be fixed. Because it would involve having a person who was in possession of a brain in a management position. Wouldn’t it be smarter to have one person on duty who knew where all the trains were, in radio contact with the engineers, and the ability to communicate that information to the public – broadcast that information – when people need it – rather than employ an army of customer service rookies to not field complaints because we are trying to get to work?
I’d like to see Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and Jeff Bezos work on improving and expanding public transportation instead of pushing social media and drone-delivery in the future on Mars.
Have not heard much hype in the news cycle about robot cars recently. At least, I haven’t noticed. More and more I think the “push” for driverless cars is not coming from any particular need for them, to save us from gasoline or ourselves or something (although this is what certain entities want us to believe, I believe). I think it comes from a subtly desperate search for an avenue of economic growth for the corporations. This is an empire in decline. Smart-phones were the last big thing. So they are still the big-thing, I guess is what I’m trying to say. Smart-phones happened in 2007. 10 years. Nothing new since then. Capitalism, the Empire, needs a new toy. Something shiny to distract the slaves from their predicament.
There does not appear to be a product ready. Sure, we hear all the time about the presence of fully autonomous vehicles on the road and the thousands of miles and hours they have logged without being involved in any accidents, etc. And how the only accidents they are involved in are somehow always attributable to human error. But what has always puzzled me is why the corporations have not built a large-scale mock-up of a town/city road system complete with high-speed, highway-like stretches and every conceivable traffic and road-layout scenario incorporated into it. Somewhere out in the Nevada desert. This could be populated with hundreds of fully autonomous vehicles, maybe a couple thousand, and then everybody could observe where the bugs are and if millions of these things on the roads is a good idea right now.
I’m thinking something like the Japanese and German villages Curtis LeMay built at Dugway Proving Grounds. But way bigger. Let the car companies pay for it. Investors would be dying to get involved. Trump could sell this idea. You could make it a reality show. A competition. Anything you want. The Future.
My hunch is that a big reason this hasn’t happened yet is because the corporations know this would shine a light on the reality that the technology is not there yet. The whole Wizard of Oz thing.
After all, what’s the point of getting hung up on the past when you are facing a dauntingly tough job in the here-and-now? That job requires Turner to do what a run of previous U.S. military commanders have been attempting to do without notable success for almost sixteen years: to pacify Helmand Province. Were he to reflect too deeply on the disappointments of those sixteen years— the U.S. troops killed and wounded, the billions of dollars expended, all to no evident purpose—Turner just might reach the conclusion that he and his charges are engaged in a fool’s errand conceived by idiots.
The new Doctor Who is a woman. “All the cool humans are thrilled,” cooed Mashable; “Pissboys Are Melting Down,” added Dorkly (when did nerds start talking like bitter drag queens?). The Telegraph was slightly more sober and wrote off the whole thing with “Who cares?” It doesn’t matter to the establishment left because we’ve already established that men are exactly the same as women—especially when it comes to fiction. They see nothing wrong with female superheroes and action stars. It’s 2017, after all.
Charlize Theron’s Atomic Blonde got a $30M budget and she’s been scoped to become the new James Bond. Thor thinks she’d be great and women’s magazines declare she is “the James Bond we need now.” They also like the idea of Bond girl Halle Berry from Die Another Day trading in her orange bikini for a tux and becoming 007. If Jaws from Moonraker tried to rip her head off she’d just grab him by his seven-foot frame and toss him aside like a bag of dirty laundry. We’d sit there pretending physics doesn’t exist and rejoice in the egalitarianism of it all.
The three stories come together in a giant set-piece encounter in the English Channel. Nolan has lowered the cognitive demands of his film by adding huge amounts of redundancy, with the same events replayed again and again from different angles until you finally understand what happened in all its cruel magnificence.
This isn’t the usual Rashomon-style retelling of a plot from conflicting perspectives. Instead, it’s more like sports broadcasting, such as showing multiple replays of that Tom Brady–to–Julian Edelman completion in this year’s Super Bowl.
Dunkirk represents redundancy lifted to an art form.
Critics have tried to position Dunkirk as anti-Brexit or anti-Trump.
Germany has already warned of possible retaliation if the United States moves to sanction German firms involved with building a new Baltic pipeline for Russian gas.
EU diplomats are concerned that a German-US row over the Nord Stream 2 pipeline being built by Russia’s state-owned Gazprom could complicate efforts in Brussels to forge an EU consensus on negotiating with Russia over the project.
‘Dunkirk’ is a good movie and one of the better ones this year in a time when there is almost nothing worth seeing. It is a movie. It is neither a war movie nor an epic. You never see the Germans. Spoiler alert: Tom Hardy spends the rest of the war in Hogan’s Heroes.
Almost nobody that writes about these things understands how this stuff works. The people that understand what is happening don’t talk about it. Sandi Arabia is the most awful government and system in the world with the exception of North Korea, which can’t really be considered part of the planet most days.
The United States has the “relationship” it does with Sandi Arabia for one reason only – that is where the remaining oil will be in the future. There and Russia and Iraq and Iran. This is why everything that happens between any countries that matter happens the way it does.
We are not “friends” with Sandi Arabia. They are not our “allies.” No matter what anybody may say or write. We let them do anything they want. We sell them all the weapons they want. They can do anything they want with their oil most of the time. We can get ours other places. For now. They can have a pointless, stupid war in Yemen for no reason and NOBOBY – not Hillary Clinton, or Samantha Power, or fucking Bernie Sanders – will say anything. Because, well just because – Iran. All you have to do is mumble something about Iran and terrorists. Nobody has any idea that we are running out of oil.
There is only one reality in this “relationship.” The United States has Sandi Arabia completely surrounded with bases, aircraft carriers with F-18 Super-Hornets, and thousands of combat-hardened special operations troops that could take over Riyadh and Ras Tanura in about an hour.
Nobody has to say anything. This is well understood in Washington and Riyadh. It is an awkward truth. The Ruling House of Sand serves at Washington’s discretion.
There is no reason for Sandi Arabia and Iran not to get along. A visitor from Mars just looking at the stats on paper would assume that we would be closely allied with Iran in the region and trying to foment regime-change in Sandi Arabia. Believe that. The actual reality is absurd. Israel and the United States would rather this extreme tension exist – so the conflict is kept alive.
The relationship is only embarrassing if you fail to understand or won’t admit that The American Empire is dependent on our controlling where the oil comes from and who gets it in the future.
Michael Brendan Dougherty doesn’t get that. Because Elon Musk is going to make America great again or something. It never ends.
How come the Clintons have not been asked to explain why — as reported on The Hill blog — Bill Clinton was paid half a million dollars to give speech in Russia (surely he offered them something of value in exchange, pending the sure thing Hillary inaugural), or what about the $2.35 million “contribution” that the Clinton Foundation received after Secretary of State Hillary allowed the Russians to buy a controlling stake in the Uranium One company, which owns 20 percent of US uranium supplies, with mines and refineries in Wyoming, Utah, and other states, as well as assets in Kazakhstan, the world’s largest uranium producer? Incidentally, the Clinton Foundation did not “shut down,” as erroneously reported early this year. It was only its Global Initiative program that got shuttered. The $2.35 million is probably still rattling around in the Clinton Foundation’s bank account. Don’t you kind of wonder what they did with it? I hope Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller wants to know.
Fun with Slavery
Dark Spots in a Shining Sea of Twaddle
FRED REED • JULY 13, 2017 • 1,500 WORDS
In truth, South Vietnam was an illegal construct made possible by the intervention of the United States in violation of the provisions of the Geneva Accords that forbade foreign intervention during the interim period of national reconciliation following the defeat of the American funded French colonialists at Dien Bien Phu and required a democratic election to unite all of Vietnam within two years – an election that was prevented from occurring by Saigon’s puppet regime and its U.S. overlords for fear that Ho Chi Minh would emerge victorious. Consequently, rather than to describe the North Vietnamese as “overrunning” an “ill-fated independent country,” it would be more historically accurate, not merely a different perspective, to describe the end of hostilities as the liberation of the occupied south.
Mayweather is expected to earn at least $100 million, increasing up to four times that amount if the event achieves all of its metrics. McGregor is expected to earn $75 million, but both men signed NDA’s barring them from publicly communicating the financial details. -wikipedia
On Tuesday, Carlson told retired Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters he thought the U.S. should team up with Russia to defeat ISIS. Peters responded that, “You sound like Charles Lindbergh in 1938.” Carlson called that comment “grotesque” and “insane.”
Then, on Wednesday night, Carlson told the Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow, and former Mitt Romney adviser, Max Boot, that he opposed overthrowing Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and didn’t see Russia as a serious threat. Boot responded by accusing him of being a “cheerleader” for Moscow and Tehran. Carlson called that comment “grotesque” too. And declared, “This is why nobody takes you seriously.”
As for favoring “repression over democracy,” would that not apply to our NATO ally President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, our Arab ally Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi of Egypt, and our Philippine ally Rodrigo Duterte? Were U.S. Cold War allies like the Shah of Iran and Gen. Augusto Pinochet of Chile all Jeffersonian Democrats? Have we forgotten our recent history?
The Post brought up the death in prison of lawyer-activist Sergei Magnitsky in 2009. Under the Magnitsky Act of 2012, Congress voted sanctions on Russia’s elites.
Yet China’s lone Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Liu Xiaobo, sentenced to 11 years in prison for championing democracy, died Thursday of liver cancer, with police in his hospital room. Communist dictator Xi Jinping, who makes Putin look like Justin Trudeau, would not let the dying man go.
Will Magnitsky Act sanctions be slammed on China? Don’t bet on it. Too much trade. Congress will do what comes naturally — kowtow. Yet our heroic Senate voted 98-2 to slam new sanctions on Russia.
What are the roots of this hostility to Russia and hatred of Putin, whom a Fox analyst called “as bad as Hitler”?
But to tar Florida with the ills of the knowledge economy is like blaming Thomas Friedman for the problems of globalization just because he wrote The World Is Flat. Both men clearly celebrated, profited from, and are in agreement with the values of people who benefit from the phenomena they described—but are certainly not the architects or creators of these trends. It is perhaps fair to critique Florida for some of the failed projects and civic turnaround efforts that cities undertook at his recommendation or inspiration. But then the critics would have to give credit to Florida for the positive stories and results, something they never do. Florida didn’t cause Detroit to go bankrupt even if former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm’s “cool cities” initiative he inspired is now widely mocked.
Gratuitously attacking Silicon Valley techies out of some desire to punish the successful would be bad, but policies that reduce the urban creative class’ outsized share of success—while raising GDP and median income curves—should not be ruled out. Barack Obama was the first president since Herbert Hoover to never once hit 3 percent annual GDP growth. President Bush’s economic record was likewise dismal. Job growth in the U.S. since 2000 has averaged 0.5 percent per year, compared to 1.9 percent during the 1980s and 1.9 percent during the 1990s. (Recent years have seen better growth rates than this anemic average.) And real median incomes are lower today than in 2000.
Matters have not turned out at all the way drug warriors and other optimists assumed. Instead, El Chapo’s capture has made the violent chaos in Mexico worse—much worse. His fall created a power vacuum throughout Mexico’s ruthless drug trade. The extent of the upsurge in violence as his would-be successors maneuver for control is horrifying. In May alone, there were 2,186 fatalities—the third time in 2017 when the monthly death toll topped 2,000. That is more than twice the average monthly pace of the bloody years of Felipe Calderon’s presidency (2006-2012), when more than 60,000 Mexicans perished in drug-related carnage. The May total was a new record, and it brought the total number of deaths in 2017 to 9,906. That was an increase of 33 percent over 2016, which had already seen a worrisome rise.
In one case, prosecutors said, the owner and operator of a drug-treatment center in Delray Beach, Fla., recruited addicts to aid him in his schemes, attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and visiting “crack motels” to persuade people to move to South Florida to help him. He offered kickbacks in the form of gift cards, plane tickets, trips to casinos and strip clubs as well as drugs.
The owner, Eric Snyder, and an associate were charged with fraudulently billing insurance companies for more than $50 million for false treatment and urine tests over nearly five years, the authorities said.
Opioid addiction is an escalating public health crisis in America, with drug deaths rising faster than ever. Hydrocodone and oxycodone, two powerful opioids, are among the most commonly abused prescription drugs, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 91 Americans die each day of an opioid-related overdose.
Please Don’t Murder Us
A new initiative to beam messages into space may be
our best shot yet at learning whether we’re alone in the
universe. There’s just one problem: What if we’re not?
By STEVEN JOHNSON
JUNE 28, 2017
“Our customers are asking more and more about electric cars,” Hakan Samuelsson, the chief executive of Volvo, said in a telephone interview on Wednesday. While Volvo’s strategy has risks, Mr. Samuelsson acknowledged, “a much bigger risk would be to stick with internal combustion engines.”
Though based in Sweden, Volvo is owned by Geely Automobile Holdings of China, which already produces battery-powered cars for the Chinese market. The decision by Volvo to focus on electric vehicles could ultimately give it and Geely a head start if, as many analysts expect, sales of battery powered cars begin to take off. China is already the largest market for electric vehicles.
Like the Senate newcomers Barack Obama or Marco Rubio before her, Ms. Harris — a 52-year-old former prosecutor with a profane streak, a lawyerly aversion to “false choices” and an affection for the rapper Too Short— has insisted that national aspirations are far from her mind.
Like those men, she has not exactly ruled out the possibility, either.
Unlike those men, she is not a man, a fact that has figured prominently in her introduction to mass audiences in a recurring (and highly rated) television series: Senate Intelligence Committee Hearing Into Possible Trump Ties to Russia.