Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

West's Agri-Giants Snap Up Ukraine



By Frederic Mousseau

OAKLAND, United States - At the same time as the United States, Canada and the European Union announced a set of new sanctions against Russia in mid-December last year, Ukraine received $350 million in US military aid, coming on top of a $1 billion aid package approved by the US Congress in March 2014.

Western governments' further involvement in the Ukraine conflict signals their confidence in the cabinet appointed by the new government earlier in December 2014. This new government is unique given that three of its most important ministries were granted to foreign-born individuals who received Ukrainian citizenship just hours before their appointment.

The Ministry of Finance went to Natalie Jaresko, a US-born and educated businesswoman who has been working in Ukraine since the mid-1990s, overseeing a private equity fund established by the US government to invest in the country. Jaresko is also the CEO of Horizon Capital, an investment firm that administers various Western investments in the country.

As unusual as it may seem, this appointment is consistent with what looks more like a takeover of the Ukrainian economy by Western interests. In two reports - "The Corporate Takeover of Ukrainian Agriculture" and "Walking on the West Side: The World Bank and the IMF in the Ukraine Conflict" - the Oakland Institute has documented this takeover, particularly in the agricultural sector.

A major factor in the crisis that led to deadly protests and eventually to president Viktor Yanukovych's removal from office in February 2014 was his rejection of a European Union Association agreement aimed at expanding trade and integrating Ukraine with the EU - an agreement that was tied to a US$17 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

After the president's departure and the installation of a pro-Western government, the IMF initiated a reform program that was a condition of its loan with the goal of increasing private investment in the country.

The package of measures includes reforming the public provision of water and energy, and, more important, attempts to address what the World Bank identified as the “structural roots” of the current economic crisis in Ukraine, notably the high cost of doing business in the country.

The Ukrainian agricultural sector has been a prime target for foreign private investment and is logically seen by the IMF and World Bank as a priority sector for reform. Both institutions praise the new government's readiness to follow their advice.

For example, the foreign-driven agricultural reform roadmap provided to Ukraine includes facilitating the acquisition of agricultural land, cutting food and plant regulations and controls, and reducing corporate taxes and custom duties.

The stakes around Ukraine's vast agricultural sector - the world's third-largest exporter of corn and fifth-largest exporter of wheat - could not be higher. Ukraine is known for its ample fields of rich black soil, and the country boasts more than 32 million hectares of fertile, arable land - the equivalent of one-third of the entire arable land in the European Union.

The maneuvering for control over the country's agricultural system is a pivotal factor in the struggle that has been taking place over the last year in the greatest East-West confrontation since the Cold War.

The presence of foreign corporations in Ukrainian agriculture is growing quickly, with more than 1.6 million hectares signed over to foreign companies for agricultural purposes in recent years. While Monsanto, Cargill, and DuPont have been in Ukraine for quite some time, their investments in the country have grown significantly over the past few years.

Cargill is involved in the sale of pesticides, seeds and fertilizers and has recently expanded its agricultural investments to include grain storage, animal nutrition and a stake in UkrLandFarming, the largest agribusiness in the country.

Similarly, Monsanto has been in Ukraine for years but has doubled the size of its team over the last three years. In March 2014, just weeks after Yanukovych was deposed, the company invested $140 million in building a new seed plant in Ukraine.

DuPont has also expanded its investments and announced in June 2013 that it too would be investing in a new seed plant in the country.

Western corporations have not just taken control of certain profitable agribusinesses and agricultural activities, they have now initiated a vertical integration of the agricultural sector and extended their grip on infrastructure and shipping.

For instance, Cargill now owns at least four grain elevators and two sunflower seed processing plants used for the production of sunflower oil. In December 2013, the company bought a “25% +1 share” in a grain terminal at the Black Sea port of Novorossiysk with a capacity of 3.5 million tonnes of grain per year.

All aspects of Ukraine's agricultural supply chain - from the production of seeds and other agricultural inputs to the actual shipment of commodities out of the country - are thus increasingly controlled by Western firms.

European institutions and the US government have actively promoted this expansion. It started with the push for a change of government at a time when president Yanukovych was seen as pro-Russian interests. This was further pushed, starting in February 2014, through the promotion of a “pro-business” reform agenda, as described by the US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker when she met with Prime Minister Arsenly Yatsenyuk in October 2014.

The European Union and the United States are working hand in hand in the takeover of Ukrainian agriculture. Although Ukraine does not allow the production of genetically modified (GM) crops, the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the European Union, which ignited the conflict that ousted Yanukovych, includes a clause (Article 404) that commits both parties to cooperate to “extend the use of biotechnologies” within the country.

This clause is surprising given that most European consumers reject GM crops. However, it creates an opening to bring GM products into Europe, an opportunity sought after by large agro-seed companies such as Monsanto.

Opening up Ukraine to the cultivation of GM crops would go against the will of European citizens, and it is unclear how the change would benefit Ukrainians.

It is similarly unclear how Ukrainians will benefit from this wave of foreign investment in their agriculture, and what impact these investments will have on the seven million local farmers.

Once they eventually look away from the conflict in the Eastern "pro-Russian" part of the country, Ukrainians may wonder what remains of their country's ability to control its food supply and manage the economy to their own benefit.

As for US and European citizens, will they eventually awaken from the headlines and grand rhetoric about Russian aggression and human rights abuses and question their governments' involvement in the Ukraine conflict?

~ Frederic Mousseau is Policy Director at the Oakland Institute.

The Word on Kiev Streets



What do Kiev locals think about President Poroshenko's recent call for more war mobilization in Ukraine?

Ukraine is broke and the US-EU are funding the war.  How much more $$$ should be poured down this rat hole?

Your $$ at Work


Discretionary spending is those federal tax $$$ that Congress votes to put in one category or the other.

More Evidence of US-NATO Coup in Kiev



Ukrainian Deputy Oleg Tsarov: US to stage a civil war in Ukraine! This was November 20, 2013 right before Maidan began in Kiev which led to the present chaos and war in Ukraine.  He refers to TechCamp - info available about it here.

Clear evidence that the US-NATO was indeed planning the coup d'etat in Ukraine and for a civil war that would give Washington the chance to draw Russia into military conflict.

This kind of stuff is illegal under international law but since when does the US corporate dominated government give a damn about the rule of law?  The US is into creating chaos, selling weapons, and taking land and resources.  You might call it piracy.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Snow in the Face


Swirling wind
face slapping snow
almost up to knees
I don't fear it
the force of
nature
is fierce
and beautiful
in the moment

the angry
mother
smacks her children's
bottom
but still
they pay
no mind

their appetites
are more
than the
mother
can sustain

mother is furious
the brats
couldn't
care less

Chicago Event Discusses NATO Expansion & Ukraine



At a meeting on January 10, 2015 two speakers discussed the background causes of the Ukraine troubles (now drawing the U.S. and Russia closer to possible military confrontation). Speaking were Dr. John J. Mearsheimer, co-director of Program on International Security Policy at University of Chicago; and Rick Rozoff, manager of the Stop NATO website, and also from Chicago.

Dr. Mearsheimer spoke of the real reason of the crisis: "We are interested in peeling away Ukraine and Georgia from Russia's orbit and making [them] bulwarks of the West, right on Putin's doorstep." Mearsheimer goes on to remind us how sensitive big powers are to that kind of thing with the way the U.S. reacted to the prospect of Soviet missiles in Cuba in 1962. American foreign policy, rightly or wrongly, was obsessed with upholding the Monroe Doctrine declaring U.S. hegemony in the Western Hemisphere.

Dr. Mearsheimer and Rick Rozoff fleshed out the three parts to the West's strategy vis-a-vis Russia and its immediate neighborhood in Eastern Europe: 1) NATO Expansion, 2) European Union Expansion, 3) Promote Democracy (meaning putting in power leaders who are pro-Western and anti-Russian).

Rozoff provided the background narrative to the steady march of NATO expansion since the 90s. In 1999 NATO held its 50th anniversary summit in Washington, D.C., while at the same time conducting its first war (to break up Yugoslavia, the first war in Europe since WWII). NATO then went on to conduct wars in three continents. Now, US-controlled NATO has 28 full members and 39 partner countries, nearly half of the nations in the UN.

The April, 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest was followed then by a war between Georgia and Russia in August, 2008, precipitated by plans to make Georgia part of NATO.

"It's clear," Rozoff noted, "that policy makers in the United States and also their NATO allies in Europe were envisioning some sort of continental system in Europe...There's not a single European nation...that has not either been a full member of NATO or a member of the Partnership for Peace program and in many instances several intermediate programs...So what we're talking about is the entirety of Europe being subordinated to a military bloc controlled from the other side of the Atlantic, and nothing less."

Both speakers underlined the sobering implications of NATO expansion. Rozoff ended his talk by saying, "I should let you know that both of us panelists objected to the original title that was proposed for this talk which included words to the effect of 'nuclear war' or something. However I woke up this morning to see that someone not noted for ever having being tremendously confrontational with the West, former Soviet President Michael Gorbachev, talk about just that prospect".

Labor Beat here presents a condensed version of Mearsheimer's and Rozoff's 50-minute discussion. Also, we have generously enhanced the video with news photos and maps. Here is an introduction to the Ukraine crisis, NATO, and relevant political geography touching upon Eastern Europe, Russia and the Black Sea region.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Mothers, Wives Say Enough War to Kiev



  • January 22 - In Cheremhiv village in the Ivano-Frankivsk region of western Ukraine, there are mass protests against the new wave of mobilization, Navigator reports.

According to TV channel NTK, 30 draft notices were sent to the village, but the village council can’t distribute them – women are protesting and do not want to let their husbands and sons go to war.

According to village residents, they reject the mobilization of the men when the country is not at war, and ask why the police, prosecutors and officers of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) aren't sent to the Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) first. According to them, even if the men survive in the Donbass, they return disabled and in a poor state.

The village council complains that they have been abandoned; the central authorities do not help, and efforts to argue or persuade fall on deaf ears.

  • There is growing evidence that 7,500 of Kiev's [mostly conscripted] forces are being surrounded in eastern Ukraine by the self-defense forces.  Many of these troops have apparently been killed and many more are reportedly surrendering.  From the Vineyard of the Saker I share the following:

What about the imperial "Axis of Kindness"?

The [US-NATO] Empire is in full combat mode.  After George Soros, the US Commander of NATO ground forces has visited Kiev and the western credit rating agencies have further downgraded Russia even though every single objective economic indicator says otherwise.  Things are a tad more complicated in Europe where the victory of Syriza in Greece will create a major risk for the future of the EU.  Sure, Merkel is more then willing to do the USA's bidding, but her popularity suffers from it and tensions between the EU plutocrats and the European people are only on the rise.  In France the entire Charlie Hebdo psyop has resulted in a chaotic and most volatile situation, the Polish nonsense about Auschwitz being liberated by Ukrainians has damaged the credibility of the russophobic camp and the awareness that the Kiev Junta and its supporters are bona fide Nazis is slowly but inexorably growing everywhere.

As Lincoln is supposed to have said "you can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time".  Time is running out for the Nazi freaks in Kiev.

The Saker

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Western Troops in Ukraine



Is he American or British?  Is this a US military or Blackwater mercenary posing as a Ukrainian soldier in their uniform?  How many of these 'trainers' are there now from NATO inside Ukraine?  The evidence is mounting that the US-NATO are expanding their active military role in the Ukraine war along Russia's border.

Do the American people, and the people of Europe, want and support a US-NATO war with Russia?

Historic Victory for Left in Greece



Greece’s radical leftist party, Syriza, is leading the country’s parliamentary election, claiming 36 percent of the vote, and leaving the ruling New Democracy party in second place with 28 percent, according to the preliminary results.

"We murdered some folks" in Guantanamo



By David Swanson 

Murder at Camp Delta is a new book by Joseph Hickman, a former guard at Guantanamo. It's neither fiction nor speculation. When President Obama says "We tortured some folks," Hickman provides at least three cases -- in addition to many others we know about from secret sites around the world -- in which the statement needs to be modified to "We murdered some folks." Of course, murder is supposed to be acceptable in war (and in whatever you call what Obama does with drones) while torture is supposed to be, or used to be, a scandal. But what about tortures to death? What about deadly human experimentation? Does that have a Nazi enough ring to disturb anyone?

We should be able to answer that question soon, at least for that segment of the population that searches aggressively for news or actually -- I'm not making this up -- reads books. Murder at Camp Delta is a book of, by, and for true believers in patriotism and militarism. You can start out viewing Dick Cheney as a leftist and never be offended by this book, unless documented facts that the author himself was deeply disturbed to discover offend you. The first line of the book is "I am a patriotic American." The author never retracts it. Following a riot at Guantanamo, which he led the suppression of, he observes:

    "As much as I blamed the inmates for the riot, I respected how hard they'd fought. They were ready to fight nearly to the death. If we had been running a good detention facility, I would have thought they were motivated by strong religious or political ideals. The sad truth was that they probably fought so hard because our poor facilities and shabby treatment had pushed them beyond normal human limits. Their motivation might not have been radical Islam at all but the simple fact that they had nothing to live for and nothing left to lose."

As far as I know, Hickman has not yet applied the same logic to debunking the absurd pretense that people fight back in Afghanistan or Iraq because their religion is murderous or because they hate us for our freedoms. Hickman will be a guest on Talk Nation Radio soon, so perhaps I'll ask him. But first I'll thank him. And not for his "service." For his book.

He describes a hideous death camp in which guards were trained to view the prisoners as sub-human and much greater care was taken to protect the well-being of iguanas than homo sapiens. Chaos was the norm, and physical abuse of the prisoners was standard.  Col. Mike Bumgarner made it a top priority that everyone stand in formation when he entered his office in the morning to the sounds of Beethoven's Fifth or "Bad Boys." Hickman relates that certain vans were permitted to drive in and out of the camp uninspected, making a mockery of elaborate attempts at security. He didn't know the reasoning behind this until he happened to discover a secret camp not included on any maps, a place he called Camp No but the CIA called Penny Lane.

To make things worse at Guantanamo would require a particular sort of idiocy that apparently Admiral Harry Harris possessed. He began blasting the Star Spangled Banner into the prisoners' cages, which predictably resulted in the guards abusing prisoners who did not stand and pretend to worship the U.S. flag. Tensions and violence rose. When Hickman was called on to lead an assault on prisoners who would not allow their Korans to be searched, he proposed that a Muslim interpreter do the searching. Bumgarner and gang had never thought of that, and it worked like a charm. But the aforementioned riot took place in another part of the prison where Harris rejected the interpreter idea; and the lies that the military told the media about the riot had an impact on Hickman's view of things. So did the media's willingness to lap up absurd and unsubstantiated lies: "Half the reporters covering the military should have just enlisted; they seemed even more eager to believe the things our commanders said than we did."

After the riot, some of the prisoners went on hunger strike. On June 9, 2006, during the hunger strike, Hickman was in charge of guards on watch from towers, etc., overseeing the camp that night. He and every other guard observed that, just as the Navy Criminal Investigative Service report on the matter would later say, some prisoners were taken out of their cells. In fact, the van that took prisoners to Penny Lane took three prisoners, on three trips, out of their camp. Hickman watched each prisoner being loaded into the van, and the third time he followed the van far enough to see that it was headed to Penny Lane. He later observed the van return and back up to the medical facilities, where a friend of his informed him that three bodies were brought in with socks or rags stuffed down their throats.

Bumgarner gathered staff together and told them three prisoners had committed suicide by stuffing rags down their own throats in their cells, but that the media would report it a different way. Everyone was strictly forbidden to say a word. The next morning the media reported, as instructed, that the three men had hung themselves in their cells. The military called these "suicides" a "coordinated protest" and an act of "asymmetrical warfare." Even James Risen, in his role as New York Times stenographer, conveyed this nonsense to the public. No reporter or editor apparently thought it useful to ask how prisoners could have possibly hung themselves in open cages in which they are always visible; how they could have acquired enough sheets and other materials to supposedly create dummies of themselves; how they could have gone unnoticed for at least two hours; how in fact they had supposedly bound their own ankles and wrists, gagged themselves, put on face masks, and then all hanged themselves simultaneously; why there were no videos or photos; why no guards were disciplined or even questioned for ensuing reports; why supposedly radically lax and preferential treatment had been given to three prisoners who were on hunger strike; how the corpses had supposedly suffered rigor mortis faster than is physically possible, etc.

Three months after Hickman returned to the U.S. he heard on the news of another very similar "suicide" at Guantanamo. Who could Hickman turn to with what he knew? He found a law professor named Mark Denbeaux at the Seton Hall University Law School's Center for Policy and Research. With his, and his colleagues', help Hickman tried reporting the matter through proper channels. Obama's Justice Department, NBC, ABC, and 60 Minutes all expressed interest, were told the facts, and refused to do a thing about it. But Scott Horton wrote it up in Harpers, which Keith Olbermann reported on but the rest of the corporate media ignored.

Hickman and Seton Hall researchers found out that the CIA had been administering huge doses of a drug called mefloquine to prisoners, including the three killed, which an army doctor told Hickman would induce terror and amounted to "psychological waterboarding." Over at Truthout.org Jason Leopold and Jeffrey Kaye reported that every new arrival at Guantanamo was given mefloquine, supposedly for malaria, but it was only given to every prisoner, never to a single guard or to any third-country staff people from countries with high risk of malaria, and never to the Haitian refugees housed at Guantanamo in 1991 and 1992. Hickman had begun his "service" at Guantanamo believing the prisoners were "the worst of the worst," but had since learned that at least most of them were nothing of the sort, having been picked up for bounties with little knowledge of what they'd done. Why, he wondered,

    "were men of little or no value kept under these conditions, and even repeatedly interrogated, months or years after they'd been taken into custody? Even if they'd had any intelligence when they came in, what relevance would it have years later? . . . One answer seemed to lie in the description that Major Generals [Michael] Dunlavey and [Geoffrey] Miller both applied to Gitmo. They called it 'America's battle lab."

Sunday Song