Archive for the ‘Things that aren’t what they seem’ Category

From Global to Local: The Making of Things and the End of Globalisation

by Finbarr Livesey

Profile Books Ltd (2016)

Book Review

In From Global to Local: The Making of Things and the End of Globalisation, Finbarr Livesey challenges the common neoliberal claim that globalization is the be-all and end-all of global prosperity.

Livesey’s premise, which he supports with an impressive array of data, is that globalization peaked shortly after 2008 and the world economy is in a period of deglobalization. World trade is slowly declining as a percentage of GDP, and many companies who moved factories to the third world are improving their bottom line by reshoring them to the US and Europe.

Livesey contends that, to a large extent, last year’s vote for Britain to leave the EU and for a US president who promised to withdraw from the TPP and bring back American jobs, merely reflect an economic trend that began nearly a decade ago.

The present deglobalization was triggered by the 2008 financial crash that sucked trillions of dollars out of the global economy. However, Livesey identifies a number of other factors that influence this trend – chief among them the volatility of oil prices and shipping costs (containers must be booked months in advance) and the growing cost of labor in China and neighboring countries. At the same time, technological advances, including 3D printing and “additive manufacturing,” have led to an upsurge in “on demand” industries and consumer frustration with being limited to millions of identical mass produced items.

At present many companies find it more profitable to shorten their supply chain by producing most or all component parts locally or regionally. Between 2010 and 2015, over 1300 companies brought production back to the US. Even Apple and Google have started to reshore significant manufacturing operations.

At present three-fourths of everything bought in the US is made in the US.

Originally published in Dissident Voice

What Hillary Clinton Really Represents

Empire Files (2016)

Film Review

This early 2016 documentary is a virtual encyclopedia of Clinton family corruption. Based entirely on publicly verifiable information, it reveals how Hillary, especially, has based her political career on supporting legislation that specifically benefits her corporate and foreign donors. It also explores the identity of some of the 700 Democratic “superdelegates” who helped deny Bernie Sanders the Democratic nomination – despite overwhelming support he received from voters.

The Clinton Foundation was founded in 1997 with the alleged purpose of providing humanitarian relief after international disasters. Its real purpose, however, was to engage in “crisis capitalism,” a term coined by Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine. Following a disasters, such as the 2001 earthquake in India, the Clinton Foundation would waltz in and create a variety of for-profit projects enabling further exploitation of third world resources and labor by Clinton Foundation donors.

Major donors to the Clinton foundation included Exxon, Walmart, Pfizer, Dow, Monsanto, General Electric (GE), Fox News, the Soros Foundation, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. As senator, Clinton rewarded the latter two donors by supporting deregulation that would lead to their bankruptcy in 2008 and a massive taxpayer bailout.

As Secretary of State, Clinton would grant similar favors to Boeing and GE by facilitating overseas sales of their military hardware and to Exxon by heavily promoting the spread of fracking throughout the world.

Countries such as Saudi Arabia, Oman, United Arab Republic and Qatar were also big donors to the Clinton Foundation. In all 181 Clinton Foundation donors lobbied Clinton as Secretary of State and most were successful in getting the policies they advocated enacted.

Many of the 700 superdelegates appointed by the Democratic National Committee (to help ensure their hand picked candidates won the Democratic primary) were also corporate lobbyists hoping to benefit financially from a Clinton presidency: among others, the corporate lobbies represented included the Excel pipeline, the private prison industry, Big Pharma and the four main Wall Street banks (City Group, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase).

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief

Directed by Alex Gibney (2015)

Film Review

Last night Maori TV aired Alex Gibney’s startling expose Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief. People can view it free at the Maori TV website for the next two weeks:  Going Clear

This documentary leaves absolutely no doubt that the Church of Scientology is a cult, founded (in 1954) and tyrannically run by science fiction writer L Ron Hubbard and following his death (in 1986) by David Miscavage.

Gibney begins by tracing Hubbard’s early life as a science fiction writer and naval officer. A clear weakness of the film is its failure to mention Hubbard’s background in naval intelligence. Ex-intelligence officer Fletcher Prouty has always maintained Hubbard’s military records were falsified to conceal his intelligence activities

The documentary does, however, detail his bizarre relationship with Jet Propulsion Lab scientist Jack Parsons. Together they engaged in bizarre black magic rituals Parsons had learned from Alistair Crowley (best known as the founder of modern occultism), who worked for British intelligence.

Most of Going Clear centers around the testimonials of long time high level Scientology officers who became disenchanted and left the organization – some after 20 years or more. They all describe a highly evolved system of brainwashing, mind control and cultic manipulation, coupled with systematic emotional, physical and sexual abuse, financial extortion, psychological harassment, blackmail, stalking, covert break-ins, kidnapping and involuntary imprisonment in “rehabilitation centers.” These more extreme measures kicked in whenever long time high level officers express doubts or attempt to leave.

Describing Scientology as the largest intelligence operation in the world, the film depicts how they used these capabilities to muscle the IRS into granting them non-profit status (as a “church”) in 1993. The organization keeps massive personal files on all their members, who are required to undergo frequent “auditing” sessions. During auditing, they’re pressured to reveal their deepest personal secrets and innermost feelings an “auditor” who keeps detailed records of these sessions on behalf of the leadership.

For new members, on the surface auditing appears to resemble Freudian-style catharsis directed at resolving traumatic memories that hold people back in their lives. However as advanced Scientologists work themselves up the ranks (at great personal expense), they eventually engage in OT (Operation Thetan) level audits. At OTIII, which is only reached after many years of dedication and financial investment (OT sessions typically cost $1,000 or more each), initiates are finally brought into Scientology’s carefully guarded creation myth. The latter involves the possession of the human species by alien demons known as “thetans.” From this point forward, members are expected to use their auditing sessions to rid themselves of these thetans.

Typically it’s at this point members begin to have doubts about Scientology and are subjected to escalating coercive tactics to prevent them from leaving.

Gibney also explores John Travolta’s and Tom Cruise’s bizarre and troubled relationship with Scientology – as well as the vicious attach of the organization’s intelligence arm against Cruise’s ex-wife Nicole Kidman.

 

The “mystery” behind the long list of assassinated rebel leaders in Donbass might now be solved.

Two Ukrainian soldiers have been captured with weapons and bomb-making materials by Lugansk authorities.

The two soldiers, both allegedly part of Ukraine’s Special Forces, confessed to assassinating the rebel commander Oleg Anashchenko last month.

Partial list of prominent rebel leaders who have been assassinated:

  • May 23, 2015: Luhansk rebel leader Aleksey Mozgovoy is assassinated in East Ukraine (his car was ambushed).
  • October 16, 2016: Donetsk rebel leader Arsen Pavlov, aka “Motorola”, is assassinated by a bomb.
  • February 8, 2017: Donetsk rebel leader Mikhail Tolstykh, aka “Givi”, is assassinated by some sort of explosive projectile or bomb.

 

 

 

Exclusive: Fantastic Russian Prime Time 2 HR Putin documentary

Masterskaya (2016)

English subtitles

Film Review

This film, despite being an obvious pro-Putin propaganda piece, provides interesting historical background on his role in thwarting western efforts to turn Russia into a third world sweatshop.

The beginning of the documentary, describing the plans laid by Putin’s cabinet to remove the oligarchs from power (see How Putin Outwitted the Russian Oligarchs ), confirm what I have always suspected: that his rise to global prominence relies heavily on his ability to choose skilled advisors.

This documentary also clearly conveys that he’s as much a populist as Donald Trump – though a far more skilled one. An amazingly effective speaker, his ability to influence and manage large groups is unparalleled among world leaders.

Although he tends to be extremely guarded about disclosing personal feelings, the film contains a few revealing clips from TV interviews. In one, he admits to his mistaken belief as a KGB agent that political conflict with the West would dissolve once Russians abandoned their Communist ideology. He now realizes that Russia will always have tension with the West based on competing geopolitical interests (ie competing demands for resources, markets, labor etc).

I was also intrigued to hear him discuss his enormous debt to teacher and mentor Anatoly Sobchak. Sobchak was a legal scholar and politician who co-wrote the constitution of the Russian Federation and was the first democratically elected mayor of St Petersburg. He died under suspicious circumstances in 2000.

The film’s main weakness is its total dismissal of Russia’s opposition movement as being too chaotic and disorganized for Putin to take seriously. While there is good reason to suspect CIA involvement in various anti-Putin street protests, it seems to be there would also be legitimate protest against the enormous obstacles to registering new political parties in Russia, as well as major censorship by the mainly state-controlled media.

I was also irritated by the repeated emphasis on Putin being a self-sacrificing leader with no interest whatsoever in personal wealth or power. According to various former insiders, Putin has immense personal wealth and may be one of the richest men in the world. See Putin Corruption: Five Things We Learned About the President’s Secret Wealth

 

The Chinese Economic Bubble

(2011)

Film Review

The Chinese Economic Bubble offers a unique perspective from two low income Chinese – a taxi driver and a construction worker – on China’s so-called economic miracle. Their commentary is interspersed with that of two Chinese economists. The latter discuss the growing Chinese real estate bubble, empty high rise buildings, rent-seeking and corruption, as well as the thousands of government officials who go to jail every year. These vignettes are interspersed with scenes of lavish media events celebrating Chinese millionaires and billionaires.

There is repeated emphasis on the immense sacrifice made by ordinary Chinese workers to create such phenomenal wealth. When the film was made in 2011, the construction worker early only slightly more ($4,200) than the national average ($4,000) for highly dangerous scaffolding work. At the time average global per capita income was $9,000. In 2014 the average Chinese wage had risen to $8,655, compared to an average global wage of $18,000.

manning

According to the New York Times, Obama has commuted all but four months of Chelsea Manning’s remaining prison sentence. Manning is the former army intelligence analyst who leaked evidence of US war crimes and other illegal and corrupt activities to Wikileaks in 2010.  Her 35 year sentence was the longest sentence ever imposed for a leak conviction. She has been in prison for seven years. Manning is now set to be freed on May 17, 2017.

Read more here.