03/30/16

The Real One Percent Strikes Again

By: Cliff Kincaid – Accuracy in Media

The real one percent, as opposed to the fake one percent touted by Bernie Sanders (I-VT), raised its ugly head in Georgia on Monday, when “conservative” Republican Governor Nathan Deal collapsed under pressure. He vetoed a bill respecting the freedom and rights of Christians and other religious believers who oppose the gay-rights agenda. Big media, Hollywood and other big businesses threatened to pull their operations out of the state if Deal signed the common-sense piece of legislation that reaffirmed First Amendment rights of freedom-of-religion expression.

The legislation would have ensured that pastors could not be forced to perform homosexual marriages.

The media blackmailing the cowardly governor included Viacom, 21st Century Fox, Lionsgate, CBS, Starz, AMC Networks, Netflix, Time Warner, CBS, The Weinstein Company, Sony, Comcast NBCUniversal, MGM, STX Entertainment and Open Road Films.

It turns out the “corporate media,” which are usually demonized as conservative right-wing businesses, are in the back pockets of the homosexual lobby.

Continue reading

12/5/15

Putin’s “War on Terror” Could Backfire

By: Cliff Kincaid
Accuracy in Media

There can be no doubt that the Russians are winning the Middle East propaganda war. But it’s not just the Marxist far-left that is willing to believe whatever Vladimir Putin and his mouthpiece Russia Today (RT) are saying. Some conservatives and self-described Tea Party leaders have also accepted the disinformation the Russians are putting out, even to the extent of affirming the Russian president as a Christian statesman leading the global war on terror.

Consider Chuck Baldwin’s piece, “Rootin’ for Putin,” which insists that “Russia’s Vladimir Putin is the only one fighting a Just War in the Middle East right now.” Baldwin, a Christian pastor “dedicated to preserving the historic principles upon which America was founded,” was the presidential candidate in 2008 of the Constitution Party, a group associated with the late conservative icon Howard Phillips.

It is simply amazing that any conservative would insist that Putin, who, despite dropping the communist label is still allied with Iran, Communist China, North Korea and Cuba, is somehow doing the right thing in Syria, a long-time Soviet/Russian client state. What Putin is doing is entirely consistent with what the Soviets always did. They are trying to save a client state from what started out as a popular rebellion.

In his column, Baldwin went on to label Barack Obama, David Cameron of Britain, Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, King Salman of Saudi Arabia, and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey as “international gangsters.”

It is true that Obama, through a few of America’s Arab “allies,” has been supporting the cause of some jihadists and terrorists in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been implicated in these dangerous schemes, one of which culminated in the Benghazi massacre of four Americans in Libya. That was a treasonous action that should sink Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and could have justified impeachment charges against Obama himself. Mrs. Clinton was Obama’s Secretary of State at the time.

These operations in the Middle East have been characterized by former CIA officer Clare Lopez of the Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi as “switching sides in the War on Terror.”

But the idea that Putin has clean hands in the Middle East is absolutely ridiculous. Considering that he was a Soviet KGB spy and actually headed one of the KGB’s successor agencies, the idea that Putin has suddenly had a Damascus Road conversion to Christianity is simply ludicrous. His foreign policy is very similar to that of the old Soviet Union.

Since the foreign policy has mostly remained the same, Soviet financing and sponsorship of international terrorist networks, many of them linked to Arab and Muslim groups, also have to be taken into consideration here. It is reasonable to assume that the Russians have maintained at least parts of these networks for a purpose that we see in the backing of Bashar Assad in Syria. Indeed, writer and researcher Christian Gomez has traced the roots of ISIS to the Islamic Revival Party, created by the KGB, during the final days of the old Soviet Union. U.S. Army Colonel Steve Warren, a spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, has noted that the Russians are doing little in Syria to fight ISIS terrorists and that “Everything they [the Russians] are doing is to support Assad, to keep Assad in power.” In other words, Putin is continuing a clever Soviet-style strategy that seeks to maintain Assad in power while using ISIS for his own purposes. One of those purposes, as reflected in RT propaganda, is to make Putin look like a terrorist fighter.

Baldwin isn’t the only personality on the right duped by Putin and his propaganda machine. The CEO of a group calling itself simply the Tea Party has distributed an article claiming that Russia has produced “stunning photographic evidence” that ISIS oil was being smuggled into Turkey on an industrial scale.

The “stunning photographic evidence” shows nothing of the sort. Natasha Bertrand of Business Insider examined the Russian maps and found that the three main routes the Russians claim ISIS had allegedly been using to transport illicit oil into Turkey are not primarily controlled by the Islamic State. Turkish President Erdogan has countered: “Who is buying oil (from ISIS)? Let me say it. George Haswani, holder of a Russian passport and a Syrian national, is one of the biggest merchants in this business.” He noted that the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Haswani, who was also placed on an EU sanctions list, “for serving as middleman for oil purchases by the Syrian regime from the ISIS group.”

If you haven’t heard about the sanctions on the individuals and networks providing support to Syria and facilitating Syrian oil purchases from ISIS, you are a victim of the slick propaganda that is being spread around the world by such outlets as RT. It is a fact that the Russian claims against Turkey are taking precedence, even in the Western media, over the facts on the ground, as determined not only by the U.S. Treasury but the U.S. Army. Colonel Warren said, “We flatly reject any notion that the Turks are somehow working with ISIL,” he said. “That is preposterous.”

The “Tea Party” article about the Russian claims was lifted directly from the Infowars.com site of Russian apologist Alex Jones, who just scored a major interview with GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump. No respectable Tea Party group should have anything to do with Alex Jones, who defended the Russian invasion of its former republic Georgia in 2008. Trump’s decision toappear on his show was extremely foolish. He apparently was not aware that Jones promotes claims that actual terrorist attacks, such as the Boston Marathon bombings carried out by two Muslims from Russia, were “false flags” perpetrated by U.S. police and law enforcement agencies. His website ran a “Voice of Russia”story claiming the dead and wounded were actors plastered with fake blood.

Rather than treat Putin as a good guy or ally, GOP presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio (FL) argues that Turkey is a member of NATO and an ally that “deserves the full backing of the United States.” He noted that the Russians were “targeting Turkmen-populated pockets of northern Syria rather than territory controlled by ISIS” and that “Most Russian military strikes since the end of September have been non-ISIS targets, including many civilian areas, revealing that Russia does not share our interest in confronting and defeating ISIS but instead is intent on propping up the Assad regime.”

Before he assumed the role as a leader of the Sunnis in the Middle East, mobilizing forces against Shite Iran and Syria, Erdogan was known for his anti-Soviet views. Indeed, he was an anti-communist in his youth. As a result of Russia’s increased military involvement in Syria, he seems to have awakened to the fact that Putin has returned to his Soviet roots and that Turkey’s future lies with NATO and the West. Turkey joined NATO, originally conceived as an anti-Soviet military alliance, in 1952.

Assuming Erdogan is an Islamist of some kind, as some conservatives contend, it might make strategic sense for the West to back him for that reason alone in his battle with Russia. After all, most of Russia’s 14 million Muslims are Sunnis. RT itself recently highlighted how thousands of Muslims had gathered in central Moscow “to witness the opening of one of the biggest mosques in Europe.” The ceremony was attended by Putin and Erdogan, who had been considered to be on friendly terms.

Their relationship turned sour after Turkey shot down the Russian war plane, and it seems to be deteriorating further.

As noted by Ilya Arkhipov of Bloomberg Business, Putin used his annual state-of-the-nation address to attack Turkey and Erdogan in very personal and religious terms. Putin said, “Only Allah knows why they did this. And it seems that Allah decided to punish the ruling gang in Turkey by stripping it of common sense and reason.” Analyst Timothy Ash told Bloomberg that “The religious angle being used by Putin is unlikely to go down well in the region, where Erdogan is still seen as a defender of the Sunni faith.”

One observer has noted, in regard to Russian involvement in Arab/Muslim terrorism and now ISIS, that the monster that the USSR created may have grown too big, and that it may eventually attack its creator.  In the case of Turkey, Putin is facing a Muslim problem of his own making.

10/2/15

Media Come to Defense of Killer

By: Cliff Kincaid
Accuracy in Media

You may have noticed the news that trust in the media remains at an all-time low. As if to drive that figure even lower, CNN was busy much of Tuesday afternoon trying to spare a killer from the death penalty on the false grounds that Catholicism forbids capital punishment.

No wonder our media are held in such disregard.

CNN’s Vatican senior correspondent John Allen said, “You know, the Catholic Church has a long history of opposing the death penalty.”

False. Section 2267 of the Catholic Catechism says, “The traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude, presupposing full ascertainment of the identity and responsibility of the offender, recourse to the death penalty, when this is the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor.”

On a website called Crux, which covers “all things Catholic” and for which Allen serves as associate editor, we find an article noting, “The Church doesn’t teach that the death penalty is immoral, but says it should only be used in rare circumstances when the state has no other way to protect society from violent offenders.”

So why did Allen mislead his CNN audience?

Speaking to anchor Brooke Baldwin, CNN’s Allen went on, “It was as far back as 1969 that Pope Paul VI urged the abolition of the death penalty and every pope since has upheld the same tradition. I think the interesting thing, as you say, is that Pope Francis was just in the United States, got a rousing ovation from Congress, was widely hailed by political authorities up and down the country. This is sort of the first test, Brooke, as to whether those people who were cheering the pope’s presence are also going to be willing to act on his concrete agenda.”

The popes or the bishops and cardinals can have their own personal opinions, but the fact is that the teaching of the church does NOT forbid capital punishment. He knows this.

The Catholic Answers website notes that both the Old Testament (Genesis 9:6) and the New Testament (Romans 13:4) seemingly endorse the death penalty.

The Ellicott’s Bible commentary notes that the phrase “To bear the sword” from Romans seems to be a recognized Greek phrase to express the power of the magistrates. “It is clear from this passage that capital punishment is sanctioned by Scripture,” the commentary says.

So Allen had the facts wrong and wanted “those people who were cheering the pope’s presence” in the U.S. to accept his personal plea but disregard church teaching. This distortion is one reason why people don’t trust the media.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia notes that support for the death penalty has been part of Christian and Catholic tradition in the Old and New Testaments. What’s more, it was morally accepted when the U.S. Constitution was adopted. Scalia recently told a group of students, “If the death penalty did not violate the Eighth Amendment when the Eighth Amendment was adopted, it doesn’t violate it today.”

The Supreme Court has formally ruled that the death penalty is not a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. What’s more, in June, the Court in a 5-4 ruling upheld the use of a particular drug for lethal injection in executions.

In the case at issue on CNN and other media on Tuesday, a woman named Kelly Gissendaner was given the death penalty by lethal injection because she ordered the murder of her husband, Douglas Gissendaner, in 1997. Her lover, Gregory Bruce Owen, stabbed her husband to death.

The family of Douglas Gissendaner issued a statement, noting, “Kelly planned and executed Doug’s murder. She targeted him and his death was intentional. Kelly chose to have her day in court and after hearing the facts of this case, a jury of her peers sentenced her to death… As the murderer, she’s been given more rights and opportunity over the last 18 years than she ever afforded to Doug who, again, is the victim here. She had no mercy, gave him no rights, no choices, nor the opportunity to live his life. His life was not hers to take.”

Despite media opposition to the death penalty, the majority of Americans still support it. Pew found that 56% favor the death penalty for people convicted of murder, while 38% are opposed.

Pew did find declining support for the death penalty among Democrats, helping to explain why the Democrats masquerading as journalists in the media oppose it. Pew explained, “Much of the decline in support over the past two decades has come among Democrats. Currently, just 40% of Democrats favor the death penalty, while 56% are opposed. In 1996, Democrats favored capital punishment by a wide margin (71% to 25%).”

Among Republicans it found that 77% favor the death penalty. Among independents the figure was 57% supporting capital punishment.

In addition to their liberal opposition to the death penalty, the media perceived a sexist angle in this case, since Gissendaner “became Georgia’s first female prisoner to be executed in 70 years,” as CNN put it, or “the only woman on Georgia’s death row,” as noted by The Washington Post.

Prior to the pope’s U.S. visit, CNN’s John Allen had written that “Francis knows that the death penalty is controversial in the United States, and that a strong camp in the American Catholic Church passionately defends it. Looking ahead to his trip here in September, this could be one of those moments in which discretion seems the better part of valor. On the other hand, it’s also a chance for Francis to show that he’s serious about the death penalty by saying something he knows full well many Americans, including some members of his own flock, don’t want to hear.”

As noted, Francis did condemn the death penalty before Congress. However, as a result of Georgia carrying out the ultimate punishment in the Kelly Gissendaner case, it appears that the pope’s influence in this area has been shown to be non-existent. He had actually pleaded for Georgia authorities to spare her life in a last-minute letter.

The credibility of the pope is a problem, since his personal views are contrary to church teaching and Georgia authorities ignored him anyway. But John Allen’s misrepresentation of the facts hurt his own credibility and that of the media, whose trustworthiness can only continue to decline.

07/10/15

NoisyRoom Article Recap – 07/10/15

06/9/15

The Secret Russian Role in Global Conflict

By: Cliff Kincaid
Accuracy in Media

In an extraordinary judgment that throws U.S. policy in the Middle East into complete turmoil, strategic analyst Michael Ledeen has concluded, in regard to the activities of the Islamic State, “I think the Russians are involved, in tandem with the Iranians, who have had their own troops on the Syrian battlefield for years.”

This means that a U.S. congressional declaration of war on the Islamic State would miss the point, and that the Russians and the Iranians are the bigger threat.

“It’s part of the global war, of which Syria is only one killing field, and IS [Islamic State] is one of the band of killers,” says Ledeen.

The analysis of Ledeen, who previously served as a consultant to the National Security Council, the State Department, and the Defense Department, should serve as an opportunity to review what is really happening in the Middle East, and to examine whether the Islamic State is a Russian creation that is designed to pave the way for Iranian expansion.

Ledeen notes evidence that the top IS military commander, Abu Omar al-Shishani, is a Russian asset, and that “the Russians are exploiting their strategic position in Ukraine to set up transit facilities for IS.” He adds that Ukrainian security forces recently arrested five IS volunteers coming from Russia or the former Soviet republics.

Last September we reported on some of this evidence, noting, “We have heard repeatedly about Americans and Europeans fighting for ISIL [the Islamic state], but little attention is being devoted to the Russian-speaking foreign fighters that make up the group. Their numbers are estimated at 500 or more. Omar al-Shishani is usually described as a prominent Islamic State fighter who is Chechen. In fact, he was born in the former Soviet republic of Georgia and was trained there.”

Those who believe the Russians are incapable of such deception and misdirection have conveniently forgotten about the history of the old Soviet intelligence service, the KGB. It is represented in the Kremlin today by Russian President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer once based in East Germany.

In another area of global affairs that reveals a hidden Russian role, The New York Times has taken note in a June 7 story of evidence that the Russians under Putin are financing conservative movements and political parties around the world. The Times reports, “Not only is it [the Kremlin] aligning itself with the leftists traditionally affiliated with Moscow since the Cold War, but it is making common cause with far-right forces rebelling against the rise of the European Union that are sympathetic to Mr. Putin’s attack on what he calls the West’s moral decline.”

This is actually an old story. We have been reporting for more than a year about Putin acquiring agents of influence or dupes in the West, even in the United States. Perhaps the most prominent name associated with this pro-Moscow trend is veteran conservative columnist Patrick J. Buchanan. The World Congress of Families is the most prominent organization to embrace Moscow’s alleged devotion to Christian values.

It is quite natural for conservatives in favor of traditional values to abhor the Obama administration’s embrace of the so-called LGBT agenda, here and abroad. But to adore Putin in reaction to this trend is a major miscalculation that assumes Moscow is genuinely interested in preserving Western values.

It is a welcome development that The New York Times has finally taken note of Moscow’s hand in right-wing political movements.

But there’s more. The paper added, “American and European officials have accused Moscow of financing green movements in Europe to encourage protests against hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a move intended to defend Russia’s gas industry. And a shadowy ‘troll farm’ in St. Petersburg uses Twitter to plant fake stories about chemical spills or Ebola outbreaks in the West.”

Another example of how Putin is deceiving the world lies in his exploitation of Edward Snowden, the former NSA employee still being hailed as a whistleblower in the United States.

Buchanan’s magazine, The American Conservative, has written about how figures on the U.S. political right such as Ronald Reagan biographer Craig Shirley have rallied to Snowden’s defense. In a recent column, Shirley condemned “the senior GOP leadership’s embrace of the National Security Agency’s enveloping surveillance activities.”

What Shirley and other Snowden supporters ignore is the fact that the NSA’s surveillance activities rely mostly on a Ronald Reagan Executive Order (12333) and that funding and manpower for the NSA increased dramatically under Reagan.

In fact, President Reagan used the NSA to undermine America’s enemies, especially the old USSR.

National security reporter Bill Gertz wrote in 2013 about how a former “top-secret” document, “United States Cryptologic History, Series VI, Vol. 5: American Cryptology During the Cold War, 1945-89,” contained a section on how President Ronald Reagan realized the value of the NSA’s unique electronic intelligence collection capabilities.

The history notes that “the best known exposure of SIGINT [signals intelligence] since the Pearl Harbor hearings of 1945 had actually come in 1983, when the Reagan administration played the intercepted cockpit conversations of the Soviet pilot as he shot down KAL-007. The SIGINT gave the administration a tremendous foreign policy coup.”

On September 1, 1983, the Soviet Union shot down the civilian airliner KAL-007, killing 269 people.

In 1986, the document states, Reagan became the first American president to visit the NSA, as he gave the official dedication speech for the NSA’s two new buildings. He wanted to loosen “the legal reins governing intelligence,” the document says, giving rise to Reagan executive order 12333. It gave the NSA latitude in SIGINT collection that the agency had not had during the disastrous Carter years.

This executive order remains in effect. Not even Obama has tried to revoke it.

Based on this history, one would have to conclude that President Reagan would defend the NSA, just as the GOP leadership in the U.S. Senate has done. Leaders like Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) defended the NSA against the Obama administration, liberal Democrats and libertarian Republicans.

The tragedy is that, with Obama in office rather than a conservative like Reagan, some conservatives decided to join the campaign to undermine the agency that Reagan considered absolutely essential to America’s security and survival.

Could it be just a coincidence that the Islamic state, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and aggressive Chinese cyber-warfare against the U.S. have emerged as major problems in the wake of Snowden’s arrival in Moscow?

Those who blame Obama alone for all of our foreign policy setbacks should examine the evidence that Putin and the Russians may ultimately be pulling the strings. At the same time, the NSA can’t be blamed for Obama’s failure or unwillingness to use the agency effectively against our enemies.

When the next president takes office, he will need an NSA capable of gathering the intelligence information the nation needs to defend itself. The next administration will have to consider apprehending and then prosecuting Snowden for operating as a Russian/Chinese agent of influence and committing espionage against the United States.

Hopefully, those who defended or praised Snowden will one day have to answer for their foolishness.

06/6/15

The Fat Lady Hums A Few Notes

By: Terresa Monroe-Hamilton

Amidst all the other emergencies, real and concocted here in the US, one has gone almost virtually unnoticed. But it’s a kicker. The Bird Flu is sweeping the country like wildfire and has now killed 45 million chickens and turkeys here in the US… 20 million 2 months ago and 25 million last month. Nearly 80 percent of those are egg-laying hens, a reality that has been crippling for the egg industry. That’s staggering. And to goose the visuals for a little perspective, take a gander:

This photo provided by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources shows chickens in a trench on a farm in northwest Iowa. Millions of dead chickens and turkeys are decomposing in fly-swarmed piles near dozens of Iowa farms, culled because of a bird flu virus that swept through the state’s large poultry operations. (Iowa Department of Natural Resources via AP)

Oh look… they’re killing all the chickens and turkeys – so many they are dumping them in humongous trenches and burying them. Wonder what that portends for all of us? Well, in Texas, the egg rationing has begun. H-E-B, one of the largest grocery chains in the nation, limits you to purchasing three dozen eggs. The suppliers of liquid eggs are running dry – they supply restaurants, bakeries and other food producers. Prices are beginning to skyrocket as well. Don’t believe me? Ask the USDA:

Guess where we are going today? To buy dozens of eggs. We have two fridges and we’re stocking up. Consider it our modest way of getting into the commodities market in egg futures. Fully 25% of the US’ chickens and turkeys are now ‘offline,’ which is a nice way of saying they have died from the flu or have been euthanized. If one bird gets sick in a batch, they slaughter all of them.

Here’s some info from TwinCities.com – it’s already outdated as the numbers have gone up significantly since this report:

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Millions of dead chickens and turkeys lie in stinking, fly-swarmed piles near dozens of Iowa farms, casualties of a bird flu virus that’s swept through the state’s large poultry operations in the last month.

Contractors hired by the U.S. Department of Agriculture move methodically from barn to barn at the 28 farms, killing the animals that haven’t yet died from the H5N2 virus — a suffocating foam for turkeys, carbon dioxide gas to asphyxiate chickens. Neighbors say they understand the challenge the state’s producers face in disposing of more than 20 million bird carcasses, but are eager for quick action, especially as temperatures rise.

“People in low-lying areas near those facilities have contacted me complaining about a very large number of flies and, until the wind comes up and goes the right direction, a lingering odor,” said Sen. David Johnson, whose northwest Iowa district includes Sunrise Farms — where 3.8 million chickens in 20 barns are dead or dying.

There are few details about how the carcasses are being handled; some are piled up and covered with dirt or other material, turkeys are often composted inside barns and at least one chicken farm is burying them in trenches. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is working with area landfills on agreements to dispose of poultry inside plastic bio-bags and has approved permits for a company to operate portable incinerators in three counties, with the possibility of a fourth roving incinerator.

But one thing is clear, according to Ken Hessenius, a DNR environmental supervisor: “We’ve got to look at all methods of disposal here to deal with this. It truly is a crisis. It’s an extremely difficult situation for all these farms.”

Iowa, which raises nearly 20 percent of the nation’s egg-laying chickens and produces nearly one in every five eggs consumed in the U.S., saw its first reported case on April 13. Since then, nearly 21 million chickens and 470,000 turkeys have died, are dying or are in line to be euthanized. It isn’t the only state dealing with the issue: More than 100 farms in the Midwest have been hit, leading to the loss of more than 28 million chickens and turkeys — 5.5 million of those in Minnesota, the nation’s leading turkey producer.

So, buckle up… because this emergency is expected to last at least a year and a half. The eggpocalypse is upon us it would seem. The poultry industry is facing two, count ’em two, strains of Bird Flu here in the US now. So far, the H5N2 strain has hit the states of Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Arkansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Idaho, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington and Wisconsin. It has also been identified in the Canadian provinces of Ontario and British Columbia. The H5N8 strain has not been doing quite as much damage yet, but it has been killing birds in California, Idaho, Indiana, Oregon and Washington. In addition, Canadian officials have discovered that the H5N1 strain is spreading in British Columbia. Wonder why a poultry plague is not big news in the US? By the time Americans figure out there is a problem, it’ll be too late for most of them to take any mitigating action. I don’t know about you, but we depend on eggs. My household eats Paleo and Whole30 and eggs are a mainstay for us. What are the odds that two different strains would go active at the same time? Aggressive little mutant flu virus, for sure. Who knew that chickens would experiment with influenza virology? Those hens need to be careful what eggscapes from their dimly lit underground labs. Without proper precautions, some dumb cluck could devastate egg production nationwide. *Ahem* … okay, meanwhile back on this side of the cartoon curtain…

It is so dire out there, a number of suppliers are going to what they call “eggless eggs.” These are eggs produced from plants. Sounds so very tasty – not. Whataburger has announced that it is going to be limiting the number of hours that it serves breakfast. McDonald’s and others can’t be far behind. They will either limit hours serving, raise costs, limit their menus or all of the above. I almost feel sorry for McDonald’s – they are mostly shutting down in San Francisco because of skyrocketing property prices. Then there’s the minimum wage fiasco – $15 an hour will also shut them down. Heck, in de Blasio’s commie utopia, 1 in 5 fast food joints are closing their doors now because of the $15 an hour extortion imposed on them. Seattle, Portland and LA are lining up as well. You have to wonder about Walmart running national ads about how great they are since they will be paying their employees higher wages. Egg timer on viability anyone? But, I digress.

And not to alarm everyone more than I already have, but this Bird Flu crap has the potential to jump to humans. The CDC has already issued a warning:

“Clinicians should consider the possibility of highly pathogenic avian influenza H5 virus infection in persons showing signs or symptoms of respiratory illness who have relevant exposure history,” the CDC said in a health alert issued to doctors.

“This includes persons who have had contact with potentially infected birds (e.g., handling, slaughtering, defeathering, butchering, culling, preparation for consumption); direct contact with surfaces contaminated with feces or parts (carcasses, internal organs, etc.) of potentially-infected birds; and persons who have had prolonged exposure to potentially-infected birds in a confined space.”

Boy, this would be an elitist’s dream… how to reduce the population and fast. Let’s pray that this virus does not jump the shark.

I’m in Oklahoma – the rationing is in Texas and soon to come in other states I presume.

The egg shortage and Bird Flu pandemic is just one emergency… we are caught in the middle of a number of harsh scenarios playing out. Everything from the drought in the west which will cause food inflation and other ramifications, to terrorism threats from ISIS.

From the attack in Garland, Texas to the take down of two Jihadists in Boston who were planning to behead Pamela Geller and police officers, lone wolf attacks and worse are becoming a reality here in the States. Yesterday, a US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) helicopter was shot at and had to make an emergency landing. The shots came from Mexico and it’s your best guess whether it was the emboldened cartels or ISIS, who has at least two camps there, or a combo of both. Now ISIS is bragging it can bring a nuclear weapon into the US… I suggest we pay attention with the non-existent borders we now have.

Our cities are also embroiled in an epic crime wave, escalating across the nation. Shooting attacks — mostly ethnic minorities — are up 60 percent in Baltimore so far this year compared to 2014. Homicides are up 180 percent in Milwaukee, 25 percent in St. Louis, 32 percent in Atlanta and 13 percent in New York in the same period. All because of Progressive-manipulated racism and riots, fomenting cop hatred. In other words, Cloward and Piven.

Probably of the greatest concern to many here in the US is our massive unemployment problem, the fall of the dollar and it’s replacement as the world’s reserve currency. Did you know that a global bond crash has started? Didn’t hear that in the news? I’m not surprised. Why do you think they want to do away with tangible money? The powers-that-be want to go digitized so they can implement taxes and a global fiscal confiscation “haircut” to bail their sorry asses out as the fiscal emergency — of their own creation — continues to spiral out of control. The Chinese look to take control with the Yuan as the new global currency. Since they are our biggest debt holder, what do Americans think will happen when they come to collect?

Militarily, Russia, China and Iran are plotting and planning on a World War to end all wars. And with a neutered US, there may be no one standing in their way of global conquest. I saw one major media outlet predict WWIII was a sure bet beginning this summer and to pray it would not be nuclear. If it goes full blown, nukes are a virtual certainty along with financial, cyber and space warfare.

The fat lady isn’t belting it out in the US yet, but she’s humming a few notes. The Bird Flu is just one more note in a discordant visage playing out in America. Marxists believe you have to break a few eggs to make a communist omelet – I always thought that was supposed to be a metaphor.

03/30/15

Marxist Van Jones Praises Koch Brothers

By: Cliff Kincaid
Accuracy in Media

When he left the Obama Administration in disgrace, the expectation was that “former” communist Van Jones would return to Oakland, California, and resume his duties as an anti-police street activist. Instead, Jones, a former activist with the group, Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement (STORM), was hired as a “liberal” co-host of a new version of CNN’s debate show “Crossfire.” Now, Jones has emerged as a point man for Koch Industries in a multi-million dollar campaign for “criminal justice reform.”

The spectacle of Jones appearing at a podium emblazoned with the company name “Koch Industries” became a reality last Thursday when the ACLU and the billionaire Koch brothers joined forces to sponsor an all-day “Bipartisan Summit on Criminal Justice Reform.” Jones orchestrated most of the conference, serving as a moderator and speaker.

While the conference included a few Republicans, there was clear evidence that the new “bipartisan” campaign is being directed from the Obama White House. Attorney General Eric Holder and senior White House officials had met with several prominent leaders of the effort on March 2.

In addition to Jones, who was forced to resign as White House “Green Jobs Czar” after his extremist background came to light, Holder was a featured speaker, calling for “a fundamental shift in our criminal justice system,” and “historic change.”

Known for his lawless actions, such as refusing to enforce federal anti-drug laws, Holder was held in contempt by Congress for withholding documents from them about Fast and Furious, the scandal involving a gun-running operation that put deadly weapons in the hands of narcotics traffickers from Mexico. He is also known for the “open borders” policy that has prevented a vigorous enforcement of immigration laws on the federal and state level.

Addressing an audience of about 500 people, Holder spoke of a “rare consensus emerging across the country,” adding, “Recently, we have seen conservative stakeholders like Koch Industries and Americans for Tax Reform join with progressive voices like the Center for American Progress to form a new coalition dedicated to this cause.”

The “cause,” based on what we witnessed at the all-day event, is to reduce prison populations in the name of fiscal restraint and liberal compassion.

The financial support from the Koch brothers gives this left-wing campaign a bipartisan appearance and may be intended to buy some goodwill from the “progressives” who normally target these billionaires.

But knowing of Holder’s involvement in the event and the evidence that he, in fact, helped orchestrate this conference, it was troubling to some conservative observers that members of Congress, such as Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Republican governors such as Nathan Deal of Georgia, participated in this event.

Holder argued that the criminal justice system was racist against minorities, while Deal said the system was too costly and that many criminals can be re-educated, rehabilitated and released.

Although Americans for Tax Reform was indeed listed as a sponsor, its head, Grover Norquist, was in the news for another reason. He is embroiled in a controversy over his alleged ties to Islamists, and gave an interview to Glenn Beck defending himself against the charges.

The Center for American Progress, another major player in the new “criminal justice reform” effort, is funded by the Open Society Foundations of billionaire hedge-fund operator George Soros.

The new group Holder spoke about is called the Coalition for Public Safety, financed by $5 million from the Koch brothers and other “core supporters,” such as the liberal Ford Foundation.  The group is run by Christine Leonard, a former Ted Kennedy Senate staffer once affiliated with the left-wing Vera Institute for Justice.

The Vera Institute is so extreme that its Project Concern had a National Advisory Board on Adolescent Development, Safety and Justice that included the former communist terrorist Bernardine Dohrn as an adviser from 1998 to 2003. Dohrn was accused of bombing a police station and killing a San Francisco police sergeant. However, she has never been brought to justice for her alleged role in this crime.

Though it tilted heavily toward the left, the new coalition and the conference had a sprinkling of conservatives, most notably former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich. His firm, “Gingrich Productions,” was an official sponsor. Gingrich apparently became a friend of Van Jones when they appeared together on CNN’s “Crossfire.” Other conservatives or libertarians in attendance included Matt Kibbe, President/CEO of FreedomWorks, and Tim Head, Executive Director of the Faith & Freedom Coalition.

In a joint statement, Gingrich and Jones declared, “Our over-reliance on prisons has failed America. It is past time for both political parties to come together and fix a bad system of their own making. We believe this moment offers a once-in-a generation opportunity for reforms that will save entire communities and transform the lives of millions of Americans. We must not let it pass.”

However, the well-documented book, Why Crime Rates Fell, by John E. Conklin, argues persuasively that crime reduction is due in large measure to putting more criminals in prison.

On one panel at the event, John Malcolm of The Heritage Foundation disputed the liberal notion advanced by Nicole Austin-Hillery of the Brennan Center for Justice that increased incarceration had no role in the drop in crime. He noted that economist Steven Levitt has estimated that approximately 25 percent of the decline in violent crime can be attributed to increased incarceration, and that Professor William Spelman has estimated that increased incarceration may be responsible for as much as 35 percent of the reduction in violent crime.

Following Governor Nathan Deal as a speaker was Piper Kerman, a convicted drug-money launderer who wrote, Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison, a book made into a television series by Netflix.

Dr. Tina Trent, an advocate for victims of crime, is watching this campaign go forward with a lot of questions and suspicion. She was writing about the campaign for “criminal justice reform” when it was primarily underwritten by Soros. She discovered that the group, Critical Resistance, a Soros-funded activist group founded by long-time communist Angela Davis, had invented the “cop-watch concept” that would be popularized by Jones in Oakland through a group called Bay Area Police Watch. Davis wrote, Are Prisons Obsolete?, a book arguing that criminals are victims of capitalist society.

Trent says the campaign is well underway and aims to eliminate the death penalty, life without parole sentences, “three strikes” laws, mandatory minimum sentencing laws, and other changes that states have passed over the last 20 years to reduce violent crime. Another goal is to expand voting rights for felons, who are expected to show their gratitude by voting Democratic.

She says the movement also aims to “ban the box”—a reference to removing the criminal record question from job applications—and legalize dangerous mind-altering drugs. In this context, the Soros-funded Drug Policy Alliance was another “partner” in the “bipartisan summit.”

Trent has also highlighted the Soros-funded effort to “radicalize” prisoners while they are incarcerated.

The campaign to target the prisons for revolutionary purposes is actually an old one. The House Internal Security Committee in 1973 published a report, “Revolutionary Target: The American Penal System,” which examined how “groups committed to Marxist revolutionary theories and tactics were exploiting the popular issue of prison reform and had become a source of the unrest then afflicting many of the nation’s prisons.”

A different approach and analysis of what has to be done about the crime problem is being taken by veteran journalist Colin Flaherty, in his new book, Don’t Make the Black Kids Angry. Flaherty argues that the Obama/Holder narrative of the alleged “racial victimization” of blacks by whites ignores the black-on-white violence that has become an epidemic across the country.

Rather than empty the prisons, he argues, more criminals need to be apprehended and punished.

Black crime rates are “astronomically out of proportion” to their presence in the population, he points out. But the media “ignore, condone and deny it.” Obama, he adds, is a “willing partner” in the deception.

03/24/15

FEMA and the Science of Extortion

By: T F Stern
The Moral Liberal

FEMA logo

There are several articles on the Internet which put forth the idea that FEMA intends to withhold money from states which don’t sign on to the premise of man made global warming.   They use the updated term, Climate Change; but their religion of man made harm to Mother Earth continues as the foundation of their faith.

Frank Minero’s piece, Sorry Rick Scott, Admit Climate Change Is Real Or Florida Loses $100 + In FEMA Funding, caught my attention as it contained some rather inflammatory language.

“They’ll need to think long and hard on this one. The stakes are high. If they stick with their ignorant, anti-science rhetoric, they stand to lose millions in federal aid.” (emphasis added)

Would someone define ‘anti-science rhetoric’?  Doesn’t Minero mean folks who won’t fall for junk science substituted for real science and the political agenda associated with the Church of Man Made Global Warming?

At one time science was the search for truth regardless of where that path led; but we live in a time when political agendas foretell results and computer generated models validate theories without the need for actual or authentic data, how convenient!

Minero does a touchdown dance at the end zone of his article proving that Climate Change ‘science’ is nothing more than a political hoax.

“Here’s a list of the eighteen offending states: Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, South Dakota and Wyoming. Not surprisingly, most of the anti-science policy comes from red states.

This is great news for the people living in red states. Now petty politics and greed won’t doom them to the absolute worst consequences of climate change.”  (again, emphasis added)

Those who voted for the Democrat/Socialist/Communist (interchangeable) agenda of man made global warming will be rewarded with taxpayer funding  (a politically incorrect term to be replaced with ‘people’)  of FEMA programs.

If, on the other hand, you require proof of this unsettled science, which is nothing more than a shake down scheme to redistribute wealth, then we will use the power of media to ridicule your pathetic attempts to stave off being robbed in order to advance the liberal agenda.

Never mind that actual scientific findings prove the IPCC report as having been considerably flawed, to the extent that it might have been a total fabrication.  Never mind that the World’s top climate scientists confess: Global warming is just [a] Quarter what we thought – and computers got the effects of greenhouse gases wrong.

Coin FlipImagine that, the global warming ‘estimates’ were off by around 75%!  The data fed into computer models used to twist the arms of law makers in order to bring about a United Nations one world government isn’t accurate.  Flipping a coin would give better results; at least that way you’d be right half the time.

If that isn’t enough, Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace recently shot down the Climate Change hoax when he addressed the Senate committee charged with coming up with legislation to combat global warming.

“There is no scientific proof that human emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) are the dominant cause of the minor warming of the Earth’s atmosphere over the past 100 years,” he said as he explained, “he left the group when it became more interested in politics than the environment.”

It would appear the anti-science rhetoric being spread around has been by the environmental alarmists.

02/3/15

The Tea Party: Then and Now

By: Michael Johns

The largest and most impactful political movement, at least since the civil rights movement and perhaps in all of American history, originated in the minds and efforts of less than a dozen American citizens.

It was late February 2009, just weeks after the inauguration of Barack Obama, and there was every reason for conservatives to fear the worst: That we had elected a polarizing, far left and ultimately ineffectual president who would prove a threat to constitutional law, our economy and America’s global standing in the world.  Most concerning was that he would gradually or even quickly erode our nation’s two centuries of respect for individual rights and liberties upon which America was founded, “fundamentally transforming” (as he promised) our nation in destructive ways.

On the morning of February 19, 2009, as was often the case, I had the financial media outlet CNBC playing on a distant television in my suburban Philadelphia home.  This particular cold February morning, Rick Santelli, a Chicago-based CNBC reporter, was doing his usual stand-up reporting from the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade (COMEX).  Santelli began reporting on Washington’s federal subsidies of housing under Obama when mid way through his report his sense of outrage began to escalate passionately.

Santelli accused the Obama administration of “promoting bad behavior” in subsidizing mortgages then at default risk with a $75 billion housing program, known as the Homeowners Affordability and Stability Plan. He then turned and, while still live on CNBC, stated assertively to COMEX floor traders: “We’re thinking of having a Chicago Tea Party!” Santelli’s suggestion of a Tea Party response to the federal government’s overreach was greeted with supportive applause and whistles of approval from COMEX traders. Santelli then said: “What we are doing in this country is making our founders roll over in their graves.”

I found Santelli’s Chicago comments accurate, inspirational and even bold for a mainstream reporter in a media world that really never challenged Obama on much of anything during or since the 2008 campaign. What I did not realize was that his remarks were viewed similarly by several other conservative-leaning Americans, who would go on to inspire a national political movement that would shake the nation.

Just a few days following Santelli’s rant, 12 or so conservative activists, including me, were invited to participate in a strategic organizing Tea Party conference call moderated by Nashville-based, Stanford educated conservative Michael Patrick Leahy.  It was Leahy who earlier launched the now famous #tcot (Top Conservatives on Twitter) hashtag, where it remains today one of Twitter’s most commonly used hashtags and a key methodology for conservative communication.

Most on the call, unlike me, were new to political engagement.  They had largely never worked in government, public policy or politics. Aside from Leahy and me, the others had never managed an organization either.  They had largely never written or spoken on political or public policy themes, even though all of us would soon be called upon to articulate our Tea Party message nationally in the weeks to come.  Most had never even worked on a political campaign.  But the passion on that call was infectious.  The 12 or so of us left it with a feeling that a potentially influential national political movement was emerging—and quickly.

Several follow-up calls were scheduled, and they led us to devise a now well-known plan for Tea Party protests across the nation on Tax Day, April 15, 2009.  The aggressive six-week timeline, like much that the Tea Party movement has undertaken since its creation, was organized hastily, with a sense of urgency, and not without its errors. But April 15, 2009, is now a fairly notable day in American history in the sense that it was the physical manifestation of a national political movement, comprising tens of millions of Americans and quite possibly the largest in American history, that would go on to impact significantly the nation’s political debate.

The day of April 15, 2009, was a busy one. For my part, in the afternoon, on Boston Square in downtown Boston, just blocks from the original Sam Adams-led Tea Party on December 16, 1773, I spoke to a large and passionate crowd furious with Obama and the country’s direction.  I then left Boston to speak that evening at one of the nation’s largest tea parties of the day, held in lower Manhattan, not far from the memorialized 9/11 attack location. Three days later, on the grounds of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, I spoke for a third time in just three days to a very large and vibrant Tea Party rally organized by the Independence Hall Tea Party Association, of which I was then an officer.

The years 2009 and 2010 were full of flurry and a sense of urgency for the national Tea Party movement, an urgency that has continued to this day.  In 2010, in Quincy, Illinois, where Lincoln held his sixth debate with U.S. Senator Stephen Douglas on October 13, 1858, I joined Leahy and the late media personality Andrew Breitbart in addressing a large Tea Party crowd on the precise location where Lincoln pointedly articulated his anti-slavery message: “We (the Republican Party) also oppose it as an evil so far as it seeks to spread itself,” Lincoln said that day in Quincy.

By this time, the message of our movement was being refined and polished, comprised mostly of three universal themes that were and continue to be broadly popular with the American people: First, the federal government has grown too big and its taxes vastly too excessive.  Second, the sovereignty of the United States—in controlling its borders, in developing its national security and foreign policies — must be defended at all costs.  And third, that the U.S. Constitution was a document containing absolute truths to which government needed to adhere if it was to avoid lawlessness and chaos.

As I was in Boston and New York City, Leahy and others organized one of the day’s largest and most successful events in Nashville, drawing thousands.  In downtown Chicago, just a couple blocks from where the Santelli rant heard round the world took place, another Tea Party founder organized a large and hugely successful Tea Party rally.  His name was Eric Odom.

Quickly, the passionate and activism of this small cadre spread to thousands, then tens of thousands, and ultimately to millions of Americans who identified themselves as being supportive of the Tea Party movement. On November 2, 2010, a highly motivated Tea Party movement rocked the nation, sending 65 new Republican House members to Washington and thus forcing then Speaker Nancy Pelosi to surrender her gavel to new Republican John Boehner. Four years later, on November 4, 2014, the Tea Party movement again proved a huge difference maker, further increasing Republican presence in the U.S. House and increasing its U.S. Senate seats by nine, including pulling out wins in hugely contentious races in many states, including Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, and South Dakota.

Meanwhile, in the U.S. House of Representatives, a Tea Party Caucus, chaired by former Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, had been developed with the movement’s input to coordinate the Tea Party agenda in Congress.  And the national strategy discussions continued. In Chicago, for instance, Odom and I spent three long days in detailed discussion on the movement’s strategy, messaging and allocation of limited resources.

In the months and years since, along with other Tea Party founders from the February 2009 conference call, we continued tireless efforts of what by then had become a vast, influential, though sometimes chaotically organized movement of political consequence. All the Tea Party movement founders from Leahy’s first conference call are impressive in their own ways, and have their own personal stories about what sparked their leadership in this now historical movement.

In the years that followed, along with other national Tea Party leaders, Leahy, Odom and I crisscrossed the nation articulating the Tea Party message and helped to organize the movement politically in order to prevail in elections.

In Dallas, Leahy organized a national Tea Party leadership meeting that included many of the founders from the original February 2009 call participated.  “Let’s begin this meeting with a prayer to God for His guidance of this movement,” I suggested privately to Leahy, who agreed. We began the meeting exactly that way.  Later, also in Dallas, we organized a two-day training course for regional and other Tea Party leaders on political and public policy activism.

One of those leaders was Chicago-based Eric Odom.  In fall 2010, from Las Vegas, we poured ourselves into the campaign of Nevada State Senator Sharron Angle in hopes of replacing the Obama administration’s strongest U.S. Senate ally, Harry Reid.  As the movement’s prominence (and the associated strategic questions facing it) evolved, Odom and I spent several days in Chicago asking and discussing those questions and developing our best answers.  And there was the day in Philadelphia where I invited Odom to join me in addressing an important pre-election Tea Party rally held on the iconic grounds of Independence Hall in front of the very building where 56 founders of our nation pledged with a “firm reliance of the protection of divine providence,” their “lives, fortunes and sacred honor” to remove imperial British forces and rule and establish a self-governed nation rooted in liberty and the rule of law.

The Tea Party movement’s efforts, as even its detractors would concede, have since proven hugely consequential, ensuring that Obama, at least since 2011, was not given full reign of the legislative and executive branches of government.  A Tea Party-influenced Republican House and Senate, along with our extensive grassroots efforts, have held liberal Obama’s agenda at bay, despite the Tea Party’s ultimate inability to defeat Obamacare.

Since that first February 2009 conference call, the founding and ongoing development of the historic Tea Party movement is one of many intriguing personal stories, and a singular collective story.  Along the way, we have done many things well (removing Pelosi and then Reid as Speaker and Majority Leader, respectively).  We have strengthened the Republican Party as a party that stands more than before for conservative principles expressed (but too often ignored) in the GOP platform.  We also quickly obliterated the 2008 progressive political culture that maintained that Obama was a man who singularly held the answers for the nation.  Time has proven those ideas were not at all innovative and were actually just a rewording of those from the liberal playbook of more government and more taxes.  In all these ways, since those February 2009 planning calls, the national Tea Party movement has exceeded the accomplishments of the effective and well-constructed 2008 Obama for America campaign that ultimately propelled Obama to the presidency.

All this history is important because it reaffirms the veracity of Margaret Mead’s famous statement: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” It’s worth asking: If those first organizing calls had not been launched, would Republicans today control the U.S. Senate and House? If no, that means that Obama’s entire far-left political agenda would have been rubber stamped by an equally liberal Congressional leadership.  Has the Tea Party movement saved the nation?  I believe it likely has.

Yet, to be truthful about the inner workings of the Tea Party movement, we have done many things well, but failed in others.  In 2015, the Tea Party and patriot movement’s top priority must be communicating and impacting public opinion and explaining why and how Tea Party principles can make America great again: creating jobs and economic prosperity, restoring rigid adherence to the U.S. Constitution, and restoring a strong America that can defeat serious national security threats.

With a reliance on divine providence again, let’s roll back this utterly destructive, unconstitutional government and welcome in a century or more of strong liberty leadership.  Next step: We must explain our Tea Party vision and solutions for America.

01/27/15

Oil Prices Changing The Face Of Global Geopolitics

In a documentary that aired recently on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s popular The Fifth Estate program, an allegory of Vladimir Putin was presented. The wily Russian president was described growing up in a shabby St. Petersburg apartment, where he would often corner rats.

Now, punished by low oil prices and Western sanctions against Russian incursions in Ukraine/ Crimea, Putin is himself the cornered rat. Many wonder, and fear, what he will do if conditions in Russia become increasingly desperate.

In the last six months oil prices have plunged over 50 percent and the Russian economy is hurting. The country now faces slowing economic growth, a depressed ruble, and runaway inflation estimated to be up to 150 percent on basic foodstuffs.

The Kremlin is counting on austerity cuts to help balance its budget, which has revenues coming in at $45 billion lower than earlier projections. The exception, significantly, is defense. With the military exempted from the austerity plan, it begs the question of whether Putin will “play the nationalist card,” such as he did in Crimea, in an effort to strengthen greater Russia during a period of economic weakness.

Georgia On His Mind

We are already seeing this to be the case. As Oilprice.com reported on Tuesday, Putin is set to absorb South Ossetia – Georgia’s breakaway republic that declared itself independent in 1990. Under an agreement “intended to legalize South Ossetia’s integration with Russia,” Russia would invest 2.8 million rubles (US$50 million) to “fund the socio-economic development of South Ossetia,” according to Agenda.GE, a Tbilisi-based news site.

The situation is analogous to Crimea because, like Crimea, South Ossetia contains a significant Russian-speaking population with ties to the Motherland.

If Putin succeeds in annexing the tiny province, it will be a real poke in the eye to the United States, which provoked Russia in the early 1990s by promoting construction of a pipeline between the former Soviet republics of Azerbaijan and Georgia. The BTC pipeline moves oil from Baku in Azerbaijan to Tbilisi in Georgia and then onward to Ceyhan on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast.

BTC started operating in 2006. Then, two years later, Putin built his own pipeline to cut out Georgia. The South Ossetia pipeline run by Gazprom stretches 75 kilometers from South Ossetia to Russia.

The current move on South Ossetia is a way for Russia to assert its energy independence in the face of Western sanctions and low oil prices.

It comes as Russia announced plans to divert all of its natural gas crossing Ukraine to a route via Turkey. As Bloomberg reported last week, Gazprom will send 63 billion cubic meters through a proposed link under the Black Sea to Turkey – after the earlier South Stream pipeline, a $45-billion project that would have crossed Bulgaria, was scrapped by Russia amid opposition from the European Union. By sending the gas to Turkey and on to Europe via Greece, Gazprom is in effect sending Europe an ultimatum: build pipelines to European markets, or we will sell the gas to other customers.

According to one observer, the proposed land grab in South Ossetia combined with the snub to Europe by shifting its gas to Turkey and bypassing Ukraine, is a classic Putin power play:

“Russia is preparing to absorb a province of neighboring Georgia, and delivering an ultimatum to Europe that it could lose much of the Russian gas on which it relies,” Steve LeVine writes in Quartz. “Putin has argued that the west is simply intent on ousting him and weakening Russia… Faced with these perceived attempts to undercut him and his country, Putin suggests that he has no choice but to pull around the wagons and stick it out. This could go on a long time.”

Iran: Falling Oil Prices Spur Peace Dividend

Some have speculated that the oil price crash was orchestrated by the Saudis, possibly in collusion with the United States and other Gulf states, to punish Iran, its main political and religious rival in the Middle East.

Whether or not that is true, there is no denying the effects of a low oil price on Iran’s economy. “Iran is already missing tens of billions of dollars in oil revenue due to Western sanctions and years of economic mismanagement under former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,” Bloomberg reported on Jan. 7. Like Russia, Iran is looking at spending cuts in next year’s budget, which is based on an overly-optimistic $72 a barrel crude oil price.

However, unlike Russia, which is “circling the wagons” and pulling further away from the West currently, the oil price drop could actually lead to more of a détente between Iran and Western countries. In a speech on Jan. 4, President Hassan Rouhani said Iran’s economy “cannot develop in isolation from the rest of the world,” while at the same time, Iran’s foreign minister was negotiating a nuclear deal that could see the lifting of UN sanctions, the Washington Post observed.

Then there is the cooperation between the West and Iran over the terrorist group ISIS. The National Post’s J.L. Granatsein wrote in a column on Tuesday that Iran has deployed substantial numbers of its Revolutionary Guard elite Al Qods brigade into Iraq and Syria to fight ISIS, along with Western allies including the US, Britain, France and Canada. This is despite Iran’s support for Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria’s president Assad.

“Politics makes strange bedfellows indeed, but not much can be stranger than this. Led by the Americans, hitherto the Great Satan to the Iranian leaders, the ties between the West and Iran are becoming tighter, each side reacting to the horrors of Islamist fundamentalism throughout the region,” Granatsein writes. “The Iranians have been hurt by sanctions, and they are being wracked even more by the falling price of oil. Easing curbs on trade and Iranian banks may mitigate the effects of the oil price collapse.”

Venezuela Bracing For The Worst

The other major loser in the oil price collapse, Venezuela, may not see such a positive outcome. Wracked by decades of economic mismanagement by Hugo Chávez, the South American oil producer was already struggling to pay its debts when new president Nicolás Maduro came to power.

Now, with inflation running at 60 percent and lines forming outside state grocery stores for food and other basic supplies, Maduro faces the specter of serious social unrest if conditions do not improve. The country has some of the world’s cheapest gasoline prices, but Maduro has refused to end fuel subsidies, fearing, no doubt, a repeat of widespread riots in 1989 that left hundreds dead after gasoline prices were allowed to rise.

Venezuela is even more dependent than Russia on the price of oil, earning some 96 percent of its foreign currency from oil sales, putting Maduro in the untenable position of either borrowing more, despite crushing debts, or slashing spending:

“With only $20 billion left in its reserves, and $50 billion in debt to China alone, Venezuela appears headed toward a choice between abandoning its oil giveaways and defaulting on its debts, or starving its own population to the point of revolt,” according to the Washington Post.

Source: http://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/Crushing-The-U.S.-Energy-Export-Dream.html

By Andrew Topf for Oilprice.com