Tulsi Has 2% or More in 23 Polls, But DNC Only Counting 2

The DNC is up to its old tricks of sidelining candidates who have policy positions that the establishment doesn’t approve of and, therefore, doesn’t want you to continue to hear.

In this video, political analyst and radio personality Kim Iversen unpacks the arbitrariness and lack of transparency behind one of the criteria the DNC is using to determine which of the candidates will be allowed on the debate stage for the third Democratic debate next month: the requirement to get 2% or more in four approved polls by August 28th.

There have been numerous polls since the last debate with results that are inconsistent with each other. Even the pollsters themselves are acknowledging that the polls aren’t terribly reliable at this point – more than a year away from the election. But only certain polls are being considered for the DNC’s purposes. In this twisted setup, Tulsi Gabbard – a candidate who is still actively gaining momentum as reflected by her having over 170,000 unique donors with approximately 50,000 of those gained since the last debate – has polled at 2% or better in 23 polls, but the DNC is only counting 2 of those (as of 8/20)*, without any meaningful explanation as to why some polls are getting the stamp of approval and others aren’t. Iversen discusses what demographics tend to get favored by the small number of polls that are being accepted and which candidates, in turn, that phenomena is favoring.

The link to the petition Iversen mentions is here for those who wish to sign.

*Note: this video was recorded on 8/18 and, at that point, Tulsi only had one qualifying poll. On 8/20, it was reported that she has now made the cut in 2 qualifying polls. But we don’t know how many more qualifying polls will come out before 8/28.

Russia Getting Rocked by Natural & Manmade Disasters

Explosion at Achinsk ammunition depot in Siberia; Reuters 2019.

It’s been a rough summer for the Russian heartland. First there were floods and wildfires that ravaged parts of Siberia. Now, over the past 10 days there have been two deadly explosions. The first was at an ammunition depot in Achinsk (also in Siberia), which resulted in one dead and 7 injured with thousands evacuated from the vicinity. The second was an explosion in the White Sea that has killed 7 and seriously injured at least 6 more.

That last incident off the northern coast of Russia involved the release of radiation that led to a spike in local levels in the immediate aftermath. Democracy Now! has reported 7 resultant deaths that it’s suspected that the explosion may have been a test of a nuclear powered cruise missile gone wrong. ZeroHedge provided the following details:

Russia’s state nuclear agency has said five of its staff members were killed at a military testing site in northern Russia, reportedly when the liquid propellant rocket engine exploded during tests on a sea platform. Some reports say it may have involved a top secret weapon that was part of Moscow’s hypersonic arsenal. Russia is pursuing hypersonic missiles as a nuclear deterrent, as Putin himself has recently verbalized. 

Ankit Panda, with the Federation of American Scientists, gave a more nuanced analysis:

“Russian authorities have confirmed the involvement of radioactive materials in the accident, but not the specific weapons system that was being tested,” says Ankit Panda at the Federation of American Scientists in Washington, D.C. “It’s important to clarify that the radiological event in this case is not due to the presence of nuclear weaponry, but what may be a prototype nuclear propulsion unit for a cruise missile.” He believes the difficulties and dangers of such a system mean it may never see deployment.

Officials with the nearby Russian city of Severodvinsk stated that radiation levels had gone up right after the explosion, but that statement – which contradicted initial Russian Defense Ministry claims that there was no release of “harmful chemicals” or any change in radiation levels – have allegedly been scrubbed from public media, which doesn’t make for good optics.

There are also reports that in the wake of the incident frightened locals have been buying up iodine pills, depleting supplies.

The Daily Mail reported that the 6 additional casualties were suffering from radiation poisoning and other injuries. Images were presented of ambulances racing through Moscow with drivers in full hazmat style gear transporting the victims to a special treatment facility in the capital.

New Scientist is reporting that monitoring shows any radiation leaks released by the incident have not spread beyond Russia.

Memorial services were held for the nuclear engineers on August 12th.

This is another tragic reminder that the only way we can prevent these kinds of accidents while saving humanity and the planet from the scourge of nuclear weapons and their byproducts is to negotiate them out of existence.

Why the West Has Historically Feared Russia

Monument of Peter the Great, St. Petersburg, Russia

The U.S. has often had a complicated relationship with Russia. During our civil war, Czar Alexander II sent naval support to the Union forces and enjoyed an amiable correspondence with Abraham Lincoln. As the 19th century transitioned into the 20th, various missionary style ideologues had been projecting a combination of their own hopes and fears onto imperial Russia. This was perhaps most reflected in the writings of the first George Kennan, an explorer and journalist who initially had sympathy for the vast and mysterious nation at the outer edges of Europe, but then turned hostile and actively championed a revolutionary overthrow of the czarist government.

Then we were allies in WWI but it didn’t take long for hostility to set back in as the Bolsheviks took the reins of power, pulled out of the war and seized certain assets, threatening western political and corporate interests. Along with the British, Washington militarily supported counter-revolutionary forces and a cold war of sorts soon emerged in which Washington refused to officially recognize the Soviet government until 1933.

We were again allies, this time against the Nazi juggernaut in WWII. And again, the partnership didn’t last as Roosevelt died in office, which brought a foreign policy ignoramus with a dubious psychological profile into the White House. Truman facilitated poor decisions that paved the way for the next Cold War and a dangerous nuclear arms race.

After Reagan and Gorbachev negotiated an end to that Cold War, Bill Clinton broke the promises made to Gorbachev that in exchange for allowing a reunified Germany into NATO, the military alliance would not move “one inch east” further toward Russia’s borders.

Then the Bush II administration gave the Neocons – whose hatred of Russia is part of what defines them, in addition to conflating Israel’s interests with Washington’s – the freedom to start their nihilistic campaign of destroying whole countries in order to save them, normalizing the ideas of overt war and brutality. Obama continued to harbor just enough Neocons in the State Department to grease the wheels of the Ukraine Crisis in 2013-2014.

And we’ve all seen just what a quick and thorough job the establishment did of using Trump as a punching bag for even suggesting in polite company that we should try to have good relations with Russia.

Of course, it hasn’t just been the United States that has had a strange mix of fascination and hostility toward Russia. Europe’s imperial powers competed with each other for years, with the British Empire and the Russian Empire engaged in the Great Game for most of the 19th century.

However, despite the major advancements made by Russia in the eras of Peter the Great and Catherine the Great, Russia had still lagged behind its western European counterparts in terms of industrialization and development. From the mid-nineteenth century on, Russia was catching up, enjoying impressive growth rates, industrializing quickly and building railroads, etc. It was part of an eastward pattern of advancement among European countries. The British, the French and the Germans/Prussians figured that it was just a matter of time before Russia would have its moment in the sun and be the major power. All it needed was reasonably competent leadership.

Even though Russia had lagged behind, its awesome potential was apparent to any one who cared to look. Its vast size and prodigious resources alone were formidable.

Fast forward to today. Its vast size – the largest country geographically in the world – and its prodigious resources are still there. But now, having overcome its historical issues with poor agricultural policies, it also has the ability to feed itself, a highly educated citizenry, and the industrial infrastructure to support a space program as well as a sophisticated nuclear and defense system. It has the ability to build cars, trucks, and airplanes completely within its own borders. Unlike many countries in the world, it has very little external debt and major gold reserves. It is weathering the sanctions against it better than Iran or Venezuela.

Given all of this, it is clear that with smart leadership to guide it competently over a period of time, Russia has the potential to be a real force to be reckoned with.

I imagine this has something to do with why a former diplomat said that once it became known that Putin was going to become president of Russia in 2000, “the knives were drawn” in Washington.

The Dangerous Denigration of Diplomacy

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) attacked Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) during last Wednesday night’s primary debate. Harris’ allies responded with a theory about a nefarious Russian plot. (screenshot: CNN)

After last Wednesday night’s debate, there was a lot of buzz about Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard’s symbolic public spanking of Senator Kamala Harris for her disturbing record as former District Attorney of San Francisco and Attorney General of California.  Gabbard took the opportunity to challenge Harris on this topic by hijacking the moderator’s question, which was a request for Gabbard to expound on her pre-debate comment about Harris’s attack on Biden’s race record. 

Another pre-debate assertion that Gabbard made about Harris that I wish the moderators had asked her to expound on was that Harris doesn’t have the temperament to be commander in chief. 

As shown in the debates, Harris has trouble keeping her emotions in check, easily becoming hostile and angry (if we want an improvement on Trump, this ain’t it). Moreover, she had no substantive rebuttals when challenged on both her anemic health care plan and her problematic political record.  This shows that she doesn’t think well on her feet and doesn’t respond well when challenged by a smart and assertive foe.    

This combined with the fact that Harris is taking Wall Street and corporate PAC money, makes it obvious that Harris will have neither the inclination nor the backbone to stand up to the foreign policy “blob” if she were to become president.    

When Harris did comment on foreign policy it was during the first debate in which she attacked Trump’s actions from the right, mindlessly repeating establishment talking points that reflected no depth of thought.  This included the criticisms that Trump wasn’t sufficiently insulting and patronizing enough during past meetings with Putin and that meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un was nothing more than a “photo op” that granted legitimacy to a dictator. 

In keeping with this mindset, and to compensate for her lack of a counter-argument during the debate, Harris went on the attack against Gabbard in the media afterward.  She brought up Gabbard’s meeting with Assad in 2017 and used it in an attempt to smear Gabbard as being unworthy of serious consideration. 

What’s most problematic is the reason why Gabbard’s actions with respect to Syria in 2017 are supposed to be automatically viewed as so beyond the pale that even mentioning them is intended to delegitimize Gabbard and shut down conversation.

Indeed within 24 hours Gabbard had to take several others to the proverbial woodshed, particularly an MSNBC anchor who also attempted to beat Gabbard over the head about her Assad meeting. 

Gabbard’s response to the anchor is clearly a frustrated attempt to explain the basic principles of diplomacy.  It’s profoundly disturbing when many candidates running for the highest office in the land – and the “journalists” covering them – don’t understand what diplomacy even is. 

When the very concept of diplomacy has become an anachronism with its definition having to be explained and its benefits not self-evidently understood, we’re in serious trouble.

If previous administrations hadn’t believed in diplomacy, we would not have negotiated arms control treaties with the Soviet Union during the Cold War.  In fact, we wouldn’t even have negotiated an end to the Cold War at all if diplomacy was considered verboten.   Would Americans have been better off if our politicians had been too sanctimonious to conduct that diplomacy?

Ronald Reagan believed that refusing to talk to your adversaries – as the Neocons believed – was a sign of weakness, not of strength.  This prompted Reagan to negotiate with Gorbachev against the advice of Neocons in his administration.  Do the Democrats really want to position themselves to the right of Reagan?

To Harris – and any other candidate running for the presidency – the question needs to be asked:  if you don’t believe in talking to adversaries, then how do you propose to avoid or deescalate tensions that could lead to war?

If one believes in diplomacy and the constitution, then Gabbard had every right to go on a fact-finding mission to Syria in 2017 and should not only not apologize for it, she should more fully explain why it was a patriotic thing to do. 

First, her trip has been mis-characterized as some kind of lone rendezvous with Assad.  The fact is that Gabbard met with a range of Syrians, including segments of the opposition, and did not seek a meeting with Assad but accepted one when it was offered in order to get the perspective of as many Syrians as possible.  Second, she showed willingness to talk to an adversary, which demonstrated that she has the skills and mindset necessary to conduct diplomacy.  Though it should be noted, she was not attempting to officially negotiate on behalf of the U.S. government during this meeting, so it would not be a violation of the Logan Act, a constitutionally dubious law under which only two people have ever been charged and no one has ever been convicted. Third, as other analysts have pointed out, Congress is a separate and co-equal branch of government that has a duty to perform a check on the executive branch, especially about an issue of such gravity as war and peace – an issue that the executive branch has a long and documented history of lying about (e.g. Gulf of Tonkin, Iraqi WMD, Qaddafi’s Viagra-fueled imminent genocide, etc.).  Those lies have resulted in the deaths of millions of people, including tens of thousands of Americans, and the destabilization of entire regions.  None of this has been in the interest of the majority of Americans. 

As a member of Congress, Gabbard had a responsibility to find out what was really going on in Syria – a country that the U.S. was intervening in. 

Although most people will vote primarily based on more immediate domestic issues, a government cannot continuously deal with the outside world with hyper-militarized violence and not expect that to bleed back into the home front.   Many issues of major concern are directly connected to our martial foreign policy:  lack of financial resources for domestic investment to improve American lives, the militarization of our police force, the fetishizing of guns, the debasing of our culture with desensitization to and glorification of violence, as well as destruction of the environment*.  

Since presidents have wide latitude in the conduct of foreign policy and their actions will potentially affect the lives of thousands or even millions (in the case of nuclear weapons, billions), a presidential candidate must demonstrate some understanding of foreign policy and how best to protect the interests of Americans.  That means understanding diplomacy and how it works.

*The Pentagon is the biggest institutional guzzler of fossil fuels on the planet and a major emitter of GHG’s. 

Video: Putin Flies to Siberia to See Devastation of Flooding, Spends Hours Listening to People’s Problems & Then Castigates Local Officials for Their Sloppy Response; Trump Offers U.S. Assistance Fighting Siberia Fires; Russia’s Deputy FM: U.S. Provoking Other Countries to Eventually Abandon the Dollar

This kind of reminds me of Putin in 2009 paying a last-minute visit to a factory in Pikalyovo after getting a note from a local trade union leader about a plant that had been closed down due to squabbling among the owners, leaving most of town’s residents out of work and with dysfunctional infrastructure. Putin showed up and reamed the owners of the factory, including Oleg Deripaska. Putin basically told the owners to get off their duffs and get the factory re-opened so the locals could go back to work, otherwise the factory would be taken out of their control. After a sheepish Deripaska had to be persuaded to sign an agreement promising he’d do what he was supposed to do, he started to walk off with Putin’s pen. Putin exclaimed: “And give me my pen back.” A video of the whole thing went viral on YouTube.

Putin recently flew out to the Irkutsk area of Siberia in the aftermath of terrible floods that destroyed many homes, leaving people stranded with complaints that local officials were making access to any assistance difficult and confusing. This video gives you a window into why Putin is still popular among many Russians. Contrast Putin’s taking the time to personally talk to dozens of local people who gathered to ask him for help (and having his aides take down everyone’s name and number for follow-up) with Bush’s handling of Hurricane Katrina or Obama’s handling of the Gulf oil spill or Trump’s handling of the hurricanes in Puerto Rico. I’m also thinking of a recent incident in which a poor homeless woman encounters New York City mayor Bill DeBlasio at a gym and tries to ask him about doing more to help the homeless. He refused to address her question and gave her the brush off.

Does anyone know of any western leader who would take this kind of time and show this kind of patience in listening to scores of citizens’ problems? I wish they would, but most would likely exchange a few words with a handful for a photo op and leave.

Of course, this was video-taped with a reporter shadowing Putin to get it all down for public consumption on the news. Putin will be happy for the PR points, but if that’s all he was after, he wouldn’t have taken this much time. And, like the results of Putin’s intervention with the factory in Pikalyovo 10 years ago, I imagine he will follow up with Irkutsk in September like he promised to ensure that there have been results.

Another point to consider is that bureaucrats lower down the food chain often serve as an obstruction to getting things done, whether it’s implementing reforms or discharging their duties in a conscientious manner. Either they are complacent or they intentionally obstruct for their own reasons. This problem has existed to varying degrees since the czarist era. This is a partial reason for why Putin has to periodically go out into the field and give local officials and business owners the equivalent of a swift kick in the pants by either publicly shaming them and/or threatening to take action against the footdraggers.

Note: I’ve been including a lot of videos of Putin’s speeches, interviews and activities recently to show readers original material so they can see and hear Putin directly and judge for themselves, since most of our media and politicians spin Putin as simply a “thug” and a “brutal dictator” with no redeeming qualities.

Siberia has also been suffering from an unprecedented number of wildfires. In a telephone conversation yesterday with Putin, Trump offered U.S. assistance in fighting the fires in Siberia. Putin said he would take advantage of the offer if it became necessary. He also said that he took the gesture as a positive sign that bilateral relations could potentially be re-built between the two nations.

At a recent conference of the Non-Aligned Movement in Venezuela (I must admit I didn’t know that it still existed), the Grayzone’s Anya Parampil interviewed Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergei Ryabkov. Among other interesting things, he discussed the fact that Washington, with its abuse of financial and economic sanctions, is actually provoking many nations of the world to find a way to supplant the U.S. dollar as a reserve currency. I think the phrase is cutting off one’s nose to spite their face. The remarks about the U.S. dollar are around the 15-minute point in the interview.