Category Archives: Geopolitics

A fascinating conversation with Oliver Stone


Few American filmmakers arouse more controversy than Oliver Stone, both from his eclectic choice of subject matter to the content of the films themselves.

In his 1986 film Salvador, he explores a repressive regime through the eyes of a U.S. photojournalist drawn to Latin America in hopes resurrecting his fading career. In the much more financially successful Platoon, released in the same year, he captures the deep systemic corruption of a war that would tear two nations apart through the eyes of a naive young solider. In JFK he captures the dark uncertainty at the heart of an epochal event still shrouded in uncertainty.

Most of his other films are similar dissections of the American psyche and the contemporary Zeitgeist, ranging from with two Wall Street films, to Nixon, W, Natural Born Killers, The Doors, Any Given Sunday, and Talk Radio.

His newest film, slated for release 16 Star, is Snowden, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the title role.

In this, the latest episode of Conversations with History, Harry Kreisler, Executive Director of UC Berkeley’s Institute of International Studies, conducts a fascinating conversation with the director, with the topics ranging form Stone’s approach to the cinematic arts to his own views of the American system.

It’s well worth your time.

From University of California Television:

Movies, Politics and History with Oliver Stone — Conversations with History

Program notes:

Published on May 23, 2016

Conversations host Harry Kreisler welcomes filmmaker Oliver Stone for a discussion of his career as director, screenwriter, and producer. Stone describes formative experiences, talks about different aspects of the filmmaking process including working with actors, writing screenplays, and postproduction. He focuses on the themes that have drawn him, and emphasizes the distinction between a historian and dramatist who works with historical materials. He concludes with a discussion of recent works including Alexander and the 10-part documentary on The Untold History of the United States.

Israle veers harder Right with change at the top


Following a blistering criticism of Israel increasing hard Right turn, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon was removed for his post, and he, in turn, has removed himself from Israel politics, resigning from both his political party and the national legislature.

His replacement comes from a small party that’s to the Right of Likud, the party of both Ya’alon and the man who deposed him, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The result will be a heating up of tensions both within and without Israel, given that the new defense minister is avowedly bloodthirsty and in the past has called for military strikes against Iranian facilities suspected of processing fuel for nuclear weapons.

From Vice News:

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon resigned on Friday, saying that “extremist and dangerous elements” had hijacked the nation after the country’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu moved to replace him with the leader of the ultranationalist Yisrael Beitenu party.

In a televised speech outside the defense ministry a grim-faced Yaalon, who spent four years in the post, said he was stepping down following “difficult disputes over matters of principle and professionalism” with Netanyahu and several members of the cabinet.

“I fought with all my might against manifestations of extremism, violence, and racism in Israeli society, which are threatening its sturdiness and also trickling into the IDF [Israel Defense Forces],” he continued. “Sadly, leading politicians in this country chose the path of inciting and dividing between parts of Israeli society, instead of uniting and joining [them].”

The Washington Post has more from the press conference:

In a press conference Friday, Yaalon, a fellow member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, warned that Israel was drifting dangerously toward extremism.

“I fought with all my might against manifestations of extremism, violence and racism in Israeli society, which are threatening its sturdiness and trickling into the armed forces, hurting it already,” he said.

Yaalon appeared to be referring to widespread support by Israeli leaders for a combat medic who shot to death a wounded Palestinian attacker as he lay on a street in Hebron in the occupied West Bank.

Thousands of Israelis rallied in Tel Aviv and proclaimed the soldier a hero. Israeli human-rights activists called it a cold-blooded execution. The killing was captured on video.

More from the London Telegraph:

Mr Ya’alon said he had spent his career fighting extremism, violence and racism, but that they were threatening the “sturdiness” of society and trickling into the IDF.

“The state of Israel is patient and tolerant toward the weak among it and minorities,” he said. “But to my great regret extremist and dangerous elements have overrun Israel as well as the Likud party, shaking up our home and threatening harm to those in it.”

He added that he had “recently found myself in strong disagreement on moral and professional issues with the prime minister, a number of ministers and several MPs”.

Mr Ya’alon’s dismissal as defence minister came after months of disagreements with the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

From the Independent, terms of agreement:

Yaalon is also a Likud politician who shares Netanyahu’s dim views on the prospects for a long-term accord with the Palestinians. But they clashed this month over the trial of a soldier who shot dead a wounded and supine Palestinian assailant, with Yaalon coming out against public calls for clemency while Netanyahu took a more circumspect position.

A poll aired by Israel’s Channel 10 television on Thursday found that 51 percent of Israeli Jews saw Yaalon as best suited for defence minister. Twenty-seven percent preferred Lieberman.

U.S. officials have declined comment on the prospect of dealing with Lieberman as Israeli defence minister, but one Egyptian diplomat told Reuters on Thursday that Cairo was “shocked” at the idea.

Defense News translated Ya’alon’s resignation speech, and here’s a key section:

“[T]o my great regret, extremist and dangerous forces have taken over Israel and the Likud party and are shaking our national home and threatening to harm its residents.

“This is not the Likud movement that I joined — the Likud of Ze’ev Jabotinsky and Menachem Begin. And it is proper that the decisive majority of Likud voters and the sane public and responsible governing establishment understand the deep rifts and gathering ominous winds that are seizing the movement.

“I hope that also the public at large — from the right and the left — will understand the grave significance of the extreme minority overtaking the center and will fight against this phenomenon.

“To heartsick regret, senior politicians in the country have chosen a path of attack and separation from parts of Israeli society rather than uniting them.

“It is intolerable in my eyes that we will disintegrate into cynical and power-lusting factions. I’ve expressed my opinions on this subject out of candid concern for the future of Israeli society and generations to come.”

There’s lots more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Quote of the day II: Hillary, just another killer


The hand of American imperialism is covered in blood, and Hillary Clinton is well suited to picked up the sanguinary presidential gauntlet.

From journalist John Pilger, writing at his website:

Since 1945, some 69 countries – more than a third of the membership of the United Nations – have suffered some or all of the following. They have been invaded, their governments overthrown, their popular movements suppressed, their elections subverted and their people bombed. The historian Mark Curtis estimates the death toll in the millions. With the demise of the European empires, this has been the project of the liberal flame carrier, the “exceptional” United States, whose celebrated “progressive” president, John F Kennedy, according to new research, authorised the bombing of Moscow during the Cuban crisis in 1962.

“If we have to use force,” said Madeleine Albright, US secretary of state in the liberal administration of Bill Clinton and today a passionate campaigner for his wife, “it is because we are America. We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall. We see further into the future.”

One of Hillary Clinton’s most searing crimes was the destruction of Libya in 2011. At her urging, and with American logistical support, NATO, launched 9,700 “strike sorties” against Libya, according to its own records, of which more than a third were aimed at civilian targets. They included missiles with uranium warheads. See the photographs of the rubble of Misurata and Sirte, and the mass graves identified by the Red Cross. Read the UNICEF report on the children killed, “most [of them] under the age of ten”.

In Anglo-American scholarship, followed slavishly by the liberal media on both sides of the Atlantic, influential theorists known as “liberal realists” have long taught that liberal imperialists – a term they never use – are the world’s peace brokers and crisis managers, rather than the cause of a crisis. They have taken the humanity out of the study of nations and congealed it with a jargon that serves warmongering power. Laying out whole nations for autopsy, they have identified “failed states” (nations difficult to exploit) and “rogue states” (nations resistant to western dominance).

Map of the day: Mideastern religious divisions


From The Economist:

BLOG Theomap

A remarkable interview with a great journalist


If any single journalist embodies the finest traditions of American reportage, it’s Seymour Hersh, the son of East European immigrants who rose to the heights of his calling and continues to break major stories at the age of 79.

His latest book, The Killing of Osama Bin Laden, exposes the lies of the Obama administration and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used to conceal the reality of the extrajudicial murder of Pakistani political prisoner Osama bin Laden.

In this wide-ranging interview by Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks, Hersch answers questions not only about the killing of America’s most wanted man, but also about the dark side of America’s war on Syria, the duplicity of American politicians, covert operations, and the nature of journalism itself.

It’s the finest interview of Hersch we’ve even seen, and it’s well worth your time.

From TYT Interviews:

Seymour Hersh Interview With The Young Turks’ Cenk Uygur

Program notes:

Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks interviews the premier investigative journalist of his generation, Seymour Hersh. Seymour Hersh is the author of ten books, including his latest, titled “The Killing of Osama Bin Laden.” Read some of Seymour Hersh’s work http://www.newyorker.com/contributors…

In this TYT interview Seymour Hersh and Cenk Uygur cover a range of topics, including:

  • Why did the Osama bin Laden operation go down the way it did? Why not take him alive? Should the perpetrators – from Seal Team 6 to Obama himself-be prosecuted for murder?
  • The politics around the death of Osama bin Laden.
  • Why were Osama bin Laden’s wives never questioned by US interrogators?
  • Oil’s impact on foreign policy, in particular Turkey and ISIS.
  • Conspiracy theories and the U.S. government spying on the public.
  • How he became an investigative reporter and developed his style and approach.
  • His thoughts on the state of investigative journalism today.
  • What benefit does the US get from our alliance with Saudi Arabia? What about Israel?
  • What do you think was Saudi Arabia’s involvement in planning and funding the 9/11 attacks?
  • What is the US objective in Syria? Do we have any hope of accomplishing it?

Follow Seymour Hersh on Twitter: https://twitter.com/SeymourHersh
Follow Cenk Uygur on Twitter: https://twitter.com/CenkUygur

Quote of the day: Growing opposition to the TTIP


From Serge Halmi, editorial director of Le Monde diplomatique, on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership [TTIP], the latest incarnation of the idea long known in Europe as TAFTA, the Transatlantic Free Trade Area:

The intricacies of trade agreements often discourage protest, as it is very hard to know which stage of the process to scrutinise most closely, or which apparently technical measure may conceal potential social devastation. Yet despite the pro-treaty hype from politicians, bosses and media, hostility to these treaties is spreading. There is strong opposition to TAFTA (the Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement) in Germany and Belgium. In the US, all the main presidential candidates have now come out against TPP (the Trans-Pacific Partnership). Since the end of the second world war, the US empire has been the engine of trade liberalisation, and the consistency of views has been absolute among successive presidents, Democrat or Republican, from John F Kennedy to Ronald Reagan, George W Bush to Barack Obama. But suddenly, the neoliberal engine has stalled.

Few believed Obama’s claim that the “companies who only care about low wages have already moved”: offshoring continues in the United States, and previous trade agreements had promised plentiful jobs and good salaries. So it’s not surprising that candidates as different as Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have achieved an electoral breakthrough by attacking such treaties, forcing Hillary Clinton to disavow her previous support for TPP while she was Obama’s secretary of state. François Hollande also seems to be about to change his mind on TAFTA, which he was in a hurry to sign two years ago.

Workers whose salaries have been hit by the threat of unemployment or relocation are no longer alone in rejecting free trade. Environmentalists, farmers and consumers have joined them. Public sector employees — even firefighters — are getting involved, so much so that a perplexed senior figure at the US Chamber of Commerce said: “None of these workers are in any way negatively affected by competition with imports.” The public sector employees’ union knows it will not be able to defend its 2 million members’ jobs and pay for long if those of other workers continue to crumble. The firefighters know that if taxpaying businesses are replaced by an industrial wasteland, it will mean slashed municipal budgets, and fire station closures. A convergence of struggle has come of age — and already won its first victories.

Map of the day: Comparing populations to GDP


Another pair of those informative cartograms from Views of the World, the blog of Benjamin Hennig, Oxford University Senior Research Fellow in the School of Geography and the Environment.

This time, the maps reflect nations with their borders rescaled to reflect each country’s share of global GDP and population:

BLOG Map

From his post, where you can also find a much larger version and a third map of interest as well

The world is ever changing. This year, we live on a planet of 7.4 billion people who contribute products and services worth approximately US$80 trillion in nominal terms. However, population and wealth as measured in GDP activity are not distributed equally across the world which remains one of the challenges of our time. The following two cartograms illustrate this by highlighting where people are and where in contrast GDP wealth is made – the unequal distributions in our world today are quite obvious:

To balance out these disparities, developing and emerging economies would need to catch up at a much faster rate than the industrialised nations, which China for example has done in the past two decades at an incredible pace (at times peaking at more than 15% annual growth, and in recent years still carrying on at levels of above 5%). Other less wealthy countries, in contrast, are growing much slower, and sometimes do not even keep pace with the wealthy parts of the world.