Category Archives: Geopolitics

The Empire Files: Refugees, class, and warfare

Not so very long ago in historical terms, a wave of xenophobic alarm flooded American media, triggered by a wave of immigrants seen as offering allegiance not to the duly elected government in Washington but to a foreign religion.

That alarm was raised by Christians [Protestants with British and Northern European ancestors] against fellow Christians [Irish Catholics].

Nowadays, new waves of religious xenophobia are sweeping both Europe and the U.S., this time aimed at the flood of immigrants fleeing sectarian violence that directly caused by the ravages of the needless wars launched in the wake of the 9/11 attacks delivered by nationals of the one country the U.S. and Europe wouldn’t think of bombing.

And would-be refugees die in their hundreds, swamped at sea in overladen boats and suffocating in trucks on Europe’s highways, all because the dangers they faced at home were event worse. Meanwhile, their rich compatriots suffer no such dangers as they emigrate freely from the Mideast and North Africa to Europe and North America.

And once in their countries of refuge, poor immigrants are becoming targets of violence directed by rising numbers of the populist far Right.

In this latest edition of Telesur’s The Empire Files, Abby Martin looks at the story behind the latest exodus, a story mainstream media are reluctant to present in its full nuance.

From The Empire Files:

Who Is To Blame For The Refugee Crisis?

Program notes:

Today 60 million human beings are displaced from war and extreme poverty. Many European countries are responding to the crisis with racist hysteria, polices and police state measures.

Abby Martin exposes the facts that are left out of the mainstream reporting: the role of criminal wars, disastrous neoliberal economics and why mass displacement is a permanent feature under this system.

Featuring interviews with:

  • Atossa Abrahamian, journalist and author of the new book “The Cosmopolites: The Coming of the Global Citizen” (Twitter: @atossaaraxia)
  • Professor Saskia Sassen, sociologist and expert on human migration, currently serving as co-chair of Committee on Global Thought at Columbia University. She just published her latest book on the subject, “Expulsions.” (Twitter: @SaskiaSassen)

Turning the video tables on Abby Martin

Abby Martin, who launched her career as a public affairs journalist on Berkeley Community Television, moved on to RT America, first as a reporter and then as host of Breaking the Set, and now hosts the weekly Empire Files on Telesur English, becomes the interviewed rather than the interviewer in this video from MintPress News.

Martin offers her perspective on the world and her role in conversation with MintPress Editor-in-Chief Mnar Muhawesh.

From the MintPressNews video channel:

Abby Martin: Rise Of A US Corporate Empire & Global Resistance Bringing It To Its Knees

Program notes:

The U.S. empire gives all its predecessors a run for their money, especially in terms of human and resource exploitation. But is resistance building that could bring the U.S. empire to its knees, MintPress Editor-in-Chief Mnar Muhawesh asks Abby Martin, host of “The Empire Files.”

The swords and horses of the empires of antiquity have been replaced with shiny metal guns, drones and tanks. And our rulers are made up of a 1% elite and multinational corporations aiming to totally dominate the world — a world where they own 60% of the wealth.

The tentacles of empire today stretch throughout the world via U.S. military alliances with institutions like NATO. The U.S. works with the U.N. and big banks like the IMF and World Bank to exploit resources and wealth, and to topple democratically-elected governments and prop up dictators instead.

Yet the corporate media will never refer to the United States as an empire, nor will it cover the horrors of exploitation at home and abroad.

Boomer paranoia, inculcated in the classroom

If you wonder why your Baby Boomer parents or grandparent might be just a bit on the anxious side, consider all the propaganda they put up with through their school years.

Let’s begin with this government-created paranoia-inducer shown in grade school classrooms across the country [we saw it in first grade], via Nuclear Vault:

Duck and Cover staring Bert the Turtle is a 1951 Civil Defense Film

Program notes:

Written by Raymond J. Mauer and directed by Anthony Rizzo of Archer Productions and made with the help of schoolchildren from New York City and Astoria, New York, it was shown in schools as the cornerstone of the government’s “duck and cover” public awareness campaign.

According to the United States Library of Congress (which declared the film “historically significant” and inducted it for preservation into the National Film Registry in 2004), it “was seen by millions of schoolchildren in the 1950s.”

Duck and Cover lyrics:

There was a turtle by the name of Bert
and Bert the turtle was very alert;
when danger threatened him he never got hurt
he knew just what to do…
He’d duck!
And cover!
And cover! (male) He did what we all must learn to do
(male) You (female) And you (male) And you (deeper male) And you!’
Duck, and cover!’

Duck and Cover (film) From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Unexpected Return of ‘Duck and Cover’ – The Atlantic

Production History of Duck and Cover

We can remember crouching under our grade school desks during air raid drills, and at least one a month our Fridays were spine-chillingly interrupted by tests of air raid sirens, making an awareness of possibly imminent annihilation a constant subtext of daily life.

Adults received another form of nuclear war propaganda, devoted to preserving families during nuclear war. And for many, that would mean finding a place in one of the countless fallout shelters designated within public and some private buildings, usually basements stocked with enough preserved food and water to get survivors through the few very few post-apocalyptic weeks.

Here’s an offering from the Defense Department, directed for the Pentagon by James Hartzer. It’s probably unique among the many educational films of the age in having been submitted as an offering to the Cannes Film Festival .

More on the film from CONELRAD [a website named for the agency respobility for warning the public about nuclear attacks]:

The director worked on many other training films during his stint in the service and it wasn’t until his superiors were trying to get him to reenlist that he paused to think back to his first project. “Whatever happened to that film?” he asked of one of the people lobbying him to re-up. It was at this point that Hartzer discovered the surprising fate of Shelter 104. “Once these training films were completed,” Hartzer explained to CONELRAD, “they were sent down to Washington. Some colonel liked it and had it submitted at Cannes.”

Representatives of the Cannes Film Festival did not reply to CONELRAD’s request for additional details, but in the 1967-1968 edition of the Directors Guild of America Directory, the entry for James R. Hartzer states that the film was submitted to Cannes in 1964.

James R. Hartzer went on to work on numerous other film and video projects as a civilian, mainly in an executive capacity, but he still has a 16mm copy of Shelter 104 in his Connecticut home. He has not watched it since it was completed nearly a half century ago, but he told CONELRAD that it still occupies a special place in his heart.

And now for the film itself, via Tomorrow Always Comes:

Public Shelter Living: The Story of Public Shelter 104

Program notes:

Public Shelter Living begins with shelter manager Bob and his assistant, a chirpy blonde, counting people coming into a public Fallout Shelter to avoid the off-camera atomic attack. The thirty-minute black and white movie concerns the challenges of living in a shelter “for as long as we have to.” At one point Shelter Manager Bob tells everyone “That it won’t be any picnic in here. There’s going to be a certain amount of discomfort for all of us.” He then urges his captive audience to “sit down, remain calm and continue filling out those forms that were handed to you.”

Beatnik malcontent “Mr. McCann” is having none of it. The primary lesson of the film seems to be targeted at potential shelter managers: Don’t let stoned beatniks wander into your shelter after the big one drops. You might live to regret it! .

But who would be dropping those bombs [nuclear-tipped intercontinental missiles, capable or reaching their destinations in minutes, were a thing of the future, and nuclear weapons in 1952 needed long-range aircraft for delivery]?

As every Baby Boomer knew, the answer was Moscow, seat of what Ronald Reagan later called the Evil Empire, the Soviet Union and its Eastern European satellites.

The bad guys were [shudder] communists, and as such, were to be rooted out both at home and abroad.

But some of the anti-communist propaganda films are notoriously inaccurate, as in the following 1952 Coronet film. At about 3:30 into the film, the narrator asks, Ever hear of Nikolai Lenin? He was the first leader of Communist Russia.”

Uh, Nikolai Lenin? No, never heard of him. On the other hand, we’ve read several score books deal to a significant degree with Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, a man who fits that description.

Bear in mind that every kid in most American schools knew the Coronet logo, with one or another of the company’s 16 mm films projected onto glass-beaded screens unfurled from over their classroom blackboards.

As an aside, today’s techie was the Boomer’s audio-visual guy, the fellow [almost invariably in out experience] who threaded projectors, spliced films when they brokers, set speakers, microphones, and amplifiers, and otherwise delighted in the media of the day [we did all of the above from junior high school on, adding radio in high school; later we would be the first reporter at the Sacramento Bee with a computer].

Via MalvadoZandin:

Communism (1952) Coronet Instructional Film

While the Central Intelligence was actively promoting European socialism as an alternative to communism, no such tolerance was expressed in the films flowing from the National Education Program of Harding College in Searcy, Arkansas, then run by a minister of the ultra-fundamentalist wing of the Church of Christ.

We now turn to one of the NEP’s films.

From Cold War Educational Propaganda and Instructional Films, 1945-1965 [PDF], a master’s thesis by Claire Llewellyn Williams Hope of Virginia Commonwealth University:

The interpretation of an American system under attack was reiterated by the National Education Program’s 1955 release, The Responsibilities of American Citizenship. In contrast to What It Means to Be an American, the film presented itself in an objective fashion and provided perhaps the most sophisticated interpretation of Americanism yet presented. However, it was because of this style that The Responsibilities of American Citizenship was particularly dangerous. A complex assessment of American systems of politics and economics were juxtaposed with an exceedingly simplified interpretation of communism. Displayed side-by-side, the film thereby fostered an exceptionally skewed understanding of these systems among students and fostered a disturbing interpretation of the communist threat.

The film opened with the Star Spangled Banner and a close-up of Dr. George S. Benson. Benson, the President of Harding College from 1936 to 1965 began his career as a missionary serving in China. Removed from the country in 1936 by the Communist Party of China, Benson took opposition to communism and socialism as his life’s mission. As President, he established the National Education Program to pursue those ends. The Responsibilities of American Citizenship was one of the fruits of that endeavor. As Benson appeared on screen he informed viewers of the topic of the film, stating, “When our founding fathers established this republic they created a political and economic system unique among nations; a system which has lead the United States to the very pinnacle in wealth and in world leadership. This series of programs is being
presented to help all of us understand better our advantages under our American way of life.”

And with that by way of preface, via Ziptrivia:

Responsibilities of American Citizenship

And maybe it wasn’t just bombs Moscow might hurtle our way. It was drugs too, as is suggested at the end of another example of Baby Boomer scare-anoia

Sid Davis specialized is caring the bejeezus out of kids. Bankrolled initially by macho film star John Wayne [for whom he had worked as a stand-in for his films], Davis made an endless stream of alarmist films.

When he died in 2006 at the age of 90, the New York Times noted:

Mr. Davis lost count of all the films he made, but there seem to have been at least 150, perhaps as many as 200. His best-known titles, familiar to legions of baby boomers, include “The Terrible Truth” (about marijuana); “Name Unknown” (juvenile delinquency); “Why Take Chances?” (flying kites in rainstorms and other heedless acts); “Girls Beware” (sex) and “Seduction of the Innocent” (marijuana, barbiturates and general depravity).

The movies are squarely in the tradition of cautionary literature for children, whose best-known example is probably “Struwwelpeter,” the German tale of the dreadful fate of a dreadful child, which has been traumatizing young miscreants since the mid-19th-century. Mr. Davis’s films, most live-action, some animated, are 16-millimeter equivalents. They are small mirrors of postwar anxiety in an age when juvenile delinquency was perceived as a looming threat.

Here, via Jeff Quitney, is a 1951 offering [more on the film here]:

The Terrible Truth

Davis’s promotional copy:

All over the United States, committees of parents and educators are meeting to determine what can be done to combat the greatest menace ever to peril the welfare of American youth: Narcotic addiction. All agree that something besides stricter enforcement of the drug laws is needed. That ‘something’ is Education. Teen-age boys and girls must be educated to the shocking consequences of ‘playing around’ with narcotics!

It has been proved over and over again that there is no more effective medium of education than the motion picture. The first step in an educational program to fight drug addiction is an effective educational film.

The Terrible Truth documents the tragic story of one teen-age girl, typical of youthful addicts. Starting with an occasional marijuana cigarette, she is induced to experiment with a ‘fix’ of heroin. In a few days, she is [a] hopeless ‘hype,’ ends up with a criminal record and a blighted future. Local and national government studies are cited to show that almost 100 per cent of youthful addicts eventually turn to crime to get money to satisfy their ‘habit.’

It is the responsibility of every community, large or small, to protect its youth against this tragic, appalling menace. Whether a city or town has already experienced the disaster of teen-age drug usage, or whether it has so far escaped being touched, the problem is the same: To educate boys and girls against narcotic usage before it is too late, before more lives and futures are forfeit. No community is safe, so long as the ‘fad’ is allowed to exist anywhere.

And it all this was making you tense, especially that junkie daughter thing, the Pfizer pharmaceuticals had a solution: more drugs. Consider this 1957 version of the infomercial, via Val73TV4:

The Relaxed Wife

Program notes:

1950’s film showing life wasn’t always stress free. If you’re unable to relax using traditional methods there’s now a solution, the Charles Pfizer & Co introduce “Atarax,” a tranquilizer that can help us all to achieve the relaxed state we long for!

Atarax (also known as Hydroxyzine and Vistaril) is a first-generation antihistamine of the diphenylmethane and piperazine classes. It was first synthesized by Union Chimique Belge in 1956 and was marketed by Pfizer in the United States later the same year, and is still in widespread use today. Further information about this drug can be found at

Map of the day: Uncle Sam, man in the middle

From Mare liberum: enhancing trade across two oceans with TPP and TTIP, a report on the impacts of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership by the Economic Research arm of Rabobank, the number bank in the finance-heavy Netherlands — and a major financial player in California with, alongside a chain of banks and some other investments, holds naming rights to three Golden State venues, the Rabobank Arena and the Rabobank Theater and Convention Center in Bakersfield and Rabobank Stadium in Salinas.

Note that nation emblazoned with the colors of both agreements and draw appropriate conclusions:

BLOG Mare Liberum

Quote of the day, with some added bonuses

From Race to the bottom — Regulatory cooperation in TTIP: A blueprint for
corporate domination? [PDF], a noteworthy new report about the impacts of the pending Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership [previously] by the NGO Global Justice Now [with full sourcing in the document]:

How TTIP has already undermined standards

The EU has already started toning down its standards before TTIP has even been signed.

US officials successfully used the prospect of TTIP to bully the EU into abandoning plans to ban 31 dangerous pesticides with ingredients that have been shown to cause cancer and infertility.

A similar fate befell regulations around the treatment of beef with lactic acid. This was banned in Europe because of fears that the procedure was being used to conceal unhygienic practices. The ban was repealed by MEPs [Members of the Europeab Parliament — esnl] in the European Parliamentary Environment Public Health and Food Safety Committee after EU Commission officials openly suggested TTIP negotiations would be threatened if the ban wasn’t lifted.

On climate change, the European Fuel Quality Directive which would effectively ban Canadian tar sands oil has foundered in the face of strong US-Canadian lobbying around both TTIP and the EU-Canada CETA deal [the parallel Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, now in negotiation — esnl].

More generally, the EU’s Better Regulation programme has also been linked to TTIP. Better Regulation explicitly seeks to reduce the regulatory ‘burden’, delaying the implementation of new rules on things like safe levels of chemicals. Trade unions say that Better Regulation has already been responsible for 100,000 deaths from cancer.

The fact that all of this is happening before any deal has been signed exposes the emptiness of the EU Commission’s claims that regulatory cooperation in TTIP won’t lead to a race to the bottom on standards.

If the mere prospect of TTIP is enough to convince EU officials to allow carcinogenic pesticides and tar sands oil, what awaits us after TTIP comes into force can only be imagined.

Next, a video about a parallel TTIP problem from Corporate Europe Observatory’s webttv:

Suing the state: hidden rules within the EU-US trade deal

Program notes:

This film presents some of the dangers of the investor rights within the proposed EU-US trade deal. We need to stop this corporate attack on our democracy and policies to protect the public interest.

The film has been produced by Sourced TV for Corporate Europe Observatory

And what about that secret court?

First, A cartoonist’s take on the court from Keith Tucker, via Twitter:


Some disturbing elucidation from a November, 2014 piece from Mel Kelly of Green European Journal:

The “court” being used to sue governments using the ISDS clause in trade agreements is not a court of law but the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA). Established in 1891 in the City of London, it is a private company limited by guarantee, which acts as a private corporate court to settle international commercial disputes between private corporations and was never intended to have power over governments – but the “Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clause being quietly inserted into “trade agreements”, for some unknown reason (other than corporate greed and corporate abhorrence at democracy) gives this corporate court power over any government which has signed a trade agreement with the ISDS clause in place.

At the time of its incorporation an academic journal said “this chamber will have all the virtues which the law lacks. It is to be expeditious where the law is slow, cheap where the law is costly, simple where the law is technical, a peacemaker instead of a stirrer-up of strife.”

But not content with bypassing every EU court of law to sue governments if TTIP is signed, corporations have decided the 1998 London Court of International Arbitration rules should be updated before TTIP (and the EU Canadian CETA) trade agreements are signed, and that the new LCIA “arbitration rules” should seek to “promote a more speedy, efficient, and fair arbitration process, one that is more aligned with modern arbitral practice.”

Translated this means corporations have just quietly changed their LCIA arbitration rules as of 1st October 2014, to make it even easier, faster and cheaper for Corporations to sue every EU government signed up to TTIP-CETA, in a move designed to tip their scales of corporate injustice firmly in Corporate America’s favour using what can only be described as LCIA corporate kangaroo courts.

Needless to say, many Europeans are alarmed, so much so that 3,263,920 of them signed a petition to stop both TTIP and the CETA in less than four months.

Which explains our choice for a concluding graphic, via Greenpeace España:


Quote of the day: Regulatory capture enshrined

TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the trade agreement now in the final negotiations between the European Union, the U.S., and Canada, is yet another pact designed to ensure the supremacy of corporate power and nation states and the individual.

As with NAFTA, the pact would include secret tribunals [prettified semantically as ISDS, or Investor-State Dispute Settlement], which would allow corporations and banksters to sue governments threatening their anticipated profits through laws and regulations designed to, say, protect the climate or insure fair prices for health care and drugs.

Another feature of the pact also raises alarm and gives us our quote of the day.

From TTIP, a box of tricks for corporate criminals [PDF], a new report from Corporate Europe Observatory [emphasis added]:

‘Regulatory Cooperation’  would require existing and future laws and regulation to not ‘get in the way’ of transatlantic trade. Corporations would enjoy a privileged inside track, allowing them to co-write legislation and push back against proposed climate or other public interest policies.

The corporate power-grab that is regulatory cooperation has far reaching implications for both the climate, and the democratic process. Regulatory cooperation comes from two of the world’s most powerful corporate lobby groups, BusinessEurope and the US Chamber of Commerce, giving industry the opportunity, as they put it, to “essentially ‘co-write’  regulation”.

The US Chamber of Commerce even described regulatory cooperation with satisfaction as the“gift that keeps on giving”.

Any rules that threatened the bottom line of business – for example strict energy efficiency standards, or financial rules on dirty energy – could be strangled by business lobbies before they are even debated by parliaments or the public.

Free [for corporations only] trade agreements

Another hard-hitting documentary from Dutch public television network VPRO, this time focusing on the TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership now in the final stage of negotiation.

As with other free trade agreements, most notably NAFTA, the “freedom” involved belongs to multinational corporations, and not the citizens of the nations involved, the corporations to take states to secret tribunals to block laws created to protect the public.

From VPRO Backlight:

Documentary: TTIP: Might is Right

Program notes:

The proposed free trade agreement between the US and Europe (TTIP) causes concern about the European right to self-determination. The most controversial part of TTIP is ISDS: investor-state dispute settlement. ISDS will make it possible for companies to sue governments that damage their investments. But is this arbitrage system where a few investment lawyers decide over billions of taxpayers money a protection of our business interests, or a threat to our democracy?

On Saturday, October 10, tens of thousands of European citizens took to the streets, and more than 2.5 million signatures were offered to the European Commission. The source of this concern and protest is the free trade agreement TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) between the United States and the EU, which would create the world’s largest free-trade zone. According to the Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade Lilianne Ploumen, TTIP could be realized as soon as 2016; the negotiations are well under way. If the EU ratifies the trade agreement, critics fear that the scales will tilt toward North-American standards and values with regard to (food) safety, workers’ and consumer rights. And that when it comes to important collective achievements and protection of its citizens, Europe will give up its right to self-determination.

The part of the trade agreement that’s questioned the most is ISDS, or investor-state dispute settlement, which can be used by companies to dispute a country’s laws and rules, if a company feels unfairly treated. This will enable multinationals to circumvent democratic decisions and existing national jurisdiction. In order to understand the potential consequences of this, VPRO Backlight traveled to Canada, which became one of the most sued countries in the world after it entered into a trade agreement with the US. American companies now summon the Canadian government to appear before an arbitration tribunal if they feel that Canadian rules aren’t in compliance with the free trade agreement Nafta. Despite democratic decisions against fracking under Canada’s most important river, the Saint Lawrence, the Canadian government was sued for millions of dollars by the oil and shale gas company Lone Pine.

Could this happen in the Netherlands as well? In spite of resistance, the Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs Henk Kamp (VVD) doesn’t rule out the possibility of future fracking in the Netherlands. VPRO Backlight probed the opinions at an information meeting organized by the Dutch Oil and Gas Company in Saaksum, Groningen. The locals there seem more and more convinced that fossil fuels should stay where they are: underground. But then no profit would be made from them anymore. The question is if this could result in ISDS claims in the future. Or should we welcome ISDS? Because it’s also crucial for the position of the Netherlands as a world leader in legal and financial services. It will protect the tens of billions of Dutch foreign investments.

British Korean economist Ha-Joon Chang wonders what free trade really means in this day and age. Because there has long been a largely free movement of goods between the US and EU, with few tariff walls. So whose interest will the controversial TTIP and ISDS serve then? And in the service of whom or what is the law, when it comes to international investment arbitration? Isn’t in the end, might right?

With: Steve Verheul (Canadian negotiator for the trade agreement between Canada and the EU), Gus van Harten (Canadian lawyer and ISDS expert), Nikos Lavranos (former negotiator for the Netherlands, currently ISDS investment consultant) and Ha-Joon

Director: Roland Duong
Research: William de Bruijn
Producers: Jolanda Segers, Bircan Unlu