Oligarchs Triumphant: Ukraine, Omidyar and the Neo-Liberal Agenda

Written by Chris Floyd 03 March 2014 6139 Hits

1.The Western intervention in Ukraine has now led the region to the brink of war. Political opposition to government of President Viktor Yanukovych -- a corrupt and thuggish regime, but as with so many corrupt and thuggish regimes one sees these days, a democratically elected one -- was funded in substantial part by organizations of or affiliated with the U.S. government, such as the National Endowment for Democracy (a longtime vehicle for Washington-friendly coups), and USAID. It also received substantial financial backing from Western oligarchs, such as billionaire Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay and sole bankroller of the new venue for "adversarial" journalism, First Look, as Pandodaily reports.Yanukovych sparked massive protests late last year when he turned down a financial deal fr...

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"A Friend of Kafka": Sentimental Power and the Survival of the Spirit

Written by Chris Floyd 28 February 2014 4985 Hits

The title of Isaac Bashevis Singer's story came to mind when I read of the death of Alice Herz-Sommer, the oldest known survivor of the Holocaust. She was 110, and grown up in Prague, where both Kafka and Mahler had been friends of her family. Herz-Sommer had  gained some fame in her last years for her remarkable spirit, and her dedication to the music of Chopin, which helped sustain her during her time in a Nazi camp -- and probably saved her and her son from death. She was in the "model" camp at Theresienstadt, used by the Nazis as a showcase for the Red Cross, to show their 'humane' treatment of prisoners. (Although the very fact of imprisoning, say, a young woman and her young child simply because they were Jewish perverts the very notion of "humane," however the prisoners might hav...

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Sinister Illusions: Masking Tragedy in Ukraine

Written by Chris Floyd 20 February 2014 4665 Hits

(This is an expanded version of a piece that appeared on CounterPunch today.)It is no secret that Barack Obama is one of the supreme illusionists of modern times. The disconnect between his words and his deeds is so profound as to be almost sublime, far surpassing the crude obfuscations of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Their projections of unreality were more transparent, and in any case were merely designed to put a little lipstick on the pig of policies they were openly pushing. For example, they openly wanted to conquer Iraq and expand the militarist state, they openly wanted to redistribute national wealth to the elite, so they just gussied up this unhidden agenda with some fantasies about WMD and the occult magic of "tax cuts," whereby enriching the rich and degrading all notion ...

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Testament, Communion, Subversion: Remembering Pasternak

Written by Chris Floyd 14 February 2014 4291 Hits

A little late with this, but I meant to mark Boris Pasternak's birthday this week (Feb. 10, 1890).  It would be hard to express how much his work meant to me when  I was first finding my way into the world. In later years, I had three brief, indirect contacts with Pasternak, beyond his work. In the mid-1990s, I went to his house in Peredelkino, remarkably preserved since his death in 1960, and got to spend a few minutes in his upstairs study, where he'd written his late verse and much of Doctor Zhivago. That same day, after a long, convoluted search, I found his grave nearby. Then a few years after that, in the downstairs den of a well-appointed house in Oxford, I came face to face with Pasternak's oldest son, Yevgeny -- by then an old man.  He had come  to Oxford for the opening of an ...

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Life Support: Sustaining a Vital Voice of Hope

Written by Chris Floyd 06 February 2014 4287 Hits

Arthur Silber is in dire straits again. Another bout of bad health has laid him low, bills are coming due, and now a computer breakdown threatens to silence him completely. At the moment, he is working with an antiquated back-up, not likely to last long. If it goes, then his voice will be lost to us -- and he will lose his lifeline to the world. If you are able to help at all, or know someone who can, I urge you to go to his website here, and get more information. Silber has long been one of the most insightful, intelligent -- and indispensable -- analysts of our dismal and despairing age. But he is no mere compiler of crimes and outrages; he also offers thoughtful and practical ideas for genuine change, different approaches, new understandings of our political and personal realities. T...

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Cloud-Dwellers: Class War Victors Get Higher on the Hog

Written by Chris Floyd 21 January 2014 5649 Hits

On Monday, the New York Times featured, on the front page of its website, a long piece of giddy gush about the latest trend in luxury hoteling: super-suites for the super-rich, costing up to $28,000 a night. For more than 1,100 words, the Times gives us an uncritical (indeed, adoring) panorama of the new high-swankery expected by our owners as they perambulate around the global plantation. There's the $25,000-per-night room in the New York Palace, a three-story "penthouse Versailles," the Times, all atremble with excitement, tells us, which comes complete with a million dollars' worth of designer jewellery on display to refresh the weary eyes of the travelling titan. Or New York's Mandarin Oriental, 3,300 square feet of even greater opulence -- a steal at $28,000 a night.Such elite encl...

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Love is Violence: The Bedrock of the American Way

Written by Chris Floyd 19 January 2014 4933 Hits

As soon as you're awake, you're trained to takeWhat looks like the easy way out -- Bob Dylan, "Political World"Once more, as so often, I want to point you to a powerful and important article by Arthur Silber, which will tell you a great deal about where we are as a culture and as individuals -- and how we got here. I'm not going to excerpt it, because I'd like you to read the whole piece as it is, take it straight, no chaser, without my own spin on it. It will be well worth your time.And while you are there, why not throw something in the hat, if you can spare it? Silber lives solely on the earnings from his writings, while battling chronic illness year after year (and attacks on his threadbare livelihood by the government). Keeping this important voice of truth going -- in the midst of...

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Shooting and Crying: The Unlearned Lessons of American Atrocity

Written by Chris Floyd 14 January 2014 5138 Hits

1.The Marlboro Men are back. A few years ago, we saw them blazoned across our screens and newspapers: rugged, tough, battle-grimed warriors, slogging through hell to conquer evil and bring light to a land lost in darkness.Last week, the New York Times brought them out again. But this time around, our clean-limbed, God-blessed fighters for a noble cause weren't conquering -- they were suffering. They felt sad, let down, even betrayed. Why? Because what had been the high point, the shining pinnacle, "the most iconic moment" of their righteous campaign was now tainted. Their conquest hadn't held; the old enemy had reared its head again in the city they had pacified with so much rugged, battle-grimed toughness long ago. Now their feelings were hurt, their souls were troubled. All the goodnes...

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The One Percent Solution: Oligarchs to the Rescue!

Written by Chris Floyd 05 January 2014 4786 Hits

* Below is my most recent column for CounterPunch Magazine.Last month, 500 famous authors signed a petition protesting the encroachments of the all-pervasive, techno-surveillance culture that is covering the earth with hidden eyes and ears, like a metastasized Stasi run amok. We’re talking heavy literary lumber here: Nobel Prize-winners, critic list-toppers, best-sellers – big names calling on the UN to create “an international bill of digital rights.” The authors state the indisputable truth: the "fundamental human right" of personal privacy "has been rendered null and void through abuse of technological developments by states and corporations.” They rightly declare that “a person under surveillance is no longer free; a society under surveillance is no longer a democracy. To maintain any...

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Bait and Switch: The Heavy Price of Social Progress

Written by Chris Floyd 03 January 2014 4739 Hits

At CounterPunch, Jason Hirthler identifies one of the most important dynamics in the modern political world: "For every social advance, an economic price paid." Hirthler examines the real-life aftermath of the social breakthroughs and advances represented by the social justice campaigns of Martin Luther King, the ending of apartheid under the aegis of Nelson Mandela, and racial symbolism in the election of the first black American president, Barack Obama. In every case, Hirthler notes, genuine social achievements were followed by a brutal and ruthless expansion and entrenchment of 'neoliberal' economics -- that is, the aggrandisement of elite power and privilege. One of the most glaring examples detailed by Hirthler is what happened after the genuinely astonishing and significant triump...

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