Legacy of 1968 protests: How a leftist revolution helped capitalists win

Slavoj Žižek
Slavoj Žižek is a cultural philosopher. He’s a senior researcher at the Institute for Sociology and Philosophy at the University of Ljubljana, Global Distinguished Professor of German at New York University, and international director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities of the University of London.
Legacy of 1968 protests: How a leftist revolution helped capitalists win
The May 1968 protest movement changed the western world. Now, almost 50 years later, it’s clear a supposedly leftist movement ultimately helped capitalism to dominate.

Although an immense abyss separates the social revolution of the 1960s from today’s protests, we are witnessing a similar re-appropriation of the energy of revolt by the capitalist system.

One of the well-known graffiti slogans on the Paris walls of ‘68 was: “structures do not walk on the streets,” meaning one couldn’t explain the large student and workers demonstrations of ’68 in the terms of structuralism. And this is why some historians even posit 1968 as a date that separates structuralism from post-structuralism which was, so the story goes, much more dynamic and prone to active political interventions.

The French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan’s answer was that this, precisely, is what happened in 1968: structures DID descend onto the streets – the visible explosive events were ultimately the result of a structural shift in the basic social and symbolic texture of modern Europe.

Light My Fire

The consequences of the ‘68 explosion prove him right. What effectively happened in the aftermath of the ‘68 was the rise of a new figure of the “spirit of capitalism.” Indeed, the system abandoned the Fordist centralized structure of the production process and developed a network-based form of organization founded on employee initiative and autonomy in the workplace.

Thus, instead of hierarchical-centralized chains of command, we now have networks with a multitude of participants, organizing work in the form of teams or projects. Which are intent on customer satisfaction, and a general mobilization of workers thanks to their leaders’ vision. This new “spirit of capitalism” triumphantly recuperated the egalitarian and anti-hierarchical rhetoric of 1968, presenting itself as a successful libertarian revolt against the oppressive social organizations of corporate capitalism AND “really-existing” socialism.

The two phases of this new “cultural capitalism” are clearly discernible in the stylistic changes within advertising. In the 1980s and 1990s, it was the direct reference to personal authenticity or the quality of experience that predominated, while later, one can note more and more the mobilization of socio-ideological motifs (such as ecology and social solidarity). In fact, the experience referred to is the experience of being part of a larger collective movement, of caring for nature and the welfare of the ill, poor and deprived, and of doing something for them.

Helping Hands?

For instance, here is a case of this “ethical capitalism” brought to the extreme: Toms Shoes, a company founded in 2006 on a premise: with every pair you purchase, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. “One for One.” Using the purchasing power of individuals to benefit the greater good is what we’re all about.

Because among the planet’s 7.6 billion people, four billion live in conditions inconceivable to many at the top of the tree. But now the sin of consumerism (buying a new pair of shoes) can be atoned for and thereby erased by the awareness that one of those who really needs shoes received another pair free of charge. Meaning the very act of participating in consumerist activities is simultaneously presented as participating in the struggle against the evils ultimately caused by capitalist consumerism.

In a similar way, many other aspects of ‘68 were successfully integrated into the hegemonic capitalist ideology and are today mobilized not only by liberals, but also by contemporary Right, in their struggle against any form of “socialism.” For example, “freedom of choice” is used as an argument for the benefits of precarious work. So, forget the anxieties of not being sure how you will survive the next few years and focus instead on the fact that you gain the freedom to “reinvent” yourself again and again, to avoid being stuck to the same monotonous work.

Utter Upheaval

The 1968 protest focused its struggle against (what were perceived as) the three pillars of capitalism: factory, school and family. As a result, each domain was submitted to post-industrial transformation. Leading to factory-work becoming more and more outsourced or, in the developed world, reorganized along the post-Fordist non-hierarchical interactive team-work. Meanwhile, permanent flexible privatized education is more and more replacing universal public education and multiple forms of flexible sexual arrangements are replacing the traditional family.

At the same time, the Left lost in its very victory: the direct enemy was defeated, but replaced by a new form of even more direct capitalist domination. In “postmodern” capitalism, the market is invading new spheres which were hitherto considered the privileged domain of the state, from education to prisons and security.

When “immaterial work” (like education) is celebrated as the labor which directly produces social relations, one should not forget what this means within a commodity-economy. That new domains, hitherto excluded from the market, are now commodified. So, when in trouble, we no longer talk to a friend but pay a psychiatrist or councilor to take care of the problem. And instead of parents, paid baby-sitters and educators take care of children.

Heavy Burden

One should, of course, not forget the real achievements of ‘68. The movement opened up a radical change in how we treat women’s rights, homosexuality and racism. After the glorious 60s, we simply cannot engage in public racism and homophobia the way we still could in the 1950s. Thus, ‘68 was not a single event but an ambiguous one in which different political tendencies were combined: this is why it also remained a thorn in the heel of many conservatives.

Nicholas Sarkozy admitted it when he said in his electoral campaign in 2007 that his great task was to make France finally get over ‘68. One should, of course, not miss the irony of this remark: the fact that Sarkozy, with his clownish outbursts and marriage to Carla Bruni, can be the French President is in itself one of the outcomes of the changes in customs brought about by May ‘68.

So we have the legacy of “their” May ‘68 and “our” May ‘68. In today’s predominant collective memory, “our” basic idea of the May demonstrations in Paris and the link between student protests and worker’s strikes, is forgotten. The true legacy of ‘68 resides in its rejection of the liberal-capitalist system, in a NO to the totality of it best encapsulated in the formula: Soyons realistes, demandons l’impossible!

The true utopia is the belief that the existing global system can reproduce itself indefinitely and that the only way to be truly “realist” is to endorse what, within the coordinates of this system, cannot but appear as impossible. The fidelity to May ‘68 is thus best expressed by the question: how are we to prepare for this radical change and to lay the foundations for it?

 

[Several sections of this article have been excerpted from previous publications by Slavoj Žižek.]

 

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Courtesy: RT

Shocking memo reveals how Comey disgraced an honorable FBI

The information contained in the memo released by House Republicans on Friday that accused FBI and Justice Department officials of improperly obtaining permission to surveil a former Trump campaign adviser shows a tragic failure of leadership on the part of former FBI Director James Comey.

But importantly, the memo does not in any way reflect on the outstanding work of the more than 35,000 dedicated men and women of the FBI.

It pains me – as a former FBI executive who loves and respects the organization – to say that Comey’s short tenure at the FBI has proven to be the worst thing to happen to the agency since Director L. Patrick Gray was fired during the Watergate scandal.

If the facts stated in the memo are true – despite the highly political nature of congressional committees – then there was either incompetent or deliberate manipulation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court to get approval of the surveillance.

Even new agent trainees at the FBI Academy know better than to use paid opposition research and newspaper articles to support use of one of the most sensitive and intrusive surveillance techniques in the investigative toolbox. If they do use such information, the FISA judge should have been apprised of the origins of the research.

FBI agents are also taught to never mislead any court of law. It’s unlikely the surveillance warrant would have been issued if the FISA judge was aware that political opponents (the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee) had financed the information used to obtain approval of the surveillance.

FISA applications go through extensive reviews at multiple levels of executive management at the FBI and Justice Department. They are signed by the most senior FBI and Justice Department executives before they are presented to the FISA court for approval.

The 2016 FISA approvals in question were signed by none other than FBI Director Comey and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. The buck stops there. They were the top two officials in the FBI at the time.

McCabe, enabled by Comey, created an attitude among his inner circle that flaunted well- established laws and regulations. Comey usurped the role of the Justice Department in publicly exonerating Hillary Clinton from wrongdoing in her handling of government emails when she was secretary of state.

At the same time, Comey took highly conflicted Attorney General Loretta Lynch off the hook to formally recuse herself from the Hillary Clinton probe as a result of Lynch’s own inexcusable and inept conduct in meeting former President Bill Clinton while his wife was under Justice Department and FBI investigation.

With his conduct, Comey set in motion a cascading set of events that resulted in the FBI becoming a pawn in a political firestorm. He justified making up his own rules because he felt righteous.

Comey permitted leaks and allowed bias to infect two of the most important investigations ever conducted by the FBI. He clearly permitted his lead investigative agent to predetermine the outcome of the Clinton investigation, while allowing the agent’s biased actions and anti-Trump texts to complicate the role of Special Counsel Robert Mueller in actually getting to the truth of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page – who were carrying on a romantic affair when they traded numerous text criticizing then-candidate Trump – are now star witnesses for the defense in any indictments that come out of Mueller’s office.

Mueller is an honest, fair and non-political professional who took a bullet for his country as a Marine in Vietnam. He is our best chance to learn the truth. And the truth should be good enough for everyone. He served for 12 years as FBI director with many accomplishments, no terrorist attacks on his watch and not a hint of controversy.

Current FBI Director Chris Wray has now taken the helm and is trying his best to right the ship. This is no time for him to resign. He has a lot to overcome in a very difficult task. He must maintain his independence from the president while navigating political controversy coming at him from every direction.

Wray is very deliberately cleaning out the remnants of the Comey cabal on the FBI’s 7th Floor. He has apparently been given a preview of the Department of Justice inspector general’s investigation of the conduct of several FBI officials during the Clinton investigation. This inspector general is the same person who outed the Strzok and Page texts.

Now information is circulating that the Republican memo made public is just the tip of the iceberg. Ex-FBI Agents are picking up information that the inspector general’s report will be far more graphic in detailing the misconduct of McCabe, Strzok and others more serious that what is in the memo released Friday.

The Republican congressional memo outlines potentially serious misconduct on the part of the Comey leadership team. Going forward, the FBI should err on the side of transparency. Director Wray should make every effort to declassify the documents and affidavit supporting surveillance approved by the FISA Court.

Such information has been released before. It is better for the FBI to release the information than to have it come from a political body like Congress. Let the public decide for themselves without political spin.

The American people, Congress and the president should sit back and allow Special Counsel Mueller to do his work. This nation has an interest in making sure that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intelligence thugs and mobbed-up oligarchs do not influence our political processes.

It’s time to find out what really happened.

Chris E. Swecker served 24 years in FBI as Special Agent. He retired from the Bureau as Assistant Director with responsibility over all FBI Criminal Investigations. He currently practices law in Charlotte, N.C.

Courtesy: Fox News

  North Korea’s Nuclear Threat and the EMP Deterrence

                

Gabby Ogbechie, The Property Gazette 

 

 

Gen. Jack Keane (Ret.), Fox News senior strategic analyst, on President Trump's strategy for Iran, the North Korea nuclear threat and Trump signing a $700 billion military budget.An analysis of statements by President Donald Trump of the United States, and President Vladimir Putin of Russia on the military might of their respective countries, especially at the commencement of the Trump Presidency on one hand, and the threats of Kim Jong-un of North Korea, which he repeatedly backed up with unending tests of his country’s missiles, would suggest to many observers that someone is eager to prove his country’s nuclear superiority by being the first to push the button.

‘’On April 21, 2017 three major U.S. cities – New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco – experienced virtually simultaneous power outages. Businesses emptied. Schools closed. Subway commuters were stuck underground in the dark.

Rumors immediately started flying that a cyber-attack had caused all three blackouts.

The “official” word in San Francisco was that the outage was caused by a fire in a substation. In Los Angeles, high winds were blamed. In New York, an equipment failure was the announced culprit.

Commenting on the improbability of such occurrences in three major cities simultaneously, an informed observer remarked:  ‘’They’ve ignored dire warnings from experts about the grid’s vulnerability to physical, electromagnetic pulse (EMP) and cyber-attack by North Korea, Russia, China and even ISIS, and other terrorist groups.’’

At about the same time-frame, there were reports that in France, the United Kingdom and a few other European nations, services were disrupted; and for a number of hours, governmental departments, train services, Ocean going Liners   which rely on computer services were disrupted and suspended for an appreciable period of time; long enough for enemy operatives to deploy nuclear warheads without allowing the opposition the benefit of a mutually assured deterrence.

What is EMP, Electromagnetic Pulse?

Electromagnetic Pulse is the resultant effect, or ‘eddies’ of a nuclear detonation; the aftermath of a nuclear blast from a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile. It could be likened to the resultant eddies after an object is thrown into or strikes a body of water. While a stone or any relatively small object could cause a little eddy, a Tsunami results from the huge explosion of either an earthquake, or a volcanic eruption in the Sea or an Ocean. The Tsunami is not the blast itself; similarly, the EMP is not the nuclear explosion itself; it is the aftermath of the explosion which could extend vertically or horizontally.

Studies on the EMP, according to available reports, have not progressed into the orbit of weaponization in the Western world, especially the United States. On the other hand, there appears to be evidence that Russia has not only advanced in its study of the EMP, but has already weaponized it. Russia is equally suspected to have shared its knowledge of the EMP with China and North Korea.

‘’A nuclear bomb that detonates 40 miles above a target (and hundreds of miles away) could deliver serious consequences,’’ Henry F. Cooper, who was the director of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) under President George H.W. Bush, wrote.

He pointed to the time the U.S. detonated a nuclear warhead 900 miles southwest of Hawaii. It was 1962 and the high-altitude nuclear bomb “destroyed hundreds of street lights in Honolulu, caused electrical surges on airplanes in the area and damaged at least six satellites.”

Stretching one’s imagination on the application of the EMP in any warfare scenario, not just the nuclear one, the following could be the results:

  • An enemy, employing the services of Satellites, could simultaneously target nuclear silos, naval nuclear arsenal/missile bearing submarines and vessels, and immobilize them with nuclear blasts several miles above such targets;
  • Having rendered the enemy’s retaliatory capability void, the belligerent may proceed to direct missile attacks targeted at knocking out such battery of nuclear weapons;
  • Send a second barrage of nuclear missiles into major cities and towns to create the required panic and effect as much destruction of lives and property as possible;
  • Release a third set of missiles to completely destroy the command center of the opposition; which would imply the seat of government where the Commander-in-chief resides, the seat of the defense apparatus, and the entire city.

All these could be achieved in a few minutes, while commanders are waiting for orders to launch retaliatory missiles which may never come. Defence systems such as THAAD would work under normal conditions, but if they are attacked with EMPs, they would be rendered inoperable and ineffective.

As someone who intended, ab initio to pull back significantly from America’s involvements in far-flung places all over the world with his ‘’America first’’ policy, President Trump would have significantly reduced the United States’ military commitments all over the world, and made the North Korean issue the world’s problem which it is, rather than America’s problem which it has become.

There’s no doubt that China and Russia, regarding the DPKR missile quagmire are ‘’running with the hares, and chasing with the hounds.’’ If these two countries were to verifiably withdraw or suspend their trade and other collaborative activities with North Korea, the regime would either crumble or hurriedly head to the negating table for long overdue talks. We are not suggesting a one-sided negotiation in which North Korea would not receive an iron-clad assurance of non-regime change and interference in its internal affairs by the United States and any of the other world powers.

However, a nation that is not accountable to any other nation is a danger in our nuclear age. A leader like Kim Jong Un who is not answerable to either any other leader or regional association of nations, with nuclear weapons, is a danger that must receive the undivided attention of every nation; not only the United States.

Finally, the history of the verbal duel between President Trump and Kim Jong-un of DPRK as chronicled by Julie Vitkovskaya, as detailed below, and the recent panic which ensued after the false alarm in Hawaii point to the fact that the world could be closer than we all think to a nuclear holocaust:

April 28: Approaching his 100th day in office, Trump tells Reuters a “major, major” conflict with North Korea is possible but that he still seeks diplomacy.

May 14: Kim celebrates the test of a ballistic missile. He’s quoted by state media saying, “If the U.S. awkwardly attempts to provoke the DPRK, it will not escape from the biggest disaster in the history.”

May 23: The Post reports that Trump called Kim a “madman with nuclear weapons” during a phone conversation weeks before with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Trump said: Kim’s “rockets are crashing. That’s the good news,” according to a transcript obtained by The Post.

Aug. 8: Trump warns North Korea that it will be met with “fire and fury” if it continues to threaten the United States. It is his harshest language yet against the regime.

Aug. 9: North Korea responds by saying it is reviewing plans to target the U.S. territory of Guam. “The nuclear war hysteria of the U.S. authorities including Trump has reached an extremely reckless and rash phase for an actual war,” said the KCNA, North Korea’s official state media.

Sept. 17: Trump taunts Kim on Twitter: “I spoke with President Moon of South Korea last night. Asked him how Rocket Man is doing. Long gas lines forming in North Korea. Too bad!”

Sept. 22: Kim calls Trump a “mentally deranged dotard,” prompting the public to search for the definition of the archaic insult.

Sept. 23: Trump tweets: “Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!”

Sept. 19: Speaking at the U.N. General Assembly, Trump threatens to “totally destroy North Korea” and says “Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself.”

Oct. 1: Trump sends two tweets. One at 9:30 a.m. EST, saying Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is “wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” and another at 2 p.m. saying he “won’t fail” to rein in Kim.

Nov. 11: After reports surface that North Korean state media referred to Trump as a “lunatic old man,” Trump tweets: “Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me ‘old,’ when I would NEVER call him ‘short and fat?’ Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend – and maybe someday that will happen!”

We believe the major world powers would do well to co-operate with the United States toward forestalling the looming holocaust by sorting out this North Korea problem. It is not a Trump problem and must never be seen as such.

 

Herdsmen planning to invade Ekiti – Fayose

The Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, has raised the alarm over what he alleged was a plot by Fulani herdsmen to unleash mayhem in the state.

The governor who made the claims in Ado-Ekiti on Wednesday, said the herdsmen had taken over the state’s forest reserves and were using the forest as cover to unleash violence on the state.

Mr. Fayose had earlier condemned the herdsmen’s killing in Benue and had described it as terrorism. Ekiti, like Benue, has an anti-open grazing law.

He had also urged President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently declare the herdsmen as terrorists based on their activities in Benue and other parts of the country.

According to him, some persons identified as Fulani herdsmen fondly called the ‘Bororo’ were making a surreptitious move into the outskirts of Ekiti with the aim to kill and maim people and ”rubbish his anti-grazing law.”

“I have received letters that the Bororos have entered our reserves they want to violate our laws. I want to call on the attention of the federal government that they have come and want to kill men and kids and women in Ekiti,” he said.

The governor subsequently held a meeting with all local hunters from the 16 local government areas of the state and charged them to secure the state.

“If you have charms, don’t forget to use it and make them sleep off, because your people must not be killed,” he charged the hunters.

“We will not allow that to happen. I want you all the hunters to go back today to protect your people. Be vigilant, open your eyes, make sure everyone entering our state is screened.

“No one in the guise of grazing should enter our land after 8 p.m. For our brothers who harbour criminals, tell them Ekiti is a no go area.

“If your plan is to make this state ungovernable, you are wasting your time. I have called this meeting for everyone to be vigilant. I will begin to support you now to secure Ekiti.”

Speaking further, Mr. Fayose said, “Mr. President, declare herdsmen as terrorist group now, they are mindless, Godless and devilish.”

“I sympathise with our brothers, sisters and people from Benue State that are mourning the brutality of those who killed their kinsmen,” he added.

Mr. Fayose, who observed a minute’s silence for the Benue victims, was in military fatigue seemingly to appear battle-ready.

“This (uniform) is done to charge our hunters to secure the state. I saw pictures of the killings and I wondered if those were human beings,” he said.

“I asked the question, if people could be that piqued to kill human beings that way. They will find no peace. It is no tribal killings but that of mindless people. Blood of departed will find those people and they won’t know peace. It is the duty of the federal government to protect its people. We are not protected. We have never had it so bad. People must come to leadership with conscience. The federal government should have sent the army not police.

“Governor Samuel Ortom should fasten his belt and protect his people. Those seeking for help in Abuja would not find because Abuja also needs help. I sympathise with you, this is your home and nobody would kill you. You are all safe here.”

However, Mr. Fayose charged the hunters not to take the law into their hands in their bid to protect the people.

“I also learnt that ‘they’ want to come and be arresting people for no reasons. They would meet God’s hand in it. My hunters, you know Ekiti very well. Protect the state. We will be having monthly meetings,” he added.

Courtesy: Premium Times

 

Tolerance preachers fail to see irony of their own glaring intolerance

Danielle Ryan
Danielle Ryan is an Irish freelance journalist. Having lived and worked in the US, Germany and Russia, she is currently based in Budapest, Hungary. Her work has been featured by Salon, The Nation, Rethinking Russia, Russia Direct, teleSUR, The BRICS Post and others. Follow her on Twitter @DanielleRyanJ, check out her Facebook page, or visit her website: danielle-ryan.com
Tolerance preachers fail to see irony of their own glaring intolerance
On their mission to purge the world of thoughts and opinions that don’t slot neatly into their moral agenda and worldview, the increasingly intolerant tolerance police have done some severe damage along the way.

We are frequently bombarded with headlines and hand-wringing over meaningless controversies ignited by people who, I’m convinced, wake up in the morning desperate to find the next focus for their endless capacity for moral outrage. For the most part, these so-called scandals are initiated by those who identify themselves as liberals — and the lines of battle are drawn around issues of race, gender, sexual orientation etc.

Our hyper-sensitive social media culture lends itself perfectly to these kinds of non-controversies, where something as simple as a badly worded tweet can, within minutes, direct a storm of abuse and online bullying toward an individual. The end result can range from a person being forced to issue a public apology for their opinion, to losing their job — or even taking their own life.

The examples are numerous, but one recent case stands out.

In December, porn star August Ames committed suicide following a tweet expressing her preference not to shoot scenes with an actor who had previously done gay porn. The tweet sparked an onslaught of abuse against Ames who attempted to defend herself against accusations of homophobia, but it was too late. The modern judges of moral acceptability had already made up their minds. Ames deserved to be trashed endlessly online for her unacceptable lapse in moral judgement. One gay porn actor, Jaxton Wheeler, told Ames to apologize or “swallow a cyanide pill” — as if her personal preference was so heinous that she deserved to die for it. Days later she was found dead. The cause of her death was asphyxiation due to hanging.

This is the totalitarianism and petty tyranny of the liberal tolerance doctrine at work. It is not enough to have your opinion and let others have theirs. No, no. We must all share the same exact moral standards and worship the same ideals — or perhaps we deserve to die. At the very least, those who stray deserve to face an avalanche of public abuse before repenting and falling in line.

Ames’ suicide is one of the more shocking stories, but there are countless examples of these moral ‘controversies’.

When actress Lili Reinhart posted a picture of a woman in a Halloween costume — painted head-to-toe in black paint to resemble a mythical demon — she was immediately accused by other Twitter users of being racially insensitive, making fun of black people and of not seeing the ‘racist implications’ of the costume. Of course, Reinhart apologized and deleted the tweet — because that’s the only recourse following such an apparently massive indiscretion.

Perhaps one of these uber-enlightened individuals should release a rulebook for everyone else to follow. After all, it’s a minefield out there. So, I nominate the author of a blog post which warned parents of young girls not to allow them to dress up as Disney’s Moana princess for Halloween because it risks “making fun of”Polynesian culture. One can easily imagine the same blogger writing an article complaining that it was ‘racist’ if white girls didn’t want to dress up as Moana. But don’t be fooled into thinking it’s okay for white girls to dress up as white characters, either. Later in the post, the blogger warns that girls dressing up as Elsa from Frozen risks promoting white beauty, which is also highly problematic, apparently.

The internet is littered with these petty controversies.

When Vanity Fair recently poked fun at Hillary Clinton’s long career in politics with a video that advised her to get a new hobby in the new year, like “knitting” or “improv comedy”, it prompted yet another meltdown from the tolerance crew. You can’t tell a woman to take up knitting, they roared, that’s sexist! Or maybe…it’s just a joke? But don’t be silly, jokes aren’t allowed anymore. Never mind that it was a woman who made the comments about Clinton in the light-hearted video.

A couple of years back, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston was forced to cancel an event during which visitors to the museum would be allowed try on a kimono. One outraged group of individuals started a website called Stand Against Yellowface to fight the terrible injustice perpetrated by the Boston museum. But guess who didn’t care? Japanese people. An official from the Japanese consulate in Boston commented: “We actually do not quite understand what their point of protest is.”

Or how about this gem? A janitor at an Indiana university was accused of racial harassment for the crime of reading a historical book about the Ku Klux Klan on his lunch break. The book in question was Notre Dame vs. the Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan. Keith John Sampson, the 58 year-old janitor, who was also a student at the university, tried to explain that it was a history book, but that wasn’t good enough for the school’s affirmative action officer, who told Sampson that “his conduct constituted racial harassment” and that he had exhibited “extremely poor judgement” by reading it out in the open. You see, you must educate yourself about the history of slavery in the United States, but you can’t do it in public, because that could be offensive! Are you confused yet?

In another pathetic non-controversy, Wellesley College students started an online petition to have a statue of a sleepwalking man in underwear removed from their campus. The statue was part of an art exhibition. Within hours of its placement, the petition read, the sculpture had become “a source of undue stress” which caused “apprehension, fear, and triggering thoughts” for students who had experienced sexual harassment at the hands of men — although presumably not at the hands of scantily clad art installations.

Then there’s this guy, who thinks climate change deniers should be arrested. Or this guy, who thinks classic literature like The Great Gatsby or Mrs Dalloway should be marked with “trigger warnings” lest any fragile-minded student come across a passage which might upset their sensibilities. Professors should also “warn” their students, he says, about which passages in a novel may possess “triggering material” and which passages are “safer to read”.

Back in the real world, the average person will read a book’s blurb, decide if it sounds appealing to them, dig in, and then, if they happen to get offended somewhere along the way, they stop reading. It’s a simple process which doesn’t require trigger warnings or the implementation of new reading methods.

The potential for any comment to erupt into a firestorm of controversy is so worrying to today’s authors that hiring sensitivity readers in advance of publication has become commonplace. A sensitivity reader provides “feedback on issues like race, religion, gender, sexuality, chronic illness and physical disabilities”. Critics of sensitivity reading say that it could lead to “sanitized books that tiptoe around difficult topics”. It’s not hard to see how that could happen.

The tolerance police are afraid of the very concepts which they claim to hold so dear — like freedom of speech, choice and democracy itself. It doesn’t matter to them what anyone else feels or believes. Only their version of reality counts and only their moral compass is the correct one.

I recently came across a phrase I had somehow missed until now: No-platforming. It is the practice of banning certain groups from even taking part in a debate if certain cohorts find their views to be offensive. Take, for example, the fact that pro-life women were excluded from the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., last year because their particular views on one issue didn’t line up with the majority.

You’ll have noticed by now, that the running theme in all of these stories is not tolerance, but intolerance. This overly politically correct culture of ours is churning out young adults who have been cocooned and coddled in safe spaces, who have had literature fed to them with trigger warnings, who can’t handle moral or political disagreements without throwing hissy fits, who are more comfortable organizing protests against free speech than fighting for it and who have no idea how to live and let live. They’ve been taught that their right to be offended and have the world fall in line trumps everyone else’s right to speak or to hold an opinion.

It’s no wonder that something as simple as a Halloween costume or a sculpture can send them into meltdown mode. The irony is, while the tolerance police are alienating well-meaning people by going after janitors for reading history books, protesting statues and campaigning for trigger warnings on books, the genuinely mean-spirited, overtly homophobic and racist people aren’t getting any nicer.

It’s almost like this over-the-top, aggressive implementation of the tolerance doctrine isn’t really making the world a more tolerant place at all.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Courtesy: RT

The 5 oil factors to watch in 2018

The 5 oil factors to watch in 2018
Oil prices are set to close out the year somewhere around 15 percent up, and the oil market looks more stable than it has in years. But what does 2018 have in store?

Most analysts believe more of the same – inventory declines, some shale growth, a gradual increase in the oil price and eventually an end to the OPEC deal. But a lot of uncertainty remains.

Here are 5 key issues to watch as we head into 2018.

#1 US shale growth

There is no doubt that US shale output is continuing to rise, but there is quite a bit of uncertainty about the magnitude of growth. Expectations have fluctuated over the course of 2017. At the beginning of the year, outlets like the EIA and IEA had very bullish predictions for shale output, with the EIA expecting US output to average 10 million barrels per day in 2018.

As the year wore on, numerous red flags began to pop up that raised a lot of questions about the health of the shale industry. Drilling costs began to rise again; some shale companies ran into operational problems; drilling activity fizzled when oil prices dipped below $50 per barrel, a sign that the shale industry’s breakeven prices (on average) were not as low as many thought; the rig count dipped; and investors began demanding more restraint and a slower pace of drilling. These problems seemed to suggest shale was sputtering.

However, more recently, data suggests shale is back on track, posting strong production gains in September. In their December reports, the IEA and OPEC predicted US shale would add 870,000 bpd and 1 mb/d of new supply in 2018, respectively. That threatens to overwhelm demand growth. But the extent to which actual growth lives up to those forecasts will go a long way in determining the pace of rebalancing next year.

#2 OPEC Compliance

OPEC production fell in November for the fourth consecutive month, dipping by 130,000 bpd compared to a month earlier. That puts the group’s compliance rate with the production cuts at 115 percent, the highest number yet. The ability of OPEC to stick with its commitments is a positive sign heading into 2018 that they will be able to keep compliance rates high. To be sure, involuntary declines in Venezuela are somewhat masking less-than-100-percent compliance from Iraq and the UAE, but a reduction of supply is a reduction of supply.

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The big question is the durability of high compliance throughout 2018. An oil market that rebalances too quickly could lead OPEC members to abandon their pledges if they become tempted by higher oil prices. Russia has signaled that it is anxious to abandon the deal as soon as inventories fall back to average levels. The flipside is also true – a steep drop in prices could lure members into cheating as they become desperate for more revenues. But that is all speculation. For now, compliance looks good.

#3 OPEC’s Exit Strategy

OPEC has restored some stability to the oil market with its resolve to maintain output limits, and the strong cooperation, particularly between Saudi Arabia and Russia, reassured the oil market at the last OPEC meeting.

Yet, they left the details of an exit strategy for a later date, and the June 2018 meeting will carry extra weight, especially as the inventory surplus narrows. Exiting the production cuts is fraught with danger; even hinting that a return to full production could spook jittery oil traders, which is exactly why top OPEC officials were eager to push off that conversation. But by mid-2018, they won’t be able to avoid the issue. It’s likely OPEC will opt for some sort of glide path, a gradual lifting of the production limits, but we’ll have to wait and see.

#4 Inventories

OPEC’s strategy will largely come down to what happens to global inventories. OECD commercial stocks declined by more than 40 million barrels in October, putting total stocks at 2,940 million barrels, the lowest level in more than two years. The stock surplus is now at about 100 million barrels more than the five-year average, down two-thirds from the start of 2017. It’s likely that the surplus will be erased at some point in 2018, at which point OPEC will be under pressure to abandon its production limits.

Read more on Oilprice.com: The ‘Unknown Unknowns’ That Threaten U.S. Shale

However, the IEA said in its December Oil Market Report that it expects inventories to begin rising again in 2018, largely because of blistering growth from U.S. shale (see #1 above). The first half of the year, the IEA predicts, will see inventories rise at a pace of 200,000 bpd. If the agency is correct, zeroing out the surplus could prove elusive.

#5 Unexpected outages

All of these forecasts and predictions go out the window if supply disruptions occur. Just days ago, the Forties pipeline cracked and shut down, and the pipeline’s operator declared force majeure on oil shipments. The 450,000-bpd pipeline could be shut for weeks, leading to shutdowns at North Sea oil fields. This incident is exactly the type of event that can catch the oil market by surprise, leading to sharp and sudden price increases even if all seems well elsewhere in the world.

There are plenty of potential flashpoints that could lead to supply outages in 2018. The most obvious is Venezuela, which is suffering from steep and ongoing declines.

Venezuela’s output fell by 41,000 bpd in November from a month earlier, after suffering a decline of 26,000 bpd in October. Production is at a 30-year low and is heading south.

Other outages are entirely possible in unstable countries like Nigeria and Libya. Conflict between the US and Iran would be a whole different animal, with serious implications for the oil market. Then, there are other potential outages that are entirely unpredictable beforehand. The crack in the Forties pipeline, the spill from the Keystone pipeline in the US from a few weeks ago and the massive wildfires in Alberta in 2016 are just a few examples. It only takes one major disruption to upend the most carefully crafted oil forecast.

This article was originally published on Oilprice.com

Courtesy: RT

Middle Eastern Christians in dire straits – but the West doesn’t want to know

Middle Eastern Christians in dire straits – but the West doesn’t want to know
Since the nineties it has been apparent even in secular company that persecution of Christians was rampant in some countries. Yet beyond lip service, there is no international effort to change this disastrous situation.

More Christians died for their faith in the past century alone than in the history of Christianity to that point  – chiefly at the hands of atheist regimes (mainly in the past) and Salafist militants like ISIS, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, and others (now). The destabilization of the Middle East over the past two decades has had a devastating impact on the region’s native Christian population. In Iraq, a population that numbered more than a million in the 1990s dwindled to less than a third of that in the wake of the US-led invasion and removal of the secular government of Saddam Hussein. In Syria, under threat since 2011 by Salafist groups armed and funded by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and other countries – the US shamefully included – Christians seemed to be facing a similar fate.

But lately there have been grounds for hope. Christmas is particularly joyful this year in Syria. Aleppo, Homs, and other cities liberated from years of oppression by jihadists had reason to celebrate – and the freedom to do so – care of the Syrian Arab Army and the Russian Air Force. Mosul in Iraq was cleared of ISIS fighters by US-led coalition. God willing, 2018 will see the freeing of other areas still under terrorist control.

Even when peace returns to Syria and Iraq, there will still be a formidable task of rebuilding. Earlier this year the US Agency for International Development made a point of announcing it would bypass United Nations agencies in order to “create high-quality, effective, and efficient partnerships” to help return members of “minorities” and “diverse religious and ethnic groups” to their homes across Iraq. Evidently, even under President Donald Trump official US government agencies are loath to explicitly refer to the faith, though commendably Vice President Mike Pence did do so when addressing a Christian conference.

The Russian government – which for years has spoken out against Christian genocide in the Middle East – has pledged its assistance in the rebuilding of Syrian churches, with the participation of the Orthodox Church and religious organizations. But why shouldn’t the governments of other countries pitch in too, not just for generic reconstruction or aid to displaced persons but specifically to help maintain Christians in the region where Christianity was born?

Apart from a few notable exceptions like Pence and Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Western governments are still squeamish when talking about persecution of Christianity, which by far is the most widely persecuted religion on earth. But why? The State Department has no trouble at all saying “Muslim” when referring to, for example, Myanmar today or to Bosnia and Kosovo in the past. For example, when speaking in support of Kosovan independence, US Congressional leaders openly spoke of promoting a “US-Muslim partnership” and lauding the fact that “the United States leads the way for the creation of a predominantly Muslim country in the very heart of Europe.”

Would the same officials ever call for a US-Christian partnership or for Washington to play midwife to the birth of a predominantly Christian state – anywhere? Of course not.

To their credit, the governments of majority Muslim countries are not at all embarrassed to stick up for members of their own faith. In particular, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (the OIC), a group of 57 mostly Muslim-majority countries, bills itself as “the collective voice of the Muslim world.” Despite intra-Islamic conflicts – notably the Sunni-Shiite divide between Saudi Arabia and Iran respectively – the OIC is vocal in promoting a unified Muslim perspective on issues where there is a broad consensus.

For example, the OIC issued a strong statement denouncing US President Donald Trump’s declaration that the United States considers Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital. The OIC’s information chief also took a position on the internal affairs of traditionally Christian European countries, to the effect that mass Muslim migration is really doing Europe a big favor.

Where is the comparable Christian voice? After all, there are more majority-Christian countries (about 120) than majority-Muslim (about 50). There are approximately 2.5 billion people who identify as Christians, versus 1.8 billion Muslims.There are about 30 countries where Christianity or a particular church has a leading status defined in law, or where a church’s preeminence is customary, like the status of Orthodoxy in Russia or Roman Catholicism in Ireland, as opposed to about 20 where Islam is legally established. The flags of about 20 countries include specifically Islamic symbols, such the crescent moon. In contrast, about 30 national flags carry a depiction of the Christian cross, with an additional dozen or so if naval ensigns are counted, for example the Saint Andrew’s cross on the flags of the Russian and Belgian fleets, and the Saint George’s cross on the ensigns of India, Italy, South Africa, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, and others whose civil flags do not display a cross.

In short, there is certainly a sufficient global “constituency” for a hypothetical Christian Counterpart for the OIC. (For the purposes of discussion, let’s call it the Organisation of Christian Cooperation,” or the OCC.) A future OCC should not only welcome all majority Christian countries but others where Christians are numerically or socially significant. For example, while South Korea is only about one-third Christian, Christians form a solid majority of that country’s citizens participating in organized religion. About thirty countries in sub-Saharan Africa would be obvious OCC Member State candidates, as would virtually all of Latin America. China and India, where Christian minorities outnumber the total populations of many majority-Christian countries, should be welcomed as Members or Observers.

A good place for global intergovernmental Christian cooperation to start might be with the collaboration between the world’s two biggest confessions, Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy. This involves not only church-to-church contacts (symbolized by the 2016 meeting in Cuba of Pope Francis and Russian Patriarch Kirill) but state-to-state activity (symbolized by meetings between Francis and Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2013 and 2015). Keep in mind that in addition to his spiritual role the Roman pontiff is the ruler of the Holy See – a sovereign, independent state with an active, worldwide diplomatic mission.

Syria and the plight of Middle Eastern Christians were very much on the agenda of the Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who in August 2017 met with both Putin and Kirill in Moscow. According to Claire Giangravè of the Roman Catholic publication, Crux, there was a lot of agreement between the two sides:

“Already in late 2013, Francis was largely responsible for helping to head off an anti-Assad Western offensive in Syria, after news broke that the government [supposedly] had used chemical weapons against its rebelling populace.

“This was not done casually by the Vatican, as Catholic voices on the ground had shown support for the Assad regime, which seems to them less dangerous than an unknown and unpredictable alternative. Putin, from his side, has been a strong critic of efforts to impose democratic [sic] states in the Middle East and views the Syrian president as the only hope for stabilization in the crucial region.”

Reports Crux from Rome“As the leadership role of the United States in the Middle East falters, Russia has reiterated its commitment to bringing peace and stability to the region – and safeguarding its Christian communities and heritage.” If the Vatican and Russia can come to a common position on supporting Christians in the Middle East, perhaps it can point to a way for other countries also to get actively involved. Despite recent fears that Christianity was doomed to extinction in the region – most drastically in Iraq – the approaching defeat of the jihadists in Syria may be grounds for optimism.

After all, Christmas is the season of hope!

Jim Jatras for RT.

Jim Jatras is a former US diplomat (with service in the Office of Soviet Union Affairs during the Reagan administration) and was for many years a senior foreign policy adviser to the US Senate Republican leadership.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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