HAMMERNEWS- Michael Hammerschlag

Current Political Commentary by journalist Michael Hammerschlag; Thoughts on foreign policy, Republican outrages, liberal strategies, science by 8 year correspondent in Russia/Ukraine over 22 years and longtime commentator; Website: http://HAMMERNEWS.com

Monday, February 27, 2012


Didn't think much in Ukraine could depress me, but Yanu-man just appointed 2 long time Russians to run the SBU and Defense Ministry's, not guys who came here when they were 10, but in the 90's at 32yo. What is says to me is he is moving East big time, joining the Russian customs union, and is filling the "power" ministries with loyal, brutal, men who won't resist orders to beat or fire on protesters.. if dissent grows like in Russia. That makes PM Azarov, Education Minister Tabachnyk,  Defense Minister Salamatin (no military experience), and SBU (Ukr KGB) head Igor Kalinin (former head of Pres. bodyguard + ex-KGB) whose primary loyalty is probably more to Russia than Ukraine. Salamatin was famous for cracking heads with a chair in a Duma brawl (check youtube).

SLAUGHTER IN HOMS, Syria.         Russia + China veto UN Security Council approval of Arab League plan
Feb 4: 200-300 people were killed in a government attack on the rebelious city near Lebanon and incredibly, after 7000 dead, thugocracies Russia and China vetoed the Arab League call on the Assad regime to stand down and cede power. There isn't any Communist or dictatorship or non-alligned block anymore- these countries are alone, acting for cheap phantom-hand or business deal reasons. Syrian embassies were attacked and sacked in Cairo, and attacked in Amman, Berlin, Kuwait. But for the first time, I think Russia and China might be forced to back down by coordinated Internet and fierce embassy protests, esp. if the new Russian protestors can be harnessed. This is what they are, at heart, protesting- the overweaning arrogance of Putin in ignoring their wishes. And blanket support for murderous dictators isn't what most Russians want; and it can't be winning them any friends in the newly independent Arab Spring flowers (far from, esp. to the Christians). Events may be spiraling out of control though and becoming sectarian civil war- a reverse image of Iraq, where a small Shiite Alowite leadership oppresses a large Sunni minority. This is why most Arab states esp SA hate and mistrust Syria, whose only official friends were Iran, Russia, and China. But the world's silence is disgraceful as Dr. Assad's artillery pounds Homs in a reprise of the Hama depredations of his father.

FEB 1, 2012      In more wonderful news implying we won't have 10 billion people by 2040, the last big cheap fishery- mackerals in the West South Pacific have collapsed from decades of 8x overfishing from  Chili-Peru and world fleets. You remember mackeral: $1 a 15oz can, a low budget non-tuna fish sandwich that most people have used from time to time. No more

----In the southern Pacific, industrial fleets find fewer and fewer jack mackerel after years of aggressive fishing: European Union-flagged vessels collectively caught more than 111,000 metric tons of jack mackerel in 2009; the next year, the ships hauled in 40 percent fewer fish; by last year, vessels reported just 2,261 tons.----  or a 97% drop in 2 years. Gospody. Luckily I'm in one place that still has cheap plentiful fish (from Russian rape of the oceans): many fish filets here are under $2/lb. Give it 5 years and they'll all be gone. I still pine for 5/$1 cans of tuna, maybe the healthiest meal in the world... before we dosed them with mercury.

I wrote a long post about Iran, risks and rewards, threats and reaction;  good enough to be a stand alone article, but it just saved it as 1.5k list of attributes. Argh! Essentially the sanctions the Senate voted 100-0 are trashing what's left of Iran's economy- Irano-Itali-merican friend says they've had 100% inflation in the last month. Sanctions are imposed on anybody that does business with Iran too- one must note that these kind of sanctions provoked Japan to attack Pearl Harbor, so some unpredictable craziness from Ahmadinijad may be possible. Sanctions are such a miserable blunt tool, I think maybe bombing would be more humane. I think they'll have a Bomb within 6-12 months- a report here says they are close to testing a 1kt device- they supposedly have enough partially enriched U-235 for 4 bombs.

 Leslie Gelb, former head of the hawkish Council on Foreign Relations, a colorless character I've talked to at some small Bruno FP function, came out with a surprising commentary urging caution and a full public debate before we "let a bunch of ignorant, sloppy-thinking politicians and politicized foreign-policy experts draw "red line" ultimatums". Guess he has more juice than I thought- the CFR liked a hawkish thing I did about bombing Iran in '06 (http://hammernews.com/​bombingiran.htm), but even they were horrified by the monstrous criminality, stupidity, theft, and corruption of the Iraq Invasion. This was written in Jun '06- in 2009 they DID admit to having 5000 centrifuges (now 9000).

 The hardest thing about making nukes is separating the U235 isotope- with only a 1% difference in weight and .7% concentration in ore, they have to throw away 50-90% over and over- and first they gotta convert it all into a nasty gas- Uranium Hexifloride. Never could get a tour of the Pantax plant in Amarillo or Rocky Flats in Denver (you drive right through it on the highway, like INEL- the 2x RI -size secret nuke zone in Idaho), where they purify the stuff and build the bombs.

 Besides slow grinding pressure, we (or Israelis) have been killing their nuclear scientists, something that can cause appalling blowback. The most likely explanation for JFK's assassination was Mafia fury that they were being crushed despite helping in plots to whack Castro. The Iranians are quite experienced at that- after the glorious '79 Revolution, they sent hit squads around the world to kill hundreds of "defectors", many leaders of the Revolution itself (remember Ghotzbede?) - they were all decimated. In fact for 2 years there was a virtual civil war in Iran, as Mujahadeen killed up to a 1000 members of the Islamic government- all without a peep of Western coverage, like the Iran-Iraq War (if a 1-1.5 million people are killed without any news coverage, did it really happen?).

 My editor at Mediachannel, Danny Schecter, managed to question Maumoud A. in a trip to Iran to cover an anti-Hollywood conference, of all things. 

We better hope they hold the EU together- it’s collapse now would provoke a worldwide crisis as bad or worse than 2008- read one projection that GDP of leaving countries would drop by half! And now there aren’t the spare trillions to bail out everyone. Why it’s taken 3 years since the initial crisis for the s--t to hit the fan isn’t clear, but love the scummy rating agencies who aided in the massive “oughts” (2000’s)  fraud now trying to redeem themselves by downgrading US, or French debt, when their actions could actually cause a collapse. Look how strict we are now!

In some new (March 2012) bad news, Taibbi says Bank of America is maybe teetering on bankrupcy- of course, they are way big to fail so Uncle S would have to pop for another $500 bil or so- no problem, more quantitative easing- seriously, if the Gov is going to print hundreds of billions of dollars out of thin air, couldn't they just give me some?

The failure of the SuperDuperDope Deficit reduction committee was pre-ordained when almost all Repubs chosen were extremist TP anti-tax nuts. So take a hatchet to military programs- they need it- just hope it doesn't come from rehabilitating the 250K PTSD, TBI victims of Bush's treasonous war- an American friend here was in an jeep IED, 2 were killed and his hands often shake like a Parkinson’s patient. How SS or Medicare started to end up on the chopping block is inexplicable- the crazy Repubs scream and scream like 2 yo, and Dems do anything to pacify them, instead of locking them in a dark room.

Listened to a weak, shabby On Point radio show on it: Our sacrifice, our losses, our cost. We INVADED and destroyed this country and killed what: 300-500,000 Iraqis, who don't get a single mention (lately they’ve been floating the absurd number of 100,000, as if all the civil war dead weren’t our fault). No serious opponent of the Invasion, no embittered crippled veteran, not a word about the 10 year neo-con conspiracy to jimmy up this insane treasonous war, the charter mission of  The Project for a New American Century, not a word of our VP giving +$40 billion to his OWN company in no-bid contracts- straight out war profiteering and corruption on a scale never before seen in America. But commentators everywhere bemoaning the fact that Iraqis weren’t sufficiently grateful for our sacrifice

At least I didn't hear the sick canard of “the failure of intelligence”, the pitiful lie that the bullied CIA gave Bush bad info, rather than be terrorized into faking Saddam's threat. I knew it was bull from the beginning, and debated Patrick Kennedy (who voted for the war, only rep fm RI) to an embarrassed admission that it was a mistake on the eve of the war. Every reason was corrupt. Bush, Cheney, and every neocon dirtbag who created this outrageous crime should be sentence to a lifetime of changing bedpans of the soldiers they crippled at Walter Reed.

The costs were astronomical- letting Bin Laden escape, letting Afghanistan metastasize till it was unwinnable, $1-3 trillion, a defense system that now claims extravagant treasure as a birthright, the dead, wounded, crippled, mentally destroyed- who will cost another trillion; our soldiers becoming torturers, the chopping away at the Bill of Rights, destroying known innocent people in Guantanamo cause “nobody would take them.”, turning the country over the Iran sympathizers (Iranians just sent over their spiritual Imam to do an attempted takeover from Sistani).

The cataclysmic Iraq civil war may not happen since so much hatred and blood were already expended, but even with that possibility, Iraqis want us out- the Invader. Bet over 80% would prefer to go back to living under Saddam, when they had electricity + water + weren’t killed going to the market. Spoke too soon with Maliki trying to arrest Veep and crush Sunnis in gov.  This was the kind of hell we subjected our soldiers to- the monstrosity of their brother’s evil,   These poor guys will be homeless on the streets for the next 30 years- some 35% of the +1.5 million people sent there have some disability.

FIRM of MIND, SOFT on FACTS –   Bush has, with a steady stream of lies, deceptions, and propaganda, has managed to convince half the country that Saddam supports Al Qaida or even was behind 9-11. Iraq invasion historic blunder that may echo through the decades- 3-17-03 Liberal Slant, Bartcop ALT   WARBLOG 3/19-5/19/03

The return of mute(ant) Newt is great- if they are so desperate they will turn to this vicious flake hypocrite, they will self destruct. “We will talk about Monica every day”, said the serial adulterer who dumped his wives when critically ill. The Clinton Impeachment totally collapsed when hero of the nation (+ semi-sleaze) Larry Flynt took out both Speakers: Gingrinch +  morally upstanding family man Livingston in a week. The next possible flavor is anti-gov exotic Ron Paul, who I kinda like and would say some necessary things in a general campaign. Course half his positions are bugshit insane/impossible, but then when his supporters ask how sane what’s been happening is, you must reevaluate.

The GINGRINCH was bound to be a short term phenomenon in the Repub Carnival of Fools. Taibi dissects him clinically in a long Rolling Stone piece from SC: 
-----If Romney is a scripted automaton who could make it through a year's worth of marital coitus without one spontaneous utterance, Gingrich is his exact opposite - taken prisoner in war, Newt would be blabbing state secrets without torture within minutes, and minutes after that would be calling his guards idiots who lack his nuanced grasp of European history, and minutes after that would be lying to two of his captors about an affair he had with the third. In short, Newt versus Romney played out in South Carolina like a classic comic clash of pure psychological archetypes: oral versus anal, chaos versus order, Oscar versus Felix, with Felix throwing a snit and Oscar charging to a wild, messy victory.----
---The only problem is, he's a bloviating, egomaniacal hog clinging to a third marriage who suffers from incurable diarrhea of the mouth and, according to polls, is one of the most intensely disliked politicians in America, making him an utterly absurd choice for the general election.

SANCTIMONIOUS SANITARIUM is truly an alarming prospect to Repub power brokers- not one of them can beat Obama, but holy Rick lost his own state by 18% last time and his fanatical socio-sexual obsessions are a guaranteed loser.

ARAB FALL: In truly bad news for the Arab Spring, the Islamists are looking to win a stunning 65% of Congressional seats in Egypt’s 2 month Votorama (wound up 75%), and serious violence is again being used on demos (always thought the people’s faith in the noble Army was misplaced). Though the Islamists may claim moderation, up to 20% are the extremist Salafiists, and generations of persecution and abuse will leave them with a serious grudge and retaliatory agenda. What a sad denouement for this year of freedom- that it be hijacked by Muslimists that want to roll Egypt back to 1300. They banned the Mubarak Party and there was no time for others to get established, while the Islamic Brotherhood have been doing charitable works for decades, winning loyalty one medical treatment at a time.

The military was even attacking election judges: ““Military and police forces started cracking down on everyone outside the general committees, including the judges, in a bid to disperse the crowd,” said Mahmoud El-Sherif, secretary-general and spokesperson of the Judges’ Club. “Military police didn’t understand or respond when judges tried to explain their identity, and they continued to beat everyone in sight.” More than 300 complaints of attacks on judges Thursday was received by the Judges’ Club.

SECRET SHYLOCKS:  Finally someone besides Taibi hits the greatest unexplored story of the last 3 years- the $7 trillion of secret loans and grants the Fed made to banks and investment houses after the 2008 crash. There has been so little reporting about it (like say the origin of treasonous Iraq War), that I thought it was a hallucination- how can you give $7 tril to the rich without a hew and outcry?
----“The total numbers are staggering: by March 2009 $7.7 trillion of credit—one-half of the GDP of the entire nation. $460 billion was lent to J.P. Morgan, Bank of America, Citibank, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley alone—without anybody other than a few select officials at the Fed and the Treasury knowing. This was perhaps the single most massive allocation of capital from public to private hands in our history, and nobody was told. This was not TARP: This was secret Fed lending. And although it has since been repaid,”--- Bloomberg

WHOSE HOMELAND:   How a Constitutional law professor signs this Defense bill with these abominable Homeland Battlefield provisions, is simply beyond me- passed on the anniversary of the Bill of Rights! Maybe the crazy birthers are right in a way- that Obama's youth in Hawaii (which really isn’t America in vital ways) and Indonesia led to some stunted understanding of America’s values, or maybe he really believes America faces this existential threat that require the government to become a much worse threat… which it will. Power corrupts, and Obama proves it every week. This is explicitly what the founders revolted against- detainment without trial, military actions against citizens (though in truth police have and constantly abuse that power). It will be abused by future Repub Presidents. Wasn’t there one Senator who could put a secret hold on this unconstitutional piece of crap. Calling Sen. Bird, Kennedy…  anybody here see my old friend John?

WARMING WORRIES:  Some spectacularly bad news- scientists in eastern Siberian arctic coast have discovered monstrous venting of methane (22-60 x stronger warming than CO2) from below the melting offshore permafrost- some areas over 1km wide:  
----- This is the first time that we've found continuous, powerful and impressive seeping structures, more than 1,000 metres in diameter. It's amazing," Dr Semiletov said. "I was most impressed by the sheer scale and high density of the plumes. Over a relatively small area we found more than 100, but over a wider area there should be thousands of them."---

After the sham of Durban, where the world affirmed it would do nothing till many millions die (we’ll deal with it in 2015, to come into effect only in 2020!), Canada- or  Harper just gave 1 yr notice to withdraw from the Kyoto protocol, whose implementation hasn’t been attempted in the slightest, except by Europe, which by dint of the collapse of Soviet industry and real alternative energy, actually met reduction goals. Elsewhere 20% higher generation of GHG’s- the latest warming graph with seasonal, location, and noise variations carefully removed shows a nice straight line up- looks like over 1/2° C increase just since 1985. I now am convinced the first world-killing drought of hundreds of millions will occur within this decade.

BACK IN THE USSR2: Ukraine's EU Partnership and Free Trade Agreements, supposed to be signed Dec 19,  were put on hold till things politically improve here (former PM Tymoshenko released from jail), which isn't going to happen. It was a longed for destination for the last 7 years for Ukraine, and it's probable collapse is a disaster, meaning it will permanently move into Russia's orbit, like Belarus. 

Today Yanukovich went to Moscow, where he says he will instead agree to the neo-Soviet Customs Union, incompatible with the EU Free Trade Agreement, but didn’t meet with Medvedev as planned. There are also reports that PM Azarov (more Russian than Ukrainian) has agreed to sell half of Ukr pipeline and gas co. Naftohaz to giant Russian Gazprom, which Yanukovich announced today lost $6.6 bilion.... in effect compromising Ukraine's sovereignity. Predicting this in my last piece in Kyiv Post.  

 RUSSIA WITHOUT PUTIN:   Incredible earthquake- this uprising against Putin:  his enforced stability has led to the growing middle class that could depose him (give it 6 years), a young and middle class who've leapt from abacus's to 3G in 17 years.  After 12 years of all powerful all-seeing Putinism (he rides motorcycles, he fights, he rassles bears, he rubs boy's stomachs) Russia is a political desert; and many people are tired of his SoviCzarist circus act. Sadly the only party to benefit from United Russia's pounding are the Communists, since all real opposition has been excluded. Too soon to tell if billionaire Prokhorov’s attempt to run for the Presidency is real- he set up a Kremlin sponsored (center) Right Cause Party a half year ago till the Kremlin pulled the plug- it may be another sham safety valve (like Just Russia), or he may be actually mad at that and other imperial humiliations. Smart Steven Cohen said contrary to beliefs, these Dec elections were probably cleanest Russia's seen- why? United Russia lost.


Since he went to NY Mag, we’ve missed the incomparable Frank Rich, with his trenchant pithy scathing observations of the collective delusion known as the Repub Party- but he weighed in with a fine dissection of the Dwarves. No contemporary essayist uses English as well, and he’s a nice guy- we’ve communicated about stories: “…Gingrich’s public personality, an amalgam of preening ego­mania and snide superiority that borders on the transgressively hostile”

Mitt: “….that any of the Establishment supports Romney is that he’s an incredibly useful front man. He puts a milquetoast mask of garden-variety old-school conservatism on a revolutionary party that would scare the hell out of moderates if one of its rank and file’s favored non-Mitts were leading the charge”
….Mitt doesn’t realize that parading his own picture-perfect, intact, shrink-wrapped domestic bliss carries a whiff of condescension and privilege…. Ann Romney’s smug campaign-trail mantra—“No other success can compensate for failure in the home”—is as tone-deaf as Mitt’s observation that “corporations are people.”


Living in CrimeTown for all computer criminals, I have seen the future- which is the disappearing utility of Wifi and mobile networks as phone, scam, and theft viruses spread. Essentially any public Wifi or network is unsecurable- if they let anyone in who buys an ice cream cone, they let in the criminals. Every McDonalds has cyberpunks snooping through every online person’s computer, stealing their passwords, infecting them w viruses that compromise any other info, or just shut everything down. Just got the restart virus again (reboots computer every 2 seconds, twice been booted off network with message “conflict with another computer’s IP address on the system”, meaning they’ve cloned my computer and have logged in as me, probably with my login and passwords. NYT had an article about – there’s a program that will let you do that with anyone at a Wifi node-  that anyone can download, and the profusion of mobile wifi makes it impossible to tell who may be doing it.

But phones all have money to steal and just was hit with this, as wise as I am, got popup “get a bonus by sending SMS to 942”, just like the real offers. Did it and ate all my money (only $2, but if I had $20, woulda taken that to)- it was some pay theft line, but the message was in English, so must have come from mobile co. insider leaks, or could be the company itself, who are sometimes crooks. On another network, I get a provider message saying “you need to do an update”, then a download from Meloring, an expensive music tone firm that will rip you off.

 But INFECTED FAKE APPS are now flooding the market - http://www.f-secure.com/weblog/archives/00002280.html    “several such accounts in Android Market, turning Google's security efforts into a game of Whack-A-Mole. If installed, the trojans will attempt to send a premium rate SMS using short codes….In the past, all of the premium rate SMS trojans that we've actively encountered have targeted Russia. These trojans are targeting 18 countries.”   Woe unto you if you do banking over your smartphone.

I haven't read any comments on the monster in Norway. First, I hope the Justice Dept takes a hard look at Christian extremist orgs- they just convicted Warren Jeffs of child rape, the guy who when I did my Copycat Effect article/review http://hammernews.com/copycateffect.htm on mass killings, extremist religious people said was the most apocalyptic guy likely to do a Waco standoff. I'm deeply disappointed that they took this freak alive and allowed him to promote his "manifesto"- he says the attacks were a "marketing technique". Even in Norway, 92 dead children should earn someone instant death and mutilation. Now he gets to promote his "views", some of which was encouragement to other psycho losers how to do mass killings. As uncivilized as it seems, if he was was killed and his face smashed to a pulp, photos of that would be a powerful disincentive to other publicity-hungry monsters. Sometimes the simplest human instincts are fine- he should be erased and his manifesto burned without trace (and I say that as a journalist). Or he will be emulated. It's still possible to rectify- if they bring back dismemberment or flaying alive- I'm sure many parents will volunteer. Note he was going after those dirty "liberals".
These new expat immigration rules are truly bad bad news- it was only a matter of time before the anti-immigration fervor 9-11 spawned found it's way to expat family members. Obama sadly, has not resisted it, deporting more people than Bush ever did, for absurd technicalities and 20 year old minor convictions. They will, if not beaten back, make all of us distinctly second class citizens and our loved ones a ball and chain in any travel and residence decisions.

COLD-COLD While America and elsewhere were frying in incredible heat, Ukraine had the year without summer- temps of only 10-25 (50-77F) and continuous rain the whole time. I don't think it exceeded 30 (86F) once. Never seen such cold wet summer weather in my life, even the wet heyday of Seattle, before it dried out and started getting +100 weeks. Then in Jan-Feb 2012 had 3 weeks of solid –10 to –30C   -21 to 14F, with hundreds freezing to death, the coldest continuous snap I’ve ever seen in 4 winters in Russia, 1 in Mpls.

The contemptible prosecution of former PM and near-President Tymoshenko continues- the judge jailed her Friday to the shock of the world- she was contemptuous but he earned it, giving her lawyers 2 days to review 5000 pages of charges. Yanukovich isn't content to monopolize every power in the country- being a thug he must destroy the opposition as an object lesson to any possible future challenge. The charges against her and fmr Justice Min. Lutsenko are nonsense- no doubt she has done many crooked things (all officials are on the take here), but they concern her official decisions that they are calling treason.  Her people, inc MP's have occupied the entire block in front of the courthouse on busy Kreshatuck- they will imminently violently disperse them, I think. It has allied Yatsenuk, and other factions in an anti-dictatorship alliance. May do a radio report on it all.