Ukraine war portends new oil shock
Long-depressed oil prices are suddenly soaring in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with impacts already being felt globally. Kazakhstan, recently wracked by internal instability, is facing economic crisis as its crude exports are threatened. Most of these exports pass through a pipeline linking Kazakhstan's western oil-fields to Russia's Black Sea terminal at Novorossiysk. That terminal, owned by the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC), lies within 250 kilometers of the Ukrainian port of Mariupol, now besieged by Russian forces. This proximity is sufficient for tankers loading at the Novorossiysk terminal to incur a "war risk insurance premium." According to S&P Global Platts, the premium has been high enough to deter buyers since the Russian invasion of Ukraine was launched late last month.
Podcast: Russia and the new fascism
In Episode 111 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg explores the legacy of Francis Parker Yockey and other exponents of the now fast-growing current in the Western fascist tradition that has looked to Russia as a patron and ally. Under the leadership of Alexander Dugin, "Putin's Rasputin" and the theorist of a "Eurasian" bloc against the Western democratic powers, resurgent far-right Russo-nationalism is building ties to neo-fascist organizations across Europe—as well as to supposed "anti-war" leftists in the United States. The Putin propaganda machine's Nazi-baiting of the Ukrainians is yet another example of the sinister trend of fascist pseudo-anti-fascism. It is imperative that progressives in the West do not take the toxic bait of this "Red-Brown Alliance." Any genuine anti-war position must begin with repudiating Putin's threats and aggression against Ukraine.
Podcast: Nuclear power? No thanks!
In Episode 110 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg rants against the current greenwashing of nuclear power, and hype about a supposedly "safe" new generation of reactors. Every stage of the nuclear cycle is ecocidal and genocidal. Uranium mining has poisoned the lands of indigenous peoples from Navajo Country to Saskatchewan to West Africa. The ongoing functioning of nuclear plants entails routine emissions of radioactive gases, factored in by the bureaucrats in determining "acceptable" levels of cancer. Disposal of the waste, and the retired reactor sites themselves, is a problem that inherently defies solution. These wastes will be deadly for exponentially longer into the future than biblical times stretch into the past. The Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) in New Mexico, hyped as secure for hundreds of millennia, leaked plutonium after only 13 years. And finally there is the "sexiest" issue, the one that actually gets some media play, at least—the risk of accident. It is a mark of capitalism's depravity that even after the nightmares of Fukushima and Chernobyl, we periodically get media campaigns about an imminent "nuclear renaissance." Meanwhile, virtually ongoing smaller accidents go by with barely a media ripple. Nuclear versus fossil fuels is the false choice offered us by industry. The imperative is to get off the extraction economy and on to one based on sustainability and resource conservation.
Podcast: antivax is fascist II
In Episode 103 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg, still suffering from possible COVID-19 symptoms, again notes how the radical right, including neo-Nazi elements, is in the vanguard of anti-vax and anti-mask protests, from Germany to Romania to England to Brooklyn. A virtual industry churns out relentless online disinformation that is easily refuted by anyone who makes the effort to break out of the confirmation-bias bubble. Contrary to the conspiranoid propaganda, COVID-19 deaths are actually being underestimated. The juvenile Nazi-baiting of the anti-vax machine is another example of the propaganda device of fascist pseudo-anti-fascism. Meanwhile, Tuskegee experiment survivors are encouraging vaccinations, and the Peoples Vaccine Alliance protests the actual crimes of Big Pharma—failing to make the vaccine available to Africa and the much of the Global South, in what has been decried as "vaccine apartheid." Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Podcast: antivax is fascist
In Episode 103 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg, suffering from possible COVID-19 symptoms, rants against the mask and vaccine refusers who are not only threatening public health amid the worst pandemic in over a century, but also enabling the worldwide rise of the authoritarian radical right. As they relentlessly bait mask-wearers and vax-rationalists as succumbing to state propaganda, they themselves have swallowed the saturation propaganda from Fox News and the Trump campaign. Last year's militia kidnapping plot against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer just had a reprise in an assassination conspiracy against the president of the German state of Saxony, similarly motivated by COVID-denialist reaction. Even Robert F. Kennedy Jr openly joined with German neo-Nazis at an anti-vax rally in Berlin. None of this is coincidental. The politics of the anti-vaxxers is actually redolent of Hitler’s “euthanasia” program, in which “useless eaters” (the disabled) were exterminated—the first step toward the Final Solution. Their juvenile Nazi-baiting is another example of the propaganda device of fascist pseudo-anti-fascism. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Rapid nuclear escalation, East and West
Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov on Dec. 13 warned that Moscow will deploy intermediate-range nuclear weapons if NATO does not accede to demands to stop arming Ukraine and guarantee an end to eastward expansion of the alliance. His remarks came days after US President Joe Biden and Russia's Vladimir Putin held a two-hour video conference aimed at defusing tensions over the Russian military build-up along Ukraine's border, where the Kremlin is estimated to have amassed some 100,000 troops.
UN team delivers report on ISIS atrocities in Iraq
The head of the United Nations team investigating Islamic State crimes in Iraq on Dec. 2 delivered his report to the Security Council, accusing Islamic State (ISIS) actors of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. Christian Ritscher, special adviser and head of the UN Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da'esh/Islamic State in Iraq & the Levant (UNITAD), reported that his team had uncovered evidence of the deaths of at least 1,000 Shi'ite prisoners at a prison in Mosul in June 2014. The executions had been planned in detail by senior ISIS members. The team also carried out an analysis of battlefield evidence that showed ISIS developed and deployed chemical weapons as part of a long-term strategic plan. The team identified more than 3,000 victims of ISIS chemical attacks to date.
Escalation on the EU's eastern frontier
Tensions on the European Union's eastern border escalated sharply this week as Polish border guards repulsed a wave of some 4,000 asylum seekers and migrants seeking to cross from Belarus. Poland has mobilized 15,000 soldiers to the region to prevent people from crossing, and Belarusian security forces are not allowing the migrants to turn back. The migrants are sleeping rough as temperatures plunge below freezing; a 14-year-old boy froze to death, becoming at least the eleventh person to have died attempting to cross the border. There are fears the situation could result in a military confrontation.
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