Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The New Model Imperial

[Apropos of nothing in particular, I'm reminded that my sister and her husband drove older Imperials in the Fifties and early Sixites; they had two of them as I recall, a 1951 and a 1954. To me, they were very stodgy cars, too proper by half. But my first car was a Packard convertible, followed by a Buick Roadmaster and which was followed by a Cadillac Sedan de Ville. So I should talk...]

We're living in an era in which the Imperial Idea is reasserting itself with a vengeance. I've often commented that the course of warfighting in the Great and Glorious (Neverending) War on (Some) Terror(ism) initiated following the attacks of 9/11/2001 has closely followed the British Empire's march, and the targets were, until recently, mostly the failed projects of the British -- Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, the Yemen, even Egypt. They may still be failed Imperial projects, but they have been ripped to pieces and strictly punished for their temerity. Let that be a lesson to them.

Recently, the Imperial Idea has expanded, though, to encompass theaters of operations outside the former British sphere, starting with Libya (which was an Italian colony at one time) and moving on to Syria (French)  both of which experienced a descent into civil war and chaos , the Syrian matter still unresolved, and now, interestingly, expanding into (the) Ukraine (Russian). There are other sites where the New Imperial Idea is being fostered (Venezuela, Thailand, Bosnia, among them) but for now (the) Ukraine is the hot spot. (Note: "The" Ukraine is a Soviet slur according to some; the proper name of the country is simply "Ukraine" with no preceding article...)

There was some hoo-hah the other day over Mark Ames' article at Pando Daily that exposed Pierre Omidyar's funding of the opposition in (the) Ukraine, and his daring to question the integrity of the First Look Media staff, especially regarding their ability to do "adversarial" journalism when their boss and the owner of First Look is an active "co-investor" with the US government and other NGOs in the overthrow of the Ukrainian government and the installation of a more compliant one.

Oh, the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments that ensued! Oh, the focus on personalities and not the issue! The Twitter Wars! The tits-for-tats!

Yes, well, that's how it goes with today's media. It's really is all about personality, hardly about issues at all.

In the midst of the all the angst and ennui over the Pando article, there appeared a blogpost that's having a bit of play because it dares to focus on the issues of New Model Imperialism, and how the various regime changes and overthrows under way, particularly the one in (the) Ukraine, fit into the New Model Imperial Idea, and how -- perhaps -- Ames wasn't even conscious of what he was doing when he wrote the article in question. (Note: I'll write another post dealing specifically with that one.)

According to the author, Patrick Higgins, Ames inadvertently showed just how the New Model Imperial Idea is organized and implemented through the collaborative activities of NGOs (they are legion and extremely well funded by the US government and private agencies), private funders like Pierre Omidyar through their foundations, pre-existing and newly created in-country opposition groups, together with American government agencies -- openly and prominently by the USAID, covertly the CIA and others unnamed and probably unknown. It's a formula for regime change that typically doesn't require military intervention. It may lead to civil war, but that's an internal matter (viz: Syria), not something that requires sending in Marines and occupation forces to enforce order and the rule of predation as in the dreadful cases of Iraq and Afghanistan. The situation in Ukraine is a bit dicier because it treads on Russia's historic interest in holding or at least controlling territories on its western and southern borders, and the overt attempt to detach Ukraine from the Russian sphere isn't going over well in the Kremlin. Not a bit.

Higgins gets into the fact that oligarchs like Pierre quite naturally play a prominent role in the New Model Imperial Idea, not (by any means) a marginal one. They are integral to the process of regime change that is such a feature of New Model Imperialism. It's actually hard to imagine the process of regime change without oligarchic participation. Especially so in the case of Ukraine.

RT ran a story the other day that touched on the role Oligarchs as a class play in the Ukrainian developments, focusing on the role Ukrainian Oligarchs are playing, not even mentioning Pierre. Understanding that RT is strongly funded and influenced by the Kremlin, if the story is true -- there's no reason to doubt it at this point -- then parts of the Imperial pageant we're seeing play out in (the) Ukraine is being undertaken by Ukraine's own Oligarchs who apparently are being installed or installing themselves as Eastern District rulers and warlords -- fascinating. They are playing roles that seem to be in line with Kiev's new rulers, who in turn pledge fealty to Frau Merkel and her bankers, but how is one to know? These men are billionaires. They will do what billionaires do. They will look out for themselves, not "their people" -- of which there are none. If it means the Ukrainians and Russians are pink misted, so be it.

The newly-appointed Dnepropetrovsk governor is Igor Kolomoysky, Ukraine’s third-wealthiest man, with an estimated fortune of $2.4 billion. He co-owns the informal commercial group Privat, which includes Ukraine’s largest bank Privatbank, which Kolomoysky heads, as well as assets in the oil, ferroalloys and food industries, agriculture and transport
A former ally of Yulia Tymoshenko, Kolomoysky reportedly had a falling out with her and refused to finance her election campaign in 2010, which the ex-prime minister subsequently lost to Yanukovich. Kolomoysky was reported to be a principal sponsor of the UDAR party, which is one of the three fueling the street campaign to oust Yanukovich. Kolomoysky has a dual Ukrainian-Israeli citizenship and controls his business empire from Switzerland.
The new governor of Donetsk Region is Sergey Taruta, who is estimated to worth around $2 billion, putting him among the top-10 wealthiest people in Ukraine. He heads ISD, one of the biggest mining and smelting companies in the world, and also own Donetsk-based Metallurg Football Club.
I've noticed that people refuse to accept news, even if it is perfectly factual, if it comes from the "wrong" source, and these days, RT (like Iran's Press TV) is considered by many on the "left" (so-called) as a "wrong" source. Unless the news reported above appears in the New York Times, say, many will simply dismiss it as propaganda.

Well, yesterday, the Times did report it. They couched the appointment of Oligarchs to rule the potentially restive East Ukraine as perfectly natural, of course, who wouldn't do this, but it's clearly recognized as something... odd if "natural" and provocative nonetheless.

Russia has its Oligarchs too, and so does the USA. Pierre Omidyar is one of them.

I still don't know much about him, largely because he has such a low public profile, and stories about him and his enterprises are fairly rare. His apologists at First Look and the Honolulu Civil Beat are fiercely defensive. And why shouldn't they be? He pays their freight. It's only natural to protect and defend one's patron.

The stories I have seen about Pierre, though, suggest that he is both busy and quite slippery, engaging in more than a few large projects, both philanthropic and for profit, in which his participation barely breaks the surface of consciousness. He says he likes to slip in under the radar and slip away again. Even those who profess to know him probably don't. One of the things that comes out in the article linked, however, is that even if the public knows little about Pierre Omidyar, he is quite well known in Power circles, indeed is a major player therein. How many people know that Pierre was living in Honolulu at the same time as Snowden? How many people know of the Omidyar Network's connections with Booz Allen, Snowden's last NSA-contractor employer? Then there is the whole PayPal 14 Thing which has so angered many in the online civil disobedience community, and which prompted Alexa O'Brien to declare of Greenwald, "He fucking lied."

As principal shareholder and chairman of eBay, Omidyar controls eBay’s child company, PayPal. PayPal has recently made headlines for prosecuting the so-called “PayPal 14,” the hacktivists who staged a virtual ‘sit in’ in protest of PayPal’s decision to cut off Wikileaks’ funding by organizing a Denial of Service attack on PayPal’s website. PayPal was co-founded by Max Levchin, a dedicated NSA supporter.
More worrying still, Sal Gambianco, one of the principal investment partners with the Omidyar Network, actually sits on the board of advisors of Globant, a software company in which both the Omidyar Network and Booz Allen Hamilton, Snowden’s former employer, are major shareholders. Philip Odeen, one of the Booz Allen Hamilton board members, also sits on the Board of Directors of Globant. The Omidyar Network and Booz Allen Hamilton are also both major investors in Innocentive.
Omidyar Network, BTW, is the funder of the Ukrainian opposition organization -- which is actually an umbrella organization for more than 50 Ukrainian opposition groups -- which Ames discovered in his research prompted, he said, by Marcy Wheeler's tweets which cogitated over whether the regime change in Kiev constituted a "coup."  (The obfuscatory denials from Wheeler, Greenwald and Culligan that they were discussing something else notwithstanding.)

Paging through the list of member organizations of "New Citizen" (aka "Centre UA") is really kind of creepy, as many of the opposition organizations that cluster under the umbrella of "New Citizen" are National Endowment for Democracy (NED) clients as well, and a surprising number of them are essentially media propaganda outfits.

I think I mentioned how slickly produced the video feeds from the Maidan were. This was no amateur on the fly footage, it was highly professional and designed to inspire/inflame. Well, among the 58 "New Citizen" member organizations are 7 or 8 public relations/media organizations, actually there are more, but they are masked under a number of different labels, but among the ones easily identified are a couple of media professional trade unions.

The umbrella can actually provide any sort of "technical assistance" the members need or want. That's its function. ON mentions that "New Citizen" is an umbrella for "over 50" orgs, but that seems to have escaped most other notice. Each of these member orgs has funding of its own, of course, and one of them ("Center UA") is also the master org for "New Citizen." "New Citizen" you see is a "project" of "Center UA") Oh what a tangled web...

The fact that the Omidyar Network funded the umbrella organization for so many other organizations has been dismissed as unimportant, "minor funding" given the $5 billion or so that Victoria Nuland-Kagan boasted of spending over the last two decades in Ukraine.

In other words, the "investment" of $335,000 in "New Citizen" over two years by the Omidyar Network is barely a drop in the bucket [UPDATE: Omidyar Network issued a communiqué today which "clarified" its "investments" in "Center UA" -- not mentioning "New Citizen". According to the brief communiqué, ON has "invested" a total of $1.105 millon in "Center UA", $335,000 in 2011 and $770,000 in 2013, made to "amplify the voices of Ukrainian citizens" and "promote open and accountable government." The communiqué is somewhat at odds with other documents however.] compared to the $5 billion, Nuland claims the US has "invested in the development of democratic institutions and other goals" since Ukrainian independence over two decades ago. That works out to about $20million a year, not by any means a small sum, but what-- exactly -- it's been spent on, and how much has been spent during any given budget cycle remains to be investigated.

We don't know. These are not things our rulers think we should know, either.

Omidyar is by no means the most generous funder of the Ukrainian opposition, the United States government is, directly and through its myriad NGOs, but Omidyar's funding should be more than a little interesting to in light of events. Greenwald and Wheeler claim it is not, however, as the political activities of Mr. Omidyar -- who pays them -- are of no interest to them, nor is his involvement in overthrowing dictators abroad in concert with the interests of the US Government of any particular moment. Just business, I guess.

Such willful blindness is itself interesting for what it says about dedication to "adversarial journalism and transparency."

Of course, we are supposed to "wait" before we pass any judgement on these things. 6 months, say. OK?

No, the course has been set, and the destination is clear. We are being led into another round of an old Imperial contest that always -- ALWAYS -- harms ordinary people, and at some point, we the Rabble have to say, NO MORE.

We are being propagandized and manipulated to believe that (suddenly) Russia has been transformed into the Soviet Union and Putin has become the reincarnation of Stalin (or Hitler, depending.) Lies and fabrications are everywhere, and the risks to the Ukrainian people from all sides is horrendous.

I doubt what Pierre Omidyar has to do with it is any greater than what the native Ukrainian oligarchs have to do with it -- though I don't doubt his assistance is welcome. The people of Ukraine, however, are the losers. How badly they will lose remains to be seen, but they can gain nothing.

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