capital innovation in Russia…

The Loophole to End, Er, Open All Loopholes – The Russian Trust

President Vladimir Putin has lost the war. Not the one with Washington for the future of Europe, eastern Ukraine, and the Kremlin itself. That war isn’t going so badly for Putin. The one he is losing is with the Russian oligarchs on whether they will repatriate their assets from their offshore havens, subject themselves to genuine auditors, and pay Russian tax.

Putin conceded defeat, a powerful international banker believes, when the president announced late last month that he accepts the establishment of Russian trusts to hold assets and income onshore and offshore without liability to pay domestic tax. According to Putin on March 25, “this is an innovation in our legislation, which before we didn’t have.”

“Russian capital,” the banker says, “has been saying from the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine that it wants Putin to abandon his deoffshorization plan. It’s going to succeed because the sanctions imposed since the conflict began have cut off the regular supply of capital to Russia. Capital isn’t patriotic, at least not in Russia. Putin is obliged to pretend he can persuade the oligarchs to act in the country’s interest. But he’s pretending. The proposed new law on trusts shows it.”

The proposal to legislate for the Russian version of Common Law, English-type independent trusts was put to Putin explicitly last October by the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RUIE, Russian acronym RSPP). It ran into opposition at the Finance Ministry. On December 19, when Putin hosted Christmas carols for the oligarchs (pictured below), Finance Minister Anton Siluanov wasn’t assigned a place. For more on who sat where and what was sung, read this.

Richest Russians Repatriate Assets as Putin Turns Tax Screw

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When is more government okay?

Going Backwards: Texas House Moves to Gut Municipal Fracking Bans

The Texas House overwhelmingly approved a bill on Friday that would gut the power of municipalities to pass anti-fracking rules, angering environmentalists and cities across the state.

Conservative state lawmakers have been working hard to halt a growing anti-fracking movement since lastNovember, when voters in the town of Denton shocked Big Oil by voting to outlaw fracking. The ordinance prohibiting fracking within the city limits passed 58.64% to 41.36%. Denton is the birthplace of the fracking industry.

“This is a dangerous power grab by Big Oil to stomp out the rights of communities to protect themselves from the worst impacts of dirty drilling,” said Luke Metzger, Director of Environment Texas. “They won’t settle for just overturning the Denton ban but are taking aim at ordinances across the state that limit drilling near homes, schools and parks as well as many other health and safety standards.”

Metzger noted the House approved the bill on the second anniversary of the explosion of the West fertilizer plant which claimed 15 lives. “The tragedy in West clearly showed the need for stronger safety protections on hazardous facilities, but instead the House is moving in the opposite direction. Fracking operations, involving large amounts of flammable, volatile and toxic materials, are inherently dangerous and cities need the authority to protect public health and safety. Today’s vote is an outrage.”

The Texas Oil and Gas Association, in a YouTube video released last month, argued against municipal control, saying “the state is in the best position to ensure public safety.” But according to data from the National Institute on Money in State Politics, the three elected commissioners of the Texas Railroad Commission (the state’s primary oil and gas regulator) accepted more than $2 million in campaign contributions from the industry during the 2012 election cycle. The industry donated more than $5 million to Texas legislators during 2013 and 2014, according to a Texans for Public Justice report. The average House member pocketed more than $25,000.

Beer drinkers join the fight against fracking with claims it poses a ‘substantial threat to the quality of real ale’

Members of the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) will this week vote on a proposal to oppose the controversial drilling process, in which water, sand and chemicals are injected into rock at high pressure. A motion being debated at Camra’s annual conference in Nottingham calls for it to “oppose fracking and unconventional hydrocarbon exploration and extraction on both a local and national scale”.

The motion is not without precedent. The German Brewers Association was one of the groups that successfully lobbied for a law, approved this month, which bans fracking in specified regions of Germany with the aim of protecting drinking water, health and the environment. Now British beer drinkers are worried their pints could be under threat. Last month a “frack-free” bitter called Rising Dragon was launched by the Axiom brewery in Wrexham. It is described as “a non-profit making beer” with all proceeds going to the anti-fracking movement.

Texas-sized Dose of Hypocrisy Served Up To Local Governments Statewide in an Effort to Overturn Denton’s Fracking Ban

The hypocrisy of what is happening in Austin struck many, including Denton Councilman Kevin Roden.

“The whole tone is very anti-city. They are against the plastic bag ordinance, the tree ordinance, anti-smoking, texting while driving ordinances, too. Nationally, it is a conservative principle to fight for local control, yet this Republican-led coalition is doing the opposite,” Roden said….

Mailie Bush, a Denton resident and mother of two and a member of the Denton Drilling Awareness Group, was offended that Austin thinks it knows more than the local municipalities do.

“They are trying to take away control from us to make our own decisions. They don’t know what it is like to live this close to oil and gas development. Maybe if they spent some time here they would see why we needed to pass the ban,” she told DeSmogBlog.

“It is discouraging to see everything you worked for to protect your family is going down the tubes. However it also motivates; this cannot stand. It energizes me and makes me ask, what can I do now-what do I have to do to get them to listen to me,” Bush said.

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fixing racism…

Common’s Song for Black America: Extend a Hand of Love to White Supremacy

Common’s appearance on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show officially anointed the veteran hip-hop artist into Black misleadership status. The interview was a blatant display of affection for the rule of white supremacy and US Empire. In response to a question on the relevancy of institutional racism, Common shamelessly promoted a politics of respectability by explaining that Black Americans should extend a “hand of love” to White America. Black people should also forget about the past as someone would do to mend a romantic relationship. And similar to a fight with a romantic partner, Black America’s motto should be “baby, let’s get past this.”

These comments propelled Common into the club of Hip-Hop artists that have jumped on the backward politics of the Obama era. Jay-Z, Nas, Chuck D and scores of other hip-hop artists have sought to capitalize on Obama’s influence on the Black political landscape. Jay-Z’s cozy relationship with Obama, Nas’s admiration of Obama and Skip Gates, and Chuck D’s plea that Black America re-elect Obama in 2012 are all examples of the way the Black misleadership class has thrived in the corporate hip-hop machine. For a long time, young people of my generation saw Common specifically as a “conscious” rapper that promoted positive political messages in songs like “6th Sense” and “Song for Assata.” Ironically, his Daily Show comments place him in the same plane as those working to murder Assata Shakur and erase hip-hop’s radical roots.

Common’s induction into the Black misleadership class should come as no surprise. As the corporate media has consolidated into six mega corporations, monopolies like Viacom have virtually erased grassroots hip-hop from mass accessibility. The corporatization of hip-hop has occurred alongside the rise of the Black misleadership class. Barack Obama was Wall Street’s top choice to lead this class in an era of permanent capitalist crisis. Wall Street expected the well-groomed Obama to defend and expand its policy of permanent war, repression, and austerity. He did so with flying colors and made sure to keep Jay-Z on speed-dial as an added public relations boost. Hip-Hop artists past and present jumped at the opportunity to solidify their careers through the promotion of the anti-Black, war criminal Commander in Chief. This is where the corporate media and the Obama era converged most acutely.

Common’s advice to exonerate white America of its crimes is all Black America has heard over the last seven years from Obama and the media. In every speech or statement where Obama felt compelled to chastise Black Americans, the primary message has been to forgive, to forget, and to remember that his presidency is all the oppressed Black majority should ever demand from racist America. Common’s words are thus a mere reinforcement of the neo-liberal, Obama consensus that Black Americans and all oppressed people for that matter should focus on making a career within empire instead of fighting the genocidal and oppressive system of white supremacy.

White Supremacists Use Black-on-White Crime as Propaganda Tool

White supremacists have renewed their calls for actions against so-called “black crime,” which they equate with hate crimes. Hate crimes, however, have a very specific meaning: they are criminal offenses against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation. White supremacists believe that any crime committed by an African-American against a white person is motivated by race.

On Stormfront, a popular white supremacist Internet forum, one poster recently asked people to join in a planned rally against black crime in Knoxville, Tennessee, scheduled for June 2012. The purpose of the rally would be to protest against new trials for black assailants who allegedly tortured and murdered a young white couple in that city in 2007. At that time, the incident mobilized the white supremacist community, which held rallies and distributed flyers that accused the media of ignoring what they considered to be a heinous hate crime. Police in Knoxville who investigated the crime said that the victims had not been targeted because of their race.

In May 2012, the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement (NSM) announced that it would investigate a number of alleged incidents around the country in which whites were reportedly the victims of crimes committed by black youths or other minorities. In particular, the NSM mentioned an alleged attack against two white reporters by black youths in Norfolk, Virginia, and assaults against white men in Mobile, Alabama, and Baltimore, Maryland. The NSM has called for hate crime charges to be filed in these cases and wrote on its Web site that “if the roles had been reversed and it was a White mob that had attacked a Black citizen, it would have been labeled a ‘lynching’ by the major media…We have discovered a disturbing pattern of the systematic cover up and refusal of prosecutors to prosecute offenders under these [hate crime] statutes when the perpetrators are Black and the victims are White.”

That same month, the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan posted “a warning for white Americans” on their message board that claimed that there has been a significant rise recently in violent black-on-white crime across the country and that “this new racially motivated pandemic is mostly ignored by the liberal news media.” The group asserted that it will organize a national distribution of fliers across the county “warning White Americans of the dangers to them and their families when approached by large groups of blacks.” They added: “The Liberal Government jew [sic] media refuse to report fairly on these hate crimes so it our duty war our fellow Kinsmen of the violence being perpetrated against our Great Race.”

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“mission creep” in the Ukraine or emerging NATO “sphere of influence”?

US ‘Trainers’ Arrive in Ukraine for Operation Fearless Guardian

Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a statement Friday rebuking the troops’ arrival.

“The participation of instructors and specialists from a third country on the territory of Ukraine, where an unresolved intra-Ukrainian conflict remains, where problems persist in carrying out the Minsk agreement, is far from helping resolve the conflict. To the contrary, it enables destabilizing the situation,” spokesperson Dmitry Peskov stated.

The Kremlin isn’t alone in criticizing the operation, as the Ottawa Citizen reported this week:

But some foreign affairs experts say the decision to send Canadian, British and U.S. training troops to Ukraine could worsen matters with nuclear-armed Russia.

“Canada’s decision is not only provocative to Russia but it’s dangerous,” said retired Canadian diplomat James Bissett. “We are poking at them unnecessarily.”

And Columnist and author Eric Margolis wrote earlier this year that the sending of the purported trainers was part of “the march to folly in Ukraine”:

The US soldiers will just be for training, and the number of GI’s will be modest, claim US military sources. Of course. Just like those small numbers of American “advisors” and “trainers” in Vietnam that eventually grew to 550,000. Just as there are now US special forces in over 100 countries. We call it “mission creep.”

The UN Human Rights Office and the World Health Organization estimate that over 6,100 people have been killed and over 15,000 wounded in the conflict since April 2014.

The New York Times “basically rewrites whatever the Kiev authorities say”: Stephen F. Cohen on the U.S./Russia/Ukraine history the media won’t tell you

The problem is that by taking the view, as the American media and political establishment do, that this crisis is entirely the fault of “Putin’s aggression,” there’s no rethinking of American policy over the last 20 years. I have yet to see a single influential person say, “Hey, maybe we did something wrong, maybe we ought to rethink something.” That’s a recipe for more of the same, of course, and more of the same could mean war with Russia….

Let me give you one example. It’s the hardest thing for the American foreign policy elite and the media elite to cope with.

Our position is that nobody is entitled to a sphere of influence in the 21st century. Russia wants a sphere of influence in the sense that it doesn’t want American military bases in Ukraine or in the Baltics or in Georgia. But what is the expansion of NATO other than the expansion of the American zone or sphere of influence? It’s not just military. It’s financial, it’s economic, it’s cultural, it’s intermarriage—soldiers, infrastructure. It’s probably the most dramatic expansion of a great sphere of influence in such a short time and in peacetime in the history of the world.

So you have Vice President Biden constantly saying, “Russia wants a sphere of influence and we won’t allow it.” Well, we are shoving our sphere of influence down Russia’s throat, on the assumption that it won’t push back. Obviously, the discussion might well begin: “Is Russia entitled to a zone or sphere in its neighborhood free of foreign military bases?” Just that, nothing more. If the answer is yes, NATO expansion should’ve ended in Eastern Germany, as the Russians were promised. But we’ve crept closer and closer. Ukraine is about NATO-expansion-no-matter-what. Washington can go on about democracy and sovereignty and all the rest, but it’s about that. And we can’t re-open this question…. The hypocrisy, or the inability to connect the dots in America, is astonishing.

US-NATO Antics in the Nuclear Playground

The commander of US-NATO forces, the vigorously vocal General Breedlove, stated on April 7 that the military alliance’s planners “have been working tirelessly to enhance NATO’s Response Force and implement the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, and today our progress is manifested in the rapid deployments we see happening in locations across the Alliance.”

Breedlove is the man who declared on March 5 that Russia had sent combat troops and massive quantities of military equipment into Ukraine. He said that President Putin had “upped the ante” in eastern Ukraine by deploying “well over a thousand combat vehicles, Russian combat forces, some of their most sophisticated air defense, battalions of artillery.” His military opinion was that “What is clear is that right now, it is not getting better. It is getting worse every day.”

He spoke absolute drivel, because the ceasefire between Ukrainian forces and separatists in the east of the country was working, albeit shakily, and things were quietening down. The last thing that was needed was provocation. Silence and, or at the most, calm, reasoned comments were essential if both sides were to be encouraged to cool it.

But this man, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, the man who has the trust of the American president, the prime nuclear button-shover, told a deliberate lie intended to increase tension.

The manufactured tension built up and on April 7 Breedlove’s HQ announced that the militaries of “11 Allied nations, Germany, Poland, Norway, Denmark, Hungary, Lithuania, Croatia, Portugal, and Slovenia tested their Headquarters’ response to alert procedures,” while “in the afternoon of 7 April, the 11th Air Mobile Brigade in The Netherlands and the 4th Rapid Reaction Brigade in the Czech Republic were given orders to rapidly prepare to deploy their troops and equipment” in a maneuver called “Noble Jump” which conjured up an image of a missile-wielding April bunny leaping into the fray against a coyly unnamed enemy who could be no other than Russia. (Although perhaps Russia need not be too troubled about some of NATO’s war preparations. My sources told me that the practice mobilization of the Dutch brigade was a shambles.)

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“To publish Eduardo Galeano is to publish the enemy: the enemy of lies, indifference, above all of forgetfulness.”

Remembering Eduardo Galeano, Champion of Social Justice & Chronicler of Latin America’s Open Veins

The writer John Berger said of Eduardo Galeano, quote, “To publish Eduardo Galeano is to publish the enemy: the enemy of lies, indifference, above all of forgetfulness. Thanks to him, our crimes will be remembered. His tenderness is devastating, his truthfulness furious.”

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