Jeffrey Sachs on the roots of the Ukraine war

May 30, 2023 at 3:15 pm (By Amba) ()

I am committing the breach of copying and pasting a part of Glenn Greenwald’s interview with economist Jeffrey Sachs, because I think it is so important that people see it who would not ordinarily be exposed to points of view in the alternative media, and who may even feel it is unsavory, kooky, or dangerous to go there.

Jeffrey Sachs is an insider turned class traitor, Davos man gone rogue, a fallen angel from the philanthropy–diplomacy empyrean, a whistleblower on neocon meddling. I can’t emphasize enough that he was there in 1989 and 1990 when one thing was said and another set of things began to be done.

Jeffrey Sachs: I posted a piece on Common Dreams, which people can take a look at, to gather a lot of hyperlinks and a lot of the underlying data and evidence but this story really goes back 34 years. It goes back to 1989, 1990, the U.S. and Germany were both very clear to Gorbachev – who was a godsend for the world, by the way, because he really was a man of peace, and I was profoundly honored to try to help him on the economic side, though, the White House was having none of it at the time – but in any event, Gorbachev believed in peace and he unilaterally disbanded the Warsaw Pact, which was the Soviet side NATO and Baker and Hans-Dietrich Genscher, the German foreign minister, repeated, time and again, to Gorbachev, and in many, many different forms, and so did the NATO secretary general and others: “We will not move NATO one inch eastward. We won’t do it.”  

I spoke to a wonderful historian who is working on this right now, who tells me that in the archives he’s come across, in 1992, not only the plans for NATO expansion, but Ukraine was already on the list for NATO expansion in 1992 when supposedly, in the public, there is no such thing as NATO expansion at all. But remember, in 1992, that was Cheney, Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld in the Bush senior administration. I thought: what could be worse? Well, we kept learning things can get worse even. And then in the Democratic Party, the love affair with the so-called ‘liberal hegemony,’ I don’t know what the liberal part is, but I know what the hegemony part is. That has been Nuland’s thing. And of course, her husband, Robert Kagan’s thing, for decades. This has been underway since the early 1990s. 

The Russians have been saying, and Gorbachev said, Don’t move eastward, we want peace, we want openness. I was actually an adviser to Gorbachev. I was an economic advisor to Yeltsin. I was an economic adviser to Leonid Kuchma, the first president of independent Ukraine. I’ve seen all of these people. Do you know what they wanted? They wanted normal life. They wanted to stop the Cold War. They did not want crazy things. They wanted normalcy and we wouldn’t give it – what we said: Normalcy? Yeah, that’s U.S. hegemony. That’s U.S. indispensable power. That’s the U.S. “We do what we want anywhere, we want when we want it.” And that has been the story all along. And frankly, I couldn’t imagine it at the time because I was watching with my own eyes as a young guy. Suddenly, the world had a chance for peace – and peace didn’t mean U.S. global hegemony, peace meant normal cooperation – but we couldn’t accept the deal of just being normal and cooperative. We had to say, “Now we lead” on everything. And that’s been the story since the beginning.

There are many steps to it. Clinton was the first violator of the promises, and Clinton was so inconsistent on everything. But this is one of the things he was inconsistent on. So, the first NATO expansion took place under Clinton and that was Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic; the next NATO expansion, seven countries by Bush Junior in 2004 – Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Romania and Bulgaria on the Black Sea. So, you had the Baltic states, you had Romania and Bulgaria. You’re starting to right up against Russia, Slovakia and Slovenia. 

Putin says, in 2007, stop, already, “Stop,” he says it in a famous speech at the Munich Security Conference in 2007. We don’t listen at all. 2008, Bush says “NATO is going to enlarge to Ukraine.” The European leaders, by the way, were aghast, and one of the European top leaders at the time called me, and said, What is your president doing? Of course, European leaders don’t say any of this publicly, but they say it privately, “This is crazy.” “This is so dangerous.” But of course, they were quiet. Bush pushed this through in 2008. 

Then there was a reprieve for Ukraine. The reprieve was that the president, Viktor Yanukovych, said, look, we’re in between two giants. We don’t want to be smashed in the middle. We take neutrality. But neutrality was a red flag for Victoria Nuland and her friends. And so, at the end of 2013, when demonstrations against the decision that Yanukovych had made to postpone signing an agreement with the EU started protests, believe me, the U.S., covertly and overtly in every other way, stirred that up massively. But in January and February 2014, they supported a violent insurrection that overthrew Yanukovych. And of course, notoriously Nuland was caught on tape, something we don’t talk about. But anyone go listen to it! […] 

G. Greenwald:  She picked the next leader! She picked the new leadership. 

Jeffrey Sachs: She’s planning the government weeks before the overthrow, calling exactly who would be the prime minister, by the way. It’s amazing. But the whole thing is amnesia – Don’t talk about any of this, though it’s so obvious! 

I had a weird experience personally, which was that when the government was overthrown and Yanukovych fled and Yatsenyuk was prime minister, just as Nuland said, I got a call: ‘Yatsenyuk wants to meet you. It’s a deep economic crisis.’ Okay. You know, I actually respond to those things when a government says we’re in a very deep financial crisis. So, I flew to Kyiv and I had an NGO brag to me about the role they played in the overthrow. And it was ugly. It left me shaking, you know, the kind of thing you just want to wash off. Don’t tell me this awful stuff, you had no business being part of a violent insurrection, but that’s the role we played. I went home. I didn’t go back. I was disgusted by the whole thing. But it was obvious then we were on a path toward war. This didn’t start with an “unprovoked invasion” on February 24, 2022. This started in February 2014 and it started with the U.S. participation in a coup. 

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After dreams

April 21, 2023 at 11:44 pm (By Amba) ()

It’s funny that I can identify some of the random real-world ingredients that went into these scenarios and characters; but, as in writing fiction only even more so, how and why the creating mind chose those bits and transformed them as it did is an unknowable mystery. It’s actually awesome. The creative power is infinite and, in dreams, effortless. All the work of creating awake is heaving the dull concrete of ego out of the way.

(“ego” meant not so much as self-promoting arrogance, though that can follow, but as the executive of our days, the negotiator with survival-simplified “reality.” “What it takes to survive” is an enforced social convention, like gender roles, based on something dimly real, but heavily filtered, interpreted, and then set in stone. It’s also a private superstition based on what we thought it took to survive in our early families. Ego mistrusts imagination because the new can fail.)

(Yet there are people who survive recklessly, seemingly by magic. We sometimes call them “dreamers.”)

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Thoughts on “Everything Everywhere All the Time”

March 10, 2023 at 12:33 pm (By Amba)

Crazy movie, reflective of the times. Infinite multiple universes is sort of a clever, diverting explanation for why nothing makes sense and it’s all coming at us too fast—less depressing than information overload and societal collapse. The survival skills required—fast reflexes and split-second ingenuity—are cleverly compared to superhero skills. You have to act without understanding—not only is there no time for understanding, but it’s not forthcoming. Variations on “But it doesn’t make any sense” are the most repeated line in the film.

The movie combines the popular genres of superhero special-effects action film and romantic dramedy. There’s quite a lot of family pain in it—any mother trying to save a self-destructive, alienated teen-age daughter from drugs or suicide will relate—as well as economic precarity and the struggling immigrant’s fear of Authority and women with unexpressed talents and dreams, and the more universal feeling that you’ve wasted your life and your potential. Everything everywhere packed into 2 hours. And the truism (verging on banality) that only love and kindness can make the lion (IRS agent) lie down with the lamb and bind all the shattered fragments together. I burst out laughing many times and also cried—couldn’t help it—it was sort of reliably wrung from me the way a vibrator makes you come whether you’re in the mood or not. Hollywood movies are engineered for that. The best part of the movie was the absurd humor. (An everything bagel has become a black hole. Rolly-eye stick-ons become power-conferring bindi dots.) The most interesting part was the acid-trippy strobing of one’s actual past and infinite possible selves.

So is it “good”? I’m not sure a movie can be “good” without a clear, strong storyline. But that dates me. That relic of a bygone era (the Newtonian storyline?) has been blown out of the water by . . . technology, which makes too much possible all at once and has scrambled both our world and our brains. At least the movie finds a way to represent that.

But does it deserve the Oscar?

It’s interesting that the IMDb reviews are so split. Some people really got it (especially the emotional subtext) and loved it. Others hated it. Not much in between that I could see.

My favorite image for the unraveling of it all remains Ursula K. LeGuin’s in The Lathe of Heaven, where the force undoing everything emanates from the black hole at the heart of a Bill Gates–like world-perfecting world-destroyer. And after that process is heroically stopped, what’s left is a lovable, highly imperfect jumble of all the worlds that have been tried.


Here is another take on the movie, specifically from an immigrant-family perspective. The alienation between generations is hardly exclusive to immigrant families—given rapid technological and cultural change, different American generations inhabit different worlds, period—but that tension is ratcheted up a couple of orders of magnitude when the generation gap spans space and language as well as time. (One thing I loved about this movie is the seamless mixture of Chinese and English Evelyn and Waymond speak and, for sure, think in. You overhear countless conversations lie that on the streets of New York.)

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On climate change

January 8, 2023 at 3:17 pm (Uncategorized)

I quoted (on FB) a paywalled Glenn Greenwald interview with libertarian congressman Justin Amash, who described how Congress has steadily devolved since 9/11 into a top-down, non-representative, antidemocratic rubber stamp for the corporate security state, and who saw the Raucous Caucus rebellion over Kevin McCarthy’s speakership as a perhaps deformed (from long repression) eruption of democracy. I got pushback from liberal commentators saying Amash was good when he criticized Trump but people like him want to disempower government from fighting climate change (while empowering it to fight women’s bodily autonomy).

Abortion’s a separate issue but I felt that my response regarding climate change summed up my own view of the issue as well as I ever will. So I’m saving it here.

But what [Amash] describes having evolved since 9/11 is not a functioning representative government, and it expands powers to control citizens, not corporations. It seems to me that government and business ought to be pitted against each other (as described by Greenwald’s other interview subject in this paywalled post, antitrust scholar Matt Stoller of the Substack “Big”) so that neither can get away with too much of a power grab. Presently they are in cahoots to take away rights and protections from citizens, even as they pretend otherwise.

If you are concerned about climate change, are you OK with very coercive enforcement of green norms (e.g., curbing people’s spending and travel via a central bank digital currency and UBI, and/or docking their “social credit score” and restricting their access, and/or freezing their bank accounts)? Or would you prefer people to become enlightened and persuaded (and enticed by new products) to change their own behavior? It’s a mess, because climate science is both genuinely contested and vigorously manipulated and exploited. Those who downplay anthropogenic climate change say they’re defending freedom but are funded by oil companies; those who believe strict government controls will be necessary say they’re “saving the planet” but are backed by an agenda to control the population in other ways, such as free expression of political dissent. To repeat: it is a mess.

Here’s the link to the paywalled post. It is so eye-opening, I would recommend anyone pay $5 for a one-month subscription just to be able to read it.…/who-holds-power-in…

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Molecules of Dad getting tossed in the hurricane destroying SW Florida*

September 28, 2022 at 2:03 pm (Uncategorized)

What freedom, to fly with the storm rather
than fear it and futilely try
to shield structures from it — houses, bodies . . .
Smash, Dad! Fly!

(as you once wrote to me Blog! Dance!)

*we scattered half of my father’s ashes in Estero Bay, where he loved to fish

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Things too Dangerous to Say on Social Media

June 10, 2022 at 11:54 am (By Amba) (, )

I put here, on the assumption that very few people will tear themselves away from Twitter, etc., long enough to look. (Not that I have anything I can be canceled from. Obscurity confers freedom of speech.)

Woke totalitarianism:

Maybe the main thing wrong with it is that there are too many white people running it. Again!

“Wokeness” began as raised consciousness of two truths: 1) racism profoundly, multigenerationally, deliberately deprived and damaged people of color, economically and psychologically; 2) present racism persists, insidious and poorly hidden, alongside the lingering effects of past, cruder racism.

“Woke totalitarianism,” however, seems largely driven by white people wanting to get out ahead of what white people perceive as “guilt” and “blame” by bullying other white people.

Why don’t white people just stay out of it and let people “of color,” with their very diverse views and ideas, hash out among themselves what is in their best interests?

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May 12, 2022 at 1:47 am (By Amba) ()

If I could vomit up a lump of industrial slag it still wouldn’t be an adequate depiction of the chaos, the crisis, the detritus, the deformity, the goya monsters gagged up out of crude oil slime pits.

The situation is so absurd, not only mine but everyone’s. Human being has become unworkable. We’re all suffering from nonsense. We’ve created a world that doesn’t align with our own needs. It’s made from our craving, boredom and greed. Nature and its extensions into culture which used to cool and channel all that has become occluded, crippled. We’re destroying our own support system, not only physically but psychically. We don’t know how to live in this world of our own creation because it’s nonsense. Hubris has unmoored us.

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Gender in K–3

March 15, 2022 at 2:17 pm (Uncategorized)

I was reading this alarming article about Ron DeSantis and I realized that the article assumed my alarm included unquestioning support for every detail of what DeSantis opposes and means to outlaw. I get claustrophobic when I feel myself being corralled into one of these “you’re 1,000% with us or you’re against us” thought-traps.

Specifically: Does it make ANY sense to talk to K through 3–age kids IN SCHOOL about ANY kind of gender or sexuality? (This changes as kids get older and look around and ask questions, but I’ll keep it simple for now.)

I get that what we used to call “square” norms have been inculcated and enforced unthinkingly for centuries and that this can drive nonconforming kids even unto suicide. I get that school can be a refuge from cruelty at home.

I also get that kids don’t see any of this the way adults do. They are not yet alienated from their bodies. From what I remember of being a kid plus some observation, they have a vague, matter-of-fact notion of their own anatomy, and an even vaguer conception of “the facts of life,” notions that range from fanciful to indifferent. They are curious, but their curiosity is fleeting and quickly supplanted by other interests. They are not obsessed the way we become as puberty sweeps in, and remain in defiance as the tide ebbs decades later.

It seems to me that an age-appropriate and kind way to treat these issues in K–3 would be neither “Don’t Say Gay” nor “Do Say Gay (trans, etc.),” but something in the spirit of the Silver Rule, “Do not do to others as you would not have them do unto you.” The Via Negativa. Like:

  • Don’t bring the subject up or enforce explicit lessons on it—of ANY agenda, traditional OR radical.
  • Model matter-of-fact acceptance that some kids in the class have two parents of the same sex. That families vary (in all kinds of ways) is a normal fact of life. No two people are alike. This is one of the glories of nature.
  • Do not enforce or preferentially reward either conforming or nonconforming gender dress and behavior. Allow kids to do what they choose, and to experiment, if they choose, without comment, except to forbid and decry cruelty in your presence. (Some kids will be cruel outside of your presence, but at least they will have seen there’s another way to be.)
  • Some kids’ families will be ideological and enforcing on this subject, one way or the other. This is the hard part: Model acceptance that families are different in their attitudes, too. School is not a place to find out that your family is wrong (unless they are physically endangering you). School is a place to discover that your family’s attitude is not the only one.

I want to sum all this up as “Leave kids the fuck alone,” but then I remember that people say “Leave me alone” when what they really mean is “Let me be.” Let kids be, but don’t abandon them.

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Pregnant People

October 11, 2021 at 10:13 am (By Amba) (, , , )

I have two reactions to an article about COVID and “pregnant people.” (It was funny to see that article slip back into “pregnant women,” only to yank itself out of that lapse of attention and get the right words in the display window again. Editorial regression.)

1.) Are there really a lot of non-women “pregnant people,” or are we just scanning the horizon anxiously for offense we might give, inadvertently wounding or excluding a few? White, straight people belling themselves like cats, to walk jangling with warnings, “Here comes a predator”? Of course, probably more than there are pregnant trans men (is that common? what effect do male hormones have on a fetus?), there are people we might call “women” who would call themselves nonbinary “they”s out of “solidarity” (what a solemn, stilted language we speak with a Twitter gun to our heads) with “obligatory” nonbinary people and out of a desire to revolutionize what’s regarded by conservatives as “human nature,” but what is really a jumble of nature, habit, history, custom, prejudice, and inertia. With the latter I have some sympathy, but utopian projects always run up against . . . something. The aforementioned jumble, like the barriers of debris left by a receding flood. Don’t underestimate the power of inertia—thousands of years of it, propelled by no-longer-existent survival conditions—or confuse it with nature. It was a selective shaping of nature to begin with.

“Human nature” is code for “the way we used to do things” when we had much smaller populations under very different threats. There are differences—maybe greater between individuals than between sexes—but we don’t really know what they are, because they’re obscured by what we’ve made out of them. It’s like trying to learn about ore by studying an airplane.

So while I’m turned off by the goose-stepping enforcement and the absolute humorlessness of self-appointed victim-advocate-bullies, the gender revolution has a point—a point which as usual, we’re turning into an intolerant caricature and a new conformity, when it was supposed to increase freedom.

My other reaction is much simpler:

2) Thanks for finally admitting that women are people!

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Drugs and me

September 23, 2021 at 11:27 am (By Amba) (, , )

Comments I wrote on this Freddie de Boer post about falling out with marijuana. It’s worth reading the post and the comments, where all sorts of varied insights are shared.

Interesting. I never got into the regular or frequent marijuana smoking habit the way it seems the vast majority of my peers did (I’m an old, VERY old baby boomer). I actually never bought any (true, though it sounds even to me like Bill Clinton saying “I didn’t inhale”). I was the mooch who smoked it when it was passed around at parties or when friends or siblings had some, and I had fantastic, fascinating, strange and pleasurable experiences, which were few enough so I still remember most of them in detail. I didn’t WANT to smoke it more often precisely because these experiences were so special and different. I would ponder each one for days or weeks afterward. I’m still pondering them!Recently I’ve occasionally accepted hits (vape or smoke) without much effect, despite the fabled strength of cultivated strains. (Whereas one or two hits of a joint at a new year’s party around 1980 sent me through the roof.) I also recently had my first tiny edible, a little iridescent gel cube, and enjoyed it a lot—it was a laughing strain. I’ve never done shrooms (synthetic mesc was as far as I got into psychedelics before I met Mr. Clean, who literally made me flush the remaining caps down the toilet—but that’s another story; I found the mesc fairytale magical, and I still ponder that too, but not mystical or ego-annihilating). I fully intend to do some when my responsibilities lighten, and I look forward to it.
I still have the rare mesc flashback, 50 years later, when I’m in some altered state like from being hungry or sleep-deprived, or for reasons unknown. I’ll be riding the New York subway, and adults will begin looking to me like borderline monsters, their faces twisted from within by trauma and avidity. If there is a small child in sight, I’ll look at the child for relief. They are perfect, pure as candles, like angels in hell.
I most definitely do not need the self-critical thing. I have more than enough of that sober.

I know two people who may well have been tipped into schizophrenia by [marijuana]. Apparently it’s known that multiple genes are involved in the susceptibility. There almost should be a “don’t smoke [lots of] weed” genetic test.

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