Saturday, May 31, 2014

Coups, Sanctions, Assassinations Plots, and Gunboat Diplomacy: America's Continues Winning Ways in Venezuela

US moves towards sanctions as Venezuela charges coup plot

by Bill Van Auken - WSWS

The US House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved legislation mandating sanctions against Venezuela as officials there presented evidence of US involvement in a plot to bring down the government of President Nicolas Maduro.

The bill, passed in a voice vote by the House with only 14 members in opposition, demands that the Obama administration draw up a list of Venezuelan officials allegedly responsible for repression during violent protests that have been organized across the South American country since last February. They would be sanctioned with the freezing of any assets in the US and the denial or revocation of visas.

Washington’s step closer toward another blatant imperialist intervention against Venezuela came on the same day that government officials in Caracas publicly presented what they described as evidence of US involvement in a plot by the far-right in Venezuela to overthrow the government and assassinate President Maduro.

The evidence consisted of emails between ex-deputy Maria Corina Machado, a long-time recipient of US funding, and other figures on the Venezuelan right. One of these messages, sent to another former right-wing legislator at the height of the violent protests, declared that a former top State Department official on Latin America and current US ambassador to Colombia “Kevin Whitaker reconfirms his support and indicated new steps.”

Other emails reference financial backing for the protest, implicating a corrupt Venezuelan banker who fled the country for Miami to evade criminal charges.

And an email dated May 23 cited by the officials of the ruling party speaks of the need to “annihilate Maduro.” It continues, “We have to clean this rubbish, starting at the top, taking advantage of the global climate provided by Ukraine and now Thailand.” The reference to the two countries—in the first the US openly fomented a coup and in the second it gave a military seizure of power its tacit backing—has ominous implications.

Machado denounced the charges against her as an “infamy,” claiming that she had not used the email account from which the messages were sent for a year. Meanwhile, the State Department called the charges “baseless and false,” while providing no explanation for the emails or Whitaker’s role. It characterized the charges as an attempt by the Venezuelan government to “distract from its own actions by blaming the United States.”

The legislation passed by the House, dubbed the “Venezuelan Human Rights and Democracy Protection Act,” also creates a new $15 million fund “to provide assistance to civil society in Venezuela,” i.e., to pour additional funding into the right-wing opposition that is seeking to topple the country’s elected government. It calls for the money to be appropriated to “assist and train” so-called “democracy activists,” to provide “secure mobile and other communications through connective technology among human rights and democracy advocates in Venezuela,” and to provide “emergency resources” for such “activists” and “advocates.”

Similar legislation has been approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and must still be voted upon by the full Senate.

An indication of the growing wave of support for such measures within the US ruling political establishment came on Thursday with the publication in the Washington Post of an editorial entitled “Sanctions on Venezuelan officials may bring them to the table” calling for the implementation of sanctions.

The Obama administration has expressed reservations about sanctions. It prefers for the moment to utilize mediation efforts by Latin American foreign ministers and the Vatican in organizing “dialogue” between Maduro and the opposition as a means of weakening the government and pushing it further to the right.

In a statement last week, Secretary of State John Kerry declared that Washington was “losing patience” with Venezuela and that all options “remain on the table at this time.” He added, however, that, “our hope is that sanctions won’t be necessary.”

Similarly, in a Thursday press conference, Roberta Jacobson, the US assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, argued that the administration could impose sanctions unilaterally and needed no congressional legislation to do so. As for sanctions against Venezuela, she added, “We do not feel that now is the right time”

Jacobson continued:
“… as you look at the tools you use and you see whether or not they work, you have to keep looking, right, for things that are effective. And I think each of us in the region may have different perceptions of how long our timeline is, how much patience each of us might have for a solution.”

These repeated references to US “patience” running out for Venezuela contain a clearly implied threat of direct US intervention should other means of pressure fail.

Nonetheless, President Maduro responded with praise for Jacobson, declaring in a Thursday television broadcast that he “saluted” her statements, which he said were a “call for reason.” The Venezuelan president went on to announce that he was appointing Maximilian Arveláez as the new chargé d’Affaires at the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington. The post is the highest at the embassy following the mutual expulsion of diplomats by Caracas and Washington. The two countries have not exchanged ambassadors since 2010.

He said he was sending Arveláez “to tell the truth about the country and neutralize the many lies said about Venezuela” and to establish closer ties so that the two countries can “achieve cooperation in important continental and global issues.”

In a futile gesture last February, Maduro appointed Arveláez as Venezuela’s ambassador to Washington, but the Obama administration rebuffed this diplomatic feeler.

“I want better relations of respect and permanent communication with the United States; relations that set a new model for relations between that country and Latin America,” Maduro said in announcing this latest appointment of Arveláez.

He appealed directly to President Barack Obama, declaring, “sooner rather than later we have to sow relations of respect.”

Behind all of the Maduro administration’s “anti-imperialist” rhetoric and invocations of “Bolivarian socialism,” it is a bourgeois government committed to the defense of the profit interests of the banks, domestic capitalists and transnational corporations. It is dependent upon revenues from oil exports, about 40 percent of which go to the US.

The close ties between the government and American capitalism found stark expression recently in the signing of a $2 billion credit agreement between the state-controlled Venezuelan oil company, PDVSA, and a group of energy service firms led by the infamous American contractor Halliburton. The move is part of Maduro’s bid to open up Venezuela’s oil industry to greater foreign investment.

US imperialism is nonetheless determined to impose its unrestricted hegemony over Venezuela and its oil reserves, the largest in the world. It is to this end that it advances its campaign for regime change under the banners of “human rights” and “democracy.”

This campaign is utterly hypocritical. Who is Obama to preach “human rights” to Maduro while overseeing drone assassinations, wholesale surveillance against the world’s population and growing repression within the US itself?

Washington’s aim is to bring back to power political forces that ruled the country in 1989, when the Venezuelan government responded to the so-called Caracazo —mass protests against an IMF-dictated austerity program—by unleashing a bloodbath. As many as 3,000 people were killed after the government sent the army into the streets.

Meanwhile conditions are building up for a similar explosion. Recent figures show that price rises for the first quarter of this year reached their highest point in the last 18 years, with annual inflation topping 59 percent in March.

The inflation, a series of devaluations and signs of deepening recession have had a brutal effect upon the working class, with Venezuela’s National Institute of Statistics reporting that the ranks of those living in extreme poverty rose to 9.8 percent of the population last year. This is compared to 7.1 percent as recently as the second half of 2012.

Meanwhile, negotiations are continuing between the government and the country’s corporate and financial executives on economic measures that will inevitably spell even deeper attacks on the living standards of the country’s working people.

Ukraine Situation Reports: May 29/30, 2014

Ukraine Situation Report: Poroshenko's Weird War

by ICH via The Vineyard of the Saker

Ukraine SITREP May 29th

Introduction: the broader background to the Ukrainian crisis

Before looking at the latest developments in the Ukraine, I think that it is important to at least mention two major developments involving Russia. First, Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus have signed the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and they will soon be joined by Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. Second, China has officially called for a new security alliance with Russia and Iran thereby proving that all the naysayers who said that China did not really mean it to form an alliance with Russia were plain wrong. As I mentioned it in a previous SITREP the scope and nature of the recent economic agreements between Russia and China already constituted what I called a crypto-alliance and now we see the first official move by China to drop the 'crypto' part of it. Again, this is truly a major tectonic shift in world politics and, arguable, the creation of the most powerful coalition of countries in history. The title of Godfather of this new coalition should really go to the USA and Barak Obama who by his amazingly arrogant and hostile policies towards both China and Russia has greatly contributed to the forging of this alliance.

This process is far from over, by the way. Not only are there discussions to expand the BRICS to other countries (like Argentina), the SCO or CSTO could also be expanded to include countries such as Iran or Pakistan. AS for the Eurasian Economic Union, it will eventually morph into a single political entity, a Eurasian alliance which could include China in economic and/or security agreements.

Lukashenko, Nazarbaev and Putin sign the EEU

The entire Eurasian landmass is slowly but inexorably becoming integrated into a zone free from AngloZionist control and free of the dollar. The writing is on the wall for the AngloZionist Empire.

Latest developments in the Ukraine

The Ukrainian offensive has seen yet another dramatic escalation with, for the first time, the use of "Grad" multiple rocket launchers on the city of Slaviansk. At least one Ukrainian helicopter, reportedly carrying a general and 12 other people, has been shot down by the Novorossia Defense Forces (NDF). Sporadic artillery fire, at times intensive, has been heard through the night and casualties continue to be brought into the local hospitals. Several Ukrainian units have put down their weapons and basically surrendered to the NDF. In Sebastopol special headquarters have been set up to deal with the flow of incoming refugees. In Kiev the Parliament is considering declaring martial law which would basically give unlimited power to the junta and suspend most civil rights.

There are two ways to look at these events. You could say that a lot happened, there is an escalation taking place, people on both sides die, helicopters got shot down, units are refusing to obey criminal order, etc. But you could also say that from a purely military point of view absolutely nothing happened at all. Think of it this way:

What have we seen since the junta began its terror operation in Novorossiia? Slaviansk and Kramatorsk have been besieged and shelled. The junta forces have seized the airports near Slaviansk/Kramatorsk and Donetsk. That's it.

Now let me immediately dispel the notion that these airports are somehow strategically important. They are not. Normally, in most military conflicts, airports are very important objects, especially their runways and radars. But in this case the seizure of the Slaviansk/Kramatorsk and Donetsk airports has not been followed by any use of them by the junta, if only because there is way too much combat still taking place around them to make their use safe. Besides, what need is there for airports when everything can be reached by road anyway? What about denying the use of this airport to either the NDF or the Russians should they decide to intervene? Well, the NDF has no air assets at all, as for the Russians they sure don't need an airport to land an Airborne Regiment, Brigade or even Division. So why did the junta decide to commit its best forces to seize these airports? Simple - because they are not cities. Or, put differently, because they are located outsides cities. The fact is that the junta simply does not have the forces needed to occupy and control any city, so this is why they go for objectives which are outside cities.

Petr Poroshenko has announced that what the junta calls the "anti-terrorist operation" should not last for weeks, but only hours. So this begs the question: if the entire mix of junta forces (military + death-squads) have not succeeded in taking either Slaviansk (hab: 130'000)or Kramatorsk (hab: 165'000), what are their chances to take Donetsk (hab: 1'000'000)? Zero, of course. And even less than zero if that is to be done in a matter of a few days and hours.

So what is the point of all this?

Is it that the political leaders and the junta are simply stupid or completely miss-informed?

No, it's not that simple. For one thing, to speak of a "junta's strategy" or "Poroshenko's strategy" is plain wrong as this accepts they myth that that is an independent government in the Ukraine. There is none. Truly, all the decisions are taken by Uncle Sam and his representatives in Kiev and the so-called authorities are just the USA's collaborators who simply take orders form their boss. And for all their sins, the folks in DC are neither stupid not poorly informed. So what is their strategy in this frankly weird civil war?

Ideally, the first objective of the AngloZionists would be to trigger a Russian military intervention in protection of Novorossiia. That would re-create the kind of Cold War tensions these folks are so nostalgic for. It would give a justification for the existence of NATO and, if played well, it could even result in NATO and Russian forces looking at each other across the Dniepr river. Not only would such a situation be a dream come true for the US military-industrial complex, it would make it possible for the USA to achieve one of its most important strategic objective: to keep Europe colonized and to prevent any chance of its integration with the East.

Far from being stupid, this strategy is nothing short of brilliant as it gives Putin only two choices: if Russia does not intervene Putin will look weak, indecisive, or even like a traitor to the Russian people, but if Russia does intervene, then Putin will be called the "New Hitler" or "New Stalin", a crazed Russian nationalist hell-bent on re-building the Soviet Union and crushing the freedom-loving Europeans under his tanks. Are these cliches? Yes, of course, but they will be used. So for Putin its "damned if you do, and damned if you don't".

Second option: to wear down the NDF to the point where they will eventually surrender. Not very likely, but in theory possible. Should that happen, this could be presented as a double victory for Poroshenko: he crushed the "terrorists" and he "deterred the Russian Bear". Again, this is a lot of wishful thinking, but in theory the US might see that as a unlikely but possible outcome.

Option three: the old US strategy of "what I cannot have, I burn down". Basically, the strategy here is to destroy and damage as much of Novorossiia as possible, making a recovery as long and costly as possible. This is also a lesson to all those who dare defy the Empire: you disobey and we will make you pay.

Russian options:

As I mentioned above, Russia really has very few options to chose from. Any direct Russian intervention in the Ukraine - which in military terms would be a no-brainer - would have huge political consequences for the future of Europe's stability. In essence, by not intervening Russia is denying the USA the Cold War v2 it wants so badly. Should Russia intervene, and that is very possible, it would mean that the Kremlin accepts that the real price of its intervention is a long term re-submission of all of Europe to US interests.

Russia does, of course, have the option of covertly assisting the NDF and there is no doubt in my mind that it is already doing it, but this can only be done in a very careful and remote manner in order to avoid giving the US any proof of covert support. Still, advanced anti-air and anti-tank weapons are clearly shown on some videos which shows that somebody is helping the resistance.

Russia has also begun leaking information about the Ukrainian units involved in terror operations against the people of the Donbass. For example, Russian TV has announced yesterday that the following units have been involved in the bombing of the Donetsk airport: the 299 Tactical Aviation Brigade from Nikolaev (Su-25) and the 40th Aviation Brigade from Vasilkovo (MiG-29) who use the Ivan Kozhedub Air Force University of Kharkov (Mi-24; Mi-8) as a combat operations basis. Russian bloggers have also leaked the photos and names of the pilots involved.

Russian jurists have created special legal companies who take the testimony of the Ukrainians whose civil or human right have been violated by the junta to file lawsuits in Ukrainian courts. Of course, the Ukrainian courts are fully expected to reject the complaint at which point the Russian can then file their lawsuits at the European Court of Human Rights.

The good news for Russia is that there is no way that the Junta can take Donetsk or Lugansk. And even if junta forces did enter these cities they would not be able to control them. The Russian military strategists understand that very well. After all, the Russians have more urban combat experience than any army in the world: during WWII the Soviet forces liberated 1200 cities form the German Army and that experience has been studied over and over again in the Russian military academies. Furthermore, while currently only a minority of the man of combat age in the Donbass have joined the NDF, the constant shelling and terror of the junta's assault is motivating more and more of them to join the resistance.

Time is on the side of Novorossiia and of Russia.

My own feeling is that Poroshenko will soon fold and announce some kind of "peace initiative" which would probably not involve a complete withdrawal of junta forces from Novorossiia as demanded by the local authorities, but it will include a "suspension" of combat operations. Poroshenko - who is most definitely not a dumb man - knows that he absolutely must sit down and begin negotiating with the Russian and he also knows that the Russians simply cannot negotiate with him as long as active combat operations continue. I cannot prove that, but I believe that Poroshenko himself already understands all this and that what is happening now is that he is trying to convince the US of the need to accept the facts on the ground. Right now, Poroshenko can hide behind the tiny figleaf excuse that he has not been formally inaugurated, but that pretext will vanish pretty soon (on June 7th) and I suspect that as soon following his inauguration he will announce some kind of peace initiative.

Until then, the Russians will have to wait and grind their teeth at the news of every atrocity committed by the junta's neo-Nazi death-squads. Payback time will come, but the first priority will have to be to deny the AngloZionists the Cold War they are so desperately trying to trigger..

The Saker

PS: as a small footnote: to those of you who can read Russian and who have an Android device (smartphone or tablet) there is a new and very interesting application called Вежливые Люди available from the Google Play (aka Android Store). There are two versions of it, the one supported by ads:

and the one costing $1.12 which is ad-free: (which I urge you to choose over the other one).

Вежливые Люди provides updated information from 18 different news sources mostly focused on the events in the Eastern Ukraine. You can browse through them and get a title and a paragraph or so and then, if you click on it, it takes you to the full article. See the screenshot to the right.

This app is only in its version 1.0 but it is already very useful and well designed and I find it one of the best sources of information about what is happening in the Ukraine. I highly recommend it to you, especially the articles from the "Голос Севастополя" which is based in the Crimea provides up to date information from the resistance in the Donbass.

For English speakers my first choice would be RT News English and its excellent Android application:

May 30th combat SITREP

By "Juan"

1. Sporadic and heavy at times fighting around Slavyansk and the outlying villages on 29 May with no notable successes for the Nats Army and national guard units. Some losses reported for the national guard units.

2. A half battery of Grad missile launchers, BM-21, is in position within range of Mariupol. As of this morning that unit has not fired. Range of Grad missile is up to 35 kilometers.

3. A half battery of Grad missile launchers is in position within range of Slavyansk.

4. I have no positive verification of a Grad missile attack on Slavyansk. This does not mean an attack did not occur. Something very large and multiple did hit the outskirts of an outlying village but I have no source at the impact spots to verify what the impacts were.

5. Sources report that the Donbas Army action at Donetsk Airport was a trap involving proposed negotiations with certain Ukraine Army units under the auspices of a western organization in Donetsk at that time. Sources report that shortly after the negotiations started the Ukraine Army sent in by air strong reinforcements to their unit in airport as the Ukraine Army units in airport attacked the Donbas Army unit.

6. The transport of the Donbas Army wounded in convoy out of the airport area late Monday evening was arranged as a truce to succor the wounded. The two Kamaz transport trucks were each flying a red cross flag and a white flag of truce. They drove in to an ambush set up by right sector/national guard units. The drivers of both trucks were killed. One truck overturned after striking a curb. The other truck was hit by an RPG round. The surviving wounded were killed by right sector on the spot. As the wounded were being killed the two flags were removed from each truck by right sector operatives.

7. Partisan activity has started 3 days ago in Kharkov Oblast around Kharkov City among other areas targeting national guard/right sector units. 29 May losses to two national guard/right sector units were heavy in ambushes.

8. Vostok Battalion 29 May started an operation around Donetsk Administration Building of the Donbas Republic to stop looting by certain Donbas Army members after strong complaints from citizens. Metro supermarket near the airport was heavily looted by Donbas Army members as were several other shops and stores and much of the loot was stored in 3 tents in the area of Donbas Administration Building, one tent having the contents and perpetrators shown on video. Reports are 7 looters were arrested and are awaiting trial. Reports from Ukraine and west media that the looters were shot are false.

9. After the anti looting operation was completed Vostok Battalion had the square in front of Donbas Administration Building cleared of the barricades to provide access for citizens to the facility and to facilitate easier defense of the area in the event of a Ukraine attack.

10. Civilian casualties in Donbas are mounting with the random artillery attacks by units of the Ukraine Army and national guard/right sector. 29 May saw 8 civilians killed in Donbas and a like number of wounded. Some of these casualties were caused by air burst antipersonnel rounds fired from howitzers of the Ukraine Army. Targets are living areas with flats buildings with no visible Donbas Army units in the areas.

12. Families of mobilized Ukraine Army reservists held a large demonstration in Kiev at the Ukraine Parliament Building demanding the return of their husbands and sons. By Ukraine law reservists can not be mobilized for more than 45 days without a declaration of war against another sovereign state by Ukraine. This declaration of war has not been made. Kiev has ordered the mobilization extended indefinitely.

13. One of the two Ukrainian helicopters shot down on 29 May was carrying the commanding general of the 'national guard' who was also 'the commander of field operations for national guard units'.

14. Ukraine has rejected the offer of humanitarian aid from Russian Federation for the two Oblasti of Donetsk and Lugansk.

15. An attempt on 29 May to evacuate children from certain areas of Slavyansk was unsuccessful. Ukraine Army units blockading the city refused passage to the buses carrying the children.

16. A refugee processing center has been set up in the Federal City of Sevastopol of the Russian Federation to aid in the settlement of refugees arriving from areas of fighting in Ukraine. Several hundred refugees have arrived in Sevastopol as of 17:00 29 May and are being housed and fed in the city. A like number are being succored in Simferopol, the capitol of the Autonomous Republic of Krimea of the Russian Federation. A processing center is schedule to be set up 30 May in Simferopol to help the refugees. More refugees are expected in both cities. A like facility for refugees will be set up in the eastern Krimea city of Kerch if needed.

See also -

Ukraine's rebels in crisis after Donetsk 'coup': Vostok Battalion, a pro-Russian group, seize control of Donetsk Peoples' Republic's headquarters, plunging rebel movement in east into crisis

Passing: Maya Angelou

Still I Rise

by Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou, 1928 - 2014
[Listen. Hear.]
You may write me down in history 
With your bitter, twisted lies, 
You may trod me in the very dirt 
But still, like dust, I’ll rise. 

Does my sassiness upset you? 
Why are you beset with gloom? 
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells Pumping in my living room. 
Just like moons and like suns, 
With the certainty of tides, 
Just like hopes springing high, 
Still I’ll rise. 

Did you want to see me broken? 
Bowed head and lowered eyes? 
Shoulders falling down like teardrops, 
Weakened by my soulful cries? 
Does my haughtiness offend you? 
Don’t you take it awful hard 
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines Diggin’ in my own backyard. 

You may shoot me with your words, 
You may cut me with your eyes, 
You may kill me with your hatefulness, 
But still, like air, I’ll rise. 

Does my sexiness upset you? 
Does it come as a surprise 
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds 
At the meeting of my thighs? 

Out of the huts of history’s shame I rise 
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain I rise 
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide, 
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide. 
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear I rise 

Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear I rise 
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, 
I am the dream and the hope of the slave. 

I rise 

I rise 
I rise.

Reviewing The Battle for Justice in Palestine

The Battle for Justice in Palestine. Ali Abunimah

by Jim Miles

Obama’s plan: Let Netanyahu and Abbas stew in their juices
Senior White House official tells Haaretz U.S. president hopes that after a few months with no negotiations and less U.S. involvement, both sides will understand it is in their interest to renew talks.

With the peace talks being dead, what happens in Israel/Palestine? Settlements will continue to be built, dispossession will continue against Palestinians, slowly the “apartheid” context of Israel will become more and more obvious.

While the peace talks were in process, The Battle for Justice by Ali Abunimah was published and pre-emptively indicated that the peace process is/was essentially over and done with regardless of ongoing talks. The main context of the book is of the elements of apartheid and the associated boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement (BDS) that is sending disconcerting messages to all the pro-Israeli/anti-Palestinian two staters. Not that a two state solution has not been possible in the past, but that it is beyond being a possibility now, leaving essentially two solutions, a single apartheid state (the considered de facto state as it is now) that is proclaimed to be Jewish, or a state with democracy inclusive of equal rights for all its citizens.

In the preface, Abunimah indicates that the Palestinians are winning - not necessarily on the ground where settlements, annexation, blockades, and military rule remains - but winning in the general knowledge of the world from the impact of the BDS movement. The real indicator to this are the many methods and great amount of money and time that is being used to discredit the BDS movement in particular within the U.S.


As the U.S. is Israel’s largest benefactor, the work starts with a comparison of Israel and the U.S., not the usual demographic statistics (although those are interesting as well), but a comparison based on racial considerations. Racial profiling, discriminatory laws and courts, and the disproportionate prison populations that result, the huge industry of security and surveillance, and the training of security forces (for “interoperability”) all play into the comparison.

The underlying basis for it is the colonial-settler mindset: in the U.S. it is African-american/first nations subject to discrimination; in Israel it is Arabs/Palestinians facing discrimination. A populist fear factor from this racial bias (crime, drugs, terror, religion) assists with the cowing and manipulation of the colonial-settler population.

Demographics and apartheid

Demographics is the main concern of Israel. It is the real threat to a “Jewish and democratic state”. Israel does not want two states as that removes part of Eretz Israel from its domain. At the same time, a one state solution being Jewish and democratic is not possible with a resident population of Palestinians that is overtaking the Israeli population. As argued by Abunimah, “The already present reality is a de facto binational state, albeit with apartheid conditions, throughout historic Palestine.”

Two other apartheid states are used as a comparison for Abunimah’s arguments for a one state solution that overcomes apartheid. South Africa and Northern Ireland provide his case, the former an obvious racial apartheid state, the latter a perhaps not so obvious religious apartheid state. The main commonalities to sustain the apartheid status are the creation of the ‘other’ as a mortal threat against a superior society, a demographic threat (obvious in South Africa with its much larger black population), and the creation of a sense of victimhood, that the ‘other’ is the cause of the problems.

The section ends with a return to a comparison within the U.S. of economic apartheid, an awareness of the economic “Jim Crow” that exists in the U.S. and a recognition that South African apartheid was rescinded based on the accession to the Washington consensus economic agenda of neo-liberalism - in other words, the economic status quo of white control would not be interfered with.

Neoliberal Palestine

One of the more interesting parts of the discussion is that of the neoliberal economic patterns that have been imposed on Palestine, especially in the West Bank, although Gaza’s status as a large concentration camp hanging in isolation could be a forewarning of what might come to the U.S. homeland concept of neoliberalism. Regardless of that speculation on my part, Abunimah examines what he calls Fayyad-ism. Salam Fayyad has in the meantime resigned as Prime Minister, a position that he was not elected for (as no member of the current Palestinian governance has been elected).

As a digression from reviewing to commentary, the New York Times described Fayyad in very positive terms,

Mr. Fayyad, an American-educated economist, had gained the confidence of the West and of many Israelis, building up the credibility of the Palestinian Authority by introducing transparency, accountability and stability. Since being appointed to the premiership in 2007, he has championed law and order in the West Bank after years of chaos and focused on building the institutions of a future state.

The New York Times comment is typical neoliberal hogwash, extolling the virtues of “transparency, accountability and stability” without any sign of any of them. And while he has “has championed law and order in the West Bank” it has been for his Israeli masters at the expense of the Palestinians people, other than the select few PA associates who manage the money.

The Guardian provided a bit of a rejoinder to that rhetoric,

A former World Bank economist, Fayyad was appointed by a presidential executive order in 2007 following the collapse of the Palestinian national unity government and Hamas taking control of the Gaza Strip. While he was one of the few senior politicians to frequently visit marginalised communities and ask after their concerns, tax and commodity price hikes repeatedly stoked angry street protests against him.

Palestinian unemployment has risen to almost 25% and real GDP growth is set to fall from an average of 11% in 2010-11 to just 5% in 2013, according to the World Bank.

Apart from the statistics, which coming from the World Bank are presumably rigged as most western economic statistics are rigged, Fayyad was obviously not as popular at home as he was within Israeli circles and international economic circles.

Abunimah provides a clear deconstruction of the economic miracle that was supposedly created in the West Bank. He describes Fayyadism as “glittering illusions” from a “credit fuelled consumptive binge” that depended on foreign aid and credit plus a

repressive police state suppress and disarm any resistance to Israeli occupation and to crush internal Palestinian dissent and criticism with increasing ferocity.

Should these policies continue, Palestinians “can only look forward to new, more insidious forms of economic and political bondage.”

The poverty, debt, and dependence created by the neoliberal policies is discussed, highlighting the lack of employment , no real development (i.e. of a manufacturing/industrial/agricultural sense), no direct investment, easy credit creating more debt than income, a high level of inequality, all based on a “construction and consumption binge fueled by easy credit and foreign aid [Qatar and U.S.].”

A new Palestinian settlement of Rawabi highlights the effort to “mask and normalize the worst abuses of occupation.” Fittingly, U.S. style mortgages are considered a “soft power tool” for “explicitly political goals” that “advances U.S. foreign policy.” The economic plans demonstrate a “close integration between the aid and NGO industries...and the advance of neoliberal economics and U.S. hegemony” using policies formulated with the PA elites “behind closed doors with no transparency or democratic process.”

Normal Neoliberalism?

Another aspect of economic normalization (recall that “normalization” was a major part of the reason for the first Intifada) in its current status is allowing Israeli companies to operate in the West Bank, “almost all of which are complicit in Israel’s occupation, apartheid, and denial of fundamental human rights.”

It is a form of Shock Doctrine as described by Naomi Klein, wherein a

powerful ruling alliance between a few large corporations and a class of wealthy politicians..facilitated by brutal force, a usurpation of democratic rules and torture...a silent partner in the global free market crusades.”

Two final constructs of neoliberalism are presented. First is the destruction of the economic infrastructure (among other structures) of Gaza, forcing it into a literal underground economy now highly constricted by the new neoliberal order within the Egyptian junta. Secondly, the creation of industrial zones and free market zones serves as a means of controlling and then annexing more and more Palestinian territory.

All this is done for the benefit of large corporations (beyond the obvious benefits to Israel). These zones create areas where Israel and corporations “operate in exploitive ways forbidden in their home territories.” It is time, argues Abunimah, to

abandon the illusion that the formal recognition of a Bantustan-like Palestinian state alongside Israel would do anything to free Palestinians from an exploitative economic system that is already deeply entrenched.

As a final note on the never say die neoliberal order, the U.S. has plans to continue with their neoliberal shock doctrine if the two sides start negotiations anew,

In addition, the White House is pleased both with the plan drawn up by General John Allen, which proposes security arrangements for a two-state reality, and with the plan to restore and upgrade the Palestinian economy – devised by the U.S. administration, the quartet envoy Tony Blair and private sector representatives. These two plans "can be put back in the mix if the parties are willing to come back to the table seriously," the official said.

I defer to the reader’s intelligence and the above comments when considering that perspective.


It was the South African BDS movement that finally caused the country to make a volte face and get rid of its political apartheid structures, unfortunately replacing them with economic apartheid. Israel is facing a burgeoning movement that borrows heavily from that success, adapting it as necessary for the slightly different situations.

This is where Abunimah sees the win, the growing awareness of Israeli actions brought about by the BDS movement, and ironically, Israel’s attempts to discredit it. Israel realized early that it could not argue “the facts” against the BDS as it was the very facts on the ground that provided the support for the campaign. They have also realized that trying to argue the victim role has had little effect again in consideration of these very facts. Instead Israel has changed to ideological arguments that attempt to deny the validity of the people supporting BDS and to hasbara, a public relations efforts to disseminate abroad positive information.

Israel sees the BDS movement as “deligitimization”, another “existential threat” that is coalescing with the one state solution by “undermining moral legitimacy...constraining military activities, destroying Israel’s image.” To counter this they have used a variety of tactics in various situations.

Much of it has to do with rebranding. This includes ‘pinkwashing’ attempting to present Israel as a liberal haven for the LGBT community. It also includes ‘greenwashing’, a “propaganda campaign of smoke and mirrors to conceal some of Israel’s most troubling, environmentally destructive and criminal activities, many directly linked to military occupation and colonization.”

One of the largest areas of countering BDS is within the universities of the U.S., the “David Project”. This program targets teachers and students, it attempts to intimidate institutions, misuses civil rights laws, and attempts to criminalize campus behaviours. A relatively long comparison is made between these actions and the U.S./Arizona actions with Hispanics, including walls along the Mexican border and the ‘other’ described as ‘terrorists’.


As per Israeli sources, the negative view of Israel is increasing, in a “finding that indicates that public opinion is sharply out of step with official government policy.” No surprise there. Netanyahu has indicated the “its not about the facts, its about the defamation of Israel,” that it is an “image problem.” Again very similar to U.S foreign policy. The Reut Institute, “a nonpartisan and nonprofit policy think tank in Tel Aviv designed to provide real-time, long-term strategic decision-support to Israel,” ( nonprofit maybe, but never nonpartisan!) “tacitly conceded that resistance to Israel is based on genuine and justifiable grievances and the denial of Palestinian rights.”

In essence, BDS has shifted the focus of debate from that of Israeli victimhood and the virtues of neoliberal democracy to that of the voice of the Palestinian people.

The end of the two state solution’s endless negotiations and the increasing awareness created by the BDS movement highlight problems brought about by Israel onto itself.

The Battle for Justice in Palestine is a well referenced, well written, and well argued presentation on the current state of affairs in Palestine. It is a strong update to events within that particular sector of global ideological manipulations.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Topp's Secrets: How the British Columbia NDP's Defeat Was Stage Managed

TOPP SECRET: Was the 2013 Election in British Columbia Rigged?

by Walt McGinnis - PowertothePeople

It has been a year since the provincial election in British Columbia and the fog is slowly lifting off well-kept secrets regarding what caused the Adrian Dix campaign to fall apart and astonishingly how he seemed to be the last guy to realize it.

This story is not about the injustice of NDP losing, because one could argue that they are no better than the Liberals, rather it is about the terrible reality that powerful people and public relations firms can change election outcomes and governments, and that the citizens of Canada may have lost their power to stop them. (1)(2)

This is a scenario to consider. With the Tar-sands pipelines not built and the Liquid Natural Gas development still in its unsure infancy as well as several scandals like the BC Rail give away, the BC Hydro financial catastrophe on top of the smart meter fiasco all to be kept under control, the election results could not be left to chance. The Liberals looked like the best bet so they were supported by Industry and their lobbyists. And what better way to steer the outcome of an election than to manage both sides?

Of all the irregularities in the campaign the oddest situation was allowing Brian Topp to continue as Dix’s campaign manager. Topp was a partner in a public relations firm that had two other partners working for the Liberals.

It appears the early NDP lead was invented by corporate funded pollsters which when reported in the corporate funded media created apathy and lower voter turnout specifically amongst soft NDP supporters, then a series of what has been called mistakes in the NDP campaign caused voter support to further plummet, and strangely this vital information was kept from the leader of the NDP and the party until it was too late to salvage the election.

Topp took over the NDP campaign, mismanaged his advertising, mismanaged his image, mismanaged his campaign strategy by not criticizing the Liberals in key areas, isolated and ignored grassroots activists on key issues, took contradictory and vague positions on BC Hydro and other issues and basically alienated their base support.

Information Hit-men

Brian Topp, Don Guy and Ken Boessenkool

Who are these Wise Guys?

How improbable is it for a new PR firm, Kool Topp and Guy, to materialize out of nowhere and play a major role in both campaigns.

Topp was a professional politician; he came second after Thomas Mulcair in the federal NDP leadership race and was a seasoned campaign manager. Premier of British Columbia Christie Clark, was a partner in a lobbying firm that had at one time worked for Enbridge. This appeared to have ended when she became Premier. She later raised eyebrows by appointing Ken Boessenkool, also a former Enbridge lobbyist and advisor to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, as her chief of staff in 2012. Boessenkool resigned after unsubstantiated claims were laid against him regarding improprieties involving a staff member. Strangely he resurfaced soon after as a partner in Kool, Topp and Guy. Don Guy is a longtime Liberal strategist.

It appears that in fact the NDP were never 20 points ahead in the polls as the public opinion polls suggested.Apparently Liberal insider polls showed that they were always very close to the NDP and often in the lead. The public never heard about that.

It takes more than a few front men to trick a whole province into believing that a political party is ahead in the polls and is going to win. You would need a comprehensive approach with not only both political campaigns under control, you would also need the cooperation of the public opinion pollsters, and collaboration by the corporate media. In order to have all that you need a massive budget with hundreds of workers. You would need a firm like Hill and Knowlton to coordinate the operation.

Kevin Logan writting in The Common Sense Canadian points out the close relationship between Hill and Knowlton representatives and several NDP and Liberal players on both sides of the election battle. Hill and Knowlton is a wing of the world’s largest lobby group WPP, who employ 162,000 people in 3000 offices across 110 countries.

It appears Hill and Knowlton wrote the NDP election platform. No one else will take the credit. It is their job to make us believe that the NDP came up with all these great ideas. On the other hand if anyone wanted to discredit the NDP, Hill and Knowlton were perfect for that job also.

Let’s not forget Hill and Knowlton, part of the world’s largest PR firm, was the firm that concocted the Kuwaiti incubator baby hoax, , the Pearl Harbor event that swayed US public opinion to support the US invasion of Iraq. Millions of innocent people suffered and died as a result. The mainstream business oriented media however would rather talk about bringing democracy and freedom to Iraq.

Hill and Knowlton had the skills and resources to provide a plausible story to the media that then turned around and convinced hundreds of millions of people that there were hundreds of Kuwaiti babies ripped out of their incubators by Iraqi soldiers and left to die lying on the hospital floors. The American government then said the only way we can help out is to launch Operation Desert Storm and the first Gulf War began. Millions of people suffered and died as a result. If they could get away with that whopper, it would not be a stretch to consider the possibility that they could fix a Canadian provincial election.

Political handlers, public relations firms and revolving doors

Jim Rutkowski, Marcella Munro and Brad Lavigne

Brad Lavigne, Jim Rutkowski at Hill-Knowlton and Marcella Munro with Earnscliffe Strategy Group are former BC NDP employees who are now representing PR Firms. Sean Holman writes in the Huffington Post: “We don’t know what the specific roles and decisions Anne McGrath and Brad Lavigne played and made during the 2013 provincial election. The same could be said for fellow insiders Marcella Munro and Jim Rutkowski.”

They used to work for the NDP, now they work for massive corporations. What are they doing inside an NDP election campaign?

Brad Lavigne – Prior to joining Hill-Knowlton in 2013, Brad was the chief architect and national campaign director for the New Democratic Party’s 2011 historical breakthrough that elected it to the official opposition. He then served as principal secretary to the Hon. Jack Layton and later Nycole Turmel. Brad also served as an advisor to two premiers in his native province of British Columbia.

Jim Rutkowski – former NDP Special Assistant to the Minister of Health, Ministerial Assistant to the Minister of Small Business Tourism and Culture, and Ministerial Assistant to the Minister of Finance and Attorney General.” He is now registered to lobby on behalf of the China National Offshore Oil Company, the German drug company Bayer Inc. and Gateway Casinos and Entertainment Inc. His clients have also included the accounting firm Deloitte, the Vancouver International Airport Authority, Port Metro Vancouver, Loblaw Companies Ltd. and the Association of Professional Engineers and Geo-scientists of B.C.

Marcella Munro – formally chief strategist and the main media contact for Mike Farnsworth’s leadership bid. As a lobbyist her clients have included, according to the province’s registry of lobbyists, drug makers Eli Lilly, Glaxo Smith Kline and Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc., as well as LifeLabs, McDonald’s restaurants and the company that owns the Tim Horton’s dough nut shop brand. The Tyee – Who’s Lobbying the NDP.

Ex-NDP President Moe Sihota, Ex-NDP Cabinet minister 
David Zirnhelt and Ex-NDP provincial secretary Jan O’Brien.

Sihota chooses Topp for Campaign Manager

The 2013 election campaign began on Feb 4th with the media reporting that the president of the party, Moe Sihota had chosen Brian Topp, an outsider of BC politics to be Adrian Dix’s campaign manager. It seems strange that Sihota, Zirnhelt and O’Brien had the authority to make such a huge decision. Where were all the NDP wizards and gurus when that decision was made? What did Topp have that campaign managers from BC did not have? Did they have any choice in the matter… really? No matter what the answers this one decision set in motion a chain of events that not only stole the election away from the people, it will have political reverberations for years to come and most of it will be bad. Sihota and O’Brien resigned Nov 2013.

The artful lie that the PR firms propagated was the NDP had a big lead and blew it with a bad campaign, topping it all off with their opposition to the Kinder Morgan pipeline. In fact the NDP were never ahead especially in swing ridings. The were beaten by thousands of votes in those ridings. It was not even close. But this was the explanation the PR firms used to explain the biggest swing in votes in the history of our province. The NDP were never ahead. Dix did not know because Topp did no internal polling.
The Sept 24, 2013, article in the Tyee Bill Tieleman, describes how Dix made several terrible and fatal mistakes that blew the election. He does not go near the possibility that Dix’s defeat was carefully planned. Tieleman asks why the NDP campaign team did not order polling in key swing ridings.“It was Topp who astonishingly rejected the mainstay of modern political campaigns: polling key swing ridings daily during the election to determine trends.”“Since then I’ve learned the NDP undertook significant swing riding polling during the 2009, 2005 and even the disastrous 2001 election campaigns — but not in 2013.”
“Meanwhile, the Liberals were doing daily tracking polls in 25 key ridings, giving them instant feedback on messaging, NDP vulnerability and where to allocate resources.”

Almost as astonishing as the election result, was that it appeared Adrian Dix knew nothing about the plummeting support for the NDP. Strangely, for almost the first time in a modern election campaigns, a major contender decided not to do polling in swing ridings. There are no clear answers as to why the NDP did no polling. It looks like it cost them the election.

Public opinion polls and manipulation of voter behavior

It appears the massive lead for the NDP in the months before the campaign was created mostly by public opinion polls of dubious integrity. The polling during the campaign saw the lead shrinking but nothing near the actual numbers. Apparently all the pollsters were making fundamental mistakes simultaneously. One has to wonder, could all the pollsters get it so wrong just by coincidence, as they claim? Angus Reid made an explanation of their mistakes that stretches their credibility. They claim they did not attribute the replies to their surveys in a manner that would translate to actual votes. One could ask, what is the point of polling then? Also there were no explanations as why the NDP made a late campaign switch in pollsters . Did the NDP start to suspect they were being given flawed data to by their own pollster? It sure looks like it.

Why did you keep punching yourself Adrian while refusing to take a swing at your opponent?

For a least a year before the election Dix kept his campaign positive and did not drag up all the muck of Liberal corruption. What PR guru advised him to do that? Lord knows they had lots of muck to work with and the electorate had a right to hear the truth especially since the corporate media was saying almost nothing. It is one thing to provide a positive message and alternatives, it is another to remain silent while your political opponents are engaged in criminal activity.

Could there have been deals made on what political skeletons that were to be remain buried? Dix’s decision not to mention several Liberal scandals defies logic if his handlers wanted him to win. One the other hand we were told daily just how crooked Dix was, due to the deep pockets of his enemies not officially connected to the Liberals. They spent millions on US style attack ads on TV.

Consequently the public just could not warm up to Adrian Dix and his TV ads only made the situation worse. Topp chose Toronto ad agency Open to produce the BC NDP’s lackluster election ads in which Dix looked stiff and uncomfortable. Dix was stiff and uncomfortable on stage but it was nothing a little soft light and sweet music could not handle. Instead he looked like Richard Nixon declaring I am not a criminal, over and over.

Perhaps we will never know for sure happened in the NDP 2013 election campaign in British Columbia. Everyone knows something was amiss but few NDP loyalists will step forward and demand answers from their leaders. More importantly it is not just the NDP ,we are all losers if we can not have free and fair elections.

The result is we now have another Liberal government with very little opposition to several huge developments that will have irreparable impacts on our environment and our economy for decades to come. The lesson for the rest of us is to not let this happen again. Let’s exercise our power as citizens and fight to keep our politicians honest and our elections fair.



(1) The smartest guys were not in the room
There was a sense that something was amiss about the Dix campaign when in early March 2013 Adrian was trotted out to a reception at the BC Teachers Federation AGM in Vancouver. It was several weeks before the election. He had more handlers around him than Mohamad Ali. Dix intellectual prowess was vaunted and he was introduced as being so brilliant and that he really was the “smartest guy in the room”. It seemed odd to introduce him this way given the Enron connections to this phrase, and especially in this room where he seemed to have so few real friends amongst the teachers. It seemed something was wrong but it was hard to put a finger on it.

Over the next several weeks Adrian Dix’s stunning election defeat unfolded. Over the following several months more and more questions arose over what had really happened . Was this Deja vu all over again? This looked much like the Kenneth Lay story, the fall guy in the Enron tale, from ten years earlier. Both Lay and Dix were often described by their foes as being obsessively ambitious and willing to bend the rules to get ahead. These vices may have left them both easily manipulated and controlled. It appears both were puppets for what was really a profit and control corporate agenda.

Adrian played the role of a brilliant but fatally flawed man, taking a mighty fall, in much the same manner as what Lay was depicted in the movie, The Smartest Guys in the Room. But we now know the smartest guys were not in the room, they were nowhere to be found. They were hiding in the board room of the accounting and PR firm, Arthur Anderson and Associates, one of the largest public relations firms in the world and the inventors of Enron bookkeeping. While Kenneth Lay went to jail, others waltzed away with hundreds of millions of dollars for themselves and their friends. When Dix lost the election hundreds of millions of dollars in future profits were secured for several very powerful corporations.

(2)The election results were strange to say the least.

It was reported as the election with the largest spread between pollster predictions and actual votes cast in the history of BC politics. It was also an historic collapse of support for the NDP in a few weeks going from a commanding lead at the start of the campaign to a surprising defeat on Election Day. During the campaign public opinion polls showed the NDP well ahead and many voters possibly thought, I cannot stand the Liberals and the NDP are a shoo-in, so I will not bother to vote at all. But the polls were drastically wrong and the NDP were not ahead.

These facts alone have caused the red flags a waving for those concerned about the honesty of public opinion polling, the honesty of the corporate media, and moreover about our inability to hold free and fair elections. To put this situation into context there has been a disturbing trend all over the so called democratic world where election processes have been tampered with. The robo-calling federal Conservatives and the weird polling results in the last Alberta election are just two examples of this.

Crazy Bastards and the Murderers They Defend

Insanity Extends Beyond the Shooters

by Walter Brasch

During this past week, in Scranton, Pa., a 16-year old put two bullets into the head of a taxi driver and then stole about $500 earned by the cabbie that evening.

The teen, who showed no remorse when arrested a few hours later, mumbled a few words about his reasons. He said he murdered the cabbie “’Cause that’s what I do to people that don’t listen.” The teen thought the cabbie was taking too long to get him to his destination. The driver was a 47-year-old man with a wife and two children. The gun was an unlicensed 9-mm.

A few days later, in Payson, Ariz., a three-year-old boy found a loaded semi-automatic gun in the apartment of family friend, began playing with it, and accidentally killed his 18-month-old brother. Police recovered several other weapons from the apartment.

In Homestead, Fla., a 28-year-old man, who admitted he was drinking and using cocaine, was showing off an AK-47 at a picnic. His six-year-old nephew picked up the gun when no one was watching, played with it, and accidentally killed his own grandfather.

In Isla Vista, Calif., a 22-year-old man with a history of mental problems, stabbed his three roommates, and then drove near the campus of the University of California at Santa Barbara. In about 10 minutes, he murdered three more students and wounded 13 more before committing suicide. Police say the killer had three 9 mm. weapons and about 400 rounds of ammunition, all of it purchased legally.

The father of one of those killed, to a standing cheering crowd of 20,000 at a memorial service, called for an end of gun violence. “How many more people are going to have to die in this situation before the problem gets solved?” he demanded. He accused politicians of having “done nothing” to stop the mass murders. He had previously told journalist Anderson Cooper that politicians had called him to express their sympathies. But the father said he told the politicians, “Don’t tell me you’re sorry about my son’s death until you do something.” At the football stadium, the father, who had carefully prepared his speech, declared his son’s murder, and those of five other students, and those of thousands a year who were killed by gunfire, “died because of craven, irresponsible politicians and the NRA.” The grieving father said, “Too many people have died, and there should be not one more.” The crowd picked up on his words, and began chanting, “Not one more!”

More than 2,300 miles to the East, Samuel Wurzelbacher, forever known as “Joe the Plumber” after he became the darling of the extreme right wing during the 2008 presidential campaign, again crawled out of a hole to defend what he believed was his God-given right to defend gun rights. In an open letter, he pretended to be sympathetic to the families of those murdered, but declared, “Your dead kids don't trump my Constitutional rights.” With mangled grammar, he then told a grieving nation, “The proliferation of guns, lobbyists, politicians, etc.; will be exploited by gun-grab extremists as are all tragedies involving gun violence and the mentally ill by the anti-Second Amendment Left.”

After the Sandy Hook massacre in December 2012, that left 26 dead, including 20 children between the ages of six and eight, America seemed determined to finally act against irresponsible purchase and ownership of guns. But, politicians with spines of Jello went into the fetal position before the financially-lucrative NRA support, and refused to improve laws about background checks for gun sales, whether from a dealer, at a gun show, from companies that advertise in any of several dozen gun magazines, or on the Internet; they refused to ban assault weapons; and they refused to restrict the size of gun magazines.

A CBS poll revealed about 85 percent of all Americans, including gun owners, support federal legislation to require thorough background checks on all persons planning to buy a gun. Apparently, the NRA leadership, far more reactionary than most of its members, believes hunters and those protecting their houses from burglars or the “jack-booted thugs” the NRA leadership once called federal law enforcement agents, need military-style assault weapons with a 100-round magazines.

Just as politicians crave NRA money, the NRA knows it has millions of dollars of funding from gun manufacturers. Last year, American gun manufacturers earned about $12.6 billion from the sale of more than 5.5 million firearms, about half of them handguns. About 60 percent of the sales went to civilians, according to the Department of Justice. Another three million guns were imported. There are more than 310 million firearms in civilian possession, according to the FBI. The United States has one of the highest rates for gun violence in the world.

Joe the Plumber and NRA executive director Wayne LaPierre, significant blemishes upon the Constitution and the principles of the Judeo-Christian philosophy, will continue to get media exposure. Their names will continue to be known. Their paranoid rants will continue to draw praise from hundreds of thousands who don’t know much about the Constitution, and believe President Obama—whom they know to be a Kenyan socialist Muslim—is secretly plotting to seize every one of their guns and turn the United States into a dictatorship.

Within a few weeks, as other murders are committed, we will forget the names of those killed this past week. Their names will no longer be important; how they were killed will no longer matter. But before we develop mass amnesia, and begin to believe that murder is just a part of the American culture, let’s take a few moments to remember. In Scranton, the 47-year-old cabbie, a mechanic who had slightly more than a month earlier changed jobs, is Vincent Darbenzio. The grandfather in Florida is Juan Manuel Martinez Sr. In Isla Vista, the students killed were George Chen, 19 years old; Cheng Hong, 20; Katerine Cooper, 22; Christopher Michaels-Martinez, 20; Weihan Wang, 20; and Veronika Weiss, 19. (Chris’s father, Richard, is the one who publicly called out politicians and the NRA.)

During the week they and the 18-month-old in Arizona died, there were about 200 more deaths from firearms, according to the FBI. Few of those deaths made anything more than a two-column newspaper headline, the story usually confined just to local news. During this year, more than 32,000 will be killed by firearms; about 2,000 will be children.

The NRA leadership and the few extremists it protects mouth the mantra of the gun culture—“guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” They screech the paranoid fear that all guns will be registered and then confiscated. These juveniles trapped in the bodies of adults ignorantly bleat that if they or their children had been armed, the only one killed would be the person who committed the mass shootings. What they don’t acknowledge is that even the better-trained, better-armed police were unable to kill the shooter. They say there needs to be better laws against those with mental illnesses having guns. That part is true.

But also true is that the lack of sane gun laws, which protect all people—including gun owners—is because the insanity is not just those who commit murder, but many who wrap themselves in the Second Amendment, ignorantly proclaiming, with no legal knowledge, they have a right to keep whatever arms and ammunition they want, and any gun law violates whatever they think is their ego-inflated divine inspiration.

[Dr. Brasch is author of 20 books; the latest ones are Fracking Pennsylvania and Collateral Damage in the Marcellus Shale. He is also a semi-active trap shooter.]

Walter M. Brasch, Ph.D.
Latest Books: Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution
Fracking Pennsylvania: Flirting With Disaster

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Right and Rights: Rise and Fall of the Left/Right Paradigm in Europe

The Rise of the European Right: Reaction to the Neoliberal Right

by James Petras

The European parliamentary elections witnessed a major breakthrough for the right-wing parties throughout the region. The rise of the Right runs from the Nordic countries, the United Kingdom, the Baltic and Low countries, France, Central and Eastern Europe to the Mediterranean.

Most, if not all, of these emerging right-wing parties mark a sharp break with the ruling neo-liberal, Christian and Social Democratic parties who have presided over a decade of crisis.

The ‘new Right’ cannot be understood simply by attaching negative labels (‘fascist’, ‘racist’ and ‘anti-Semitic’). The rise of the Right has to be placed in the context of the decay of political, social and economic institutions, the general and persistent decline of living standards and the disintegration of community bonds and class solidarity.


The entire existing political edifice constructed by the neo-liberal parties bears deep responsibility for the systemic crisis and decay of everyday life. Moreover, this is how it is understood by a growing mass of working people who vote for the Right.

The so-called ‘radical Left’, usually defined as the political parties to the left of the governing Social Democratic parties, with the exception of SYRIZA in Greece, have failed to capitalize on the decline of the neo-liberal parties. There are several reasons that account for the lack of a right-left polarization.

Most of the ‘radical Left’, in the final account, gave ‘critical support’ to one or another of the Labor or Social Democratic parties and reduced their ‘distance’ from the political-economic disasters that have followed.

Secondly, the ‘radical Left’s’ positions on some issues were irrelevant or offensive to many workers: namely, gay marriage and identity politics.

Thirdly, the radical Left recruited prominent personalities from the discredited Labor and Social Democratic parties and thus raised suspicion that they are a ‘new version’ of past deceptions. Fourthly, the radical Left is strong on public demonstrations demanding ‘structural changes’ but lacks the ‘grass roots’ clientelistic organizations of the Right, which provide ‘services’, such as soup kitchens and clinics dealing with day-to-day problems.

While the Right pretends to be ‘outside’ the neo-liberal establishment challenging the assumption of broad powers by the Brussels elite, the Left is ambiguous: Its support for a ‘social Europe’ implies a commitment to reform a discredited and moribund structure. The Right proposes ‘national capitalism’ outside of Brussels; the Left proposes ‘socialism within the European Union’. The Left parties, the older Communist parties and more recent groupings, like Syriza in Greece, have had mixed results. The former have generally stagnated or lost support despite the systemic crisis. The latter, like Syriza, have made impressive gains but failed to break the 30% barrier. Both lack electoral allies. As a result, the immediate challenge to the neo-liberal status quo comes from the electoral new Right parties and on the left from the extra-parliamentary social movements and trade unions. In the immediate period, the crisis of the European Union is being played out between the neo-liberal establishment and the ‘new Right’.

The Nature of the New Right

The ‘new Right’ has gained support largely because it has denounced the four pillars of the neo-liberal establishment: globalization, foreign financial control, executive rule by fiat (the Brussels troika) and the unregulated influx of cheap immigrant labor.

Nationalism, as embraced by the new Right, is tied to national capitalism: Local producers, retailers and farmers are counterpoised to free traders, mergers and acquisitions by international bankers and the giant multinationals. The ‘new Right’ has its audience among the provincial and small town business elite as well as workers devastated by plant closures and relocations.

The ‘new Right’s’ nationalism is ‘protectionist’ – seeking tariff barriers and state regulations to protect industries and workers from ‘unfair’ competition from overseas conglomerates and low-wage immigrant labor.

The problem is that protectionism limits the imports of cheap consumer goods sold in many small retail shops and affordable to workers and the lower middle class. The Right ‘dreams’ of a corporatist model where national workers and industries bond to oppose liberal competitive capitalism and class struggle trade unions. As the class struggle declines, the ‘tri partite’ politics of the neo-liberal right is reconfigured by the New Right to include ‘national’ capital and a ‘paternalistic state’.

In sum, the nationalism of the Right evokes a mythical past of harmony where national capital and labor unite under a common communal identity to confront big foreign capital and cheap immigrant labor.

Political Strategy: Electoral and Extra-Parliamentary Politics

Currently, the new Right is primarily oriented to electoral politics, especially as it gains mass support. They have increased their share of the electorate by combining mass mobilization and community organizing with electoral politics, especially in depressed areas. They have attracted middle class voters from the neo-liberal right and working class voters from the old Left. While some sectors of the Right, like the Golden Dawn in Greece, openly flaunt fascist symbols – flags and uniforms – as well as provoking street brawls, others pressure the governing neo-liberal right to adopt some of their demands especially regarding immigration and the ‘deportation of illegals’. For the present, most of the new Right’s focus is on advancing its agenda and gaining supporters through aggressive appeals within the constitutional order and by keeping the more violent sectors under control. Moreover, the current political climate is not conducive to open extra-parliamentary ‘street fighting’ where the new Right would be easily crushed. Most right-wing strategists believe the current context is conducive to the accumulation of forces via peaceful methods.

Conditions Facilitating the Growth of the Right

There are several structural factors contributing to the growth of the new Right in Europe:

First and foremost, there is a clear decline of democratic power and institutions resulting from the centralization of executive - legislative power in the hands of a self-appointed elite in Brussels. The new Right argues effectively that the European Union has become a profoundly authoritarian political institution disenfranchising voters and imposing harsh austerity programs without a popular mandate.

Secondly, national interests have been subordinated to benefit the financial elite identified as responsible for the harsh policies that have undermined living standards and devastated local industries. The new Right counterpoises ‘the nation’ to the Brussels ‘Troika’ – the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission.

Thirdly, ‘liberalization’ has eroded local industries and undermined communities and protective labor legislation. The Right denounces liberal immigration policies, which permit the large-scale inflow of cheap workers at a time of depression level unemployment. The crisis of capitalism combined with the large force of cheap immigrant labor forms the material basis for right-wing appeals to workers, especially those in precarious jobs or unemployed.

Right: Contradictions and the Double Discourse

The Right, while criticizing the neo-liberal state for unemployment, focuses mainly on the immigrants competing with nationals in the labor market rather than on the capitalists whose investment decisions determine levels of employment and unemployment.

The Right attacks the authoritarian nature of the European Union, but its own structures, ideology and history pre-figure a repressive state.

The Right rightly proposes to end foreign elite control of the economy, but its own vision of a ‘national state’, especially one linked to NATO, multi-national corporations and imperial wars, will provide no basis for ‘rebuilding the national economy’.

The Right speaks to the needs of the dispossessed and the need to ‘end austerity’ but it eschews the only effective mechanism for countering inequalities – class organization and class struggle. Its vision of the ‘collaboration between productive capital and labor’ is contradicted by the aggressive capitalist offensive to cut wages, social services, pensions and working conditions. The new Right targets immigrants as the cause of unemployment while obscuring the role of the capitalists who hire and fire, invest abroad, relocate firms and introduce technology to replace labor.

They focus the workers’ anger ‘downward’ against immigrants, instead of ‘upward’ toward the owners of the means of production, finance and distribution who ultimately manipulate the labor market.

In the meantime the radical Left’s mindless defense of unlimited immigration in the name of an abstract notion of ‘international workers solidarity’ exposes their arrogant liberal bias, as though they had never consulted real workers who have to compete with immigrants for scarce jobs under increasingly unfavorable conditions.

The radical Left, under the banner of ‘international solidarity’, has ignored the historical fact that ‘internationalism’ must be built on the strong national foundation of organized, employed workers.

The Left has allowed the new Right to exploit and manipulate powerful righteous nationalist causes. The radical Left has counterpoised ‘nationalism’ to socialism, rather than seeing them as intertwined, especially in the present context of an imperialist-dominated European Union.

The fight for national independence, the break-up of the European Union, is essential to the struggle for democracy and the deepening of the class struggle for jobs and social welfare. The class struggle is more powerful and effective on the familiar national terrain – rather than confronting distant overseers in Brussels.

The notion among many radical Left leaders to ‘remake’ the EU into a ‘Social Europe’, the idea that the EU could be converted into a ‘European Union of Socialist States’ simply prolongs the suffering of the workers and the subordination of nations to the non-elected bankers who run the EU. No one seriously believes that buying stocks in Deutsch Bank and joining its annual stockholders meetings would allow workers to ‘transform’ it into a ‘People’s Bank’. Yet the ‘Bank of the Banks’, the ‘Troika’, made up of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF, set all major policies for each member state of the European Union. Un-rectified and remaining captive of the ‘Euro-metaphysic’, the Left has abdicated its role in advancing the class struggle through the rebirth of the national struggle against the EU oligarchs.

Results and Perspectives

The Right is advancing rapidly, even if unevenly across Europe. Its support is not ephemeral but stable and cumulative at least in the medium run. The causes are ‘structural’ and result from the new Right’s ability to exploit the socio-economic crisis of the neo-liberal right governments and to denounce authoritarian and anti-national policies of the unelected EU oligarchy.

The new Right’s strength is in ‘opposition’. Their protests resonate while they are distant from the command centers of the capitalist economy and state.

Are they capable of moving from protest to power? Shared power with the neo-liberals will obviously dilute and disaggregate their current social base.

The contradictions will deepen as the new Right moves from positions of ‘opposition’ to sharing power with the neo-liberal Right. The massive roundups and deportation of immigrant workers is not going to change capitalist employment policies or restore social services or improve living standards. Promoting ‘national’ capital over foreign through some corporatist union of capital and labor will not reduce class conflict. It is totally unrealistic to imagine ‘national’ capital rejecting its foreign partners in the interest of labor.

The divisions within the ‘nationalist Right’, between the overtly fascist and electoral corporatist sectors, will intensify. The accommodation with ‘national’ capital, democratic procedures and social inequalities will likely open the door to a new wave of class conflict which will expose the sham radicalism of the ‘nationalist’ right. A committed Left, embedded in the national terrain, proud of its national and class traditions, and capable of unifying workers across ethnic and religious ‘identities’ can regain supporters and re-emerge as the real alternative to the two faces of the Right – the neo-liberal and the ‘nationalist’ new Right. The prolonged economic crisis, declining living standards, unemployment and personal insecurity propelling rise of the nationalist Right can also lead to the emergence of a Left deeply linked to national, class and community realities. The neo-liberals have no solutions to offer for the disasters and problems of their own making; the nationalists of the new Right have the wrong -reactionary – answer. Does the Left have the solution? Only by overthrowing the despotic imperial rule of Brussels can they begin to address the national-class issues.

Post-script and final observations: In the absence of a Left alternative, the working class voters have opted for two alternatives: Massive voter abstention and strikes. In the recent EU election, 60% of the French electorate abstained, with abstention approaching 80% in working class neighborhoods. This pattern was repeated or even exceeded throughout the EU – hardly a mandate for the EU or for the ‘new Right’. In the weeks and days before the vote, workers took to the streets. There were massive strikes of civil servants and shipyard workers, as well as workers from other sectors and mass demonstrations by the unemployed and popular classes opposing EU-imposed ‘austerity’ cuts in social services, health, education, pensions, factory closures and mass lay-offs. Widespread voter abstention and street demonstrations point to a huge proportion of the population rejecting both the neo-Liberal Right of the ‘Troika’ as well as the ‘new Right’.

Haters Right After All: Can America Face the Music?

Posterity Will Hate Us: Building a Lasting Legacy of Death

by Chris Floyd - Empire Burlesque

What do we aim at? Houses! Who do we kill? Everyone inside the houses! What are their names? We don’t know! What did they do? We don’t know! Are they civilians? We don’t care!

This could be the catechism of the America’s drone death squads that rain death and destruction on defenceless people from the skies of Pakistan, month in, month out, year after year. As the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports:

Domestic buildings have been hit by drone strikes more than any other type of target in the CIA’s 10-year campaign in the tribal regions of northern Pakistan, new research reveals. ... The project examines, for the first time, the types of target attacked in each drone strike – be they houses, vehicles or madrassas (religious schools) – and the time of day the attack took place.

It reveals:

• Over three-fifths (61%) of all drone strikes in Pakistan targeted domestic buildings, with at least 132 houses destroyed, in more than 380 strikes.

• At least 222 civilians are estimated to be among the 1,500 or more people killed in attacks on such buildings. In the past 18 months, reports of civilian casualties in attacks on any targets have almost completely vanished, but historically almost one civilian was killed, on average, in attacks on houses.

• The CIA has consistently attacked houses have throughout the 10-year campaign in Pakistan.

• The time of an attack affects how many people – and how many civilians – are likely to die. Houses are twice as likely to be attacked at night compared with in the afternoon. Strikes that took place in the evening, when families likely to be at home and gathered together, were particularly deadly.

Some of these operations are carried out at the direct order of the president of the United States, who meets with his advisors every Tuesday to draw up death lists of victims to be killed. Others are slaughtered by the innumerable officers and agents upon whom the White House has bestowed a license to kill as they see fit.

But as the Bureau points out, even when the name of the target is known — although of course there is no need for any proof to be offered as to the target’s ostensible death-deserving guilt — they are most often blown to pieces in domestic homes, along with family members, friends and, often, neighbors who live nearby.

— Sometimes when I write paragraphs like the one above — setting out undisputed facts; indeed, facts that are often celebrated in the highest reaches of the political and media elites — I find myself slack-jawed, drop-jawed to the floor with amazement. The bare, banal, widely accepted, shrugged-off realities of life in the American Imperium today would have been regarded, just a few years ago, as the wildest, most unbelievable fantasies of political paranoids. The president sits in the White House and draws up death lists. Robot-controlled missiles blow up people’s houses, killing hundreds of civilians each year. Not an eyelid is batted, scarcely a voice is raised in protest, except on the far-flung disregarded margins. This is the way the world is, and one must acknowledge that — but sometimes, the cognitive dissonance hits you like a two-by-four upside the head.

But this is where we are now. This is what we are now. Future generations will look back on us in horror. They won’t notice or care about the pointless, finely-meshed gradations of minute policy differences between the two parties, or between the two factions called “left” and “right”; they won’t care if Barack Obama was or wasn’t “two percent less evil” than George W. Bush, or any of the pitiful political molehills that entirely preoccupy our chattering classes. No; all they will see in a seamless record of murder, terror, tyranny and corruption inflicted by a militarist state on the world outside and on its own people within. They will look at us just as we look at the people in Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia and wonder, with revulsion and incomprehension, how such things happened, how whole societies could give themselves over to brutality and hate, how such vicious, vacuous, pathetic elites — and their wretched little followers and sycophants — were allowed to hold such sway for so long.

They will be sickened by us. They will hate us for what we let happen. And they will be right to do so.

Krauthammer Is Right er... Correct: Sunset for America

Krauthammer is right: The US Empire is in Decline

by Dave Lindorff  - This Can't Be Happening

I was shocked to find myself in almost perfect agreement today with a recent column by the neoconservative pundit Charles Krauthammer.

Usually Krauthammer has me groaning, but yesterday his column nailed it. He was writing about what he correctly observes as the end of “American hegemony” in the global political sphere.

As Krauthammer lays this “grim” picture out, six years of President Obama’s weak-kneed foreign policy, “compounded by” his “proposed massive cuts in defense spending, down (sic) to pre-Pearl Harbor levels,” have allowed a revanchist Russia and a newly aggressive China to make “an open challenge to the post-Cold War, US-dominated world that Obama inherited and then weakened beyond imagining.”

Krauthammer cites as his main evidence of this “major alternation in the global balance of power” the deal just struck between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, who, during a visit to Shanghai last week by the Russian leader, inked an agreement for Russia to sell some $400 billion worth of its natural gas to China over the next 30 years. The deal would include the building of a $70-billion pipeline from Russian gas fields in Siberia to China’s industrial heartland, and would “deflate” a threat made by the US and Europe during the current Ukrainian crisis to end Europe’s reliance on Russian gas.

Krauthammer also pointed to President Xi’s call for a new Asian region security system that would link China, Russia and (gasp) Iran -- an arrangement which, if implemented, he warns could “mark the end of a quarter-century of unipolarity and ... herald a return to a form of bipolarity -- two global coalitions: one free, one not -- though with communism dead, not as structurally rigid or ideologically dangerous as Cold War bipolarity. Not a fight to the finish, but a struggle nonetheless -- for dominion and domination.”

Setting aside Krauthammer’s breathless horror at this new “bi-polar” global political environment, and his ideologically-blinded description of the US/NATO “side” as “free” as opposed to the Russia/China “side’s” being “not free” (and adding the observation that actually a $400-billion deal over 30 years is really not that big a thing, working out to just over $13 billion a year), there is much here that does accurately portray what is happening.

Missing from Krauthammer’s analysis, typically, is the history behind this development.

Neocon columnist Charles Krauthammer sees America's decline
 in new pacts between China's Xi Jinping and Russia's Vladimir Putin

US global domination, which could be said to have begun with the collapse in the early 1990s of the former Soviet Union, was destined to be a short-lived affair. By 1990, the Soviet Union had been bankrupted by President Reagan’s massive military spending campaign, and the USSR’s political and economic implosion did leave the US, by default, as the world’s last and only “superpower,” but left unremarked was that this country’s massive military spending had also effectively hollowed out the US economy. And instead of turning inward at the end of the Cold War, and investing in a revitalization of America’s crumbling physical, social and educational infrastructure, which might have rectified things, the problem was instead made far worse by two more decades of a continuous war economy, driven by the very neoconservative ideology that Krauthammer still espouses.

Wars were launched: first the Persian Gulf War against Iraq in 1990-1 (which continued until the 2003 invasion of Iraq with the maintenance of “no-fly zones” over parts of Iraq), then the Bosnian and Kosovo wars in the mid and late ‘90s, followed by the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. And as if that was not enough, a fake “War on Terror” was launched to convince the gullible American public of the need for continued massive military spending.

Instead of shrinking the bloated US military, successive presidents -- George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and finally Barack Obama -- all kept increasing military spending to the point that this country under President Obama has been spending as much on its military as the rest of the world combined -- well over $1 trillion a year when debt on the military budget and the costs of medical care for cashiered soldiers are added in. And to make things worse, the US has, since Korea, been losing its wars, or at best reaching embarrassing stalements. And that is hardly the kind of thing designed to instill fear in potential adversaries.

At the same time that the US empire was bankrupting itself through extravagant military spending, it has been relentlessly throwing its weight around everywhere in the world, subverting or trying to subvert democratically elected governments in places like Nicaragua, Panama, Grenada, Haiti and Venezuela, and even seeking to undermine governments in states like Russia, Ukraine and Iran.

Something had to give, and as Krauthammer correctly notes, something finally has given.

America’s bluff is being called

Fed up with the clumsy bullying that characterizes American foreign and economic policy, angered by the imperial over-reach of America’s National Security Agency, and emboldened by the weakness of both the American dollar and America’s bloated, bureaucratic and over-stretched military (as evidenced by its inability to defeat minimally armed and trained patriotic forces in Afghanistan and Iraq), Russia and China, and perhaps Iran too, are realizing that they “don’t have to take it anymore.”

While Krauthammer didn’t mention it, even NATO, that Cold War relic that the US had been using as a fig leaf since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1990 to cover its aggressive policy of encirclement and gradual subversion of Russia, is now showing signs of terminal collapse. The European public and their elected officials are angry at Edward Snowden’s revelations about massive NSA spying on its purported “allies.” Meanwhile, the latest effort to enlist Europe in a program of economic sanctions against Russia over its annexation of Crimea have fallen flat, with France refusing to stop selling advanced military equipment to Russia and with Germany balking at any serious economic sanctions against one of its largest trading partners.

Increasingly, Russia, China, Brazil and other large developing economies are separating themselves from the dollar-based global financial system, undermining the last mainstay of US hegemony -- the dollar as the world’s reserve currency.

Krauthammer correctly sees the US in “retreat” and “decline” as a global power.

Where he goes wrong is in seeing this as “Obama’s choice.”

Obama really had no choice. The decline of America as global hegemon has been the result of choices made by Washington leaders dating back really to the 1960s and the disastrous war against the people of Vietnam, or perhaps even earlier, to the US-orchestrated Korean War.

History is replete with empires that crumbled under their own hubris and ambition, and the United States is no different.

The only real disagreement I have with Krauthammer is in his seeing this decline of US empire as a tragedy. Looking at the incredible death, destruction and grotesque waste of resources that can be directly attributed to the US and its imperialist program since the end of the Second World War, I can only see its demise as a positive thing.