Oct 312013
 

Posted by greydogg, 99GetSmart

Source: Punk Economics

Women’s wedges and the future of European nation states.

Will a European Tea Party emerge? The Financial Times this week believes so. What do you think? 2014 is a big year for Europe with parliamentary elections in June. The economies are still very weak, but financial markets are roaring ahead and Brussels is in triumphant mood. Can this continue? Here’s our take. We’d like to hear yours.

Writer/Director/Narrator:
David McWilliams
Producer/Filming/Editing:
Ado Brett – www.clickzoom.ie
Illustrator:
Mark Flood
Audio Mix:
John Davis
V/O Record:
Tris Dalton

©Punk Economics 2013

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jg52VlVTSgw

Oct 302013
 

El análisis de James Petras

dd395-AIPAC (site)

“Israel está empujando a EEUU a lanzar una guerra y romper las negociaciones con Irán y busca distraer al público internacional para avanzar en su anexión de los territorios palestinos”, dijo el sociólogo norteamericano James Petras este lunes en su columna de análisis de la coyuntura internacional por CX36, Radio Centenario (*). Al respecto reseñó varios hechos que involucran al Mossad y sostuvo que si bien “no creo que estén involucrados en esta campaña de desprestigio cuando necesitan fortalecer la posición norteamericana como agresor en el Medio Oriente. Pero es posible, como competidor del poder en el Medio Oriente, que busquen debilitar a los EE.UU. para facilitar sus propios proyectos de poder”. A continuación transcribimos la intervención de James Petras en forma íntegra, que Usted puede escuchar/descargar enel siguiente link:

http://content.bitsontherun.com/players/aVbGwJ5D-y47WGXn0.html

Efrain Chury Iribarne: Como cada lunes a esta hora en CX36, Radio Centenario, le damos la bienvenida a James Petras desde Estados Unidos. Buenos días, ¿cómo está James?

James Petras: Estamos muy bien, con un día precioso de otoño, un poco frío pero un cielo limpio, azul, debemos aprovechar esta tarde para dar un paseo.

EChI: Me parece bárbaro.

Petras, hay publicaciones que siguen hablando de una intensión no revelada del gobierno de Barack Obama de atacar a Siria en algún momento. ¿Qué datos  manejas?

JP: En este momento debemos tomar en cuenta un cuadro más grande para entender si o no van a lanzar un nuevo ataque.

Las revelaciones de (Edward) Snowden -el ex miembro de la Agencia de Seguridad Nacional-,y el impacto de estos documentos, fue muy grande y han afectado todas las relaciones internacionales. Han hecho un gran daño sobre el prestigio y la confianza en el gobierno norteamericano. Y además han provocado descontento internamente, muchas críticas, investigaciones, incluso una marcha en Washington la semana pasada.

Ahora, uno tiene que pensar: ¿simplemente las revelaciones de una persona han tenido tanto impacto? ¿Cómo es el hecho de que un gobierno que controla e influye en los medios, un gobierno que ha hecho cuatro guerras seguidas, un gobierno que ha montado una gran red de espionaje está cayendo tan fuertemente en esta coyuntura?

Las revelaciones de Snowden tienen el impacto porque hay otras fuerzas más grandes que está utilizando estas revelaciones para desgastar al gobierno.

Y uno se pregunta: ¿Quiénes son estas fuerzas? ¿Por qué no aparecen en alguna forma abiertamente?

Yo tengo varias hipótesis: que un sector importante del Ejército ha tomado posiciones críticas a las guerras y la infiltración para las guerras por parte del gobierno de Obama. No hay que olvidar que Obama ha insertado al Ejército en varios conflictos que no han tenido éxito. Tanto en Irak, Afganistán, las intervenciones en Libia y otras partes. Y esto les ha costado mucho a los militares, no sólo por la pérdida de soldados pero un desprestigio y una situación constantemente presionados por los grupos sionistas en el gobierno. Entonces ellos tienen un interés que es que este gobierno se debilite.

Otra posibilidad es que un sector de capitalistas esté también contra la constante guerra y desestabilización de potenciales socios en lugares donde las agencias están involucradas, como en el Medio Oriente, los países petroleros.

Pero en todo caso hay otra posibilidad, que los gobernantes en Europa que ya sienten que necesitan mayor independencia, frente a las constantes presiones norteamericanas, se aprovechan de estas revelaciones para mostrar su descontento y desvincularse de EE.UU.

Si juntamos entonces varias fuerzas como gobernantes descontentos supuestamente aliados, si tomamos en cuenta que los militares siguen siendo más reticentes para involucrarse en guerras, si contamos con fuerzas en el mismo sector capitalista, podríamos decir que el impacto de Snowden no es simplemente por las revelaciones. Sino por los opositores subterráneos que ahora aparecen indignados, descontentos, críticos, se están beneficiando, porque en este momento Obama no puede lanzar una guerra contra Siria. Primero porque diplomáticamente están muy jaqueados por las propuestas rusas y la acomodación siria, pues Siria ha entregado con anticipación todos los datos sobre las guerras químicas. La oposición del gobierno de Siria está dominada por los extremistas. No hay ningún gobierno dispuesto a intervenir y facilitar el poder a los grupos terroristas.

Y más allá de eso, fijate lo que está pasando con la inmigración hacia Europa. La guerra en Libia está forzando a cientos de miles de personas a salir del país por el terrorismo. Los inmigrantes muertos en la costa de Italia, todos vienen de Libia.

Entonces, hay otra razón para que los gobernantes en Europa no tengan apetito para lanzar otra guerra, generar más inmigrantes, más daño, más problemas y más víctimas humanas.Hasta el Papa denunció el tratamiento de los inmigrantes.

Por estas razones  el gobierno desgastado de Obama no está en posición de lanzar una aventura, una escalada a la guerra a Siria.

EChI: ¿Para el sionismo, cuya premisa es precisamente la guerra, qué puede suponer esto?

JP: Es algo más difícil de averiguar.

Por un lado Israel está empujando a EEUU a lanzar una guerra y romper las negociaciones con Irán. Y buscan distraer al público internacional para avanzar en su anexión de los territorios palestinos.

Por otro lado sabemos que el Mossad ha estado involucrado en muchos acontecimientos que perjudican a EEUU. Israel está nombrado por la CIA como el país más agresivo en el espionaje contra EE.UU.

Sabemos que los israelitas estaban involucrados en la provocación para la guerra contra Irak; el papel de Israel en los acontecimientos del 9/11 son muy sospechosos y como hemos visto en otros programas, estaban celebrando y tomando videos de la caída de los edificios, con la posibilidad de que tuviera un conocimiento previo del evento.

Entonces, yo no creo que estén involucrados en esta campaña de desprestigio cuando necesitan fortalecer la posición norteamericana como agresor en el Medio Oriente.

Pero es posible, como competidor del poder en el Medio Oriente, que busquen debilitar a los EE.UU. para facilitar sus propios proyectos de poder.

EChI: Bien, ¿qué es lo más relevante en este momento aquí en América Latina?

Petras: Lo más relevante en este momento es la estabilidad política y la parálisis sobre el avance de los movimientos populares en relación con los gobiernos de centro-izquierda.

Hemos visto, por ejemplo, en las elecciones legislativas de Argentina este fin de semana, cómo el oficialismo -el llamado Frente Por la Victoria (FPV)- alcanza un 36% del voto y la oposición, dividida entre 4 o 5 pedazos, todavía mantiene posiciones, e incluso avanza 1 o 2 puntos. Pero no hay gran cambio en la correlación de fuerzas. La izquierda radical, o la izquierda socialista – marxista,  avanza 6% no mucho. Hay pequeños incrementos aquí y allá.

En tanto, los populistas en la oposición, como Pino Solanas, aumentan su voto pero no tanto como para influir en el cuadro nacional.

Lo mismo pasa en Brasil, a pesar de las grandes movilizaciones, la protesta y el desafecto que está impactando a muchos sectores en las ciudades. Las encuestas muestras que Rousseff puede ganar las elecciones en el próximo año.

En Bolivia lo mismo.

En Uruguay no creo que haya grandes cambios sobre el horizonte. Entonces, tenemos una situación donde las fuerzas de oposición, particularmente el sector popular, está en posiciones de presión, de forzar concesiones, de luchar para mejoras coyunturales. Pero el estatus quo parece mucho más fortalecido en el último tiempo. Ni golpes militares ni transformaciones sociales, entre el centroizquierda y centroderecha parece que hay una paridad.

Ahora, el lugar donde la polarización y el conflicto es más agudo, es en Venezuela. Por un lado porque está frente a las elecciones municipales en diciembre, donde los EE.UU. tiene acceso a partir de los grupos de oposición y los medios de comunicación de masa.

Entonces, el único lugar donde podríamos ver algún cambio, en retroceso, es en Venezuela donde los golpistas y la ultra derecha proimperialista está trabajando para ver si puede conseguir mayor fuerzas municipales para lanzar otra campaña golpista electoralista justos contra el gobierno del partido de (el presidente Nicolás) Maduro, el Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela.

Si la izquierda gana en Venezuela, podría impactar más en América Latina, pero no en el sentido de fortalecer a los movimientos revolucionaros, sino más que nada fortalecer los sectores reformistas como Evo Morales, como Ortega en Nicaragua, como Correa en Ecuador.

Los EE.UU. no pueden imponer el golpismo porque las fuerzas antiimperialistas siguen teniendo influencias pero indirectamente a partir de presiones sobre los partidos gobernantes de centro-izquierda.

EChI: Muy bien, Petras, como siempre tenemos un tiempo que es reservado a los temas en los que esté trabajando.

JP: El primero que debo comentar es la mediocridad, la falta de flexibilidad y la tontería, la imbecilidad, que está presente en el gobierno de Obama. Fijate, frente al enorme escándalo y el desprestigio del gobierno,  la única respuesta de la Casa Blanca es que el Presidente ‘no sabía’ sobre el espionaje. O es completamente un ignorante o es simplemente un mentiroso porque todas las actividades de seguridad nacional pasan por la Presidencia y él tiene que afirmar actas que afectan la dirección de países aliados y adversarios.

Encima, la respuesta de algunos funcionarios es que los países europeos deberían estar agradecidos por el espionaje norteamericano. Ellos creen que todo lo que haga los EE.UU. en su propio interés, para beneficiarse de toda la información que recibe de las decisiones de otros países, es un acto de apoyo a estos países, no que los perjudica.

Ahora, si uno lee estas declaraciones dice: ¿quiénes son estas personas que no tienen el mínimo sentido común ni mucho menos capacidad diplomática para tratar problemas tan graves? Es una expresión de la decadencia de los EE.UU., que los funcionarios y voceros del gobierno son tan estúpidos, y digo estúpidos no simplemente reaccionarios, que ni saben a defender sus posiciones y eso ha tenido el efecto de profundizar el declive cada vez más evidente.

Por ejemplo, China aprovecha la ausencia de EE.UU. en una conferencia en Asia para imponer sus propios planes de integración, mientras Obama está involucrados en las escuchas de teléfonos de cualquier fulano de tal hablando con su novia, su amigo, cualquier cosa.

Hay una confusión de prioridades. En un mundo en crisis económica, de mayor competencia y con mayores problemas internos sobre la pobreza, el estancamiento, la especulación; ellos están metidos en conflictos con sus aliados en vez de buscar mayor apoyo o mejores accesos a los mercados.

Yo no creo que se hayan beneficiado en ningún sentido profundo sobre el espionaje. Tal vez es alguna interferencia en la política guerrerista, pero en las guerras que intervienen ellos internamente, han tenido un mal efecto, se han perjudicado frente a la opinión mundial y no han cosechado ninguna riqueza, ninguna transferencia de tesoros de los países ocupados.

La mediocridad como factor en la política norteamericana refleja otras cosas también.

Por ejemplo, el hecho de que el gobierno norteamericano sea disfuncional, tiene una ultraderecha que está contra el gobierno pero por malas razones, quieren cortar los programas sociales. Tienen un público despolitizado que no se puede mover ni por las guerras ni contra las guerras. Tienen una intelectualidad bastante mediocre que no han podido montar ninguna protesta desde las universidades, porque están totalmente copados por las grandes empresas capitalistas y donde cada universidad busca conseguir lazos con las grandes multinacionales.Una literatura cada vez más mediocre, que trata temas sin grandes impactos sociales, con mucha frivolidad.

Es  un país que muestre ninguna capacidad excepcional para mandar en el mundo. Ellos mismos,  están dando cuenta de que la mediocridad es una reflexión de la decadencia e incapacidad del país a formular una adaptación de un mundo multipolar donde la competencia económica es la clave del poder.

Siguen pensando en los viejos clichés militaristas.

Sus principales socios son países reaccionarios como Arabia Saudita e Israel, países racistas, mediocres, atrasados social y políticamente.

Y eso me parece emblemático de lo que es el problema aquí. Es un país mediocre, poderoso pero sin capacidad de adaptación a las nuevas realidades multipolares en América Latina, de mercados diversificados, de  desafíos de salir de las guerras, echados de Afganistán, empantanados en Libia e Irak, impulsores de grupos terroristas involucrados en Siria donde los principales aliados  son los grupos más reaccionarios en el mundo.

Es un panorama bastante oscuro pero realista para analizar lo que está pasando en el país.

EChI: Muy bien Petras, muchas gracias por este aporte. Le enviamos un abrazo y nos convocamos para el lunes próximo.

JP: Bueno, muchas gracias, hasta el lunes.

Oct 282013
 

Posted by greydogg, 99GetSmart

* THE IMF PROPOSES A 10% SUPERTAX ON ALL EUROZONE HOUSEHOLD SAVINGS

Source: AutomaticEarth

imf

This is a story that should raise an eyebrow or two on every single face in Europe, and beyond. I saw the first bits of it on a Belgian site named Express.be, whose writers in turn had stumbled upon an article in French newspaper Le Figaro, whose writer Jean-Pierre Robin had leafed through a brand new IMF report (yes, there are certain linguistic advantages in being Dutch, Canadian AND Québecois). In the report, the IMF talks about a proposal to tax everybody’s savings, in the Eurozone. Looks like they just need to figure out by how much.

The IMF, I’m following Mr. Robin here, addresses the issue of the sustainability of the debt levels of developed nations, Europe, US, Japan, which today are on average 110% of GDP, or 35% more than in 2007. Such debt levels are unprecedented, other than right after the world wars. So, the Fund reasons, it’s time for radical solutions.

Now, there’s a history to all this. WW I and WW II led to similar ideas, some of which were executed in practice. Jean-Pierre Robin even suggests that we have just resurfaced from a financial crisis that was as destructive as a war. A nice additional point is that he also says Europe and the US got rid of their debt levels through elevated levels of inflation between 1945 and 1975, but at the same time a shame he doesn’t realize that can’t work here. No inflation to the rescue this time around. But radical solutions.

Back in 2011, the Boston Consulting Group was pondering something even more radical, in a report called: “Back To Mesopotamia? The Looming Threat Of Debt Restructuring. As Zero Hedge reported at the time:

The “Muddle Through” Has Failed: BCG Says “There May Be Only Painful Ways Out Of The Crisis”

[..] … it is time to face the facts. What facts? The facts which state that between household, corporate and government debt, the developed world has $20 trillion in debt over and above the sustainable threshold by the definition of “stable” debt to GDP of 180%. The facts according to which all attempts to eliminate the excess debt have failed, and for now even the Fed’s relentless pursuit of inflating our way out this insurmountable debt load have been for nothing.

The facts which state that the only way to resolve the massive debt load is through a global coordinated debt restructuring (which would, among other things, push all global banks into bankruptcy) which, when all is said and done, will have to be funded by the world’s financial asset holders: the middle-and upper-class, which, if BCG is right, have a ~30% one-time tax on all their assets to look forward to as the great mean reversion finally arrives and the world is set back on a viable path. But not before the biggest episode of “transitory” pain, misery and suffering in the history of mankind. [..]

There is one thing we would like to bring to our readers’ attention because we are confident, that one way or another, sooner or later, it will be implemented. Namely a one-time wealth tax: in other words, instead of stealth inflation, the government will be forced to proceed with over transfer of wealth. According to BCG, the amount of developed world debt between household, corporate and government that needs to be eliminated is just over $21 trillion.

Which unfortunately means that there is an equity shortfall that will have to be funded with incremental cash which will have to come from somewhere. That somewhere is tax of the middle and upper classes, which are in possession of $74 trillion in financial assets, which in turn will have to be taxed at a blended rate of 28.7%. […]

READ @ http://theautomaticearth.com/Finance/the-imf-proposes-a-10-supertax-on-all-eurozone-household-savings.html

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* DIEBOLD CHARGED WITH BRIBERY, FALSIFYING DOCS, ‘WORLDWIDE PATTERN OF CRIMINAL CONDUCT’

By Brad Friedman, TheBradBlog

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One of the world’s largest ATM manufacturers and, formerly, one of the largest manufacturers of electronic voting systems, has been indicted by federal prosecutors for bribery and falsification of documents.

The charges represent only the latest in a long series of criminal and/or unethical misconduct by Diebold, Inc. and their executives over the past decade.

According to Cleveland’s Plain Dealer, a U.S. Attorney says the latest charges are in response to “a worldwide pattern of criminal conduct” by the company….

Federal prosecutors Tuesday filed charges against Diebold Inc., accusing the North Canton-based ATM and business machine manufacturer of bribing government officials and falsifying documents in China, Indonesia and Russia to obtain and retain contracts to provide ATMs to banks in those countries.

The two-count criminal information and deferred prosecution agreement calls for Diebold to pay nearly $50 million in penalties: $23 million to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and $25 million to the Department of Justice.

The agreement with federal prosecutors also calls for the implementation of rigorous internal controls that includes a compliance monitor for at least 18 months. The government agreed to defer criminal prosecution for three years, and drop the charges if Diebold abides by the terms of the agreement.

Despite at least $1.75 million in bribes said to have been paid the company around the globe, nobody will go to jail for what U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach describes as their “worldwide pattern of criminal conduct,” because they are a corporation — and you are not. […]

READ @ http://www.bradblog.com/?p=10323

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* BP’s ‘WIDESPREAD HUMAN HEALTH CRISIS’

Toxicologists ‘predicted with certainty’ that Gulf of Mexico residents and clean-up workers would become severely ill.

By Dahr Jamail, Aljazeera

Dispersed oil floats on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico waters close to the site of the BP oil spill as Discoverer Enterprise drill ship is seen on the horizon approximately 42 miles off the coast of Louisiana in this May 18, 2010 file photo.  BP  knew its Macondo well could suffer a blowout and lied about the amount of oil leaked after its 2010 spill in the Gulf of Mexico, plaintiffs' lawyers alleged on September 30, 2013 as its trial over billions of dollars in damages resumed.   REUTERS/Hans Deryk/Files   (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENVIRONMENT DISASTER ENERGY BUSINESS)

Dispersed oil floats on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico waters close to the site of the BP oil spill as Discoverer Enterprise drill ship is seen on the horizon approximately 42 miles off the coast of Louisiana in this May 18, 2010 file photo. BP knew its Macondo well could suffer a blowout and lied about the amount of oil leaked after its 2010 spill in the Gulf of Mexico, plaintiffs’ lawyers alleged on September 30, 2013 as its trial over billions of dollars in damages resumed. REUTERS/Hans Deryk/Files

New Orleans, United States of America – Peter Frizzell never thought his watersports off the coast of Florida would destroy his health.

“After sea kayaking after BP’s spill happened, I was sitting at my desk and started coughing up loads of blood,” Frizzell, an avid outdoorsman, told Al Jazeera. “My doctor ran a scope down to the top of my lungs and said my bronchi were full of blood.”

Frizzell’s medical records bear out that he was exposed to toxic chemicals, and he is far from alone.

Since the spill began in April 2010, Al Jazeera has interviewed hundreds of coastal residents, fishermen, and oil cleanup workers whose medical records, like Frizzell’s, document toxic chemical exposure that they blame on BP’s oil and the toxic chemical dispersants the oil giant used on the spill.

The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention lists the toxic components commonly found in chemicals in crude oil, and several of these chemicals have been found in the blood of people living in the impact zone of BP’s disaster. […]

READ @ http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2013/10/bp-widespread-human-health-crisis-2013102717831227732.html

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* WHO BUYS THE SPIES? THE HIDDEN CORPORATE CASH BEHIND AMERICA’S OUT-OF-CONTROL SURVEILLANCE STATE

By Thomas Gerguson, Paul Jorgensen, Jie Chen, Moyers & Company

Glenn Greenwald, a reporter of the Guardian, speaks to reporters at his hotel in Hong Kong. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

Glenn Greenwald, a reporter of the Guardian, speaks to reporters at his hotel in Hong Kong. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

Long before President Obama kicked off his 2008 campaign, many Americans took it for granted that George W. Bush’s vast, sprawling national security apparatus needed to be reined in. For Democrats, many independents and constitutional experts of various persuasions, Vice President Dick Cheney’s notorious doctrine of the “unitary executive” (which holds that the president controls the entire executive branch), was the ultimate statement of the imperial presidency. It was the royal road to easy (or no) warrants for wiretaps, sweeping assertions of the government’s right to classify information secret, and arbitrary presidential power. When Mitt Romney embraced the neoconservatives in the 2012 primaries, supporters of the president often cited the need to avoid a return to the bad old days of the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld National Security State as a compelling reason for favoring his reelection. Reelect President Obama, they argued, or Big Brother might be back.

But that’s not how this movie turned out: The 2012 election proved to be a post-modern thriller, in which the main characters everyone thought they knew abruptly turned into their opposites and the plot thickened just when you thought it was over.

In early June 2013, Glenn Greenwald, then of the Guardian, with an assist from journalists at The Washington Post, electrified the world with stories drawn from documents and testimony from Edward Snowden, an employee of Booz Allen Hamilton working under contract with the National Security Agency, who had fled the country. They broke the news that the US government had been collecting vast amounts of information on not only foreigners, but also American citizens. And the US had been doing this for years with the cooperation of virtually all the leading firms in telecommunications, software and high tech electronics, including Google, Apple, Microsoft, Verizon and Facebook. Sometimes the government even defrays their costs. […]

READ @ http://billmoyers.com/2013/10/23/who-buys-the-spies-the-hidden-corporate-cash-behind-america’s-out-of-control-national-surveillance-state/

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* MEET THE PRIVATE COMPANIES HELPING COPS SPY ON PROTESTERS

Promotional materials for private spy companies show that mass surveillance technology is being sold to police departments as a way to monitor dissent

By John Knefel, Rolling Stone

A number of private spying companies offer services to help police keep tabs on individual protesters' tweets and Facebook posts. Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/meet-the-private-companies-helping-cops-spy-on-protesters-20131024#ixzz2j0fnQ1tY  Follow us: @rollingstone on Twitter | RollingStone on Facebook

A number of private spying companies offer services to help police keep tabs on individual protesters’ tweets and Facebook posts. 

The documents leaked to media outlets by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden this year have brought national intelligence gathering and surveillance operations under a level of scrutiny not seen in decades. Often left out of this conversation, though, is the massive private surveillance industry that provides services to law enforcement, defense agencies and corporations in the U.S. and abroad – a sprawling constellation of companies and municipalities. “It’s a circle where everyone [in these industries] is benefitting,” says Eric King, lead researcher of watchdog group Privacy International. “Everyone gets more powerful, and richer.”

Promotional materials for numerous private spy companies boast of how law enforcement organizations can use their products to monitor people at protests or other large crowds – including by keeping tabs on individual people’s social media presence. Kenneth Lipp, a journalist who attended the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Philadelphia from October 19th to 23rd, tells Rolling Stone that monitoring Twitter and Facebook was a main theme of the week. “Social media was the buzzword,” says Lipp. He says much of the discussion seemed to be aimed at designing policies that wouldn’t trigger potentially limiting court cases: “They want to avoid a warrant standard.”

While the specifics of which police departments utilize what surveillance technologies is often unclear, there is evidence to suggest that use of mass surveillance against individuals not under direct investigation is common. “The default is mass surveillance, the same as NSA’s ‘collect it all’ mindset,” says King. “There’s not a single company that if you installed their product, [it] would comply with what anyone without a security clearance would think is appropriate, lawful use.” […]

READ @ http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/meet-the-private-companies-helping-cops-spy-on-protesters-20131024#ixzz2j0aKKvuV

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* OBAMA IS SHOCKED, SHOCKED TO LEARN EVERYONE’S PHONE WAS BUGGED

By Tyler Durden, zerohedge

shocked_0

The Obama administration, which has a spotless track record in taking credit for everything that goes right (all of which is thanks to Bernanke’s flooding the world with record liquidity as when the No Free Lunch bill comes due, it will be some other president’s clean up), has an even more impeccable history of deflecting responsibility for all that goes wrong.

Most recently, it was the horrific rollout of Obamacare which as we observed earlier in the week, was all “someone else’s fault” but certainly not the government’s. Now, as the Snowden whistleblowing scandal has found its third (or fourth) wind courtesy of a furious international response following revelations that Obama was listening in to Merkel and at least 34 other world leaders’, it is time for perhaps the most stunning revelation of all: you see, Obama is shocked, shocked to learn that cell phone spying – of virtually everyone on the planet – is going on in here. […]

READ @ http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-10-27/obama-shocked-shocked-learn-everyones-phone-was-bugged

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* NSA OFFICIAL: OBAMA WAS INFORMED OF SPYING ON MERKEL’S CELLPHONE, LET IT CONTINUE

By Kevin Gosztola, CommonDreams

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German media reports new details related to National Security Agency spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone. Her phone was on a list for monitoring since 2002. President Barack Obama was also apparently briefed by NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander on the program in 2010 and did not stop it.

The NSA’s Special Collection Service (SCS) was the unit involved in the surveillance. According to Bild am Sonntag, Gerhard Schröder, Merkel’s predecessor, was also a target of surveillance. Part of the motivation for the spying was the country’s participation and support in the Iraq War.

The same newspaper quoted an unnamed “high-ranking” NSA official, who claimed, “Obama did not halt the operation but rather let it continue.” This sharpens the scandal between Germany and the United States considerably, as it had seemed the spying had only taken place while President George W. Bush was in office. […]

READ @ http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/10/27-3

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* THE REAL REASON U.S. TARGETS WHISTLEBLOWERS

Source: Washington’s Blog

whistleblower_

[…] The judge in al-Qahtani’s case showed no such restraint. She held that the photos and videos were properly classified because “it (is) both logical and plausible that extremists would utilize images of al-Qahtani … to incite anti-American sentiment, to raise funds, and/or to recruit other loyalists.” When CCR pointed out that this result was speculative, the judge responded that “it is bad law and bad policy to second-guess the predictive judgments made by the government’s intelligence agencies.” In short, the government may classify information, not because that information reveals tactical or operational secrets but because the conduct it reveals could in theory anger existing enemies or create new ones.

This approach is alarming in part because it has no limiting principle. The reasons why people choose to align themselves against the United States — or any other country — are nearly as numerous and varied as the people themselves. Our support for Israel is considered a basis for enmity by some. May the government classify the aid we provide to other nations? May it classify our trade policies on the basis that they may breed resentment among the populations of some countries, thus laying the groundwork for future hostile relations? May it classify our history of involvement in armed conflicts across the globe because that history may function as “anti-American propaganda” in some quarters?

Perhaps even more disturbing, this justification for secrecy will be strongest when the U.S. government’s conduct most clearly violates accepted international norms. Evidence of human rights abuses against foreign nationals, for instance, is particularly likely to spark hostility abroad. Indeed, the judge in the al-Qahtani FOIA case noted that “the written record of (al-Qahtani’s) torture may make it all the more likely that enemy forces would use al-Qahtani’s image against the United States” — citing this fact as a reason to uphold classification.

Using the impropriety of the government’s actions as a justification for secrecy is the very antithesis of accountability. To prevent this very outcome, the executive order that governs classification forbids classifying a document to “conceal violations of law” or to “prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency.” However, a federal judge in 2008 interpreted this provision to allow classification of information revealing misconduct if there is a valid security reason for the nondisclosure. Together, this ruling and the judge’s opinion in the al-Qahtani FOIA case eviscerate the executive order’s prohibition: The government can always argue that it classified evidence of wrongdoing because the information could be used as “anti-American propaganda” by our adversaries. […]

READ @ http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2013/10/the-real-reason-u-s-targets-whistleblowers.html

Oct 262013
 

Posted by greydogg, 99GetSmart

Source: Danny Morlock, youtube

The largest public school closings in Chicago’s history circulates amidst corporate greed, disinvestment in minority neighborhoods, and occurs simultaneously with a new basketball arena for Chicago’s own DePaul University, paid for by the city.

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iLfu8qhR_Kk

Oct 252013
 

Posted by greydogg, 99GetSmart

* PAXMAN vs BRAND

Source: NewsNight

The revolution itself may not be televised, but on last night’s edition of the BBC’s Newsnight, viewers may have witnessed the start of one.

Actor-slash-comedian-slash-Messiah Russell Brand, in his capacity as guest editor of the New Statesman‘s just-published revolution-themed issue, was invited to explain to Jeremy Paxman why anyone should listen to a man who has never voted in his life.

“I don’t get my authority from this preexisting paradigm which is quite narrow and only serves a few people,” Russell responded. “I look elsewhere for alternatives that might be of service to humanity.”

And with that, the first shots of Russell’s revolutionary interview were fired.

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YR4CseY9pk

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* WHY WASHINGTON JUST CAN’T STOP MAKING WAR

The US ‘Blowback Machine’ and the coming era of tiny wars and micro-conflicts

By Tom Engelhardt, CommonDreams

As the US military builds the most sophisticated (and expensive) 'blowback machine' in world history, Engelhardt explores the age-old question: What planet are we living on? (Photo: Bureau of Investigative Journalism/file)

As the US military builds the most sophisticated (and expensive) ‘blowback machine’ in world history, Engelhardt explores the age-old question: What planet are we living on? (Photo: Bureau of Investigative Journalism/file)

In terms of pure projectable power, there’s never been anything like it.  Its military has divided the world — the whole planet — into six “commands.”  Its fleet, with 11 aircraft carrier battle groups, rules the seas and has done so largely unchallenged for almost seven decades.  Its Air Force has ruled the global skies, and despite being almost continuously in action for years, hasn’t faced an enemy plane since 1991 or been seriously challenged anywhere since the early 1970s.  Its fleet of drone aircraft has proven itself capable of targeting and killing suspected enemies in the backlands of the planet from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Yemen and Somalia with little regard for national boundaries, and none at all for the possibility of being shot down.  It funds and trains proxy armies on several continents and has complex aid and training relationships with militaries across the planet.  On hundreds of bases, some tiny and others the size of American towns, its soldiers garrison the globe from Italy to Australia, Honduras to Afghanistan, and on islands from Okinawa in the Pacific Ocean to Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.  Its weapons makers are the most advanced on Earth and dominate the global arms market.  Its nuclear weaponry in silos, on bombers, and on its fleet of submarines would be capable of destroying several planets the size of Earth.  Its system of spy satellites is unsurpassed and unchallenged.  Its intelligence services can listen in on the phone calls or read the emails of almost anyone in the world from top foreign leaders to obscure insurgents.  The CIA and its expanding paramilitary forces are capable of kidnapping people of interest just about anywhere from rural Macedonia to the streets of Rome and Tripoli.  For its many prisoners, it has set up (and dismantled) secret jails across the planet and on its naval vessels.  It spends more on its military than the next most powerful 13 states combined.  Add in the spending for its full national security state and it towers over any conceivable group of other nations.

In terms of advanced and unchallenged military power, there has been nothing like the U.S. armed forces since the Mongols swept across Eurasia.  No wonder American presidents now regularly use phrases like “the finest fighting force the world has ever known” to describe it.  By the logic of the situation, the planet should be a pushover for it.  Lesser nations with far lesser forces have, in the past, controlled vast territories.  And despite much discussion of American decline and the waning of its power in a “multi-polar” world, its ability to pulverize and destroy, kill and maim, blow up and kick down has only grown in this new century.

No other nation’s military comes within a country mile of it.  None has more than a handful of foreign bases.  None has more than two aircraft carrier battle groups.  No potential enemy has such a fleet of robotic planes.  None has more than 60,000 special operations forces.  Country by country, it’s a hands-down no-contest. The Russian (once “Red”) army is a shadow of its former self.  The Europeans have not rearmed significantly.  Japan’s “self-defense” forces are powerful and slowly growing, but under the U.S. nuclear “umbrella.”  Although China, regularly identified as the next rising imperial state, is involved in a much-ballyhooed military build-up, with its one aircraft carrier (a retread from the days of the Soviet Union), it still remains only a regional power.

Despite this stunning global power equation, for more than a decade we have been given a lesson in what a military, no matter how overwhelming, can and (mostly) can’t do in the twenty-first century, in what a military, no matter how staggeringly advanced, does and (mostly) does not translate into on the current version of planet Earth. […]

READ @ http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/10/22-6

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* THE MILITARIZATION OF THE POLICE. ARE WE LIVING IN A POLICE STATE?

By Amiya Fernando, Global Research

Are we living in a police state?

The Militarization of the Police

READ @ http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-militarization-of-the-police-are-we-living-in-a-police-state/5354994

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* URBAN SHIELD: ‘THE EPITOME OF STATE REPRESSION’ COMING TO A TOWN NEAR YOU

Meeting of SWAT teams and military contractors from around the world faces local opposition in Oakland, CA

By Sarah Lazare, CommonDreams

A member of the Israeli Special Police Force participating in an 'exercise' at the 2010 Urban Shield in Alameda County (Photo: PoliceMag)

A member of the Israeli Special Police Force participating in an ‘exercise’ at the 2010 Urban Shield in Alameda County (Photo: PoliceMag)

Urban Shield promotional material on the Cytel Inc. website (Image: Cytel Inc.)

Urban Shield promotional material on the Cytel Inc. website (Image: Cytel Inc.)

SWAT teams, police forces, and military contractors from across the world will converge in Oakland, California this weekend—October 25-28—for a little-known ‘Urban Shield’ global training exercise and weapons technology expo that is bankrolled by millions of dollars from the Department of Homeland Security and arms manufacturers and is billed as a program to fight ‘terrorism.’

They will be met on Friday by protesters from over 30 Bay-Area community and peace and justice organizations who say this gathering, that stands at the nexus of global and domestic militarization, is not welcome in their city.

“What Urban Shield represents to us is the epitome of state repression that has been impacting communities of color and immigrant communities for decades,” said Lara Kiswani of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center in an interview with Common Dreams. “Different strategies of surveillance against Arabs and Muslims and brown and black people are being used as tactics against our people back home. This is the militarization of the police.” […]

READ @ http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/10/24-5

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* SECURITY CHECK NOW STARTS LONG BEFORE YOU FLY

By Susan Stellin, NYTimes

Exploring Denver International Airport

The Transportation Security Administration is expanding its screening of passengers before they arrive at the airport by searching a wide array of government and private databases that can include records like car registrations and employment information.

While the agency says that the goal is to streamline the security procedures for millions of passengers who pose no risk, the new measures give the government greater authority to use travelers’ data for domestic airport screenings. Previously that level of scrutiny applied only to individuals entering the United States.

The prescreening, some of which is already taking place, is described in documents the T.S.A. released to comply with government regulations about the collection and use of individuals’ data, but the details of the program have not been publicly announced.

It is unclear precisely what information the agency is relying upon to make these risk assessments, given the extensive range of records it can access, including tax identification number, past travel itineraries, property records, physical characteristics, and law enforcement or intelligence information.

The measures go beyond the background check the government has conducted for years, called Secure Flight, in which a passenger’s name, gender and date of birth are compared with terrorist watch lists. Now, the search includes using a traveler’s passport number, which is already used to screen people at the border, and other identifiers to access a system of databases maintained by the Department of Homeland Security.

Privacy groups contacted by The New York Times expressed concern over the security agency’s widening reach.

“I think the best way to look at it is as a pre-crime assessment every time you fly,” said Edward Hasbrouck, a consultant to the Identity Project, one of the groups that oppose the prescreening initiatives. “The default will be the highest, most intrusive level of search, and anything less will be conditioned on providing some additional information in some fashion.” […]

READ @ http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/22/business/security-check-now-starts-long-before-you-fly.html?_r=4&hp=&adxnnl=1&pagewanted=1&adxnnlx=1382533364-vU+nGa3R+XaVDJNGizOAMw&

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* DANGEROUS FREEDOM VS. PEACEFUL SLAVERY

By Michael Krieger, ZeroHedge

Over the weekend a close friend sent me the following image, which was found spray-painted somewhere in Brooklyn:

post000915

[…] I find it incredibly bizarre that so many people who will claim in polls to distrust the government, will at the same time support the police state grid being built around them. Why? Fear. Fear of terrorists. A fear that has been nurtured and encouraged by the very government frantically trying to have every human being on the planet on watch 24/7. While in my mind the trade-off between “safety and freedom” should always err toward freedom, there are times when it must even more aggressively bend in that direction. I believe that to be the case today since we have a government and elite power structure of oligarchs that has proven itself to be beyond corrupt and beyond morality.

These folks do not care about the country, or the Constitution, the poor and middle class or civil society. Their actions have proved without a shadow of a doubt that they care about nothing but themselves and furthering their wealth and power. They are not constructing the largest surveillance society in human history to protect you, they are doing it to protect them. From you. The sooner we all recognize this, the better.

READ @ http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-10-24/dangerous-freedom-vs-peaceful-slavery

Oct 242013
 

El análisis de James Petras, 99GetSmart

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“La política económica tanto de Barack Obama como del Congreso, no han mejorado las verdaderas tasas de desempleo ni han reducido las desigualdades”  y “menos del 1% tiene más riqueza que la mitad de la población. La situación no puede ser más grave”, dijo James Petras al analizar la coyuntura política internacional en su espacio de los lunes en CX36, Radio Centenario (*). También negó que Estados Unidos vaya a responder el requerimiento de Naciones Unidas sobre el número de asesinados por los drones. “Washington no puede confesar  eso porque significaría ir a la Corte Internacional por crímenes contra la humanidad”, precisó. Además, rectificó su opinión sobre la presidente de Brasil Dilma Rousseff, ya que había dicho que “representa un nacionalismo burgués”, pero la subasta de ayer de ‘Campo Libra’ demuestra que lleva adelante la “privatización y desnacionalización de una de las áreas más lucrativas en el área del petróleo” y eso “es la continuación de la política entreguista de los neoliberales de Brasil”. Lo que sigue es la transcripción de todo este análisis, que Usted puede escuchar/descargar aquí:

http://content.bitsontherun.com/players/uciIkUua-y47WGXn0.html

Efrain Chury Iribarne: Bienvenido James Petras a los micrófonos de CX36, Radio Centenario. ¿Cómo está?

James Petras: Estamos muy bien. Prontos para empezar.

EChI: Bien, comencemos.

Se ha dado por aquí mucha difusión al espionaje estadounidense contra Francia y contra el gobierno de México. ¿Esto es noticia vieja o es que se producen ahora las reacciones?

JP: Son las dos cosas. Primero el hecho de que la noticia actual sobre el espionaje, se ha publicado en los más importantes medios de comunicación, y eso ha tenido impacto, forzando gobiernos bastante serviles a denunciarlo.

Por ejemplo en México, la posición del gobierno mexicano era que el gobierno estadounidense puede practicar el espionaje, porque Felipe Calderón es muy servil a Washington y no se atreve a criticar nada. Ahora, con Der Spiegel que tiene un millón de lectores cada semana, están obligados a responder, porque es una gran vergüenza someterse a este colonialismo y no responder.

Por su parte, que Francia esté criticando el espionaje, es porque ha salido en Le Monde y otros diarios, por lo que el gobierno de François Hollande no puede seguir tapando el hecho de que está sometido al control de Estados Unidos. A la vez hay que agregar que el espionaje se da a todos los niveles del gobierno, es como tener soplones en cada Ministerio, en cada reunión de gabinete, en toda decisión económica.

Este es el caso de México y Brasil, por ejemplo, el espionaje está tomando la Economía, tomando en cuenta cualquier subasta de lugares de explotación de petróleo, están metidos en cualquier decisión sorbe la protección de fronteras.

Por tanto, que el espionaje norteamericano haya penetrado todos los niveles de gobierno; es decir, tomando en cuenta lo que el gobierno está pensando y planificando, dando a los Estados Unidos acceso a esa información.Obviamente  puede utilizarlo para mejorar sus condiciones económicas y particularmente sus agencias de penetración y también las empresas multinacionales. Todos estos factores están influyendo para esta protesta.

Ahora, Francia tiene su propio sistema de penetración en la ciudadanía.El hecho es que Estados Unidos también está penetrando el sistema de espionaje francés, esto hace que haya dos niveles: el gobierno francés espiando a sus ciudadanos y el gobierno estadounidense espiando a los espías franceses. Es una multiplicación de espionaje y cada gobierno trata de aprovecharlo para fortalecer sus posiciones.

Independientemente de eso, que el espionaje se ha filtrado en la prensa, los gobernantes no han cambiado, Estados Unidos no ha renunciado a espiar, a infiltrarse ni a penetrar a otros gobiernos, es más siguen haciéndolo. Mientras estamos hablando lo están haciendo, siguen espiando a Francia, Brasil, Méjico., no paran. Entonces los gobiernos tienen que pensar como terminar o bloquear estas operaciones, pero hasta ahora, los Estados Unidos siguen adelante con esta agresión y violando la soberanía de los países, a tal punto que tal vez lo fuercen a un cambio en las relaciones, de alguna forma.

EChI: ¿Estas operaciones de espionaje se basan en el combate al terrorismo, pero cuál es el fin?

JP: Más que contra el terrorismo, el espionaje afecta todo tipo de decisiones económicas y políticas, de políticos aliados –supuestamente- a los Estados Unidos. Ese es el hecho que más molesta a la gran prensa, por esa razón la prensa burguesa, pro imperialista incluso, ha dado difusión al tema. Una cosa es ser servil al imperialismo y otra es someterse como adversario y no tener autonomía de acción, ninguna posibilidad de articular una idea sin que Estados Unidos lo sepa. Es una posición que uno debe entender. Por ejemplo en Uruguay el semanario Búsqueda o el diario La República, sirven a los intereses del gran capital pero quieren un margen de autonomía para funcionar, no quieren ser absolutamente sometidos.

La denuncia o la publicidad es en repudio a la subordinación total.Ellos quieren servir al imperialismo por sus propias razones y en el tiempo que ellos decidan, y no simplemente someterse cien por ciento en cada momento, en cada asunto, a Washington.

EChI: Desde Naciones Unidas se instó a Estados Unidos a que aclare el número de muertos por el uso de los drones, esos aviones no tripulados.

JP: Washington no va a publicar esos datos porque las cifras que tenemos de expertos dicen que el 25% de los muertos por los drones son civiles, sobre todo mujeres, niños, trabajadores, que no tienen nada que ver con ningún combate ni conflicto militar. Por tanto podríamos calcular en base a eso con son miles de víctimas .Y Washington no puede confesar   eso porque significaría ir a la Corte Internacional,  por crímenes contra la humanidad. Son asesinatos en muchos países, eso implicaría aceptar que son un gobierno criminal y ellos no están dispuestos a someterse a un juicio internacional por crímenes contra la humanidad.

EChI: Obama, en su programa radial semanal, dijo el sábado que las crisis fabricadas en las últimas semanas han perjudicado gravemente el empleo y la economía en momentos en que el país necesita el “mayor crecimiento económico”.

JP: Obviamente estamos estancados económicamente, obviamente la política económica tanto de Barack Obama como del Congreso, ni han mejorado las verdaderas tasas de desempleo ni han reducido las desigualdades. Por ejemplo, las últimas cifras que tenemos indican que en Estados Unidos los 400 más ricos tiene más riqueza que 160 millones de personas. Es decir, menos del 1% tiene más riqueza que la mitad de la población. La situación no puede ser más grave.

Ahora, esto viene de tiempo, no es por el problema fiscal ni por la parálisis del gobierno, viene de antes. Pero Obama tiene que arreglar un acuerdo –lo que ellos llaman el ‘gran acuerdo’- con el Congreso, entre demócratas y republicanos, en eso se está arropa porque tienen plazo de tres meses para alcanzar ese acuerdo. Ahí lo que está en juego es que los representantes republicanos van a atacar los programas sociales en forma agresiva y radical, al mismo tiempo no quieren aumentar ningún impuesto para ningún sector de la clase capitalista. Obama está de acuerdo en los recortes sociales, pero como tiene una base popular no puede vender un recorte cargándolo todo  a las clases populares. Él necesita una justificación, por eso quiere dos cosas: recortes sociales pero por otro lado, aumento de impuestos a los ricos. De esta manera él quiere venderle a la gente aquello de que todos tenemos que hacer sacrificios, ricos y pobres. Ese es el mensaje que está cocinando.

Pero si no consigue la última, la concesión sobre los impuestos, no puede venderle a su público y por eso se da el empate actual. Busca presionar a los republicanos para que acepten algún impuesto a los ricos, no demasiado, pero algo que sirva para dar publicidad como acuerdo equitativo. Eso es lo que están negociando y por eso también utilizan la crisis que coyunturalmente hemos superado para denunciar a los republicanos y ablandarlos para las próximas negociaciones.

EChI: Bien Petras, para el final dejamos que nos comente los temas en lo que trabaja en estos momentos.

JP: Tenemos varios temas.

Hemos tocado el problema del espionaje que tenía anotado, pero también tenemos el hecho de que hay una conferencia sobre Siria, que se realizará en Ginebra, Suiza, los días 23 y 24 de noviembre. El gobierno sirio está de acuerdo, los promotores son los que se autodenominan ‘comunidad internacional’ que incluye a Europa y Estados Unidos.Pero la oposición no lo apoya porque en primer lugar saben que en cualquier negociación, ellos van a perder. En segundo lugar, porque en la oposición los fundamentalistas son dominantes.Tienen el poder militar, el mejor financiamiento que viene del Golfo y ellos no quieren ninguna negociación, ningún arreglo.Quieren tomar el poder con la violencia y limpiar toda la población que no está de acuerdo con los fundamentalistas.

Ahora, el problema de rechazar la conferencia, significa que la guerra continúa .Los países occidentales no controlan a los fundamentalistas, porque ellos tienen sus apoyos en los países del golfo, como Arabia Saudita, y tienen suficiente financiamiento como para seguir con las bombas terroristas matando y destruyendo. Ahora, Arabia Saudita no tiene interés en tomar control de Siria.Lo que quieren es destruirla lo más posible para que no funcione como un adversario secular y  nacional. Eso es lo que está en juego.

En relación con esto, también, hay una organización que se llama Observatorio de los Derechos Humanos que se supone es la fuente de información de los medios de comunicación occidentales publican. Y descubrimos que hay un señor que forma el “observatorio”. No es una organización, es un señor que vive en Londres y supuestamente recoge todos los datos sobre cualquier muerto, asesinato, y quiénes son los responsables. Es absolutamente absurdo. Una organización de una persona, una fachada, simplemente transmitiendo los mensajes de Washington y Londres, y dando como fuente por ejemplo: “según el Observatorio Sirio de Derechos Humanos el gobierno mató 300 civiles”. Eso significa que una persona en Londres, cocina los datos y después todos los medios de comunicación publican los “datos” como algo verificado y confirmado por observadores. Nada que ver.

Es como si Chury que vive en Montevideo, recibiera órdenes de la Embajada norteamericana y difundiera noticias sobre lo que está pasando en Siria. Es algo absolutamente increíble.

Por último, tengo que anotar que nosotros hemos dicho que Dilma Rousseff representa un nacionalismo burgués, pero debemos rectificarlo. Hoy en día hay una subasta sobre los campos de explotación de petróleo, uno de los más lucrativos, ‘Campo Libra’ (1), y en esa subasta las grandes empresas multinacionales van a tomar control de un área de explotación de petróleo, desplazando la Petrobras como el principal explotador.

En otras palabras, Rousseff está lanzando una campaña de privatización y desnacionalización de una de las áreas más lucrativas en el área del petróleo.

Debemos decir que es la continuación de la política entreguista de los neoliberales de Brasil.

EChI: Muchas gracias, Petras, nos reencontramos el lunes.

JP: Un saludo a la audiencia y hasta el lunes.

(*) Escuche en vivo los lunes a las 11:30 horas (hora local) la audición de James Petras por CX36, Radio Centenario desde Montevideo (Uruguay) para todo el mundo a través de www.radio36.com.uy

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Notas de Redacción:

(1) Brasil subasta su mayor reserva petrolera pese a descontento social (TeleSur)

El gobierno de Brasil ratificó la subasta del yacimiento Libra, la mayor reserva petrolera del país, pese al descontento social, por considerar que esta acción conlleva a la privatización de los recursos naturales de su nación. La respuesta del gobierno ha sido incrementar el número de operativos policiales ante el descontento de los ciudadanos.

Oct 232013
 

Posted by greydogg, 99GetSmart

* SPAIN’S COMMUNIST MODEL VILLAGE

By Dan Hancox, The Guardian

Marinaleda, in impoverished Andalusia, used to suffer terrible hardships. Led by a charismatic mayor, the village declared itself a communist utopia and took farmland to provide for everyone. Could it be the answer to modern capitalism’s failings?

Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo, mayor of Marinaleda, attending a protest in Seville. Photograph: Dave Stelfox

Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo, mayor of Marinaleda, attending a protest in Seville. Photograph: Dave Stelfox

[…] But in one village in Andalusia’s wild heart, there lies stability and order. Like Asterix’s village impossibly holding out against the Romans, in this tiny pueblo a great empire has met its match, in a ragtag army of boisterous upstarts yearning for liberty. The bout seems almost laughably unfair – Marinaleda’s population is 2,700, Spain’s is 47 million – and yet the empire has lost, time and time again.

In 1979, at the age of 30, Sánchez Gordillo became the first elected mayor of Marinaleda, a position he has held ever since – re-elected time after time with an overwhelming majority. However, holding official state-sanctioned positions of power was only a distraction from the serious business of la lucha – the struggle. In the intense heat of the summer of 1980, the village launched “a hunger strike against hunger” which brought them national and even global recognition. Everything they have done since that summer has increased the notoriety of Sánchez Gordillo and his village, and added to their admirers and enemies across Spain.

Sánchez Gordillo’s philosophy, outlined in his 1980 book Andaluces, Levantaos and in countless speeches and interviews since, is one which is unique to him, though grounded firmly in the historic struggles and uprisings of the peasant pueblos of Andalusia, and their remarkably deep-seated tendency towards anarchism. These communities are striking for being against all authority. “I have never belonged to the communist party of the hammer and sickle, but I am a communist or communitarian,” Sánchez Gordillo said in an interview in 2011, adding that his political beliefs were drawn from those of Jesus Christ, Gandhi, Marx, Lenin and Che.

In August 2012 he achieved a new level of notoriety for a string of actions that began, in 40C heat, with the occupation of military land, the seizure of an aristocrat’s palace, and a three-week march across the south in which he called on his fellow mayors not to repay their debts. Its peak saw Sánchez Gordillo lead a series of expropriations from supermarkets, along with fellow members of the left-communist trade union SOC-SAT. They marched into supermarkets and took bread, rice, olive oil and other basic supplies, and donated them to food banks for Andalusians who could not feed themselves. For this he became a superstar, appearing not only on the cover of Spanish newspapers, but in the world’s media, as “the Robin Hood mayor”, “the Don Quixote of the Spanish crisis”, or “Spain’s William Wallace”, depending on which newspaper you read. […]

READ @ http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/20/marinaleda-spanish-communist-village-utopia

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* THE TRAGEDY OF GREECE AS A CASE STUDY OF NEO-IMPERIAL PILLAGE AND THE DEMISE OF SOCIAL EUROPE

By CJ Polychroniou, Truthout

Striking farmers market vendors hand out fruit and vegetables for free to consumers in Athens, Greece, May 15, 2013. The handouts were part of a protest against the government's plan to liberalize closed professions. (Photo: Angelos Tzortzinis / The New York Times)

Striking farmers market vendors hand out fruit and vegetables for free to consumers in Athens, Greece, May 15, 2013. The handouts were part of a protest against the government’s plan to liberalize closed professions. (Photo: Angelos Tzortzinis / The New York Times)

Now Greece is on the verge of collapse. The nation’s output has experienced a cumulative decline of 20 percent; the official unemployment rate has climbed to almost 28 percent, with youth unemployment for the ages of 16-24 close to 65 percent. More than 30 percent of the citizens live near or below the poverty line, and the debt-to-GDP ratio has increased from approximately 127 percent in 2009 to over 180 percent in the summer of 2013 (even after a major “haircut” that took place last year among private holders of Greek sovereign debt). Because of the draconian budget cuts in the name of “expansionary austerity,” the public health care system lies in ruins, with some hospitals lacking the proper medical equipment to perform certain operations or the drugs needed to treat cancer patients and private pharmacies refusing to provide more drugs until the state pays them the hundreds of millions of euros it owes. Public schools are in shambles; many schools throughout Greece cannot even afford heating oil.

In addition, there is a huge migration wave (particularly among the educated), crime is rampant, and suicides spread like the plague, not to mention the sharp rise of the neo-Nazi party of Golden Dawn, which, until the recent murder of an anti-fascist, anti-racist rapper at the hands of a paid assassin of this criminal organization and the government crackdown that ensued as a result, had emerged as a vital reactionary political force, openly challenging whatever democratic values are still left in today’s economically beleaguered Greece.

In sum, three years and a half years after the EU and IMF, the “twin monsters” of global neoliberalism, came to the “rescue,” Greece has been transformed from a developed economy into an emerging economy, posting unemployment and poverty rates that are normally associated with so-called “third world” nations, and is permanently stuck in a vicious cycle of debt, austerity and depression. […]

READ @ http://truth-out.org/news/item/19334-the-tragedy-of-greece-as-a-case-study-of-neo-imperial-pillage-and-the-demise-of-social-europe

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* HOMELESS

Source: youtube

VIDEO @ https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=PnaDNAmoSgY#t=379

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* US DRONE STRIKES COULD BE CLASSED AS WAR CRIMES, SAYS AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL

Joint report with Human Rights Watch judges US attacks in Yemen and Pakistan to have broken international human rights law

By Jon Boone, The Guardian

A house in Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan destroyed by a drone missile in 2008. Eighteen people including Islamist militants were killed. Photograph: Reuters

A house in Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan destroyed by a drone missile in 2008. Eighteen people including Islamist militants were killed. Photograph: Reuters

US officials responsible for the secret CIA drone campaign against suspected terrorists in Pakistan may have committed war crimes and should stand trial, a report by a leading human rights group warns. Amnesty International has highlighted the case of a grandmother who was killed while she was picking vegetables and other incidents which could have broken international laws designed to protect civilians.

The report is issued in conjunction with an investigation by Human Rights Watch detailing missile attacks in Yemen which the group believes could contravene the laws of armed conflict, international human rights law and Barack Obama’s own guidelines on drones.

The reports are being published while Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s prime minister, is in Washington. Sharif has promised to tell Obama that the drone strikes – which have caused outrage in Pakistan – must end. […]

READ @ http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/22/amnesty-us-officials-war-crimes-drones

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* A NEW KIND OF WAR IS BEING LEGALIZED

Source: Washington’s Blog

071104f2185f031

There’s a dark side to the flurry of reports and testimony on drones, helpful as they are in many ways.  When we read that Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch oppose drone strikes that violate international law, some of us may be inclined to interpret that as a declaration that, in fact, drone strikes violate international law.  On the contrary, what these human rights groups mean is that some drone strikes violate the law and some do not, and they want to oppose the ones that do.

Which are which? Even their best researchers can’t tell you.  Human Rights Watch looked into six drone murders in Yemen and concluded that two were illegal and four might be illegal.  The group wants President Obama to explain what the law is (since nobody else can), wants him to comply with it (whatever it is), wants civilians compensated (if anyone can agree who the civilians are and if people can really be compensated for the murder of their loved ones), and wants the U.S. government to investigate itself.  Somehow the notion of prosecuting crimes doesn’t come up.

Amnesty International looks into nine drone strikes in Pakistan, and can’t tell whether any of the nine were legal or illegal.  Amnesty wants the U.S. government to investigate itself, make facts public, compensate victims, explain what the law is, explain who a civilian is, and — remarkably — recommends this: “Where there is sufficient admissible evidence, bring those responsible to justice in public and fair trials without recourse to the death penalty.”  However, this will be a very tough nut to crack, as those responsible for the crimes are being asked to define what is and is not legal.  Amnesty proposes “judicial review of drone strikes,” but a rubber-stamp FISA court for drone murders wouldn’t reduce them, and an independent judiciary assigned to approve of certain drone strikes and not others would certainly approve of some, while inevitably leaving the world less than clear as to why. […]

READ @ http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2013/10/a-new-kind-of-war-is-being-legalized.html

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* MISS REPRESENTATION

Source: youtube

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S5pM1fW6hNs

 

Oct 212013
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

Antiimperialismo_caracas

Introduction

US relations with Venezuela illustrate the specific mechanisms with which an imperial power seeks to sustain client states and overthrow independent nationalist governments.  By examining US strategic goals and its tactical measures, we can set forth several propositions about (1) the nature and instruments of imperial politics, (2) the shifting context and contingencies influencing the successes and failures of specific policies, and (3) the importance of regional and global political alignments and priorities.[1]

Method of Analysis

A comparative historical approach highlights the different policies, contexts and outcomes of imperial policies during two distinct Presidential periods: the ascendancy of neo-liberal client regimes (Perez and Caldera) of the late 1980’s to 1998; and the rise and consolidation of a nationalist populist government under President Chavez (1999-2012).[2]

During the 1980’s and 1990’s, US successes in securing policies favorable to US economic and foreign policy interests under client rulers fixed, in the mind of Washington, the optimal and only acceptable model and criteria for responding (negatively) to the subsequent Chavez nationalist government.[3]

US policy toward Venezuela in the 1990’s and its successes were part and parcel of a general embrace of neo-liberal electoral regimes in Latin America.  Washington and its allies in the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank (WB) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) promoted and supported regimes throughout Latin America, which privatized and de-nationalized over five thousand public enterprises in the most lucrative economic sectors.[4]  These quasi-public monopolies included natural resources, energy, finance, trade, transport and telecommunications.  Neo-liberal client regimes reversed 50 years of economic and social policy, concentrated wealth, deregulated the economy, and laid the basis for a profound crisis, which ultimately discredited neo-liberalism. This led to continent-wide popular uprisings resulting in regime changes and the ruse if nationalist populist governments.

The historical-comparative approach allows us to analyze Washington’s response to the rise and demise of its neo-liberal clients and the subsequent ascendency of populist-nationalism and how regional patterns and changes influence the capacity of an imperial power to intervene and attempt to re-establish its dominance.

Conceptual Framework

The key to understanding the mode and means of imposing and sustaining imperial dominance is to recognize that Washington combines multiple forms of struggle, depending on resources, available collaborators and opportunities and contingencies.[5]

In approaching client regimes, Washington combines military and economic aid to repress opposition and buttress economic allies by cushioning crises. Imperial propaganda, via the mass media, provides political legitimacy and diplomatic backing, especially when client regimes engage in gross human rights violations and high level corruption.

Conversely when attempting to weaken or overthrow a nationalist-populist regime, the empire will resort to multiple forms of attack including:[6] (1) corruption (buying off government supporters), (2) funding and organizing opposition media, parties, business and trade union organizations, (3) organizing and backing disloyal military officials to violently overthrow the elected government, (4) supporting employers’ lockouts to paralyze strategic sectors of the economy (oil),(5) financing referendums and other ‘legal mechanisms’ to revoke democratic mandates, (6) promoting paramilitary groups to destabilize civil society, sow public insecurity and undermine agrarian reforms, (7) financing electoral parties and non-governmental organizations to compete in and delegitimize elections, (8) engaging diplomatic warfare and efforts to prejudice regional relations and (9) establishing military bases in neighboring countries, as a platform for future joint military invasions.

The multi-prong, multi-track policies occur in sequence or are combined, depending on the opportunities and results of earlier tactical operations.  For example, while financing the electoral campaign of Capriles Radonski in April 2013, Washington also backed violent post-election assaults by rightist thugs attempting to destabilize the government in Caracas.[7]

Secretary of State John Kerry, while pursuing an apparent effort to re-open diplomatic relations via negotiations, simultaneously backed inflammatory declarations by Samantha Power, United Nations representative, which promised aggressive US intrusion in Venezuela’s domestic politics.

US-Venezuelan relations provide us with a case study that illustrates how efforts to restore hegemonic politics can become an obstacle to the development of normal relations, with an independent country.  In particular, the ascendancy of Washington during the ‘Golden Age of Neo-liberalism’ in the 1990’s, established a fixed ‘mind set’ incapable of adapting to the changed circumstances of the 2000’s, a period when the demise and discredit of ‘free market’ client politics called for a change in US tactics.  The rigidity, derived from past success, led Washington to pursue ‘restoration politics’ under very unfavorable circumstances, involving military, clandestine and other illicit tactics with little chance of success – given the new situation.

The failure of the US to destabilize a democratically elected nationalist popular regime in Venezuela occurred when Washington was already heavily engaged in multiple, prolonged wars and conflicts in several countries (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Libya). This validates the hypothesis that even a global power is incapable of waging warfare in multiple locations at the same time.

Given the shift in world market conditions, including the increase in commodity prices, (especially energy), the relative economic decline of the US and the rise of Asia, Washington lost a strategic economic lever – market power – in the 2000’s, a resource which it had possessed during the previous decade.[8]  Furthermore, with the shift in political power in the region and the rise of popular-nationalist governments in most of Latin America, Washington lost regional leverage to ‘encircle’, ‘boycott’ and intervene in Venezuela.  Even among its remaining clients, like Colombia, Washington could do no more than create ‘border tensions’ rather than mount a joint military attack.

Comparative historical analysis of the strategic changes in international and regional politics, economies, markets and alignments provides a useful framework for interpreting US-Venezuelan relations, especially the successes of the 1990’s and the failures of the 2000’s.

US-Venezuela Patron-Client Relations 1960’s -1998

During the 40-year period following the overthrow of the Dictator Perez Jimenez (1958) and prior to the election of President Hugo Chavez (1998), Venezuela’s politics were marked with rigid conformity to US political and economic interests on all strategic issues.[9]  Venezuelan regimes followed Washington’s lead in ousting Cuba from the Organization of American States, breaking relations with Havana and promoting a hemispheric blockade.  Caracas followed Washington’s lead during the cold War and backed its counter-insurgency policies in Latin America.  It opposed the democratic leftist regime in Chile under President Salvador Allende, the nationalist governments of Brazil (1961-64), Peru (1967-73), Bolivia (1968-71) and Ecuador (in the 1970’s).  It supported the US invasions of the Dominican Republic, Panama and Grenada.  Venezuela’s nationalization of oil (1976) provided lucrative compensation and generous service contracts with US oil companies, a settlement far more generous than any comparable arrangement in the Middle East or elsewhere in Latin America.

During the decade from the late 1980’s to 1998, Venezuela signed[10] off on draconic International Monetary Fund programs, including privatizations of natural resources, devaluations and austerity programs, which enriched the MNCs, emptied the Treasury and impoverished the majority of wage and salary earners.[11]  In foreign policy, Venezuela aligned with the US, ignored new trade opportunities in Latin America and Asia and moved to re-privatize its oil, bauxite and other primary resource sectors.  President Perez was indicted in a massive corruption scandal.  When implementation of the brutal US-IMF austerity program led to a mass popular uprising (the ‘Caracazo’) in February 1989, the government responded with the massacre of over a thousand protestors. The subsequent Caldera regime presided over the triple scourge of triple digit inflation, 50% poverty rates and double digit unemployment.[12]

Social and political conditions in Venezuela touched bottom at the peak of US hegemony in the region, the ‘Golden Age of Neo-Liberalism’ for Wall Street.  The inverse relation was not casual: Venezuela, under President Caldera, endured austerity programs and adopted ‘open’ market and US-centered policies, which undermined any public policies designed to revive the economy.  Moreover, world market conditions were unfavorable for Venezuela, as oil prices were low and China had not yet become a world market power and alternative trade partner.

US and the Rise of Chavez:  1998-2001

The US viewed the Venezuelan elections of 1998 as a continuation of the previous decade, despite significant political signs of changes.  The two parties, which dominated and alternated in power, the Christian democratic ‘COPEI’, and the social democratic ‘Democratic Action Party’, were soundly defeated by a new political formation headed by a former military officer, Hugo Chavez, who had led an armed uprising six years earlier and had mounted a massive grass-roots campaign, attracting radicals and revolutionaries, as well as opportunists and defectors from the two major parties.[13]

Washington’s successes over the previous decade, the entrenched ascendancy of neo-liberalism and the advance of a regional US ‘free trade agreement’ blinded the Clinton regime from seeing (1) the economic crisis and discredit of the neo-liberal model, (2) the deepening social and economic polarization and hostility to the IMF-USA among broad sectors of the class structure and (3) the decay and discredit of its client political parties and regimes.  Washington tended to write-off Chavez’s promises of a new constitutional order and new ‘Bolivarian’ foreign and domestic policies, including nationalist-populist reforms, as typical Latin American campaign rhetoric.  The general thinking at the US State Department was that Chavez was engaging in electoral demagogy and that he would ‘come to his senses’ after taking office.[14]  Moreover Washington’s Latin Americanists believed that the mix of traditional politicians and technocrats in his motley coalition would undermine any consequential push for leftist radical changes.[15]

Hence Washington, under Clinton, did not adopt a hostile position during the first months of the Chavez government.  The watchword among the Clintonites was ‘wait and see’ counting on long-standing ties to the major business associations, friendly military officials, and corrupt trade union bosses and oil executives to check or block any new radical initiatives emanating from Venezuelan Congress or President Chavez.  In other words, Washington counted on using the permanent state apparatus in Caracas to counter the new electoral regime.

Early on, President Chavez recognized the institutional obstacles to his nationalist socio-economic reforms and immediately called for constitutional changes, convoking elections for a constituent assembly, which he won handily.  Washington’s growing concerns over the possible consequences of new elections were tempered by two factors:  (1) the mixed composition of the elected assembly (old line politicians, moderate leftists, radicals and ‘unknowns’) and (2) the appointment of ‘moderates’ to the Central Bank as well as the orthodox economic policies pursued by the finance and economic ministries.  Prudent budgets, fiscal deficits and balance of payments were at the top of their agendas.

The new constitution included clauses favoring a radical social and nationalist agenda.   This led to the early defection of some of the more conservative Chavez supporters who then aligned with Washington, signaling the first overt signs of US opposition.  Veteran State Department officials debated whether the new radical constitution would form the basis of a leftist government or whether it was standard ‘symbolic’ fare, i.e. rhetorical flourishes, to be heavily discounted, from a populist president addressing a restive ‘Latin’ populace suffering hard times but not likely to be followed by substantive reforms.[16]  The hard liners in Caracas, linked to the exile Cuban community and lobby argued that Chavez was a ‘closet’ radical preparing the way for more radical ‘communist’ measures.[17]  In fact, Chavez policies were both moderate and radical: His political ‘zigzags’ reflected his efforts to navigate a moderate reform agenda, without alienating the US and the business community on the one hand, and while responding to his mass base among the impoverished slum dwellers (rancheros’) who had elected him.

Strategically, Chavez succeeded in creating a strong political institutional base in the legislature, civil administration and military, which could (or would) approve and implement his national-populist agenda.  Unlike Chilean Socialist President Salvador Allende, Hugo Chavez first consolidated his political and military base of support and then proceeded to introduce socio-economic changes.

By the end of 2000, Washington moved to regroup its internal client political forces into a formidable political opposition.  Chavez was too independent, not easily controlled, and most important moving in the ‘wrong direction’ – away from a blind embrace of neo-liberalism and US-centered regional integration.  In other words, while Chavez was still well within the parameters of US hegemony, the direction he was taking portended a possible break.

The Turning Point:  Chavez Defies the ‘War on Terror’ 2000-2001

The first decade of the new millennium was a tumultuous period which played a major role in defining US-Venezuelan relations.  Several inter-related events polarized the hemisphere, weakened Washington’s influence, undermined collaborator-client regimes and led to a major confrontation with Venezuela.

First, the neo-liberal model fell into deep crisis throughout the region, discrediting the US-backed clients in Bolivia, Argentina, Ecuador, Brazil and elsewhere.  Secondly, repeated major popular uprisings occurred during the crisis and populist-nationalist politicians came to power, rejecting US-IMF tutelage and US-centered regional trade agreements.[18]  Thirdly, Washington launched a global ‘war on terror’, essentially an offensive military strategy designed to overthrow adversaries to US domination and establish Israeli regional supremacy in the Middle East.  In Latin American, Washington’s launch of the ‘war on terror’ occurred precisely at the high point of crisis and popular rebellion, undermining the US hope for region-wide support.  Fourthly, beginning in 2003, commodity prices skyrocketed, as China’s economy took off, creating lucrative markets and stimulating high growth for the new left of center regimes.

In this vortex of change, President Chavez rejected Washington’s ‘War on Terror’, rejecting the logic of ‘fighting terror with terror’.  By the end of 2001, Washington dispatched a top State Department official and regional ‘enforcer’ to Caracas where he bluntly threatened dire reprisals – destabilization plans – if Caracas failed to line up with Washington’s campaign to reimpose global hegemony.[19]  Chavez dismissed the official’s threats and re-aligned his nation with the emerging Latin American nationalist-populist consensus.  In other words, Washington’s aggressive militarist posture backfired: polarizing relations, increasing tensions and, to a degree, radicalizing Venezuela’s foreign policy.

Washington’s intervention machine (the ‘coup-makers’) went into high gear:  Ambassador Charles Shapiro held several meetings with the FEDECAMARAS (the Venezuelan business association) and the trade union bosses of the CTV (Venezuelan Trade Union Confederation).[20]  The Pentagon and the US Southern Command met with their clients in the Venezuelan military.  The State Department increased contacts and funding for opposition NGO’s and rightwing street gangs.  The date of the coup had been set for April 11, 2002.  With the buildup of pressure, preparatory for the threatened coup, the Chavez government began to assess its own resources, contacting loyal military units, especially among the armored battalions and paratroopers.

In this heated and dangerous atmosphere, local neighborhood committees sprang up and mobilized the poor around a more radical social agenda defending their government while the US-backed opposition unleashed violent street clashes.[21]  The coup was warmly welcomed by Washington and its semi-official mouthpiece, the New York Times,[22] as well as by the rightwing Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar [23].  The illicit coup regime seized President Chavez, dismissed Congress, dissolved political parties and declared a state of emergency.  The masses and leading sectors of the military quickly responded in mass:  Millions of poor Venezuelans descended from the ‘ranchos’ (slums surrounding Caracas) and gathered before Miraflores, the Presidential Palace, demanding the return of their elected President – repudiating the coup.  The constitutionalist military, led by an elite paratroop battalion, threatened a full-scale assault against the palace. The coup-makers, realized they were politically isolated and outgunned; they surrendered.  Chavez returned to power in triumph.  The traditional US policy of violent regime change to restore its hegemony had been defeated; important collaborator assets were forced into exile and purged from the military.

Washington had played a risky card in its haste and lost on several fronts:  First of all, US support for the coup strengthened the anti-imperialist sectors of Chavez’s Bolivarian movement.  Chavez discarded any residual illusions of ‘reaching an accommodation’ with Washington.  Secondly, the loss of key military assets weakened Washington’s hope for a future military coup.  Thirdly, the complicity of the business groups weakened their ability to influence Chavez’s economic policies and nudged him toward a more statist economic strategy.  Fourthly, the mass mobilization of the poor to restore democracy moved the government to increase spending on social welfare programs.  Anti-imperialism, the demand for social welfare and the threat to Venezuelan national security led Chavez to establish strategic ties with Cuba, as a natural ally.

Washington’s escalation of aggression and overt commitment to regime change altered the bilateral relationship into one of permanent, unbridled hostility.  Spurred on by its having supported a failed coup, Washington resorted once again to ‘direct action’ by backing a ‘boss’s lockout’ of the strategic oil industry.  This was led by ‘client assets’ among the executives and corrupt sectors of the petroleum workers union.

Washington implemented its ‘global militarization’ of US foreign policy.  Under the subterfuge ‘War on Terror’ – a formula for global intervention, which included the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and, the war against Iraq in 2003, imperial policymakers have plunged ahead with new aggressive policies against Venezuela.

The pretext for aggression against Venezuela was not directly linked to oil or Chavez’s appeal for Latin American integration.   The trigger was Chavez direct and forthright refusal to submit to a militarist global US empire as demanded by President Bush – one which conquered opponents by force and maintained a network of collaborator vassal states.  The oil conflicts – Chavez’ nationalization of US oil concessions and his appeal for regional integration, excluding the US and Canada, were a result of and in response to US overt aggression.  Prior to the US-backed April 2002 failed coup and the oil-bosses’ lockout of December 2002 – February 2003, there were no major conflicts between Chavez and US oil companies.  Chavez’s conception of the Bolivarian unity of all Latin American states was still a ‘vision’ and not a concrete program for action.  Chavez’s takeover of US oil concessions was a defensive political move to eliminate a powerful political adversary which controlled Venezuela’s strategic export and revenue sectors.  He did not intervene in European oil companies.  Likewise, Chavez’s move to promote regional organizations flowed from his perception that Venezuela required closer ties and supportive relations in Latin America in order to counter US imperial aggression.

In other words, US empire builders used (and sacrificed) their economic assets in their attempt to restore hegemony via military means.  The military and strategic dimensions of the US Empire took precedence over ‘Big Oil’.  This formed a template clearly evident in all of its subsequent imperial actions against Iraq, Libya and Syria and its severe economic sanctions against Iran.  The same hegemonic priorities played out in Washington’s intervention in Venezuela – but failed.

Contrary to some theorists of imperialism, who have argued that imperialism expands via economic ‘dispossession’ [24], recent history of US-Venezuela relations demonstrate that 21st US imperialism grows via political intervention, military coups and by converting economic collaborators into political agents willing to sacrifice US corporate wealth to secure imperial military-political domination.

The imperial policymakers decided to overthrow Chavez because he had defied Washington and opposed Bush’s global military strategy.  The White House thought it had powerful assets in Venezuela:  the mass media, the two major opposition parties, the principle business federation (FEDECAMARAS), the official trade union bureaucracy, sectors of the military and the church hierarchy … Washington did not count on the loyalty and affection that the unorganized masses and the popular movements has for President Chavez.  Nor did imperial strategists understand that strategic military units, like the paratroops, retained nationalist, personal and political ties with their democratically-elected President.

Within 48 hours of the coup, Chavez was restored to power – striking the first blow to Washington’s ambitions for ‘regime change’ in Venezuela.  The second blow came with the defeat of the US-backed oil bosses’ lockout.  Washington had counted on its close ties with the senior executives of the state oil company (PDVS) and the heads of the oil workers union.[25]  Washington did not realize that about half of the oil workers and a number of company and union bosses would staunchly opposed the lockout while other Latin American oil producers would supply Venezuela and break the ‘bosses’ strike.

These twin defeats, the military-business coup and the bosses’ lockout, had a profound impact on US-Venezuelan relations.  The US lost its strategic internal assets – business and trade union elites who then fled to ‘exile’ in Miami or resigned.  Pro-US oil executives were replaced by nationalists. Washington’s direct imperial intervention pushed the Chavez government in a new, radical direction as it moved decisively from conciliation to confrontation and opposition.  The government of Venezuela launched a radical, nationalist, populist agenda and actively promoted Latin American integration.  Venezuela inaugurated UNASUR, ALBA and PetroCaribe, undermining the US-centered free trade treaty (ALCA).

Washington’s military-interventionist strategy was undermined by the loss of their key collaborators. The White House switched to its clients in the opposition parties and, especially, to so-called non-governmental organizations (NGOs) channeling funds via the ‘National Endowment for Democracy’ and other “front groups”.  They bankrolled a ‘recall referendum’, which was decisively defeated, further demoralizing the rightwing electorate and weakening remaining US clients.[26]

Having lost on the military, economic and electoral fronts, Washington backed a boycott of Congressional elections by the opposition parties- leading to the final debacle in its program to de-legitimize and destabilize the Chavez government.  Pro-Chavez candidates and parties swept the election gaining an overwhelming majority.  They went on to approve all of the government’s nationalist-social reform agenda.  The US-backed opposition lost all institutional leverage.

The US imperial failures from 2002-2005 did not merely ‘reflect’ mistaken policies; these signaled a more profound problem for the empire – its inability to make an accurate estimate of the correlation of forces.  This strategic failure led it to continue throwing its marginalized domestic assets into conflict with less resources and support.  Despite repeated defeats, Washington couldn’t grasp that popular power and nationalist allegiances within the military had successfully countered the US business-military intervention.  Political hubris underpinning a military-driven imperialist ideology had blinded Washington to the realities in Venezuela, i.e. Hugo Chavez possessed massive popular support and was backed by nationalist military officers.  Desperate for some political ‘victory’ in its conflict with the government of Hugo Chavez, Washington staggered from one adventure to another without reflecting on its lost assets or disappearing opportunities.  Washington did not understand the decisive political shifts occurring in Latin America and favorable global economic conditions for petroleum exporters.  Organizing a ‘recall referendum’ in the face of Venezuela’s double-digit growth, its radicalized population and the booming world prices for oil, was the height of imperial imbecility.[27]

Imperial Policy During the Commodity Boom 2004-2008

With virtually no collaborators of consequence, Washington turned toward the ‘outside’ destabilization strategy using its only loyal regional client, the death squad narco-President Alvaro Uribe of Colombia.  Bogota granted Washington the use of seven military bases, numerous airfields and the establishment of Special Forces missions- preparatory for cross border intrusions.  The strategy would be to launch a joint intervention under the pretext that Venezuela supplied and sheltered the FARC guerillas.

World events intervened to thwart Washington’s plans: the invasion of Iraq and the bloody occupation of Afghanistan, looming conflicts with Iran and low intensity warfare in Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan, had weakened the empire’s capacity to intervene militarily in Venezuela.  Every country in the region would have opposed any direct US intervention and Colombia was not willing to go it alone, especially with its own full-scale guerrilla war against the FARC.

Venezuela’s trade surplus and high export revenues rendered the traditional Washington financial levers like the IMF and World Bank impotent.[28]  Likewise, Venezuela had signed multi-billion dollar arms trade agreements with Russia, undermining any US boycott.  Trade agreements with Brazil and Argentina reduced Venezuela’s need for US food imports.

All the oil multinationals continued normal operations in Venezuela, except US companies.  The government’s selective nationalization program and gradual increases in taxes and royalty payments undercut EU support for the US, given the high world price of oil (exceeding $100 dollars a barrel).  Chavez’s left-turn was well-funded. The oil revenues funded a wide-range of social programs, including subsidized food, housing and social welfare, healthcare and educational programs led to a sharp drop in poverty and unemployment.   This secured a strong electoral base for Chavez.  The ‘pivot to the Middle East’, following Bush’s declaration of the ‘Global War on Terror, bogged the US down in a series of prolonged wars, undermining its quest to regain regional power.[29]

More significantly, the ‘Latin Americanists’ in the State Department and Pentagon were stuck in the 1990’s paradigm of ‘free markets and vassal states’ just when the most important countries in the region had moved toward greater independence in terms of trade, greater intra-regional integration and social inclusion.  Unable to adapt to these new regional realities, Washington witnessed the region’s rejection of US-centered free trade accords.  Meanwhile China was displacing the US as the region’s main trading partner.[30]  Without its collaborator elites among the military to act as ‘coup-makers for empire’, the US-imperial reach shrunk.  Coups failed in Bolivia and Ecuador further radicalizing political relations against the US.

Washington did not lack partners:  New bilateral trade agreements were signed with Chile, Panama, Colombia and Mexico.  The Pentagon engineered a bloody coup in Honduras against a democratically elected President.  The National Security Agency engaged in major cyber-spying operations in Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and the rest of the continent.[31]  The White House poured over six -billion dollars into Colombia’s armed forces to serve as a proxy for the US military.  These “gains” had little impact.  US support for the coup-makers in Honduras may have overthrown an ally for Chavez in ALBA but it led to even greater diplomatic isolation and discredit for Washington throughout Latin America. Even Colombia denounced the US coup against the Honduran president.  While US military support for Colombia contributed to some border tensions with Venezuela, the election of President Santos in Bogota brought significant movement toward peaceful reconciliation with Venezuela. Whereas trade between Colombia and Venezuela had fallen to less than $2 billion dollar a year, with Santos’ conciliatory policy it rose sharply to nearly $10 billion.[32]

Washington’s external strategy was in shambles.  The program of NSA cyber-spying against regional leaders, revealed by Edward Snowden, resulted in outrage and greater animosity toward Washington. The President of Brazil was especially incensed and cancelled a scheduled major state White House visit and allocated $10 billion dollars to set up a nationally controlled IT system.  Imperial policy makers had relied exclusively on interventionist strategies with military-intelligence operations and were clearly out of touch with the new configuration of power in Latin America.  In contrast, Venezuela consolidated its economic ties with the new regional and global economic power centers, as the foundations for its independent policies.

Washington viewed President Chavez and, his successor President Maduro’s regional strategy as a security threat to US hegemony rather than an economic challenge.  Venezuela’s success in forging bilateral ties, even with US clients like Colombia and Mexico, and a number of English-speaking Caribbean islands, undermined efforts to ‘encircle and isolate’ Venezuela.  Caracas success in financing and backing multi-lateral regional economic and political organizations in South America and the Caribbean, which excluded the US, reflects the power of oil diplomacy over saber rattling.  Venezuela’s PetroCaribe program won the support of number of neo-liberal and center-left regimes in the Caribbean, which had previously been under US hegemony.  In exchange for subsidized oil prices, medical aid and interest-free loans, these US clients started rejecting Washington’s intervention.  ALBA brought together several center-left governments, including Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua, into a common political bloc opposing US meddling.

ALBA rejected regime change via coups throughout Latin America and opposed Washington’s wars in Iraq, Libya, Syria and elsewhere.  Venezuela successfully joined the powerful economic bloc, MERCOSUR, enhancing its trade with Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay.  Venezuela’s strategic alliance with Cuba (trading its oil for Cuba’s medical services) made the massive Bolivarian health program for the poor a great success, cementing Chavez and Maduros’ electoral base among the Venezuelan masses. This undermined Washington’s well-funded program of ‘NGO’ subversion in poor neighborhoods.  Venezuela successfully undercut Bush and Obama’s efforts to use Colombia as a ‘military proxy’ when it signed a historic peace and reconciliation agreement with President Santos.  Colombia agreed to end its cross-border paramilitary and military incursions and withdrew its support for US destabilization operations in exchange for Venezuela closing guerrilla sanctuaries, re-opening trade relations and encouraging the FARC to enter into peace negotiations with the Santos regime.[33]  Santos’ embrace of Venezuela’s trade and diplomatic ties eroded Washington’s policy of using Colombia as a trampoline for military intervention and forced imperial policy-makers to turn to its domestic Venezuelan clients through elections as well as internal ‘direct action’, e.g. the sabotage of power stations and the hoarding of essential food and commodities.

While Washington’s imperial rhetoric constantly protrayed Venezuela as a ‘security threat’ to the entire hemisphere, no other country adopted that position.  Latin America viewed Caracas as a partner in regional trade integration and a lucrative market. US diplomacy does not reflect its trade relations with Venezuela:  only Mexico is more dependent on the US oil market.  However, Venezuela’s dependence on the US to purchase its oil has been changing.  In 2013 Venezuela signed a $20 billion dollar investment and trade deal with China to extract and export ‘heavy oil’ from the Orinoco Basin.  Venezuela’s deep trade ties with the US are in sharp contrast with the hostile diplomatic relations resulting in the mutual withdrawal of ambassadors and Washington’s gross interference in Venezuelan elections and other internal affairs. For example, in March 2013, two US military attaches were expelled after they were caught trying to recruit Venezuelan military officers.  A few months later, in September, three US Embassy officials were kicked out for their participation in destabilization activity with members of the far right opposition.[34]

Imperialism’s Multi-Track Opposition

US hostility toward Venezuela occurs at three levels of conflict:  At the country-level, Venezuela marks out a new development paradigm which features public ownership over the free market, social welfare over multi-national oil profits and popular power over elite rule.  At the regional level Venezuela promotes Latin American integration over US-centered Latin American Free Trade Agreements, anti-imperialism over “pan-Americanism”, foreign aid based on reciprocal economic interests and non-intervention as opposed to US military pacts, narco-military collusion and military bases.[35]

At the global-level Venezuela has rejected the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, ignored US trade sanctions against Iran, opposed Washington and NATO’s bombing of Libya and the proxy invasion of Syria.  Venezuela condemns Israel’s colonization and annexation of Palestine.  In other words, Venezuela upholds national self-determination against US military driven imperialism.[36]

Presidents Chavez and Maduro have presented a successful alternative to neo-liberalism. Venezuela demonstrates that a highly globalized, trade dependent economy can have an advanced welfare program.  The US, on the other hand, as it ‘globalizes’, has been eliminating its domestic social welfare programs in order to finance imperial wars.  Venezuela has shown the US public that a market economy and large social welfare investments are not incompatible.  This paradigm flies in the face of the White House’s message.  Moreover, US Empire builders have no economic initiatives compete with Venezuela’s regional and global alliances.  This situation is very different from the 1960’s when President Kennedy proposed the ‘Alliance for Progress’, involving trade, aid and reforms, to counter the revolutionary appeal of the Cuban revolution.[37]  Presidents Bush and Obama could only ‘offer’ costly military and police co-operation and worn-out neo-liberal clichés accompanied by market constraints.

Despite its severe diplomatic setbacks, regional isolation, the loss of its military platform, and an economic boom, driven by the high world price of oil, Washington keeps on trying to destabilize Venezuela.  Beginning in 2007, imperial strategy re-focused on elections and domestic destabilization programs.  Washington’s first success occurred when it backed a campaign against new constitutional amendments in December 2007 defeating Chavez by 1%.  This happened right after his substantial Presidential re-election victory.  The overtly socialist constitution proved too radical for a sector of the Venezuelan electorate.[38]

Since 2008 Washington has infused large sums of money into a variety of political assets, including NGOs and middle class university students’ organization engaged in agitation and anti-Chavez street demonstrations.[39]  The goal was to exploit local grievances.  US funding of domestic proxies led to extra-parliamentary, destabilization activity, like sabotage, disrupting Venezuela’s economy while blaming the government for ‘public insecurity’ and covering up opposition violence.

The business community started hoarding essential goods in order to provoke shortages and whip up popular discontent.  The opposition media blamed the shortages on state ‘inefficiency’.  Opposition political parties started receiving significant US funding, on condition that they unified and ran on a single slate in contesting elections and questioned the legitimacy of the election results (claiming ‘fraud’) after their defeat.

In summary, US efforts to restore its hegemony in Caracas involved a wide range of domestic clients from violent paramilitary groups, NGO’s, political parties, elected officials and manufacturing and commercial executives linked to the production and distribution of essential consumer goods.

The shifts in Washington’s policies, from internal violence (coup of 2002, oil lockout of 2002-03), and cross border military threats from Colombia (2004-2006), returning to internal domestic elections and campaigns of economic sabotage reflects recent attempts to overcome failed policies without surrendering the strategic objective of restoring hegemony via overthrowing the elected government (“regime change” in the imperial lexicon).

Seven Keys to Imperial Politics:  An Overview

Washington’s effort to restore hegemony and reimpose a client regime in Caracas has last over a decade and involves the empire’s capacity to achieve seven strategic goals:

1.)    Imperial capacity to overthrow a nationalist government requires a unified collaborator military command.  President Chavez made sure there were loyalists in strategic military units able to counter the coup-making capacity of imperial proxies.

2.)    Imperial capacity to intervene depends on not being tied down in ongoing wars elsewhere and on securing regional collaborators.  Neither condition was present.  The armies of the empire were bogged down in prolonged wars in the Middle East and South Asia creating public hostility to another war in Venezuela.  The plans to convert Colombia into an ally in an invasion of Venezuela failed because Colombia’s business elite were already shouldering significant trade losses due to the cross-border skirmishes and Washington had little or nothing in economic compensation or alternative markets to offer Colombian exporters and most of US “aid” (Plan Colombia) involved direct military transfers and sales – useless to domestic producers.

3.)    The imperial destabilization campaign wasted its strategic assets through premature, ill-calculated and high-risk operations where one failure seemed to lead to even higher risk interventions in an effort to cover-up Washington’s bankrupt strategy.  The US-backed coup of 2002 was clearly based on poor intelligence and a grotesque underestimation of President Chavez’s support among the military and the masses.  Washington did not understand how Chavez’s astute institutional changes, in particular his promotion of loyalist sectors of the armed forces, undercut the capacity of its domestic collaborators.  Blinded by its racist and ideological blinders, Washington counted on its business allies and trade union bureaucrats to ‘turn-out the crowds’ to back the junta and provide a legal cover.  In the face of serious losses resulting from the subsequent purging of client elites in the military and business associations, Washington then unleashed its client oil executives and trade union officials to mount an oil lockout, without any support from the military.  Eventually the shutdown of oil production and delivery managed to alienate broad sectors of the business community and consumers as they suffer from fuel and other critical shortages.  In the end, over ten thousand US clients among senior and middle management were purged and the PDVSA (the state oil company) was restructured and transformed into a formidable political instrument funding Venezuela comprehensive social welfare programs.

Increases in social spending in turn boosted Chavez’s support among voters and consolidated his mass base among the poor.  Imperial strategists switched from failing to overthrow Chavez by extra-parliamentary tactics to launching an unsuccessful referendum and suffered a decisive and demoralizing defeat in the face of strong popular for Chavez’ social initiatives.  To make a virtue of its serial disasters, Washington decided to backed a boycott of the Congressional elections and ended up with near unanimous Chavista control of Congress and a wide popular mandate to implement Chavez executive prerogatives. Chavez then used his executive decrees to promote an anti-imperialist foreign policy with no congressional opposition!

4.)    The US’ ill-timed ideological warfare (both the ‘neo-liberal’ and ‘war on terror’ variants) was launched against Venezuela from 2001 on – just when revolts, uprisings and collaborator ‘regime change’ were occurring throughout Latin America.  The continent-wide rebellion against US-centered free-market regimes resonated with Chavez’s nationalist-populism. Washington’s ideological appeals flopped…  Its blind, dogmatic embrace of a failed development strategy and the continued embrace of hated clients ensured that Washington’s ideological war against Venezuela would boomerang:  instead of isolating and encircling Venezuela, there was greater Latin American regional solidarity with the Bolivarian regime.  Washington found itself isolated.  Instead of dumping discredited clients and attempting to adapt to the changing anti-neo-liberal climate, Washington, for internal reasons (the ascent of Wall Street), persisted in pursuing a self-defeating propaganda war.

5.)    Imperial efforts to reassert hegemony required an economic crisis, including low world demand and prices for Venezuela’s commodities, declining incomes and employment,  severe balance of payment problems and fiscal deficits – the usual mix for destabilizing targeted regimes.  None of these conditions existed in Venezuela.  On the contrary, world demand and prices for oil boomed.  Venezuela grew by double-digits.  Unemployment and poverty sharply declined. Easy and available consumer credit and increased public spending greatly expanded the domestic market.  Free health and education and public housing programs grew exponentially.  In other words, global macro-economic and local social conditions favored the anti-hegemonic perspectives of the government. US and clients’ efforts to demonize Chavez flopped.  Instead of embracing popular programs and focusing on the problems of their implementation and mismanagement, Washington embraced local political collaborators who were identified with the deep socio-economic crisis of the ‘lost decade’ (1989-1999) – the period of real misery for the Venezuelan masses prior to Chavez ascent to power.  Imperial critics in Latin America  easily refuted Washington’s  attacks on the Chavez development model by citing favorable employment, income, purchasing power and living standards compared to the previous neoliberal period.[40]

6.)    Imperial policy makers were way out of step in Latin America, emphasizing its brand of global ideological-military confrontation while leaders and public opinion in Latin America were turning toward growing market opportunities for their commodities.  The ‘War on Terror’, Washington’s hobby-horse for global supremacy, had minimum support among the people of Latin America.  Instead, China’s demand for Latin American commodities displaced the US as the major market their exports.  In this context, global militarism was not going to restore US hegemony; Latin American leaders were focused on domestic and Asian markets, poverty reduction, democracy and citizen participation. During past decades, when Latin America was ruled by military regimes, US global militarism resonated with the elites.  Washington’s attempt to restore an earlier model military-client rule by backing the coup in Honduras was denounced throughout the continent, not only by center-left governments, but even by conservative civilian regimes, fearful of a return to military rule at their expense.

7.)    The change from a Republican to a Democratic presidency in Washington did not result in any substantive change in imperial policy toward Venezuela or Latin America.  It only led to the serving up of ‘double discourse’ as President Obama touted a ‘new beginning’, ‘new overtures’ and ‘our shared values’.  In practice, Washington continued military provocations from its bases in Colombia, backed the Honduras military coup and supported a violent destabilization campaign in April 2013 following the defeat of its favored presidential candidate, Henrique Capriles Radonski, by the Chavista Nicholas Maduro.  The Obama regime stood isolated throughout the hemisphere (and the OECD) when it refused to recognize the legitimacy of the Maduro’s election victory. In imperial countries, political changes from a liberal to a conservative executive, (or vice versa), does not in any way affect the deep imperial state, its military interests or strategies.   President Obama’s resort to the ‘double discourse, to talk diplomatically and act militarily, as a mode of hegemonic rule quickly lost its luster and effectiveness even among centrist-post-neo-liberal leaders.

Imperialism is not simply a ‘policy’ it is a structure.  It has a powerful military aid component dependent on strategically placed collaborators and supporters in targeted countries and operating in a favorable (crisis-ridden) environment.  Imperialism flourishes when its military and diplomatic approach serves economic interest benefiting both the ‘home market’ and local collaborators.  In the second decade of the 21st century, the dominance of ‘military-driven imperialism’ bled the domestic economy, destroying and impoverishing the targeted society and shattering living standards. The recent devastating wars in the Middle East have dismantled entire societies and weakened US-client elites.

Latin American and Venezuelan development-oriented leaders took a long look at the destruction wrought by US policy elsewhere and turned to new partners – the newly emerging economic powers with growing markets.  These new partners, like China, pursue economic ties, which are not accompanied by military and security threats of intervention.   Chinese investments do not include military missions and massive spy networks, like the CIA, DEA, and NSA, posing threats to national sovereignty.

The Imperial Dynamic and the Radicalization of Venezuelan Politics

Imperial intervention can have multiple and contrasting effects:  It can intimidate a nationalist government and force it to renege on its electoral promises and revert to a liberal agenda.  It can lead to an accommodation to imperial foreign policies and force a progressive government to moderate domestic reforms.  It can lead to concessions to imperial interests, including military bases, as well as concessions to extractive capital, including the dispossession of local producers, to facilitate capital accumulation.  Covert or overt intervention can also radicalize a moderate reformist government and force it to adopt anti-imperialist and socialist measures as defensive strategy.  Over time incremental changes can become the basis for a pro-active radical leftist agenda.

The range of systemic responses illustrates the analytical weakness of the so-called ‘center-periphery’ framework, which lumps together: a) disparate political, social and economic internal configurations, b) opposing strategies and responses to imperialism and c) complex international relations between imperial and nationalist regimes.  The polar opposite responses and political-economic configurations of the US and China (so-called ‘centers’) to Venezuela further illustrates the lack of analytical utility of the so-called ‘world system’ approach in comparison with a class-anchored framework.

The imperial dynamic, the drive by Washington to reassert hegemony in Venezuela by violent regime change, had the unintended consequence of radicalizing Chavez’ policies, consolidating power and furthering the spread of anti-imperialist programs throughout the region.[41]

In the first years of the Chavez government, 1999-2001, Venezuela pursued largely orthodox policies and sought friendly relations with Washington, while espousing a Bolivarian vision.  In this period, Chavez did not implement his vision.  He did not try to set up any regional organizations that excluded the US.

Nevertheless, Washington retained its ties to the opposition and sought to influence a motley collection of opportunist politicos who had jumped on the Chavez bandwagon while countering the leftists in the coalition government.

The first big break in this Caracas-Washington peaceful co-existence was caused by the Bush Administration’s big push for global power via the so-called ‘War on Terror’ doctrine.  Its demand that Chavez support the military offensives against Afghanistan and Iraq or face retaliation provoked the break.  Chavez resisted and adopted the position that the ‘War on Terror’ violated international law.  In other words, Venezuela upheld traditional international norms just when Washington had turned to global military extremism.  Washington perceived Chavez’s policy as a grave threat, an example for other ‘recalcitrant’ states within Latin America and across the globe to follow in resisting the US bullying.  This led to an overt warning from the US State Department that “he (Chavez) would pay a price” for not submitting to the US global military offensive.[42]   Washington immediately started to implement plans to overthrow the Chavez government leading to the bloody, but unsuccessful coup of April 2002. If the trigger for US imperial intervention was Chavez lawful opposition to Washington’s global military strategy, the defeat of the coup and his restoration to power, led a re-definition of Venezuelan-US relations.  Bilateral relations went from co-existence to confrontation.  Venezuela began looking for regional allies, actively supporting left and nationalist movements and governments in Latin America.  Simultaneously it pursued relations with imperial rivals and adversaries, including Russia, China, Belarus and Iran.  Washington launched its second effort to unseat Chavez by backing the oil bosses’ lockout – severely damaging the economy.  The defeat and purge of the US-backed PDVS oil executives led to the radicalization of social policy in Venezuela, with the vast reallocation of oil revenues to working class-based social programs.  Chavez appointed nationalists to key economic ministries, selectively nationalizing some enterprises and declaring a radical agrarian reform program, which included the expropriation of un-cultivated land.  In part, the radical policies were ‘pragmatic’, defensive measures in pursuit of national security.  They also were in response to the support for the Bolivarian government from the newly mobilized urban and rural poor.  Radicalization was also a response to pressures from the nationalist and socialist elements in the newly formed Socialist Party and allied trade union confederations.  US imperial efforts to isolate Venezuela in the hemisphere, copying the 1960’s ‘blockade of Cuba’ failed.  There was a region-wide trend in line with Venezuela: nationalist populist and leftist movements and coalition governments were replacing US client regimes.  Washington’s policy backfired by regionalizing the conflict under unfavorable conditions: Venezuela gained popularity and support while Washington was isolated, leading to the demise of its plan for a regional free trade agreement.

The threat from the US pushed Chavez to re-define the nature of the political process from ‘reform’ to ‘revolution’; from moderate nationalism to 21st century socialism; from a bilateral conflict to a regional confrontation.  Venezuela sponsored and promoted several key alliances including ALBA and PetroCaribe; Chavez later broadened Venezuela’s regional ties to include UNASUR and MERCOSUR.

Venezuela’s radical rejection of US hegemony was, however, tempered by structural limitations which provided US empire builders and internal clients with access points to power.  The ‘socialization’ program did not affect 80% of the economy. Banking, foreign trade, manufacturing and agriculture remained under private ownership.   Over 95% of the public watched programs from a domestic mass media owned by US-backed private clients.[43]   Transport, food distributors and supermarkets remained privately owned.  Campaigns and elections remained vulnerable to foreign funding by the National Endowment for Democracy and other US conduits.  While the mixed economy and open electoral system, secured approval from Latin America’s center-left regimes and neutralized some of the hostile US propaganda, they also allowed the empire to use its local collaborators to commit sabotage, hoard vital consumer goods and create shortages, stage violent street confrontations during elections and permitted the mass media openly call for insurrection.

The dialectic confrontation between US imperial aggression and Venezuelan nationalism deepened the revolution and spread its appeal overseas. Venezuela’s successful defiance of US imperialism became the defining reality in Latin America.

Imperialism, based on militarism and regime destabilization, led Venezuela to begin a process of transition to a post neo-liberal, post-capitalist economy rooted in regional organizations.  Yet this process continued to reflect economic realities from the capitalist past.  The US remained Venezuela’s most important petroleum market.  The US, caught up in Middle-East wars and sanctions against oil producers (Iraq, Iran, Libya and Syria) was not willing to jeopardize its Venezuelan oil imports via a boycott.  Necessity imposed constraints on even imperial aggression as well as Venezuela’s ‘anti-imperialism’.

Conclusion

US-Venezuela relations provide a casebook study of the complex, structural and contingent dimensions of imperialism and anti-imperialism.  Contemporary US empire building, with its global engagement in prolonged serial wars and deteriorating domestic economy, has witnessed a sharp decline in its capacity to intervene and restore hegemonic influence in Latin America.  Throughout Latin America, Venezuela’s success in resisting imperial threats, demonstrates how much imperial power is contingent on local client regimes and collaborator military elites to sustain imperial hegemony.  The entire process of imperial capital accumulation through direct exploitation and ‘dispossession’ is based on securing control over the state, which, in turn, is contingent on defeating anti-imperialist and nationalist governments and movements.  Imperialist hegemony can be based on either electoral processes (‘democracy’) or result from coups, lockouts and other anti-democratic, authoritarian mechanisms.  While, historically, economic interests are an important consideration of imperial policymakers, contemporary US imperialism has confronted emerging nationalist governments because of their rejection of its ‘global war’ ideology.  In other words Venezuela’s rejection of the ideology and practice of offensive wars and violations of international law is the trigger that set in motion imperial intervention.  Subsequent conflicts between Washington and Caracas over oil company expropriations and compensation were derived from the larger conflict resulting from US imperial militarism.  US oil companies had become economic pawns and not the subjects of imperialist policymakers.

US imperialist relations in Latin America have changed dramatically in line with the internal changes in class relations.  US financial and militarist elites, not industrial-manufacturers, now dictate policy. The relocation of US manufacturers to Asia and elsewhere has been accompanied by the ascendancy of a power configuration whose political pivot is in the Middle East and, in particular, in their own words, ‘securing Israel’s superiority in the region’.  This has had two opposing effects: On the one hand it has led imperial policymakers to pursue non-economic militarist agendas in Latin America and, on the other, to ‘neglect’ or allocate few resources, investments and attention to cultivating clients in Latin America.  Inadvertently, the ‘Middle East pivot’ and the militarist definition of reality has allowed Latin America to secure a far greater degree of independence and greater scope for cultivating diverse economic partners in the 21st century than was possible for the greater part of the 20th century.

Have US-Latin American relations permanently changed?  Has Venezuela consolidated its independence and achieved the definitive defeat of imperial intervention?  It would be premature to draw firm conclusions despite the substantial victories achieved during the first decade and a half of the 21st century.

Pro-US regimes and elites still wield influence throughout Latin America. As was evident in the Presidential elections in Venezuela in April 2013, the US-funded opposition candidate, Henrique Capriles, came within 2% of winning the election.  And Washington, true to its vocation to destabilize, has refused to recognize the legitimacy of the election.  Since then several officials of the US Embassy have been implicated in plots to overthrow the Maduro government.  The ongoing, intrusive imperial cyber-spying system under the US National Security Agency introduces a new element in colonial intervention reaching into the highest political and economic spheres in the entire region, incurring the wrath of Brazil, the largest country in Latin America.  Unrepentant, Washington has affirmed its right to colonize and dominate Brazilians and Venezuelan cyber-space and control all communications between strategic elites.

Obama’s affirmation of the US ‘right to spy’ prompted new anti-imperialist measures, including proposals to end ties to US-based and controlled information networks.  In other words, new imperial methods of colonization based on new technologies triggers new anti-imperial responses, at least for independent states.

The anti-neoliberal governments in Latin America, heading up the struggle against US hegemony, face serious challenges resulting from the continuing presence of private banking and finance groups, US based multi-nationals and their local collaborators in the political parties.  Except for Venezuela and Bolivia, on-going US-Latin American joint military programs provide opportunities for imperial penetration and recruitment.

The high dependence of Venezuela and the other center-left countries (Ecuador, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, etc.) on commodity exports (agriculture, minerals and energy) exposes the vulnerability of their finances and development and social welfare programs to fluctuations and sharp downturns in global export revenues.[44]

So far world demand for Latin American commodities has fueled growth and independence and weakened domestic support for military coups.  But can the mega-cycles continue for another decade?  This is especially important for Venezuela, which has not succeeded on diversifying its economy with oil still accounting for over 80% of its export earnings.  The China trade, which is growing geometrically, has been based on exports of raw materials and imports of finished goods.  This reinforces neocolonial economic tendencies within Latin America.

Intra-Latin American trade (greater regional integration) is growing and internal markets are expanding.  But without changes in class relations, domestic and regional consumer demand cannot become the motor force for a definitive break with imperialist-dominated markets.  In the face of a second world economic crisis, the US may be forced to reduce its global military operations, but will it return to hemispheric dominance?  If commodity demand drops and the Chinese economy slows, do post-neoliberal regimes have alternative economic strategies to sustain their independence?

Imperial power in Latin America and in Venezuela in particular, has suffered serious setbacks but the private property power structures are intact and imperial strategies remain. If the past half-century offers any lessons, it is that imperialism can adapt different political strategies but is never surrenders its drive for political, military and economic domination.

Political Chronology of Venezuela

December 1998:   Chavez elected

1999: Three referendums all successful:  to establish constituent assembly to draft new constitution; to elect membership of constituent assembly; to approve new constitution.

July 2000:  ‘Mega-election’: to elect President, national legislators and state and municipal officials.  Chavez wins 6 year term with approx. 60% of the popular vote, his Patriotic Pole coalition wins 14 of 23 governorships and majority of seats in National Assembly

April 2002:  Failed US backed military-civilian coup

December2, 2002 – Feb. 4, 2003:      Failed oil executive and businessmen lockout to topple Chavez government.

August 2004:  Recall referendum which Chavez wins by substantial margin

December 2005:  Legislative elections:  opposition boycotts, results in Chavez supporters dominating the National Assembly.

December 2006:  Chavez re-elected with approx. 63% of the popular vote

December 2007:  Chavez constitutional amendment package (‘21st Century Socialism’) narrowly defeated in national referendum

2008:  Chavez moves to unite supporters into a single party – the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV)

November 2008:  State and municipal elections: pro-Chavez candidates won 17 of 22 governors’ races and 80% of more than 300 mayoral races

January 2009:  National Assembly votes to hold referendum on constitutional amendment to abolish terms limits for all elected government officials.

February 2009:  Referendum approved 55% to 45%.

September 2010: National Assembly elections, Chavez supporters won 98 seats (94 for PSUV candidates) versus 87 seats for opposition parties (65 won by 10 opposition parties known as Democratic United Platform/MUD).  But the Government failed to win enough seats to enact various part of government agenda such as approving constitutional reforms.

October 2012 Presidential elections:  Chavez wins with approx. 55% of popular vote.

December 2012:  State and municipal elections, PSUV sweeps to victory.

April 2013:  Chavez successor Nicholas Maduro wins election by 51% to 49%.

NOTES: 

[1] James Petras and Henry Veltmeyer,  Imperialism and Capitalism in the 21st Century  (Ashgate:  London 2013)

[2] Steve Ellner Rethinking Venezuelan Politics:  Class, Conflict and the Chavez Phenomenon (Lynn Reiner:  Boulder, Colorado (2009)

[3]James Petras, “US-Latin American Relations:  Ruptures, Reaction and Illusions of Times Past”, JPetras LaHaine, 11/2/06

[4] World Development Reports (World Book:  1991-2001)  Washington D.C., IMF Staff Country Report No 98/117, October 1998, Washington, DC

[5] James Petras, “Rethinking Imperialist Theory”, JPetrasLaHaine, 12/21/2010

[6] James Petras, “US-Venezuelan Relations:  Imperialism and Revolution”, JPetrasLaHaine, 1/5/2010.  Eva Golinger, The Chavez Code: Cracking US Intervention in Venezuela (Olive Branch Press 2006).

[7] James Petras, “Venezuelan Elections:  A Choice and Not an Echo”, JPetrasLaHaine, 10/4/12 and “Beyond President Chavez Electoral Victory:  Socialism in a Rentier State”, JPetrasLaHaine, 10/26/2013.

[8] James Petras, “Networks of Empire and Realignments of World Power”, JPetrasLaHaine, 1/2/2011; Financial Times 4/26/2011, Special Supplement “Latin America:  New Trade Routes”

[9]Richard Gott, Hugo Chavez:  The Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela (Verso:  London 2005).  Gregory Wilpert, Changing Venezuela by Taking Power:  The History and Policies of the Chavez Government (Verso:  London 2007).

[10] James Petras et al, The Nationalization of Venezuelan Oil (Praeger:  New York 1977).

[11] IMF Staff Country Reports, No. 98/17, October 1998.

[12] World Bank Country Report:  2000. (Washington DC 2001)

[13] Ellner opcit and Wilpert opcit

[14] Interviews State Department, November 2009

[15] ibid

[16] Interviews State Department, January 2001

[17] ibid

[18] James Petras and Henry Veltmeyer, Social Movements  in Latin America; Neo-Liberalism and Popular Resistance (New York:  Palgrave/MacMillan 2013).

[19] Interview with President Chavez, January20, 2002

[20] Eva Golinger, Bush versus Chavez (New York:  Monthly Review Press 2007)

[21] George Ciccariello Maher, We Created Chavez:  A Peoples History of the Venezuelan Revolution (Durham:  Duke University Press 2013).

[22] New York Times, April 12, 2002, page 1

[23] El Mundo (Madrid) April 12, 2002, page 1

[24] David Harvey, The New Imperialism (London Oxford Press 2005)

[25] Ellner opcit; Wilpert opcit

[26] Eva Golinger, The Chavez Code, ibid

[27] Ellner opcit

[28] In 2008 5the Chavez government broke ties with the IMF and World Bank.  Interview official Venezuelan Foreign Office, November 2008

[29] Mark Weisbrot and Luis Sandoval: The Venezuelan Economy in the Chavez Years. (Center for Economics and Policy) Washington D.C. 2008; National Institute of Statistics cites the reduction of extreme poverty of over 50%, a decline from 5.4 million Venezuelans in 1998 to 2.4 million in 2011.

[30] James Petras, “Networks of Empire and Realignments of World Power”, JPetrasLaHaine, 1/2/11. Financial Times “China is now Regions Biggest Partner”, Special Report, 4/26/2011 and page 4.

[31] La Jornada, September 30, 2013.

[32] James Petras, “Chavez Right-turn:  State Realism versus International Solidarity”, JPetrasLaHaine, 6/13/2011

[33] James Petras, “President Chavez and the FARC:  State and Revolution”, JPetrasLaHaine, 7/3/2008

[34] La Jornada, September 30, 2013.

[35] Interview President Chavez Caracas, November 7, 2006

[36] Ibid

[37] James Petras and Maurice Zeitlin, Latin America:  Reform or Revolution, (New York Fawcett 1968)

[38] Gregory Wilpert, “An Assessment of Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution at Twelve Years”, Venezuelanalysis.com, 2/2/2011

[39] Eva Golinger “Documents Reveal Multimillion-dollar Funding to Journalists and Media in Venezuela”, HTTP://chavezcode.com/2010/07/documebts-4reveal-multimilliion-dollar.html

[40] Weisbrot and Sandoval, opcit

[41] George Ciccariello-Maher, We Created Chavez, opcit. Steve Ellner, Rethinking Venezuelan Policies, opcit

[42] Interview Foreign Affairs official, Caracas, November 6, 2006

[43] “Private Opposition TV Continues to Dominate in Venezuela”, Center for Economy ad Policy Research:  Washington D.C., 12/13/2010.

[44] “Beyond President Chavez Electoral Victory” Socialism in a Rentier State”, JPetrasLaHaine, 10/26/12; G. Wilpert, “An Assessment …”, opcit.

Oct 202013
 

Posted by greydogg, 99GetSmart

* HOW THE GOVERNMENT TRACKS YOU: NSA SURVEILLANCE

Source: youtube

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=2YsZoqwRnKE

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* EMPIRE UNDER OBAMA: BARACK OBAMA’S GLOBAL TERROR CAMPAIGN

By Andrew Gavin Marshall, The Hampton Institute

Under the administration of Barack Obama, America is waging a global terror campaign through the use of drones, killing thousands of people, committing endless war crimes, creating fear and terror in a program expected to last several more decades. Welcome to Obama’s War OF Terror.

People gather at the site of an explosion in Peshawar, Pakistan on Wednesday Oct. 28, 2009. A car bomb tore through a busy market in northwestern Pakistan on Wednesday, as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited the country and pledged American support for its campaign against Islamist militants. (AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)

People gather at the site of an explosion in Peshawar, Pakistan on Wednesday Oct. 28, 2009. A car bomb tore through a busy market in northwestern Pakistan on Wednesday, as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited the country and pledged American support for its campaign against Islamist militants. (AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)

When Obama became President in 2009, he faced a monumental challenge for the extension of American and Western imperial interests. The effects of eight years under the overt ruthless and reckless behaviour of the Bush administration had taken a toll on the world. With two massive ground wars and occupations under way in Iraq and Afghanistan, Western military forces were stretched thin, while the world’s populations had grown increasingly wary and critical of the use of military force, both at home and abroad. Just as Brzezinski had articulated: “while the lethality of their military might is greater than ever, their capacity to impose control over the politically awakened masses of the world is at a historic low.”[1]

When it came to the ‘War on Terror,’ Obama implemented his electoral visions of “hope” and “change” in the only way he knows: change the rhetoric, not the substance, and hope to hell that the Empire can continue extending its influence around the world. As such, Obama quickly implemented a policy change, dropping the term “war on terror” and replacing it with the equally – if not more – meaningless term, “overseas contingency operations.”[2]

A major facet of Obama’s foreign policy strategy has been the implementation of an unprecedented global terror war with flying killer robots (“drones”) operated by remote control. By 2011, the Washington Post reported that no president in U.S. history “has ever relied so extensively on the secret killing of individuals to advance the nation’s security goals.”[3]

Every Tuesday, a counterterrorism meeting takes place in the White House Situation Room among two dozen security officials where they decide who – around the world – they are going to illegally bomb and kill that week, drawing up the weekly “kill list” (as it is called).[4] […]

READ @ http://truth-out.org/news/item/19466-empire-under-obama-barack-obamas-global-terror-campaign 

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* A CORPORATE TROJAN HORSE: OBAMA PUSHES SECRETIVE TPP TRADE PACT, WOULD REWRITE SWATH OF U.S. LAWS

Source: Democracy Now

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CS-x5SlcPPM

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* CHRIS HEDGES AND ROBERT SCHEER DISCUSS AMERICAN FASCISM

Source: Truthdig

https://soundcloud.com/truthdig/chris-hedges-and-robert-scheer

The two celebrated journalists discuss the collapse of vital institutions and the rise of demagogues and charlatans in post-meltdown America.

AUDIO @ http://www.truthdig.com/avbooth/item/chris_hedges_and_robert_scheer_discuss_american_fascism_20131011

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* DAVID STOCKMAN EXPLAINS THE KEYNESIAN STATE-WRECK AHEAD – SUNDOWN IN AMERICA

 By Tyler Durden, zerohedge

1150025_orig

David Stockman, author of The Great Deformation, summarizes the last quarter century thus: What has been growing is the wealth of the rich, the remit of the state, the girth of Wall Street, the debt burden of the people, the prosperity of the beltway and the sway of the three great branches of government – that is, the warfare state, the welfare state and the central bank… What is flailing is the vast expanse of the Main Street economy where the great majority have experienced stagnant living standards, rising job insecurity, failure to accumulate material savings, rapidly approach old age and the certainty of a Hobbesian future where, inexorably, taxes will rise and social benefits will be cut… He calls this condition “Sundown in America”.

SUNDOWN IN AMERICA: THE KEYNESIAN STATE-WRECK AHEAD

Remarks of David A. Stockman at the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard University, September  26, 2013

The median U.S. household income in 2012 was $51,000, but that’s nothing to crow about. That same figure was first reached way back in 1989— meaning that the living standard of Main Street America has gone nowhere for the last quarter century. Since there was no prior span in U.S. history when real household incomes remained dead-in-the-water for 25 years, it cannot be gainsaid that the great American prosperity machine has stalled out.

Even worse, the bottom of the socio-economic ladder has actually slipped lower and, by some measures, significantly so. The current poverty rate of 15 percent was only 12.8 percent back in 1989; there are now 48 million people on food stamps compared to 18 million then; and more than 16 million children lived poverty households last year or one-third more than a quarter century back.

Likewise, last year the bottom quintile of households struggled to make ends meet on $11,500 annually —-a level 20 percent lower than the $14,000 of constant dollar income the bottom 20 million households had available on average twenty-five years ago.

Then, again, not all of the vectors have pointed south. Back in 1989 the Dow-Jones index was at 3,000, and by 2012 it was up five-fold to 15,000.  Likewise, the aggregate wealth of the Forbes 400 clocked in at $300 billion back then, and now stands at more than $2 trillion—a gain of 7X.

And the big gains were not just limited to the 400 billionaires. We have had a share the wealth movement of sorts— at least among the top rungs of the ladder. By contrast to the plight of the lower ranks, there has been nothing dead-in-the-water about the incomes of the 5 million U.S. households which comprise the top five percent. They enjoyed an average income of $320,000 last year, representing a sprightly 33 percent gain from the $240,000 inflation-adjusted level of 1989.

The same top tier of households had combined net worth of about $10 trillion back at the end of Ronald Reagan’s second term.  And by the beginning of Barrack Obama’s second term that had grown to $50 trillion, meaning that just the $40 trillion gain among the very top 5 percent rung is nearly double the entire current net worth of the remaining 95 percent of American households. […]

READ @ http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-10-05/david-stockman-explains-keynesian-state-wreck-ahead-sundown-america

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* THE OCEAN IS BROKEN

By Greg Ray, Newcastle Herald

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[…] The next leg of the long voyage was from Osaka to San Francisco and for most of that trip the desolation was tinged with nauseous horror and a degree of fear.

“After we left Japan, it felt as if the ocean itself was dead,” Macfadyen said.

“We hardly saw any living things. We saw one whale, sort of rolling helplessly on the surface with what looked like a big tumour on its head. It was pretty sickening.

“I’ve done a lot of miles on the ocean in my life and I’m used to seeing turtles, dolphins, sharks and big flurries of feeding birds. But this time, for 3000 nautical miles there was nothing alive to be seen.”

In place of the missing life was garbage in astounding volumes.

“Part of it was the aftermath of the tsunami that hit Japan a couple of years ago. The wave came in over the land, picked up an unbelievable load of stuff and carried it out to sea. And it’s still out there, everywhere you look.”

Ivan’s brother, Glenn, who boarded at Hawaii for the run into the United States, marvelled at the “thousands on thousands” of yellow plastic buoys. The huge tangles of synthetic rope, fishing lines and nets. Pieces of polystyrene foam by the million. And slicks of oil and petrol, everywhere.

Countless hundreds of wooden power poles are out there, snapped off by the killer wave and still trailing their wires in the middle of the sea. […]

READ @ http://www.theherald.com.au/story/1848433/the-ocean-is-broken/?cs=12

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* BP’s SILENT DISASTER

By Dahr Jamail, Truthout

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New Orleans, US – Most people believe only those who have experienced war can know post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But those living in the impact zone of BP’s 2010 oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico know differently.

John Gooding, a fisherman and resident of the coastal city of Pass Christian, Mississippi, began having health problems shortly after the disaster began. He became sicker with each passing month, and moved inland in an effort to escape continuing exposure to the chemicals after being diagnosed with toxic encephalitis.

He experiences seizures regularly, and two of his dogs even died of seizures from what he believes was chemical exposure.

“I’ve been married 25 years, and my wife and I’ve never had problems. But recently we’ve started having problems, mostly because of finances and my health,” Gooding told Al Jazeera.

“I can no longer work because of my physical sickness from the chemicals. My wife is struggling with depression, and is going through grief counselling due to having to deal with my ongoing health issues. Our savings is gone. Our retirement is gone. This has been a living hell and continues to be a nightmare.”

Gooding’s story is not uncommon among countless Gulf residents living in areas affected by the BP disaster.

“People are becoming more and more hopeless and feeling helpless,” Dr Arwen Podesta, a psychiatrist at Tulane University in New Orleans, told Al Jazeera back in August 2010. “They are feeling frantic and overwhelmed. There is already more PTSD and more problems with domestic violence, threats of suicide and alcohol and drugs.” […]

READ @ http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/19463-bps-silent-disaster

Oct 182013
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Introduction

US and world political and economic leaders are faced with what they describe as a ‘systemic catastrophe’:  the inability to pay global creditors, including domestic and foreign banks, investors and governments, who hold $16.7 trillion in US Treasury notes.  There is a related crisis: the government cannot secure passage of a budget to finance its military and civilian agencies and activities, including large-scale payments to military contractors, the financing of business, agriculture and banking operations and social programs.  The raising of the debt-ceiling is central to the functioning of the financial ruling class as it extracts hundreds of billions of tax dollars in interest payments from the US Treasury.  Raising the debt ceiling allows the State to keep borrowing and pay its billionaire creditors.  In turn, as long as the US Treasury has liquidity, it remains a ‘safe haven’ for investors thus providing guaranteed profits.  In addition, as long as the dollar remains the principle currency for global transactions, it allows the US Treasury to print money at will and to borrow at a lower cost – at the expense of its competitors and adversaries.

Financing the budget deficit requires borrowing, which involves the sale hundreds of billions of dollars worth of US government bonds through Wall Street – but at a cost to the taxpayer.  The common denominator is that the entire edifice of finance capital and all of its support structures depend on debt financing by the State.  By borrowing and then taxing its citizens the Treasury extracts wealth from the vast majority of Americans.

To understand the fight to raise the debt ceiling and to pass a deficit budget it is necessary to analyze the long-term, large-scale sources of State debt.

Imperial Wars, the Ascendancy of Finance Capital and the Debt Crisis

The ever-increasing debt and the constant raising of the debt ceiling is a result of long-term, large-scale military spending to build the US Empire.  The imperial enterprise has generated a huge deficit:  the cost/benefit ratio has been overwhelmingly negative.  Contrary to militarist propaganda, the empire has not been ‘self-financing’:  Wars and occupation in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere have cost the US taxpayers trillions of dollars, not off-set by incoming imperial plunder or domestic economic expansion.

Parallel to the cost of wars and occupations, the rise of finance capital has largely resulted from the pillage of the US Treasury.  Huge bailouts, low interest loans, large-scale interest payments on bonds, subsidies and tax exemptions have created a financial ruling class based on maintaining a debt-laden, interest-paying State, which meets its obligations to the creditors while it privatizes (and eliminates) social programs.  The result is a ‘poor indebted State’ and a rich and prosperous Wall Street.  Wall Street stands to gain trillions with the privatization of the multi-billion dollar health (Medicare) and retirement plans (Social Security): this will form an integral component of the “Grand Bargain” to raise the debt ceiling.

Who are the Beneficiaries of Raising the Debt Ceiling?

The principle and immediate beneficiaries of increasing the debt ceiling are the wealthy, bond-holders and the medium and long-term beneficiaries are the military-intelligence-empire-builders who can continue to secure over $700 billion in annual budget allocations.  The principle strategic losers from raising the debt ceiling will be the hundreds of millions of beneficiaries of social programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and their family members.  As part of the ‘Grand Bargain’ struck by the Democratic President and Republican Congress – between $1.3 trillion and $1.4 trillion in social cuts will take effect over the next ten years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.  The cuts in Social Security will occur by raising the age of eligibility for full benefits to 70 years, resulting in a loss of $120 billion, as many older retired workers would be expected to die before drawing a single payment while millions of Americans  will be forced to delay retirement and work an extra five years.

Secondly, the earliest age of eligibility for partial benefits will increase from 62 to 64 years – resulting in an additional loss of $144 billion dollars from workers.

Thirdly, the cost of living index would be reduced – a ten- year loss of $112 billion dollars.

Fourthly, the calculation for initial benefits would discard the wage-based method for a so-called “price-index”, resulting in American workers losing another $137 billion dollars over 10 years.  In sum, workers’ social security benefits would be reduced by more than half a trillion dollars – an enormous transfer of wealth to the billionaire creditors, investors and empire builders – all in the name of ‘debt reduction’.

The cuts in MEDICARE and MEDICAID would result in an even more retrograde class polarization.  The ‘Grand Bargain’ could lead to additional losses of over $419 billion dollars.

The biggest cost to the workers will come in the form of an increase in their  monthly premium  for physician services (MEDICARE Part B) from the current 25%  to 35%, resulting in a loss of $241 billion dollars.  The second biggest loss to workers will result from raising the age of eligibility for MEDICARE from 65 to 67 years costing workers an additional S125 billion dollars.  The third loss for workers will be a $53 billion hit  from restricting the use of MEDIGAP insurance – supplementary policies that cover MEDICARE cost sharing requirements.

Further cuts of $187 billion in MEDICAID– the medical plan for the poor and disabled– would result when the federal government shifts its direct funding to block grants to the states that would severely cut services for the poor – a plan first proposed during the Clinton Administration with regard to welfare funding.

Once these reactionary cuts in basic social programs are in place, the beneficiaries, who are able, will be forced to buy alternative supplementary private medical insurance and private retirement plans, while the poor will go without.  The running down of public social services by Wall Street has been a deliberate, cynical strategy to cause popular discontent paving the way for the gradual privatization of services: adding costs, eliminating options and limiting medical treatment, surgery and procedures, especially for the elderly.  The privatization of Social Security, MEDICARE and MEDICAID, will maximize insecurity while minimizing services and lead to untreated and under-treated illness, greater suffering and economic distress.  Bi-partisan Congressional –White House agreements via the “Great Bargain” to raise the debt ceiling will widen and deepen inequalities in the United States.

In sum, “the Grand Bargain” will cause American workers to lose over $1.119 trillion dollars over the next 10 years, leading to a sharp decline in life expectancy, access to health care, living standards and quality of life.

The Samson Solution

Given the harsh terms, which accompany the “Grand Bargain” to raise the debt ceiling, it would be better if no agreement were reached.  The financial elite is counting on the ‘Grand Bargain’ to leverage their debt collection over the lives and welfare of hundreds of millions of Americans.  It would be better to shake the pillars and pull down this Temple of Mammon (the ‘Samson Solution’) making them pay a price!

The ‘shock and awe’ induced by default would shake the very foundations of the financial pillage of the US Treasury and the taxpayers; default would seriously undermine the financial basis for imperial wars, spying, torture and death squads.  The entire empire building project would crumble.

True, in the short-run, the workers and middle class would also suffer from a default.  But the discredit of the ruling political parties, the political elite and Wall Street, could lead to a new political alignment, which would fund social programs by, in David Stockman’s phrase, “soaking the rich” – raising corporate taxes by 50%, imposing a financial transaction tax of 5%, uncapping the social security tax and collecting taxes on overseas US multi-nationals’ profits.  Additional billions would be saved by ending imperial wars, closing bases and canceling military contracts.  Tax reform, imperial dismantlement and increased domestic investment in productive activity would generate domestic growth leading to a budget surplus, extending MEDICARE to all Americans, reducing the age of retirement to 62 and providing a living wage for all workers!