Saturday, February 22, 2014

Haiti and Venezuela: Favoured Reporting and Media Silence

Protest Coverage in Haiti and Venezuela Reveals U.S. Media Hypocrisy

Kevin Edmonds - The Other Side of Paradise

The media coverage of the events unfolding in Venezuela provides a troubling example of how the imperial ambitions of the United States can magnify crises—especially when contrasted with the current political situation in Haiti.

Both Venezuela and Haiti have been facing anti-government protests, with the respective oppositions citing poor leadership, corruption, electoral fraud, and a deteriorating economy as their primary motivations in calling for change. However, the international media’s escalation of the Venezuelan crisis and their complete silence when it comes to Haiti, raises some important questions about the United States’ inconsistency in upholding the values of human rights and democracy.

Haiti has been enduring a political crisis since the highly controversial election of President Michel Martelly, who received his mandate from only 16.7 percent of registered voters, and has been running the country without a fully functioning government in order to avoid dealing with constitutionally mandated checks and balances. For the third year in a row, Martelly has promised to hold elections to fill legislative and local seats without yet following through.

As evidence of Martelly’s unbridled commitment to democracy, instead of holding elections for mayors whose terms expired in 2012, he personally handpicked the representatives, appointing them as “municipal agents.” As a result of Martelly’s political inaction on the national level, one third of the seats in the Haitian Senate remain empty. This congressional inability to establish quorum on issues of national importance has been particularly convenient for the President. In September 2013, the Senate put forward a resolution to indict President Martelly, Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, and the Minister of Justice Jean Renel Sanon for high treason, lying to the public, and playing a harmful role in the death of Judge Jean Serge Joseph.

Earlier in 2013, Judge Joseph had been given the task of overseeing a high profile corruption investigation against President Michel Martelly’s wife Sophia and their son Olivier. Judge Joseph had reported receiving threats to dismiss the corruption case during a meeting with Martelly, the Prime Minister, and the Minister of Justice and Public Security. Joseph refused, and two days later he died under suspicious circumstances.

Because the Haitian Senate has only 16 of 30 members currently active, the impeachment vote was not passed on a technicality. This was in spite of the decision, which saw 7 of the 16 members vote in favor of Martelly’s impeachment, with 9 abstentions and 0 voting against the motion. According to the Haitian Constitution, abstentions do not count as votes—with Article 117 stating that “All acts of the Legislature must be approved by a majority of the members present [emphasis added].” Thus, in regular circumstances the decision by the Senate would move forward with the impeachment. Therefore, this purposefully fragmented political system does a great deal to serve the interests of impunity.

This political crisis is especially worrying when the murder of opposition leaders in Haiti has gone largely unreported in the international press. Most recently, on February 8, Daniel Dorsainvil, one of Haiti’s leading human rights activists and his wife Girldy Lareche were gunned down in Port au Prince. While conflicted motives for the shooting have emerged, Haiti’s human rights community fears that the murders were politically motivated. Dorsainvil was the Coordinator of the Platform for Haitian Organizations for the Defense of Human Rights (POHDH). POHDH was established after the coup d’état of Jean Bertrand Aristide in 1991. According to POHDH’s website, “The systematic suppression of the military against the democratic and popular movement, which followed this event, and the mass amount of human rights violations in general, was the motivation for social and community development organizations to regroup with the purpose of initiating actions specifically in the field of human rights.”

A civil engineer by training, Dorsainvil had been a tireless advocate for justice, routinely speaking out against the Martelly government for its disregard of human rights, political scandals, and the consistent delaying of elections. Dorsainvil’s latest initiative was the establishment of the Patriotic People's Democratic Movement (MPDP), a group of thirty political and social organizations openly standing in opposition to Martelly’s government. While this attack is tragic on its own, it comes after numerous threats against Haitian human rights defenders such as Patrice Florvilus, Mario Joseph, and André Michel.

In May 2013, Patrice Florvilus, the Executive Director of Defenders of the Oppressed, was subjected to numerous death threats. Margaret Satterthwaite, Director of the Global Justice Clinic at New York University School of Law, remarked:

The targeting of Patrice Florvilus and other attorneys demonstrates a troubling pattern of state obstruction of legitimate human rights work in Haiti…The government’s use of state institutions such as law enforcement, and its failure to address judicial and extra-legal threats leave human rights defenders dangerously exposed. All sectors of the government, from the police to the courts, are responsible for safeguarding human rights.

Due to the neglect and failure of the Haitian government to protect Florvilus and his family from attacks, he had to relocate to Montreal in December 2013.

In October 2013, human rights lawyer Andre Michel was arrested by the Haitian National Police due to his initiation of legal proceedings against Martelly’s wife and son related to charges of corruption, which Judge Joseph oversaw before his death. Haitian human rights organizations condemned the arrest as an arbitrary and politically motivated attempt to intimidate human rights activists and members of the opposition.

Thus, while Martelly was praised by President Obama in early February for his leadership, Haiti has also seen a slew of anti-government protests due to the political crisis, human rights abuses, and economic decline. The lack of media attention regarding Martelly’s consistent attacks on popular organizations and human rights defenders in Haiti, in contrast to Venezuela is a stark reminder of how abuses of power can be marginalized if one has influential friends in the right places.

The media bias facing Venezuela—be it due to Venezuela’s fervent anti-U.S. policy and rhetoric, or the fact that it sits on the largest oil reserves in the hemisphere—allows the United States to shape public perception toward the country on its own strategic terms. In the absence of these factors, human rights abuses and the suspension of political liberties can continue indefinitely—as long as the government is set on accommodating the interests of the United States instead of challenging them.

Kevin Edmonds is a NACLA blogger focusing on the Caribbean. For more from his blog, "The Other Side of Paradise," visit Edmonds is a former NACLA research associated an a current PhD student at the University of Toronto, where he is studying the impact of neoliberalism on the St. Lucian banana trade. Follow him on twitter @kevin_edmonds.

Chasing Chavez: American Mafia's Promise of Hell on Earth to Come for Venezuela

Soon, the Battle for Venezuela

by Andre Vltchek - CounterPunch

They are already sewing your funeral gown, Venezuela. They are now ready to welcome you back to that world of the lobotomized, destroyed nations that are fully submissive to Western political and economic interests – Indonesia, Philippines, Paraguay, Uganda, Kenya, Qatar, Bahrain, and almost the entire Eastern Europe. There are so many places like that – it is impossible to list them all.

They want you back in their deadly embrace; they want you to be corrupt and hopeless, as you were before the “Bolivarian Revolution”.

They want you to be the top oil exporter, but with all those horrific slums hanging, like relentless nightmares, over your cities. They want your elites and your military top brass to speak English, to play golf, to drive luxury cars and to commit treason after treason, as they used to commit treason for decades, before your brave predecessor, President Hugo Chavez, began serving and literally saving the poor, in Venezuela and all over Latin America.

Those who are planning to destroy you, those who belong to the so called ‘opposition’, in their heads, are already portioning you; they are dividing your beautiful body – fighting over which parts should be taken where and by whom. They are arguing which pieces of you should stay at home, and what should be taken abroad – a leg, an arm, and your deep melancholic eyes, the color of the profound pools under the mighty waterfalls of Canaima. They want to sell your jet-black hair, as black as those evenings in the mountains, or like that endless night sky above Ciudad Bolivar.

They want everything, all that is under your skin as well as what is deep inside your body. They want your skin, too, as well as your heart.

They want your dreams, which are almost everybody’s dreams – the dreams of all those people from all over the world, people that have been oppressed, and humiliated, for centuries, up to today. They want to take your dreams and to step on them, dirty them, spit on them and to crush them.

But it is not over; it is all far from being over. You are loved and admired, and therefore you will be defended. By all means – we who love you will not be ungenerous; we will not be negotiating the price!

For many men and women, for millions all over the world, you used to be a girl; a brave, rebellious, wonderful young woman… then suddenly you became a mother and then you turned to a motherland – for all those who lacked one until this very moment. For me, too, you became a motherland… for me too!


I am not a Venezuelan citizen. I wish I could be, but I am not. But I have fought for Venezuela, in my own way, through my reports and speeches, through films and in my books. I fought ever since Hugo Chavez became the President, ‘my President’.

And I am proud that I fought. And now, when Venezuela is once again under vicious attack, I want to stand firmly by her side, by the side of her Revolution, by the side of El Processo, and of her great Presidents – both Chavez and Maduro!

And I want to say this, and I will say this loudly, carajo: I don’t care what passport is hanging from my pocket, but Caracas is now my capital, and Caracas is what we are going to defend, if we have to. Because in Caracas, we will be fighting for Havana, for Harare and Johannesburg, for Cairo and Calcutta, for the tiny atoll nations in the Pacific Ocean, for Hanoi, for Beijing, and even for Moscow, Asmara, La Paz, Valparaiso, Quito, Managua and for so many of the other independent, freedom-loving places of this wonderful world.

The violent activities undertaken by those so-called ‘protesters’ in Caracas have to be stopped, immediately, and if necessary, by force.

‘The opposition’ has been paid from abroad, as it has been paid, in the past and now, in China, in Eastern Europe, in Syria, Ukraine and in Thailand, as it has been paid everywhere else in the world, where the West could not manage to easily strip those ‘rebellious’ countries of all their riches, while keeping them humiliated, and on their knees.


As you are contemplating your next step, Mr. President Nicolas Maduro, as Venezuela is once again bleeding, as none of us knows what the next day may bring, I am leaving Indonesia, flying to Thailand. (For now it is Thailand, but I soon may change my course).

Thailand is not Venezuela, but their government also introduced free medical care and free education, and other basic social services. People responded – by supporting progress. They have been supporting it for years, through ballots.

But the elites intervened and the army intervened. There was a coup, and there are now voices shouting that ‘the people cannot be trusted’, otherwise they will always be voting for this administration, read: for progress.

The West is firmly behind the elites and against progress. Thai feudal leaders are fully trusted in Washington, in London, and even in Tokyo. It is because they have totally sold out their souls, because they fully lost all their shame during the Vietnam War. They fully participated in the horrible slaughter of the Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian people, and they even eagerly murdered their own people: revolutionaries, Communists and students.

The West likes it when such despots hold the reins of power. They like people like Duvalier, Trujillo, Videla and Pinochet – and their equivalents – on all the continents and in every country.

In Thailand they are now supporting the ‘opposition’, as they supported the ‘opposition’ in Chile before 1973 or in China before Tiananmen Square. As they are right now supporting ‘the opposition’ in Venezuela! Everything that can damage or destroy a rebellious country, Communist or non-aligned, goes!

It does not matter how many millions will die in the process. As long as a rebellion, or a fight for independence, can be crushed, Western imperialism and neo-colonialism will sacrifice any amount of human lives, especially the lives of those ‘un people’, just to borrow from the Orwellian lexicon.

I am soon leaving Indonesia, Comrade President Maduro. Indonesia is the country about which I have written books and made films, including a recent film for TeleSur.

Here, too, the West disliked the progressive President, Sukarno, who used to scream in face of the US Ambassador: “To hell with your aid!” Sukarno was one of the founders of the Non-Aligned Movement. Some would call him the Asian Chavez, and they would not be too far off the mark.

And so in 1965, the West teamed up with the local military and religious cadres, supplying them with lists of those ‘who had to be killed’. What followed was one of the bloodiest coups in human history: between one and three million Communists, intellectuals, trade unionists, teachers and people belonging to the Chinese minority, were slaughtered. Culture was destroyed. The spine of the country was broken. It is broken right until now. It is terrible, a terrifying sight!

Now Indonesia is a servile, nauseating place, corrupt, both financially and morally. Its people are only there to supply multi-national companies and the local ‘elites’ with raw materials, and a low quality uneducated cheap work force.

It is exactly what the West wants to turn Venezuela into – the Latin American Indonesia, or even more frighteningly, the Latin American version of the African horror story – the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Venezuela’s riches under and above the ground, are so numerous, and its land so fertile, its rainforests endless. Foreign companies and governments from the North simply cannot stop shaking from the lowest type of desire; unable to contain their unbridled greed.

The West, of course, does not come and say: We will rob you and rape you. They sing some stereotypical tunes about freedom and democracy. But anyone in Venezuela who wants to know what will happen to their country if the ‘opposition’ takes over, should go to Indonesia and see with his or her own eyes. Or should at least remember what occurred in the Chile of 1973, because in Chile, the US replicated its horrible Indonesian formula.

It is all connected and inter-connected, comrades, although Western mass media does not want us to know any of this.


Venezuela has to fight back! It is under siege and you were democratically elected, Mr. President. You have a mandate, and an obligation to defend your people.

I have worked in almost one hundred and fifty countries. And I have seen the horrors of those places that fell into the hands of Western usurpers: directly or indirectly. I have worked in places as diverse but broken as Paraguay, Honduras, Egypt, Bahrain, Kenya, Uganda, Philippines, Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Marshall Islands.

Countries are so often punished for their great leaders!

In Congo, Patrice Lumumba decided to dedicate his life to feeding the children of the continent, to use the enormous natural wealth of his country for the good of his citizens. He despised colonialism and he openly repeated his accusations again the former colonial masters (the Belgians murdered ten million Congolese people during the reign of the Kind Leopold II) and against the neo-colonial clique. And he was murdered; after the Belgians, North Americans, Brits and others joined forces and decided that ‘such behavior’ could not be tolerated.

Now the DRC, country which has some of the greatest natural wealth on this planet, has the lowest ‘Human Development Index’. Brutal Western allies in Africa – Rwanda and Uganda – have plundered DRC since 1995, on behalf of Western companies and governments. By now around eight million people have died. I made a film about it. Needless to say, nobody in Europe or in the United States wants to see it!

It is all because of Coltan, Diamonds, Uranium and Gold. But it is also, undeniably, because Congo once so proudly stood up against imperialism and foreign oppression. The Empire almost never forgives!

The Empire never forgave Yugoslavia, another founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement, breaking it apart and bathing it in blood. It never forgave Russia, supporting an awful despot and alcoholic, Boris Yeltsin in his determined efforts to ruin what was left of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and by murdering thousands of Russian people during the siege of Russian ‘White House’.

It never forgave China, or North Korea, or Zimbabwe.

The list goes on, and it is endless.

Please, do not allow this to happen to Venezuela!

Allende, Sukarno and others, fell, and their countries fell, because they assumed that despite everything, despite the West murdering hundreds of millions of people all over the world, for many centuries, it would actually not be as brutal in this particular day and age, it would at least spare cities such as Santiago or Jakarta.

Then, when millions of Indonesian women had been gang-raped, when their breasts were ‘amputated’, when victims had to dig their own graves before being killed… when Chilean women were violated by dogs, under the supervision of ‘English speaking investigators’ as well as old German Nazis from Colonia Dignidad, when people were “disappeared”, tortured, thrown alive from the helicopters… Mr. President, it was too late… Too late to fight!


I saw enough of this. As a war correspondent, as a man who was searching for the truth on all continents, writing about the most devastated cities and nations, I managed to absorb so much pain and suffering that I hope it gives me at least some right to write this letter, this appeal, and to urge you: “Do not allow this to happen to Venezuela.”

Those who are opposing you will not stop – they will go all the way, if allowed. They have been engaged in a disinformation campaign, suspiciously similar to the one before the “9/11” in Chile, 1973. The ‘strikes’ and ‘insecurity’ are also similar to those provoked in Chile and Indonesia before their coups. And like elsewhere, in Venezuela there is also a group of ‘economists’ and ‘business people’, ready to reverse the course of the country, immediately, were the counter-revolution to succeed.

It is great business to oppose you! Tens of millions of dollars are poured into the coffers of those who want to overthrow the government of Venezuela… of Cuba… of China… of Iran, Bolivia, Ecuador, and so many other countries…

But Venezuela is now so high, perhaps at the top, of the Western mafia-style hit list.

In my recent essay: “How the West Manufactures ‘Opposition Movements’”, I gave a list of countries where all this is happening right now – an attempt to use local gangs to overthrow totally legitimate governments only because they are defending the interests of their people.

Mr. President, your country – Venezuela – is much more than a beautiful place inhabited by brave people. It is also a symbol of hope, and as Eduardo Galeano once told me in Montevideo: “To take away hope is worse than murdering a person.”

Do not allow them to choke this hope: the hope of the Venezuelan people, and the hope of millions all over the world.

If you have to fight, please fight! And we will join you; many of us will. Because what your predecessor and friend, Hugo Chavez, started, is what billions all over the world desire and dream of.

Venezuela, your Venezuela and my Venezuela, gave free books to the poor, free medical care, education, and housing to all needy people. Not as some sort of charity, but as something they deserve, have right to. Venezuela built cable cars, libraries and childcare care posts to help working mothers, where only naked misery reigned before. Venezuela educated and inspired some of the greatest musicians on earth. It stood against imperialism; it redefined, together with Cuba, what is ‘heart’ and what is ‘courage’.

Now our Venezuela cannot fail. It cannot fall. It is too big, too important. Perhaps, the survival of the human race depends on the survival of Venezuela and the countries related to it.

After Hugo Chavez died, or as many believe was killed in cold blood, I visited TeleSur in Caracas. In the center of the city, there was a photo of Chavez, sweating, clearly suffering from chemotherapy, but clenching his fist: “Here, nobody surrenders!”

And a short distance away, there was another poster only showing a sprinkle of blood on a white background. ‘Chavez from his heart’, it read. Chavez was endorsing Maduro, posthumously.

President Maduro, let’s defend our Venezuela! Please let us not allow this revolution to fail. Let us do it by reason and by force! Let us do it for every tiny village destroyed by drones, for children dying from depleted uranium, for the ‘Cuban 5’, for those who died from the horrors of modern-day imperialism, in Congo, Angola, Vietnam, Laos, Indonesia, Iraq, Libya, Chile, and in dozens of other ruined countries.

Let us defend Venezuela for the sake of the humanity. No pasaran! This time, let us make sure that the fascist forces will not be allowed to advance!

Andre Vltchek is a novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. His discussion with Noam Chomsky On Western Terrorism is now going to print. His critically acclaimed political novel Point of No Return is now re-edited and available. Oceania is his book on Western imperialism in the South Pacific. His provocative book about post-Suharto Indonesia and the market-fundamentalist model is called “Indonesia – The Archipelago of Fear”. He has just completed the feature documentary, “Rwanda Gambit” about Rwandan history and the plunder of DR Congo. After living for many years in Latin America and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides and works in East Asia and Africa. He can be reached through his website or his Twitter.

Paper Clip History: The First Nazification of America

Operation Nazification

by David Swanson - War is a Crime

Annie Jacobsen's new book is called Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program That Brought Nazi Scientists to America. It isn't terribly secret anymore, of course, and it was never very intelligent. Jacobsen has added some details, and the U.S. government is still hiding many more. But the basic facts have been available; they're just left out of most U.S. history books, movies, and television programs.

After World War II, the U.S. military hired sixteen hundred former Nazi scientists and doctors, including some of Adolf Hitler's closest collaborators, including men responsible for murder, slavery, and human experimentation, including men convicted of war crimes, men acquitted of war crimes, and men who never stood trial. 
Some of the Nazis tried at Nuremberg had already been working for the U.S. in either Germany or the U.S. prior to the trials. Some were protected from their past by the U.S. government for years, as they lived and worked in Boston Harbor, Long Island, Maryland, Ohio, Texas, Alabama, and elsewhere, or were flown by the U.S. government to Argentina to protect them from prosecution. Some trial transcripts were classified in their entirety to avoid exposing the pasts of important U.S. scientists. Some of the Nazis brought over were frauds who had passed themselves off as scientists, some of whom subsequently learned their fields while working for the U.S. military.

The U.S. occupiers of Germany after World War II declared that all military research in Germany was to cease, as part of the process of denazification. Yet that research went on and expanded in secret, under U.S. authority, both in Germany and in the United States, as part of a process that it's possible to view as nazification. Not only scientists were hired. Former Nazi spies, most of them former S.S., were hired by the U.S. in post-war Germany to spy on -- and torture -- Soviets.

The U.S. military shifted in numerous ways when former Nazis were put into prominent positions. It was Nazi rocket scientists who proposed placing nuclear bombs on rockets and began developing the intercontinental ballistic missile. It was Nazi engineers who had designed Hitler's bunker beneath Berlin, who now designed underground fortresses for the U.S. government in the Catoctin and Blue Ridge Mountains. 
Known Nazi liars were employed by the U.S. military to draft classified intelligence briefs falsely hyping the Soviet menace. Nazi scientists developed U.S. chemical and biological weapons programs, bringing over their knowledge of tabun and sarin, not to mention thalidomide -- and their eagerness for human experimentation, which the U.S. military and the newly created CIA readily engaged in on a major scale. 
Every bizarre and gruesome notion of how a person might be assassinated or an army immobilized was of interest to their research. New weapons were developed, including VX and Agent Orange. A new drive to visit and weaponize outer space was created, and former Nazis were put in charge of a new agency called NASA.

Permanent war thinking, limitless war thinking, and creative war thinking in which science and technology overshadowed death and suffering, all went mainstream. When a former Nazi spoke to a women's luncheon at the Rochester Junior Chamber of Commerce in 1953, the event's headline was "Buzz Bomb Mastermind to Address Jaycees Today." That doesn't sound terribly odd to us, but might have shocked anyone living in the United States anytime prior to World War II. 
Watch this Walt Disney television program featuring a former Nazi who worked slaves to death in a cave building rockets. 
Before long, President Dwight Eisenhower would be lamenting that "the total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government." Eisenhower was not referring to Nazism but to the power of the military-industrial complex. Yet, when asked whom he had in mind in remarking in the same speech that "public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite," Eisenhower named two scientists, one of them the former Nazi in the Disney video linked above.

The decision to inject 1,600 of Hitler's scientific-technological elite into the U.S. military was driven by fears of the USSR, both reasonable and the result of fraudulent fear mongering. The decision evolved over time and was the product of many misguided minds. But the buck stopped with President Harry S Truman. Henry Wallace, Truman's predecessor as vice-president who we like to imagine would have guided the world in a better direction than Truman did as president, actually pushed Truman to hire the Nazis as a jobs program. It would be good for American industry, said our progressive hero. 
Truman's subordinates debated, but Truman decided. As bits of Operation Paperclip became known, the American Federation of Scientists, Albert Einstein, and others urged Truman to end it. Nuclear physicist Hans Bethe and his colleague Henri Sack asked Truman:

"Did the fact that the Germans might save the nation millions of dollars imply that permanent residence and citizenship could be bought? Could the United States count on [the German scientists] to work for peace when their indoctrinated hatred against the Russians might contribute to increase the divergence between the great powers? Had the war been fought to allow Nazi ideology to creep into our educational and scientific institutions by the back door? Do we want science at any price?"

In 1947 Operation Paperclip, still rather small, was in danger of being terminated. Instead, Truman transformed the U.S. military with the National Security Act, and created the best ally that Operation Paperclip could want: the CIA. Now the program took off, intentionally and willfully, with the full knowledge and understanding of the same U.S. President who had declared as a senator that if the Russians were winning the U.S. should help the Germans, and vice versa, to ensure that the most people possible died, the same president who viciously and pointlessly dropped two nuclear bombs on Japanese cities, the same president who brought us the war on Korea, the war without declaration, the secret wars, the permanent expanded empire of bases, the military secrecy in all matters, the imperial presidency, and the military-industrial complex. 
The U.S. Chemical Warfare Service took up the study of German chemical weapons at the end of the war as a means to continue in existence. George Merck both diagnosed biological weapons threats for the military and sold the military vaccines to handle them. War was business and business was going to be good for a long time to come.

But how big a change did the United States go through after World War II, and how much of it can be credited to Operation Paperclip? 
Isn't a government that would give immunity to both Nazi and Japanese war criminals in order to learn their criminal ways already in a bad place? As one of the defendants argued in trial at Nuremberg, the U.S. had already engaged in its own experiments on humans using almost identical justifications to those offered by the Nazis. If that defendant had been aware, he could have pointed out that the U.S. was in that very moment engaged in such experiments in Guatemala. The Nazis had learned some of their eugenics and other nasty inclinations from Americans. Some of the Paperclip scientists had worked in the U.S. before the war, as many Americans had worked in Germany. These were not isolated worlds.

Looking beyond the secondary, scandalous, and sadistic crimes of war, what about the crime of war itself? 
We picture the United States as less guilty because it maneuvered the Japanese into the first attack, and because it did prosecute some of the war's losers. But an impartial trial would have prosecuted Americans too. Bombs dropped on civilians killed and injured and destroyed more than any concentration camps -- camps that in Germany had been modeled in part after U.S. camps for native Americans. Is it possible that Nazi scientists blended into the U.S. military so well because an institution that had already done what it had done to the Philippines was not in all that much need of nazification?

Yet, somehow, we think of the firebombing of Japanese cities and the complete leveling of German cities as less offensive that the hiring of Nazi scientists. But what is it that offends us about Nazi scientists? I don't think it should be that they engaged in mass-murder for the wrong side, an error balanced out in some minds but their later work for mass-murder by the right side. And I don't think it should be entirely that they engaged in sick human experimentation and forced labor. I do think those actions should offend us. But so should the construction of rockets that take thousands of lives. And it should offend us whomever it's done for.

It's curious to imagine a civilized society somewhere on earth some years from now. Would an immigrant with a past in the U.S. military be able to find a job? Would a review be needed? Had they tortured prisoners? Had they drone-struck children? Had they leveled houses or shot up civilians in any number of countries? Had they used cluster bombs? Depleted uranium? White phosphorous? Had they ever worked in the U.S. prison system? Immigrant detention system? Death row? How thorough a review would be needed? Would there be some level of just-following-orders behavior that would be deemed acceptable? 
Would it matter, not just what the person had done, but how they thought about the world?

Remembering Haiti: How NGO's Aided the '04 Coup and Support Continued Oppression

NGOs’ Complicity in Haitian Coup

by Yves Engler - Dissident Voice (Part 3 of a 4 Part Series)

On February 29, 2004 the US, France, and Canada overthrew Haiti’s elected government.

As my first two articles in this series outlined,1 Ottawa helped plan the coup and was heavily implicated in the human rights disaster that followed.

But the most shocking aspect of the intervention was the role played by purportedly progressive non-governmental organizations. A slew of NGOs received tens of millions of dollars from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) to advance Ottawa’s anti-democratic policy in Haiti.

A few months prior to the February 29, 2004 coup that overthrew Aristide for the second time, Montreal-based Rights & Democracy (R&D), which was widely viewed as an NGO even though it was created by an act of Parliament, released a report that described Haiti’s pro-coup Group of 184 as “grassroots” and a “promising civil society movement.”

The truth is that the Group of 184 was spawned and funded by the International Republican Institute (funded by the U.S. government) and headed by Haiti’s leading sweatshop owner, Andy Apaid. Apaid had been active in right-wing Haitian politics for many years and, like former Group of 184 spokesperson Charles Henry Baker, is white.

In October 2005 R&D began a $415,000 CIDA-financed project to “foster greater civil society participation in Haiti’s national political process.” The Haitian coordinator of the project, who later became director of R&D’s Haiti office, was Danielle Magloire, a member of the “Council of the Wise” that appointed Gérard Latortue as interim prime minister after the coup ousted the elected president.

Magloire’s status as a “wise” person, moreover, arose largely out of her positions at EnfoFanm (Women’s info) and the National Coordination for Advocacy on Women’s Rights (CONAP). Both were CIDA-funded feminist organizations that would not have grown to prominence without international funding.

They were virulently anti-Lavalas (Aristide’s party) groups that shunned the language of class struggle in a country where a tiny percentage of the population owns nearly everything. Interestingly, EnfoFanm and CONAP expressed little concern about the dramatic rise in rapes targeting Lavalas sympathizers after the coup.

In mid-July 2005 Magloire issued a statement on behalf of the seven-member “Council of the Wise” saying that any media that gives voice to “bandits” (code for Aristide supporters) should be shut down. She also asserted that the Lavalas Family should be banned from upcoming elections.

The Concertation Pour Haiti (CPH), an informal group of half a dozen Québec NGOs including Development and Peace, Entraide Missionaire and AQOCI (Québec’s NGO umbrella group), also called for Aristide’s overthrow. They branded the elected President a “tyrant,” his government a “dictatorship,” and a “regime of terror” and in mid-February 2004 called for Aristide’s removal. This demand was made at the same time CIA-trained thugs swept across the country to oust the government.

Throughout the coup period from March 2004 to May 2006 the CPH organized numerous events in Ottawa and Montréal that effectively justified Canada’s intervention into Haiti. They even backed the post-coup repression.

In a January 27, 2006 letter — also signed by R&D — to Canada’s ambassador to the U.N., Allan Rock, the two groups echoed the extreme right’s demand for increased repression in the country’s largest poor neighbourhood, Cité Soleil. A couple of weeks after a business-sector “strike” demanding that U.N. troops aggressively attack “gangsters” in Cité Soleil, the CPH/R&D questioned the “true motives of the U.N. mission.” The letter questioned whether U.N. forces were “protecting armed bandits more than restoring order and ending violence.”

Criticizing the U.N. for softness in Cité Soleil flew in the face of evidence suggesting the opposite. In fact, just prior to the CPH/R&D letter, Canadian solidarity activists documented a murderous U.N. attack on a hospital in the slum neighbourhood.

Documents obtained from CIDA reveal that, without exception, Haitians organizations ideologically opposed to the elected government were the sole recipients of Canadian government funding in the lead up to the coup. Civil society groups supportive of Aristide’s Lavalas simply did not receive development money. (Ironic, since as a movement of the country’s poor, Lavalas supporters should qualify as prime recipients of anti-poverty funding.)

Montréal-based Alternatives, one of Québec’s most left-leaning NGOs, also parroted the neoconservative narrative about Haiti. Sixteen months after the coup an Alternatives article accused, without a shred of evidence, prominent Bel-Air activist Samba Boukman and human rights worker Ronald St. Jean of being “notorious criminals.” This was exceedingly dangerous in an environment where the victims of police operations were routinely labeled “bandits” and “criminals” after they were killed.

Alternatives’ “progressive” credibility was also put to work countering opposition to Brazil’s leadership of the U.N. occupation of Haiti. “With the support of the Canadian government” in March 2005 Alternatives established a “trialogue” in Brazil between “the governments and organizations of civil society of Brazil, Haiti and Canada” on how to support the “transition” government. “Several ministers of the interim [coup] government of Haiti” assisted Alternatives in this task.

At the start of 2008 Alternatives co-published a report that clearly articulated its colonial attitude vis-a-vis Haiti. The most disturbing statement in the report titled “Haiti: Voices of the Actors” reads: “In a country like Haiti, in which democratic culture has never taken hold, the concept of the common good and the meaning of elections and representation are limited to the educated elites, and in particular to those who have received citizen education within the social movements.

According to Alternatives, Haitians were too stupid to know what’s good for them, unless, that is, they had been educated by a foreign NGO. The report, which was financed by the federal government, was full of other attacks against Haitians and the country’s popular movement.

After a great deal of criticism Alternatives’ director, Pierre Beaudet, eventually backed away from his organization’s disastrous position on Haiti. A week after the January 12, 2010 earthquake, he wrote an article (in French) stating that “the overthrow of Aristide organized by the United States, with the support of France and Canada, reflects a trend of ‘heavy’ interventionism and interference that’s generally at the expense of Haitians.”

In the lead up to the tenth anniversary of the coup some of the other NGOs will hopefully step up and admit – whatever their opinion of Aristide’s government – that they erred in supporting the overthrow of the elected government. At this point it’s simply beyond doubt that the military intervention has been harmful to most Haitians.

Read Part 1 and Part 2

To express your solidarity please sign this “Letter to Haiti” (currently available in ENGLISH, FRENCH AND KREYOL).

Yves Engler is co-author of the recently released New Commune-ist Manifesto — Workers of the World It Really is Time to Unite, a rewriting of the original designed to spark debate about a new direction for the Left and union movement. For more information go to Read other articles by Yves, or visit Yves's website.

Reprise of the Repo Men: Five Years After, Financial Markets Still Vulnerable to Repurchasers

Still Broken Five Years Later

by Mike Whitney - CounterPunch

“The repo market wasn’t just a part of the meltdow n. It was the meltdown.” – David Weidner, Wall Street Journal, May 29, 2013.

Ask your average guy-on-the-street ‘what caused the financial crisis’ and you’ll either get a blank stare followed by a shrug of the shoulders or a brusque, three-word answer: “The housing bubble.”

Even people who follow the news closely are usually sketchy on the details. They might add something about subprime mortgages or Lehman Brothers, but not much more than that. Very few people seem to know that the crisis began in a shadowy part of the financial system called repo, which is short for repurchase agreement.

In 2008, repo was ground zero, the epicenter of the meltdown. That’s where the bank run took place that froze the credit markets and sent the financial system into freefall. Unfortunately, nothing has been done to fix the problems in repo, which means that we’re just as vulnerable today as we were five years ago when Lehman imploded and all hell broke loose.

Repo is a critical part of today’s financial architecture. It allows the banks to fund their long-term securities cheaply while giving lenders, like money markets, a place where they can park their money overnight and get a small return. The entire repo market is roughly $4.5 trillion, although the more volatile tri-party repo market is around $1.6 trillion. (Note: That’s $1.6 trillion that’s rolled over every day.)

Repo works a lot like a pawn shop. You bring your rusty bike and your imitation Van Gogh “Starry Night” to Rosie’s E-Z-Pawn, and the guy with the gold earring behind the counter gives you 15 bucks in return. That’s how repo works too, the only difference is that repo is a loan. The banks post collateral – mostly pools of mortgages (MBS) or US Treasuries – and get overnight loans from cash-heavy lenders, like money markets, insurance companies or pension funds. Borrowers repay the loan with interest added to the original sum.

The problem that arose in 2008, and that will likely crop up in the future, was that the value of the underlying collateral (subprime MBS) was steadily downgraded forcing the banks to take steep haircuts, (which means they couldn’t borrow as much on their collateral). The bigger the haircuts, the less money the banks had to fund their securities which forced them to sell assets to make up the difference. 

When banks and other financial institutions deleverage quickly, asset prices plunge and capital is wiped out forcing the Fed to step in and backstop the system to prevent a full-blown meltdown. And that’s exactly what the Fed did in 2008. It slashed rates to zero, set up myriad lending facilities and provided unlimited backing for both regulated and unregulated financial institutions.

It was the biggest financial rescue operation of all time and it cost somewhere in the neighborhood of 12 to 13 trillion dollars in loans and other guarantees. Under the provisions of the Dodd-Frank financial reforms, the Fed is forbidden from carrying out a similar bailout in the future, although you can bet-your-bippy that Yellen and Co. will bend the rules if there’s another catastrophe.

Fixing repo is not a left-right issue. Among the people who follow these things, there is general agreement about what needs to be done to make the system safer. Even New York Fed President William C. Dudley – who’s no “liberal” by any stretch – admits that the system is broken. In October, 2013, at a bank conference Dudley opined:

“Current reforms do not address the risk that a dealer’s loss of access to tri-party repo funding could precipitate destabilizing asset fire sales, whether by the dealer itself, or by the dealer’s creditors following a default.” 

In other words, the chances of another 5-alarm fire sometime in the future are pretty darn good.

Dudley’s description of what happened during the acute phase of the crisis is also worth reviewing. He said:

“Higher margins on repo and increased collateral calls due to credit ratings downgrades reduced the quantity of assets that could be financed in repo markets and elsewhere, prompting further asset sales. As wholesale investors started to exit, this set in motion a bad dynamic—a fire sale of assets that cut into earnings and capital. This just increased the incentives of investors to run and for banks to hoard liquidity against the risk that they could themselves face a run. This downward spiral of fire sales and funding runs was a key feature of the financial crisis …”

And, that, dear reader, is a first-rate account of what happened in 2008 when panic gripped the markets and the dominoes started to tumble. Former Fed chairman Ben Bernanke’s version of events is also worth a look if only because he describes the crash in terms of what it really was, a modern day bank run. Here’s what he said:

“What was different about this crisis was that the institutional structure was different. It wasn’t banks and depositors. It was broker-dealers and repo markets. It was money market funds and commercial paper.”

While most analysts agree about the origins of the crisis and the type of changes that are needed to avoid a repeat, the banks have blocked all attempts at reforming the system.

But, why?

It’s because the reforms would cost the banks more money, and they don’t want that. They’d rather put the entire system at risk, then cough up a little more dough to make repo safer. Here’s how the New York Fed summed it up in a paper titled “Shadow Bank Monitoring”:

“One clear motivation for intermediation outside of the traditional banking system is for private actors to evade regulation and taxes. … Regulation typically forces private actors to do something which they would otherwise not do: pay taxes to the official sector, disclose additional information to investors, or hold more capital against financial exposures. Financial activity which has been re-structured to avoid taxes, disclosure, and/or capital requirements, is referred to as arbitrage activity.” (“Shadow Bank Monitoring”, Federal Reserve Bank of New York Staff Reports, September, 2013)

That says it all, doesn’t it? They don’t want to pay taxes, they don’t want to hold capital against their collateral, and they want to continue to run their businesses in the shadows so nosy shareholders and regulators can’t see what the heck they’re up to. So, what else is new? The banks are running a crooked, black box operation, and they aim to keep it that way come hell or high water.

The banks can’t be reasoned with, that’s obvious from the position they’ve taken. They’ve put profits above everything, even the viability of the system. How can you reason with people like that? Just get a load of what the New York Fed said on the matter:

“Intermediaries create liquidity in the shadow banking system by levering up the collateral value of their assets. However, the liquidity creation comes at the cost of financial fragility as fluctuations in uncertainty cause a flight to quality from shadow liabilities to safe assets. The collapse of shadow banking liquidity has real effects via the pricing of credit and generates prolonged slumps after adverse shocks.”

This sounds more complicated than it is. What the Fed is saying is:

“Hey, guys, you’re creating all this fake money (credit) by loading up on leverage (borrowing), and that’s pushing us closer to another crisis. Once the money markets figure out that all those nifty subprime CDOs you’ve been trading for overnight loans aren’t worth Jack-crap, then they’re going to cut you off at the knees and move into risk-free assets like US Treasuries. So why don’t you wise-the-hell-up, and start playing by the rules like everyone else so we don’t have to deal with another big, freaking meltdown. Okay?”

(Of course, I’m paraphrasing here.)

The only way to fix repo is by backstopping collateral with more capital, forcing all trading onto central clearing platforms (where regulators can see what’s going on), and regulating shadow banks like traditional, commercial banks. The editors at Bloomberg said it best nearly a year ago. They said:

“If an entity engages in banking activity… it must register as a bank, with all the backstops and capital requirements that entails.”

Right on.

If we’re not going to nationalize the banks and turn them into public utilities, which is what we should have done in 2009 when we had the chance, then we need to put safeguards in place to keep them from crashing the system every few years.

Regulate, Regulate, Regulate. That’s the ticket.

Stricter regulations could have prevented the last crisis, and stricter regulations can prevent the next one. It’s just a matter of finding the political will to get the job done.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at

Friday, February 21, 2014

Quo Vadis, Syrie? West Promotes 'No Fly Zone' as Syrian Regime Holds Ground

Syrian Regime Solidifies Recent Gains: Coalition of the Willing’ Promotes No Fly Zone

by Franklin Lamb

Damascus - Since around Valentine Day, and aided by truly magnificent warm weather for this time of year, the dozens of parks in Damascus have been receiving unusually large numbers of visitors, not least of whom are Syrian soldiers on leave, enjoying the green space with girlfriends, families and friends. At the large garden with dozen of benches and sculptures, called Al-Manshia (Presidents Bridge) public park, and located between two five-star hotels, the Dama Rose and the 4-Seasons, some soldiers, presumably from out of town and with many appearing utterly exhausted, can be seen simply laying on the grass fast asleep under the warm healing sunshine.

Soldiers joke, laugh and seem pleased when citizens approach them to offer their thanks for the army’s service to the Syrian Arab Republic and to inquire about how things are going personally and if there is some help the citizen might offer the soldier. Such is the nature of Syrian nationalism and connection with Mother Syria that this observer has remarked about before and is strikingly rare from his experience. I love my country but frankly do not feel the pride and deep connection that Syrians appear to exhibit about their country’s 10,000 year history as the cradle of civilization. I would defend my country and fight for it if there were to be a legitimate war which frankly has not been the case in my lifetime.

Over the past 30 months of frequent visits to Damascus, the city has never appeared more ‘normal’ Last night this observers was up all night reading and there was not one bombing run or mortar or artillery fire to he heard, a first for more than two years. For many months, I used to avoid the historic Al-Hamidiyah Souk, the largest and the central souk in Syria located inside the old walled city of Damascus next to the Umayyad Mosque, despite its hundreds of interesting shops. The reason I tended to stay away was because I was one of very few people meandering among the warren of stalls and felt self-conscious when shopkeepers would plead with me to buy something-anything to help feed their families many of whom lived near the labyrinth.

Today, Al-Hamidiyah Souk, if not frequented with the numbers of shoppers and visitors as it was before March 2011, it is nonetheless very crowded such that foreigners can pass unnoticed…well, sometimes for at least the first hundred yards or so. In Damascene neighborhoods, no longer do citizens quickly disappear into their homes at the first sign of dusk but the streets and many cafes are crowded well past 9 p.m.

“Quo Vadis Syrie”, (‘where is Syria heading’) one Damascus University classics major, turned international law student, asked this visitor as we both sat on the steps of the Law Faculty while enjoying a bit of sun yesterday afternoon. “Is our crisis nearly over so we can start re-building Mother Syria or do our enemies have other plans to destroy us? I worry that today’s calm will soon disappear with an arriving hurricane.” His comment was perhaps triggered by a certain sense here and more widely elsewhere that a forming “coalition of the willing” appears to be pressing for a ‘humanitarian’ No Fly Zone. Some American allies envisage and are making plans to implement, a NFZ stretching up to 25 miles into Syria which would be enforced using aircraft flown from Jordanian bases and flying inside the kingdom, according to Congressional sources.

Any NFZ would be very different from what is currently being promoted and advertised by certain war-mongers in Washington, Tel Aviv and several European capitals as well as among elements of the Gulf Cooperation Council and the League of Arab States. Post Round Two of Geneva II, the White House and the usual “bomb the bastards” coterie in Congress and among the US Zionist lobby, are said to be re-thinking the idea of a No Fly Zone (NFZ) for Syria. It would be planned and executed with US and a yet to be specified, “Coalition of the willing” using aircraft now at the ready in Jordan and Turkey to begin with.

Ranking with the fake “non-lethal aid” concept, in terms of cynical deception (virtually all “non-lethal” aid is indeed lethal for its facilitates certain forces killing others including night goggles, telecommunication equipment, GPS equipment, salaries, fake IDs and much else), a limited, ‘humanitarian’ NFZ would almost certainly became a bomb anything/person that moves ‘turkey shoot’ as was the case in Libya in 2011 as was studied and witnessed first-hand by this an many other observers. What we observed in the then, but no more, Al Jamahiriya (state of the masses), was that the misnomer ‘limited humanitarian Responsibility to Protect’ (R2P) promoted by Obama Administration UN Ambassador Susan Rice for Libya and now by her predecessor Samatha Power for Syria, was that a NFZ means essentially an all-out war for regime change at all costs in terms of expendable lives and treasury.

The Libya experience, conceding many differences between the two countries and their governments and quality of each country’s military, may be prologue for Syria. Backed by a U.N. Security Council mandate, NATO charged into Libya citing its urgent “responsibility to protect” civilians threatened by claimed bloody rampages occurring across the country. Within days, we witnessed the ‘limited carefully vetted’ targets bank turn from a promoted ‘several dozen purely military targets” into more than 10,000 bomb runs using over 7,700 ‘precision guided bombs” and from the ground and what we learned during weeks in Libya by victims and eye-witnesses it seemed at times that the targets were basically anything that moved or looked like it might have a conceivable military purpose of some sort.

Human Rights Watch documented nearly 100 cases of civilians being bombed and killed as part of the R2P campaign. Other estimates are several times the HRW published figures. To this day Libyan civilians and demanding to know from NATO, “Why did you destroy my home and kill my family?” No answer has to date been provided to the Libyan victims’ families despite investigations that showed NATO pilots frequently disregarded instructions and “we essentially bombed at if we were playing video games” according to post-conflict contrite British airman.

Susan Rice, now Obama’s national security adviser, met with Saudi officials last week to discuss a NFZ and related strategy despite White House claims that it is still skeptical. Rice told the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee late last month that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia are working together again on Syria policy after a year of occasional bitter disagreement.

Among those currently petitioning the Obama Administration for a NFZ, which would quickly devolve into thousands of bomb runs across Syria that would likely decimate its air force and tank corps are the so-called ‘rebels.’ They tend to agree with France that problems lay ahead for them given April’s fast approaching Presidential election, in which the incumbent President, Bashar Assad, is likely to seek and win re-election.

In addition, Israel, according to a Congressional source, has offered to help ‘behind the scenes” with airbases if needed and certain activities along the southern Syrian border with occupied Palestine. A majority of Arab League countries, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) plus Turkey, France, the UK and some members of the EU also support the NFZ idea. Saudi Arabia has already approved large quantities of Chinese man-portable air defense systems or Manpads as well as antitank guided missiles from Russia and more cash to help rebels oust the Assad regime, according to an Arab diplomat. Meanwhile, the US has upped its contribution to pay the salaries of preferred rebel fighters.

Ominously, the U.S. has already positioned Patriot air defense batteries and F-16 fighter aircraft in Jordan, which would be integral to any no-fly zone. The U.S. planes have air-to-air missiles that could destroy Syrian planes from long ranges. But officials have advised Congress that aircraft may be required to enter deep into Syrian air space if threatened by advancing Syrian planes. This could easily lead to all-out war with Syria and if Russia decides to provide advanced, long-range S-300 air defense weapons to Syria, it would make such a limited no-fly zone far more risky for U.S. pilots and it’s anyone’s guess what would happen next.

President Obama so far is keeping his own counsel as his Secretaries of Defense and State, current and former, and many other officials and politicians offer their advice for the White House ordering a NFZ. Hilary Clinton and General David Petraeus reportedly both favor a NFZ to ‘end this mess” in the words of the retired CIA Director.

To his great credit, Barack Obama appears so far to many on Capitol Hill to be reluctant to give formal approval to another NFZ as he was last summer when he resisted calls to launch a war against Syria as well as Congressional war-monger demands to go to war with Iran on behalf of the Netanyahu government. This week Mr. Obama acknowledged that diplomatic efforts to resolve the Syrian conflict are far from achieving their goals. “But the situation is fluid and we are continuing to explore every possible avenue including diplomacy.”

If President Obama extends his record of putting American interests first to three key decisions over the past six months, and if he sticks with diplomacy rather than launch all-out war with Syria, and potentially the allies of Damascus, via a NFZ, he just may be on his way to earning his prematurely awarded Nobel Prize. 

Franklin Lamb is a visiting Professor of International Law at the Faculty of Law, Damascus University and volunteers with the Sabra-Shatila Scholarship Program (

Exploding Gas Myths in British Columbia

Exploding BC LNG Myths – Part 2

by Kevin Logan - The Common Sense Canadian

“The opposition wouldn’t know LNG if it came up and bit them, they’re totally uninformed.” - Rich Coleman, BC Minister of Natural Gas Development.

For over three years, Rich Coleman has led the BC LNG charge; however, he has taken a back seat in recent weeks as his self-imposed deadlines for progress on LNG development have repeatedly blown up.

Very little mention has been made of the non-disclosure agreements Coleman has with 12 or so companies lined up to exploit BC’s massive natural gas reserves – but that apparently does not stop him from admonishing his critics for being “totally uninformed.”

After missing his third self-imposed deadline to finally let the rest of us in on his non-disclosed, high-level negotiations, Coleman continues to hold his cards close to his chest.

While this week’s Liberal budget finally included some details on the long-promissed tax regime for LNG, it has yet to become legislated or locked in. This should be viewed as trial balloon - a proposed “framework” enabling the Liberals to say they’ve “delivered” on something. And the terms themselves show what raw deal taxpayers can expect under the Liberals’ LNG scheme (more on that in a bit).

In this, the second part of “Exploding BC LNG Myths” (See part one here), we examine the few details we have to work with to try to understand what Coleman is doing and how BC intends to launch itself to the forefront of a trillion dollar worldwide LNG industry.

While Clark campaigns for a Debt Free BC, she alone will have booked over half of the debt accumulated since we started calling the place British Columbia.

Yet another budget of promised “Prosperity”

Claim: BC Liberals are keeping their election campaign promises of a “Debt Free BC”, balanced budgets, job creation and a prosperous future due to LNG.
False: When Clark became Premier in 2011 and began her “Debt Free BC” Campaign, total Provincial debt was 45.2 Billion dollars. Despite her government’s claims of balanced budgets with surpluses – past, present and future - BC’s total debt will climb over 50%, from 45.2to 68.9 Billion dollars.

In other words, while Clark campaigns for a Debt Free BC, she alone will have booked over half of the debt accumulated since we started calling the place British Columbia! And she will do it all before the next election. And that’s not counting the $100 Billion in additional contractual obligations they’ve racked up for taxpayers, hidden from public view.

That is a staggering, unprecedented growth in debt and there will not be one nickel of promised prosperity funds booked from LNG revenues before the next election.

Liberals fail in job creation too

The BC Liberal Government has also lost a staggering 21 000 full-time jobs since Clark was elected less than a year ago - despite the multi-million dollar “Job Creation Plan” that was the center of her campaign of a strong economy, secure tomorrow, smaller government and thriving private sector.

Most new job creation during the entirety of the now almost three-year-old “Jobs plan” has been in in the public sector.

BC Liberals Give away the Farm

Claim: (Rich Coleman): “I think people will be surprised how smart we have been with the establishment of a taxation regime for the budding LNG industry.”

Partially True: It is true that Coleman and his repeatedly-promised, non-disclosed terms still have yet to be fully divulged and legislated but what little has been disclosed and floated by the finance minister is very clever indeed.

Effectively, BC will not realize any serious revenue from LNG until – wait for it – not this mandate, nor the next administration, but beyond the election after that!

The two tier tax regime floated by the finance minister does not start until ships are leaving our coast full of LNG, and for 3-5 years after that it is “tier one” rates of 1.5%. However, the kicker is that every nickle paid to BC under the pathetic 1.5% tier one rate is given back to the companies once tier two is reached.

And tier two is not much better. Tier two taxation is achieved once the LNG companies we let set up shop have recovered 100% of their costs. (Remember, Petronas alone claims investment of 36 billion dollars with just one plant!) And once they have recovered costs, the tier two taxation rate of “up to” 7% kicks in – at the same time all the tax paid under tier one is given back to the companies through rebates.

At this rate, economists and experts have claimed that erasing BC’s fast-growing debt, lowering taxes and filling a 100 billion dollar prosperity fund while also underwriting the services we have come to rely on is a total impossibility, based on reasonably expected LNG revenues. And even if it was achievable, it would not begin to happen for three elections after it was promised.

“Very smart” indeed Mr Coleman – to run and get re-elected on prosperity for British Columbians, but instead deliver massive giveaways to the largest most profitable multi-national companies on earth.

Time to act: Demand an inquiry and full disclosure

Our governments have already committed to export more natural gas than we have ever produced throughout all of Canada, through as many as 11 export permits, totalling 105 mtpa for twenty five years – an oil equivalent that doubles current Tarsands production. Seven of the eleven await cabinet approval, so now is the time to be heard.

Now, as of this most recent budget, they are promising to pick up the tab for large portions of total investments, with clever tax incentives and rebates that leave the resource owners holding the bag.

They have done all of this under non-disclosure and handed it all over without even so much as a commitment from a single potential investor - not even a non-binding memorandum of understanding has been produced for the largest deals in our history.

It’s time British Columbians put the breaks on this debacle, demand full disclosure and an inquiry into the secret negotiations that have resulted in taxpayer giveaways of such unprecedented, gargantuan proportions.

Our public purse, energy security, environment and economy depend on it.

Kevin Logan's career has been diverse, ranging from small business to NGOs through finance and government. Early on, he operated the research department for the Vancouver branch of international brokerage Richardson Greenshields. After leaving the finance industry he owned operated small businesses and eventually established a consulting company which contracts with both the private and public sectors. He served as a ministerial assistant to numerous ministers and a premier in the former BC NDP Administration. Kevin is also an independent researcher and writer who has administered many diverse and successful campaigns.
More articles by Kevin Logan

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Defending Venezuela's Democracy

In Defense of Venezuela

by Dan Kovalik

The U.S. media, echoing the sentiments of the U.S. government, is openly encouraging violent regime change in Venezuela. An emblematic story from yesterday was aired in what is considered a "liberal" media source, National Public Radio (NPR). In short, this piece featured claims of Venezuela at the precipice of "economic collapse," and spoke in glowing terms of the opposition's hopes for a "coup" to overthrow President Maduro. This type of reporting is not only irresponsible, but it is deeply misinformed.

While the U.S. government and media have been portraying Venezuela as a basket case ever since Hugo Chavez took office in 1999, this is far from the truth. Indeed, if we look at the UN's Human Development Index, which measures several key indicators of the health of a country's citizenry (e.g., life expectancy, income, education, equality), we see that Venezuela has actually experienced a steady growth in such human development indicators since Chavez took office with a total Human Rights Index score of .662 in 2000, and rising to .748 in 2012. See, Table 2 at p. 149 of the UN Report. Significantly, Venezuela had a huge relative increase in this index during that time, jumping nine (9) rankings in the HDI chart from 80 to number 71 in the world.

If we compare this to Venezuela's neighbor, and chief U.S. ally in this hemisphere, Colombia, that country has been stuck at position 91 in the world during that time same time period. Moreover, in terms of human rights, there is no comparison between these two countries with Colombia, one the largest recipients of U.S. military support in the world, having the dubious distinction of leading the world in forced disappearances at 50,000  and internally displaced peoples at over 5 million.

Moreover, it is the very poor and those of darker skin tone who have benefited most from the improvements since the election of Hugo Chavez, and it is they - by the way, the vast majority of the Venezuelan population -- who support Chavez and his successor the most. Of course, the U.S. government and its compliant media openly side with the white, wealthy elite - such as Kenyon and Harvard trained right wing leader Leopoldo Lopez -- against Venezuela's poor in their current cheer leading for the opposition. Again, the NPR story is notable in this regard.

Without irony, the media fulminates about Venezuela's alleged lack of democracy (again, ignoring Colombia's death squad violence against its own population) to justify its open support of Venezuela's elite opposition. However, as Chilean writer Pedro Santander recently put it so well:

Regarding the supposed "democratic deficit of the Venezuelan regime", the facts speak for themselves. Since 1998 there have been four national plebiscites, four presidential elections, and eleven parliamentary, regional, and municipal elections. Venezuela is the Latin American country with the highest number of elections and it also has an automatic electoral system (much more modern than Chile's one), described by Jimmy Carter, who has observed 92 elections in all continents, as "the best system in the world".

As Santander further explains, the current violent demonstrations by the opposition come on the heels of national municipal elections in which the Chavistas won 242 mayoralties out of 317. Again, the reporting of such media outlets as NPR is stunning in that, while acknowledging these recent election results and the fact that the opposition has no electoral path to governing for two years, it nonetheless purports to be supporting democratic values by applauding the opposition's efforts to obtain governance through violent, non-electoral means. However, this position is not surprising given the fact that U.S. was quick to recognize (and indeed, helped to instigate) the right wing coup government which seized power in 2002, and which immediately abolished the Venezuelan legislature and Supreme Court. Again, the U.S. government, never really caring about democracy in Latin America, was nonplussed by such anti-democratic maneuvers by its right-wing friends.

What's more, the media's current claims of "economic collapse" in Venezuela are also quite exaggerated. Indeed, as Venezuelan-born sociologist María Páez Victor explains, "The Venezuelan economy is doing very well. Its oil exports last year amounted to $94 billons while the imports only reached $59.3 billons - a historically low record. The national reserves are at $22 billons and the economy has a surplus (not a deficit) of 2.9% of GDP. The country has no significantly onerous national or foreign debts." But again, we do not hear such voices in our allegedly free press.

And, while the U.S. government and media are trying to blame the Venezuelan government for the current violence in that country, the well-respected Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) concludes the very opposite -- that indeed the Venezuelan government has exercised great restraint in the face of the violent acts of the opposition.

As Noam Chomsky opined, Hugo Chavez led "the historic liberation of Latin America" from the over 500 years of subjugation it had suffered since the time of the Conquistadors. The U.S., for centuries viewing Latin America as its own "back yard" which it presumes to have the right to dominate, opposes that process of liberation, and would like to reverse it. It is getting quite willing help from the U.S. media which has lost any sense of independence from its government.

Follow Dan Kovalik on Twitter:

Mirrors, Masks, and Illusions: Ukraine Through a Glass Starkly

Sinister Illusions: Masking Tragedy in Ukraine

by Chris Floyd - Empire Burlesque

It is no secret that Barack Obama is one of the supreme illusionists of modern times. The disconnect between his words and his deeds is so profound as to be almost sublime, far surpassing the crude obfuscations of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Their projections of unreality were more transparent, and in any case were merely designed to put a little lipstick on the pig of policies they were openly pushing.

For example, they openly wanted to conquer Iraq and expand the militarist state, they openly wanted to redistribute national wealth to the elite, so they just gussied up this unhidden agenda with some fantasies about WMD and the occult magic of "tax cuts," whereby enriching the rich and degrading all notion of the common good would somehow create a utopia of prosperity (for deserving white folk, at least).

There was a disconnect between their rhetoric and reality, to be sure, but it was easily seen through (except, of course, by the highly-paid credulous cretins of our national media). Indeed, the Bushists seemed unconcerned by how threadbare their lies were; they delivered their lines like bored performers at the end of a long stage run, not caring whether they were believed or not -- just as long as they got to do what they wanted.

But Obama has taken all this to another level. He is a consummate performer, and strives to "inhabit" the role and mouth his lines as if they make sense and convey some sort of emotional truth. Also, most of the time his rhetoric, his role, his emotional stance are in stark opposition to his actual policies. He is not just gilding his open agenda with some slap-dash lies; he is masking a hidden agenda with a vast array of artifice, expending enormous effort not to prettify an ugly reality but to create an entire counter-reality, an alternate world that does not exist.

(This is an expanded version of a piece that appeared on CounterPunch today.)

Again, no one one was in any doubt about the Bushists' militarism, their dedication to the financial elite or their disdain for anyone who was not, in their view, a "normal American" (white, traditionalist, bellicose, greedy). In fact, that's exactly why millions of "normal Americans" voted for them. But Obama's image -- cool, compassionate, progressive, peace-seeking, non-traditionalist, anti-elitist -- is so far at odds with his actual policies, and with the world as it actually exists, that you can get severe whiplash turning from his rhetoric to reality.

Take his astonishing attack on Vladimir Putin for "interfering" in Ukraine. That Obama could make this charge with a straight face -- days after his own agents had been exposed (in the infamous "Fuck the EU" tape) nakedly interfering in Ukraine, trying to overthrow a democratically elected government and place their own favorites in charge -- was brazen enough. But in charging Putin with doing exactly what the Americans have been doing in Ukraine, Obama also fabricated yet another alternate world, turning reality on its head.

Speaking at a summit in Mexico, Obama unilaterally declared that Ukraine should overturn the results of its democratic election in 2010 (which most observers said was generally "fair and free" -- perhaps more "fair and free" than national elections in, say, the United States, where losing candidates are sometimes wont to take power anyway, and where whole states dispossess or actively discourage millions of free citizens from voting).

Instead, the Ukrainians should install an unelected "transitional government" in Kiev. Why should they do this? Because, says Obama, now channeling all Ukrainians in his own person, "the people obviously have a very different view and vision for their country" from the government they democratically elected.

All of the people of Ukraine have a different vision, you understand; every last one of them. And what is their vision, according to Obama the Ukrainian Avatar? To enjoy "freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, fair and free elections." Something you might think they had enjoyed by having fair and free elections in 2010, and exercising freedom of speech and assembly to such a degree that a vast opposition force had occupied much of the central government district for months. But the Avatar knows better, of course.

Now, this is not a defense of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych's government. It is, by all accounts, a highly corrupt enterprise given to insider deals for well-connected elites who influence government policy for their own benefit. I guess this might be a reason for overthrowing a democratically elected government with an armed uprising supported by foreign countries, but I would be careful about espousing this as a general rule if I were an American president. The old saw about stones and glass houses comes to mind.

The reality (if anyone cares about such a thing) is that the situation in Ukraine is complex. Opposition forces have a legitimate beef against a corrupt and heavy-handed government. 

The Kremlin is obviously trying to manipulate events and policies in Ukraine, just as the United States is doing. (Obama's remarks on this topic are comedy gold: "Our approach in the United States is not to see [this] as some cold war chessboard in which we’re in competition with Russia. Our goal is to make sure that the people of Ukraine are able to make decisions for themselves about their future." Yes, as long as they make the right decisions, unlike in 2010, when they voted for the wrong person.)

Ukraine is polarized along several different lines -- political, ethnic, historical, religious, linguistic -- but these lines are not clear-cut, and often intersect, intermingle, are in flux. The pull away from Russia's orbit is strong in many people; the desire to retain close relations to Russia is equally strong in others. (Although any attempt by Russia to quash Ukraine's independence would likely unite all factions in resistance.)

Many people look to the West as a model, even a saviour, although the EU deal that Yanukovych turned down, precipitating the outpouring of opposition, actually offered Ukraine very little other than Greek-style financial servitude, while the Kremlin, at least, proffered cash on the barrelhead.

The opposition itself is not a monolith of moral rectitude; one of its driving forces is an ultra-nationalist faction that happily harks back to Ukraine's fascist collaborators with Nazi invaders and spouts vile anti-Semitic rhetoric. It is likely that the ultra-nationalists are chiefly behind the opposition's turn toward violent resistance, overshadowing the young, moderate, West-yearning, anti-corruption factions that have been the face of the uprising thus far.

And the fact is, not a single one of the Western governments now denouncing Ukraine for its repression would have tolerated a similar situation. Try to imagine thousands of, say, Tea Partiers, having declared that the elected government of Barack Obama was too corrupt and illegitimate to stand, setting up an armed camp in the middle of Washington, occupying the Treasury Building and Justice Department for months on end, while meeting with Chinese and Russian leaders, who then begin demanding a 'transitional government' be installed in the White House. What would be the government's reaction? There is no doubt that it would make even Yanukovych's brutal assault this week look like a Sunday School picnic.

So the situation in Ukraine is many-sided, complex, filled with ambiguity, change, nuance and chaos. 

Protest against a specific unpopular government policy first turned into a broader opposition to the government in general and is now threatening to turn into civil war. Such things do happen in the world, and yes, great powers do seek to influence and direct these events to their own advantage. It would be good if Ukraine could be rid of rule by corrupt elites; it is not all clear that a civil war led, at least in part, by racist nationalists, would lead to this happy outcome. But one thing that is not happening in Ukraine is Barack Obama's fantasy that the entire Ukrainian people is rising to rid themselves of a tyrant so they can hold fair and free elections. They had such elections in 2010; and if the entire Ukrainian people now wants to get rid of their president, there are free elections scheduled for 2015.

It is highly likely that Yanukovych's corrupt and maladroit performance in office -- not least his reaction to the protest movement itself -- would have guaranteed his peaceful defeat at the ballot box next year. But it is also likely that these elections will not be held now. One way or another, Yanukovych will be forced out of office by the violent chaos that he, and sections of the opposition, and the machinations of Moscow and Washington have together produced. In any case, there is almost certainly more needless suffering in store for ordinary Ukrainians.

This is the reality, and tragedy, of the situation. But in the artfully hallucinated world of Barack Obama – a fantasy-land in which the entire American political and media elite also live – none of this matters. All that matters is the real agenda (which was also the agenda of George W. Bush, and Vladimir Putin for that matter): advancing the dominance of a brutal ruling class through manipulation, militarism, and deception, whenever the opportunity arises.

Obama's "All of the Above" Energy Strategy Death Knell for America's Future Prosperity

Obama's Nuke-Powered Drone Strike on America's Energy Future

by Harvey Wasserman - EcoWatch

So the “all the above” energy strategy now deems we dump another $6.5 billion in bogus loan guarantees down the atomic drain. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz has announced finalization of hotly contested taxpayer handouts for the two Vogtle reactors being built in Georgia. Another $1.8 billion waits to be pulled out of your pocket and poured down the radioactive sink hole.

A nuke-powered drone strike on fiscal sanity.

While Fukushima burns and solar soars, our taxpayer money is being pitched at a failed 20th century technology currently distinguished by its non-stop outflow of lethal radiation into the Pacific Ocean.

Take that $6.5 or $8.3 billion and invest it right now in wind, solar, sustainable bio-fuels, geothermal, ocean thermal, wave energy, LED light bulbs, building insulation and Solartopian south-facing windows.

The money is to pump up a pair of radioactive white elephants that Wall Street won’t touch. Georgia state “regulators” are strong-arming ratepayers into the footing the bill before the reactors ever move a single electron—which they likely never will.

Sibling reactors being built in Finland and France are already billions over budget and years behind schedule. New ones proposed in Great Britain flirt with price guarantees far above currently available renewables.

The Vogtle project makes no fiscal sense … except for the scam artists that will feed off them for years to come.

Substandard concrete, unspecified rebar steel, major labor scandals, non-existent quality control … all the stuff that’s defined this industry since the Shippingport reactor started construction outside Pittsburgh some six decades ago is with us yet again.

It would be nice to say this is merely $6.5 billion wasted. But that’s the tip of the iceberg. Long Island’s Shoreham and New Hampshire’s Seabrook came in at 5-10 times their original cost estimates.

Shoreham never made it to commercial operation. Neither did Seabrook Unit Two.

Should Vogtle, for which these loans are designated, beat the odds and actually go on line in the years to come, it will multiply its sunk cost by irradiating the countryside and creating radioactive waste nobody can handle.

Nor can it get private insurance to shield future victims and the taxpaying public from the inevitable disaster. The next commercial reactor to explode (joining the five that already have) will do damage in the trillions.

Its owners will not be liable, and the people making this decision will never go to prison.

But many along the way will pocket major fortunes from substandard construction, corner-cutting “safety” scams, black market parts purchasing, mafia-run hiring operations and the usual greasing of radioactive palms that defines all reactor construction projects.

Take that $6.5 or $8.3 billion and invest it right now in wind, solar, sustainable bio-fuels, geothermal, ocean thermal, wave energy, LED light bulbs, building insulation and Solartopian south-facing windows.

THEN we can dent in our climate crisis.

THAT’s where the jobs are.

THERE would be an all-the-above energy strategy that actually makes sense.

Visit EcoWatch’s NUCLEAR page for more related news on this topic.

Harvey Wasserman edits, where petitions calling for the repeal of Japan’s State Secrets Act and a global takeover at Fukushima are linked. He is author of SOLARTOPIA!Our Green-Powered Earth.