Monday, May 19, 2008

The Conservative Movement: From Failure to Threat

The Conservative Movement: From Failure to Threat

By Paul Craig Roberts

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U.C. Berkeley tenured law professor John Yoo epitomizes the failure of the conservative movement in America. Known as "the torture professor," Yoo penned the Department of Justice (sic) memos that gave a blank check to sadistic Americans to torture detainees at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. The human rights violations that John Yoo sanctioned destroyed America's reputation and exposed the Bush regime as more inhumane than the Muslim terrorists. The acts that Yoo justified are felonies under U.S. law and war crimes under the Nuremberg standard.

Yoo's torture memos are so devoid of legal basis that his close friend and fellow conservative member of the Federalist Society, Jack Goldsmith, rescinded the memos when he was appointed head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel.

Yoo's extremely shoddy legal work and the fervor with which he served the evil intentions of the Bush regime have led to calls from distinguished legal scholars for Yoo's dismissal from Berkeley's Boalt Hall.

I sympathize with the calls for Yoo's dismissal. In the new edition of The Tyranny of Good Intentions, my coauthor and I write: "Liberty has no future in America if law schools provide legitimacy to those who would subvert the U.S. Constitution."

However, John Yoo is but the tip of the iceberg. Scapegoating Yoo diverts attention from a neoconservative movement that has become the greatest enemy of the U.S. Constitution.

In theory, conservatives adore the Constitution and seek to protect it with appeals to "original intent." In practice, conservatives hate the Constitution as the protector of homosexuals and abortionists. Conservatives regard civil liberties as coddling devices for criminals and terrorists. They see the First Amendment as a foolish protection for sedition. The neoconservative magazine Commentary has called for the New York Times to be prosecuted for informing Americans that President Bush was illegally spying on them without warrants.

The conservative assault on the U.S. Constitution is deeply entrenched. The Federalist Society, an organization of Republican attorneys from which the Republican Party chooses its Justice Department appointees and nominees to the federal bench, was organized as an assault on the checks and balances in the Constitution.

The battle cry of the Federalist Society is "energy in the executive." The society has its origin in Republican frustrations from the days when Republicans had a "lock on the presidency," but had their agenda blocked by a Democratic Congress. The Federalist Society set about producing rationales for elevating the powers of the executive in order to evade the checks and balances the Founding Fathers wrote into the political system.

With the Bush regime we have seen President Nixon's claim that "it's not illegal if the president does it" carried to new heights. With the complicity of Democrats, Bush and Cheney have appointed attorneys general who have elevated the presidency above the law.

Just as liberals used judicial activism in the federal courts to achieve their agenda, the conservatives are using the Department of Justice to concentrate power in the executive branch in order to achieve their agenda. In America the Constitution has no friends. It is always in the way of one agenda or the other and, thus, always under threat.

For now, however, the threat is from the Right. Conservatives have confused loyalty to country, which is loyalty to the Constitution, with loyalty to the Bush regime. It is purely a partisan loyalty based in emotion – "you are with us or against us."

When I was a young man, conservatives were frustrated that facts, reason, and analysis could not penetrate liberal emotions. Today facts, reason, and analysis cannot penetrate conservative emotions. When I write a factual column describing how we have been deceived into wars that are clearly not in our interest, self-described conservatives indignantly write to me: "If you hate America so much, why don't you move to Cuba!" Conservatives have become so intellectually pathetic that they regard my defense of civil liberties as an anti-American act.

Today's conservatives are so poorly informed that they cannot understand that to lose the Constitution is to lose the country.

John Yoo was a willing accomplice to inhumane and illegal acts. But his greatest crime is that he was a willing participant in the Bush regime's assault on the Constitution, which protects us all. If Yoo is to be held accountable, what about George W. Bush; Dick Cheney and his aides; attorneys general Gonzales and Mukasey; Yoo's Justice Department boss, now federal judge Bybee; Rumsfeld; Rice; Hadley; and the legion of neocon brownshirts that comprise the regime's subcabinet? Is Yoo any more culpable than anyone else who served the corrupt, evil, and anti-American Bush regime?

The ease with which the Bush regime has run roughshod over the law and Constitution indicates that the brownshirt mentality to which many Americans have succumbed has sufficient attractive power to cause a professor from one of the country's great liberal institutions to serve the cause of tyranny. The conservative movement has produced a cadre of brownshirts that might yet succeed in destroying the American Constitution.

Paul Craig Roberts wrote the Kemp-Roth bill and was assistant secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was associate editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and contributing editor of National Review. He is author or co-author of eight books, including The Supply-Side Revolution (Harvard University Press). He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon chair in political economy, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University, and senior research fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He has contributed to numerous scholarly journals and testified before Congress on 30 occasions. He has been awarded the U.S. Treasury's Meritorious Service Award and the French Legion of Honor. He was a reviewer for the Journal of Political Economy under editor Robert Mundell.

Terror Most Imperial

Terror Most Imperial

By Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich

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For centuries the colonizers exploited and dominated the third world. Today, one of the more subtle tools of imperialism is the use of value-laden language that seeks to define the Arab and Muslim world. With labels such as ‘terrorists’ and ‘Islamofascism’, they wish to establish an ‘Orientalist’ perspective of otherness denoting barbarism as set apart from Israel and the West which represents admirable qualities. It is imperative to reject this imperial imposition of characterization and for each state, individually and collectively, to self-rule, foremost through self-definition.

The case of Mojahedeen-e Khalg (MEK) showcases the ever present imperial influence of the West in defining the ‘other’ due to the ownership of language. The hypocrisy is stark given that the U.S. with the help of her ally the British waged a ‘war on terror’ which has resulted in the death of over a million people to date. Yet, a certain Lord Corbett of Castle Vale, a member of the House of Lords from Gordon Brown's ruling Labor Party, has coauthored an opinion piece with Congressman Bob Filner (D-CA), both of whom promote the terrorist organization of the MEK. In their opinion, these two argue that engagement with Iran would risk, among other things, a “support for international terrorism”[i].

Lord Colbert does not do his title justice; to paraphrase Samuel Butler, a degenerate nobleman is like a turnip. There is nothing good of him but that which is under ground. Else how can he explain throwing in his lot with terrorists who are in the employ of Israel? "Israel is said to have had a relationship with the M.E.K at least since the late nineties, and to have supplied a satellite signal for N.C.RI. broadcasts from Paris into Iran” [ii]. Their servitude to the Israelis was after they had committed treason, murder, and terrorism while under the tutelage of Saddam Hossein – the man that the Americans and the British considered a threat to world peace, and whose demise and the invasion of Iraq has now caused a threat to world peace.

While innocent Iraqis were being killed en masse in the ‘war on terror’, the Commander in Chief gave ‘special persons status’ to Saddam’s pet terrorists in Camp Ashraf while an associate from the powerful Republican lobbying group of Barbour Griffith & Rogers invited Neil Livingstone, the C.E.O. of Global Options, an international risk-management firm, and Gregory Minjack, who was an executive at Public Strategies, a Washington-based crisis-management company” to remove the group from the FTO designation. The lobby group was not without help. Congressman Filner has been on the Hill promoting the group. But perhaps one of their most ardent admirers is Cuban-born Congresswoman Senator Ros-Lehtinen who is not new to the game.

In February 1988, Orlando Bosch had been arrested in Miami and implicated in the 1976 Cubana plot, a terrorist act which had resulted in the downing of flight 455 killing 73 passengers. Joe D. Whitley, associate United States Attorney General at the time, called Bosch “a terrorist, unfettered by laws or human decency, threatening and inflicting violence without regard to the identity of his victims”[iii], had the distinct advantage of having Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) Bosch’s release as one of the cornerstones of her 1989 congressional campaign. This murderer of 73 innocent lives had the more good luck. Ros-Lehtinen’s campaign manager was Jed Bush, the President’s son. In July 1989, a month after meeting his son Jed and Ros-Lehtinen to discuss the Bosch case, President Bush rejected his Justice Department’s recommendation and authorized Bosch’s release who became a resident of the United States two years later.[iv] In granting the MEK terrorists asylum in Iraq, George W. is following a family trend.

Bosch’s terrorist partner, Cuban-born, Luis Posada Carriles dedicated his life to the over throw of Fidel Castro and was a CIA recruit who participated in the calamitous 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, “he was part of Operation Southern Front…and he worked for the Hammer [Oliver North]…From 1967 to 1986, Luis was a compensated agent of the CIA. And George Bush, the vice president, knew what he was doing.”[v] Yet for blowing up a plane and causing 73 people to be killed, he was arrested in 2005 on immigration charges and released in 2007[vi] . It is interesting to note that George H.W. Bush was director of the CIA when the Cubana airliner exploded. What makes the Cuban-born Ros-Lehtinen support the MEK terrorists, does she have a fatal attraction towards assassins and murderers? Or are she and the rest of Congress following the leader of nation that has waged ‘war on terror’?

Perhaps they believe that by imposing the colonial language of calling the ‘other’ ‘uncivilized’ and state sponsor of terrorists, their mass murder and moral annihilation will go unnoticed. “The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie -- deliberate, contrived and dishonest -- but the myth -- persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.” – J.F. Kennedy.

Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich is an Iranian-American studying at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. She is a member of World Association of International Studies society, Stanford. Her research focus is U.S. foreign policy towards Iran, Iran’s nuclear program, and the influence of lobby groups. She is a peace activist, essayist, radio commentator and public speaker.

[ii] Connie Bruck, “A reporter at large: Exiles; How Iran’s expatriates are gaming the nuclear threat”. The New Yorker, March 6, 2006
[iii] Quoted in Weiner, “Case of Cuban Exile Could Test the U.S. Definition of Terrorist,” p. A1.
[iv] Bardach, “Twilight of the Assassins.”
[v] Bardach, “Ibid
[vi] “The Good Terrorist: The United States and Cuba,” The Economist vol. 383, iss. 8526. 28 April 2007. p. 44.

George Bush’s Power to Inspire

George Bush’s Power to Inspire

By: Peter Chamberlin

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The failure of the Bush/Bandar/Olmert axis to ignite a prolonged shooting war between the Lebanese resistance forces and their hired guns Hariri and Jumblatt is a clear declaration to the world that the glorious neocon policies of Bush have been proven complete failures on the battlefield. Yet, he and Cheney keep pushing for new openings to ignite a new conflagration.

The only real success of the Bush doctrine has been its ability to inspire unlimited volunteers. The success of this possibly unanticipated side effect can be measured directly from the numbers of committed mujahid who are enlisting to oppose it. The plan has been to violently intimidate large civilian populations into submission and to inspire all the angry young men who would dare to take-up arms, to resist and to seek revenge upon the invading American forces. In this way, potential resisters are purposely flushed-out from the civilian populations. The ease of recruitment for the guerilla struggles that rise to meet the occupation is a fairly accurate indicator that this political doctrine has been successfully sown. The power of the doctrine to inspire the will to resist has proven to be greater than its ability to intimidate would-be resisters.

The US terror war is a two-step killing process. Wherever the process goes forward in the Middle East, it is the same – the military action is introduced directly by the US, or through mercenary/proxy forces, intending to cause violent reactions. The reaction is as important as the initial action. Once an actual insurrection is inspired, American forces can focus their superior firepower upon the actual resisters, the ”terrorists.” American agents stir the cauldron, American forces pick-off whatever rises to the top.

Reporter for Asia Times Online, Syed Saleem Shahzad, who has been labeled a “CIA mouthpiece” by another Pakistani website, Dictatorship Watch,

http://www.dictatorshipwatch.com/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=4753&mode=thread&order=0&thold=0

gives this one line summation of Washington’s military strategy in Pakistan (the same as it is on every front in the terror war):

“...isolating hardline elements such as foreigners belonging to al-Qaeda...
to be ‘chopped off’ through special operations by US-trained Pakistani units.” http://atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/JE13Df02.html

The plan developed by the neocon fascists consisted of: first, targeting countries; then targeting groups; and finally targeting individuals. The doctrine of “shock and awe” was intended to amplify the effects of America’s attacks upon Afghanistan and Iraq by reverberating throughout the Muslim world, in order to enrage and motivate all those young men in the other targeted nations who would later resist America’s attempts at global dictatorship.

Think of the plan like the working of dough, where agents provocateurs introduce false doctrines and political distortions into national politics, working them through the masses like yeast being worked into dough. The mixture reacts to the agitation of the rising agent by swelling in size. Those who adhere to the working agents are then squeezed-off from the mass, where the forbidden political activity can be attacked separately, on a much smaller scale, using less violence.

In Lebanon, the Bush Doctrine may have lost an entire batch of its yeasty subversion, in the fall of the Sinoura/Hariri government. The former head of Israel's intelligence, Aaron Zeevi Farkash, said that “Nasrallah Ruined 3Yrs of Arab, Foreign Intel Efforts.”

http://www.almanar.com.lb/NewsSite/NewsDetails.aspx?id=43157&language=en

When asked about the alleged attempt to assassinate the Hezbollah leader on April 25th, Zeevi seemed to confirm the essence of Wayne Madsen Report:

http://www.thepeoplesvoice.org/cgi-bin/blogs/voices.php/2008/05/08/whistle_blown_on_israel_s_attempted_assa

“Killing Nasrallah was not impossible with the presence of thousands of Lebanese informers working with the Americans. Everything is lost now. Three years of intelligence efforts by international and Arab sides have gone overnight. Most intelligence agents have left Beirut and the Lebanese are no longer able to move under the cover of their daily mission, each according to his rank in some security services. The west has lost a lot after Nasrallah surprised their allies."

http://www.almanar.com.lb/NewsSite/NewsDetails.aspx?id=43157&language=en

The defeat of the March 14 coalition plans to provoke a cycle of war serving the interests of the US/Saudi Arabia/Israel alliance, did not ruin the plan entirely, it only defeated the dividing process, before the targeted Hezbollah group could be sufficiently reduced in size. Lebanon is still being subjected to the strategy Israel has developed in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, that of creating front groups and then using them to divide and conquer. Through these Hegelian tactics and the push-pull between the Israeli-created Hamas group and the targeted group Fatah, the two remaining parcels of Palestinian territory were separated politically, with the West Bank targeted for colonization and the Gaza Strip turned into an internationally approved killing zone.

Now with the Lebanese resistance forces calling the shots, after dispatching the Saudi-funded militias of Saad Hariri, he immediately claimed that Bush’s fantasy had come true, "the Sunni-Shiite conflict is on." http://www.naharnet.com/domino/tn/NewsDesk.nsf/getstory?openform&DDBDEE0F81672540C2257448005C2A8E

Bush then spouted his usual nonsensical version of reality,

“They're not moving against any foreign country, they're moving against the Lebanese people and it should send a signal to everybody that they're a destabilising force." http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7397400.stm

Not to be outdone by himself, when Bush later arrived in Israel, he poured-out the old standard BS about Iran being “the world's leading sponsor of terror,” when the recent series of bombings and assassinations in the region have all led back to America, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Britain. The harder the US prosecutes its defective covert war plans to generate world war III, the more it reveals itself as the source of most of the terrorist attacks in the war zone. American-sponsored acts of terrorism, committed by mercenary and proxy forces, has proven to be the hallmark of the terror war.

The official denials and the twisting of facts have begun, beginning with Hariri’s denial of even having a militia. (“Hariri Denies Having Militia; Facts Prove Opposite”) http://www.almanar.com.lb/NewsSite/NewsDetails.aspx?id=43522&language=en Hariri’s most notorious Welch club militia, Fatah al-Islam, announced that they will continue to stand by Beirut's Sunnis.

http://www.naharnet.com/domino/tn/NewsDesk.nsf/getstory?openform&E8DE23B512180B2AC225744A00265D6D

For a non-existent militia force, America’s mercenaries like Fatah al-Islam have killed a lot of their fellow Lebanese citizens in the service of foreign dictators. In a direct contradiction of the official line conveyed to the world by the compromised American press, we have this report on Hariri’s men from Al Manar:

Indeed, last week, when Future gunmen were terrorizing civilians, residents of the Nuweiri area decided to storm into their office. A military unit was dispatched to the site and evacuated 21 Mustakbal members from the office. While everything was being recorded on camera, the army confiscated automatic weapons and ammunition. They also found applications for new Future Movement members as well as alcohol. The Mustakbal militia surrendered many other offices to the Lebanese army in Beirut, Chouf, south Lebanon and elsewhere. Their arms have been handed over to the Lebanese army. This is in the present.

A reminder of past incidents: All the Lebanese remember the famous Arab University incidents that took place one year and four months ago when Al-Mustaqbal militiamen opened fire, even sniper fire at university students. They also remember the shooting spree by Hariri's militiamen and their allies in the Progressive Socialist Party in the populated region of Aramoun a few months ago. Al-Manar broadcasted footage of this incident with the faces of the gunmen clearly showing. All this adds to the long list of last week's provocations, with Al-Mustaqbal militia attacking offices of national parties, cutting roads and burning homes owned by pro-opposition politicians and supporters, namely the family house of Lebanese National Opposition martyr Ahmed Mahmoud. Mahmoud was killed execution style by Mustkbal militiamen in Tariq el-Jdideh as he was returning home after taking part in the opposition's demonstration in downtown Beirut. It's been more than one and a half years on this crime.” http://www.almanar.com.lb/NewsSite/NewsDetails.aspx?id=43522&language=en

As if to confirm to the world, ignoring Hariri’s denial that there is a de facto alliance between Saudi Arabia and Israel to help America start a religious civil war in Lebanon, Welch Club financier Saudi Prince Bandar asked Ehud Olmert to:

“move against Hezbollah...Bin Sultan asked Olmert to do what is necessary to support PM Siniora, offering to bear all the financial costs of any Israeli war against Hezbollah.” http://www.presstv.com/detail.aspx?id=55813&sectionid=351020203

In conjunction with Bandar’s plea for Israeli help to save the Sunni provocateurs, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal warned Iran for “supporting the coup that took place in Lebanon.” http://yalibnan.com/site/archives/2008/05/saudi_arabia_wa.php

The Arab states are being forced to decide between two unacceptable choices, supporting an American/Saudi alliance with their mutual Zionist enemy or working with Iran to stabilize the region, in order to accommodate George Bush’s insane determination to solve the world’s problems (using his same failed solutions that caused them), before he leaves office. It is apparent to the Arab people and the larger Muslim world that the leader of the Sunnis, the protector of the Holy Places of Islam, is conspiring with Israel to deny fellow Muslim Arabs their human rights and to trick the people into lowering their defenses against the Zionist invader.

Israeli press sources report that the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) already has agents on the ground in Beirut acquiring targeting information on the Lebanese resistance forces.

http://www.almanar.com.lb/NewsSite/NewsDetails.aspx?id=43310&language=en They probably received their new orders from the temporary commander of Central Command, General Martin Dempsey (who has been keeping Fallon’s seat warm since March 31, until Petraeus gets to sit there), who visited Lebanon Wednesday to discuss military aid. http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20080515/pl_afp/lebanonpoliticsunrestarmyusaid_080515201427

Israel has deftly joined the American obsession with eliminating military and economic competition from Iran with the Saudi obsession to rule the house of Islam. Israel’s intention is to finalize the toxic Zionist plans to eliminate their competition and to seize all the Arab lands that comprise “Greater Israel.” Once the Muslim factions turn on each other, the way will be cleared to install a Christian government (Samir Geagea) under Tel Aviv’s domination. This will be the fulfillment in Lebanon (and in all of Israel’s unfortunate neighbors) of Zionist hero David Ben Gurion’s prophecy for that tortured Arab land:

"We should prepare to go over to the offensive. Our aim is to smash Lebanon, Trans-Jordan, and Syria. The weak point is Lebanon, for the Moslem regime is artificial and easy for us to undermine. We shall establish a Christian state there, and then we will smash the Arab Legion, eliminate Trans-Jordan; SyriaPort Said, Alexandria and Sinai." (David Ben-Gurion, May 1948, to the General Staff. From Ben-Gurion, A Biography, by Michael Ben-Zohar, Delacorte, New York 1978) will fall to us. We then bomb and move on and take

American-sponsored acts of terrorism are key elements of this American/Israeli incremental strategy of slowly progressing through the targeted nations, as it varies the levels of violence used, all the way from the “shock and awe,” as seen in Iraq (and about to be seen in Iran), to individual acts of terrorism like the bombing of the mosque in Shiraz, Iran, to the car-bombing of Hezbollah leader Imad Mugniyeh in Syria. As news about these new immoral tactics spreads throughout the Muslim world, new anti-American cells form, in anticipation of the evil American eye that will surely be turning soon in their direction.

The American/Israeli obsession with dominating the region at any cost is generating a price tag that is beyond the limits of comprehension, for most of us. In the end, it will be the cost of our illegal conquests that will bring them to an end. The choices made to fight the terror war by constantly expanding it and escalating the violence to new heights of destruction have repeatedly compounded the original strategic problems. The ultra-destructive strategy of using maximum force levels to generate the most fear has backfired, leaving the Bush team with a self-generating war paradigm of their own creation, which compounds the opposition far faster than opposing forces can be eliminated.

The ultimate necessity of making the force escalation to the thermonuclear level will expose the true cost of this war on a moral and material level, bringing the protected American economic system down when the cost becomes known to the American majority, even if the use of nukes is somehow averted. The sheer moral impact of the immoral basis of the things the planners intend to do in the name of national security will shake the American political system to its very foundations, once it becomes understood.

The power of the American/Israeli terror war to intimidate into submission is dwarfed by its power to inspire the will to resist. The same ratio would hold true for a potential American resistance to the Bush Doctrine, thus making it easier to help more people to understood the nature of the personal pain which they and their families will soon experience, more would resist, than would submit. Because Americans have been successfully insulated from experiencing the war or even hearing real news about it, they are able to turn their backs to any talk of resistance or revolution. If the Bush Doctrine is not derailed before moving on to the next escalation against Iran, then, after martial law preparations kick-in, it will be too late for any but the most desperate acts of resistance.

Our problem then, in the American resistance, is finding a way to disrupt the campaign of confrontation and replace it with a new policy of cooperation. The paradigm must be altered from a question of conquest to one of repair. When exposing the corruption of the Bush Doctrine and its adherents, we must also reveal a new path that has room for both Iran and America. The choice is simple – continue to pursue the delusions of men who think of themselves as gods, or make peace with Iran and Islam.

Work with Iran to solve these paramount problems of Iraq, nuclear proliferation and resource development. Iran and America could together bring-about a network for moving needed fuel from Central Asia to the fuel-starved nations.

The CIA Is More Active Than Ever In Venezuela

The CIA Is More Active Than Ever In Venezuela

BY JEAN-GUY ALLARD

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H
ER name and her accent are from the movies. Her manner of an incorrigible young girl, her humorous regard and ironic smile touch everyone. The daughter of a U.S. father and Venezuelan mother, Eva Golinger is a most unusual woman.

A lawyer trained in New York, she specialized in international human rights and left that U.S. metropolis to live in Venezuela, a country that she passionately defends.

Her book, The Chávez Code, which reveals U.S. intervention in this South American nation, was described by José Vicente Rangel, then vice president, as an "incredible record of Venezuelan experiences from 2001-2003."

Her most recent work, Bush vs. Chávez: Washington’s War on Venezuela, documents the constant escalation of imperial attacks on the Bolivarian Revolution.

She attacks without blinking, without distinction, the CIA, the Pentagon, the NED, the RSF, USAID, the Venezuelan mafia in Miami or Colombian paramilitarism, with the ardor of an attorney confronting the court with irrefutable evidence in her portfolio.

From Caracas, the Venezuelan-U.S. lawyer and researcher Eva Golinger responds to some questions from Granma International:

It has been affirmed that the coup against Chávez was CIA-made. You have studied this case closely: how has this become more evident to you?

There are distinct factors that I have been able to detect and expose through an investigation that I began more than five years ago, utilizing the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to demonstrate the involvement of the CIA and other U.S. government agencies in the coup against Chávez. The most conclusive facts and evidence include a series of documents classified Top Secret by the CIA, dating from March 5, 2002 to April 17, 2002, which clearly refer to plans for a coup against Chávez: who, how, where and when, everything clear. One in particular, dated April 6, 2002; in other words, five days before the coup, emphasizes how the opposition sectors, the CTV, Fedecámaras (the country’s main business federation), dissenting soldiers, the private media and even the Catholic Church were going to march through the streets in those first weeks of April and how the coup conspirators would provoke violence with snipers in the street, causing deaths, and then the intention to arrest President Chávez and other important members of his cabinet. After that, they would install a civic-military transition government. Anyone who knows what happened that April 11-12, 2002, knows that that’s how it was, and after taking President Chávez prisoner, it was only U.S. government spokespersons who came out and recognized the coup government of Pedro Carmona, and moreover tried to put pressure on other countries to do the same.

So, those documents that clearly show knowledge of the detailed plans for the coup against Chávez, written by the CIA, are the most damning evidence confirming the role of the CIA in the coup. However, the fact that financial and advisory agencies like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the International republican Institute (IRI), the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) financed all the groups, NGOs, trade unions, businesspeople, political parties and the media involved in the coup, also demonstrates overwhelming evidence of the role of the CIA and the other U.S. agencies in the coup against Chávez. After the coup, those agencies even increased their funding for the coup organizers themselves, something that re-confirms their commitment and their intention to continue with efforts to overthrow Chávez.

We could also talk of the role of the Pentagon and U.S. military, which trained the coup members, equipped them with weapons and promoted their actions.

In what way is the U.S. embassy in Caracas keeping up its interference?

The U.S. embassy in Venezuela is very active. These days, its main strategy is subversion. This is manifested by USAID, NED, IRI, Freedom House, CIPE, etc. funding of opposition groups, but there is also an attempt to penetrate the pro-Chávez sectors and communities. This last tactic is one of the most dangerous and effective. In 2005, William Brownfield, then U.S. ambassador in Caracas (he is now the ambassador to Colombia), began to open what they call "American Corners" in different Venezuelan cities. Currently, they are operating in Maracay, Margarita, Barquisimeto, Maturín, Lecherías and Puerto Ordaz. They are little propaganda and conspiracy centers that function as nuclei to recruit and bring together an opposition. To date the Venezuelan government has not taken any concrete steps to eradicate this illegal initiative (in violation of the Vienna Convention given that they are consular bases established without the permission of the Ministry of Foreign Relations).

The CIA and the State Department maintain various fronts in the country, as they always do. We have Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI), a U.S. corporation based in the El Rosal de Caracas sector, which functions as a money filter from USAID to the opposition sectors. Then there is the Press and Society Institute, part of the Reporters sans frontiers (RSF) network, which receives funds from the NED, USAID, the CIA etc. to execute its neoliberal, pro-U.S. policy and to attempt to accuse the Venezuelan government of being repressive and violating the rights of free expression and a free press.

Freedom House and the USAID are also financing right-wing student leaders and movements and sending them to Belgrade to train with experts in the Orange Revolution (Ukraine) and other so-called processes for "overthrowing dictators." Recently, the neoliberal right-wing Cato Institute think tank, which advises Bush and receives funding from Exxon Mobile and Philip Morris, awarded a "prize" worth $500,000 to the opposition Venezuelan student Yon Goicochea. The prize, which bears the name of Milton Friedman, who was an advisor to Nixon, Reagan and Pinochet and is the architect of the neoliberal policy and the "shock doctrine," is to finance a new, "fresh-faced" political party in Venezuela – a group of young people trained since 2005 by U.S. agencies that have had some influence over certain sectors during the last year.

They were thinking that this group could come to be a powerful political force being that it does not belong to the old corrupt politics of the country. However, we have been able to unmask the majority of them and demonstrate their relation with Washington as well as the politicos and elite that governed here before.

With the new CIA Special Mission for Venezuela and Cuba (set up in 2006), we know that the Agency is more active than ever in the country. The stronger and more popular Chávez and the revolution become, the more resources they are dedicating to neutralize it.

The residue of various Latin American dictatorships is currently to be found in Miami. The pro-Batista Cubans have dominated the city for years, but the number of so-called anti-Chavists is growing. What are your observations on this subject?

Miami isn’t an ugly city. Unfortunately, the pro-Batista Cubans took control of the city decades ago and now they have welcomed the anti-Chavist Venezuelans, many of them coup organizers, with open arms. There is talk of "Westonzuela," an area on the outskirts of Miami where the self-exiled Venezuelans live. I think that they are totally removed from reality, just like those Cubans who are still living in the 50s. They are aggressive at a distance and have conspiracy pretensions, but I don’t believe that they constitute a serious threat to our revolution.

They move about creating their ruckus over there and working with Cuban-American congress members, just like the disconnected Connie Mack, trying to demonize President Chávez and the revolution. Their latest initiative was to place Venezuela on the State Department list of terrorist countries. Despite the pressure that they brought to bear and the stories that they invented about a supposed link between the Venezuelan government and terrorist groups, they failed in their final objective: Venezuela was not classified as a state sponsoring terrorism. On the contrary, many congresspersons and members of U.S. society rejected that initiative and, to a certain extent, that coup community was left discredited.

Of course, one must never discount the possibility that they will continue conspiring and inventing new ways of destabilizing Venezuela, just as they have done with Cuba for almost 50 years. And they can count on financial support from USAID, the NED and other imperial agencies, but I don’t believe that they will affect the advances of the revolution very much. They are paper tigers.

Recently John McCain was boasting to a group of Cuban Americans in Miami, trying to show that he has always been sensitive to the situation in Cuba, that he was aboard the USS Enterprise facing the Cuban coast during the hours of the Missile Crisis. What is your perception of McCain’s stance in relation to Venezuela, Cuba and Latin America?

If he should be elected president of the United States, McCain would engage in a much more hostile and aggressive policy toward Venezuela and Cuba, and even the other ALBA countries. His discourse is already more precise toward the region and he is constantly mentioning how he would further tighten policy on what he classifies as dictatorships and threats in Venezuela and Cuba. That goes beyond simply wanting the Florida vote. McCain is a military man and an imperialist in the sense that he wouldn’t accept the United States losing its influence over and domination of its "backyard." He suffers from that same complex that the other Republicans have about Cuba and Fidel Castro, for example. They still cannot accept that Cuba has defeated imperial aggression and the 50 years of blockade and attacks. They persist in their spoilt and infantile attitudes that stop them from turning the page and accepting reality: the most powerful empire in the world could not defeat the Cuban Revolution. So, with a McCain, we will be even worse off than with a Bush and, believe me, he is a hard one to surpass.

The Democrats’ position is not always apparent. Will it be very different from McClain and his clan?

I don’t think it will be that different, perhaps in its manner, but not in its final action. The democrats love to use the NED, the USAID and the other agencies with "pretty faces" like Freedom House or the Institute for Peace to execute their interventionist policies. I think that a Democrat in the White House will not change the policy on Latin America to any great extent. Maybe there would be more dialogue, but I don’t believe that the interference will end. Moreover, all the candidates have said that President Chávez is a dictator and that their administration, if elected, will focus more on the region’s "problems."

Let’s remember that it isn’t about who occupies the chair in the Oval Office, but those who are around that person. And that doesn’t change much whether the occupant is a Democrat or a Republican. The military-industrial complex, the big bankers and the transnationals are the ones that really govern in the United States. And they are not leaving power in November.

War's Shopping Cart

War's Shopping Cart

Pepsi, Apple, Krispy Kreme and other consumer firms profit from Iraq too.

By Nick Turse

Go To Original

Last month, a review of 2006 congressional financial disclosure statements by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics found that lawmakers have as much as $196 million "invested in companies doing business with the Defense Department, earning millions since the start of the Iraq war." An Associated Press article on the report, however, offered a caveat: "Not all the companies invested in by lawmakers are typical defense contractors. Corporations such as PepsiCo, IBM, Microsoft and Johnson & Johnson have at one point received defense-related contracts."

But the Associated Press is wrong. The fact is that corporations such as PepsiCo, IBM, Microsoft and Johnson & Johnson are, indeed, typical defense contractors. To suggest that such firms, and tens of thousands like them, only receive defense-related contracts at the odd, aberrant moment is specious at best.

In 1961, Dwight D. Eisenhower, in his famous farewell address as president, warned of the "acquisition of unwarranted influence" by what he called the "military-industrial complex" in the United States. Today, however, the "large arms industry" of Eisenhower's day is only part of a complex equation. Civilian firms such as PepsiCo and IBM form the backbone of what more accurately can be described as a "military-corporate complex." These businesses allow the Pentagon to function, to make war and to carry out foreign occupations.

For example, in 2006 (the last year for which official figures are available), PepsiCo and IBM ranked among the Pentagon's top 100 contractors, taking in $286,696,943 and $291,825,309, respectively. This was no aberration. The previous year, they received $233,053,993 and $382,408,117 each, according to Department of Defense documents. In fact, both companies have been defense contractors every year since at least 2000. And there isn't anything special or odd about PepsiCo or IBM, when it comes to the Pentagon.

Almost a decade after Eisenhower's farewell address, there were still only 22,000 prime contractors doing business with the Department of Defense. Today, that number tops 47,000. While the well-known giant arms makers -- Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics -- remain the largest contractors, they are dwarfed by the sheer number of fellow contractors from all imaginable economic sectors.

These stretch from coast to coast and around the globe, from entertainment giants such as Columbia TriStar and Twentieth Century Fox to auto-making titans Ford and General Motors to Big Pharma power players such as Pfizer. Even the Krispy Kreme Doughnuts chain took in almost $500,000 from the Pentagon in 2006, while Coca-Cola cleaned up with more than $100 million in taxpayer dollars.

In 2006, the Pentagon's list of its top 100 suppliers also included such well-known civilian firms as Tyson Foods ($335,239,095), Goodrich Corp. ($344,091,017), Procter & Gamble ($362,461,808), Kraft Foods ($500,799,104), Dell ($636,343,593), ExxonMobil ($1,176,354,936), FedEx ($1,303,032,027) and General Electric ($2,327,705,161). Also on the Pentagon's 2006 payroll were such often-ignored defense contractors as the animated mouse-house, the Walt Disney Co.; iPod-maker Apple; sunglasses purveyor Oakley; cocoa giant Nestle; ketchup producer Heinz; and chocolate bar maker Hershey.

These are, in fact, today's "typical defense contractors." They are the companies that regularly take in tax-funded payouts from the Pentagon for services and goods (chiefly for the more than 1.3 million active members of the armed services). Few realize the actual look and shape of the new "militarized" U.S. economy. It's not just the classic "permanent armaments industry" -- it's civilian and it's widespread.

In reality, whether we like it or not, whether we care or not, we're all participating in it. When we buy Crest toothpaste (Procter & Gamble) or Oscar Mayer hot dogs (Kraft) or a PlayStation 3 (Sony), the fact is we are supporting an increasingly civilian-oriented military economy and an increasingly militarized civilian economy. As such, ever more U.S. companies are going to war, and, even if ever fewer Americans are interested in volunteering for military service, it's increasingly true that, by the flow of our dollars, ever more of us are going to war with them.

You might think, of course, that there's nothing wrong with the military buying Pepsi.

"What's the problem?" you ask. Soldiers have to drink something, just like the rest of us, so why not Pepsi's self-described "bold, robust, effervescent magic cola"? The same goes for hot dogs and toothpaste.

But honestly, if you're thinking that way (and who isn't?), you'll never fully grasp what's happened to our economy and our lives, writ large. You'll never know just how -- literally -- close to home Eisenhower's fears have come in the last half a century.

This isn't about a bottle of Pepsi or Krispy Kreme Doughnuts or a Sara Lee cake. It isn't about which hot dogs the troops eat or which computers they use -- be it for launching missiles or reading e-mail. This isn't even about boycotting one brand or company or conglomerate in hopes of slowing down the war effort. If you began that, in our militarized economy, you'd eventually be left naked, starving and possessionless.

On their own, each of these brands, companies or conglomerates appear minor indeed. But together, the effect is stunning: Nearly every product in your pantry, every appliance in your home, every bit of high-tech home entertainment equipment, even your morning newspaper (the Tribune Co., which owns the Los Angeles Times, was a minor Pentagon contractor in 2006 too) is now directly or indirectly tied to the Pentagon through the company that produces it.

The real point is that the military-corporate complex is inescapable, and it's hidden in plain sight, if only we'd care to look.

It's high time we at least recognize that PepsiCo, IBM, Microsoft, and Johnson & Johnson and just about every other corporate giant (and thousands upon thousands of flyweights of the business world) are benefiting not only from our purchases of cola, computers, software and bandages but from our tax dollars, via the Pentagon. We all know what the Pentagon's doing abroad, and what that's meant for Iraqis.

Napoleon supposedly said, "An army marches on its stomach." Over the years of occupation to come, and for the next invasion too, remember that, whatever land it occupies, the Pentagon marches on a stomach filled with Cap'n Crunch, Rice-A-Roni and Diet Pepsi Vanilla -- and, ever increasingly, you're marching with it too.

Nick Turse, the associate editor of Tomdispatch.com, is the author of "The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives," just published by Metropolitan Books.

For Profit

For Profit

By Malcolm Martin

Go To Original

Our children are taught that the United States of America is a democracy. As the tale is told, at the founding of the nation, a government “of, by, and for the people” was established. Four score and seven years later, a President Abraham Lincoln called the nation’s people to join and die in a great civil war that such a form of government might not perish from the earth and their eventual victory preserved American democracy into the future.


Those children can someday refer to the sermons of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright for the full story. But aside from how closely this lesson is in accord with the historic truth, the idea has today become an outright lie and an utter absurdity. The United States of America is now better described as a corporatocracy. The government is owned and the people are dictated to by these capitalist creations whose God is Mammon. Ironically as Lincoln spoke his immortal words at Gettysburg, the Industrial Revolution had begun to generate these entities that would have completely removed any vestige of American democracy seven score and five years later.

Corporations are, of course, different from people. They are devoid of human emotion. They are constitutionally unable to generate empathy. They feel nothing if people suffer exploitation, if people live in misery, or if people die horribly. Union Carbide was unaffected by the thousands dead and dying in Bhopal. It registered only on a balance sheet as a $470-million loss taken for the sake of future corporate viability under a new name, Dow Chemical. The corporation cannot be reasoned with, pleaded with, or shamed into changing course even in times like these, when life on the planet hangs in the balance. McDonald’s is in the process of teaching Starbucks that even the pretense of a social conscience is too expensive a marketing ploy.

The corporation recognizes and reacts only to threats to its air supply—profits. So figuratively speaking; corporations do share something with human beings. They have an instinct for self-preservation and if they are deprived of a life giving element they die. While human beings must have oxygen and water, the corporation’s lifeblood is those quarterly profits. The corporation must make a profit and then continue making ever greater profit. Corporate profits must grow, forever! Irrational, impossible, unsustainable but that is in the nature of the beast—much as lemmings are pushed into the sea.

The largest US oil corporations ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, and Chevron have registered world record profits for the last several years. But Big Oil cannot afford to rest! Beating those records is now a fight for survival into the future. The price of gas, nearing $4.00 per gallon, must continue upwards. The government regulatory agencies must continue to “accidentally” give up oil royalties revenue, the President must continue pushing for exploration in the Alaskan wilderness and off the Gulf Coast, the Congress must continue making theatrical calls for price-gouging investigations and stay away from actual windfall profits tax legislation. Damn public opinion, the US military must remain in Iraq and must soon assault Iran to secure the Middle East’s vast oil reserves.

The parameters are the same in every corner of the global economy. The maximum profit is a product of the greatest possible productivity and the lowest possible wage. US corporations have moved everything that isn't nailed down to lower wage countries. Nothing is made in today’s de-industrialized United States. American consumer's service calls are answered in Ireland and India. Major League baseballs are made in Haiti. AirJordan’s come out of Nike's sweatshops in Indonesia. Microsoft conducts 85% of its research in the US so Bill Gates wants to lift H-1B visa restrictions to bring the low wage workers here. Halliburton is now headquartered in Dubai and preparing to receive its old boss, Dick Cheney, in his retirement years.

To survive under their profit imperative, corporations must undertake a never ending process of consolidation. There is consolidation by horizontal integration. For instance, numerous US corporations once dotted the auto making landscape. In the recent past it was down to the Big Three. Today Chrysler is doomed, Ford is on life support, and General Motors is on its knees. In the corporate world of the near future cars will be made in Japan, or China, or India. Ultimately, the industry will settle in one corporate entity.

Then there is consolidation by vertical integration and its heavyweight champion is Wal-Mart, the world’s largest corporation. Wal-Mart has made a partner of the Chinese government. Working together, the partners have turned China into a vast subsistence-wage labor camp. China supplies Wal-Mart so it has no need of domestic vendors like the now destroyed Rubbermaid. Armed with the lowest production costs, Wal-Mart’s rise up on every other street corner selling every commodity imaginable and every service the corporation can get its hooks into. Wal-Mart lays waste to local economies and then picks up the pieces to become the only butcher, baker and candlestick maker in town. The corporation recently moved to provide banking services in its stores.

The US government has been hollowed out during the rise to absolute power of the corporations. Elections have become an elaborate “reality show” that plays out on corporate television for viewers entertainment. If you watch FOX, the reality is filtered through Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp, NBC is General Electric news, CNN is Time/Warner news, ABC brings you into Disney’s world, and Viacom regularly checks the iconic CBS news department to make sure Edward R. Murrow is still dead and buried under a mountain of infotainment. That is when Viacom is not preparing America’s youth for slavery and death through MTV and B.E.T.

The actual counting of the American people’s votes is done by the corporations—giant defense contractor United Technologies recently moved to take the job off Diebold’s hands. Corporate sentinels, the lobbyists, roam the halls of government enforcing discipline among the hired hands, allowing the most servile to feed longest at the public trough. So the Congress has not passed legislation and the Supreme Court has not decided a case, in which significant wealth was involved, in favor of the people in thirty years. Each and every decision of all three branches of the US government now transfers wealth from the people to their corporate masters.

The corporations now have in their sights the last remaining institutional pillars of American democracy. The Business Roundtable, the Gates Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation are working mightily to smash the public schools. Wall Street is funding the effort to gain control of the Social Security trust fund for its investment bankers. And the whole corporate gang is intent on “starving the beast” or killing state and local governments. Their success in this effort is probably best expressed in California’s $17.4 billion budget deficit and Florida’s crushing $5 billion revenue shortfall this fiscal year.

Then finally, there is the most ominous development of all. The corporations have begun forming their own Praetorian Guard. The massacre of Iraqi civilians and the patrolling of the hurricane ravaged streets of New Orleans have made Blackwater Worldwide, formerly Blackwater USA, the most famous of the rising corporate armies. Contrary to any notion of cost effectiveness, Blackwater mercenaries protect US State Department personnel in Iraq instead of the regular military. It seems not to make sense, unless the corporatocracy is looking ahead to a day when they can no longer trust the US military to carry out attacks on an American people’s democratic resistance striking at their profits—their air supply.

Malcolm Martin ( pseudonym) Is an inner-city school teacher for over twenty-five years and presently serves as an elected representative of an AFT-NEA affiliated teachers union local.

There is more than meets the eye about the world food crisis

There is more than meets the eye about the world food crisis

By Eric Walberg

Go To Original

Food protests and riots have swept more than 20 countries in the past few months, including Egypt.

On 2 April, World Bank President Robert Zoellick told a meeting in Washington that there are 33 countries where price hikes could cause widespread social unrest. The UN World Food Programme called the crisis the silent tsunami, with wheat prices almost doubling in the past year alone, and stocks falling to the lowest level since the perilous post-WWII days. One billion people live on less than $1 a day. Some 850 million are starving. Meanwhile, world food production increased a mere 1 per cent in 2006, and, with increasing amounts of output going to biofuels, per capita consumption is declining.

The most commonly stated reasons include rising fuel costs, global warming, deterioration of soils, and increased demand in China and India. So is it all just a case of hard luck and poor planning?

There is just too much of a pattern, and too many elements all pointing in the same direction. Anyone following the news will have heard of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), which first met in 1921, and the group that represents the inner circle within the inner circle, the Bilderberg Group, which first met in 1954. The latter, once a highly secretive organisation bringing together select world political and business leaders, was exposed to the media spotlight in 1990s and since then has had to endure increasing criticism for its, to say the least, undemocratic role in shaping political leaders’ thinking and actions in accordance with the desires of the world business elite.

The US has never been shy about flaunting world opinion. A case in point is its sole “nay” to multiple UN General Assembly and conference resolutions which declare that “health care and proper nourishment are human rights.” The resolution was approved by a vote of 135-1 in 1981 under president Ronald Reagan, and at UN-sponsored food summits by similar margins in 1996 under president Bill Clinton and in 2002 under President George W. Bush, dismissing any “right to food.”

Whether Republican or Democrat, Washington instead champions free trade as the key to ending the poverty which it argues is at the root of hunger, and expresses fears that recognition of a right to food could lead to lawsuits from poor nations seeking aid and special trade provisions. And these are only resolutions by a powerless body which is in any case virtually subservient to the US. We can see at this very moment how this international humanitarian body is not above using starvation of innocent Gazans as a political tool in the interests of the status quo. Despite loud protestations to the contrary, there is little real international will opposing a future where millions die of starvation while a world elite consolidate their power.

Trying to come to grips with the world food crisis, it’s hard not to subscribe to some version of a conspiracy theory -- that somehow, for some reason, this rush towards widespread world famine is actually a plan by a world clique intent on drastically reducing the world population, accelerating the collapse of national governments, allowing gigantic world corporations effectively to take their place, controlling vast areas of land, leading towards a world governed by these corporations. Especially with the US so clear in its assumption that indeed widespread famine is in the cards, for which it does not want to be held responsible. Forget about global warming (which is of course very real and harmful to food production). Here are a few more red flags.

First, the WB and IMF, set up largely by the US following WWII, are notorious for refusing to advance loans to poor countries unless they agree to Structural Adjustment Programmes that require the loan recipients to devalue their currencies, cut taxes, privatise utilities and reduce or eliminate support programmes for farmers. The results are a weakened state, impoverished local farmers and increased economic domination by international corporations. Combined with this is constant pressure on poor countries to lower tariffs, preventing them from building up their industrial potential, often destituting their farmers who cannot compete with heavily subsidised produce from rich nations.

Second, rich country subsidies, in Canada, for example, allow the federal government to pay farmers $225 for each pig killed in an ongoing mass cull of breeding swine, as part of a plan to reduce hog production. Some of the slaughtered hogs may be given to local Food Banks, but most will be destroyed or made into pet food. None will go to, say, Haiti.

Third, biofuel programmes are now channelling massive quantities of cereal and other crops to produce fuel for the world’s wealthy to run their second and third family cars while close to a billion starve. Add in GMO products, which are now being forced on poor countries (and not only) by large multinationals, protected by copyright laws, effectively enslaving farmers in perpetuity, not to mention their likely dire effects on loss of crop variety.

Last but not least, the current US-sponsored wars in the Middle East, with the resultant sky-rocketing oil prices, are merely accelerating a descent into the abyss, as it and its conjunct, NATO, continue to expand beyond all responsible limits and venture into Asia, threatening more and more recalcitrant countries with loss of sovereignty, subversion and outright invasion.

But you don’t have to believe in a “Made it Happen On Purpose” (MHOP) conspiracy for either 9/11 or the food crisis. As political analyst William Blum, famously cited by Osama Bin Laden on one of his alleged video missives, said, “We’re speaking of men making decisions, based not on people’s needs but on pseudo-scientific, amoral mechanisms like supply and demand, commodity exchanges, grain futures, selling short, selling long, and other forms of speculation, all fed and multiplied by the proverbial herd mentality -- a system governed by only two things: fear and greed; not a rational way to feed a world of human beings.”

Blum subscribes to a “Let it Happen On Purpose” (LHOP) explanation concerning 9/11, that whatever conspiracy there is is loose and unorganised, that a big dose of incompetence mixed with justified anger by the oppressed is producing an explosive concoction, but that it is still possible that leaders will wake up and address the issues sensibly. This is a much more comforting worldview, but one that looks thinner and thinner as the whirlwind gathers momentum. While Blum dismisses speculation about the food crisis as conspiracy, the links between the current world upheavals starting with 9/11 are there for all to see, and less and less seems to separate MHOP from LHOP as time marches on.

In fact there has been a food crisis ever since imperialism really got underway three centuries ago. Perhaps the most extensive famines in history were presided over by Britain in India in the 18-20th centuries. It has merely metamorphosed over time, just as has the “one world” movement that imperialism itself launched. Back then, it was more obvious: burn, rape, dispossess, enslave, create monopolies for trade and production (plantations), talk about “darkest Africa.” Now it is the WTO, WB, IMF, emergency loans, privatisation, GMO crops, just possibly, the gathering “food crisis.”

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez perhaps said it best: “It is a massacre of the world’s poor. The problem is not the production of food. It is the economic, social and political model of the world. The capitalist model is in crisis.”

Then what is really going on?

First of all, let’s get rid of the idea that we are seeing “impersonal market forces” at work. Supply and demand is not a law, it’s a policy, one that clearly cannot solve the problem. Second, let’s ask the question which any competent investigator should pose when starting out on the trail of a possible crime: “Who benefits?” Indeed we can even describe the crime as genocide if the events in question are avoidable or planned. Those who benefit are obviously the ones who finance agricultural operations, those who are charging monopoly prices for the commodities in demand, the various middlemen who bring the products to market, and the owners of the land and other assets used in the production/consumption cycle.

In other words, it’s the financial elite of the world who have gained control of the most basic necessity of life, guided by a long-term strategy by international finance to starve much of the world’s population in order to seize their land and control their natural resources.

In Superclass: The Global Power Elite and the World They Are Making (2008), David Rothkopf, currently at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, former deputy undersecretary of commerce for international trade under Clinton and managing director of Kissinger and Associates, brazenly outlines the real situation. As a consummate insider, he is clearly someone who should know. He argues that a global elite now run the planet and have usurped the power of national governments while ensuring laws constrained by borders are all but obsolete. “Each one of them is one in a million. They number six thousand on a planet of six billion. They run our governments, our largest corporations, the powerhouses of international finance, the media, world religions, and, from the shadows, the world’s most dangerous criminal and terrorist organisations. They are the global superclass, and they are shaping the history of our time,” states the promo for the book. This elite “see national governments as residues from the past whose only useful function is to facilitate the elite’s global operations. Their connections to each other have become more significant than their ties to their home nations and governments.”

But why would an insider give the plot away to us plebes, you may well ask. For one thing, the exposure of the conspirators in the world media -- yes, the Internet and satellite communications work both ways -- has meant that there is a pressing need for some soothing PR, showing us that whatever conspiracy there is is benign, for our own good, necessary, if you will. That’s the only explanation for such a startlingly frank insider’s account as Superclass provides.

Secondly, it seems the time is ripe to move forward on this plan to drastically reduce world population, and increase control of the Earth’s land and resources for a world elite in perpetuity. One-world government, super imperialism, call it what you will.

The expansion of the US military empire abroad, the Trojan Horse of the conspiracy, comes with the creation of a totalitarian system of surveillance at home and abroad, put into place as part of the “War on Terror.” Human microchip implants for tracking purposes are starting to be used. The military-industrial complex has become the US’s largest and most successful industry, intent on destroying both foreign and domestic “enemies.” The pieces are now in place for world domination.

The 20th century -- any conspiracy really can only be clearly argued starting from the Great War-to-end-all-war -- surely was the US century, meaning it was able to impose its ideology of markets, consumerism and individualism even to the far reaches of Communist Russia and China, and hence ensure that the global elite it set in motion will subscribe in some form to its agenda -- if indeed there is one.

This situation is in fact a perverse form of Kant’s recipe for world peace: countries must be willing to cede sovereignty to prevent war. His idealistic proposal floundered on the unwillingness of countries to cede meaningful autonomy to a world body, as the experience of the League of Nations and the UN have shown in spades. However, once the US succeeded in amassing overwhelming economic might in the world and in splitting up the SU, it proceeded to use NATO as just such a world body, successfully tempting the resultant statelets to join it. The plan was for Russia to be coaxed into the fold as well, though this part of the plan has, as it turns out, hit a snag.

What about foreign aid? Yes, Bush just proposed spending an additional $770 million, bringing next year’s budget of food assistance to $2.6 billion. But since this is tied aid, forcing countries to import subsidised US produce, less than half the amount actually reaches the starving peasants, and combined with WB/IMF structural adjustment policies such aid really does more to compound the problem than provide any real long-term change for the better.

For sceptics about the possibility of some form of LHOP/MHOP, just consider the following: if indeed 6,000 elite business leaders control the world’s fate, surely such an immensely wealthy and powerful coterie could solve the food crisis in a flash. The massive expenditures on arms and the wanton destruction they cause every second, could, if stopped, provide the will and resources to restructure the world to end starvation, let alone poverty, leaving lots left over for the elite to wallow in. There is no organised force of any consequence opposing this world elite. What’s stopping it?

Eric Walberg writes for Al-Ahram Weekly. You can reach him at www.geocities.com/walberg2002.

Stranded in Suburbia

Stranded in Suburbia

By Paul Krugman

Go to Original

Berlin - I have seen the future, and it works.

O.K., I know that these days you're supposed to see the future in China or India, not in the heart of "old Europe."

But we're living in a world in which oil prices keep setting records, in which the idea that global oil production will soon peak is rapidly moving from fringe belief to mainstream assumption. And Europeans who have achieved a high standard of living in spite of very high energy prices - gas in Germany costs more than $8 a gallon - have a lot to teach us about how to deal with that world.

If Europe's example is any guide, here are the two secrets of coping with expensive oil: own fuel-efficient cars, and don't drive them too much.

Notice that I said that cars should be fuel-efficient - not that people should do without cars altogether. In Germany, as in the United States, the vast majority of families own cars (although German households are less likely than their U.S. counterparts to be multiple-car owners).

But the average German car uses about a quarter less gas per mile than the average American car. By and large, the Germans don't drive itsy-bitsy toy cars, but they do drive modest-sized passenger vehicles rather than S.U.V.'s and pickup trucks.

In the near future I expect we'll see Americans moving down the same path. We've already done it once: over the course of the 1970s and 1980s, the average mileage of U.S. passenger vehicles rose about 50 percent, as Americans switched to smaller, lighter cars.

This improvement stalled with the rise of S.U.V.'s during the cheap-gas 1990s. But now that gas costs more than ever before, even after adjusting for inflation, we can expect to see mileage rise again.

Admittedly, the next few years will be rough for families who bought big vehicles when gas was cheap, and now find themselves the owners of white elephants with little trade-in value. But raising fuel efficiency is something we can and will do.

Can we also drive less? Yes - but getting there will be a lot harder.

There have been many news stories in recent weeks about Americans who are changing their behavior in response to expensive gasoline - they're trying to shop locally, they're canceling vacations that involve a lot of driving, and they're switching to public transit.

But none of it amounts to much. For example, some major public transit systems are excited about ridership gains of 5 or 10 percent. But fewer than 5 percent of Americans take public transit to work, so this surge of riders takes only a relative handful of drivers off the road.

Any serious reduction in American driving will require more than this - it will mean changing how and where many of us live.

To see what I'm talking about, consider where I am at the moment: in a pleasant, middle-class neighborhood consisting mainly of four- or five-story apartment buildings, with easy access to public transit and plenty of local shopping.

It's the kind of neighborhood in which people don't have to drive a lot, but it's also a kind of neighborhood that barely exists in America, even in big metropolitan areas. Greater Atlanta has roughly the same population as Greater Berlin - but Berlin is a city of trains, buses and bikes, while Atlanta is a city of cars, cars and cars.

And in the face of rising oil prices, which have left many Americans stranded in suburbia - utterly dependent on their cars, yet having a hard time affording gas - it's starting to look as if Berlin had the better idea.

Changing the geography of American metropolitan areas will be hard. For one thing, houses last a lot longer than cars. Long after today's S.U.V.'s have become antique collectors' items, millions of people will still be living in subdivisions built when gas was $1.50 or less a gallon.

Infrastructure is another problem. Public transit, in particular, faces a chicken-and-egg problem: it's hard to justify transit systems unless there's sufficient population density, yet it's hard to persuade people to live in denser neighborhoods unless they come with the advantage of transit access.

And there are, as always in America, the issues of race and class. Despite the gentrification that has taken place in some inner cities, and the plunge in national crime rates to levels not seen in decades, it will be hard to shake the longstanding American association of higher-density living with poverty and personal danger.

Still, if we're heading for a prolonged era of scarce, expensive oil, Americans will face increasingly strong incentives to start living like Europeans - maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of our lives.

Legal Theory Seeks to Curtail Tort Cases

Legal Theory Seeks to Curtail Tort Cases

By Matthew Blake

Go to Original

Upcoming Supreme Court case could redefine the right to sue drug makers.

In 2001, after years as a lawyer for pharmaceutical and tobacco companies, Daniel Troy was tapped as President George W. Bush's general counsel of the Food and Drug Administration. Almost immediately, the FDA filed several friend of the court briefs on behalf of medical device and drug companies being sued in state courts. The briefs argued that it is not the place of state judges and juries to question the safety of a drug that FDA scientists have approved.

Troy was applying the preemption principle - which argues that federal regulations of a product preempt consumers from suing the maker of that product in state civil courts. Troy left the FDA in 2004, but the U.S. Supreme Court subscribed to his logic earlier this year in a ruling that preempted lawsuits against makers of medical device. It could do the same this fall, in a case about consumers' right to sue drug companies. The Bush administration's once obscure legal argument for curtailing lawsuits against industry has become the nation's predominant opinion.

(Matt Mahurin) But at a congressional hearing Wednesday, Democrats threw down the gauntlet. The House oversight committee said that it has had many disagreements with this administration, but this preemption principle is offensive. Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Ia.) spent most of the day arguing that for 100 years FDA regulations have coexisted, and benefited, from state civil suits. If the preemption principle prevails in the court this fall, the committee said Congress would write legislation saying that FDA regulations do not take away a consumer's right to sue.

Waxman, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, called a parade of witnesses to make the case against preemption. David C. Vladeck, a Georgetown Law School professor, argued that not only had the Supreme Court gone against Congress, it had broken precedent with institutional history of the FDA, which, before the Bush administration, supported lawsuits.

"Since the FDA was created in 1908 there has been concurrent state liability actions," Vladeck said. "Then, in 2002 the FDA took the position their ought to be broad preemption. What's changed beyond the change in administrations? As far as I can tell - nothing."

Braley built on Vladeck's argument by citing a statement made in 1997 by Troy's predecessor, Margaret Porter, that supported civil suits. "FDA's view is that FDA product approval and state tort liability usually operate independently, each providing a significant, yet distinct layer of consumer protection," Porter had said.

Chris Shays (R-Conn.) was the lone Republican to stick around through the hearing to defend of the preemption principle. Shays made an argument similar to Troy's - and the Supreme Court's - that juries of laymen shouldn't be usurping the rigorous decision-making process of federal scientists.

Shays, though, acknowledged that in arguing the preemption principle, Republicans were advocating for a stronger federal bureaucracy at the expense of states and individual rights. "The irony of this hearing," Shays said, "is that Republicans are usually not great fans of the FDA."

But for Republicans on the oversight committee, the real bogeymen are not federal bureaucrats but trial lawyers. Shays and Tom Davis (R-Va.), the ranking Republican on the committee, both argued that FDA regulators are protection enough. Civil claims, Davis insisted, foster a "litigious society."

"The FDA, when left to its devices, does a good job of appropriately warning Americans about the drugs and devices they use," said Davis.

But lawmakers from both parties have said for months that the FDA is not doing a good job. This argument was bolstered by a New York Times story Wednesday that FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach wrote to Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Penn.) saying that the agency needed an infusion of $275 million.

Von Eschenbach said that the $2.4 billion the president proposed for the agency's budget can't ensure the safety of food, drugs and medical devices. Congress has sharply criticized the FDA since November, when the agency's own scientific advisory board determined they are slow to respond to product dangers.

At the hearing, David A. Kessler, the FDA's commissioner between 1990-1997, testified that even if the FDA were doing its job of monitoring manufacturers, "the companies will always have better and more timely information on its products than the FDA will ever have." Kessler urged Congress to write legislation explicitly giving consumers the right to sue both medical device and drug makers.

The hearing largely came about because of the two cases that reached the Supreme Court. First was Riegel vs. Medtronic, an 8-1 decision in February that said a consumer can't sue the maker of a medical device if the FDA has tested and approved that device. The FDA tests all "life sustaining" medical devices, like implants and heart catheters, before they come onto the market.

The second case, expected this fall, looks at whether FDA-approved drug makers are also immune from lawsuits. In Wyeth vs. Levine, Diana Levine is suing the Wyeth company, that made an FDA-approved anti-nausea drug. The drug caused gangrene and Levine had to have her arm amputated. The case will look at whether the 1938 Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act should be read as pre-empting such lawsuits.

In the Reigel case, the court found that the 1976 Medical Device Amendments Act preempt claims made by consumers in state courts. The court's interpretation was news to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), who had been the Senate sponsor of the 1976 law.

"In enacting legislation on medical devices, Congress never intended that FDA approval would give blanket immunity to manufacturers from liability for injuries caused by faulty devices," Kennedy, who was hospitalized this weekend after a seizure, had said after the ruling. "Congress obviously needs to correct the court's decision."

Waxman's oversight committee was probably the first step in that process.