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The Age of the Oligarchs

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | April 4, 2014

The chaos in Ukraine can be viewed, in part, as what happens when a collection of “oligarchs” – sometimes competing, sometime collaborating – take control of a society, buying most of the politicians and owning the media. The political/media classes become corrupted by serving their wealthy patrons and society breaks down into warring factions.

In that sense, Ukraine could be a cautionary tale for the United States and other countries that are veering down a similar path toward vast income inequality, with billionaire “oligarchs” using their money to control politicians and to pay for propaganda through media ventures.

Depending on your point of view, there may be “good oligarchs” and “bad oligarchs,” but the concept of oligarchy is antithetical to democracy, a system in which governance is supposed to be driven by the informed consent of the majority with respect for minority rights. Instead, we’re moving toward a competition among oligarchs with the “people” mostly as bystanders to be manipulated one way or the other.

On Wednesday, a 5-4 majority of the U.S. Supreme Court lifted limits on total amounts that an individual can contribute during a campaign cycle, an extension of the 2010 ruling on Citizens United allowing the rich to spend unlimited sums on political advertising. It was another step toward an American oligarchy where politicians, activists and even journalists compete to satisfy one “oligarch” or another.

Regarding political spending, that can mean the energy tycoon Koch Brothers financing the Tea Party or Americans for Prosperity to tear down government regulations of businesses. Or it can mean casino kingpin Sheldon Adelson staging his own “primary” in which Republican hopefuls compete to show who would do the most for Israel. Or – from a liberal perspective – it can be billionaire investor Tom Steyer pressing for action on man-made climate change.

On the Right, there also have been vast investments in propaganda – from books, magazines and newspapers to talk radio, TV and the Internet – by the likes of Rupert Murdoch and Richard Mellon Scaife, an imbalance countered, in only a relatively small way, by a few liberal “oligarchs” who have started their own big-budget Web sites.

And, despite the appearance of a few “left-of-center” U.S. sites, there continues to be a lock-step consensus – across the nation’s media – regarding most international conflicts, such as the recent crises in Syria and Ukraine. In those cases, these liberal “oligarchic” sites are as likely to go with the conventional wisdom as the right-wing “oligarchic” sites.

So, if you want to find critical reporting on U.S. interference in Ukrainian politics or a challenging analysis of U.S. claims about the Syrian chemical weapons attack, you’re not likely to find them at ProPublica, which is backed by ex-subprime mortgage bankers Herbert and Marion Sandler and is edited by well-paid traditional journalists from the mainstream press, like Stephen Engelberg, formerly of the New York Times. Nor at FirstLook.org funded by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.

Though both ProPublica and FirstLook do some fine work on certain topics – such as  the environment and privacy rights, respectively – they haven’t shown much willingness to get in the way of U.S. foreign-policy stampedes as they run out of control. Presumably, that would make their funders nervous and possibly put their larger business interests at risk.

Another new media “oligarch,” Washington Post owner and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has shied away from reining in “the neocons who brought us the Iraq War.” He has left neocons like Fred Hiatt and Jackson Diehl in charge of the opinion section of Official Washington’s hometown newspaper. Their positions on Syria and Ukraine have been predictable.

And, of course, other mainstream outlets – like the New York Times, the Daily Beast and the major TV networks – have completely fallen into line behind the conventional wisdom. Most coverage of the Syrian civil war and the Ukraine crisis couldn’t have been more submissive to the U.S. government’s propaganda themes if the stories had been written by Radio Liberty or the CIA.

Anyone looking for journalistic skepticism about the mainstream U.S. narrative on these touchy issues has had to seek out Internet sites like Consortiumnews.com which relies on mostly small donations from readers.

But the broader problem is the debilitating impact on democracy when the political/media process takes on the form of some super-hero movie in which super-human combatants do battle – crashing from building to building – while the regular humans mostly watch as powerless spectators as the chaos unfolds.

The Ukraine Mess

In Ukraine’s case, this process was telescoped in time because of the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, which was followed by the triumphal intervention of Western “free-market” advisers who descended on Kiev – as well as Moscow – with self-confident prescriptions of privatization and deregulation.

Very quickly, well-connected operatives were scoring mind-boggling deals as they gained control of lucrative industries and valuable resources at bargain-basement prices. Billionaires were made overnight even as much of the population descended to near starvation levels of poverty and despair.

In Russia, strong-willed nationalist Vladimir Putin emerged to put some brakes on this process, banishing some oligarchs like Boris Berezovsky into exile and jailing others like Mikhail Khordorkovsky. However, in Ukraine, the oligarchs continued buying politicians and finally created a crisis of confidence in government itself.

Though public resentment of political corruption was a driving force in the large protests that set the stage for the overthrow of elected President Viktor Yanukovych on Feb. 22, the manipulation of that popular anger may end up impoverishing Ukrainians even more by entrenching oligarchic control even further.

Not only has the Washington-based International Monetary Fund moved to impose “macroeconomic reforms” that will slash spending on Ukraine’s already scant social programs, but “oligarchs” are moving to take direct control of the government.

For instance, the coup regime in Kiev appointed billionaire steel magnate Serhiy Taruta as governor of the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine where many ethnic Russians live. Taruta quickly moved to suppress pro-Russian sentiment.

As part of the crackdown, the Kiev regime arrested Pavel Gubarev, who had called himself the “people’s governor.” Mikhail Dobkin, a pro-Yanukovych former regional governor who indicated he would seek the presidency, was arrested on sedition charges.

Governor Taruta also has called for some of the IMF’s more draconian demands to be put off until after political resistance to the new order in Kiev has faded.

“People are concerned with one thing,” Taruta told the Washington Post in a flattering story about his leadership. “If we show we can provide help and support, we will calm the situation down. Three to four months from now is the time to talk about financial reform in Ukraine.”

That would mean delaying the harshest elements of the IMF plan until after the scheduled presidential election on May 25, meaning that the voters will have already gone to the polls before they get a taste of what’s in store for them. By then, they may have another billionaire industrialist, Petro Poroshenko, as their new president. He is now the leading candidate.

According to Forbes magazine, there are now about 1,600 billionaires in the world, worth a total of around $6.6 trillion. The writing seems to be scribbled on the walls of Ukraine as well as the United States and around the globe that we are entering the Age of the Oligarchs.

April 5, 2014 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | Leave a comment

New York Times should Apologize for Publishing Palestinians ‘Have Avowed as Their Goal the Killing of All Jews’

By Ira Glunts | Palestine Chronicle | March 31, 2014

I have sent an ‘open letter’ to Margaret Sullivan, the Public Editor of  The New York Times, requesting that her newspaper issue an apology in print to its readers, especially its Palestinian readers for publishing the following sentence which was contained in a letter to The Sunday Book Review:  “The ‘conflict’ exists because, by word and deed, Palestinian Arabs have avowed as their goal the killing of all Jews.” (‘Letters: Genesis,’ March 19, 2014)

This slanderous statement is racist, patently false and thus should have no place in The New York Times.

As the journalist James North pointed out, the test for the Sunday Book Review editors “is to ask themselves whether they would have allowed [other] letter writers to tell similar sweeping lies about any other group of people anywhere. Would the editors, to take just one example, permit a letter from India to state that ‘Pakistanis have avowed as their goal the killing of all Indians?’”

Erroneous and salacious statements which falsely characterize Palestinians as wanting to kill all Jews are ever more becoming part of the pro-Israel message.  Sheldon Adelson said it at on a stage at Yeshiva University last October.  The right-wing Israeli political leader Naftali Bennett, said it from a stage in Tel Aviv during the Institute for National Security Studies annual conference this January.

By publishing the libelous statement and then refusing to apologize, The New York Times, which has an important role in defining the parameters of what is acceptable in the Palestinian/Israeli debate, at least among liberal Zionists, helps ensure that we will be reading and hearing this racist statement in the future. That serves neither Palestinians nor those who aspire to peace.

If you would like to write the editors at The New York Times about this matter, please address your thoughts to the Sunday Book Review Editor and send email or letter to be forwarded via the New York Times Public Editor, Margaret Sullivan.  (For instructions for contacting Margaret Sullivan, click here.)

I have been told by an editor at the newspaper that the editorial staff at the Sunday Book Review is currently discussing how to respond to this call for an apology.

- Ira Glunts is a retired college librarian who lives in Madison, NY.

April 1, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | 1 Comment

False flag scandal rocks Turkey

By Dr. Kevin Barrett | Press TV | March 30, 2014

Did Turkish leaders plot a false flag attack designed to trigger a Turkish invasion of Syria?

According to USA Today, “An audio recording leaked on YouTube appears to reveal that top Turkey officials were plotting to fake an attack against their own country…” The recording features Turkish Intelligence Chief Hakan Fidan saying: “I’ll make up a cause of war by ordering a missile attack on Turkey.”

The Turkish government has confirmed the recording’s authenticity, according to the BBC, which quoted Turkish President Erdogan: “They even leaked a national security meeting. This is villainous, this is dishonesty. … Who are you serving by doing audio surveillance of such an important meeting?” The Turkish government immediately blocked Youtube in an apparent effort to stop the story from spreading.

The leaked tape reveals top Turkish leaders including intelligence chief Fidan, Army official Yasar Guler, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Foreign Ministry official Feridun Sinirlioglu discussing how to attack their own country to create a pretext for invading Syria. They discuss sending Turkish military units into Syria to fire missiles at Turkey, and even staging a false-flag attack on the tomb of Turkish hero Suleyman Shah. They also expressed hope that their false-flag deceptions might convince NATO to impose a no-fly zone over Syria – a euphemism for the kind of massive aerial bombardment NATO used to overthrow the government of Libya.

The false flag scandal is the latest crisis to rock Erdogan’s government, which has been locked in a power struggle with CIA-backed cleric Fethullah Gulen. Turkish sources say Gulen’s organization, which dominates the Turkish National Police, probably recorded and leaked the false-flag tape with CIA assistance.

Why is the CIA destabilizing Turkey and sabotaging Erdogan, who has been obeying Western orders by helping the NATO-Saudi-Zionist war on Syria?

The CIA and its Zionist partners are concerned by Turkey’s trajectory towards becoming a powerful, prosperous, independent Islamic democracy. An increasingly powerful and independent Turkey would no longer be a reliable US-NATO client state. And it would not continue to kowtow to Israel.

Turkey’s stirrings toward independence were already visible in 2003 when the Turkish parliament refused to cooperate with the US war on Iraq. They were even more visible in May 2010, when the Israeli massacre of peaceful protestors aboard the Mavi Marmara triggered a strong Turkish reaction including the threat to go to war against Israel by using the Turkish Navy to end the genocidal blockade of Gaza. That was when the CIA ordered its asset Gulen to start destabilizing Erdogan, who has been struggling for his political life ever since.

If the West can keep Turkey weak, it can continue to dominate that strategically crucial country. So it is employing a divide-and-conquer strategy by splitting Turkey’s democratic Islamic movement between CIA stooge Gulen and the slightly more independent Erdogan.

By exposing the Turkish false-flag plot, the CIA-Gulen crowd is risking significant blowback. First, the Turkish public may react less by turning against Erdogan than by demanding an end to Turkish support for the war on Syria. If Erdogan were to announce that he was taking full responsibility for the scandal and then fire the malefactors – as President John F. Kennedy did after the Bay of Pigs disaster in 1961 – he might survive unscathed… especially if he used the incident as an excuse to end Turkey’s unpopular involvement in the Syrian war and restore the “no problems with neighbors” policy that served Turkey so well.

Another source of potential blowback is the spread of the false flag meme. The CIA and its Israeli friends are the world’s worst false flag culprits. If the people of the world ever wake up and understand that national leaders routinely attack their own countries as a pretext for going to war, the top echelon of leaders in the US and Israel will spend the rest of their lives in prison for their crimes against humanity on September 11th, 2001.

The Zionists and Operation Mockingbird agents who dominate the American mainstream media are terrified that Americans will learn about false flag attacks. So they have blacked out the Turkish false flag story in order to suppress false flag awareness among the American people.

The USA Today article quoted above is the only major US media story that mentions the Turkish false-flag plot. According to Paul Joseph Watson of Infowars.com, the mainstream US and European media (with the sole exception of USA Today ) has conspired to cover up the Turkish false flag plot. Watson notes that Reuters, a European wire service owned by the Rothschilds, along with the BBC and all of the top American mainstream outlets including CNN, the Washington Post, and the LA Times suppressed the false flag plot from their coverage. Instead, they obfuscated the false flag plotting – the heart of the Turkish scandal – with polite euphemisms or even outright lies. For example, the Rothschilds’ Reuters story claimed the Turks were plotting to “secure the tomb of Suleyman Shah” rather than conduct a false-flag attack on it.

The New York Times – the flagship publication of America’s Zionist elite – also played down the false flag story. The Times did report that the Turkish tape included discussions of “a plot to establish a justification for military strikes in Syria. One option that is said to have been discussed was orchestrating an attack on the Tomb of Suleyman Shah…” But the New York Times coverage did not mention the term “false flag” nor did it clearly lay out the nature of the plot. The Times characterized the tape as suggesting “that Turkey was looking to provoke an attack to justify a Turkish military operation.” That, of course, is a lie. The Turkish leaders were not looking to provoke an attack; they were looking to carry out the attack themselves.

But the New York Times, and the rest of the Mockingbird media, is afraid to inform its audience that national leaders routinely conspire to attack their own nations. If the American people discovered false flags, they might learn about Operation Northwoods – a 1962 plan signed off on by every member of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff to mass murder Americans in phony terrorist attacks in order to provoke war with Cuba. They might learn about Operation Gladio – a Cold War era program of false flag bombings and shootings in Europe conducted by US military assets and attributed to “leftists.” And, worst of all, they might learn the truth about 9/11.

The CIA, by destabilizing Turkey through leaking its leaders’ false flag plots, is playing with fire.

March 30, 2014 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The US media and the “mysterious carrier” mock-up in Iran: utter bankruptcy on display, yet again

By Cyrus Safdari | Iran Affairs | March 24, 2014

So the NY Times came out with a story about a “mysterious” Iranian mock-up of a US naval carrier.

Supposedly “shrouded in mystery” and built “presumably for some mysteriously bellicose purposes,” (and “while Iran has tried to conceal its underground nuclear-related sites” — I guess the NY Times had to get a lie about the nuclear issue in there too) the author proceeds to quote various US military officials suggesting that Iran was going to make some sort of “propaganda point” with the fake ship, and so the 5th Fleet rushed to “get ahead of the Iranians” by announcing it to the media… which proceeded to run with the “Iranian propaganda” story.

Of course, the more obvious reason for the construction of such mock-ups –to make a movie — is not even seriously considered by the NY Times. And, turns out that the US military apparently didn’t know, and the NY Times couldn’t be bothered to check, that Iran is in fact making a movie about the 1988 US shooting down of the Iranian Airbus.

The movie was announced in 2013, as al-Monitor states.

I mean, if this isn’t the most obvious example of the US media totally abrogating any semblence of objectivity and professionalism when dealing with Iran-related stories, I don’t know what is.

But note that al-Monitor doesn’t ask the obvious question: why did US Navy and the NY Times so misrepresent this story? Are they incompetent, or just evil? Why did the US media run with the claims? Why didn’t anyone bother checking it? What broader conclusions can we reach about the state of the US media’s coverage of Iran affairs?

Note that had the Iranian government promoted such bullshit in the media, al-Monitor would be hosting a march of “Iran experts” opining about it and reaching all sorts of broader conclusions about Iran, but don’t expect any sort of self-analysis from the US media.

Oh, by the way, who was actually promoting propaganda?

March 24, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | 3 Comments

Venezuela: Who You Gonna Believe, the New York Times or Your Lying Eyes?

By Mark Weisbrot | CEPR Americas Blog | March 15, 2014

Today’s report from the New York Times trashes the government for “combative tactics” and “cracking down” on protesters, but if you watch the accompanying video, all you see are protesters attacking police, and the police – without venturing forward, defending themselves with water cannon and tear gas.

One can criticize the decision of the government to block the march from going to hostile territory, but given the continuous presence of violent elements among the protestors, and that Venezuela is a country with a very high homicide rate and many armed civilians, it could have been the prudent thing to do. The government also believes, with some justification, that these protests seek to provoke violence in order to de-legitimize the government. Their stated goal is to overthrow the democratically elected government, and given that the vast majority of the country is against the protests, this really is their only chance of getting anywhere. And the government also knows that the media (both national private and international) will generally blame them for any violence.

In the United States, and especially here in Washington DC, you have to get a permit for marches like this, and they are often denied or re-routed; and if you try to defy this the police will generally beat you and throw you in jail. And these are actually peaceful protests here.

As for the violence so far associated with the protests since they started on February 12, the statistics show that more people have died at the hands of protesters than security forces:

Of the 29 people killed (full details here),

– 3 appear to be protesters allegedly killed by security forces; 1 other was killed by security forces but it’s not clear if he was a protester.

– 3 appear to be protesters allegedly killed by civilians (the opposition always alleges that these civilians are somehow taking orders from the government, but there has not been any evidence linking the government to any killings by armed civilians; and in a country where there are on average more than 65 homicides per day, it is most likely that these armed civilians are acting on their own).

– 11 civilians appear to have died at the hands of protestors: three of them shot, and the rest killed by various barricades or other obstructions (e.g. motorcyclist beheaded by wire allegedly strung by protesters).

– 3 national guard appear to have been killed by protesters

– 1 pro-government activist appears to have been killed by security forces

– 6 have died in circumstances that are too unclear to determine if they were really related to protests, but they are often included in press reports.

At least 14 security officers have been arrested and remain in jail for alleged violence against protesters, including the incidents described above.

March 16, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | Leave a comment

U.S. Propaganda

By Margaret Kimberley | Black Agenda Report | March 12, 2014

German chancellor Angela Merkel said that Russian president Vladimir Putin was not “in touch with reality” and was “in another world.” At least that is how the New York Times quotes an unnamed source. Those words have been repeated by reporters, bloggers, pundits and late night talk show hosts numerous times over the past week. Unfortunately there are a few problems with this often repeated quote. There is no proof that Merkel said such a thing at all, and if she did that she meant he was unstable, as many Americans happily and ignorantly assert. Logic and real reporting show that such a statement was highly unlikely. No matter. It has endlessly been reported as fact. Welcome to American style propaganda.

It is impossible for most Americans to think that their country and their government are not beloved around the world. That attitude is due to the relentless propaganda we are subject to our entire lives. We are told our nation is the best, richest, most just, and most deserving. After years of brain washing we are subject to a cynical collaboration between politicians and big business, the same big businesses who run our media outlets and determine what we’ll see and what we should think about what they choose to reveal.

This perversity has many negative consequences. Among them is the public acceptance and approval of nearly every crime committed by our government. If an American president decides that the elected head of state in other country must go, then go he must. The president of Haiti was literally kidnapped by the United States and taken out of his country, with hardly any outcry from Americans. If the Venezuelan people vote for a leftist government and make the same choice in election after election, we are told to ignore the will of that population and join our government in opposing another people’s choice.

The current target of government and media propaganda is Russian president Vladimir Putin. When George W. Bush was president he bestowed the silly moniker Putey Pute and the press followed right along in declaring Putin an A OK kind of guy. He was a friend of our president who knew how to do a deal when called upon and who wouldn’t rock America’s boat.

Fast forward another ten years or so. When the United States and NATO nations set their sights on making Ukraine a puppet fiefdom, the president of the superpower next door said not so fast. Suddenly he was no longer Putey Pute, but an enemy to be hated, feared or derided as a figure of fun. The Obama administration is determined to make good on neo-con fantasies of United States world domination, and anyone who stands in the way is the next target of propaganda from within the government and without.

Photos taken on one day five years ago showing a shirtless Putin are shown again and again. One gets the impression that he rarely wears any clothing. The same media who considered Putin good copy because he hunts, fishes, pilots planes, swims with dolphins and drives formula one race cars now use the same information to convince Americans that he is either a brute or a fool who can and should be bent to their country’s will.

The anti-Putin hysteria and joke telling began in earnest when he put a stop to Obama’s plan to attack Syria, Russia’s ally. Even the recent Winter Olympics became a victim of the United States propaganda machine. In truth, every Olympics is an opportunity for corruption, theft, and displacement of thousands of people. The Sochi games were no worse in those regards but tales of mismanagement and possible terror attacks were magnified because Uncle Sam’s enemy du jour was on worldwide display. When the United States and NATO attempt to make Ukraine a puppet fiefdom met resistance, no stone was left unturned in the anti-Putin propaganda fest.

Like good little scribes the media follow the White House line that German chancellor Angela Merkel would assist in bolstering the United States position vis a vis Putin. The networks and newspapers were so eager to curry favor that they omitted any mention of reports that the NSA tapped Merkel’s personal cell phone for a period of ten years. Of course bringing up that story would force coverage of whistle blower Edward Snowden’s revelations. That is a sore subject for the White House and has of course been relegated away from the front pages now that public compliance is so urgently needed.

The media also omitted the fact that Putin speaks German. The two leaders literally speak the same language and both are targets of United States efforts to control the world and turn everyone into a subject of domination or an enemy. It may be Obama administration wishful thinking that Merkel will carry America’s water but there is no reason for anyone else to believe such nonsense.

The New York Times happily picked up the bone left by the Obama White House but didn’t bother telling readers that Merkel’s staff disputed the account. The German newspaper Die Welt reported that “The chancellery was not pleased with the reporting on the conversation. They claim that what the chancellor said was that Putin has a different perception on Crimea, which is why she is pushing for a fact finding mission on the matter.”

We will never know her exact words but we do know the most important fact of all. The United States government creates and disseminates propaganda to assist in having its way with the world. They have ready and willing compatriots in the corporate media and an apathetic or uniformed public. That mixture is a recipe for lying to be undisputed and for wrongs to go on without protest. Propaganda is not a word meant just for other countries but for ours too. There is official propaganda right here in America and pretending it doesn’t exist only strengthens a system which will put itself and the rest of the world on a course of ultimate destruction.

March 12, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | Leave a comment

America’s Unceasing Contempt for Venezuela

By Jason Hirthler | CounterPunch | March 11, 2014

Some things never change. The petulant and undemocratic Venezuelan opposition is at it again, with the full backing and check-writing support of the U.S. government. Recent protests have inflamed the streets of Caracas, as opposition groups, as they have in the Ukraine, called for the ouster of the sitting president. I suppose it’s needless to note that Nicolás Maduro is Venezuela’s democratically elected president, and that he won by a higher victory margin in a cleaner election than did Barack Obama in 2012. Nor is it worth asking, one supposes, that if the entire country is engulfed by dissent, as The New York Times insidiously suggested by claiming the “The protests are expressing the widespread discontent with the government of President Nicolás Maduro, a socialist…”, then why did Maduro’s party, Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV), claim wide majorities in municipal elections in December? Or why are these “widespread” protests largely confined to middle-class or student areas of Caracas and not rife within much larger poor neighborhoods? Or if a government has the right to arrest opposition leaders (in this case Leopoldo Lopez, the latest rabid ideologue) for inciting violence?

Public Virtue, Private Vice

Secretary of State John Kerry has ratcheted up the drivel stateside, claiming to be “alarmed” by reports that Maduro has “detained scores of anti-government protesters” and that the crackdown would have a “chilling effect” on free expression. A bit rich coming from a man whose own government has been icing free speech since the Snowden revelations. Kerry failed to mention whether the millions of American taxpayer dollars being funneled to the opposition were behind the violence. The Los Angeles Times described Maduro’s administration as an “autocratic government.” Opposition leader Henrique Caprilles, demolished by Maduro in last year’s landslide election, rejected Maduro’s invitation to talks and claimed one of the Latin America’s most popular political parties was a “dying government.”

For its part, Mercosur, the alliance of South America’s southern cone countries, denounced the violence as an attempt to “destabilize” a democratic government. Of course, the behavior of Maduro’s government in response to these street provocations ought to closely watched, as this is the new president’s first real test coping on an international stage with the intrigues of a small but virulent neoliberal opposition.

There’s plenty to suggest that this is, like Ukraine, another external attempt to uproot a democratically elected government through a volatile cocktail of in-country agitation and violence paired with global media defamation of the existing administration. It wouldn’t come as a surprise. Like a frustrated and petulant infant, the United States has repeatedly attempted to derail the Bolivarian Revolution launched by former President Hugo Chavez in the late nineties, as CEPR’s Mark Weisbrot has noted. It backed an anti-democratic coup by business elites in 2002 that actually succeeded for a couple of days and happily dissolved parliament before Chavez regained power. It supported an oil strike in an attempt to destabilize the economy and perhaps bring down the government. It encouraged opposition members of parliament to push for recalls (failed) and boycott National Assembly elections (useless) and clamor incessantly that last year’s national presidential election was rigged (false). Of course, despite being widely held to be a superior electoral process than that of the United States, Kerry was only shamed into recognizing the legitimacy of the election long after the rest of the world had.

The U.S. has poured millions into opposition activities on an annual basis since the failed coup in 2002. (NGOs are convenient destinations for this money since foreign contributions to political parties are illegal in both countries.) Just look at 2013 alone. Washington would hardly stand for interference of this kind from, say, China. Or, better, from Venezuela itself. Imagine if it was discovered that Chavez had been seeding major American metropolises with anti-capitalist pamphleteers. Obama wouldn’t be able to hit the “signature strike” button fast enough. Nevertheless, Kerry, in his role as Secretary of State, has turned out to be a masterful mimic capable of registering a fusty outrage on short notice, especially over claimed violations of civil liberties. Curious, since the ceaseless trampling of civil liberties by his own Democratic party have elicited nothing from this flag-bearer for democratic values.

Dollars & Bolivars

This is not to say that Venezuela does not have protest-worthy problems. Inflation has been chronic since the pre-Chavez days. Now food shortages are trying the patience of the population. And in one sense, these shortages are self-inflicted. According to Gregory Wilpert of VenezuelAnalysis, the government’s currency controls have been undermined by an all-too-predictable black market. While the government has placed strict criteria on the ability of citizens to purchase dollars with bolivars, the black market allows citizens to buy dollars without any criteria whatsoever. The government’s exchange rate is likewise controlled, and has over time begun to distort the real value of the bolivar. The black market exchange rate, by contrast, reflects the external value of the currency. The gap between these exchange rates has grown rapidly, such that there now exist huge incentives for citizens to play currency arbitrage. If they satisfy the federal criteria—such as needing dollars to travel or import goods—Venezuelans can buy dollars cheaply using the government exchange rate. They can then pay those dollars to import goods, then export those goods in exchange for the dollars they just spent on the imports. From there it is a simple step to the black market, where they can sell those dollars for many times what they paid at the government’s official rate, making a tidy profit for themselves. If they happen to be rabid anti-socialists, they can enjoy the companion thrill of generating food shortages that can be blamed on the government. Ah, the timeless magic of import/export.

These are legitimate grievances, however, as are crime figures, which top the regional table. Yet the question is, do they merit the overthrow of a legitimate government backed by a wide majority of the population at the behest of a small but fierce oppositional faction openly funded by an imperial power committed to its overthrow? To do so would risk the absurdity of gratifying the strident demands of a few at the expense of the many. … The fact is, despite the inflation and shortages, the population continues to support the Bolivarian Revolution because of its accomplishments—massive reductions in poverty, extreme poverty, and illiteracy. Significant growth in per capita GDP and other important metrics.

A Doctrine in Decline

We’re seeing in clear images the viciousness with which neoliberal factions resent the loss of power and seek to restore it by any means necessary. Democracy is the least of their concerns. But this has been the Latin American back-story for a couple of centuries. Much of the U.S. activity in Latin America feels like a frantic and desperate last-ditch effort to preserve the Monroe Doctrine, by which we essentially declared Latin America to be our own backyard, off-limits to European empires. What was ostensibly a call to respect independent development in the Southern hemisphere rather predictably evolved into an excuse for self-interested intervention. But now, for the first time in centuries, Latin America has struck out on its own, slipping from beneath the clutch of the eagle’s claw to form organizations like Mercosur and CELEAC, PetroCaribe and Petrosur, the Bank of the South as well as the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA). Aside from Columbia, an implacable outpost of American influence, the region has shunned greater U.S. involvement, and begun to view its proffered trade agreements with far more suspicion, particularly in the long wake of NAFTA, the poster child for lopsided and economically destructive trade treaties.

Whether the U.S. will eventually succeed in a cynical ploy to unseat Maduro remains to be seen. If recent events in the Ukraine are any indication, that may have been a test run for Venezuela, as Peter Lee suggests. It hasn’t helped that, as in practically every country that comes to mind, an elite class of neoliberal ideologues own the mainstream media. The tools of propaganda have rarely been more fiercely deployed than since Chavez launched his socialist revolution. And yet, since then, practically the entire continent has experimented with left-leaning leadership: Rafael Correa in Ecuador, Evo Morales in Bolivia, Nicanor Duarte in Paraguay, Tabare Vazquez in Uruguay, to some degree Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in Brazil, and Maduro in Venezuela. Nor should exiled Honduran president Manuel Zalaya be forgotten. These figures have collectively stepped back from the brink of dubious integration with North America and sought stronger regional ties and continental autonomy.

The U.S. has replied with a predictable confection of threats, lies, and sacks of cash for ferociously anti-democratic elements. Perhaps it most fears the bad karma it generated for itself with Operation Condor, which on September 11, 1973 overthrew and murdered Chile’s socialist leader Salvador Allende and replaced him with a gutless sadist, Augusto Pinochet. Pinochet—a repressive militarist—happily instituted the untested prescriptions of the Chicago School of Economics’ sermonizing armchair guru Milton Freidman, with predictable results. Now, Maduro, carrying the mantle of Chavez and his Bolivarian manifesto, is arguably the spiritual vanguard of the socialist left in South America. Venezuela’s efforts to continue to forge its own independence in the coming decade will surely influence the mood and courage of other leftists in the region. The stakes are obviously high. Hence the relentless American effort to destabilize and publicly discredit the PSUV. The fate of the global left is in a very real sense being tested in the crucible of Caracas.

Jason Hirthler can be reached at jasonhirthler@gmail.com.

March 11, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Economics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When Protests and Violence Are Important to the U.S. Media

By Nate Singham | CEPR Americas Blog | February 28, 2014

In light of the recent political demonstrations that have swept the country, Venezuela has received considerable attention from both the US State Department and mainstream media. In recent days, President Obama, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and several others have issued numerous statements regarding the protests. In the US major media, The New York Times has published articles nearly every day since the protests began. Extensive reporting can also be found in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and The Washington Post.

It is worth comparing the extent of this coverage to protests of similar importance next door to Venezuela. In August of last year, Colombian farmers launched large-scale demonstrations in opposition to Colombian trade policies that are strongly supported by the U.S. government.

Unlike the protests in Venezuela, the Colombian protests received very little coverage from mainstream media, as CEPR pointed out at the time. The graph below compares the amount of coverage, in total number of articles published, given by four of the United States’ most influential newspapers to the protests and violence in Colombia and Venezuela. The difference ranges from more than two times to 14 times as many articles devoted to the Venezuelan protests as compared with Colombia, despite the fact that the period covered for Colombia is twice as long.

Ven_Col_media_comp_2

This is especially remarkable if we consider the high levels of repression carried out by the Colombian police and military in response to these protests. The International Office for Human Rights Action in Colombia described the violence as “unprovoked” and “indiscriminate” and attributes all of the violence to state forces.

The incidence of deaths in both Colombia and Venezuela[i], so far, is only slightly higher in Venezuela, with 13 deaths versus 12 deaths in Colombia.[ii] Yet there was very little coverage, and almost no criticism of the Colombian government as compared to the harsh attacks on the Venezuelan government in the U.S. media.

As mentioned earlier, US Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama made public statements regarding the protests in Venezuela. Both demanded that students arrested in Venezuela be released, without regard as to whether any had been arrested for allegedly committing crimes such as arson and assault. There were no such statements from U.S. officials regarding the hundreds arrested in Colombia.

It is possible that both the huge differences in the amount of media coverage, and the responses to these two sets of protests by both the media and U.S. government officials has to do with the protesters and their aims, and the respective governments. The Colombian farmers were protesting against policies strongly supported by the U.S. government; they were also protesting against a government that the U.S. sees as a strategic ally, home to U.S. military bases and receiving billions of dollars in U.S. aid. The Venezuelan protesters are demanding the ouster of a government that the U.S. government has [spent] millions of dollars trying to get rid of, including U.S. support for the 2002 military coup against the government.

[i] The total amount of deaths reflects data from the most recent figures from Venezuela Transparencia, as of Monday, February 24 2014.

[ii] It is important to note that so far only six of the 13 deaths in Venezuela are confirmed to be opposition protesters.

February 28, 2014 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Venezuelan Opposition Mayor Accused of Manipulating Tragic Death

By Tamara Pearson | Venezuelanalysis | February 26, 2014

Merida – A 34 year old man, Jimmy Vargas, died on Monday while he was involved in a violent street blockade. Some opposition leaders and media blamed the government, however video footage shows it was an accident. Two other people have died this week as a result of the blockades.

Vargas died at the Camino Real residential area, in San Cristobal, Tachira state. Footage, sent to CNN shows that it was an accident. However, CNN and other news agencies also broadcast repeatedly footage of Vargas’ mother blaming the National Guard and president Nicolas Maduro for the death.

Carmen Gonzalez, the mother, stated, “Maduro and those around him killed [my son], they are the ones who killed him, they killed him, they are the ones who gave the orders for him to be killed, they are killing all of Venezuela… and I’m going to go out and fight for my son, my son died fighting for his country, fighting for the freedom of his country…”

On social networks the story was spread that Vargas had been hit by a rubber bullet in his left eye, and other stories claimed a tear gas canister shot by the National Guard had hit him.

The newspaper El Nacional also blamed the government, headlining “Two deaths this Monday because of attacks by GNB [National Guard] and motorbike riders [government supporters] on protests”. Madurados.com headlined “Another tragedy! In rubber bullet attack by the GNB Jimmy Vargas dies in San Cristobal”.

Similarly, The New York Times included a ¼ page full-color photo of Jimmy Vargas on a stretcher, with the caption, “Carmen Gonzalez, 58, cried over the body of her son, who was killed Monday in clashes with the police.”

However Vargas’ doctor, Luis Diaz, reported that he had suffered severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) after falling from the second floor of a building, the newspaper Ultimas Noticias reported.

Vargas’ sister, Jindry, told NTN24 that her brother fell from the second floor the building after the National Guard fired rubber bullets and tear gas bombs at him, causing him to lose his balance. In the video Jimmy Vargas tried to climb down on to a balcony ledge and he lost his balance on the ledge, out of line of shot of the National Guard.

Further, the opposition mayor of San Cristobal, Daniel Cebellos, told the public that Vargas had been murdered. He tweeted on Monday night, “Since late night…the brutal attack of the GNB continues, more than 10 injuries (3 by bullet) and 1 youth of 34 years murdered”. He continued, “I call on the MUD [opposition coalition] that while they continue to kill our people in the streets there’s no peace for the government. The dialogue they propose is one big lie”.

Despite the evidence, Cebellos further tweeted this morning, “We are accompanying Jimmy Vargas and his family in this moment of grief. We reject the violence and repression.” Cebellos included a photo of Vargas’ funeral procession.

Tachira governor, Vielma Mora accused Cebellos of using a public funeral procession to “inflame” people “against the national government”.

“A citizen who, may he rest in peace, fell from the second floor, he was in guarimba (violent disturbances), it seems he lost his balance… do you know what the mayor of San Cristobal did with a few people? They paraded him through the city… like a war trophy”.

Meanwhile, there has been another death as a result of violent opposition blockades. El Carabobeño reported that a motorbike rider died last night after crashing into a barricade. Eduardo Anzola, 29, in Valencia, died instantly, the paper reported, after he didn’t see the barricade because of the darkness. Two other people have died as a result of crashing into barricades, in Caracas and Merida, and one other motorbike rider was killed when wire at a barricade cut his throat.

On Monday, Alba Ciudad and Panorama report that Antonio Valbuena, 32, died of a shot to the head, in Maracaibo. Valbuena was participating in a demonstration of motorbike riders, who were removing barricades so that their procession could get through. At one point, a witness said that a “man in a balaclava came out and began to shoot… one of the bullets hit Antonio in the head”.

February 26, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | Leave a comment

Tide slowly turning at the New York Times

By Jonathon Cook | February 20, 2014

A decade ago, I wrote a commentary for the International Herald Tribune (now the International New York Times) arguing that Israel’s wall that was then just starting to be built in the West Bank was really a land grab. Difficult to believe now, but in those days that was a controversial opinion.

The paper then received the “largest postage in our history”, as an editor told me – possibly not surprising as the Anti-Defamation League, a Zionist organisation, had urged its followers to complain and had even published a template letter of condemnation on its website to help them. The result: the paper published a whole page of letters attacking me and dropped me as a writer.

So it is with some pleasure I see that the same paper has again been overwhelmed with letters following three recent articles on BDS in both the NYT and INYT : Omar Barghouti making the case, and Jodi Rudoren and Roger Cohen attacking it, the former implicitly and the latter explicitly.

What’s so different this time is that the INYT’s letters page is dominated by readers backing Barghouti and attacking Rudoren and Cohen. Not only that, but the arguments used to support BDS are intelligent and well-informed, while the few letters attacking BDS sound tired and formulaic.

The fact that the NYT has allowed the BDS debate into its pages is a triumph for the cause. That its international sister publication (and the NYT website) has then allowed its letters page to be dominated by BDS supporters is another small landmark.

We can mark a further victory when the NYT itself publishes a page of such letters. The time cannot be far off.

www.nytimes.com/2014/02/19/opinion/the-case-for-the-israel-boycott.html?_r=0

February 20, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NY Times spinning the Iran IMF report

By Cyrus Safdari | Iran Affairs | February 14, 2014

The NY Times is spinning the recent IMF report on Iran in order to portray the sanctions on Iran has having forced Iran to negotiations, one aspect of a recent “frame” that is being built around the nuclear talks by the US mainstream media which seeks to portray the Iranians as the intransigent party seeking nukes, never mind that it was the US that had blocked talks and killed off compromises even under Obama

However, lets remember the reaction to the previous IMF report, which had also said that while Iran’s economy would dip due to sanctions, it would return to growth. This report was issued before the talks were even imagined. Those reports caused such an uproar that the regular Iran bashers, who wanted to see a report that confirmed the effectiveness of sanctions, started casting doubt on the IMF. But in effect, there is no real difference between the previous IMF report and this one except that this one has gone into more detail, as was promised in the previous IMF report.

Thus, the NY Time’s spin on the IMF report as proof of the effectiveness of sanctions, fails.

In fact, if you compare Iran’s economic growth to that of the US by %GDP growth, you’d be surprised to see that Iran actually has done better on a pretty regular basis (even if you ignore 2009)

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-08-03/imf-says-iran-s-economy-set-to-grow-on-successful-subsidy-plan.html

http://iranprimer.usip.org/blog/2011/jun/14/imf-assesses-iran%E2%80%99s-economy

http://www.brandeis.edu/crown/publications/meb/MEB57.pdf

February 14, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | Leave a comment

US Media rewriting history to blame Iran for nuclear standoff

By Cyrus Safdari | Iran Affairs | February 10, 2014

With the publication of Gareth Porter’s book about the history of Iran’s nuclear program entitled appropriately “Manufactured Conflict” and the up-coming publication of Daniel Joyner’s book which touches on the legalities of Iran’s nuclear program, I pretty much have nothing to write about these days but I have been enjoying the mess that we see in the media as the Gatekeepers of Opinion scamble to re-tune their messages:

The current meme they’re trying to sell is that the negoatiations are the result of a shift of policy by Iran, which was itself the result of the sanctions — rather than conceeding that the sole item which had stifled negotiations for years until now was the US insistence that Iran first abandon enrichment before engaging in negotiations about abandoning the rest of the nuclear program, and that the sanctions did not force Iran to the negotiating table but in fact prevented a resolution that could have been reached years ago in accordance with Iran’s multiple compromise offers.

For example, according to the Washington Post,

“But Khamenei has approved a less combative approach to the West, especially in negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program. That is fueling hope here that Iran can win a lifting of tough international sanctions, the root of its economic woes”

Nonsense. Whatever Ahmadinejad’s faults, it was he that went before the UNGC and re-announced Iran’s long-standing offer to suspend 20% enrichment — the subject of the much lauded agreement reached recently with the Rouhani government. In fact Iran had been offering to place additional, non-legally required limitations on its nuclear program for YEARS but was consistently snubbed by the US which continued to insist that Iran has to first abandon enrichment before any talks could happen.

Don’t let them re-write the history to suit themselves.

Oh and Carnegie Endowment head Jessica Matthews is back to writing fiction about Iran’s nuclear program. It makes for quite entertaining reading as a purely fictional account of history, in which for example the Iranians,

“For more than fifteen years, intelligence and on-the-ground inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) revealed nuclear facilities, imports of nuclear technology, and research that had no civilian use.”

Actually the IAEA has repeatedly and consistently stated that it has never found any evidence of non-civilian nuclear program in Iran.

And in fact IAEA officials complained that US intelligence failed to back up the allegations.

According to Jessica Matthews’ :

“There is no formal, legal “right” to enrichment or any other nuclear activity.”

Yes, world. The 14 nations that enrich uranium today do so by virtue of the fact that God gave them special permission to do so, or was it Jessica Matthews? — and did not give that permission to Iran. Sorry Iran, you don’t have the same sovereign rights as other nations.

But I won’t go into a fib-by-fib analysis here.

Anyway, even after the Obama administration finally gave up on the “zero enrichment” precondition to talks, they tried to claim that the ultimate agenda of the talks was still Iran abandoning enrichment — though this has been looking less and less likely too. AIPAC and Nuttyyahoo are left flopping in the wind nonetheless.

For its part, the New York Times has been trying its hardest to try to blow some life into the carcass of the “alleged studies” claims, first by promoting the “Polonium studies” nonsense that the IAEA itself said was resolved to Iran’s credit years ago, and now by failing to mention that the “neutron initiator” claims involving the bridgewire detonators which are the subject of today’s news, were dismissed by the IAEA as frauds according to IAEA Director ElBaradei’s book, which apparently none of the journalists bothered to read — Oh yeah, lets not forget that the Israelis accused Elbaradei of being an “Iranian agent” and a “despicable person” for that.

February 10, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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