Category Archives: United States

The Truth Behind The “Pro-Life” “Christian” Fraudulent Hypocrisy

Alabama’s horrific top-in-the-nation child poverty rate and newest legislative attempt to overturn Roe v Wade, PROVES beyond a shadow of a doubt that so-called “pro-lifers” are really just anti-woman. They hate the fact that women can do the one thing men cannot and have a sick need to CONTROL her body and procreation in any way they can. The fact that it takes a man (or at least his body fluid) to procreate is not enough for these misogynists.

It PROVES beyond a shadow of doubt that they do not give a rat’s ass about children or the quality of their lives. Once they are born they can starve to death for all these so-called “right to lifers” care! Of course, we know, their first choice is to have all these un-aborted lives they’ve so nobly “saved” adopted out to “good” Christian homes to be trained as soldiers for their god. Onward Christian soldiers! Adopted into homes where the “Christianity” will be beaten and/or starved into them. They will be beaten, burned and starved in the name of their god if they do not recite their bible properly. So-called “Christianity” that would make Jesus cry with shame that his name and the love he taught is so diametrically distorted and defamed.

This is sick perverted extremism and it has infiltrated the highest levels of our government. THIS, my friends, is the answer to the question why so many in the GOP don’t stand up to crazy, insane DT. They don’t care what kind of a narcissistic maniac he is as long as they get their religious agenda passed in SCOTUS

And we fear those who follow Allah? HAHAHA!! This country is turning into a woman, child, Jew, Muslim, LGBT, POC HATEFUL theocracy!! And THAT is why DT won and that is why the GOP tolerates, allows and goes along with his insanity. In order to have a nation for and by WHITE MEN ONLY!!! Good upstanding hypocritical white closeted gay and pedophile men. Women subjugated by being forced procreation for “righteous” Christian women who know their place is to serve their man and bear “his” children. And we fear Muslim extremists?

With white male privilege comes the spoils of keeping the wealth isolated to the few. Let the rest die of poverty and disease as the few control medical care and the pharm industry and keep those prices out of the reach of non-existent middle class. Ignore climate change because it doesn’t enrich the greedy. That’s the ticket! Let the trailer park trash be destroyed by floods and tornados. Who cares? Let all of California burn. Who cares?

The end of the world will be the final clash between these two groups of extremists who have more in common than not!! The true, real life Game of Thrones. In the midst of the global fires and floods . . .they will fight it out. . .

Truth is, abortion is a political issue, not religious, yet founded on misogyny nonetheless.

Neil Carter reports that:

. . . Given the growing Southern Baptist disdain for feminism and the sexual revolution, Paul Weyrich [founder of both the Heritage Foundation and ALEC], sensed an opportunity to use opposition to Roe v. Wade as a rallying cry to unify Catholics and Protestants into a single powerful [Republican] coalition.

Venezuela: Amnesty International in Service of Empire

Uncle Sam has a problem in his South American “backyard” with those uppity Venezuelans who insisted on democratically electing Nicolás Maduro as their president instead of by-passing the electoral process and installing the unelected US asset Juan Guaidó. No matter, Amnesty International has come to the rescue with a full-throated defense of US imperialism:

Faced with grave human rights violations, shortages of medicines and food and generalized violence in Venezuela, there is an urgent hunger for justice. The crimes against humanity probably committed by the authorities must not go unpunished.

— Erika Guevara-Rosas, America’s director at Amnesty International

Amnesty International fails in its broadside to put its claims against the Maduro government in the context of a concerted regime-change campaign, which amounts to war, by the bully from the north. The US is waging an illegal war against Venezuela and Amnesty International’s broadside leaves out this inconvenient fact, egregiously even omitting any mention of sanctions.

As human rights activist Chuck Kaufman of the Alliance for Global Justice noted about Amnesty International (AI): “They don’t seem to even care about their credibility anymore.” A more credible and honest account of what is unfolding in Venezuela, than the hatchet job presented in AI’s May 14th Venezuela: Crimes against humanity require a vigorous response from the international justice system, would have also noted along with the alleged transgressions of the Maduro government:

  • Grave human rights violations. Economists Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University recently reported that US sanctions on Venezuela are responsible for tens of thousands of deaths. This is the price being exacted on Venezuela, with a prediction for worse to come, for the regime change that AI is implicitly promoting.
  • Shortages of medicines and food. Since 2015, when US President Obama first instituted them, the US has been imposing ever more crippling illegal sanctions on Venezuela expressly to create misery for the population in the hope that it would then turn against their own democratically elected government. The sanctions are specifically designed to suffocate the economy so that Venezuela cannot address its problems. The US government boasts about the impacts of sanctions. Playing the good cop to the US role as bad cop, AI laments the very conditions they are tacitly promoting in asking for ever increasing “punishments.” New US sanctions on Venezuela were imposed on May 10th.
  • Generalized violence. The US government has repeatedly and unapologetically threatened military intervention in Venezuela if the elected government doesn’t abdicate. Short of attacking militarily, the US has waged war against Venezuela by economic and diplomatic means, not to mention low-intensity warfare such as cyber attacks. The extreme right wing opposition has called for the extra-legal overthrow of the government and has eschewed electoral means for effecting political change. AI is correct in noting that since 2017 new violence has been inflicted on the Venezuelan people but fails to note the role of the opposition in provoking that violence with their guarimbas and other actions. Meanwhile Guaidó, whose popular support in Venezuela is bottoming out, is reported sending his envoy to meet with the US Southern Command to “coordinate.”

How is it possible that an organization purporting to stand for human rights and global justice can so blithely ignore facts that do not fit into their narrative and so obsequiously parrot the Trump-Pompeo-Bolton-Abrams talking points? Why would AI go so far as to meet with the self-appointed Guaidó and then within days issue a report condemning the Maduro government, without also investigating the other side in the conflict?

Unfortunately, this is not the first time AI has shown an imperial bias as it has regarding US-backed regime-change projects in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Nicaragua.

Objectively deconstructing the many allegations (e.g., “more than 8,000 extrajudicial executions by the security forces”) made against Venezuela in the AI broadside and its accompanying report remains to be done. Unfortunately, the Empire has a surfeit of resources to churn out propaganda compared to the ability to counter it by genuine humanitarian groups. AI alone has an annual budget of over $300 million. According to sources cited by Wikipedia, AI receives grants from the US State Department, the European Commission, and other governments along with the Rockefeller Foundation.

To conclude, AI’s broadside calls for justice about as often as it calls for punishment with the subtext that punishment of the Empire’s victims is justice. Were AI truly concerned about justice, rather than justifying another US regime-change operation, they would champion the following:

  • Ending the unilateral sanctions by the US on Venezuela, which are illegal under the charters of the United Nations and the Organization of American States.
  • Supporting dialogue between the elected government and the opposition as has been promoted by Mexico, Uruguay, Pope Francis, and most recently by Norway.
  • Condemning regime-change activities and interference in Venezuela’s internal affairs and actively rejecting the US government’s aggressive stance as articulated by US VP Pence: “This is no time for dialogue. This is time for action.”
  • Respecting the sovereignty of Venezuela and restoring normal diplomatic relations between the US and Venezuela.

Nicaragua: The War of 2018

Nearly all US regime-change wars (Venezuela, Syria, Honduras, Ukraine, Libya, Yugoslavia, etc.) are wars of deception, fabrication, propaganda, coups and false flags. Sometimes there is a direct US military assault, more often not. These wars are waged by proxies, media puppets, hired hit-men, torturers, rapists, vandals, saboteurs, death squads and criminal gangs, through mock or pretextual social protest movements, denunciations by “human rights” organizations, and by internal and external economic assaults on the country’s people, transportation, commerce and communications. These were the methods of the 2018 war against Nicaragua, for which the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) alone, a well-known US regime-change shop, has spent 4.1 million USD on Nicaraguan NGOs since 2014.

There is little mystery why the US would take pains to overthrow the government of little Nicaragua (population 6 million). In addition to Nicaragua’s current and historical geo-strategic importance, President Daniel Ortega’s administration greatly improved people’s lives, presenting what is often called “the threat of a good example.”

Prior to the war and during the Ortega administration, poverty and extreme poverty were halved. Basic healthcare and education were free. Illiteracy fell from one-third of the population to nearly zero. Access to electricity went from a little over half the population to 90%. Through state subsidy programs, small and medium agricultural producers had achieved near-complete food sovereignty for the country. In defiance of the dictates of the US and the global neoliberal order, Nicaragua failed to privatize essential public services, and kept friendly relations with Cuba, Venezuela, Russia, China and Iran.

Also notable, in light of the events of 2018, Nicaragua built a national police force recognized by the UN for its humane, community policing, headed until mid-2018 by Aminta Granera Sacasa, former nun, mother of three and Sandinista revolutionary, who during her tenure was among the most popular politicians in the country.

In the eyes of the US, these achievements are capital crimes.

Pretextual student protests covered the launch of the war on April 18, 2018. The protests came following announced changes to the country’s social security programs, falsely presented by the media as austerity measures. In fact, the changes avoided the austerity plan sought by the Nicaraguan business lobby (COSEP) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). COSEP called for student protests, which were led by relatively well-to-do students from the private universities but directed toward the Polytechnic University (UPOLI) campus, one of the two main public universities that serve poor and working class students.

The police killing of a student protestor was mis-reported on the first day of protests (the student later turned up alive and unharmed). The next day, three more killings at the UPOLI were wrongly attributed to the police.

The UPOLI was taken over by armed opposition forces (not UPOLI students) demanding the government resign. The daycare center, reproductive health center and women’s dormitories were vandalized. The leader of the UPOLI student union, Leonel Morales, publicly denounced the armed opposition, and was tortured and nearly killed.

Directing operations at the universities and elsewhere was Felix Madriaga, US raised and Harvard trained, and funded by the NED. Madriaga’s role was revealed by gang leader “Viper,” whose criminal organization was enlisted by the opposition.

By April 22nd the government withdrew the announced social security changes, but opposition forces continued widespread destruction and assaults, now concealed under pretextual protests against police repression.

Opposition tactics included 100s of roadblocks across the country meant to wreak havoc on the country’s transportation systems and economy. These roadblocks, called tranques, became opposition paramilitary bases, terrorizing the population with killings, beatings, torture, rape and extortion. A 10-year-old girl was kidnapped and raped at the tranque in Las Maderas, and the opposition attacked and set fire to public buildings as well as homes of Sandinista loyalists.

The Catholic Church hierarchy, ostensibly mediating between the government and the opposition, played a leading role in organizing the tranques, something Bishop Silvio Baez was caught on tape bragging about, as well as calling for President Ortega to be put before a firing squad.

Yet the government agreed to opposition demands to withdraw the police from the streets. For nearly two months the police were confined to barracks while the war continued. This controversial, pacifist move may have saved lives by avoiding police confrontations with opposition forces while they were fresh and well-supplied with money, food, hand-held mortar-launchers, guns and other weaponry. Meanwhile, organized civilian self-defense forces mitigated the violence of opposition forces, even managing to remove many tranques. Eventually the police returned to the streets, and after three months of war, relative calm had returned to Nicaragua, although opposition killings of police continued.

Over 250 people were killed and many more injured. More than 250 buildings were burned down or ransacked, with public sector property losses of over $230 million USD. GDP fell nearly 4%, a loss to the economy of nearly 1.5 billion USD, with job losses of up to 300,000.

Not conceding defeat, both houses of the US legislature unanimously approved presidential authority for sanctions barring Nicaragua from receiving aid from international financial institutions, a virtual economic embargo, illegal under the UN Charter.

From the very first day of the war, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the media spun a relentless and knowingly false “human rights” narrative of police repression by a dictatorial state, uniformly attributing to police the injuries and deaths inflicted by the opposition or from accidents. Aiding this propaganda effort were a tiny political party and grouplets of former prominent Sandinistas, who claim left status but lack popular support and have long been part of the US-backed rightist-led opposition.

Yet Nicaraguans have waged an heroic struggle against the most powerful empire in history. The peoples of the world owe them an incalculable debt of gratitude.

Trump: From China to Iran to Venezuela, Threats and Sanctions Everywhere

As of May 10, Mr. Trump has arbitrarily increased tariffs on Chinese goods imported into the US, worth about 200 billion dollars, from 10% to 25%. It is an action without any foundation. An action that makes no sense at all, as China can and will retaliate – and retaliate much stronger than what the impact of the US’s new “sanctions” may bear – because these arbitrary tariffs are nothing else but sanctions. Illegality of such foreign interference aside, there is hardly any serious economist in this world who would favor tariffs in international trade among “adults” anywhere and for any reason, and, of course, least as a punishment for a nation. All that such sanctions do is pushing a partner away. In this case it’s not just any partner; China is a key trading partner of the United States.

The new tariffs will hardly harm the American consumer. There are huge profit margins by US middlemen and importers of Chinese goods. They are competing with each other within the US  and the consumer may not even notice a thing. However, the US economy will likely suffer, especially from Chinese retaliatory actions.

A spoiled child, what Trump is, doesn’t get his way – and goes into a tantrum, not quite knowing what he is doing, and knowing even less what he may expect in return. Mr. Trump, himself, has not only reached a level of incompetence and ignorance which is scary – but he has also surrounded himself with inept, preposterous people, like, Pence, Bolton, Pompeo – who, it appears, have no other means left than running around the world amok, dishing out threats left and right and spending billions on moving aircraft carriers around the globe to make sure people are afraid of the great-great United States of America.

Back to trading with China. China has a million ways (almost) to retaliate. China can devalue her currency vis-à-vis the dollar, or China can dump some of their almost 3 trillion dollars-worth of reserves on the money market – just take a wild guess about what that would do to the hegemony of the dollar which is already in dire straits – with ever more countries departing from the use of dollars for international trade.

And just hypothetically, China could stop altogether exporting all that Walmart junk that American consumers love so much just for a while. Or China could stop making iPhones for the US market. Guess what kind of an uproar that would trigger in the US?  Or China could, of course, levy herself high tariffs on US imports, or stop US imports altogether. China being part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) – actually the co-founder of it – has many alternatives to cover her demand. No need to depend on the west.

Let’s not forget, the SCO which also counts as its members, Russia, India, Pakistan, most of Central Asia, and Iran poised to become a full-fledged member, covers about half of the world population and a third of the world’s economic output, or GDP. No need to look to the west for ‘survival’ – those times are long gone.

But more importantly, what all this looks like to me is the desperate thrashing around of a dying beast, or in this case a dying empire.

We have the US and Venezuela – threats after threats after threats – Maduro must go, or more sanctions. Indeed, according to a study by the Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR), these horrifying, totally illegal sanctions or blockages of imports, most of them already paid for by Venezuela, have killed some 40,000 people in Venezuela. Of course, Washington doesn’t care about legality and killing, also typical for a fading mighty power – no respect for law and order, no respect for human rights and human lives. One only has to see what type of psychopaths are occupying the tasks of “Foreign Minister” and of “National Security Advisor” or of Vice President, for that matter – they are all sick, but very sick and dangerous people.

Well, in Venezuela “regime change” didn’t work out – so far. Pompeo has been clearly told off by Mr. Lavrov during their recent get-together in Helsinki,  and China is in the same line of supporting the government of Nicolas Maduro.

Next – Iran. Attacking Iran has been a dream of Bolton’s ever since the US 2003 “Shock and Awe” invasion of Iraq. Bolton and Pompeo are of the same revolting kind: They want wars, conflicts, or if they don’t get wars, they want to sow fear, they enjoy seeing people scared. They want suffering. Now they didn’t succeed – at least so far – with Venezuela, let’s try Iran. Pompeo – “Iran has done irregular things” – not saying what in particular he means – so Iran has to be punished, with yet more sanctions. And any argument is good.

The entire world knows, including the Vienna-based UN Economic Energy Commission, and has acknowledged umpteen times that Iran has fully adhered to the conditions of the Nuclear Deal from which the US exited a year ago. Of course, no secret here either, this at the demand of Trump’s Big Friend Bibi Netanyahu. The European Union vassals may actually turn for their own business interests, not for political ethics, but pure and simple self-interest – towards respecting the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or Nuclear Deal. China and Russia are already holding on to the Deal, and they are not impressed by Washington’s threats. So, there is very little Trump and his minions can do, other than saber rattling.

Therefore, the nefarious Pence-Pompeo-Bolton trio must invent another warning: Iran or any proxy of Iran shall attack an ally of the US, and Iran will be devastated. In fact, they consider the Houthis in Yemen who fight for their sheer survival against the US-UK-France – and NATO supported Saudis, as a proxy for Iran. So, the US could start bombing Iran already today. Why don’t they?

Maybe they are afraid – afraid Iran could lock down the Strait of Hormuz, where 60% of US oil imports have to sail through. What a disaster that would be, not just for the US but also for the rest of the world. Oil prices could skyrocket. Would Washington want to risk a war over their irrationality? Maybe, Mr. Halfwit Trump might, but I doubt that his deep-dark state handlers would. They know what’s at stake for them and the world. But they let Trump play his games a bit longer.

Moving the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, loaded with war planes, close to Iranian waters costs hundreds of millions or billions. Just to enhance a threat. A show-off. Bolton and Pompeo will entertain their sadism, enjoying seeing scared people. But the cost of war doesn’t matter – it’s just more debt, and as we know, the US never, but never pays back its debt.

Next, or simultaneously, is China. The trade war with China that started last year, then had a respite to the point of the recent joint negotiations and suddenly the Trumpians are veering off again. They must smash China, wanting to appear superior. But why? The world knows that the US is no longer superior by a long shot, and haven’t been for the last couple of years, when China surpassed the US in economic strength, measured by PPP – Purchasing Power Parity – which is the only parity or exchange rate that has any real meaning.

Guess what!  All these three cases have one common denominator: The dollar as a chief instrument for world hegemony. Venezuela and Iran have stopped using the dollar for their hydrocarbon and other international trading, already some years ago. And so did China and Russia. China’s strong currency, the Yuan, is rapidly taking over the US-dollar’s reserve position in the world. Sanctioning China with insane tariffs is supposed to weaken the Yuan; but it won’t.

All of these three countries, China, Iran and Venezuela are threatening the US dollar’s world hegemony and without that the US economy is dead, literally. The dollar is based on thin air, and on fraud.  The dollar system used around the globe is nothing but a huge, a very big and monstrous Ponzi-scheme, that one day must be coming crashing down.

That’s what’s at stake. New FED Board member, Herman Cain, for example, is pledging for a new gold standard. But none of these last resort US measure will work, not a new gold standard, not a trade and tariff war, and not threats of wars and destruction and “regime change”. The nations around the world know what’s going on, they know the US is in her last breath; though they don’t quite dare saying so, but they know it, and are waiting for the downfall to continue. The world is waiting for the grand fiesta, dancing in the streets, when the empire disappears or becomes utterly irrelevant.

• First published in New Eastern Outlook (NEO)

Maximum Pressure in the Strait of Hormuz: The US-Iran Standoff

Hegemons are never going to sound too sensible when they lock horns or joust in spats of childish anger.  Power corrupts, not merely in terms of perspective but language, and making sense about the next move, the next statement, is bound to be challenging.  Otherwise justified behaviour can be read as provocative; retaliatory moves duly rattle and disturb.

The Iran-US standoff is finding a surge of increments, provocations and howlers.  Since the Trump administration withdrew from the 2015 Iran Nuclear deal (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) last year, Tehran has gnawed and scratched at the arrangements.  Threats to close the Strait of Hormuz as a retaliation for frustrating Iranian oil sales have been made.  President Hassan Rouhani last week made it clear that the Islamic republic would scale back on certain JCPOA commitments.  Limits on building up stockpiles of low-enriched uranium and heavy water would be abandoned.  A 60-day period has been stipulated in the hope that the E3 (Britain, France and Germany), China and Russia provide relief for the Iranian oil and banking sector.  More suspensions of compliance orders threaten to follow if the powers do not muck in.

Despite not being part of the JCPOA anymore, the Trump administration persists in sticking its oar in the matter.  In May 3, the State Department explicitly warned it would sanction individuals and entities involved in swapping permitted uranium (enriched or natural) with Iran.  Nor would excess heavy water limits be permitted.

With such moves to strangle Iran’s economic feelers, it is little wonder that Rouhani has called on “surgery” to be performed on the JCPOA, one far more effectual than “the painkiller pills of the last year”.  Such a process, he promised, was “for saving the deal, not destroying it.”

News this week that Saudi Arabian oil tankers had been sabotaged near the Strait of Hormuz had its effect, even if the Trump administration has yet to pin its colours to the claim that Iran is responsible.  Give it time, and not much at that.  As the Wall Street Journal put it, “The assessment, while not conclusive, was the first suggestion by any nation that Iran was responsible for the attack”.

To reporters in the Oval Office, Trump was keen to make his usual remarks about happiness, or its absence, if things turned out to be darker than he thought.  “It’s going to be a bad problem for Iran if something happens, I can tell you that.”  What, pressed reporters, did the president mean by a “bad problem”?  “You can figure it out for yourself.  They know what I mean by it.”

Brian Hook, the US State Department’s special envoy on Iran, has been doing the circuit in Europe with Washington’s allies, hoping to stir some action against the meddling mullahs in a campaign of “maximum pressure”.  “Everything we are doing,” Hook tried to reason with the Sunday Times, “is defensive.”  Secretary of State Mark Pompeo also journeyed to Brussels to stir the matter.  According to Hook, “The secretary shared information and intelligence with allies and discussed the multiple plot vectors emerging from Iran.”  What a boon Iran is proving to be for the parched hawks, an endless well of threat, much of it imaginary, to draw upon in the hope of actual military engagement.

National Security Advisor John Bolton is making do with the situation, creating much mischief, turning the furniture and belongings of the entire diplomatic stable inside out like a brat in search of attention.  He blames Iran, naturally, for “a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings”.  As is the manner with all chicken hawks, he craves the blood of others and is not shy pushing it.  The problem with this attitude is that having a playmate such as Iran is bound to get you, and your fellow playmates, hurt on the way.  The school mistress should intervene, but her sense, and sensibility, is yet to be found.

Washington is certainly keen to make it a bad problem, a habit it has fallen into during stretches of its violent and imperial history.  At Bolton’s instigation, an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers are being deployed to the Persian Gulf on the supposedly clear grounds that Iran and its proxies are readying themselves for a strike on US forces in the region, bringing to mind similar provocations sought to stoke a potential conflict.

The planning of Operation Prairie Fire was one such ignominious example, designed to provoke Muammar Qaddafi’s Libya into a military incident in 1986.  In what seemed to be a true overegging of the pudding, US Navy Task Force 60 involved three aircraft carriers operating in the Mediterranean off the Libyan coast.  They were involved in exercises falling within that most stretched of terms: freedom-of-navigation.  Prairie Fire turned out to be a bellicose affair, with Task Force 60 put on essentially a wartime footing.  Military exercises were duly conducted to stir the beast; patrols along the coast were conducted.  The beast responded with some six surface-to-air missiles.  A Libyan patrol boat was duly obliterated with some satisfaction, along with two more naval vessels and a missile site in Sirte. “We now consider all approaching Libyan forces,” claimed the White House note with some smugness, “to have hostile intent.”

US-Iran encounters in the Strait of Hormuz are also not new: the Iran-Iraq War, one which saw the US throw in its lot with Saddam Hussein’s invading armies against the Iranian Republic, featured a fair share of attacks on merchant shipping.  The importance of the Strait to shipping and international traffic is again coming into play.

Trump has remained inflexible and obstinate regarding Iran. (In his wheeler-dealer world, every crook with a silver lining must be matched by a Lucifer who will be given no quarter.)  In these calculations, the silver lining of North Korea’s Kim Jong-un shines far brighter than any the Islamic Republic of Iran might have.  But by any referee’s estimate of recent conduct by Trump and company, Washington must be seen as responsible for the most aggravating fouls.

Jerusalem Cable Car Project Passes Over Objections from Many Quarters

East Jerusalem has received new impetus from the rise of the Israeli far right and Washington’s decision to move its embassy to the city. But if completed, critics say, the long-running proposal would contribute to erasing the visibility of Palestinians in the city they hope to make their capital.

Planning for the $55 million tourism project continues despite unifying archaeologists, architects, Palestinians, and a tiny community of Jews against it – in a sign of Israel’s ever-growing confidence in making unilateral moves in occupied parts of Jerusalem.

Critics say the cable car will help hide the local Palestinian population from the roughly 3 million tourists who visit Jerusalem each year, turning the city into a “Disneyland” focused on promoting Israeli interests.

“The advantage for Israel is that visitors can be prevented from having any dealings with Palestinians,” said Aviv Tartasky, a researcher with Ir Amim, an Israeli organisation that campaigns for equal rights in Jerusalem.

“The local population will be largely erased from the experience of visiting Jerusalem. Tourists will pass over Palestinian residents, via the cable car, and then pass under them via tunnels.”

Israel’s Ministry of Tourism dismissed the criticism. In a statement to The National, the ministry said the cable car project was “a significant milestone in the promotion of Jerusalem and the strengthening of its status as a world tourism capital”.

Settler-run tours

The cable car, the largest project of its type undertaken by Israel, could be completed as early as in two years, its destination the slopes in occupied East Jerusalem just below the Old City, next to Al Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock. Some 72 cabins have the capacity to ferry up to 3,000 visitors an hour above mainly Palestinian homes.

Tourists will be channelled from the cable car into a visitor centre run by Jewish settlers in the heart of the crowded Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan. They will be led by settler-approved guides underground, through tunnels under Palestinian homes to the foot of the Western Wall.

Blueprints show that visitors will be able to shop in the tunnels, bypassing local Palestinian traders in the Old City market who have long depended on tourism. Israeli officials accelerated the project by bypassing routine planning procedures, even though urban planning specialists warn that it will damage the Jerusalem skyline and archaeological sites revealing the origins of modern civilisation.

Equally important, critics say, the Benjamin Netanyahu government and settler groups view the cable car as helping block any possibility of a Palestinian state emerging with East Jerusalem as its capital. They have been emboldened by President Donald Trump’s 2017 decision to transfer the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

“It should set off alarm bells that a huge state project like this is being intertwined with a private settler organisation, physically forcing visitors to go through its visitor centre, channelling them into its attractions and activities,” Mr Tartasky said.

He said the cable car was one of the ways Israel was connecting disparate settler compounds in the Palestinian neighbourhoods of occupied Jerusalem.

“It will physically strengthen these settler areas, and mean their organisations have an even greater influence on Israeli authorities.”

Encircling Al-Aqsa

The project has been forcefully promoted by the Israeli tourism ministry, headed by Yariv Levin, an ally of Mr Netanyahu, and Jerusalem’s mayor, Moshe Lion. Tenders will be issued as soon as the National Planning Council approves the project, which is expected to be a formality.

In violation of international law, Israel has treated East Jerusalem as annexed territory since it occupied the city in 1967. More than 200,000 Jewish settlers have moved there over subsequent decades

Hanna Swaid, a Palestinian planning specialist and former member of the Israeli parliament, said the cable car was illegal because international law allows major changes in occupied territory only out of military necessity or for the benefit of the population under occupation.

“Even in its own planning justifications, the Israeli authorities are clear the cable car is designed only for the benefit of tourists, Israeli developers and the settler groups overseeing it, not the local Palestinian population. In fact, it will serve to actively harm Palestinians in Jerusalem,” Mr Swaid said.

“It will parachute tourists to Jewish sites like the Western Wall, and marginalise Muslim and Christian sites,” he added.

Palestinians are concerned that the cable car will serve to tighten Israel’s control over access to the Al Aqsa mosque compound, the highly sensitive holy site in the Old City. For decades Israeli authorities have moved to weaken the control of Islamic religious authorities, the Waqf, on Al Aqsa, contributing to repeated clashes at the site.

Jews believe the mosque is built over the ruins of a major Jewish temple. The Western Wall, which supports the mosque compound, was originally a retaining wall of the long-lost temple.

“The cable car looks suspiciously like another means for encircling Al Aqsa, for laying siege to it,” Mr Swaid said.

Tunnels under Palestinians

According to official plans, dozens of cabins will run hourly along a 1.5-kilometre route from West Jerusalem, inside Israel’s recognised borders, to the occupied Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan, just outside the Old City walls and in the shadow of Al Aqsa.

Tourists will disembark in Silwan into a large visitor centre, the Kedem compound, to be run by a settler organisation called Elad that has close ties with the Israeli government.

The Kedem centre is the latest venture in the City of David complex, an archaeological site that the settlers of Elad have been using for more than two decades as a base to seize control of the Palestinian neighbourhood.

Visitors will be taken on tours to explore Jerusalem, moving through ancient sewage tunnels that run under Palestinian homes and reach to walls of Al Aqsa.

Additional plans will eventually see the cable car alight at other sites in East Jerusalem. Among them are the Mount of Olives, which includes an ancient Jewish cemetery; the Church of Gethsemane, at the reputed site where Judas betrayed Jesus; and the Pool of Siloam, a bathing area referred to in the Old and New Testaments.

Yonatan Mizrahi, the director of Emek Shaveh, a group of Israeli archaeologists opposed to the misuse of archaeology and tourism by Israel, said: “The purpose is to offer tourists a one-dimensional narrative about Jerusalem and its history. They should see all layers of the city’s rich history. Instead they will hear only the parts that relate to Jewish history.”

Mr Mizrahi has been among those leading the criticism of the project. “No other historic city in the world has built a cable car – and for very good reason,” he said.

Jerusalem ‘not Disneyland’

In March about 30 international architects – some of whom have worked on projects in Jerusalem – wrote to Mr Netanyahu urging him not to pursue what they called short-term interests.

“The project is being promoted by powerful interest groups who put tourism and political agendas above responsibility for safeguarding Jerusalem’s cultural treasures,” the letter said.

The letter followed a statement by 70 Israeli archaeologists, architects and public figures against the cable car in November, when the project was speeded up. They said: “Jerusalem is not Disneyland, and its landscape and heritage are not for sale.”

A French firm, Safege, which worked on the initial feasibility study, pulled out in 2015, reportedly under pressure from the French government over concerns that the project violated international law.

In an apparent bid to ensure the project would go through, the previous Netanyahu government changed planning laws to remove the cable car from local and regional oversight. It also ensured the public could not submit objections.

Instead the scheme is being treated as a “national infrastructure” project, similar to a new railway line or gas pipeline. The National Planning Council offered a curtailed period for organisations to lodge reservations that ended on March 31.

Mr Swaid, who is the director of the Arab Centre for Alternative Planning, drew up a list of reservations on behalf of the Supreme Religious Council of Muslims in Israel.

Other critical comments were submitted by lawyers for the Silwan neighbourhood, the archaeologists of Emek Shaveh, the planning group Bimkom, a Palestinian merchant association in the Old City, and a tour guides group.

The Karaites, a small Jewish sect whose ancient cemetery lies in the path of the cable car, in the Biblical Hinnom Valley, said the project showed “contemptuous disregard for the dignity of the deceased and the Karaite community in general”.

Benjamin Kedar, a former chairman of the Israel Antiquities Authority, lodged a protest too.

Loss of all privacy

One of the Silwan homes in the path of the cable car belongs to the Karameh family. The cabins may pass only four metres above the flat roof where toddlers play and the family of 20 hang their washing. Support columns for the cable car may end up being driven into the family’s garden, one of the few green spots in Silwan.

“Nowhere in Israel do cable cars travel over houses, let alone a few metres above,” said Mr Mizrahi. “It seems clear why in this case. Because the houses belong to Palestinians.”

Samer Karameh, a 24-year-old lorry driver, said everyone in Silwan was opposed to the cable car, as it would be helping settler groups like Elad trying to take over their neighbourhood. But he was shocked to learn that it would pass so close to his house.

“We’ll lose all privacy. We won’t be able to open the windows without being seen by thousands of strangers. And it can’t be safe to have these cars travelling just over the heads of our children,” Mr Karameh said.

“We know we won’t be the beneficiaries,” he added. “The authorities won’t give us a permit to build anything here, so all the business will go to the settlers.”

• A version of this article first appeared in The National

Venezuelan Communes Protect the State

Direct democracy works like a charm. Check out Venezuela’s Communes….

Venezuela’s ubiquitous Communes are proof that direct democracy works. And, interestingly enough, those same Communes are powerful buffers to attempted coups, protecting the sanctity of direct democracy in their country.

In all likelihood, John Bolton and Trump and Pence and Pompeo and Rubio were shocked beyond recognition by the failed coup attempt they helped orchestrate to overpower a democratically elected government south of the border, colloquially known as extending the concept of Manifest Destiny to its fullest extent.

To Bolton’s/Rubio’s dismay, opposition leader Juan Guaidó proved to be a clown dressed up as a proponent of democratic spirits, a motivator, a savior. Well, he’s been tossed into the dustbin as a miserable failure, an international pariah who has been shamed into seclusion. His American co-conspirators look like big fat dupes.

Interestingly enough, the citizens of Venezuela did not answer Juan Guaidó’s official call to assemble, to revolt, and eliminate Maduro, overthrowing the dictator. Those were the instructions to a public that remained dead silent and in place. Nobody showed up for the well-advertised great event, as Juan Guaidó wanted to “Make Venezuela Great Again.”

Only in the U.S. do people fall for such claptrap. Venezuela’s politically astute citizens know hollow sloganeering when they hear it. After all, they have direct democracy that works like a charm. Why change anything?

Localized political orders, Communes in Venezuela, have proven to be a safety net for families and their communities. It’s direct democracy at work, and it works remarkably well under the toughest of circumstances, as tough as it gets, which goes to demonstrate the mettle of direct democracy.

As for proof of the effectiveness and importance and steadfastness of Venezuela’s Communes, the Indio Caricuao Commune in southwest Caracas was one of the first targets of Juan Guaidó’s supporters. They looted the Commune and set fire to its headquarters. Local residents used the building for meetings, and it housed a Commune-operated textile mill, which funded projects for the local community.

It’s instructive that Guaidó’s supporters selected a prominent Commune as their first line of attack and not Maduro. Of course, the logical upshot to that tactical move is that they recognized the power of Communes superseding the power of Maduro, which, in fact, is the case throughout the country of Venezuela. Maduro is more figurehead than manipulator of the political strings. The people control those strings via direct democracy, by and large, throughout all of Venezuela.

Under the tutelage of former president Hugo Chavez, Communes were established. He viewed the Communes as “fundamental building blocks of a new communal state” based upon self-management by local democracy, by local communities.

Nowadays, according to Venezuela’s Ministry of Communes, the country has nearly 47,000 registered communal councils throughout the country and close to 3,000 Communes. The Communes have been consolidating their networks now for over a decade and represent a powerful force in the country, arguably, more powerful than President Maduro.

According to Commune leaders like Gsus Garcia of the Altos de Lidice Socialist Commune, they acknowledge that Chavistas (Chavez supporters) were at the heart of creation of Communes, but the Communes include residents that oppose Maduro and some that favor him. Their focus is on their local community, not on Maduro.1

A prime example is the Panal 2021 Commune, consisting of 3,600 families. The Commune initially funded itself by holding raffles and received state funds, but now it is self-financing and self-managed. Panal 2012 has (1) its own bakeries, (2) a textile mill, (3) a sugar packaging plant and (4) an expansive food storage and distribution centre to make sure no families go hungry.

Proceeds from communally operated businesses are deposited in a communal bank with citizen’s assemblies deciding how to redistribute funds for community projects. It is direct democracy at work.

Similarly, all across the land, Communes generate their own revenue and take care of their local communities. No state funds needed. Not only do Communes take care of local communities, but the Communes have also resorted to feeding urban centers that are not organized, as Panal 2021 linked up with other Communes in the countryside to bring food to the cities and sell it at much cheaper prices than private supermarkets. Thus, Venezuelans are fed via direct democracy at work.

According to sources in Venezuela:

Regardless of what happens next in Venezuela… the strong level of community organization built up over the past two decades will not go away easily. There’s still a lot of strength, a high level of organization. Wherever you look, you will find a commune, a cooperative, and some kind of committee or organization… If [the government] was to fall, that organization will still be here; this huge spirit of participation will still exist, and it will be a problem for any government that tries to dismantle it.2

It is likely that international media sources have mischaracterized the status of Venezuela with a feeding frenzy of falsehoods that simply fed on its own story lines. But, then again, that’s the new normal.

Meanwhile, in spite of extreme dire circumstances, and including some cases of people suffering, by and large, Venezuela is beholden to Communes that take care of their own communities, feed them, clothe them, doctor them, and protect them, families working together to determine their own destiny.

It’s called direct democracy. It works!

Postscript: On Contact with Chris Hedges interviewed reporter Ben Norton, who spent one month in Venezuela. That video can be viewed here:

  1. Frederico Fuentes, Venezuela’s Crisis: A View From The Communes, Countercurrents, May 12, 2019.
  2. Ibid.

Does Capitalism Mean War?

During the Cold war, the major antagonists, United States and Soviet Union, faced one another at European borders. No military confrontations occurred between them. Their cooperation, in a war to end all wars, had a brief interlude, and succeeding years detected huge losses of lives in endless conflicts.

The Cold War atmosphere became a testing ground for two systems. The capitalist system gained economic and political victories, but at what cost? A fundamental question emerged from the rhetoric and saber rattling — which system, capitalist or socialist, was more likely to contain peace, or stated another way, more likely to wage war? Examination of the conflicts occurring during the Cold War provides a clue and answers another lingering question. “Does Capitalism mean war?”

A chart of the history of major wars during the 1946-1991 era tells a story. Years succeeding the collapse of the Soviet Union and its communist system add to the story. A review of economic warfare completes the picture.

The chart describes major and local wars from 1946 to 2019 with the following criteria:

  • Major wars (shown in red) consider engagements by one or more huge armies, a result of significant importance, and/or extensive casualties.
  • Local wars are confined to civil wars/uprisings outside of the nation (shown in green) and military interventions by one nation in another nation (shown in brown).
  • Only offensive wars, in which a NATO nation fought or which a Soviet bloc (Warsaw Pact or China) fought, are considered.
  • )The Middle East wars between Israel and its neighbors, the Iraq war against ISIS, the Syrian War, and the Falkland Island war, where great Britain defended itself against an Argentinian invasion, are not included.
  • Documenting wars fought by the major capitalist nations after the decline of the Soviet Union in 1991 adds information to their roles in hostile actions.
  • China is included in the Socialist Bloc, but, because it operated independently from the Warsaw pact, its wars are independently summarized.

Peruse the chart, absorb the immense scale of conflicts, and then read the summary.

Summary

Communist Bloc

(1) The Soviet Union fought wars with Afghanistan and China. In the Afghanistan war, the Soviets intended to maintain a communist and friendly government. The China conflict resolved a long-lingering border dispute.
(2) In major wars, where both the United States and Soviet Union intervened — Korea and Vietnam — the Soviets mainly supplied weapons and aircraft. By not committing ground troops, the Soviet Union tempered its aggressive nature in the conflicts and had few casualties.
(3) Warsaw Pact allies interfered in the uprisings of two countries — Hungry, and Czechoslovakia — both of which were in the Warsaw Pact and the Socialist orbit.
(4) The Soviet Union and Cuba interfered in one civil strife outside of the recognized Warsaw Pact sphere of influence — Angola — and supported one faction in that Civil War

China

(1) China fought several major wars — Tibet, Sino/Vietnam, Sino/Indian, and Sino/Soviet. In the Sino/Vietnam war, China invaded Vietnam in retaliation to Vietnam’s aggression against Cambodia. The two latter conflicts were long-simmering border wars with neighboring nations. In the Tibet invasion and annexation, China claimed a historical attachment of Tibet to China. More likely. China took advantage of a weak Tibet and incorporated it to prevent Tibet from allying with a nation that was antagonistic to China — India or the United States. The wars and annexation did not involve the Soviet bloc.
(2) The Chinese military entered the Korean War after U.S. troops moved close to the Yalu River, which is a natural border with China. China dedicated a massive number of ground troops to the campaign.
(3) China assisted North Vietnam with war materials and construction manpower in the early years of the war, which stopped entirely after the Soviet Union made similar commitments to the North Vietnamese.

Capitalist Bloc

(1) In major hostilities, the United States allies (France and Great Britain) initiated the Suez war against Egypt after Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal (U.S. President Eisenhower resolved the conflict in favor of Egypt), the United States and allies initiated and fought with military might in the 1st Gulf war with Iraq after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, and the U.S. air force engaged in extensive bombings of the Libyan capital in response to suspected Libyan attacks on U.S. civilians and off-duty troops.
(2) The United States and its allies intervened, with all military might, in the Korean and Vietnam civil wars. In both wars, which had massive casualties, U.S. miliktary dominated the fighting by the coalition forces.
(3) In another major war — between Iraq and Iran — U.S. participation was mainly logistic and patrol of the adjacent seas. Although the U.S. sold arms to Iran, in an arms for hostages deal, assistance to Iraq and hostile actions, such as the downing of an Iranian passenger plane, caused damage and loss of life to the Iranians.
(4) U.S., and/or its western allies interfered in civil strifes and uprisings in Indo-China (France), Kenya (Great Britain), Angola (U.S.), Algeria (France), Nicaragua (U.S.), Salvador (U.S.), Congo (U.S. and Belgium). and Chad (France),
(5) U.S. intervened to replace governments in Cuba, Guatemala, Chile, Grenada, Dominican Republic, Panama, and Brazil.
(6) U.S. covertly assisted the Afghan Mujahideen through Pakistan intelligence. Result of Afghan-Russian war — rise of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda and installation of Taliban regime.

After the Breakup of the Soviet Union

(1) Citing humanitarian reasons, U.S. and NATO intervened in the Libyan, Bosnian and Kosovo conflicts, providing aerial bombardments that determined the outcomes of these conflicts. At no time was either Yugoslavia or Libya a threat to the U.S. or any NATO nation.
(2) Based on purposefully misdirected intelligence, the U.S. invaded Iraq and replaced the Saddam Hussein regime.
(3) After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the United States, with NATO assistance, invaded Afghanistan, replaced the Taliban regime and started a protracted civil war.
(4) A U.S. humanitarian mission turned into battles with militias in Somalia.
(5) U.S. military sales to Saudi Arabia and logistic assistance have enabled the Saudi Kingdom to pulverize the Yemenite Houthi population.

Economic warfare

Economic warfare must be considered equal to military war. Warfare is visualized in terms of dead soldiers, battlefield blood, eerie noises, and bombed-out structures. Warfare can be silent and still be deadly. The country that takes the offense becomes the aggressor, and the destruction to the defending state is equally brutal. In most cases, the economic war is a one sided battle; the civilian population of the defending nation suffers greatly and the aggressor country suffers few losses.

The communist Soviet Bloc did not engage in any economic warfare.

Since World War II, the United States embargoed and sanctioned more than 35 countries in economic warfares. Start with Iran; then wander around the map to Libya, Nicaragua, Burma, Sudan, Iraq, Cuba, Liberia, North Korea, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Yugoslavia and other countries. Economic warfare, of which sanctions are one part, intentionally reduces living standards and promotes starvation. By starving and debilitating a population in order to gain economic or political advantage, economic warfare is a major crime and a form of terrorism.

The most punishing sanctions by the United States, until the 2012 sanctions against Iran, had been against Cuba, North Korea, and Iraq. Iran has replaced Saddam Hussein’s Iraq as the most sanctioned nation on the globe.

Conclusions

The results of the analysis indicate that Socialist nations are not immune to engaging in war. However, the engagements were minimal and not intended to increase their hegemony. In one virulent war, the Soviet Union tried to maintain another nation — Afghanistan — in its orbit, and caused severe consequences to itself. The Soviet Bloc militarily assisted other communist nations in distress — North Korea, North Vietnam, Cuba, and Angola — but did not participate with its soldiers in the ground wars. Interferences in uprisings of other nations were localized to nations of the Warsaw Pact — Hungary and Czechoslovakia. The Socialist Bloc never intervened beyond its borders to convince newly struggling nations to become socialist or tried to overthrow existing governments.

China acted as an aggressor in several wars, but not as part of adventure by the Socialist Bloc. Operating independently, China seized opportunities to satisfy historical grievances, or, in the case of the Korean War, defend itself against incursion upon its territory. Although reports have China’s leader, Mao Zedong, determined to have a “people’s war” within the pan-Asian Communist movement, no such conflicts ever occurred. China assisted the Vietnamese in the Indo-china war and supplied armaments and manpower for logistical support during the early years of the Vietnam War.

Claiming protection of interest, which were mainly economic and political, the Capitalist western nations went beyond their borders and homeland security interests and, often with apparent ease that eschewed compromise and diplomacy, initiated several violent and catastrophic wars — 1st Gulf, Vietnam, and Suez wars. In the Korean War, the United States and its allies invoked the UN charter. However, the intensity of the war, which went beyond containment, and its inconclusive resolution have clouded U.S. original intentions in fighting the war. Less violent, but more characteristic of capitalist western intentions were the many suppressions of uprisings and interferences in civil wars — Indo-China, Algeria, Kenya, Nicaragua, Angola, Salvador and Chad. Allied to the interferences were several interventions that either intended or succeeded overthrowing existing and legitimate governments and replacing them with leaders favorable to American political and economic interests — Cuba, Guatemala, Chile, Grenada, Dominican Republic, Panama, and Brazil.

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Capitalist western nations displayed a militant and aggressive attitude that showed the Cold War was often used as an excuse for unrelated hostilities. As summarized previously. (1) U.S. battles with Somali militia, (2) U.S./NATO intervention that provided substantial air force attacks and determined the outcomes of the Libyan, Bosnian and Kosovo conflicts, (3) intention of subduing Osama bin laden and al-Qaeda after the 9/11 attack on American soil turning into a violent civil war that has lasted almost 20 years, (4) U.S. unnecessary invasion and occupation of Iraq, which caused a huge amount of casualties and destruction, and (5) U.S. support for Saudi Arabia, which has enabled the Saudi Kingdom to pulverize the Yemenite Houthi population, all point to a capitalism that will not exist without waging war. Add to the mix, the economic warfare that has decimated populations and the question “Does Capitalism Mean War?” leans to a positive response.

Not being definite arises from being unsure if it is the capitalist world waging war or only a temporary world power, United States. Well, France has continually interfered in African nations to protect its interests and NATO has subdued nations that contested western hegemony, and brought its forces to the border of an antagonist Russia. We may question if war is endemic to humanity and what would have occurred if the Socialist Bloc had been victorious in the Cold War and subdued the capitalist nations? Would the head honchos of the Socialist system behave aggressively to maintain their version of world order? The analysis, based on interpretation of events, provides a possible answer to the question, “Does capitalism mean war?” Logic reinforces a positive reply and answers the other questions.

The Socialist nations run on scarcity, which prevents them from engaging in damaging economic warfare. Because their production capability is limited by material and human resources, armaments, defense budgets, and foreign wars exhaust their resources and are not compatible with their operation. Honest Socialism, which is the only Socialism – perhaps ideal — is based on respect for sovereignty and fair trade.

Capitalist nations run on surplus, on capital eager to feed machines. If they can obtain the material resources, they can grow their economies and augment the markets to export the surplus. Military defense expenditures create jobs that relieve unemployment, heighten a profitable industry, and supply the muscle that captures resources and markets, and silences those who contest hegemony and protest against a dictated world order. .

Capitalism has benefits of more properly allocating resources and motivating workers, elements that enable it to recover from sputtering recessions, develop more rapidly and to greater limits. Socialism has elements of a more peaceful system that trudges slowly in a progressive direction, hampered by a bureaucratic led work force that is less able to organize itself at optimum efficiency. However, do the advantaged citizens in the Capitalist systems realize that their benefits may result from derogatory effects to others, from physical and economic wars that caused havoc throughout the world?

Should the expression, “Better Dead than Red” be replaced by “Better to Exist than be Capitalist?” or “Don’t Get Your Fill by Having to Kill

How Lies Become “Facts” in U.S. “News”

On Fox News Channel’s May 2nd edition of “The Story with Martha MacCallum” was alleged, by the program host (at 2:45 in this video), that one reason we must invade Venezuela (if we will) is that “People have lost 24 pounds” there. So (her point was), if we invade, that’s not evil, it’s no coup, but instead it’s humanitarian (presumably like it was in Iraq in 2003, when we invaded that country, which likewise had never invaded nor threatened to invade the United States — it was raw international aggression, by our country, against Iraq).

Individuals who fall for a liar once, will typically fall for that liar again and again, without limit, because they are (for whatever reason) prejudiced to trust him. But is this attempt, at “regime change” in Venezuela, yet another example of that, or might it instead really be the case (this time) that (as this Fox host implies) to invade Venezuela will help the people there (gain back that lost weight, etc.), not kill many of them and destroy their nation even worse than it already was?

So, I checked online, to find what the source was, if any, for this stunning allegation by the Fox News host. After all, such a steep weight-loss for an entire nation would be shocking.

If, indeed, the allegation has a scientifically trustworthy source, then there exists, somewhere, a rigorously done, statistically sound, empirical study of thousands of Venezuelans’ body-weights, in which each one of those individuals has been weighed, not only once, but twice, separated in time by two specific years, so that there exists a credible “before” weight, and “after” weight, to compare, in each one of these many individual cases, such that the study found that the average Venezuelan lost 24 pounds during that before-after time-period. The sample-size has to be large enough, and the sampling-method has to be randomized enough, so that the result will meet the standards of statistical reliability in order to be able to represent the entirety of the Venezuelan population. Many thousands of such scientific studies are, in fact, published each and every year, and it might have been done regarding the body-weights of Venezuelans. However, otherwise (that is, if this was not done regarding Venezuelans’ body-weights), then that Fox News host was either lying, or else deceived by other people, in order for her to have made this remarkable statement. One, or else the other, is the case, here — either such a study was done, or else it wasn’t — so: which of those two options occurred, in this particular instance? Let’s see:

She might have received this ‘fact’ which she had stated, from any of many sources that are online:

Just a few days prior to that show, National Review had headlined, on 30 April 2019, “The Economics of Tyranny in Venezuela“, and reported “The real-life consequences of Chavismo’s misguided policies are telling: Venezuelans lost an average of 24 pounds in the year 2017.”

That linked to the 24 January 2019 Council on Foreign Relations article “Venezuela: The Rise and Fall of a Petrostate, which said that Venezuela has “a devastating humanitarian crisis, with severe shortages of basic goods, such as food and medical supplies. In 2017, Venezuelans lost an average of twenty-four pounds in body weight.”

That, in turn, linked to a 21 February 2018 Reuters article, “Venezuelans report big weight losses in 2017 as hunger hits, which opened:

Venezuelans reported losing on average 11 kilograms (24 lbs) in body weight last year and almost 90 percent now live in poverty, according to a new university study on the impact of a devastating economic crisis and food shortages.
The annual survey, published on Wednesday by three universities, is one of the most closely-followed assessments of Venezuelans’ well being amid a government information vacuum and shows a steady rise in poverty and hunger in recent years.

Over 60 percent of Venezuelans surveyed said that during the previous three months they had woken up hungry because they did not have enough money to buy food. About a quarter of the population was eating two or less meals a day, the study showed.

Last year, the three universities found that Venezuelans said they had lost an average of 8 kilograms during 2016. This time, the study’s dozen investigators surveyed 6,168 Venezuelans between the ages of 20 and 65 across the country of 30 million people. …

“Income is being pulverized,” Maria Ponce, one of the study’s investigators, told a news conference at the Andres Bello Catholic University.

She was the only cited source. So, on May 3rd, I googled

“Maria Ponce” https://www.ucab.edu.ve/ “Universidad Católica Andrés Bello” and found https://ucab.academia.edu/MariaPonce

That indicated she had done “11 papers” and the most promising to be the one was at the very top:

https://www.academia.edu/38305342/Informe-PobrezaISBN-2017.pdf

I did there a “Find” for the number alleged in the Reuters article to have been the sample-size, “6,168” because if this document does, in fact, report any such study, then that number would need to be shown somewhere in it. I got “0” finds. So, this paper can’t be the basis for the assertion.

The only other promising prospect was here:

That one too didn’t include “6,168”. However, it did give her full name: “María Gabriela Ponce Zubillaga” which I then googled. The only promising find I could see there was this and that too lacked “6,168”.

Also, at the University itself, there is one paper shown from her, but it’s dated 2013.

None of the works from her is actually dated after 2015, and so there is a mystery as to why the only “study” by her which contained such internationally influential ‘findings’ has not been included by her in what she has uploaded to the Web or has otherwise been made public (except as ‘summarized’ in that Reuters article).

Also of interest is that a 2017 publication, which mentions her name, but which has no article from her, shows on its page 204, “Gráfica 14. Coeficiente de Gini. Venezuela. 2000-2015” or the year-by year economic-inequality coefficient or “Gini” for Venezuela, throughout the period 2000 to 2015, and this coefficient plunged during that period, to reach in 2015 “0.381” — which was one of the world’s lowest, which means that Venezuela had one of the world’s most equal distributions of incomes then — and this is an astounding performance, because in 2002 Venezuela’s was near the global average, 0.50. If that is true, then Venezuela’s Government has at least this important economic achievement to be proud of. (Hugo Chavez became President in 1999, and was replaced by Nicolas Maduro when Chavez died in 2013. The U.S. regime attempted many coups against both, but the present effort is the most serious one yet.)

Furthermore, Ponce’s online-posted CV shows no publications from her after 2015.

So, I contacted her and left her this message plus my email-address so that she could respond:

EZ Eric Zuesse

Please email me the alleged February 2018 study documenting that Venezuelans lost an average of 24 pounds due to the economic troubles. 

It has been six days now with no response. If I ever hear back from her, or from anyone who is associated with that alleged ‘study’, then I shall do a follow-up news-report on the matter.

America’s media-watchdog FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) headlined on 30 April 2019 “Zero Percent of Elite Commentators Oppose Regime Change in Venezuela“, and reported (and documented) that “Over a three-month period (1/15/19–4/15/19), zero opinion pieces in the New York Times and Washington Post took an anti–regime change or pro-Maduro/Chavista position. Not a single commentator on the big three Sunday morning talk shows or PBS NewsHour came out against President Nicolás Maduro stepping down from the Venezuelan government.”  This lengthy study of hundreds of news-commentaries closed by saying: “When it comes to advocating the overthrow of the US government’s foreign undesirables, you can always count on opinion pages to represent all sides of why it’s a good thing. And the millions of people who beg to differ? Well, they’re just out of the question.”

So, though the present news-report is being distributed to all of America’s national news-media, for them to publish freely, they’ve already made clear that at least none of the ones that have large audiences will publish it. They know the truth, just as you do (now, at least), but they aren’t in the truth-business — they only pretend to be (just as they pretend to report ‘the news’, instead of the the carefully filtered propaganda).

Polls show that Americans want bipartisan government. But both of the political parties are funded by billionaires, and all billionaires are neoconservatives — supporters of extending the U.S. empire — because it’s their empire, and because none of them is actually satisfied with how large it already is. So: they hire the writers for, and the candidates of, both political parties, to help them make it even bigger, ceaselessly. So, if you don’t see this article published in the pages of the New York Times, Washington Post, etc., you know why: they’re working to keep ‘fake news’ out, and to report only the real propaganda, the authorized propaganda — the propaganda that those billionaires want to be spread.

And this also explains that interview on Fox News Channel’s May 2nd edition of “The Story with Martha MacCallum. It also explains why Trump could say there (at 0:19) — and be unchallenged for saying — “It is, from a constitutional standpoint, it’s the way it’s supposed to be. He [Guaido] was elected,” though everything in that statement is absurdly false; and this is also the reason why, later (at 3:05), the host, MacCallum, seconded that lie, by asserting that the actually merely self-proclaimed ‘interim President of Venezuela’, Guaido, is what “the people of Venezuela, what they democratically voted for,” though the only voters who ever actually voted for him were the majority of voters in merely Vargas, which is one of Venezuela’s 23 states. Guaido has never been in any national Venezuelan election (but only that local one) — not against Maduro, not against anyone else. Yet, the U.S. regime is trying to impose him upon the entire Venezuelan people, and Trump even claims that Guaido had won a national election.

Mr. Guaido, in 2016, was elected by the residents of Vargas to become its Representative in the nation’s unicameral legislature, the National Assembly, and never yet has faced any  national Venezuelan election, on anything. His record in national public office is therefore almost non-existent; but, within the National Assembly itself, he nonetheless rose (due to his long-time backing by the U.S. regime) immediately to become elected by its members, as the President of that body, the National Assembly. In other words, he was appointed, by the national legislature, immediately after having been elected solely by, and solely to represent, the residents of the state of Vargas. If he were to become installed as ‘interim President’ of the nation, it would be with no clear record on national issues. And it would be with no vote by the national electorate.

Vargas, one of Venezuela’s poorest states, was predominantly socialist, so Guaido had pretended to be socialist; and he won that local office on that fraudulent basis; but, once in office, he became immediately fascist. He was behaving in accord with his being a perfect CIA asset, to take over a democratic socialist country that the dictatorial capitalist U.S. regime wants to control. He is acting as a traitor to Venezuela, and certainly outside of and violating Venezuela’s Constitution. So, if he were to become Venezuela’s leader, that would be only by appointment on the part of the legislators, and not by any democratic election by the Venezuelan people, and it would also be in violation of Venezuela’s Supreme Judicial Tribunal, which is the only body that possesses the Constitutional authority to authorize the National Assembly to consider the possibility of appointing an interim President. (It didn’t do that; so, no one can possibly be “the interim President of Venezuela.”) All of what the U.S. regime and its supporters are demanding, stands in direct violation of Venezuela’s Constitution. The United States and its allies nonetheless demand it, and the U.S. regime says that “All options are on the table,” up to and including a U.S. invasion of Venezuela, in order to achieve their drastic and blatantly unConstitutional change-of-Government in Venezuela. Violating international law isn’t enough; they demand to shred Venezuela’s Constitution, too.

And the lie about “People have lost 24 pounds” can be understood only in this broader context of lies, and only by means of exposing and understanding the lies for what they are, instead of only by what they claim (which is what the liars and their press want the public to be fooled to believe).

Looking Through the Screen at the World’s Suffering

If you are really going to be free, you have to overcome the love of wealth and the fear of death.

— Martin Luther King, Jr. as quoted by Andrew Young in the documentary King in the Wilderness

Most people on this earth live on the edge of an abyss.  Life is a daily struggle to stay alive, to acquire enough to eat and drink, rudimentary health care, housing, and protection from murderous government forces, their various death-squads, and their economic vultures.  The gap between the rich and poor, while always great, has grown even more obscenely vast, and lies at the core of what so many face daily.  Their perilous conditions are sustained by imperial nations, led by the United States, who, together with its minions, buy and bribe and butcher overtly and covertly all around the world.  The love of wealth and the fear of death drive these power-mad marauders and divert the gazes of their citizens from the slaughter.  It’s an old story.

If you are reading this, I am probably not telling you anything new.  You know this, as do I, as I sit safely behind a screened-in table on a beautiful spring day in the hills of western Massachusetts.  I have had some soup and bread for lunch and there are no bombers overhead or death-squads cruising the roads here.  While my family and I live a simple life, compared to the world’s poor and persecuted, we are privileged.  One does not have to be rich to be privileged.  The advantages granted to those like me who can securely sit and pen words about the fate of the poor and persecuted victims of my country’s endless violence weighs heavy on my conscience, as they have done since I was young.

I am ashamed to say that in the early morning of May 1, as I lay in bed musing, I thought I would like to stay in bed all day, a depressed feeling that I had never had before.  Discouragement enveloped me: I was being forced out of my teaching job; I felt that my dissident writing and teaching made no difference in a world where injustice and violence are endemic and without end; and the forces of evil seemed to be triumphing everywhere.  Self-pity mixed with an angry sadness that disgusted me. I disgusted myself.  So I jumped out of bed and prepared to go and teach some of my last classes.  But I was lost in gloom as I drove along the winding roads.

When I arrived at the college and checked my mail, there was a package waiting for me.  It was a review copy of the poet Carolyn Forché’s startling new memoir (What You Have Heard Is True: A Memoir of Witness and Resistance) about her youthful transformative experiences in El Salvador in the late 1970s as U.S. trained and supported death-squads brutally murdered poor peasants and priests, and guerrilla resistance was growing prior to the outbreak of civil war.  I opened the book to the epigraph, which reads:

Hope also nourishes us.  Not the hope of fools.  The other kind.  Hope, when everything is clear.
Awareness.

The quotation is from the Salvadorian writer Manlio Argueta, whose deeply moving novel, One Day of Life (1980), banned by the Salvadorian government, takes the reader through one terrifying and bloodstained day in the life of peasants struggling to stay alive as they are tortured and slaughtered with impunity.  We hear the voices of the poor tell a story of the growth of conscience (“God is conscience.  And conscience is we, the ones forgotten now, the poor.”), the discovery of rights, and the awareness of exploitation.  Despite the terrifying evil that pervades this book – now considered one of the greatest Latin American novels of the 20th century – there is a luminous spirit of hope and resistance that miraculously prevails that is passed on from person to person despite death, torture, and immense suffering.  Argueta fulfills the words of the tortured Jose to Lupe: “Don’t worry, if those of us with understanding failed to act, we would all be in real trouble.”

I remembered that I had reviewed this book in the early 1980s at a time when 100 or more very poor campesinos were being murdered every week, a few years after Archbishop Oscar Romero, the courageous defender of the poor who spoke out against the killers, had been gunned down while saying Mass.  The Roman Catholic Church has subsequently declared him a saint.

Yet decades later, despite the extraordinary efforts of awakened souls like Carolyn Forché, it still seems true that Americans can’t visualize, no less believe in or care about, the death and suffering their government is inflicting on innocent people all around the world.  Today’s screen culture – I Phone therefore I Am – while seemingly allowing for the visualization of the suffering of the world’s poor, has rendered all reality more abstract and unreal, while inducing a collective hallucination sustained by media and machines that divorces us from flesh and blood, our own and others.  All the disembodied data that is daily disgorged through these screens seems to me to have rendered the world disincarnate through the metastasizing of a digital dementia tied to death denial.

I think of Galway Kinnell’s poem, “The Fundamental Project of Technology”:

To de-animalize human mentality, to purge it of obsolete,
Evolutionary characteristics, in particular of death,
Which foreknowledge terrorizes the content of skulls with,
Is the fundamental project of technology; however,
pseudologica fantastica’s mechanisms require:
to establish deathlessness it is necessary to eliminate those who die;
a task attempted when a white light flashed.

Awareness?  I sit here looking through the screen that encloses the little porch where my table rests.  MLK’s words reverberate in my mind as I watch a grey fox slink across the grass in search of prey.  What is it about the love of money and the fear of death that so cripples people’s care and compassion?  I know I don’t want to see that fox seize a screaming rabbit and worry (to kill by biting and shaking the throat; strangle) it to death.  Unlike Forché, I have not physically seen the dead and mutilated bodies of Salvadorian victims of death squads, nor been threatened by them, as she was.  Nevertheless, thanks to her and others like Manlio Argueta, I have seen them in my imagination and heard the screams, and they have haunted me.  Ghosts.

But why are some so haunted and others not?

The foreknowledge that terrorizes the contents of skulls, as Kinnell puts it – our ultimate powerlessness – overwhelms humans from childhood unless they can find a way forward that discovers power in powerlessness.  When one’s “well-being” is dependent on the death of others, as is the case for most Americans and others in the so-called first world, people tend to repress the terror of death by building various types of culturally-induced defenses that allow them to shakily believe they are in control of life and death.  One’s natural impotence is then hidden within what Ernest Becker called “the vital lie of character,” and in what, by extension, is the lie of American character that rests on money and military might.

One lives within the manageable cultural world that helps blot out existential awareness by offering various social games, agreed forms of “madness” that narcotize.  One learns to adjust, to use all sorts of techniques to blot out the awareness that each of us is essentially exposed and mortal, flesh and blood.  The aim is clearly to cut life down to manageable proportions, domesticate terror, and learn to think we are captains of our fate.  Inevitably, however, not all these social “tricks” work equally well.  Life’s terrors have a way of breaking through to dim awareness, and therefore more drastic measures are needed.  So after having lived the cultural lie uncritically, one tries to blot out awareness itself.  If shopping to forget doesn’t work, if obsessive work doesn’t do it, one turns to drugs or drink, anything to forget, anything to assuage our fears, anything to deny our need for courage.  Anything to help us refuse the truth that our lives are built on the blood of others.

The ineluctable reality of uncertainty is our fate. I have always known that, but I forget.  I have also long known that we live by faith of one kind or another, and whatever name we give it, it is by faith we enter into the holy mystery of existence.  We are carried forward by the spirit that binds us in solidarity to all human struggles for freedom and dignity, for bread and justice. The day I wished to stay in bed and wallow in self-pity and depression came as a shock to me.  It revealed to me my hubris, my sense of self-importance, as if my efforts were not just a drop in the sea, seeds scattered that may or may not take root.  I was afraid to accept possible defeat, despite my best efforts.  I was afraid of death and lacked courage.  Like those I criticize for turning their faces away from the suffering faces of America’s victims, I lost my courage that morning in bed.  And hope.

But later that day I would awaken and see through the screen of my self-importance when I leafed through Carolyn Forché’s book and chanced upon her quoting Fr. Romero’s words: “We must hope without hoping.  We must hope when we have no hope.”

Then her poem “Ourselves or Nothing” bubbled up in memory:

There is a cyclone fence between
Ourselves and the slaughter and behind it
We hover in a calm protected world like
Netted fish, exactly like netted fish.
It is either the beginning or the end
Of the world, and the choice is ourselves or nothing.

Priest and poet reminding us to fight lucidly on.  Hope when everything is clear.  Awareness.