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Paul Street writing for Counterpunch illustrates the problems humanity faces as a whole and how completely useless our insular elites and mainstream media actually are. They would rather madly fiddle for short term profit than tackle the larger issues, namely the continued human habitationof the earth.

*edit* Poor sleep on the weekends shoots the hell out of my writing acumen.

“The 2020 elections and their aftermath (including the distinct possibility that Trump will refuse the Electoral tally) will not be irrelevant to the fate of the nation and the Earth.

But nothing matters more now than the existential environmental crises we face, with the climate disaster in the lead. There’s no chance for social justice, democracy, equality, creativity, art, love and community – or anything else (including profits) – on a dead planet.

Yes, the “Green New Deal” advocated by a cadre of progressive Democrats has made its way into media coverage and commentary in recent months. It appears that the GND – which includes welcome calls for net zero U.S. carbon emissions by 2030 – will be part of at least the primary election story thanks to Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Cortez-Ocasio, Jay Inslee, and other progressive or progressive-sounding Democrats. But don’t expect it to receive all that much attention (much less positive attention) in the dominant corporate media-politics complex. Serious discussion of the climate issue and environmental questions more broadly doesn’t serve broadcasters’ and advertisers’ bottom line interests. There is little chance that the climate crisis will remotely approach the Trump investigations and the already emergent 2020 presidential horse-race when it comes to garnering real media attention.

The reigning political and media “elite” is happy to keep capitalogenic global warming on the public margins until long past the last ecological tipping points are passed. They can be counted on them to fiddle and diddle through the species’ final, fossil-fueled flame-out. It is an existential necessity to create a new culture, media, and politics with the elementary natural and social intelligence required to properly prioritize the most pressing problems of our time.

The US has a funny notion of what is in its ‘backyard’.  It would be really wonderful if the citizens of the US would decry the economic terrorism being carried out on their behalf.

 

“The success of Chávez and Maduro’s governments in reducing poverty and inequality in Venezuela and their ability to lend aid to working people around the world pose a direct threat to the United States’ agenda. During the 14 years of Chávez’s presidency, the country experienced an average of 3.2 percent economic growth, increasing to 4.1 percent after Chávez took control of the state oil company, PDVSA, in 2004. The profits from the oil sector have been used to bolster social programs in areas such as housing, health, and education.

Programs such as the Comité Local de Abastecimiento y Producción (CLAP) and Plan de Atención a la Vulnerabilidad Nutricional provide 50,000 tons of food per month to 6 million Venezuelan families (compared to the measly 60 tons that could be purchased with the $20 million of aid offered by the United States). According to Mark Weisbrot and Luis Sandoval of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and other sources, inequality has decreased substantially compared to the pre-Chávez era.

It is true that Venezuela today is experiencing an economic crisis. But it is important to put the current reality in context with the pre-Chávez neoliberal era—which failed to provide basic services to the Venezuelan people even without the staunch opposition of the United States and its allies—and in the context of crushing economic sanctions and an economic war that has systematically denied the country access to credit and repeatedly staged a series of economic and political interventions.

Today, the U.S.-imposed sanctions alone cost Venezuela an estimated US$30 million per day. Under pressure from the U.S., the Bank of England has denied Venezuela access to $1.2 billion of gold stored there—money that could be used to provide medicine and aid to the Venezuelan people. While painting a picture of Maduro as a heartless dictator who refuses to provide aid to his people, the U.S. is simultaneously lobbying the Bank of England to deny Maduro access to crucial funds and instead turn Venezuela’s gold over to Guaidó.

Meanwhile, the United States has stationed military planes on the Colombian border carrying US$20 million worth of so-called humanitarian aid. Maduro, recognizing the history of humanitarianism as a trojan horse for intervention and the political motives behind the U.S.’s offer, has denied the aid. Even the United Nations and the Red Cross have refused to support the U.S. aid shipment, which they accuse of being politically motivated. In other words, if one is to take a step back and look at the bigger picture of the crisis in Venezuela, the missteps of Maduro’s administration pale in comparison to the impact of U.S. economic warfare.

In stark contrast to the United States’ foreign relations and stance on international aid, Venezuela has used its natural wealth to provide aid to working people around the world and to fund social programs domestically. In doing this, the country has set an example for what is possible if countries under the current grip of U.S. imperialist policies set out to stop the bleeding of their resources and wealth into the coffers of the United States and its allies and instead use their resources for the good of everyday people. It is an attempt toward what the late Egyptian Marxist Samir Amin would call “de-linking,” or “compelling imperialism to accept your conditions or part of those conditions [… and] to drive one’s own policy.”

American foreign policy seems to be carefully insulated from the majority of the American population.  I’m thinking that, outside the respective frenzied political bases, the general populace has little or no taste for international misadventures and the inevitable blowback that accompanies imperial meddling in the affairs of other states.  Yet here we be, because the venerated elite have decided that Venezuela’s impertinence (questioning and moving against the US sphere of influence in Central/South America) is distinctly unpalatable and, indeed, *something* must be done.

The kowtowing to this interventionialist narrative crosses party lines and speaks to the amount of power wielded by the power brokers that set the tone for US political discussion.  David Rosen writes:

“While the Republicans led the fictitious chant for a “hard coup,” the Democrats were divided, split over a “hard” vs a “soft” coup and – for a growing number — a “no” coup. Will Trump’s ham-fisted effort to topple Maduro split the Democratic Party?

***

South Florida’s three Democratic Congresswomen — Donna Shalala, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell – are among the strongest supporters of the administration’s campaign to overthrow the Maduro government.

Donna Shalala – a classic liberal, Pres. Bill Clinton’s formerSecretary of Health and Human Services and leading Hillary-for-president supporter – has taken an unequivocal stand: “And all of us are waiting to see what the military will do and to make sure that we send very clear messages of our support for the people of Venezuela, for the acting president as well as for military leaders that are prepared to step up and bring down the Maduro government.”

This no-nonsense interventionist position is shared by other Democrats, most notably the (undeclared) presidential candidate, Joe Biden, who said: “The international community must support Juan Guaidó and the National Assembly. It is time for Maduro to step aside and allow a democratic transition.” The declared candidate Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) shouted, “Maduro has to go.”

Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) has taken up Trump’s call to oust Maduro:

He [Guaidó] knows how much the Venezuelan people have suffered, how the Maduro regime bankrupted the nation and destroyed its democracy and its economy, and how desperate the people of his country are to rejoin the community of democracies.  I told him we in the United States stand ready to help, and the Venezuelan people need our help to rebuild their country’s democracy and economy and to help the millions of Venezuelan refugees safely return home.

Some Democratic presidential candidates seek cover in the “soft” coup approach.  A spokesperson forSen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) said she “supports working with our allies to recognize Juan Guaidó – who was legitimately elected – as the interim president under the Constitution until Venezuela can hold new elections.”  And Sen. Amy Klobuchar whimpered, “I support the people of Venezuela standing up against Maduro, installing a new leader, and restoring democracy in Venezuela.”

But those who appear to oppose a “hard” coup, including U.S. military intervention, don’t want to come out and say it explicitly. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), another undeclared presidential candidate, lambasted the Trump administration’s “loose talk of possible military intervention” as “reckless and irresponsible.”  But then fell back on the “free and fair elections” – or soft coup – stand.  “We should work with our allies and use economic, political and diplomatic leverage to help bring about free and fair elections, limit escalating tension, and ensure the safety of Americans on the ground,” he said.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), a declared presidential candidate, shares Brown’s half-hearted stand.  She has strongly opposed the use of sanctions and then intones: “The Venezuelan people deserve free and fair elections, an economy that works, and the ability to live without fear of violence from their own government.” Dah?

Unremarkably, the Democrats who take either a hard or soft position regarding a coup in Venezuela present themselves as “progressives.” In the good-old-days of American politics, say 2010, Democrats were “liberals,” “moderates” and – with rare exception – “radicals” (i.e., secret socialists, even Marxists). Unfortunately, today every Democrat claims to be a “progressive.”

A handful of Democrats have come out against U.S. intervention, no matter whether hard or soft.  Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), another declared president candidate, has taken the strongest, most unequivocal stand opposed to intervention.  She said, put simple: “The United States needs to stay out of Venezuela.”  She tweeted, rejecting Trump’s recognition of Guaidó as president: “Let the Venezuelan people determine their future. We don’t want other countries to choose our leaders — so we have to stop trying to choose theirs.”  Like no other politician, she went to heart of the issue, tweeting:“It’s about the oil … again,”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), a declared presidential candidate and self-declared democratic socialist, has been criticized for his rather wimpy stand on Venezuela.  However, he’s reframed Gabbard’s statement about the role of oil, recognizing the core driving force of U.S. imperialism.  “However, we must learn the lessons of the past and not be in the business of regime change or supporting coups – as we have in Chile, Guatemala, Brazil, and the Dominican Republic.”  Driving the point home, he insisted: “The United States has a long history of inappropriately intervening in Latin American countries; we must not go down that road again.”

Some critical voices are out there, but sadly, not enough to derail the interventionalist narrative that is dominating the discourse.

 

Paul Street writing at Counterpunch:

“Yellow vest-wearers demand real democracy – popular self-rule. They have called for a popular referendum whereby 700,000 citizen signatories would force the French Parliament to debate and vote on a law within one year.  There have been calls (evoking memories of the great French Revolution of 1789) for a Constituent Assembly to draft a new Constitution meant to create a new French government – a Sixth Republic based on popular sovereignty and majority rule, not the plutocratic commands of a de factocorporate-financial dictatorship.  Imagine!

Calls for Macron’s resignation have been prominent in Gilets Jaunes rhetoric and graffiti. Many, probably most French people want a new and genuinely democratic governmentnow, not on the ridiculously time-staggered scheduled imposed by an outdated Constitution.

Despite predictable attempts by the right to hijack the movement and notwithstanding an absence of coordination by Left parties or unions, France is experiencing a left-leaning popular and working-class uprising consistent with the French revolutionary tradition of “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity.”  It is not a neo-fascist or anti-immigrant or anti-environmental petit-bourgeois rebellion. As Mercier writes:

…. What the yellow vests of the Gilets Jaunes symbolizes is blue-collar workers, struggling retirees and students who revolt against the suits of the political class and CEOs. …The Gilets Jaunes movement is strictly horizontal, without a hierarchy or recognized leaders. It has, so far, refused to be hijacked by political parties: either the Rassemblement Nationale of Marine Le Pen on the far-Right, or La France Insoumise of Jean-Luc Melenchon on the Left. It has also rejected association with French labor unions. Without spelling it out, the Gilets Jaunes movement is anti-capitalist:a guttural revolt of the have-nots against the elite.It is a popular, not a populist, movement.Europeans and even American populist-nationalists are already distorting the Gilets Jaunes’ significance to serve their political agenda. As opposed to the rise of nationalism-populism elsewhere, such as in Italy, Austria, Hungary, the UK as expressed by BREXIT, the US, and Brazil with the election of Bolsonaro, the Gilets Jaunes do not have an anti-immigration or even an anti-EU agenda that reeks of racism and neofascism.…The Gilets Jaunes are in revolt against capitalism or neoliberalism, which is a worldwide system of concentration of wealth and power into a few hands. With our pending ecological collapse and vanishing biodiversity, capitalism has failed and is reaching its end game. Unlike the neofascist science deniers, the Gilets Jaunes perceive climate change as a crisis, but they say that it is hard to focus on a global ecological collapse when you live from paycheck to paycheck. They feel that they deal with the anxiety of putting food on the table at the end of the month while the rich talk about the end of the world. Thinking about humanity’s survival is hard to do on an empty stomach.”

The Gilets Jaunes have resisted the nativism of the nationalist right.  They have called  not for closed borders but rather for improved integration policies to help foreigners settle in France (language and civic education), for all foreign citizens working in France to have the same labor rights as French citizens, and for policies that address the causes of forced migrations.

The yellow vest uprising was/is no small development in a nation that is a leading nuclear power and one of just five permanent member of the United Nations Security Council!

You wouldn’t have known it from U.S. cable news last week or weekend, however. The chatterboxes on CNN, MSNBC, and FOX News could barely break from their week-long commemoration of the imperialist war criminal George H.W. Bush and their breathless reporting of the  latest developments in Bob Mueller RussiaGate investigation to give any serious attention to the momentous events in France.”

There may be hope for us yet.

Not really impressed with the whole ‘this is empowering’ crowd.

The need for security actions and endless wars is a self-justifying feature of the US economic and political landscape. The military industrial complex (MIC) is invested in all levels of American society and within the political realm. The MIC is not only good for business, but often it *is* the business providing jobs and civilian infrastructure back in Anytown USA. Certainly the products being made are for bringing death to people, usually brown, in far away lands but ethical concerns aside, everyone wins right?

The war in Oceania goes well.

The infinite war cycle is made possible only because we’ve changed what ‘victory’ looks like. These new victory conditions seem to work very will with the notion that war must remain a profitable endeavour for the American Empire. Nick Turse writes about how changing the conditions for a what a win looks like enables the system to cycle onward:

“Unlike in the Vietnam War years, three presidents and the Pentagon, unbothered by fiscal constraints, substantive congressional opposition, or a significant antiwar movement, have been effectively pursuing this strategy, which requires nothing more than a steady supply of troops, contractors, and other assorted camp followers; an endless parade of Senate-sanctioned commanders; and an annual outlay of hundreds of billions of dollars. By these standards, Donald Trump’s open-ended, timetable-free “Strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia” may prove to be the winningest war plan ever. As he described it:

“From now on, victory will have a clear definition: attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing al-Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan, and stopping mass terror attacks against America before they emerge.”

Think about that for a moment. Victory’s definition begins with “attacking our enemies” and ends with the prevention of possible terror attacks. Let me reiterate: “victory” is defined as “attacking our enemies.” Under President Trump’s strategy, it seems, every time the U.S. bombs or shells or shoots at a member of one of those 20-plus terror groups in Afghanistan, the U.S. is winning or, perhaps, has won. And this strategy is not specifically Afghan-centric. It can easily be applied to American warzones in the Middle East and Africa — anywhere, really.

Decades after the end of the Vietnam War, the U.S. military has finally solved the conundrum of how to “out-guerrilla the guerrilla.” And it couldn’t have been simpler. You just adopt the same definition of victory. As a result, a conventional army — at least the U.S. military — now loses only if it stops fighting. So long as unaccountable commanders wage benchmark-free wars without congressional constraint, the United States simply cannot lose. You can’t argue with the math. Call it the rule of 4,000,000,029,057.

That calculus and that sum also prove, quite clearly, that America’s beleaguered commander-in-chief has gotten a raw deal on his victory parade. With apologies to the American Legion, the U.S. military is now — under the new rules of warfare — triumphant and deserves the type of celebration proposed by President Trump. After almost two decades of warfare, the armed forces have lowered the bar for victory to the level of their enemy, the Taliban. What was once the mark of failure for a conventional army is now the benchmark for success. It’s a remarkable feat and deserving, at the very least, of furious flag-waving, ticker tape, and all the age-old trappings of victory.”

One of the small side problems of this MIC strategy is that the rest the ‘homeland’ society goes to shit while the arms makers and assorted war profiteers become obscenely wealthy, and then said obscene wealth is used to further distort the democratic system at home to better feed the MIC machine to make more war, and more profit and…

And once war with Oceania is done, the war in Eurasia can begin proper.

 

Much of the talk about the rule of law, at least in international politics seems to be but a mere convenience to be followed when international law happens to be in favour of a countries policies.  When it becomes inconvenient to the national policy or doctrine, then the rule of law becomes an obsolete antiquated legal fixture, or international meddling in a sovereign countries affairs.

The US is rather notorious for this dubious commitment to the international rule of law.

“The United States contempt for international law is neither new nor an aberration but a long standing tradition between both democrats and republicans in the United States.

In another stunning example of human rights abuse by the United States is the case of Khaled El-Masri. Who happened to have the misfortune of having the same name as a terror suspect. He was subsequently kidnapped, flown to Afghanistan and was tortured and sodomosied.(4)

“Masri’s treatment at Skopje airport at the hands of the CIA rendition team — being severely beaten, sodomised, shackled and hooded, and subjected to total sensory deprivation — had been carried out in the presence of state officials of [Macedonia] and within its jurisdiction,” the European Court of Human Rights ruled. (Idid.)

When the International Court of Justice ruled against the United States in 1986 in favour of Nicaragua and found the United States was guilty of many international laws and human rights violations it simply upped and walked away from the court. (5)

The US benches were empty when the court announced its decision. Among the Nicaraguan delegates was the Foreign Minister, Father Miguel d’Escoto, who said he hoped that the verdict would help the Americans to re-evaluate their position and stop defying the law and the court.

Dutch legal experts argue that the decision is legally binding on the US, despite the American refusal to recognise the court’s jurisdiction. One said: ‘The USA has always recognised the ICJ. It should have changed its position earlier if it wanted to duck the court in this case.

‘It is a well-known principle of international law that, if a country submits to the jurisdiction of a court, it cannot sidestep the court after the judges have started their work,’ a professor of international law at Amsterdam University said. (Ibid.)”

 

I’d like to live in a world where concepts such as the rule of law actually exist in a state where they applied equally to all parties involved.  The state of the world precludes this fair application of the rules at the moment and it should be taken into account when appeals to the ‘rule of law’ are made.

 

[Source:Counterpunch]

 

 

 

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