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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 psychological need for security is important.  The people who formulate our politic know that can can often use our natural tendencies to gain our acceptance of polices that make little sense, from a strictly rational point of view.  Border walls and the many issues that surround them occupy this idealized territory as the amount of actual security provided is quite limited, but the psychological return on investment is huge. Eric Schewe writing at The JSTOR daily site looks into this feature of the walls we build, ostensibly to protect ourselves:

 

In this column, I’ve explored the idea that security ideology creates a mirror version of the world around us. Beyond any specific technology or procedure, security “works” when it makes us believe that it solves an identified problem. This is not to deny the real risks of death or injury as a result of terrorism—but only to point out that satisfying beliefs is security’s highest priority. This is why we have spent billions of dollars and uncountable hours on security theater although terrorists have killed only sixty-five Americans per year since 2002. Terrorism receives a disproportionate amount of news coverage compared to say, car accidents, which kill tens of thousands of Americans every year.

The American political system is now seized by conflict over the symbolic threat of illegal immigration. President Trump has proposed an equally symbolic solution—building a bigger border wall. Interestingly, while vilifying illegal immigrants to his supporters as violent criminals, he has not penalized the industries that rely on their labor. After settling the budget standoff that shuttered the federal government for a month, he declared a national emergency to fund wall construction, although he immediately admitted there was no emergency—that he “didn’t need to do this.”

[..]

Every border wall has a particular historical context behind its creation. Yet they all announce the same message to the world: Our diplomatic and economic relationships with our neighbors have failed, and we are unwilling to repair them.

I’m in agreement with Eric’s conclusion.  Wall are indeed a testament to our failures.

 

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.

 

It doesn’t really matter who is at the helm in the US, the foreign policy remains the same.  Central/South America has been deemed within the sphere of influence of the United States and states resisting vassal status are punished for their crimes.

I’m guilty of not looking past the news coverage on this one was getting the impression that Maduro was not only suspect in this leadership of the country, but that his election was somehow illegitimate.  However the electoral system in Venezuela is quite doing well and possesses a fair amount of resiliency, if we are to take the Carter Centre’s word for it:

“Of the 92 elections that we’ve monitored,” said former President Jimmy Carter, whose Carter Centre is a respected monitor of elections around the world, “I would say the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world.” By way of contrast, said Carter, the US election system, with its emphasis on campaign money, “is one of the worst”.

The picture presented to us by more mainstream media doesn’t seem to reflect the Carter Centre’s statement.  There are other incongruities in coverage as well as evinced by much of what John Pilger writes in his article on Counterpunch.

“A war has been declared on Venezuela, of which the truth is “too difficult” to report.

It is too difficult to report the collapse of oil prices since 2014 as largely the result of criminal machinations by Wall Street. It is too difficult to report the blocking of Venezuela’s access to the US-dominated international financial system as sabotage. It is too difficult to report Washington’s “sanctions” against Venezuela, which have caused the loss of at least $6billion in Venezuela’s revenue since 2017, including  $2billion worth of imported medicines, as illegal, or the Bank of England’s refusal to return Venezuela’s gold reserves as an act of piracy.

The former United Nations Rapporteur, Alfred de Zayas, has likened this to a “medieval siege” designed “to bring countries to their knees”. It is a criminal assault, he says. It is similar to that faced by Salvador Allende in 1970 when President Richard Nixon and his equivalent of John Bolton, Henry Kissinger, set out to “make the economy [of Chile] scream”. The long dark night of Pinochet followed.

The Guardian correspondent, Tom Phillips, has tweeted a picture of a cap on which the words in Spanish mean in local slang: “Make Venezuela fucking cool again.” The reporter as clown may be the final stage of much of mainstream journalism’s degeneration.

Should the CIA stooge Guaido and his white supremacists grab power, it will be the 68th overthrow of a sovereign government by the United States, most of them democracies. A fire sale of Venezuela’s utilities and mineral wealth will surely follow, along with the theft of the country’s oil, as outlined by John Bolton.

Under the last Washington controlled government in Caracas, poverty reached historic proportions. There was no healthcare for those could not pay. There was no universal education”

The situation in Venezuela is indeed looking grim.  We are being misdirected (again) as to how and why events are unfolding as they are.   We not forget the lessons of Chile (1974) and should be wary of our media coverage that is filtered through the ideological lens of American foreign policy directives.

    Sometimes, it seems, my fellow Albertans can be quite the confused lot.  Actually no, that is wrong; we are not confused, just bi-polar.  In Alberta have this curious duality the runs the course of our electoral politics.  We want to be rugged, independent, self-made individuals with no interference from any level of government – private industry and unchecked capitalism is how we roll.

In the boom times…

The other identity like we like to periodically break out (and inflict on the rest of Canada) is the simple, hardworking Albertan who just can’t make ends meet and if the Government only understood our hardship and not alienate us with its ivory tower elitist policies and just HELP us (‘help’ is usually bailing out Big Business at the bottom of the business cycle).   We also have to feel persecuted and neglected at this time as the response from the people we’ve just been telling to f*ck off and leave us alone (during the boom years) are not jumping up and saving us as quickly as we’d like.

“Here it’s a very partisan response to a specific government that western conservatives really, really don’t like.” Smith said.”

[…]

“Smith said the movement in Canada targets the federal Liberal party and its actions toward the oil industry.

“No matter what they do in that sector, the Liberals seem to be criticized for not doing enough,” he said.

“It’s a pretty big stretch to suggest that a government that just bought a pipeline and is now passing over a billion dollars in support for oil or the oil sector is somehow anti-oil, but that’s the rhetoric that comes out of the conservative protests in Canada.”

So, we have these rugged small government loving individualists protesting to get more government intervention into the economy, not on their own behalf, but on the behalf of the oil companies.  The very same oil comapanies that continue to make generous profits and pay substantial dividends to shareholders:

“Lead author Ian Hussey said Suncor, CNRL, Cenovus, Imperial and Husky have remained “incredibly profitable corporations,” banking and paying out to shareholders $13.5 billion last year.

“There’s no question that the price crash had a major impact on the industry in Alberta, most importantly on the almost 20,000 workers who lost their jobs in 2015, but the Big Five are doing just fine,” Hussey said.

“As highly integrated multinationals — all with significant assets in the U.S. — they’ve been able to shift their operations in response to market conditions to ensure they remain profitable despite the issues that have been dominating the headlines in recent months.”

So, as usual, false populism renews its roots in Western Canada.  As our ruggedly bold individualist trek eastward to demand more government intervention favourable to the business elite in our society.

Of course no false populist movement is complete without xenophobia and racism.

“People who attended the rally in Regina on Saturday said they were against Trudeau, the carbon tax and Canada’s plan to endorse the United Nations’ migration pact — which outlines objectives for treating global migrants humanely and efficiently.

Victor Teece, a self-identified nationalist against globalization, said the migration agreement is “destructive to Canada as a nation.” Teece said he believes Canada’s identity is centred around European, Judeo-Christian values.

Smith said there is a concerning, “very loud” and “very disturbing message around anti-immigration” emerging within the Canadian rallies.”

Yeah.  If you didn’t know it, Canada has a huge immigration problem.  According to these people, not enough of the ‘right’ types of people are moving to Canada.  Quite disgusted with the whole rhetorical judeo-christian bullshit narrative.  The cultural mosaic that is Canada thrives on the diversity that people bring with them from across the world.

We are a multicultural nation.  The embarrassment that is this ‘Convoy Movement’ is a gift that inspires the nativist-nationalist right to creep out from the woodwork.  Given the example of the untrammelled false populism down south, this is a direction Canada should definitely avoid.

 

 

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