Archive for April, 2016

America’s Long Misguided War …

… to Control the Greater Middle East

by Charles Glass

The Intercept (April 23 2016)

Illustration: Selman Design

THE CONVICTION that invasion, bombing, and special forces benefit large swaths of the globe, while remaining consonant with a Platonic ideal of the national interest, runs deep in the American psyche. Like the poet Stevie Smith’s cat {1}, the United States “likes to gallop about doing good”. The cat attacks and misses, sometimes injuring itself, but does not give up. It asks, as the US should,



What’s the good
Of galloping about doing good
When angels stand in the path
And do not do as they should



Nothing undermines the American belief in military force. No matter how often its galloping about results in resentment and mayhem, the US gets up again to do good elsewhere. Failure to improve life in Vietnam, Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya stiffens the resolve to get it right next time. This notion prevails among politicized elements of the officer corps; much of the media, whether nominally liberal or conservative; the foreign policy elite recycled quadrennially between corporation-endowed think tanks and government; and most politicians on the national stage. For them and the public they influence, the question is less whether to deploy force than when, where, and how.

Since 1979, when the Iranians overthrew the Shah and the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, the US has concentrated its firepower in what former US Army colonel Andrew Bacevich calls the “Greater Middle East”. The region comprises most of what America’s imperial predecessors, the British, called the Near and Middle East, a vast zone from Pakistan west to Morocco. In his new book, America’s War for the Greater Middle East (2016), Bacevich writes,


From the end of World War Two until 1980, virtually no American soldiers were killed in action while serving in that region. Within a decade, a great shift occurred. Since 1990, virtually no American soldiers have been killed anywhere except the Greater Middle East.


That observation alone might prompt a less propagandized electorate to rebel against leaders who perpetuate policies that, while killing and maiming American soldiers, devastate the societies they touch.

Bacevich describes a loyal cadre of intellectuals and pundits favoring war after war, laying the moral ground for invasions and excusing them when they go wrong. He notes that in 1975, when American imperium was collapsing in Indochina, the guardians of American exceptionalism renewed their case for preserving the US as the exception to international law. An article by Robert Tucker in Commentary that year set the ball rolling with the proposition that “to insist that before using force one must exhaust all other remedies is little more than the functional equivalent of accepting chaos”. Another evangelist for military action, Miles Ignotus, wrote in Harper’s {2} two months later that the US with Israel’s help must prepare to seize Saudi Arabia’s oilfields. Miles Ignotus, Latin for “unknown soldier”, turned out to be the known civilian and Pentagon consultant Edward Luttwak. Luttwak urged a “revolution” in warfare doctrine toward “fast, light forces to penetrate the enemy’s vital centers” with Saudi Arabia a test case. The practical test would come, with results familiar to most of the world, 27 years later in Iraq.

The Pentagon, its pride and reputation wounded in Vietnam as surely as the bodies of 150,000 scarred American soldiers, was slow to take the hint. The end of compulsory military service robbed it of manpower for massive global intervention. Revelations of war crimes and political chicanery from the Senate’s Church Committee and the Pike Committee in the House added to public disenchantment with military adventures and intelligence meddling in other countries’ affairs. It would take years of effort to cure America of its “Vietnam Syndrome”, the preference for diplomatic before military solutions.

In the Middle East, President Gerald Ford saw no reason to rescind his predecessor’s policy, the Nixon Doctrine of reliance on local clients armed by the US to protect Persian Gulf oil for America’s gas-hungry consumers. Nothing much happened, though, until one of the local gendarmes, the Shah of Iran, fell to a popular revolution and the Soviets invaded Afghanistan.

Illustration: Selman Design

CHANGE CAME with the Carter Doctrine, enunciated in the president’s January 1980 State of the Union address:


An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and as such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.


Carter’s combative national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, wrote later, “The Carter Doctrine was modeled on the Truman Doctrine”. Bacevich comments that the Truman Doctrine of ostensibly containing the Soviet Union while absorbing the richer portions of the decolonizing French and British Empires “invited misinterpretation and misuse, with the Vietnam War one example of the consequences”. Carter’s doctrine, modified but not rescinded by his successors, led to similar consequences in Afghanistan and Iraq.

George W Bush took the Carter Doctrine to fresh lengths when he made the case, prepared for him by national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, for preventive war in a speech at the US Military Academy on June 1 2002: “If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long”. Bacevich quotes the Nuremberg court’s view of preventive war: “To initiate a war of aggression is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole”. After the failures to impose order in Afghanistan and Iraq, President Barack Obama rather than abandon the policy merely moved its emphasis from Iraq to Afghanistan without achieving any military or political objectives.

Bacevich, a West Point graduate and Vietnam veteran, while conceding his “undistinguished military career”, is more willing than most journalists to question the justice and utility of expanded military operations in the Middle East and to challenge the media-hyped reputations of some of America’s favorite generals, Stormin’ Norman Schwarzkopf, Colin Powell, Wesley Clark, and David Petraeus foremost. One general who comes out well in Bacevich’s assessment is British, Sir Michael Jackson, who resisted Wesley Clark’s order to block a runway at Pristina airport against Russian flights into Kosovo. His answer, worthy of General Anthony McAuliffe’s reply of “Nuts” to the German demand for surrender at Bastogne: “Sir, I’m not starting World War Three for you”.

This tour de force of a book covers the modern history of American warfare with sharp criticism of political decisions and rigorous analysis of battlefield strategy and tactics. As such, it should be required reading at the author’s alma mater. It would not hurt for those aspiring to succeed Barack Obama as commander-in-chief to dip into it as well. None of them, with the possible exception of Bernie Sanders, is likely to reject the worldview that led to so many deaths around the world. Watch for more military missions. Be prepared for more assassination by drone, of which even former Afghanistan commander General Stanley McChrystal said, “They are hated on a visceral level, even by people who’ve never seen one or seen the effects of one”. McChrystal pointed out that drone strikes are great recruiters, not for the US military, but for the Taliban, al Qaeda, and ISIS.

Ignoring Bacevich and heeding the call of the intellectual warmongers who guided Bush, Obama’s successor, like Stevie Smith’s cat, is likely “to go on being / A cat that likes to / Gallop about doing good”, expanding rather than limiting the projection of armed might into the Greater Middle East.





Charles Glass, former ABC News chief Middle East correspondent, recently published Syria Burning: A Short History of a Catastrophe (2016). Contact the author:

Categories: Uncategorized

Panama and the Criminalization of the Global Finance System

Michael Hudson interviewed

by Sharmini Peries

CounterPunch (April 18 2016)

SHARMINI PERIES:  Within a week the eleven million documents called the Panama papers, published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, has become a household name. The documents are connected to the Panama law firm Mossack Fonsesca that helped establish offshore accounts for some of the wealthiest and most powerful leaders to launder money and evade taxes.

On Tuesday the police in Panama raided the Mossack Fonseca law firm to search for more documents linked to illicit activities. But what are they expecting to find, since we have already known for some time now that offshore accounts are being used to evade taxes by the banking sector, essentially white-collar crooks, at institutions such as Credit Suisse and others? But who is really behind the creation of these mechanisms and loopholes for tax evasion?

Economist Michael Hudson says Panama was created as a tax haven by certain sectors of our economy for this purpose. Hudson is a distinguished research professor of economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, and he’s a former balance of payments economist for Chase Manhattan bank. He is the author of many books, and the latest among them is Killing the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Bondage Destroy the Global Economy (2016).

Michael, let’s begin with a short history of the creation of Panama and how it was bought from Colombia by the United States, and its relevance today vis-a-vis the Panama papers.

HUDSON: Well, Panama was basically carved off from Colombia in order to have a canal. It was created very much like Liberia. It’s not really a country in the sense that a country has its own currency and its own tax system. Panama uses US dollars. So does Liberia.

The real story didn’t come out in the Panama papers. Reporters naturally focused on criminal people laundering money. But Panama wasn’t designed to launder money. It was designed to launder earnings – mainly by the oil and the gas industries, and the mining industry.

Panama and Liberia were long noted as having “flags of convenience”. Oil tankers and mineral ships would register themselves under the flags of Panama or Liberia, or some other country that used the US dollar, not its own local currency.

I first found out about this about forty years ago, when I was doing a study of the balance of payments of the oil industry. I went to Standard Oil, whose treasurer walked me through their balance sheet. I said, I can’t figure out whether Standard Oil and the other oil companies make their money at the producing end of oil, or at the distributing end of refining and selling it. And he said, “We make our earnings right here in New York, in the Treasurer’s office”. I asked what he meant He explained: “We sell the oil that we buy from Saudi Arabia or the Near East at very low prices to the tanker company that’s registered in Panama or Liberia”. They don’t have an income tax in their country, because they’re not a real country. The oil companies then sell the crude oil to downstream distributors in the United States or Europe – at a very, very high markup.

The markup is so high that there’s no room for profit to be made at all in refineries or gas stations selling the oil. So the oil companies don’t pay the tax collector in Europe anything. They don’t pay the American government an income tax either. All their earnings are reported as being made in the tankers, which are registered in countries that don’t tax income.

I told him that I had looked at the balance-of-payments reports from the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Bulletin. I see here’s Europe, here’s Latin America, here’s Africa and Asia. I can’t find where the profit remittances are.

He told me to look at the very last line on the right hand of the country tables. It’s called “International”. I asked whether all these countries in Europe and elsewhere were international. He explained to me that “International” was a special category for what was really part of the United States abroad. They’re the offshore banking centers – Panama, Liberia, et cetera.

So I found out that basically Panama, and hence Panamanian companies, were set up initially to register oil tankers and mineral ships in order to give the appearance of taking all of their profits on the transporting the oil, or the copper or other minerals, from third world countries to the United States and Europe.

The United States went along with this. This made the oil industry tax exempt really since the 1920s. When the income tax was created in 1913 or 1914, it was intended to capture economic rents. But the big rent extractors, oil and gas and minerals, got away with avoidance.

PERIES: Michael, you indicated in one of your articles that you were approached by a State Department operative in 1967. Tell us more about that experience.

HUDSON: It was from a former State Department person who had gone to work for Chase. The problem that America had in the 1960s was the Vietnam War. The entire balance-of-payments deficit of the United States in the 1950s and the 1960s, right down to the early 1970s, was military spending abroad. Either the dollar was going down or the United States had to sell gold. That’s what finally led Nixon to take the dollar off gold in 1971. But for many years the United tried to fight against doing that.

So the State Department came to Chase, and said, we’ve got to figure out some way of getting enough dollars to offset the military deficit. They found the way to do it. It was to make the United States the new Switzerland of the world. I was asked to make a calculation of how much criminal capital there is in the world. How much the drug dealers made, how much the criminals all over made, how much the dictators secreted away. How much goes to Switzerland, and how can US banks get this criminal money in the United States?

The end result was that the US Government went to Chase and other banks and asked them to be good American citizens and make America safe for the criminals of the world, to safeguard their money to support the dollar in the process.

Earlier, Chase had been asked to create a bank in Saigon so that the army and other people wouldn’t have to use French banks, which sent it back to France, where it ended up with General De Gaulle cashing it in for gold, Chase said, okay, we will help set up banks.

Other banks did this not to evade the law, not to break the law initially, but to be good citizens and attract crooked capital from all over the world. The same thing happened with the British West Indies – the Cayman Islands. They had declared their independence, but in order not to be a real country, in order to attract flight capital to England, they rejoined the empire as a colony so that they could serve as money laundering intermediaries. The idea was to have all of this money come to the United States or its ally Britain.

All this context can easily be traced. If you look at the money that goes into Panama and other offshore banking centers in the Caribbean, none of this money stays in Panama. It becomes “US liabilities to Panama”, or other banking centers – mainly to US bank branches in these regions.

PERIES: Michael, there is a question I want to ask you. Over the next few days there has been many questions raised about why there are not many Americans or even Canadians named in the leaked documents. Some speculate that this is because in the US they don’t need tax havens, because it is one. States such as Nevada, Wyoming, and South Dakota are considered the new Switzerland of tax evasion. Explain how the process works, because all this is interlinked.

HUDSON: You usually have not only one or two, but often three or four centers in a “veil of tiers”. The idea is not to put money into the United States directly. Imagine you’re a Russian kleptocrat, or a Ukrainian kleptocrat, and you want to take a billion dollars and keep it safe. You’re not going to put it directly into a Delaware corporation, or a Wyoming corporation. The money is going to end up there. But if you put it right in, then the US Government and the bank would say, “Wait a minute. Here is the president of Ukraine with a billion dollars, right in our banking system.”

So what you have to do is launder the money. Likewise with the Colombian drug cartel. They’re not going to put the Colombian drug cartel balance in a Delaware bank under their name. It has to go through a lot of stages. The money goes out of the Ukraine and out of Russia into Latvia, primarily via the banks of Riga. I’ve met with individuals in Riga, Americans who provide the service of setting up maybe thirty companies for the money launderer. They will send the money, say, to the British West Indies. From the British West Indies it’ll go to Panama. And then it’ll go from Panama, already being concealed, to end up in a Delaware corporation at the end of the line.

You can look in the balance-of-payments statistics and you can find liabilities of bank branches in Panama or the British West Indies or whoever, owed to the US head office. You can look and see how much American stock, how many American bonds, how many American bank deposits all come from these islands. The magnitude is so enormous that this is what has been supporting the dollar.

Congress is right behind this. In the 1960s it recognized that basically, criminals are the most liquid people in the world. They don’t want to tie down their money and property, because property can be seen, it’s visible. Finance in the balance of payments reports is called “Invisibles”. If you’re a criminal, you want to have your finance invisible in order to keep it safe. And the safest investment is US Treasury bonds.

So there was an argument in Congress in the 1960s: Do we want to have fifteen percent tax withholding on the Treasury bonds, especially to foreigners? It was pointed out that most foreigners who hold Treasury bonds actually are criminals. So Congress said, we need criminal money. We are not going to withhold criminal taxes. We’re going to make crime tax-free. We’re going to tax American industry, we’re going to tax American labor, but not foreign criminals, because we need their money. So we’re not going to withhold what they hold through their fiduciary accounts in Delaware, which was the main at that time, or New York, or London branches of US banks. The London branches of US banks were the single major depositors and source of revenue of growth in the 1960s for Chase, Citibank and others. They were called eurodollars. The eurodollars flowing into these branches were very largely from drug dealing and arms dealing, and third world dictators in Africa and other places.

So under US pressure, the international banking system was set up to facilitate the money laundering of drug capital. The reason the Americans and the Canadians were not particularly noteworthy in the law firm’s records is the Panamanian law firm’s records was that its role was to set up money laundering for foreigners, to conceal their means of getting money. But the oil industry doesn’t conceal it. The oil industry declares all of the income it gets, and the mining industry declares all the income that it gets from the Panamanian shipping companies, from the Liberian shipping companies. But because Panama and Liberia don’t have an income tax, there’s no tax liability for this. It’s stolen fair and square from the tax collector, just like California Senator Hayakawa said America had stolen Panama fair and square from Colombia.

PERIES: Wow. The big question here in all of these discussions and leaks is what are the solutions to this problem, and is it attainable at all?

HUDSON: Well, the solution is to tax companies on their worldwide earnings. If you know that a US company like Standard Oil, Exxon now, makes X billion dollars earnings, you simply rule that it doesn’t matter whether you declare these in Panama or the United States. We’re going to treat the income that you declare from your Panamanian shipping company as if it is earned in the United States, and we’re going to tax it at the US rate.

However, this explains why there’s not going to be a solution to money laundering. If you would solve the money laundering problem and tax companies and their worldwide earnings, you would tax Apple on all the income that it makes tax exempt in Ireland by using Ireland as a tax avoidance center, you would take on the largest vested interests in the United States – oil, gas and monopolies.

I don’t think any politician is strong enough to attract campaign contributions from these main contributors and at the same time really push to tax them. They’re going to go after the little guy who is trying to walk through the loopholes that the oil industry created a century ago. But it’s hard to go after the little guy and the small tax evaders without catching the big fish. And the big fish are the biggest corporations in the United States.

That’s why the problem is not going to be solved. It won’t be solved largely because the United States wants to support the dollar by attracting all of this crooked money, just like England wants to support sterling by making itself the flight capital center for all of the biggest criminals in the world, from the Russian kleptocrats to African dictators and Asian money launderers.

The whole financial system basically has been criminalized in the process of being militarized, to subsidize the fact that countries like the United States and Britain have heavy military budgets. This is how they finance their military budget – with money laundering by the world’s criminal class. The byproduct is to leave the largest companies tax exempt, from Apple to Exxon, right down the line.

This is an edited transcript from an interview on the Real News Network.


Michael Hudson is a former Wall Street economist. A Distinguished Research Professor at University of Missouri, Kansas City (“UMKC”), he is the author of many books, including Super Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire (new edition, Pluto Press, 2002). His new book is: Killing the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Bondage Destroy the Global Economy (a CounterPunch digital edition, 2016). Sharmini Peries is executive producer of The Real News Network. This is a transcript of Michael Hudson’s interview with Sharmini Peries on the Real News Network.

Categories: Uncategorized

Why US Government and Saudi Arabia …

… Don’t Want Americans Knowing the Truth about 9/11

by Tyler Durden

via {1}

Zero Hedge (April 22 2016)

In a rare show of bipartisanship, President Obama and top Republicans in Congress have come together {2} to shield Americans from knowing the truth about who was behind the 9/11 terror attacks, which took the lives of 2996 people in 2001. However strange it is for neoconservative members of Congress to agree with Obama {3} on anything, there is no doubt the issue must be serious if it warrants this level of partnership.

The issue at hand is the classified, 28-page section of the 9/11 commission report {4}, which many experts and politicians with knowledge of the documents have said point to Saudi Arabian government officials’ direct role {5} in the terror attacks. This is why the Saudis put out a stern warning several days ago threatening {6} to dump up to $750 billion in US assets if Senate Bill 2040 {7} becomes law; SB 2040 would make public the 28 pages and also allow for victims of 9/11 to sue foreign governments found responsible.

The Saudis’ warning seems to have worked, with Obama now in the nation to “mend ties” with the monarchy and top Republicans sounding the alarm about the 9/11 bill. In an interview with Charlie Rose {8}, President Obama claimed: “If we open up the possibility that individuals in the United States can routinely start suing other governments, then we are also opening up the United States to being continually sued by individuals in other countries”, apparently referencing the US’ own attacks overseas that have taken the lives of countless civilians.

Currently, Saudi Arabia enjoys “sovereign immunity” {9} with the US, meaning even if the 28 pages proved Saudi officials were indeed behind the 9/11 attacks, Americans would not be able to seek justice for their losses. The new 9/11 bill would change that, and the Saudi response to the legislation moving through Congress reinforces suspicions the kingdom is somehow behind the 9/11 attacks.

The video below further explains why both Saudi Arabia and members of the US government don’t want the 9/11 bill to pass:











Categories: Uncategorized

Starhawking the Privilege Game

by John Michael Greer

The Archdruid Report (April 20 2016)

The last two posts here on The Archdruid Report, with their focus on America’s class system and the dysfunctional narratives that support it, fielded an intriguing response from readers. I expected a fair number to be uncomfortable with the subject I was discussing; I didn’t expect them to post comments and emails asking me, in so many words, to please talk about something else instead.

Straight talk about uncomfortable subjects has been this blog’s bread and butter since I first started posting just shy of ten years ago, so I’ve had some experience with the way that blog readers squirm. Normally, when I touch on a hot-button issue, readers who find that subject too uncomfortable go out of their way to act as though I haven’t mentioned it at all. I’m thinking here especially, but not only, of the times I’ve noted that the future of the internet {1} depends on whether it can pay for itself, not on whether it’s technically feasible. Whenever I’ve done this, I’ve gotten comments that rabbited on endlessly about technical feasibility as a way to avoid talking about the economic reasons why the internet won’t be able to cover its own operating costs {2} in the future of resource depletion and environmental blowback we’re busy making for ourselves.

It’s not just hard questions about the future of the internet that attracts that strategy of avoidance, mind you. I’ve learned to expect it whenever some post of mine touches on any topic that contradicts the conventional wisdom of our time. That’s why the different response I got to the last two posts was so fascinating. The fact that people who were made uncomfortable by a frank discussion of class privilege actually admitted that, rather than trying to pretend that no subject so shocking had been mentioned at all, says to me that we may be approaching a historical inflection point of some importance.

Mind you, frank discussion of class privilege still gets plenty of avoidance maneuvers outside the fringe territory where archdruids lurk. I’m thinking here, of course, of the way that affluent liberals right now are responding to Donald Trump’s straightforward talk about class issues by yelling that he and his followers must be motivated by racism and nothing else. That’s partly a standard bit of liberal rhetoric – I’ve discussed the way that the word “racist”, when uttered by the privileged, normally functions as a dog whistle for “wage class” – but it’s also an attempt to drag the conversation away from what policies that benefit the affluent have done to everyone else in this country.

In some parts of the current Neopagan community, that evasive maneuver has acquired a helpful moniker: “Starhawking”. With apologies to those of my readers who may find the behavior of one of America’s smaller minority religious communities uninteresting, I’d like to recount the story behind the label. Here as so often, a small example helps clarify things; the reduced scale of a social microcosm makes it easier to observe patterns that can be harder to see at a glance on the macrocosmic scale.

Those who haven’t had any contact with the Neopagan scene may not know that it isn’t one religion, or even a group of closely related religions; rather, it’s a grab-bag of profoundly diverse faiths, some of which have less in common with one another than Christianity has with Shinto. Their association in a common subculture comes not from shared beliefs or practices, but solely from a shared history of exclusion from the religious and cultural mainstream of American society. These days, something like half of American Neopagans participate in some flavor of eclectic Paganism, which emerged out of the older British traditional witchcraft in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Most of the rest fall into two broad categories: one consists of older initiatiory traditions such as the British traditional witchcraft just named, while the other consists of recently revived polytheist faiths worshipping the gods and goddesses of various historic pantheons – Norse, Greek, Egyptian, and so on.

There’s a great deal of talk about inclusiveness in the Neopagan scene, but those of my readers who know their way around small American subcultures will have no trouble figuring out that what this means is that eclectic Paganism is the default option almost everywhere, and people from other traditions are welcome to show up and participate, on terms defined by eclectic Paganism, so long as they don’t offend the sensibilities of the eclectic Pagan majority. For a variety of reasons, most of which are more relevant to my other blog than this one, those sensibilities seem to be getting more easily offended of late, and people from the minority traditions have responded in a variety of ways. Some have simply walked away from the Neopagan scene, while others have tried, in an assortment of forums, to start a conversation about what has been awkwardly termed “Wiccanate privilege”.

One such discussion was under way at a large San Francisco-area Neopagan event in 2014 when Starhawk put in a belated appearance. For those who aren’t familiar with her, she’s one of the few genuine celebrities to come out of the US Neopagan scene, the author of The Spiral Dance (1979), one of the two books that basically launched eclectic Paganism – the other is Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon (2006) – and a notable political figure over on the leftward end of the spectrum. According to people I know who were there, she proceeded to insist that the conversation should not even be happening, because all Pagans need to unite to save the Earth.

Mind you, there were plenty of other conversations going on at that event that had nothing to do with saving the Earth, and neither she nor anyone else seemed to feel any need to try to silence those conversations – just the conversation about privilege. That’s Starhawking: the rhetorical tactic of insisting that some other issue is so important that the privilege of the speaker must not be discussed. To be fair to Starhawk, she didn’t invent it; it’s all over contemporary discourse in America, quite often in contexts where the stakes are considerably higher than they will ever be in the Neopagan scene.

Madeleine Albright’s recent insistence that every woman in America should vote for Hillary Clinton or fry in hell comes out of exactly the same logic. Issue A in this case is the so-called “glass ceiling”, the habit of excluding women of the privileged classes from the upper reaches of power and wealth. Issue B in this case is the fact that putting Hillary Clinton into the White House will only benefit those women who belong to the top end of America’s class structure, since the policies Clinton has supported throughout her political life have brought impoverishment and immiseration to the vast majority of American women, that is, those who belong to the wage class and the lower half or so of the salary class.

When Starhawking comes from the leftward end of the affluent class, it’s almost always framed in terms of another kind of bias – racism, sexism, or what have you – which can be used, along the lines detailed last week, to blame the sufferings of one underprivileged group on another underprivileged group. When it takes place on the other end of the political spectrum, as of course it does all the time, other issues are used to drown out any discussion of privilege; among the favorites are crime, Christian moral theology, and the alleged laziness and greed of people on public assistance. The excuse differs but the rhetorical gimmick is the same.

One of the things that makes that gimmick viable is the ambiguous nature of the language that’s used to talk about the various candidates for Issue A. “Crime”, for example, is a nice vague abstraction that everyone can agree to oppose. Once that agreement has been obtained, on the other hand, it descends from the airy realm of abstraction into some very questionable specifics – to note a relevant example, none of the politicians who boast about being “tough on crime” have shown any interest in locking up the kleptomaniacs of Wall Street, whose billion-dollar swindles have done far more damage to the nation than any number of muggings on the mean streets of our inner cities.

In the same way, words like “racism” and “sexism” are abstractions with a great deal of ambiguity built into them. There are at least three things conflated in labels of this kind. I’d like to unpack those for a moment, in the hope of getting a clearer view of the convoluted landscape of American inequality.

The things I want to pull out of these portmanteau words, and others like them, are privilege, prejudice, and acts of injustice. Let’s start with the last. Police officers in America, for example, routinely gun down black teenagers in response to actions that do not get white teenagers shot; a woman who gets hired for a job in the US today can expect to get, on average, roughly three-quarters the pay that a man can expect to get for doing exactly the same job; two people who love each other and want to get married have to run a gauntlet of difficulties if they happen to be the same gender that they would not face if they were different genders. Those are acts of injustice.

Prejudice is a matter of attitudes rather than actions. The word literally means pre-judgments, the judgments we all make about people and situations before we encounter them. Everybody has them, every culture teaches them, but some people are more prejudiced – more committed to their pre-judgments, and less willing to reassess them in the face of disconfirming evidence – and some are less so. Acts of injustice are usually motivated by prejudice, and prejudice very often results in acts of injustice, but neither of these equations are exact. I’ve known people who were profoundly prejudiced but refused to act on their prejudices because some other belief or commitment forbade that; I’ve also known people who participated repeatedly in acts of injustice, who were just following orders or going along with friends, and didn’t care in the least one way or the other.

Then there’s privilege. Where prejudice and acts of injustice are individual, privilege is collective; you have privilege, or don’t have it, because of the categories you belong to, not because of what you do or don’t do. I’ll use myself as a source of examples here. I can walk through the well-to-do neighborhoods of the town where I live, for instance, without being hassled by the police; black people don’t have that privilege. I can publish controversial essays like this one without being bombarded with rape and death threats by trolls; women don’t have that privilege. I can kiss my spouse in public without having some moron yell insults at me out of the window of a passing car; gay people don’t have that privilege.

I could fill the next ten posts on this blog with a listing of similar privileges I have, and not even come close to running out of examples. It’s important, though, to recognize that my condition of privilege isn’t assigned to me for any one reason. It’s not just that I’m white, or male, or heterosexual, or grew up in a family on the lower end of the salary class, or was born able-bodied, or what have you; it’s all of these things and a great many more, taken together, that assign me my place in the hierarchy of privilege. This is equally true of you, dear reader, and of everyone else. What differentiates my position from yours, and yours from everyone else’s, is that every station on the ladder has a different proportion between the number of people above it and the number of people below. There are, for example, plenty of people in today’s America who have more privilege than I do, but there are vastly more people who have much, much less.

Note also that I don’t have to do anything to get the privileges I have, nor can I get rid of them. As a white heterosexual man from a salary class background, and the rest of it, I got assigned nearly all of my privileges the moment I was born, and no matter what I do or don’t do, I’ll keep the vast majority of them until I die. This is also true of you, dear reader, and of everyone else: the vast majority of what places you on whatever rung you occupy in the long ladder of privilege is yours simply for being born. Thus you’re not responsible for the fact that you have whatever level of privilege you do – though you are responsible, of course, for what you choose to do with it.

You can, after all, convince yourself that you deserve your privilege, and the people who don’t share your privilege deserve their inferior status – that is to say, you can choose to be prejudiced. You can exploit your privilege to benefit yourself at the expense of the less privileged – that is to say, you can engage in acts of injustice. The more privilege you have, the more your prejudices affect other people’s lives and the more powerful your acts of injustice become. Thus advocates for the less privileged are quite correct to point out that the prejudices and injustices of the privileged matter more than those of the unprivileged.

On the other hand, privilege does not automatically equate to prejudice, or to acts of injustice. It’s entirely possible for the privileged – who, as already noted, did not choose their privilege and can’t get rid of it – to refuse to exploit their privilege in this way. It’s even possible, crashingly unfashionable as the concept is these days, for them to take up the old principle of noblesse oblige: the concept, widely accepted (though not always acted on) in eras where privilege was more openly recognized, that those who are born to privilege also inherit definite responsibilities toward the less privileged. I suppose it’s even possible that they might do this and not expect lavish praise for it, though that’s kind of a stretch, American culture today being what it is.

These days, though, most white heterosexual men from salary class backgrounds don’t think of themselves as privileged, and don’t see the things I enumerated earlier as privileges. This is one of the most crucial points about privilege in today’s America: to the privileged, privilege is invisible. That’s not just a matter of personal cluelessness, or of personal isolation from the less privileged, though these can of course be involved. It’s a matter of enculturation. The mass media and every other aspect of mainstream American culture constantly present the experience of privileged people as normal, and just as constantly feed any departure from that experience through an utterly predictable set of filters.

First, of course, the experience of the unprivileged is erased – “That sort of thing doesn’t actually happen”. When that fails, it’s dismissed as unimportant – “Well, maybe it does happen, but it’s no big deal”. When it becomes clear that it is a big deal to those who have to cope with it, it’s treated as an occasional anomaly – “You can’t generalize from one or two bad examples”. When that breaks down, finally, the experience of the unprivileged is blamed on the unprivileged – “It’s their own fault that they get treated like that”. If you know your way around America’s collective nonconversation about privilege, in the mass media or in everyday conversation, you’ve seen each one of these filters deployed a thousand times or more.

What makes this interesting is that the invisibility of privilege in modern America isn’t shared by that many other human societies. There are plenty of cultures, past and present, in which privilege is right out there in the open, written into laws, and openly discussed by the privileged as well as the unprivileged. The United States used to be like that as recently as the 1950s. It wasn’t just that there were Jim Crow laws in those days formally assigning black Americans the status of second-class citizens, and laws in many states that gave women second-class status when it came to a galaxy of legal and financial rights; it was all over the media and popular culture, too. Open any daily newspaper, and the society pages splashed around the difference in privilege between those people who belonged to the elite and those who didn’t.

For a complex series of reasons rooted in the cultural convulsions of the Sixties, though, frank talk about privilege stopped being socially acceptable in America over the course of the second half of the twentieth century. That didn’t make privilege go away, of course. It did mean that certain formal expressions of privilege, such as the Jim Crow laws just mentioned, had to be scrapped, and in that process, some real injustices did get fixed. The downside was the rise of a culture of doubletalk in which the very real disparities in privilege in American society got fed repeatedly through the filters described above, and one of the most important sources of those disparities – class differences – were shoved completely out of the collective conversation of our time.

The habit of Starhawking is one of the major rhetorical tools by which open discussion of privilege, and above all of class privilege, got thrust out of sight. It’s been used with equal verve at all points along the political spectrum from the far left straight across to the far right. Whether it’s affluent liberals insisting that everyone else has to ignore their privilege in order to get on with the task of saving the Earth, affluent conservatives insisting that everyone else has to ignore their privilege in order to get on with the task of returning America to its Christian roots, or – and this is increasingly the standard line – affluent people on both sides insisting that everyone else has to ignore their privilege because fighting those horrible people on the other side of the political spectrum is the only thing that matters, what all these utterances mean in practice is “don’t talk about my privilege”.

That sort of evasion is what I expected to field from readers when I started talking about issues surrounding class privilege earlier this year. I got a certain amount of it, to be sure, but as already mentioned, I also got comments by people who acknowledged that they were uncomfortable with the discussion and wanted me to stop. What this says to me is that the wall of denial and doubletalk that has closed down open discussion of privilege in today’s America – and especially of class privilege – may be cracking at last. Granted, The Archdruid Report is well out there on the cultural fringes of American society, but it’s very often the fringes that show signs of major social changes well before the mainstream ever hears about them.

If it’s true that the suppression of talk about privilege in general, and class privilege in particular, is in the process of breaking down, it’s not a minute too soon. The United States just now stands in the path of a tidal wave of drastic change, and current patterns of privilege are among the many things that bid fair to be upended once it hits. We’ll talk about that next week.


John Michael Greer is the Grand Archdruid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America {3} and the author of more than thirty books on a wide range of subjects, including peak oil and the future of industrial society. He lives in Cumberland, Maryland, an old red brick mill town in the north central Appalachians, with his wife Sara.





Categories: Uncategorized

The Problem Isn’t …

… That Sanders Doesn’t Know How to Break Up the Banks

It’s That He Does

by Gaius Publius

Down With Tyranny (April 12 2016)

Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs. Why isn’t he in prison? {1}Friends in high places, a great many of them {2}.

I’ve been wanting to write for a while about all the reasons the bipartisan Establishment – the people at the top running the “big game” that makes them all rich and keeps them in power – can’t ever let Bernie Sanders get control of the Executive Branch of government. There are quite a few reasons, including the fact that people like Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, would certainly be prosecuted and most likely jailed for fraud {3}.

But one story that’s been making the ginned-up news rounds lately is that Sanders, in an interview with the New York Daily News, seemed in the Clinton camp’s telling not to know how to go about executing one of his own policies, breaking up the too-big-to-fail banks.

The problem with that framing – which every news outlet, including the so-called leftie outlets {4} – immediately jumped to support – is that it’s exactly backwards. Sanders knows exactly how to break up the big banks, and he will.

And that’s the problem Bernie Sanders presents. The problem isn’t that he doesn’t know how. The problem is that he does know how, and he will.

Robert Reich explains:

Sanders Knows How to Break Up the Big Banks – That’s Why He Scares the Establishment

Of course Sanders knows how to bust up the big banks.

The recent kerfluffle about Bernie Sanders purportedly not knowing how to bust up the big banks says far more about the threat Sanders poses to the Democratic establishment and its Wall Street wing than it does about the candidate himself.

Of course Sanders knows how to bust up the big banks. He’s already introduced legislation to do just that. And even without new legislation a president has the power under the Dodd-Frank reform act to initiate such a breakup.

But Sanders threatens the Democratic establishment and Wall Street, not least because he’s intent on doing exactly what he says he’ll do: breaking up the biggest banks. {5}


And they should be broken up, for our own safety as well as theirs:


The biggest are far larger today than they were in 2008 when they were deemed “too big to fail”. Then, the five largest held around thirty percent of all US banking assets. Today they have 44 percent.

According to a recent analysis by Thomas Hoenig, vice chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the assets of just four giant banks – JPMorgan Chase, Citibank, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo – amount to 97 percent of our the nation’s entire gross domestic product in 2012. {6}


If this isn’t stopped, the next crash will be another “big one”, perhaps bigger than 2008, after which there will be some flavor of bailout (or worse), followed by a revolt by everyone, left and right, who already hated the last one. I’d rather not see any of that occur.

What’s Sanders’ Plan?

Here’s the Sanders plan from the Sanders campaign:


Within the first 100 days of his administration, Senator Sanders will require the secretary of the Treasury Department to establish a “Too-Big-to Fail” list of commercial banks, shadow banks and insurance companies whose failure would pose a catastrophic risk to the United States economy without a taxpayer bailout.

Within a year, the Sanders administration will work with the Federal Reserve and financial regulators to break these institutions up using the authority of Section 121 of the Dodd-Frank Act.

Senator Sanders will also fight to enact a 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act to clearly separate commercial banking, investment banking and insurance services. Secretary Clinton opposes this extremely important measure.

President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Glass-Steagall Act into law precisely to prevent Wall Street speculators from causing another Great Depression. And, it worked for more than five decades until Wall Street watered it down under President Reagan and killed it under President Clinton. That is unacceptable and that is why Senator Sanders will fight to sign the Warren-McCain bill into law. {7}


I’m sure if Congress initially balks, and it’s likely they will, Sanders will persist on the legislative front (as we’re seen, he doesn’t have much quit in him). But I’m also sure that if Congress fails to pass legislation, “within a year” he’ll use every power he has as president to accomplish this breakup from within the Executive Branch. We have a very powerful executive branch, and a big-bank breakup is that important.

About Lloyd Blankfein …

Why isn’t the CEO of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein, in jail awaiting trial? Eric Levitz in New York Magazine reports {8} on his and his firm’s crimes (my emphasis):


Goldman Sachs Admits It Defrauded Investors, Pays $5 Billion Fine

In April 2006, Goldman Sachs provided investors with a bullish report on Countrywide’s high-quality mortgage loans – loans the bank had helpfully packaged into AAA-rated mortgage-backed securities, thereby offering those lucky clients a low-risk way of profiting from America’s housing boom. When the bank’s head of “due diligence” saw the report, he typed a short email to his colleagues: “If only they knew …”

Now we know. On Monday, the bank completed a $5.1 billion settlement with state and local authorities for its role in perpetuating the subprime-mortgage crisis {9}. Goldman is the last of the major banks to pay for its financial-crisis sins, but unlike some of its peers, the firm has agreed to formally acknowledge its malfeasance. While Monday’s settlement does not include a confession of legal wrongdoing, it does contain a signed “statement of facts” that details the various ways Goldman Sachs misled investors about the risks inherent to its mortgage-backed securities …


“Mislead investors” is code for “lied to investors about the facts in order to take their money.” Which is code for “fraud.” Matt Taibbi:


Re Goldman: if these firms were truly committed to reforming, they would want to serve up guilty executives for prosecution as a cheaper solution.


So why isn’t Lloyd Blankfein in a courtroom counting the days before he wears the orange jumpsuit? Because he has friends in high places, lots of them. Does Blankfein fear a Sanders presidency? Almost certainly, with every fiber of the last remaining shred of his soul.

I wonder who Blankfein is backing …











Categories: Uncategorized

The Strange Death of Hugo Chavez

An Interview with Eva Golinger

by Mike Whitney

CounterPunch (April 22 2016)


Hugo Chavez defied the most powerful interests, and he refused to bow down … I believe there is a very strong possibility that President Chavez was assassinated.

–  Eva Golinger

Mike Whitney: Do you think that Hugo Chavez was murdered and, if so, who do you think might have been involved?

Eva Golinger: I believe there is a very strong possibility that President Chavez was assassinated. There were notorious and documented assassination attempts against him throughout his presidency. Most notable was the April 11 2002 coup d’etat, during which he was kidnapped and set to be assassinated had it not been for the unprecedented uprising of the Venezuelan people and loyal military forces that rescued him and returned him to power within 48 hours. I was able to find irrefutable evidence using the US Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), that the CIA and other US agencies were behind that coup and supported, financially, militarily and politically, those involved. Later on, there were other attempts against Chavez and his government, such as in 2004 when dozens of Colombian paramilitary forces were captured on a farm outside of Caracas that was owned by an anti-Chavez activist, Robert Alonso, just days before they were going to attack the presidential palace and kill Chavez.

There was another, lesser-known plot against Chavez discovered in New York City during his visit to the United Nations General Assembly in September 2006. According to information provided by his security services, during standard security reconnaissance of an event where Chavez would address the US public at a local, renowned university, high levels of radiation were detected in the chair where he would have sat. The radiation was discovered by a Geiger detector, which is a handheld radiation detection device the presidential security used to ensure the President wasn’t in danger of exposure to harmful rays. In this case, the chair was removed and subsequent tests showed it was emanating unusual amounts of radiation that could have resulted in significant harm to Chavez had it gone undiscovered. According to accounts by the presidential security at the event, an individual from the US who had been involved in the logistical support for the event and had provided the chair was shown to be acting with US intelligent agents.

There were numerous other attempts on his life that were thwarted by the Venezuelan intelligence agencies and particularly the counterintelligence unit of the Presidential Guard that was charged with discovering and impeding such threats. One other well known attempt was in July 2010 when Francisco Chavez Abarca (no relation), a criminal working with Cuban-born terrorist Luis Posada Carriles, responsible for bombing a Cuban airliner in 1976 and killing all 73 passengers on board, was detained entering Venezuela and later confessed he had been sent to assassinate Chavez. Just five months earlier, in February 2010, when President Chavez was at an event near the Colombian border, his security forces discovered a sniper set up just over a quarter of a mile away from his location, who was subsequently neutralized.

While these accounts may sound like fiction, they are amply documented and very real. Hugo Chavez defied the most powerful interests, and he refused to bow down. As head of state of the nation without the largest oil reserves on the planet, and as someone who openly and directly challenged US and Western domination, Chavez was considered an enemy of Washington and its allies.

So, who could have been involved in Chavez’s assassination, if he was assassinated? Certainly it’s no far stretch to imagine the US government involved in a political assassination of an enemy it clearly – and openly – wanted out of the picture. In 2006, the US government formed a special Mission Manager for Venezuela and Cuba under the Directorate of National Intelligence. This elite intelligence unit was charged with expanding covert operations against Chavez and led clandestine missions out of an intelligence fusion center (CIA-DEA-DIA) in Colombia.  Some of the pieces that have been coming together include the discovery of several close aides to Chavez who had private, unobstructed access to him over prolonged periods, who fled the country after his death and are collaborating with the US government. If he were assassinated by some kind of exposure to high levels of radiation, or otherwise inoculated or infected by a cancer-causing virus, it would have been done by someone with close access to him, whom he trusted.

Mike Whitney: Who is Leamsy Salazar and how is he connected to the US Intelligence Agencies?

Eva Golinger: Leamsy Salazar was one of Chavez’s closest aides for nearly seven years. He was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Venezuelan Navy and became known to Chavez after he waved the Venezuelan flag from the roof of the presidential guard’s barracks at the presidential palace during the 2002 coup, as the rescue of Chavez was underway. He became a symbol of the loyal armed forces that helped defeat the coup and Chavez rewarded him by bringing him on as one of his assistants. Salazar was both a bodyguard and an aide to Chavez, who would bring him coffee and meals, stand by his side, travel with him around the world and protect him during public events. I knew him and interacted with him many times. He was one of the familiar faces protecting Chavez for many years.  He was a key member of Chavez’s elite inner security circle, with private access to Chavez and privileged and highly confidential knowledge of Chavez’s comings and goings, daily routine, schedule and dealings.

After Chavez passed away in March 2013, because of his extended service and loyalty, Leamsy was transferred to the security detail of Diosdado Cabello, who was then president of Venezuela’s National Assembly and considered one of the most powerful political and military figures in the country. Cabello was one of Chavez’s closest allies. It should be noted that Leamsy remained with Chavez throughout most of his illness up to his death and had privileged access to him that few had, even from his security team.

Shockingly, in December 2014, news reports revealed that Leamsy had secretly been flown to the US from Spain, where he was allegedly on vacation with his family. The plane that flew him was said to be from the US Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”). He was placed in witness protection and news reports have stated he is providing information to the US government about Venezuelan officials involved in a high level ring of drug trafficking. Opposition-owned media in Venezuela claim he gave details accusing Diosdado Cabello of being a drug-kingpin, but none of that information has been independently verified, nor have any court records or allegations been released, if they exist.

Another explanation for his going into the witness protection program in the US could include his involvement in the assassination of Chavez, possibly done as part of a CIA black op, or maybe even done under the auspices of CIA but carried out by corrupt elements within the Venezuelan government. Before the Panama Papers were released, I had accidentally discovered and was investigating a dangerous corrupt, high level individual within the government, who Chavez had previously dismissed, but who returned after his death and was placed in an even more influential, powerful position.  This individual also appears to be collaborating with the US government. People like that, who let greed obscure their conscience, and who are involved in lucrative criminal activity, could have also played a role in his death.

For example, the Panama Papers exposed another former Chavez aide, Army Captain Adrian Velasquez, who was in charge of security for Chavez’s son Hugo. Captain Velasquez’s wife, a former Navy Officer, Claudia Patricia Diaz Guillen, was Chavez’s nurse for several years and had private, unsupervised access to him. Furthermore, Claudia administered medicines, shots and other health and food-related materials to Chavez over a period of years. Just one month before his deadly illness was discovered in 2011, Chavez named Claudia as Treasurer of Venezuela, placing her in charge of the country’s money. It’s still unclear as to why she was named to this important position, considering she had previously been his nurse and had no similar experience. She was dismissed from the position right after Chavez passed away. Both Captain Velasquez and Claudia appeared in the Panama Papers as owning a shell company with millions of dollars. They also own property in an elite area in the Dominican Republic, Punta Cana, where properties cost in the millions, and they have resided there since at least June 2015. The documents show that right after Chavez passed away and Nicolas Maduro was elected president in April 2013, Captain Velasquez opened an off-shore company on April 18 2013 through the Panamanian firm Mossack Fonesca, called Bleckner Associates Limited.  A Swiss financial investment firm, V3 Capital Partners LLC, affirmed they manage the funds of Captain Velasquez, which number in the millions. It’s impossible for an Army Captain to have earned that amount of money through legitimate means. Neither he nor his wife, Claudia, have returned to Venezuela since 2015.

Captain Velasquez was especially close with Leamsy Salazar.

Mike Whitney: Can you explain the suspicious circumstances under which Salazar was flown out of Spain to the safety of the United States on a plane belonging to the Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”)?  Doesn’t that strike you as a bit strange? At the very least, this suggests that Salazar was acting as an agent for a country that is openly hostile towards Venezuela? That makes him either a collaborator or a traitor. Do you agree?

Eva Golinger: Of course it was highly suspicious that Salazar was flown out of Spain, where he was allegedly on vacation with his family, and taken to the United States on a DEA plane. There is no question that he was collaborating with the US government and betrayed his country. What remains to be seen is what his exact role was. Did he administer the murderous poison to Chavez, or was it one of his partners, such as Captain Velasquez or the nurse/treasurer Claudia?

While this all may sound very conspiracy theory-ish, these are facts that can be verified independently. It is also true, according to declassified secret US documents, that the US Army was developing an injectable radiation weapon to use for political assassinations of select enemies as far back as 1948. The Church Commission hearings into the Kennedy Assassination also uncovered the existence of an assassination weapon developed by CIA to induce heart attacks and soft-tissue cancers. Chavez died of an aggressive soft-tissue cancer. By the time it was detected it was too late. There is other information out there documenting the development of a “cancer virus” that was going to be weaponized and allegedly used to kill Fidel Castro in the 1960s. I know most of that seems like science fiction, but do your research and see what really exists. I don’t believe everything I read either. As a lawyer and investigative journalist, I need hard evidence, and multiple, verifiable sources. Even if we just go on the official US Army document from 1948, it’s a fact that the US government was in the process of a developing a radiation weapon for political assassinations. More than sixty years later we can only imagine what technological capacities exist.

Mike Whitney: Can you explain why the DEA was involved in this operation and not the CIA as many would expect?

Eva Golinger: I think CIA was involved. They work together on high-profile political cases, and they were operating out of the Intelligence Fusion Center in Colombia together. Why it was DEA and not CIA that brought Leamsy Salazar to the US has not yet been revealed, but I don’t think that means the CIA wasn’t involved in the whole operation.

Mike Whitney: On a personal note, Hugo Chavez was a giant among men and a real hero. Would you please tell us what his loss has meant to you personally and how his death has impacted the people of Venezuela?

Eva Golinger: The loss of Hugo Chavez has been crushing. He was my friend and I spent nearly ten years as his advisor. The void he has left is impossible to replace. Despite his human flaws, he had a huge heart and genuinely dedicated himself to build a better country for his people, and a better world for humanity. He cared deeply about all people, but especially the poor, neglected and marginalized.

There is a picture taken of Chavez by a bystander, when he had been at an event in the center of Caracas and was walking through a large plaza that had been cleared by security. All of a sudden, he saw a young man, disheveled and seemingly on drugs, barely able to keep himself upright, wearing ragged clothes. To the horror of his security guards, Chavez went over to him and lovingly put his arm around him and offered him a cup of coffee. He didn’t judge the poor guy or reprimand him, or show disgust. He treated him like a fellow human being who deserved to be seen with dignity. He stayed there with him for a while, just telling stories and chatting like old friends. When he had to go, he told one of his guards to offer the man whatever help he needed.

There were no cameras there, no TV, no public. It wasn’t a publicity stunt. It was genuine, sincere care and concern for a fellow human in need. Despite being president and a powerful head of state, Chavez always saw himself as an equal to all people.

His unexpected death has had a tragic toll on Venezuela. Sadly, those he left in charge have been unable to manage the country through these difficult times. A combination of corruption and external sabotage by opposition forces (with foreign support) has crippled the economy. Mismanagement has been widespread and destructive. US agencies and their allies in Venezuela have seized the opportunity to further destabilize and destroy all remaining remnants of chavismo. Now they are trying to tarnish and erase Chavez’s legacy, but I believe this is an impossible task. Even if the current government doesn’t survive the vicious attacks against it, Chavez’s memory in the millions of people he impacted and improved the lives of, will weather the storm. “Chavismo” has become an ideology founded on principles of social justice and human dignity. But do people miss him terribly? Yes.


Eva Golinger is winner of the International Award for Journalism in Mexico (2009), named “La Novia de Venezuela” by President Hugo Chavez, is an attorney and writer from New York, living in Caracas, Venezuela since 2005 and author of the best-selling books, The Chavez Code: Cracking US Intervention in Venezuela (2006), Bush vs Chavez: Washington’s War on Venezuela (2007).

Since 2003, Eva has been investigating, analyzing and writing about US intervention in Venezuela using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to obtain information about US Government efforts to undermine progressive movements in Latin America.

A version of this interview appeared on Telesur at:

Categories: Uncategorized

We Can Phase Out Fossil Fuels …

… Within a Decade, Study Says

by Daniel Oberhaus, Contributor

MotherBoard (April 17 2016)

As we stare down the barrel of a world totally transformed (read: destroyed) by climate change in the not-so-distant future, a lot of the brightest minds around the world are spending a good deal of time trying to figure out how to mitigate its effects. Considering that fossil fuel use is the primary driver of climate change, it makes sense that a lot of the proposed climate change solutions involve phasing out fossil fuels entirely. While some have derided this fossil fuel divestment plan as unattainable, others think it’s entirely possible – so long as we have twenty to eighty years to make it happen.

Unfortunately, ridding ourselves of fossil fuels by 2100 (a plan the G7 leaders were all too happy to pat themselves on the back about last year) will be too little, too late. If we keep burning fossil fuels at the current rate, some have predicted that we will cross a threshold into “environmental ruin” as early as 2036 – but it doesn’t have to be this way.

In fact, according to a new study released last week by a major energy think tank in the UK, we could completely phase out fossil fuels within a decade … if we really wanted to.

Published in Energy Research and Social Science, the study was led by Benjamin Sovacool, the director of the Sussex Energy Group at the University of Sussex. As Sovacool notes in the introduction to his study, “transitioning away from our current global energy system is of paramount importance” and “the speed at which a transition can take place – its timing, or temporal dynamics – is a vital element of consideration”.

The reason why Sovacool is so concerned about how fast we can move away from our current energy paradigm is due to something that has been called the “climate paradox”, or the idea that by the time humans realize they need to divest their economies of fossil fuels, they will have passed the point of no return for climate catastrophe.

According to Sovacool, current “mainstream” projections for phasing out fossil fuels rely on analyzing energy transitions in the past, which can often paint an overly bleak picture about how long an energy transition would take now. So Sovacool took it upon himself to re-analyze the energy transitions of the past up to the present day in order to present a more realistic picture of how quickly the planet could phase out fossil fuels.

As detailed in the report, it took Europe between 96 to 160 years to transition from wood to coal. Yet for electricity to move from a fringe experiment to widespread usage only took between 47 to 69 years. According to Sovacool, an energy transition could happen even faster today, thanks to the threat of climate induced disasters coupled with an unprecedented technological innovation.

Sovacool highlights a number of modern energy transition success stories to drive his point home: Ontario completely divested from coal as an energy source within eleven years (it had previously accounted for 25 percent of the province’s energy); Indonesia moved two-thirds of its population from kerosene to LPG stoves in just three years; within six years of implementing the Proalcool program, ninety percent of Brazilian cars could run on ethanol.

These are just three of the ten examples cited by Sovacool in his study, but according to him, each success story has a few features in common: Where energy transitions have been quick and effective, there has generally been strong government intervention coupled with shifts in the consumer behavior, which are themselves generally driven by government provided incentives.

Yet as Sovacool notes in his study, “the implication here is that energy transitions have no magic formula”; rather, the nature and effectiveness of energy transitions are largely context dependent. Still, based on his revised historical analysis, Sovacool agrees with Al Gore, who in 2008 stated that he believed it was possible to transition to an entirely clean-energy regime within a decade.

“The mainstream view of energy transitions as long, protracted affairs, often taking decades or centuries to occur, is not always supported by the evidence”, said Sovacool.


Moving to a new, cleaner energy system would require significant shifts in technology, political regulations, tariffs and pricing regimes, and the behavior of users and adopters. Left to evolve by itself – as it has largely been in the past – this can indeed take many decades. A lot of stars have to align all at once. But we have learnt a sufficient amount from previous transitions that I believe future transformations can happen much more rapidly.


Links: The original version of this article, at the URL below, contains links to further information not included here.

Categories: Uncategorized