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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Haiti, The Police, The State (in reverse order)

The US maintains a steady and very heavy handed involvement in tiny Haiti, that makes little sense unless you're aware of the financial interests involved.

The US has twice now removed Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide from office. Aristide, twice elected honestly, is a former Catholic priest who pursued a radical program based on Liberation Theology, a vein in Catholicism that comes out of Latin America that has many of the elements of Socialism. Aristide was first removed by Bill Clinton in 1991, then by Bush Jr. in 2004.

Not toeing the Capitalist line in America's backyard is enough to get you illegally ousted by the US government, as has been proven over and over, but in Haiti someone has come across some interesting evidence of the bigger picture, having found "cached" web pages that show that Hillary Clinton's brother, Anthony Rodham, is invested in VCS Mining, a gold mining company that's been given sweatheart deals by Haiti's current president, Michel Martely, who is only president because just before the last elections the US decided Lavalas, Artistide's party, was ineligible to take part.

Cached web pages are earlier version of web pages stored by Google that you can sometimes find with Google searches, so that if someone changes a web page you can sometimes find out. In this case Anthony Rodham's name appears on earlier versions of the VCS Mining company web site, but not the current version. The same goes for Clever Mesidor, a woman who's been part of the Obama Administration and also has ties to the Clintons, who was involved in setting up the sweetheart deal for VCS.

Capital and Coercion

Amateur videos showing blatant police murders and savage beatings have begun to peel back the veil from the criminal regime known as law enforcement. Most telling have been the videos that emerged only after the police had already fabricated a story and released it to the media; to, I might add, an almost always compliant and unquestioning media. I've posted recently about the many cases of entrapment in so-called "terrorism" cases brought by federal prosecutors in league with the FBI and other federal cops, and about cases I came across as a reporter where police got people people to snitch on each other by illegal coercion.

There have been a few high profile revelation in the past several years about outright criminality at state "crime labs" -- which are usually part of the state police, i.e. the state government, the "labs" where local law enforcement send evidence to get it scientifically analyzed. In those cases the labs weren't doing any tests but were documenting that they had and even testifying at trails that they had.

Now comes the Washington Post with a story about the FBI's own crime lab in Washington, which for decades was saying it was analyzing hair samples for police all over the country but in reality wasn't, and was simply saying what local law enforement agencies wanted to hear.

That article, by the way, refers to a project called The Innocence Project, which has gotten many death sentences overturned by simply going through the trial record and police work and finding that a working class suspect was railroaded into a conviction or convicted on falsified evidence -- and they were on death row or in for life and were completely innocent.

The State

The police -- state, local, federal law enforcement -- are best understood as one of the coercive arms of the government, which exists to protect the interests of Capital. Everything the police do, prosecutors do, prisons do, and the military does, is best understood in the context of their roles as coercive arms of the government.

Coercive arms of the state, is how it's said in most academic and Marxist scholarship. The term "the state" pre-dates the formation of the US. In fact, the legal status of the newly independent early states, before the adoption of the Constitution and its federal system, was closer to that of independent countries than it is now, and the term "state" has just stuck.

The state, sometimes called "nation state, is a concept that includes not just government but the economic, and social, systems that determine what government there is and its characteristics. It's "the Establishment," as we said in the 60s.

In the US, the main determinant of the characteristics of our government is Capitalism. All through the Constitution you can see that. There's nothing in there about the rights of workers, or women or minorities or anything like that, but plenty about the rights of private property, property owners, and business, and a lot about trade. It's all to protect the interests of Capitalists.

Constitutional protection has been expanded by amendments to cover some of the rights of the working class, as in those outlawing slavery or giving freed slaves the vote, and by modern, liberal interpretations of the Constitution; the right to an abortion for everyone and not just those with a lot of money, for example, is construed under a liberal interpretation of the constitutional right to privacy.

In summary, what we call law enforcement, like the rest of the State, exists to protect Capital, which forms not only the outlines of government but also of society. The idea that we go to war for oil is something everyone knows about, but "the state" is also why the elected president of Haiti can be removed by the US government, just like that, and why members of the working class can be murdered at will by the state, whether by police or lethal injection or drones or bombs, and why the media just writes down what the government wants it to.

Agence France Press photo

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Tax Time, For Some Of Us

"In 1952, the corporate income tax accounted for about 32 percent of all federal tax revenue. Today, despite record-breaking profits, corporate taxes bring in just 11 percent." The Nation magazine

Right wingers keep repeating that the "US has the highest corporate income tax rate in the industrialized world," yet somehow corporations pay only 1/3 of the taxes they used to pay. All of us are paying the price, but most critically our educations system and people who are having a hard time are having to pay for the free ride being given to the rich, who own the overwhelming majority of corporate stock,.

President Obama has submitted and Democrats have voted for budgets that have cut federal spending each year Obama's been in office, and have reduced taxes on corporations and businesses.

Meanwhile, wealth and income inequality are worse than they were in the so called "Gilded Age" of the early 20th century and keep getting worse, and part of the reason has to be that we're paying the taxes the rich used to pay.

Neither does it help that all the"record-breaking profits" being hauled in by the rich go only to the rich, as even the Wall Street Journal admits, while wages and living standards for the rest of us stagnate and in some cases have even declined.

The trade agreement called the TPP, Trans Pacific Partnership, that the president and many Democrats want to rush through with no meaningful debate, will only make things worse, and that's not really the worst of the TPP. It will enshrine into US and international law many provisions that give corporations more power over governments than they already have, and over what we can say on the internet, and that's why it's being negotiated in secret.

Everyone should contact their elected officials and demand they oppose the TPP, and start making the rich pay their fair share of taxes again.


Friday, April 17, 2015

The Debut of a Latin American Military Alliance

As if to put a coda on the OAS sponsored Summit of the Americas that ended last weekend in Panama with a bedazzled US mainstream media inaccurately and perhaps hopefully heralding the reestablishment of US dominance in Latin America, South American nations today announced the creation of the South American School of Defense.

The school, which will offer graduate and post graduate instruction for military and civilian personnel, is the next logical step in the process spearheaded by former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to extricate Latin America from US economic and military dominance in order chart its own, more democratic path.

The South American School of Defense is being consciously billed as a counterpoint to the infamous School of the Americas based in Fort Benning Georgia, where the US has long trained those who ran the military dictatorships and torture chambers of US Latin American client states. Instead the school will provide an education that "promotes peace and democracy" and furthers the process of regional integration.

The philosophy behind the school is "a shared doctrine in terms of defense for South America which is considered a zone of peace, democratic stability and where differences are not addressed through interventionism or violence,” according to Ecuador's defense minister Fernando Cordero.

Fernando Cordero - Mercopress
The school also appears to be a first step in the creation of a NATO style military alliance that would bolster the economic alliances already established under UNASUR (Union of South American Nations) and other regional alliances* that have been replacing the US-dominated OAS (Organization of American States) as forums for Latin American economic cooperation and conflict resolution.

Yankees, Stay Home

The just concluded OAS sponsored Summit of the Americas, the first such summit attended by Cuba, ended with the US blocking the summit's final declaration because it called for an end to US aggression against Venezuela and declared health as a human right.

That development was ignored by the US media, which billed the summit as a diplomatic coup by US President Barak Obama, despite the fact that Obama left the summit having done nothing to end the isolation of the US in the region.

To the US media the summit was all about Cuban-US rapprochement. The US media generally hasn't  reported that US overtures to Cuba are part of a dual strategy by the US to gain goodwill in Latin America, which has universally condemned US treatment not only of Cuba but of Venezuela, and to attempt to drive a wedge between Cuba and its most important ally Venezuela. Neither has the US media reported that the timing of US raproachment efforts toward Cuba were forced by the announcement by several Latin American countries that they would boycott last week's summit unless Cuba attended. The US before this year has always blocked Cuban participation in Summit of the Americas conferences.

* UNASUR, the Union of South American Nations
   CELAC, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States
   ALBA, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America

All are organizations initiated by former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and include as members some countries, such as Columbia and Uruguay, that still consider themselves close US allies and client states.

Although their goals are the betterment of their countries and peoples, a first order of business of the groups has necessarily been to counter US dominance of Latin America by various means.

No one I know of asserts that there hasn't been a tremendous change in Latin America vis a vis the US role there since Hugo Chavez began the project of uniting Latin America in opposition to US dominance. The US government, and friendly media outlets like the New York Times, Washington Post and others, still issue daily propaganda against Latin American Leftist leaders that exaggerate and even misstate some of the problems they've had, but in Latin America itself there's an entirely different story unfolding.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Better Business Bureau

I joined the Better Business Bureau a couple weeks ago and a plaque and some decals arrived this week.

I'm not sure if anyone in New Mexico has heard of the Better Business Bureau. In some parts of the country everyone has heard of it and the Better Business Bureau is in a nice building downtown. Here their office is in an anonymous looking little business park off Jefferson out near Paseo del Norte.

The Better Business Bureau promotes ethics in business. If you are listed with them it means they have checked you out and that you are who you say you are, that you have the proper permits and so forth. If someone files a complaint against you it will be listed on their web site.

In some parts of the country, if a consumer threatens to file a complaint with the BBB, it means something, and the business will try to rectify the customer's complaint to prevent a formal complaint being filed with the BBB.  There's a saying, in some parts of the country: "The customer is always right." People generally believe businesses adhere to that saying.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


So far this year at least 328 people have been killed by the police.

Since Michael Brown was killed by a Ferguson cop in August at least 746 people have been killed by the police.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Lalo Weighs In

Lalo Alcarez is the author of the long running La Cucaracha cartoon strip and co-hosts the Pocho Hour of Power radio program on KPFK, the Los Angeles Pacifica station, a program I'd sometimes hear while sitting in traffic trying to get out of Los Angeles in the afternoon. It's billed as political satire. It was a raucous group of young Latino men who used a lot of barrio slang I often didn't understand.

I'm Ready For Hillary, But Is She Ready For Me?

I'm not sure why everyone hasn't stopped what they're doing to observe Eduardo Galeano's passing.

TeleSur photo

Gunther Grass gets a mention, and rightly so.

Hugo Chavez gave Barak Obama a copy of Galeano's The Open Veins of Latin America which details the 500 year European and American rape and pillage of Latin America. Obama never read it, and neither has Hillary.

After eight or ten bottles of La Maja Sidra Leve Espumante Dulce Eduardo Galeano might have described her as a neocon pimp for Wall Street, or he might have said that after hearing her display as much gall as one person can possible display yesterday when she opened her campaign by claiming that she's for the working class, but he's dead, so we'll probably never know.

Sunday, April 12, 2015


The first Organization of Americans States' Summit of the Americas attended by Cuba ended yesterday on the anniversary of the 2002 US-backed coup against Venezuela's elected President Hugo Chavez, which lasted only two days due to massive street protests outside the presidential palace, and after the US government had quickly recognized the coup government.

After the 2002 US-backed coup, efforts by the US to topple Chavez never ended, and the US government continues to this day to try in various ways to topple Venezuela's current elected president, Nicolas Maduro. Perhaps that's why in the traditional group photo Maduro (blue suit, back row, finger raised) took a position from where he could an eye on President Obama.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Obama's Latin American Scheme

Updated below

President Obama's rapprochement with Cuba is seen by many as directed against Socialist Venezuela, whose influence in Latin America has grown as that of the US has diminished. Obama seeks to drive a wedge between Venezuela and Cuba, and to counter criticism in the region over US aggression against Socialist Cuba. The timing of his overtures to Cuba is seen as having to do with the Summit of the Americas going on now in Panama, which some Latin American countries had threatened to boycott if the US ban on Cuba's attendance wasn't lifted.

Barak Obama, Raul Castro, Ban Ki Moon, Panama City, Panama, April 11, 2015 - Reuters

Things haven't exactly gone according to Obama's plan. Cuba has remained steadfast in its support for Venezuela, having harshly condemned, as have most other Latin American countries, each of a series of actions recently taken by the US against Venezuela intended to destabilize it and bring about regime change in that country. And Cuba has several times publily asserted in strongly worded terms that any rapprochement with the US would have no affect on its internal politics and policies, and has consistently insisted that the condition for the rapprochement is that the US lift its economic blockade of Cuba.

Discussions between the US and Cuba, which US officials predicted would only take a few weeks, and thereby be completed before the Summit of the Americas, are still ongoing after three months. And it's anticipated by many that the Summit will be dominated by discussion of US aggression against Venezuela.

The Summit itself is held by the US dominated Organization of American States, which has diminished in relevance as it becomes largely replaced as a forum for Latin American cooperation by UNASUR, the Union of South American Nations, CELAC, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, and ALBA, the BolivarianAlliance for the Peoples of Our America, all organizations initiated by former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro arriving at the Summit of the Americas, April 11, 2015 - AP

Update 4/11/15: Coverage of the summit in the media of the US and its allies has focused primarily on the Castro-Obama "handshake" but some has attempted to include the Venezuelan dynamic. Of that most takes the US State Department line, as an article in The Atlantic by Moises Naim, which never mentions that Naim was a top Venezuelan official in the pre Chavez days and has since made a career of trashing Venezuela at places like Foreign Policy magazine.

Among US reporters there seems to be little awareness of the dynamics now playing out in US-Latin American relations and most see Latin America through a lens created by US government propaganda. Cuba, for example, since Obama launched his rapprochement scheme in December, in the eyes of the US media has suddenly become a "good guy" while its close ally Venezuela remains a "bad guy."

US media stories about Venezuela traditionally repeat a few talking points about the country provided by the US State Department, such as that it's inflation rate is astronomical, it's teetering on the verge of collapse, and that the violence that occurred during last summer's anti government protests was done by the Venezuelan government and not by protesters (NM's senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich have perpetuated this falsehood).

Likewise, with a few exceptions in Op-ed pieces, Venezuela is seen in the US media as trying to spoil the Summit of the Americas. Not mentioned is the fact that all Latin American countries, even the handful that remain American client states like Columbia, Uruguay and Honduras, have sided with Venezuela. All, for example, signed onto a statement issued last month at a UNASUR summit of Latin America's foreign ministers that condemned the latest round of US sanctions against Venezuela and demanded the US respect Venezuela's sovereignty.