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Revival or Survival

A Culture of Imbeciles

 

The three waves of 19th Century evangelical religious revivals in the US, known as the Great Awakening, are characterized by fervent enthusiasm. Designed by promoters to engage recruits on an emotional rather than intellectual level, these ecstatic gatherings resemble the recent wave of environmental enthusiasm associated with climate change.

While early waves of environmentalism responded to the petrochemical and nuclear crises noted by advocates like Rachel Carson and Helen Caldicott, later waves addressed systematic crises posed by militarism and consumerism. In the 21st Century, advocates like Arundhati Roy and Winona LaDuke invoked the environmental crises of human relationships, between indigenous nations and modern states under globalization.

Most recently, false prophets of the non-profit industrial complex, like Naomi Klein, hijacked environmental sentiments toward the crisis of fossil-fueled climate change, using funding from petroleum pooh bahs and oil train tycoons. Having misdirected the latest wave of environmental enthusiasm, these false prophets force a choice between revival or survival.

As Empire Froths at the Mouth, Avaaz Eyes Venezuela

March 5, 2015

RacistAvaazAd

Above: The Avaaz “Good Versus Evil” campaign for the June, 2012 Rio Summit. Above: A downloadable poster as found on the Avaaz Press Centre published in the Financial Times. Vilification: Note the dark cast/ugly sky behind the leaders Avaaz would wish you to believe are “evil,” versus the light and sun shining through over the Imperialist, obstructionist “leaders” that Avaaz is attempting to convince you are “good.” [Further reading: Rio Summit “Good Versus Evil” Advert Displays Blatant Racism and Imperialism at Core of Avaaz]

Via @Karol_en_Red: “As with Libya & Syria, Avaaz sets out for a massive campaign against Bolivarian Venezuela: 1st email circulating”

Twitter March 4 2015

Those at the helm of Avaaz (and Purpose Inc.) possess a deep understanding of the behavioural economics of hatred. They execute it brilliantly, albeit, cautiously:

Avaaz petition, February 12, 2015:

“Currently Venezuela has the highest rate of HIV infection and teenage pregnancy in South America. So health agencies are alarmed because condoms are needed to prevent these cases are triggered. While the President replied evasively, the local office of the World Health Organization (PAHO) can enact emergency and build international support for massively providing condoms and reasonably priced.”* [Read the full text here.]

Avaaz Screenshot Full March 5 2015

Note the framing/language: “while the president replied evasively“. President Maduro is anything but evasive. Evasive is the Avaaz petition itself which deliberately omits the economic warfare, economic sanctions, and an ongoing coup attempt waged upon the Maduro Government, all led by the United States.

Yet none of this is surprising considering Avaaz co-founder Tom Perriello is a pro-war former U.S. Representative under the Obama Administration. Nor is it surprising considering Avaaz’s role in the annihilation of Libya and their (failed) attempt to impose of a no-fly zone on Syria. Purpose Inc. (a public relations firm established by Avaaz co-founders) continues multiple campaigns intended to build acquiescence for a war on Syria. [Further reading: SYRIA: Avaaz, Purpose & the Art of Selling Hate for Empire | Wag the Dog: Campaigns of Purpose | Avaaz: the World’s Most Powerful NGO]

 January 20, 2015: Venezuelan Right-Wing Wants to “Make the Economy Scream”

“As Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro warns that the opposition’s economic war is part of the overall attempt to oust his government, teleSUR English interviews Dr Franciso Domiguez to look at the how this strategy has been previously used against progressive governments in Latin Ameirca in the past.”


 

Jan 24, 2015: Maduro cites ongoing economic coup d’état in Venezuela

“Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro affirmed that there is an ongoing economic coup d’etat in Venezuela orchestrated by the country’s radical right-wing opposition. Maduro called on the National Assembly of Venezuela to launch an investigation to bring those responsible for the economic destabilization offensive to justice.”

 

 

January 29, 2015: CELAC summit ends with declaration in support of Venezuela:

“The summit of the Community of Latin and American States (CELAC) concluded in Costa Rica today with a declaration in solidarity with Venezuela. Various Latin American presidents declared their support for the Venezuelan government in the face of destabilization efforts.”

 

 

March 4, 2015: Venezuela exposes opposition involvement in coup attempt

“Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro revealed new evidence concerning February’s failed coup. During his weekly television show on Tuesday. Maduro played audio recordings of a New York based Venezuelan opposition leader’s declaration to be read had the coup succeeded. Meanwhile, a delegation from the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) is scheduled to arrive in Caracas to mediate tensions between the Venezuelan government and the opposition. Participating in the delegation are representatives of Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and UNASUR Secretary General Ernesto Samper.”

 

 

February 25, 2015: Why the CIA Won’t Give Up on Venezuela:

Interview with Eva Golinger

 

 

[*Original in Spanish: Actualmente Venezuela tiene la tasa más alta de infección por VIH y embarazo adolescente en Suramérica. Por eso las entidades de salud están alarmadas, pues se necesitan preservativos para evitar que estos casos se disparen. Mientras el Presidente responde con evasivas, la oficina local de la Organización Mundial de la Salud (PAHO) puede decretar la emergencia y conseguir apoyo internacional para proveer condones de forma masiva y a precios razonables.] Read the full text here.

Further reading:

February 23, 2015: Venezuelan Health Ministry to Distribute 18 Million Free Condoms: “The Venezuelan Health Ministry announced on Friday that the National Public Health System will distribute 18 million condoms for men and women free of charge over the course of 2015. The move comes amidst artificial scarcities of contraceptives generated by private producers and distributors as part of an economic war against the government of Nicolas Maduro.” http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/11226

February 17, 2015: What is Inexcusable is Venezuela’s Political Independence by John Pilger: “There are straightforward principles and dynamics at work here. Washington wants to get rid of the Venezuelan government because it is independent of U.S. designs for the region and because Venezuela has the greatest proven oil reserves in the world and uses its oil revenue to improve the quality of ordinary lives. Venezuela remains a source of inspiration for social reform in a continent ravaged by an historically rapacious U.S.”

March 3, 2015: What Is Happening in Venezuela? “Coups and countercoups. Crackdowns. Economic crackups. Seven cents for a tube of toothpaste and $755 for a box of condoms. Falling oil prices. The arrest of an opposition leader. Washington plots. Human Rights Watch tweets. South America rallies…. Greg Grandin talks to a panel of experts to find out what really is going on in Venezuela.” http://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/11246

• Avaaz: Imperialist Pimps of Militarism, Protectors of the Oligarchy, Trusted Facilitators of War | Part I, Section I
• Avaaz: Imperialist Pimps of Militarism, Protectors of the Oligarchy, Trusted Facilitators of War | Part I, Section II
• Avaaz: Imperialist Pimps of Militarism, Protectors of the Oligarchy, Trusted Facilitators of War | Part I, Section III
• Imperialist Pimps of Militarism, Protectors of the Oligarchy, Trusted Facilitators of War | Part II, Section I
• Avaaz: Imperialist Pimps of Militarism, Protectors of the Oligarchy, Trusted Facilitators of War | Part II, Section II
Welcome to the Brave New World – Brought to You by Avaaz
• Avaaz: Imperialist Pimps of Militarism, Protectors of the Oligarchy, Trusted Facilitators of War | Part II, Section III
The Grotesque and Disturbing Ideology at the Helm of Avaaz

conformity-is-unity-3

Image courtesy of Mark Gould

 

And about those green jobs… Prison Inmates Paid 93 Cents Per Hour to Assemble Solar Panels

WKOG Admin: “The Prison-Industrial Complex is financially lucrative in more ways than one. For example – exploiting prison inmates to build solar panels for 93 cents per hour. Perhaps this is built into “a just transition from fossil fuels and nuclear power” that the Big Greens use to sell their “new economy” dogma.”

Oregon’s Signature Solar Energy Project Built on Foundation of False Hopes and Falsehoods

The Oregonian/OregonLive

February 27, 2015

Gov. John Kitzhaber said the solar project offered cheap power and jobs. He was only half right. (Courtesy Oregon Tech)

Dignitaries gathered on a dry Klamath Falls hillside in August 2011 to celebrate the launch of the largest solar power project ever attempted in Oregon.As then-Gov. John Kitzhaber and others dug their golden shovels into the hard ground, they were adamant that this was not another state-sponsored green energy boondoggle. This $27 million collection of solar arrays would be a boon for the economy as well as the environment.

For nearly $12 million in tax credits, state officials said, taxpayers could expect the project developer to buy local and hire local, creating a virtuous circle of energy savings, reduced greenhouse gases and jobs.

“An economy of innovation is within our reach,” Kitzhaber said, rewarding “efficiency rather than excess.”

Kitzhaber got the efficiency part right. The solar arrays fired up a year ago, generating even more power than expected at Oregon Institute of Technology and Oregon State University.

But those solar arrays rest on a foundation of falsehoods and false hopes, an investigation by The Oregonian/OregonLive has found.

Interviews and an examination of thousands of pages of documents show that state officials wrongly awarded millions in state tax credits, turning a blind eye to phony documents. The project also was dogged by an international trade war, a bitter corporate rivalry and a stunning twist that traded high-paid Oregon jobs for prison labor at 93 cents an hour.

“The department clearly didn’t follow its own rules,” said Energy Department Director Michael Kaplan when told of the findings of The Oregonian/OregonLive.

Kaplan subsequently asked the Criminal Justice Division of the Oregon Department of Justice to look into the circumstances and whether the state should move to recover the $11.8 million in tax credits.

Chapter 1: A failing company

The state’s energy project initially counted on an out-of-state developer with virtually no experience in solar projects.

Officials at the Oregon University System had big green ambitions. Six years ago, they envisioned 14 solar installations spread over seven campuses. But they had no funding, no practical experience and no in-house talent to develop such a project.

What they did have was access to Oregon’s Business Energy Tax Credit program – the most generous state incentive program in the nation. If the university system could get the array built, they could tap the program and leave Oregon taxpayers with half the cost.

In 2008, the state hired Martin Shain, a Seattle-based renewable energy consultant, to make the project happen. Shain later said on his website that he solicited proposals, selected vendors, negotiated contracts, monitored construction and secured the tax credits.

It did not go smoothly. The university system launched its solar quest in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. At the time, the Legislature was livid at mushrooming costs and weak financial controls in the state Energy Department and was considering killing the tax credit altogether.

Those credits were the linchpin to get other needed financing and to drive down energy costs to make the university project pencil out. In fact, the first developer walked away over worry the credits were in jeopardy.

The state quickly moved on, picking a new developer with no successful solar projects to its name, and a recently failed venture in Needles, Calif.

Renewable Energy Development Corp was founded by Ryan Davies, a nephew of former presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Davies had job hopped between various startups for years before forming what was known as Redco in 2008. His company was working with Shain on a solar project at the University of Utah when it got the Oregon job.

The university system board approved the deal with Redco in June 2011 and two months later Kitzhaber was wielding his golden shovel in Klamath Falls.

Davies was there, too. State rules for the tax credits required that the project be well underway by then. It wasn’t.

The groundbreaking was a “symbolic event,” Davies said. “Everybody turned over a shovel of dirt. It’s very safe to assume construction was not underway.”

Four months after that, Redco was bankrupt.

Chapter 2: A fraud to get millions

Redco’s bankruptcy should have killed the project. It meant there was little hope of completing it in time to legally claim $11.8 million in state tax credits. Instead, project backers submitted phony and misleading Redco documents to keep the project alive.

By summer of 2011, the business energy tax credit program had become a budget-busting nightmare. Costs were out of control. Applicants were blatantly abusing the rules. Fed up, lawmakers created two new cutoff dates to bring the scandalized program to a close. The primary deadline was that projects had to be done by January 2013.

Projects could get an 18-month extension if they could prove construction started by April 15, 2011. At the end of 2011, there still were no design plans or building permits for the university project. That didn’t deter university officials from trying to establish that construction on the project in fact started in early 2011.

Robert Simonton, then a university vice chancellor, wrote the state Energy Department on June 22, 2012, requesting the extension for the solar array project. He said Shain, the state consultant, would provide the required documentation.

Energy Department records show that a week later, Shain alerted state officials that he had sent the material via email. When Energy Department officials alerted him they didn’t have it, Shain promised to follow up. Two months later, he e-mailed Evan Elias, an Energy Department analyst, saying he was “under heavy pressure” to get the extensions, and would get the documents “in your hands, some way, ASAP so we can move forward.”

Without the extension, the solar project would die.

Shain said in an interview he then hand delivered the documents.

But the Energy Department project files reviewed by The Oregonian/OregonLive contain far less documentation than the agency typically required. Agency officials recently confirmed they acted on insufficient documentation.

Instead, they relied on two documents offered as proof construction on the solar arrays had started in time beat the state deadline.

One was an invoice to Redco for construction work. The Energy Department released it The Oregonian/OregonLive under a public records request.

The date on the invoice is key: Feb, 25, 2011 – or two months ahead of the state’s cutoff to qualify for the $11.8 million in tax credits.

The invoice purports to be from a Redco subcontractor, Solar Foundations Systems. The $14,200 bill itemizes the installation of foundations and fittings at multiple sites on each of the seven university campuses in Oregon.

It was stamped “PAID” on March 10, 2011, authorized by R. Davies, and paid with check number 1091.

Neither Utah nor Oregon has any record of Solar Foundations Systems. The Utah address on the receipt doesn’t exist, and the phone number at one time was a Redco listing. Utah state officials say they have no record of an engineering firm with the state licensing number shown on the invoice.

Redco’s bankruptcy filings do list a check number 1091. But that was written to Capital One, paying a personal debt of Ryan Davies.

Davies, now chief executive of a startup drug company, said in an interview that he has never heard of Solar Foundation Systems and that Redco never owned a stamp like the one used on the invoice.

Moreover, he said he had never before seen the second piece of crucial evidence that higher education officials submitted to the state - a Dec. 20, 2011, letter bearing Davies’ signature.

The letter urged Simonton, the vice chancellor, to seek an extension of the tax credit because of the “complex and tedious construction progress we encountered during Q1 and Q2 of this year.”

The letter stated that Redco’s “direct site and engineering and permitting expenses have exceeded $210,000…the initial construction, racking preparation and foundation work at each of the OUS locations…created additional costs.” Shain was copied on the letter.

Davies said Friday that he resigned from Redco five days before the letter was written. He claims he didn’t write the letter and the signature on it is nothing like his own. He also said Redco didn’t spend anywhere near $200,000 on the project.

“This is obviously some fraudulent behavior on somebody’s part,” he said, adding that he was making his own call to the state Justice Department.

Davies said the project was under the supervision of another Redco manager, Ryan Lambert. Davies said Lambert was friends with Shain and brought the Oregon project to Redco.

Contacted in Utah, Lambert told The Oregonian/OregonLive that any receipts and letters “were a Davies thing.” He also said he never heard of Solar Foundation Systems.

Shain, who provided the document to the state, said he doesn’t recall what was required by the rules or what he delivered to Elias. He said he can no longer locate any salient files. He has since refused to respond to questions.

The letter’s authenticity is also called into question by Redco’s bankruptcy filings. They show no payments at the end of 2011 on construction, permitting or other expenses. The only payment that appears directly related is a November 2011 check for $1,803 to the Energy Department. The agency returned the check because it didn’t know what it was for, according to a letter released as part of a public records request.

Even a cursory review of the submissions by Elias or his supervisors at the Energy Department would have detected problems. Agency files contain no record of any due diligence by Elias.

Instead, the agency sent university officials what they prized most – the extension that kept the $11.8 million in their grasp.

Kaplan said that approval of the tax credit was not driven by pressure to approve a politically popular project. He also said it wasn’t the act of a single employee.

“As far as making any one person accountable for a series of decisions related to the BETC, I don’t think that’s fair. We share that responsibility.  These are organizational issues,” he said.

Chapter 3: And about those green jobs…

Though they saved the tax credits, state university officials didn’t show the same ambition to save the new jobs promised by Kitzhaber.

After the Redco debacle, the university system quickly hired its third developer in the spring of 2012.  SolarCity was no solar rookie. It had been around for five years and billed itself as the largest installer of solar systems in the world.

Under the new contract, SolarCity would do all the engineering, site prep and installation for Oregon. The company would own the project, selling power to the universities to recoup its investment.

Their partner was another seeming solid name in green energy – SolarWorld. The company arrived in Hillsboro in 2007, investing hundreds of millions of dollars in a state-of-the-art solar panel factory. Potential new jobs for the company were part of the lure of the university project.

Kitzhaber, taken with the buy-local strategy, authorized a $60,000 state study to assess the project’s impact on the local economy. The study concluded that buying the solar panels in Oregon would generate $10 million in local wages.

It was common knowledge in the solar industry, though, that SolarCity and SolarWorld were bitter rivals in an international trade war.

SolarWorld was building solar panels in the U.S. and took the lead in defending American manufacturing from perceived illegal trade by the Chinese. SolarWorld complained to U.S. and European Union entities that Chinese companies were dumping solar panels in the U.S. below cost to kill competitors.

SolarCity, meanwhile, depended on those low-cost panels for its own business success. Any effort to stanch their flow into the U.S. was a threat. SolarCity and others in the industry mobilized against SolarWorld.

The U.S. Commerce Department stunned the industry when it sided with SolarWorld and imposed stiff tariffs on solar panels from China. It was the first of 10 such wins for SolarWorld, and came just two months after SolarCity started working on the Oregon project.

Despite such victories, SolarWorld struggled in 2011-2012. The solar panel business had become a bloodbath as Chinese firms dominated the industry. At least 14 American solar companies failed or shuttered manufacturing plants.

The company’s $5 million share of the university project was a rare bright spot.

“We were really excited,” said Mukesh Dulani, CEO of SolarWorld Oregon. “A five-megawatt project like this was crucial to us. We weren’t producing big volumes at the time.”

SolarCity quickly took the shine off the contract, telling state officials that they were troubled by SolarWorld’s shaky financial condition. Shain, the state’s project consultant, echoed that view.

“Deep concerns in the financial community about their liquidity are creating very difficult project finance issues,” he said in a Feb. 26, 2013, email to Maureen Bock, the Energy Department incentives program manager.

Industry analysts at the time predicted SolarWorld was headed for insolvency and questioned its decision to manufacture solar panels in the West.

SolarCity also claimed SolarWorld was backing away from its product warranties and wanted an additional $250,000.

Dulani vigorously denied his company demanded revised terms or that it was stepping away from its warranties.

Faced with the threat of cancellation, SolarWorld beseeched state officials to intervene to keep the contract alive.

“This is a travesty and there truly is no good reasons for this, contrary to what you may have been told by SolarCity,” said SolarWorld salesman Matthew Lind in an April 2013 email to OSU Sustainability Director Brandon Trelstad. “We have the industry-leading premium product coming out of Hillsboro and we can meet the price that SolarCity wants to pay, delivery capacity, volume, timing, etc.”

OSU did nothing.

“There was a lot of tension between the two companies,” Trelstad said in an interview. “I expressed interest in staying out of it. I didn’t think it was OSU’s place.”

Trelstad wasn’t the only state official in the loop. Managers of the Energy Department’s incentive programs, including Anthony Buckley, Bock and Elias, also knew SolarWorld was losing the contract.

There is no record anyone in either agency lifted a finger to help.

Layoffs followed at SolarWorld.

“We had to make some hard decisions,” Dulani said. “You have to do that when you lose five megawatts of production. This affected our people and their families. SolarCity screwed us.”

Firing SolarWorld was just business, said Will Craven, SolarCity spokesman.

But if workers in Hillsboro weren’t going to make the state’s panels, who would?

Shain assured state officials that SolarCity had found “alternative modules of U.S. manufacture, and very possible Oregon manufacture.”

SolarCity’s alternative: Prison labor.

What project consultant Shain doesn’t tell state officials is that the alternative modules would be assembled by convicts at the federal prison in Sheridan making 93 cents an hour.

Under a subcontractor, Norcross, Georgia-based Suniva, the panel work went behind the walls at the Federal Correctional Institute in Sheridan. Inmates paid 93 cents an hour assembled the panels. That was in contrast to SolarWorld factory pay — $11 an hour to start.

Craven acknowledged that using inmate labor “may not have been in the spirit” of the tax credit program. He said state officials knew prisoners were involved.

State officials said they were unaware of the inmate component until questioned recently by The Oregonian/OregonLive.

“They used inmates?” Simonton asked. “That’s unfortunate.”

+++

 

[Ted Sickinger: tsickinger@oregonian.com | 503-221-8505 | @tedsickinger]

[Jeff Manning: jmanning@oregonian.com | 503-294-7606 | @JeffmanningOre]

 

 

Da’esh : Washington’s Proxy Army Trained to “Occupy” Syria [Brookings Institute]

Libya 360

November 27, 2014

By Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya
Smoke rises from the the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds, after a strike from the US-led coalition as it seen from the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern village of Mursitpinar, Sanliurfa province, on October 14, 2014. (AFP Photo/Aris Messinis)

Is the US planning the occupation of Syria by training an unconventional insurgent invasion force?

Think regime change in Syria is off the drawing board? Think again. The bombing of the ISIL or ISIS in Syria is part of a brinkmanship campaign leading up to a potential non-conventional invasion, parallel to the re-introduction of the US military to Iraq.

The ISIL and the other anti-government forces in Iraq and Syria are not the only ones to disregard the Iraqi-Syrian border drawn by the British and French by Sykes-Picot in 1916. The US also disregarded the border and international law when it began to illegally bomb Syria.

The bombing campaign was not enough for some in the US Congress. In a joint statement on September 23, the arch-hawks US Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham called for US troops to be sent into Syria too. Both of them praised the Pentagon’s illegal airstrikes in Syria and then argued for US ground troops as well.

Although McCain and Graham went out of their way to say that this would not be an occupation of either Syria or Iraq, this is almost exactly what they were calling for when they said that the military campaign had to also be directed against the Syrian government.

Since, and even before the calls for an invasion of Syria by McCain and Graham different suggestions have circulated about an invasion of Syria.

The dilemma is that Washington does not want the Pentagon to directly invade Syria itself. It wants to pull the strings while another force does the work on the ground. Candidates for an outsourced invasion of Syria include the Turkish military or other US regional allies. There, however is also an impasse here as Washington’s allies are also afraid of the consequences of an invasion of Syria.

This is where a third opinion comes into the picture: the construction of a multinational insurgent army by the US.

Using non-state actors to invade and occupy Syria

While there seems to be no consensus on a Syrian strategy within the US political, intelligence, and military establishments, the objective of regime change is universally adhered to across the board. Regardless of the existence of a consensus, the US is moving ahead with the creation of an anti-government invasion force.

The third option is slowly emerging.

A few days after the US began the bombing of Syria, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey made it clear that the Pentagon also planned on creating a viable anti-government army in Syria consisting of 12,000 to 15,000 insurgents.

There also seems to be a growing consensus among the realist and neocons for US President Obama’s preference of using a rebel army to invade Syria. The Brookings Institute has been a major cheerleader for this.

During this same timeframe, the Brookings Institute released an opinion piece clearly calling for US intervention. The text, authored, by former CIA analyst for monitoring the Persian Gulf and US National Security Council official Kenneth Pollack, stipulated that Washington’s “strategy cannot require sending U.S. troops into combat. Funds, advisers, and even air power are all fair game — but only insofar as they do not lead to American boots on the ground.”

Pollack played an influential role in getting support for the illegal 2003 invasion of Iraq. He worked at the Council of Foreign Relations as its director of national security studies. He made the above statement as the director of research for the Saban Center for Middle East Policy and goes well beyond it by publishing a drawn-out October 2014 proposal for creating a US-made rebel invasion force as a means of taking over Syria and eventually conducting regime change in Damascus.

The Brookings Institute proposal suggests that a rebel Syrian army “is best not done in Syria itself. At least not at first” (p.9). The report points to the US and NATO success in “covertly” creating armed forces around the world, including the assembly of a Croat military, and deduces that these experiences would make it “entirely realistic for the United States to build a new Syrian opposition army” (p.8). It also says that the ideology of the fighters does not matter by stating the following: “A great many of those recruited may well be religious, even highly religious, including Salafist. That is not the issue” (p.9).

Welcome to the Brookings Institute and its Saban Center

What is the Brookings Institute exactly and why do suggestions from this think tank and others like it, matter?

The Brookings Institute is an influential think tank that has a revolving door of personnel with the US government and major corporations. All that one needs to do is look at its trustees and executives, which include interlocked directorships with the Carlyle Group, Goldman Sachs, and JP Morgan Chase.

Brookings also has ties to Israel and a full branch dedicated to Washington’s Middle East strategies and policies called the Saban Centre for Middle East Policy. Martin Indyk – the former US ambassador to Israel, a former high-level lobbyist for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), and the founder of AIPAC’s research arm (the Washington Institute for Near East Policy) – is the Director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings. Like Indyk, Kenneth Pollack was involved in shaping the Middle East policies of the Clinton Administration.

It is also worth noting that the Brookings Institute’s Saban Center is named after US-Israeli businessman and media mogul Haim Saban. Saban himself is on the board of trustees for Brookings.

There is a Qatari connection too. One may remember that Washington was hostile towards Al Jazeera when it first emerged as a news broadcaster, because of its coverage of US actions in the Middle East.

Saban tried to buy half of the Al Jazeera network from Qatar in 2004 and 2009, but failed. In the same timeframe as the 2003 Anglo-American invasion of Iraq, the first set of negotiations happened when he went to Qatar with Bill Clinton in 2003.

It is possible that Brookings may have played a role in pacifying Al Jazeera. In 2009, the Institute setup an overseas branch in Qatar called the Brookings Doha Center. The new chapter in Doha included Qatar’s ruling Al-Thani family alongside people like Madeleine Albright, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Fareed Zakaria as chairs and advisors.

It was in the same year that the Brookings Institute published a report, which included Pollack and Indyk as authors, called Which Path to Persia? The report outlined a map for confronting Iran and alluded to the neutralization of Syria, in one way or another (including the procurement of a peace agreement with Damascus by Israel), to “mitigate blowback” from Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the Palestinians, specifically Hamas, as a prerequisite for an enabling an attack on Iran.

All in all, the ideas that come out of the Brookings Institute are discussed at the highest levels within policymaking and corporate circles.

Is the Syrian Invasion Force Slowly Emerging?

Is a rebel invasion force emerging to attack Syria? In no uncertain terms, Brookings argues that it is.

Pollack’s report stipulates the following: “Adopting such a strategy would mean first and foremost that Washington would have to commit itself to building a new Syrian army that will rule Syria when the war is over. Although [Obama’s] description of his new Syria policy was more modest and tepid than his explanation of the Iraq piece of the strategy, he does appear to have committed the United States to just that course. More than that, it will mean putting the resources, prestige and credibility of the United States behind this effort. The $500 million now appropriated is a good start, but it is only a down payment on a much larger project” (p.8).

The US goal of training rebels in Saudi Arabia and Turkey is an indication of this too. On September 10, about two weeks before it started bombing Syria, Washington declared that Saudi Arabia had given it the green light to train a rebel army in the Arabian Peninsula. “We now have the commitment from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to be a full partner in this effort — the train-and-equip program — to host that program,” one official was quoted as saying by the New York Times.

The Brookings Institute in its proposal for an invasion of Syria: “The Saudi offer to provide facilities to train 10,000 Syrian opposition fighters is one of reasonable possibility, although one of Syria’s neighbors would probably be preferable. Jordan already serves as a training ground for America’s current training program and it would be an ideal locale to build a real Syrian army. However, Turkey could also conceivably serve that purpose if the Turks were willing” (p.10).

About two months later, in November, after US Vice President Joe Biden met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul, it was announced that Kirsehir would be used by Turkey to train Syrian anti-government forces that the US would equip against Damascus.

The report also makes it clear that building the new opposition army “should not mean bolstering the existing ‘Free Syrian Army’” (p.10). Instead, the existing US-backed insurgent groups will slowly be swallowed or destroyed by the new opposition force that the US and its allies are constructing.

In mid-November, the Pentagon also presented a proposal to the US Congress, saying that it wants to arm Iraqi tribesmen with Kalashnikov rifles, rocked propelled grenades, and mortars. What is omitted is the cross-border dispersion of these tribes in both Iraq and Syria and the possibility that these weapons could be used in an attack on the Syrian government.

What moderates?

The talk about supporting “moderates” is very misleading. It is already clear that the ideology of the proposed insurgent army is not a key issue in practice for many US officials. There is also enough evidence to show that the Free Syrian Army, Al-Nusra, the ISIL, and the other insurgent forces are also collaborating and trading fighters.

The Telegraph, for example, had this to say on November 10 about Saddam Jamal, a US-backed Free Syrian Army commander that became an ISIL commander: “Before joining ISIL, Jamal had been a drug dealer, then a commander in the western-backed Free Syrian Army, claiming contacts in the CIA.

It is also clear that religion is a mask for the ISIL too. The same British article writes the following testimony from Saddam Jamal’s body guard about his massacre of a Syrian family: “The ISIL commander felt no remorse for killing this Syrian family, his bodyguard said, nor did he believe he was fulfilling a God-given creed: for him being a member of the extremist group was a matter of business, not religion.

In the end the ISIL may be used to incubate fighters or collapse, like the Free Syrian Army, into the proposed invasion force to occupy Syria.

Invasion army or armies?

General Dempsey said that “the anti-ISIL campaign could take several years to accomplish.” Leon Panetta, the former head of the CIA and Pentagon, has also claimed that this war will turn into a thirty-year US military project that will extend to North Africa, West Africa, and the Horn of Africa.

According to Brookings: “At some point, such a new Syrian army would have to move into Syria, but only when it was ready. Only when a force large enough to conquer and hold territory – something on the order of two to three brigades -were ready should it be sent in” (p.11).

A war of attrition that that will take years of fighting is underway. This matches up with the ideas about training an insurgent invasion force over the years.

In their joint statement Senators McCain and Graham said that President Bashar Assad will not stop fighting the so-called “moderate” US-backed insurgents “that remain committed to his ousting- especially when the United States and [its] partners still, correctly, share the same goal and will now be arming and training Assad’s moderate opponents.” In other words, the US-trained Syrian forces will ultimately target the Syrian government.

 

[Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya is a sociologist, award-winning author and geopolitical analyst.]

Social Capitalists: Wall Street’s Progressive Partners

Intercontinental Cry

February 24, 2015

by Jay Taber

 

One Hoax after Another

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After successfully bewitching the greens into falling for college campus fossil fuel divestment in the US — which helped Wall Street consolidate its fossil fuel control — Wall Street is now cooking up an international carbon copy of this hoax to capitalize on the euphoria of climate campaigns.

The Divest-Invest Shell Game — like the REDD carbon market fiasco — requires suspension of disbelief, and determined engagement in wishful thinking.

BDS against Israel, and formerly against South Africa, used the three-part formula of Boycott Divestment Sanction. Divestment, as used by 350, omits boycott and sanction, and limits divestment to meaningless, symbolic acts.

All this divestment does is make once publicly-held shares available on Wall Street, which allows trading houses like Goldman Sachs to further consolidate their control of the industry.When it comes to the 350 agenda, they leave out the boycott of fossil fuels, and the sanction of fossil fuel corporations, and instead press for divestment by institutions like colleges and universities. All this divestment does is make once publicly-held shares available on Wall Street, which allows trading houses like Goldman Sachs to further consolidate their control of the industry.

BDS, when applied against apartheid states by other states and international institutions, includes cutting off access to finance, as well as penalties for crimes against humanity. What makes 350 so devious, is that they hijack public emotions using phony “divestment” as a disorganizing tool to redirect activism away from effective work.

The mystique of mass hypnosis, embodied in the Charms of Naomi, examines the social engineering of climate activism organized by 350, as well as the seductive energy tales that lead gullible progressives into supporting one hoax after another.

In McKibben’s Divestment Tour — Brought to You by Wall Street, acclaimed investigative reporter Cory Morningstar continues her series of reports on the non-profit industrial complex, with a focus on social capitalists like The Clinton Foundation and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund that created 1Sky–the forerunner of 350. With support from CERES, they help the fossil fuel industry avoid boycott and sanction by owning NGOs and directing their climate agenda.

CERES, Tides and 350*

Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES) is a partner of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). CERES funders are associated with Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America.

WBCSD is part of a Wall Street strategy to dislodge the United Nations Center on Transnational Corporations, and prevent enforceable rules governing the operations of multinational corporations.

One third of the CERES network companies are in the Fortune 500. Since 2001, CERES has received millions from Wall Street corporations and foundations.

CERES president Mindy Lubber promotes “sustainable capitalism” at Forbes. Bill McKibben (founder of 350) was an esteemed guest of CERES conferences in 2007 and 2013.

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1Sky, which merged with 350 in 2011, was created by the Clinton Foundation and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Betsy Taylor of 1Sky/350 is on the CERES board of directors.

In 2012, Bill McKibben and Peter Buffett (oil train tycoon Warren Buffet’s son) headlined the Strategies for a New Economy conference. Between 2003 and 2011, NoVo (Buffet’s foundation) donated $26 million to Tides Foundation, which in turn funds CERES and 350.

Suzanne Nossel, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State under Hillary Clinton, is on the Tides Center board of directors.

 The New Economy

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Presaging the new economy of progressives like 350’s Naomi Klein, CERES’ Mindy Lubber and Avaaz’ Ricken Patel, was the 2004 Progressive Democrats of America campaign and the appointment of self-described Reaganite U.S. Senator Barack Obama, as keynote speaker at the 2006 Democratic National Convention.

As America’s nervous breakdown intensified, progressives produced such horrors as the 2006 bill, introduced by U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein (D) San Francisco, to make activism against corporations illegal. With the 2010 U.S. Department of Homeland Security arrests of anti-war and environmental activists, for the crime of showing documentary films criticizing the arms and energy industries, Feinstein was in seventh heaven.

In 2012, as federal prosecutors and law enforcement escalated harassment of #Occupy activists attempting to influence U.S. policy, the defense of civil and human rights moved from the courts to the streets. Neoliberals like Hillary Clinton, Diane Feinstein, and Barack Obama — committed to state-sponsored violence for the benefit of Wall Street — exercised fascism through aggression, surveillance, and repression of dissent.

Illogic of the Climateers

Catsmob.com - The coolest pics on the net!

Cults — religious or secular — involve dissemination of core beliefs by their agents. Whether priests or public relations provocateurs, these agents are the vectors by which recruiting and indoctrination are accomplished.Cults — religious or secular — involve dissemination of core beliefs by their agents. Whether priests or public relations provocateurs, these agents are the vectors by which recruiting and indoctrination are accomplished. In order to maintain the cult, ideological doctrine — when founded on nonsense — become mantras that prevent critical thought.

The illogic of the climateers cult — of which Naomi Klein is the primary prophet — finds fertile ground in the political illiteracy of privileged first world progressives–fallen prey to institutional propaganda and market advertising. The hoax is made possible by a combination of hopelessness, magical thinking, and media consolidation.

In a world where warmongers are given the Nobel Peace Prize, and revolutions are won by throngs in blue taking selfies while eating pizza provided by Wall Street, anything is possible. Anything, that is, except social change.

In a culture of imbeciles, secular cults flourish according to the amount of Wall Street derivatives flowing through foundations into the non-profit industrial complex. After that, it’s a simple matter of echoing mantras on YouTube and TV talk shows.

The art of social engineering, while dependent on high finance, also requires a politically illiterate audience. In a society like the United States, the charms of Naomi are amplified by progressive ignorance, and sustained by imperial civil society.

Simulating an Orwellian ministry of truth, the magic of Naomi — funded by Wall Street — becomes revolutionary in ways envisioned in the novel 1984. As a maverick in her own mind, Klein has become the progressives’ Sarah Palin.

Progressive self-delusion, from hope and change to this changes everything, is grounded in hysteria. The climateers Kool-Aid keeps reality at bay.

The Invisible Environment

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Image Courtesy of Mark Gould

In his 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman — American media theorist, humanist and cultural critic — noted that “new technology can never substitute for human values.”

Even our most heartfelt emotions and concerns have been hijacked by the amusement industry, penetrating so deeply into our collective psyche, that we have become social robots.In American society today, our social amusements have come to occupy not only our pastimes, but everything about our lives, politics, values and beliefs. Even our most heartfelt emotions and concerns have been hijacked by the amusement industry, penetrating so deeply into our collective psyche, that we have become social robots.

Capitalizing on this corrosion of civil society, Wall Street marketing agencies like Purpose and Avaaz — sponsors of campaigns to support “humanitarian war” and the “new economy” — have designed and exploited an advertising niche to make money from this social pathology.

While American faith about the truth in advertising might suffer as a result of these amusements, the deaths that result take place mostly in the Third and Fourth World. As Americans are herded into waving signs and marching around Manhattan wearing the color blue, millions around the world are dying from starvation, disease and murder resulting from American consumerism.

As a professor of Culture and Communication, Postman taught a course called Communication: the Invisible Environment. While he was concerned primarily with the decline in the ability of mass communications to share serious ideas, Postman was aware that the turning of complex ideas into superficial images — that become a form of entertainment — leads to a society where information is a commodity, bought and sold for entertainment, or to enhance one’s status. In contemporary society, mediated by technology, individuals will literally believe anything.

Seductive Energy Tales

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“The seductive tales of wind turbines, solar cells, and biofuels foster the impression that with a few technical upgrades, we might just sustain our current energy trajectories without consequence…Like most fairy tales, this productivist parable contains a tiny bit of truth. And a whole lot of fantasy.”Demanding an end to fossil fuels has its allure, but when we examine the alternatives, things don’t look quite so cheery. As Ozzie Zehner reports from the Center for Science, Technology, Medicine and Society at University of California, Berkeley, “The seductive tales of wind turbines, solar cells, and biofuels foster the impression that with a few technical upgrades, we might just sustain our current energy trajectories without consequence…Like most fairy tales, this productivist parable contains a tiny bit of truth. And a whole lot of fantasy.”

As Zehner notes in Green Illusions, “Emerging research on the side effects and limitations of solar cells, wind turbines, biofuels, electric cars and other alternative energy strategies will likely transform conventional wisdom about what’s green, and what’s not.” Since renewable energy doesn’t scale to meet our current (let alone future) demands, that leaves fossil fuels and nuclear energy–or reduced demand.

Perhaps our only hope is that the coming plague from the collapse of global public health will reduce the human population sufficiently to give us a fresh start at screwing up. Of course, last time that happened, things didn’t work out so well. Still, 14th Century thought leaders had to contend with economic panic and religious hysteria, unlike our progressive 21st Century leaders.

New Age Ghost Dance

The inheritors of the Standard Oil fortune (Rockefeller Brothers) would not be funding 350 were they not thus disempowering their naive followers. As Agent Saboteur, 350 has already proven its value to Wall Street.

Enchanting as the chimera of clean energy might be, it doesn’t scale to meet energy demand, and its use by marketing agencies like Avaaz, Purpose and 350 is to perpetuate the misbelief that Wall Street — which caused all our social and environmental problems — is our only hope for salvation. Sort of a New Age Ghost Dance.

Divest-Invest Shell Game

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One of the recurring scenes in the iconic comic strip Charlie Brown is the one where his sister Lucy holds the ball for Charlie to kick, promising not to move the ball at the last second, thereby causing Charlie to tumble backward when she always does. Humiliated time after time by Lucy’s sadistic antics, Charlie — trusting soul that he is — never fails to fall for Lucy’s promise, that this time she won’t pull the same trick as before.

I thought of Charlie Brown and Lucy reading the announcement of “major commitments” on the eve of the UN Summit on Climate Change. Having moved the ball at Poznan, Copenhagen, Cancun and Durban — thus causing progressive greens to take a tumble — the UN, Wall Street, and big international NGOs (BINGOs) are now asking recently enraptured climateers to give them another chance to prove themselves trustworthy.

When they begin swooning over oil tycoon heirs as their new heroes, the greens demonstrate their boundless capacity for self-delusion. When they begin swooning over oil tycoon heirs as their new heroes, the greens demonstrate their boundless capacity for self-delusion. As we saw with the enchanting Charms of Naomi, the mystique of mass hypnosis is a simple matter of the prescribed art of social engineering. Having captivated a gullible audience, in a state of ecstasy after their euphoric march in blue, makes beguiling the credulous child’s play.

 

Till the End of Time

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Social engineering by Avaaz, Purpose and 350 over the years has been exclusively focused on increasing market share for themselves. This, in turn, keeps Wall Street foundation funds flowing into their coffers. Market share, acquired through advertising (i.e. branding), has been demonstrated by these cults and PR firms to be designed to deceive consumers into believing they are making a difference when they are not.Market share, acquired through advertising (i.e. branding), has been demonstrated by these cults and PR firms to be designed to deceive consumers into believing they are making a difference when they are not.

As with other Wall Street-backed political campaigns, Avaaz, Purpose and 350 engage in false advertising, more commonly known as fraud. Like earlier campaigns, promoting supposedly green products or projects that turned out to be bogus (i.e. Keystone XL, clean energy, and fossil fuel divestment), the new economy form of Free-Market environmentalism only benefits Wall Street and its stable of NGOs–not the environment.

This marketing sophistry is particularly appealing to over-consumers in countries like the US, who do not want to make any sacrifices, preferring to be sold fantasies about magical capitalist-friendly solutions, in which all lethal downsides and toxic side effects are strategically concealed from them. Indeed, part of the magical thinking — sold by Avaaz, Purpose and 350 — is that progressives have inside knowledge about this clever stratagem, while the ignorant masses are tricked into being green without knowing it.

The same idiots who bought into biofuel — whose plantations cause mass starvation and displacement of indigenous peoples — now reflexively participate in promoting Wall Street’s agenda as something new.The arrogance of progressives, along with unlimited funds from Wall Street, is what makes this advertising effective. The same people who were conned into buying electric cars that use environmentally-destructive methods to obtain rare earth minerals in their fabrication, are now oblivious to the new economy shell game. The same idiots who bought into biofuel — whose plantations cause mass starvation and displacement of indigenous peoples — now reflexively participate in promoting Wall Street’s agenda as something new.

The fact there is no substance to the empty promotions by new economy celebrities like Naomi Klein is perhaps what progressives find most enticing. Without any actual plan — other than advertising — there is nothing to debate. In that way, their imbecility is secure from attack, free to follow pipe dreams and pied pipers till the end of time.

*Excerpts from the McKibben’s Divestment Tour: Brought to You by Wall Street series by Cory Morningstar

 

[Jay Taber is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, a correspondent to Forum for Global Exchange, and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as communications director at Public Good Project, a volunteer network of researchers, analysts and activists engaged in defending democracy. As a consultant, he has assisted indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations. Email: tbarj [at] yahoo.com Website: www.jaytaber.com]

Keystone XL: The Opportunism that Infests Environmentalist Activism, for the Benefit of Capital

February 26, 2015

 

 “Cory Morningstar and Harold One Feather expose the hideous reality behind the so-called “victory” against Keystone XL, and the opportunism that infests environmentalist activism, for the benefit of capital.”— Stephanie McMillan

The facts below shed much needed light to the February 24, 2015 article Proving That ‘Activism Works,’ Obama Vetoes Keystone XL Bill:

“May Boeve, Executive Director of 350.org, which spearheaded the fight against the Keystone pipeline, heralded the move as “conclusive proof that activism works. After four years of rallies, marches, sit-ins, and civil disobedience, we’re thrilled to see President Obama take an important first step by vetoing this love letter to Big Oil.” A coalition of environmental groups is holding a celebration outside of the White House in Lafayette Park.”

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“Just wait until they mix tar sands oil and Bakken fracking oil at Baker, Montana to give birth to Frankenstein oil—so flammable that even neutrinos will ignite it. And the world catches fire, burning from the inside until the world is ashes.” — Harold One Feather

 

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Mapsearch: “With over 1,000,000 miles of pipeline and 750,000 miles of transmission line, MAPSearch offers you the largest database available for making competitive decisions in the energy industry. MAPSearch provides the most current mapping and research for: petroleum, natural gas, electric power and renewable energy.”

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FACT: Warren Buffett has built a 21st century rail dynasty. [Further reading: Keystone XL: The Art of NGO Discourse | Part I]

FACT: “In 2013, railroads delivered 407,761 carloads of crude, or about 300 million barrels of oil, according to the Association of American Railroads. That’s up more than 4,000% from just 9,500 carloads in 2008.” [Source]

FACT: 47 people were killed at the Lac-Mégantic crude via rail disaster. If the accident would have happened during the day instead of 1:15 AM – thousands would have been killed in a disaster that obliterated an entire downtown. Crude via rail accidents continue to proliferate.

FACT: Warren Buffett has funneled 26 million dollars (2003-2011) into Tides (who funnels the foundation money to the organizations campaigning against tar sands) via his son’s NoVo foundation – set up with Buffett’s money. [Further reading: Keystone XL: The Art of NGO Discourse – Part 1V | Buffett Acquires the Non-Profit Industrial Complex]

FACT: Obama (essentially a puppet) IS for oil (and fracking, war, coups, occupations, surveillance etc.). To imply to Americans he is anything other than that, is dishonest at best.

FACT: Dec. 16, 2013: (Bloomberg) — U.S. crude oil production will approach a record by 2016, climbing to the highest level in 46 years. [Source]

FACT: Feb 11, 2015: U.S. oil production reaches all-time high amid depressed crude prices: “U.S. producers pumped out an average of 9.2 million barrels of crude daily in the latest week, the most since the federal government started keeping records.” [Source]

FACT: Having North American citizens focus on a single pipeline (much of what has been built and in operation for years) – as the singular focus for a climate “movement” is ridiculous (and a dangerous distraction) as the map above proves.

FACT: “The Keystone Pipeline already brings oil from Alberta’s tar sands into Oklahoma. The XL refers to extending that pipeline. The southern part of the extension, connecting with Texas, already is in operation. The controversy is over the northern portion.” [Source]

FACT: January 8. 2015: (Bloomberg) — “Alberta’s oil production rose to a record in October and further gains are forecast this year as plunging prices fail to slow oil sands expansions…. Canada is the biggest oil exporter to the U.S. with 3.26 million barrels a day shipped in the week ended Jan. 2, the highest in data dating back to June 2010, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said yesterday.” [Source]

FACT: The first simple truth is that to “fight” fossil fuels without the most radical/deep reductions on consumption ever attempted by Annex I/developed states since industrial revolution began, all efforts are futile. Without this concerted and collective endeavour – all campaigns are mere spectacle. [Further reading: Progressive Self-Delusion: From Hope and Change to This Changes Everything] [Further reading: The the wealthiest 15% emit 75% of all emissions.]

FACT: The second simple (and final) truth is—it’s the system. That no one wants to acknowledge this – doesn’t change the fact that it’s true. We kill capitalism—or capitalism kills us. It’s really that simple. [Free eBook: Capitalism Must Die!]

 

 

A Sovereign Nation Stands Tall

Robson’s article below, A Sovereign Nation Stands Tall exposes industry funding of white supremacy advocates, as a means of drumming up resentment against Northwest tribes opposing fossil fuel export on the Salish Sea (between Seattle and Vancouver).

Coal Stop

February 20, 2015

by Sandy Robson

 

The Lummi, a Coast Salish people, are the original inhabitants of Washington state’s northernmost coast and southern British Columbia. The Lummi Nation is a self-governing nation and is the third largest tribe in Washington state. Lummi refer to themselves as the Lhaq’temish, or People of the Sea. Their survival and culture have depended on the annual migrations of salmon for centuries, but salmon are now severely threatened after salmon stocks have drastically declined.

Presently, threatening the Lummi, their treaty rights, and the salmon they depend on, is Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT), a 48 million metric ton per year coal export terminal proposed at Xwe’chi’eXen (Cherry Point) in Whatcom County, Washington, along the Salish Sea shoreline. The company proposing the coal export terminal is Pacific International Terminals (PIT), a subsidiary created for the GPT project by SSA Marine, one of the largest shipping terminal operators in the world.

Despite the Lummi Nation’s multiple expressions of their position that the impacts on the Nation’s treaty rights associated with GPT cannot be mitigated, executives of SSA Marine are not listening.

totem journey seattle

Lummi people have fished in the waters of the northern Puget Sound and the Nooksack River since time immemorial, and the Lummi’s treaty fishing rights are secured to them by our federal government in the Treaty of Point Elliott of 1855. Article 5 of the Treaty provides that, “The right of taking fish from usual and accustomed grounds and stations is further secured to said Indians in common with all citizens of the Territory. . .”

Lummi Indian Business Council (LIBC) Chairman Tim Ballew II sent a January 5, 2015 letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (“the Corps”) requesting that the Corps take action and immediately deny SSA/PIT’s permit application for the proposed GPT project, “based, inter alia, on the project’s adverse impact on the treaty rights of the Lummi Nation.” The LIBC letter further stated, “The impacts on the Nation’s treaty rights associated with this project cannot be mitigated.”

Enter SAVEWhatcom

Since the news of Lummi Nation’s letter to the Corps, executives from SSA/PIT launched a barrage of proclamations of their supposed “good faith” offers for face-to-face negotiations between the company and Lummi Nation about the project. SSA/PIT used the media and the company’s GPT email mailing list to deliver those invitations, which in the language of sincerity, seemed to be put forth more for public opinion than anything else.

Recent statements on its Facebook page made by the Political Action Committee (PAC) SAVEWhatcom, which has received over $20,000 in contributions from SSA/PIT, appear to be an attempt to drive public opinion against the Lummi Nation’s strong oppositional stance to GPT. SAVEWhatcom’s statements call into question the sincerity of SSA/PIT in their claims of “good faith,” when a PAC the company donated money to puts out messaging that seems in such bad faith.

On February 5, one month after the Lummi Nation’s letter to the Corps, SAVEWhatcom made the following post on its Facebook page that seems fit to rouse some rabble in Whatcom County:

How ironic?

The Lummi Nation refuses to meet with SSA Marine to discuss mediation as they professed willingness to do the right thing after the SEPA and NEPA studies were completed.

The Lummi Nation owns and operates the Silver Reef Casino, who’s [sic] purpose it is to provide people with the ‘opportunity’ to gamble away their wages or Social Security checks. That’s a better purpose than to build a state-of-the-art dry bulk exporting facility at Cherry Point? And, as they lobby at the door step of the Washington State Legislator’s and the Governor’s office asking for preferential treatment above the non-Indian residents of the State of Washington…How ironic?

The SAVEWhatcom PAC and its affiliated WhatcomFirst PAC were formed in August and September 2013 for the November Whatcom County Council election that year. The two PACs are strong advocates for the GPT project, and in 2013, were funded primarily with $149,000 from SSA/PIT, BNSF, and coal companies. These dual PACs’ efforts were primarily focused on attempting to get a slate of four conservative county council candidates elected who were thought most likely to approve permits needed for GPT.

how ironic save whatcom

So, here goes SAVEWhatcom making a defamatory statement that the Lummi Nation’s Silver Reef Casino’s “purpose” is to take people’s wages and social security checks. Statements like this create resentment, and/or fuel the already present resentment from individuals and groups about Lummi Nation and its efforts to protect its treaty rights.

SAVEWhatcom’s post then pits its contrived image of the Lummi Nation’s Silver Reef Casino, against a modern and benign-sounding “dry bulk export facility.” By means of this construction, the post can readily come to life in the form of public pressure that seeks to compel the Lummi Indian Business Council into negotiations with SSA/PIT.

A long strong line has been drawn

The Lummi Nation has already expressed multiple times that negotiating or discussing the GPT project with SSA/PIT is not an option, as evidenced in the excerpt below from LIBC Chairman Tim Ballew’s February 3, 2015 response letter to a January 30, 2015 letter from SSA/PIT executive Skip Sahlin.

Ballew stated in his letter to Sahlin: “While we appreciate your desire to engage on these issues, we remain steadfastly opposed to this project and do not see the utility in pursuing any further discussion.” Ballew also had said in a January 17, 2015 Bellingham Herald article: “We’re not negotiating with GPT or SSA because the standpoint from the leadership, the community and the fishermen is, there’s no way to mitigate the project.”

Radio-powered PACs 

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According to the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission website, Kris Halterman, Whatcom Tea Party board member and talk radio host for her weekly Saturday Morning Live program on KGMI, is listed on SAVEWhatcom PAC’s amended registration form as Campaign Manager; she had originally been listed as Committee Officer. Whatcom Tea Party board member Lorraine Newman is listed as a Committee Officer. Both Halterman and Newman write content for the SAVEWhatcom blog website.

dick donahue cropped black white borderDick Donahue, a Bellingham financial planner and talk radio host for his Wealth Wake Up weekly program on KGMI, is listed on the registration form for the affiliated WhatcomFirst PAC as a Committee Officer (that registration form was later amended to list him as Campaign Manager).  Donahue, Halterman, and Newman are all very vocal advocates for the GPT Project.

 

An Honorary Resolution Dishonored

On an October 26, 2013 Wealth Wake Up show, Donahue was joined by Kris Halterman to talk about the upcoming elections and why SAVEWhatcom was created. Halterman told listeners that in mid-July (2013) she and Donahue became aware of a resolution that the Whatcom County Democrats Central Committee had passed on July 18, 2013, and that the resolution was the reason they formed the SAVEWhatcom PAC.

Halterman referred to the resolution as “the Cherry Point Resolution.” The actual title of that resolution is: “The Resolution to Honor the Lummi Nation’s Sacred Lands and Waters at Cherry Point.” It was an honorary resolution in support of the Lummi Nation protecting its sacred lands and sacred waters at Cherry Point, but during the 2013 election season, SSA/PIT used that resolution negatively in its September 2013 GPT ad insert, “Report to the Community Volume 3,” placed in local newspapers. That honorary resolution has been misrepresented and used negatively by groups associated with SSA/PIT in their advocacy for GPT.savewhatcom-resolution-photo-02182015

One of those groups, SAVEWhatcom, echoed SSA/PIT’s negative ad messaging about the resolution, distorting its intent and meaning, and used it as a weapon in their advertising during the 2013 election season. Since that time, SAVEWhatcom has continued to use its twisted misrepresentation of that resolution negatively. In both SSA/PIT’s and SAVEWhatcom’s advertising about the resolution, neither used its title, which includes the words “Resolution to Honor the Lummi Nation’s Sacred Lands and Waters at Cherry Point,” which, if provided, would likely give people a better understanding of what that resolution was about. SAVEWhatcom perpetuated the false premise that the resolution represented efforts to “deindustrialize Cherry Point and make it impossible for local farmers to succeed,” in advertising such as a September 24, 2013 SAVEWhatcom Facebook post.

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On Halterman’s March 30, 2013 KGMI Saturday Morning Live radio show, two of the guests she interviewed were Hobart, Wisconsin, resident Elaine Willman, a board member and former chair of Citizens Equal Rights Alliance (CERA), and local former Whatcom County Council member Marlene Dawson, who has worked tirelessly to undermine the Treaty of Point Elliott between local Indian tribes and the United States. Willman and Dawson promoted the April 6, 2013 “Citizens Equal Rights Alliance Educational Conference” on Federal Indian Policy, held by CERA and its sister organization, Citizens Equal Rights Foundation (CERF). The conference was held at the Lakeway Inn, in Bellingham, Washington.

On that March 30 show, in bringing up the Centennial Accord, Elaine Willman made this reprehensible statement: “In 1989, Governor Lowry smelled gaming money and instituted the Centennial Accord. That became a state self-inflicted elevation of the tribal sovereign voice to be equivalent to the state’s voice. That was the step that has continued for almost 25 years now through what I call the real Trail of Tears—Governor Lowry, Governor Locke, Governor Gregoire and now Governor Inslee. That process, over twenty-five years, is secretly taking down Washington state.” (italicized real represents Willman’s vocal emphasis)

Trail of Tears

Willman and Dawson returned as guests on Halterman’s Saturday Morning Live radio show on April 6, to discuss tribal issues, Federal Indian Policy, and to further promote the CERA conference happening that same day where both Dawson and Willman were featured speakers.

CERA states on its website, “We do not tolerate racial prejudice of any kind. We do not knowingly associate with anyone who discriminates based on race.“  However, in a March 28, 2014 article published online by Indian Country Today Media Network (ICTMN), Terri Hansen, an award-winning Native American journalist and correspondent for ICTMN, said this about the CERA/CERF organizations: “CERA and its sister, Citizens Equal Rights Foundation (CERF), are the foremost anti-sovereignty, anti-treaty organizations in the U.S. anti-Indian movement.”

Federal Indian law attorney Dave Lundgren wrote about exposing groups like CERA in his April 2, 2014 article, published by Indian Country today Media Network. Lundgren wrote: “Disregard the disguise of their flimsy legal arguments, and expose their true motives by documenting and publicizing details of the discriminatory effects of their actions. . .Public education is often the best defense in the face of hatred disguised by fabricated legal arguments. Not only will it expose the true motives behind puffed up accusations, but it also educates the uninformed on the caustic harms caused by discrimination.“cera board members

On Dick Donahue’s March 30, 2013 KGMI Wealth Wake Up talk radio show, he interviewed local Lynden, Washington, CERA board member Tom Williams, promoting the April 6 CERA/CERF conference in Bellingham. Williams told listeners that CERA had held two similar conferences (New York and Massachusetts) that year, and one more was upcoming in June of that year in Northern California.

idle no more lakeway inn

Acknowledging the fact that he had been actively promoting the conference, Donahue said during the segment, “Now I’ve promoted this, or announced this meeting several times in the last month or so on the air. . .”  Encouraging listeners to register for the conference, both Donahue and Williams announced various ways to do that. They also said that Halterman’s Saturday Morning Live website had a flyer posted there with information on conference registration and Donahue provided that web address.

Charles Tanner, a longtime civil and human rights activist who has conducted research and public education on white supremacist and anti-Indian movements, authored an April 26, 2013 report on the CERA/CERF conference in Bellingham.

In his report, Tanner wrote that CERA board member Tom Williams was one of the organizers of the conference. Tanner also reported that, “KGMI talk show hosts Kris Halterman and Dick Donahue both attended the conference. . .A broadcast of Halterman interviewing CERA leaders played as attendees trickled into the conference room.”  That April 6, 2013 broadcast of Halterman interviewing a cross section of the featured speakers at the conference was pre-recorded at the Lakeway Inn venue, and was broadcasted during Donahue’s Wealth Wake Up show time that day.CERA speakers

Still rallying resentment

Since the April 6, 2013 CERA/CERF conference, the organization continues to be active in its efforts to espouse its recurring strategic theme. That strategic theme, according to Charles Tanner’s report, is that, “anti-Indian activists should mine federal laws and court cases for anti-tribal language that can be used to seek termination in the courts and ‘educate’ local and state officials. CERA’s ‘legal theory’, in the end, combines anti-tribal ideas drawn from federal Indian law and false claims that tribes have no political sovereignty or treaty rights.”

CERA Elected Officials WorkshopCERA’s website shows that the group held two events (over a 3-day period) in Riverton, Wyoming in June 2014.  A two-day conference was held for the public.  In addition, a workshop was held specifically for elected officials, key staff, legal counsels, and law enforcement there, which was closed to the media and public, and it was held, of all places, at City Hall. CERA’s website shows they have plans for an upcoming 2015 conference, although no location or details about that are available yet. And while the trail from CERA to SAVEWhatcom is, so far, foggy in nature, it is wise for community members to be watchful for any increase and escalation of defamatory claims in regards to Native American issues and enterprises made by either organization.

Putting on the squeeze 

In the weeks leading up to SAVEWhatcom’s February 5, 2015 Facebook post containing negative messaging about the Lummi Nation, SSA Marine executives had been busy touting their so-called invitations and standing offers for “good faith discussions” they wish to have with Lummi Nation about GPT. SSA Marine executive Bob Watters was given an opportunity by The Bellingham Herald to do just that in a January 10, 2015 op-ed (some people have termed his piece an “op-ad”) he authored that the newspaper published in its Whatcom Opinion section. In his op-ed, Watters wrote:

First, Gateway Pacific Terminal will protect tribal cultural and historical sites on our private property, which is not part of the reservation. And we very much appreciate the concern about the challenges to Lummi fishers (who have been forced to rely upon substantial federal subsidies and retraining grants). This makes self-sustaining, private-sector job creation all the more important and we have a standing offer out to the Lummi and other affected tribes to discuss how we can work to enhance their cultural and economic prospects. Gateway Pacific Terminal and tribal interests can be harmonized if good faith discussions can take place, and we look forward to that opportunity.

nwja elders

By SSA/PIT continuing to talk at Lummi Nation and exert pressure with its public relations campaign through the media and via its GPT mouthpieces such as the Northwest Jobs Alliance, the company is not recognizing, nor truly honoring tribal sovereignty and the government-to-government relationship that exists between Native American Tribes and the U.S. federal government.

At a May 15, 2013 United States Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hearing, then-Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) had this to say about the relationship between Tribal governments and the federal government:

The government-to-government relationship is grounded in the United States Constitution, treaties, federal statutes, and Supreme Court decisions. This relationship is a mature relationship, expressed in terms of legal duties, moral obligations, and expectancies that have arisen based on the continuous history of Tribal interactions with the federal government since the formation of the United States.

The trust relationship of federal agencies to ensure the protection of the treaty rights of the Lummi Nation, and case law upholding those treaty rights, coupled with the huge wave of public opposition to the company’s proposed coal export terminal, are the momentous realities staring squarely into the face of SSA/PIT.

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SAVEWhatcom posted on social media that the Lummi Nation “refuses to meet with SSA Marine.” SSA/PIT executives have continued to make statements such as Skip Sahlin made in his January 30, 2015 letter to Chairman Tim Ballew, “Our door is always open and the GPT team looks forward to continuing to communicate with Lummi during the projects permitting and development process.” This messaging can give some people the incorrect impression that the Lummi are somehow not being reasonable. Lummi Nation Chairman Tim Ballew’s statement in a February 3, 2015 Bellingham Herald story provided clarity on that subject, “Negotiation between Lummi and Pacific International Terminals is not an option. Our treaty rights are non-negotiable and not for sale.”

Stomping in their grounds

What is, in fact, unreasonable, is how things have been framed by SSA/PIT, and how some local media enabled that framing following the news of the Lummi Nation’s January 5, 2015 letter to the Corps. The reality is that the Lummi Nation is a sovereign nation, and it has a government-to-government relationship with the federal government of the United States.

In a February 9, 2015 Bellingham Herald story posted on the online Politics Blog, reporter Ralph Schwartz wrote: “There has been a lot of back-and-forth over the past five weeks among Lummi Nation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Gateway Pacific Terminal as the tribe asserts its fishing rights, in order to stop the coal terminal from being built.”

Technically, one could say, like Schwartz did, that the Lummi Nation asserted its fishing rights in order to stop the coal terminal, but a community member sent me an email offering another perspective:

Knowing there was a treaty against it, a coal terminal insisted on stomping in the middle of treaty-protected fishing grounds, so the coal terminal had to be reminded what it already knew—that it would be breaking the law—the supreme law of the land. It isn’t that the Lummi tried to stop a terminal. It’s that a terminal tried to stop them.

 

 

 

Allende was Wrong: Neoliberalism, Venezuela’s Student Right and the Answer from the Left

Venezuela Analysis

February 10, 2015

By Lucas Koerner 

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“Defend university autonomy for a true popular democracy.” “Freedom and Autonomy.” “Movement 13 welcomes you to study, struggle, and love.” 

No, these slogans I saw adorning the walls were not copied from the University of Chile, where I studied in 2012-2013, researching and struggling alongside the Chilean student movement that is militantly fighting to overturn the neoliberal educational regime imposed under Pinochet. But they very easily could have been. No, I was not at a militant Leftist public university; I was in Mérida, at the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Los Andes (ULA), which is regarded as the principal recruiting ground for Venezuela’s rightwing student movement.

On Friday, January 23, the ULA erupted once again in violent student protests in which masked students temporarily set up barricades and attempted to forcibly enter several local stores. For local residents, these protests represented a bitter reminder of the “Guarimba,” the several months of violent opposition demonstrations in which rightwing students together with Colombian paramilitaries shut down major avenues with barricades and assassinated police and Chavista activists in a desperate bid to force the salida, or exit, of President Nicolás Maduro.

What is most confusing and troubling is the fact that the discourse of “university autonomy” has always been a slogan of the Left, which young people from Chile to Greece have utilized to defend themselves from outright repression at the hands of dictatorial regimes as well as from the far more nefarious structural violence of neoliberal privatization. Moreover, the practices of donning the capucha, or mask, setting up street barricades, and hurling molotov cocktails in pitched street battles with police are tried and true Leftist tactics developed in the course of grassroots struggles against the authoritarian capitalist state in contexts as distinct as Venezuela, France, and Palestine.

Yet in contemporary Venezuela, these historically Leftist forms of struggle, encompassing discourses, symbols, and tactical repertoires, have been appropriated by rightwing students, but with an ideological content that could not be more radially opposed: far from rebels or revolutionaries, these rightwing students are reactionaries through and through, bent on reversing the gains of the Bolivarian Revolution and restoring the oligarchic order firmly in place for 500 years prior to the conquest of power by the revolutionary grassroots movements that comprise Chavismo.

Here we are confronted by the stone-cold realization that there is nothing inherently revolutionary about young people, or students for that matter. Sadly, we are forced to concede that Salvador Allende, who famously said, “to be young and not revolutionary is a biological contradiction,” was wrong.

In what follows, I will offer some cursory notes towards an explanation of this rightward shift among certain segments of Venezuelan students together with their paradoxical appropriation of historically Leftist modes of struggle, focusing on the gentrification of the Venezuelan university as well as the ascendancy of neoliberal ideology as two crucial conditions for this overall process of ideological mutation. I will conclude with an interview with Javier, a student of political economy at the Bolivarian University of Venezuela, who currently put his studies on hold to pursue worker organizing in coordination with local communal councils. Javier will discuss the Bolivarian University as a radical pedagogical alternative from below as well as the struggles faced by revolutionary students in the face of a resurgent Right.

The Gentrification of the Venezuelan University

This dramatic ideological metamorphosis undergone by Venezuelan student movements cannot be explained outside the context of the neoliberal “gentrification” of the university. Nonetheless, this neoliberalization only came in the wake of the brutal repression of decades of radical student struggles that sought to bring down the walls that separate the “ivory tower” from the social reality of the poor, excluded majority.

At its height; the 1969 movement for “Academic Renovation” fought for a radical democratization of the university, whereby students, faculty, and university workers would have equal decision-making power; which George Ciccariello-Mahr terms a “radicalization of the very notion of autonomy itself, one that asserted autonomy from the government while insisting that the university be subservient to the needs of the wider society of which students and workers were a part.”1 As we will see later, it is precisely this more nuanced, dialectical notion of autonomy that is lacking among those presently claiming to speak on behalf of Venezuelan students.

The revolutionary Renovation movement was savagely crushed by the government of Rafael Caldera, who unceremoniously sent tanks to close down the Central University of Venezuela (UCV). Nonetheless, this outright repression was tame by comparison to the “more insidious… subtle, and long-term policy of ethnic cleansing within the public university [which was realized] by limiting popular access and returning the institutions to their previous status as refuges for the most elite segments of society.”2 This progressive embourgeoisement of the Venezuelan university prefigured a similar process that would occur globally in the context of the neoliberal turn of the subsequent decades, in which public universities from the University of California to the University of Chile saw ruthless cuts in public funding, privatization of services, dramatic tuition hikes, and creeping technocratization, all with profound implications for social class composition. That is, the youth filling the halls of Venezuelan public universities came increasingly from the ranks of the bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeoisie, which rendered them all the more vulnerable to the seductive appeal of neoliberal ideology.

Unfortunately, this tendency has not been entirely reversed under the Bolivarian governments of Chavez and Maduro. While the Bolivarian Revolution has seen the creation of a new system of Bolivarian universities in an effort to outflank the traditional public universities as we will see below, the government and the array of radical social forces driving it from below have thus far been unable to launch a frontal assault.

In other words, whilst these traditional universities are “public” in name and nominally free for all students, historic public universities such as the UCV nevertheless retain all kinds of classist filtering mechanisms, such as entrance exams and additional fees for registration, books, etc., that serve to effectively bar working class students from attending. Most egregious in this respect are the so-called “autonomous universities” such as the ULA, which are conferred unquestioned authority over internal decision-making, while at the same time receiving full state funding, amounting in some cases to the budget of a Caribbean nation, for which they are obligated to give little in the way of formal accounting.

Moreover, this lingering bourgeois form of education in the traditional universities is matched by a thoroughly technocratic content, in which education is conceived as the production of upwardly-mobile experts insulated from the daily struggles of the masses, who are destined to serve the bureaucratic state or capital. As Javier, a student of political economy at the recently founded Bolivarian University succinctly put it, this capitalist model of education is about getting you to subscribe to the bourgeois careerist fiction that you need to study in order to “be someone,” fetichizing education as a sterile commodity purchased like any other in order to augment one’s “human capital,” as consistent with neoliberal logic.

Given this disproportionately elite class composition and thoroughly bourgeois educational paradigm, it is no wonder then that the student federations of public universities like the UCV and the ULA are now governed by the Right.

Neoliberalism: The Illusion of Subversion

While the changing class composition of Venezuelan universities over previous decades represents an important structural factor behind the rise of Venezuela’s rightwing student movement, we cannot neglect the particular characteristics of neoliberal ideology, namely its seductive capacity for passing as radical or revolutionary. But first, what is neoliberalism?

Neoliberalism might be defined as “historical, class-based ideology that proposes all social, political, and ecological problems can be resolved through more direct free-market exposure, which has become an increasingly structural aspect of capitalism.”3 Emerging as the political response on the part of the capitalist state to the economic crisis of the 1970s, neoliberalism sought to roll back the “democratic gains that had been previously achieved by the working classes, and which had become, from capital’s perspective, barriers to accumulation.”4 It was in this context of the ‘68 revolt that the revolutionary Left and the neoliberal Right would share a proclaimed common enemy, namely an overbearing, bureaucratic state engaged in bloody imperialist wars abroad and fierce repression at home, although the anti-statism of the latter was pure rhetoric, as neoliberal politicians were content to use the state to implement their class project.5

In what followed, the post-’68 demands leveled against the capitalist state for formal individual rights by the hegemonic variants of the feminist, LGBT, civil rights, etc. movements were perfectly compatible with the neoliberal agenda, which in turn spawned the “NGOization” of Leftist politics whereby non-profits progressively took over the leadership of social movements and channeled them in a de-radicalized, localized direction.In what followed, the post-’68 demands leveled against the capitalist state for formal individual rights by the hegemonic variants of the feminist, LGBT, civil rights, etc. movements were perfectly compatible with the neoliberal agenda, which in turn spawned the “NGOization” of Leftist politics whereby non-profits progressively took over the leadership of social movements and channeled them in a de-radicalized, localized direction. These developments gave rise to the normalization of petty-bourgeois lifestyle politics, especially in the newly gentrified universities, wherein demands for “diversity” and “inclusion” of underprivileged minorities could safely be made without ruffling any feathers. Thus, the dangerous lure of neoliberal ideology lies in its ability to render individualistic lifestyle politics, i.e. demanding access to consumer items, as cathartic acts of authentic revolt and resistance. Even as critical a thinker as Michel Foucault was seduced by neoliberalism’s apparent radicalism, joining in its chorus against the welfare state and praising it as a vehicle to promote the rights of the “excluded” (prisoners, LGBT people, women, those deemed “mentally ill,” etc.).6

We should not, therefore, be surprised by the fact that a segment of Venezuelan students don the traditional clothing of the Left and actually consider themselves revolutionaries facing down what they consider an oppressive dictatorship. But we must not be fooled. What the Venezuelan Right is attempting to do is appropriate the historic slogans, symbols, and tactics of the Left, but strip them of all collective emancipatory content, which is replaced with bourgeois individualist demands for consumer choice. Thus, the “freedom” that they demand has nothing to do with the plethora of social rights conquered under the Bolivarian Revolution, but here connotes unregulated access to dollars, weekend getaways to Miami, the “right” to own and exploit.

The “autonomy” that they clamor for amounts to nothing short of total unaccountability to the rest of society, while continuing to lay claim to the latter’s resources. The militant tactics of the street barricade, the capucha, and the Molotov do not figure here as legitimate forms of mass resistance or revolutionary intervention, but represent instances of fascist, paramilitary violence enacted by individuals against a government of the people. Nonetheless, it is precisely the apparently “anti-authoritarian” character of neoliberal ideology that enables the Venezuelan student Right to retrofit traditionally Leftist forms of struggle with reactionary bourgeois content, effectively disguising their shrill cries for individualist consumer choice as a righteous chorus of social rebellion.

However, this rightwing appropriation does not go uncontested. If symbols like the capucha and the barricade ultimately constitute what Ernesto Laclau terms “empty signifiers” that can be filled with any ideological content, then their meaning is perpetually disputed in the heat of social struggle. In other words, the Right’s usurpation can and must be reversed by new generations of revolutionary young people, struggling to at once reclaim the past and win the war for a socialist future.

The Bolivarian University of Venezuela: The Answer from the Bolivarian Left

The flagship of the Bolivarian government’s revolutionary initiative for higher education, the Bolivarian University of Venezuela (UBV) was founded in 2003 as part of the Mission Sucre, which has saw the radical expansion of access to quality public education among the popular classes historically excluded from the Venezuelan educational system. Today, the UBV annually graduates more students than any other institution of higher education in the country. Apart from rupturing with the traditionally oligarchic form of Venezuelan higher education, which has historically been the province of the elite, the UBV also proposes a revolution in the practical content of education, which it defines as “liberating, with criteria of social justice, inclusive, free and quality.”

I had the opportunity to sit down with Javier, a student of political economy at the Bolivarian University, who has temporarily frozen his studies in order to take on worker organizing in his community in 23 de Enero, located in the vast working class area in the west of Caracas known as Catia. He also works as a facilitator in the Bolivarian University for Workers “Jesus Rivero” in the Capital District government, which aims to raise political and class consciousness amongst public workers and prepare them for “assuming the direct and democratic management of the social process of work”. All facilitation sessions take place at the workplace itself.

His words paint a provisional picture of the depth of the revolution in educational praxis currently underway in Venezuela.

Q: Can you speak about the popular pedagogical project of the Bolivarian University?

A: Well if I were to talk about a popular project towards the structural transformation of the state and also the structural transformation of our thinking that we have currently, I would openly uphold [the example of] the Bolivarian University of the Workers, because, it’s a university that breaks with the top-down, positivist framework of education. The worker or compañero takes on the process of self-education in the space of work itself. This leads to the complete reevaluation of the education I have in my mind that I reproduce in practice, and this critical reevaluation of thought and practice lets me reinvent myself. The thinking that I have is a different kind of thought pattern that breaks with the frameworks of the capitalist system.

Moreover, our university sets down [the model of] self-education through reading, debate, and writing. This means that we don’t deny existing theories. We read the current theory, which is the systematization of struggles, for theories are the systematization of the struggles of the people, of the experience of the people. We debate this systematization, and we see if it can be adjusted to our present moment in order to not be dogmatic, but rather dialectical. Continuous, collective, integrated, and permanent self-education, that is the strategy. It is collective, because we all educate ourselves through the exchange of knowledge. It is continuous and permanent, because it never stops and we are always educating ourselves. It is integrated: We can specialize in an area, but we truly have to also know a little about everything, because labor is not an individual process, but a social one, where we all participate and we are all important in the development of the nation.

We also address the question of the management of the social labor process in order to be able to bring about structural transformations. When we talk about taking on the management of the social labor process, it’s the whole process. We realize this when we look at the arepa: the person who sows the corn, the person who harvests the corn, the person, who transports the corn, the person who processes the corn. In other words, the arepa comes out of a process in which there are very many people participating, the truck driver, the compañero in the factory, the compañera amassing the cornmeal; it’s all important work. So we propose that we take on the whole process and view ourselves as equals in struggle. This then is what permits us to truly form a culture of work that is not the competitive culture of work of the capitalist system, but rather a culture of work that guarantees the happiness of our people, we ourselves taking over the organization of what is truly socialism, the structural transformation of the state that we have.

Q: I want to follow your last point to a more macro level. How do you place the Bolivarian University in the context of the socialist struggle more broadly in society, particularly in terms of struggles over education?

A: Many of the universities teach the students a [large] number of lies that we at the Bolivarian University of Workers work to dismantle. We therefore have to dismantle the [large] number of lies that the capitalist system has sold us. One of these things that that they sell you in the universities is that you have to study to be someone. But they don’t explain to you that from the moment that you are in your mother’s womb, you already are someone, someone important. If you were to lose vital signs in the womb, your, mother would feel a great pain, and not only your mother, but your father, your closest family members. So, we are headed towards breaking with this framework of education, this deceitful education that continues to view you as labor-power.

[In contrast], the Bolivarian University of the Workers teaches, which is fundamental and essential, the review of the development of struggle in our society from the perspective of labor. How did our society undergo transformations? How were the instruments of labor forged, and how also how were the mechanisms of social division created? How did this social division take us to the point of creating systems of domination? In one moment, we lived under what was primitive communism, then we lived under slavery, and then what was feudalism, and now we are living under a system that continues to be slavery, that is the capitalist system, where they continue to dominate us with miserable wages and there’s no just distribution of wealth.

In our revolutionary Bolivarian process guided by our President Hugo Rafael Chávez Frias, he addressed all of these historic struggles, but he also set down the important and timely objective in our Constitution and organic law of the just distribution of wealth. And if a compañero has a great factory bought with what he says is the product of his labor, we don’t believe him above all because the amount of property that he has is the product of alien labor and he pays [his workers] a miserable portion of the wealth that he receives from their labor. So, we are going to rupture with this system, go about rethinking, to understand that we can have other forms of organization for managing public administration. It could be a counsel administration, of counsels with revolutionary leadership, where the most dedicated compañeras and compañeros are vindicated and recognized. In this dynamic, we are not saying that we [the workers] are the only historic subject of our Bolivarian process, but rather that the campesino, the fisherman, the transport worker are also important. The path of communal [organizing] is also important, and so is the struggle of the compañeras and compañeros in the student centers, who keep on despite being pounded by this education of the capitalist system. For us, it is the recognition of all of the compañeras and compañeros in our struggles that matters.

We have also proposed that this process of collective, continuous, integral, and permanent self-education has to reach the communal councils, the communes, the colectivos, the social movements, whatever organizational expression that they might have. It has to reach [these spaces], because, we have to break with and decentralize the [traditional] conception of the university. It’s a great struggle we all have to take on, because what is the university, but the universalization of knowledge. You, I, all of  the compañeros here, the bus driver, all of the people who are here in this medium of transport possess knowledge.7 What we have to do is create the spaces where we can expound the amount of knowledge that we have and expound as well the amount of needs that we have, and in function of this, begin planning [society, especially the economy] ourselves.

Q: Many young people in this society, in the universities, have been deceived, and there’s a struggle for hegemony among young people in this country. For instance, we have a rightwing student movement that is producing openly violent and fascist leaders. How do you view the role of these alternative pedagogical projects in this struggle with the Right?

A: For us, the fact that the compa is young does not mean that he is revolutionary, that he is for structural transformation. The Right has many young people, but they are old in their thinking, because they continue upholding capitalist thinking. One has to be young in different areas, physically, but above all in one´s thinking. If there is a man who we could say marked a watershed in our history, not just for decades, but for centuries, it is Hugo Rafael Chávez Frias, because he shattered the framework, he imploded the schema of the bourgeois state. He imploded a space of great domination with new thinking. With liberating thinking, he imploded the space of the army, of our armed forces, a repressive organ that was directed against its own people on February 27th and 28th, 1989.8 He had a reflexive capacity, because Comandante Hugo Chávez Frias had already been doing this work. It’s continuous, it’s work that is going to take a long time, and we have to dedicate our heart and soul to the work that we are called to do and not neglect a single area.

The other task is to recognize our advances. The fact is that we have graduated an amount of compañeras and compañeros who have not graduated in forty years during which they didn’t have access to education. Yes, we can and must deepen our revolutionary process to advance towards socialism, but it’s also important to recognize all of the advances that we’ve had thus far.

Q: I went to the ULA last week and I fascinated by the discourse of autonomy and freedom appearing in their murals, the capucha that they use, all of which is an appropriation of the discourse and symbolism of the Left. How do you respond to this?

A: They have always tried to take our symbols away from us. For us, the capucha is a symbol of struggle. It’s ours. It was us who had to mask our faces [and protest in the streets], because we didn’t have an adequate education, above all in high school, but also in the university. We had many problems during the Fourth Republic, and we had to take to the streets, because they raised the student transportation fare. We had take to the streets, because we had to have class on the floor, because there were no chairs, because the roof was leaking. We lived through all of this, and for those reasons, we went out into the streets.

Today, there is a movement that is trying to take the streets, but responding to the interests of the private companies and the private media, which regrettably under our revolutionary process continue to have an economic power, which is expressed in the media, in the rumor campaigns. What we have to do is dismantle this vast amount of lies, but these rumors have an effect, because there’s a number of lies that we still have in our heads, that we have not yet dismantled. It’s a great challenge.

Evidently, many groups there [at the opposition marches] are paid, many groups that don’t truly represent our people. You can ask them. There were some compañeros of the people interviewing  some of the people who participated on January 24th in the “March of the Empty Pots,” which we might rather have called the “March of the Empty Heads,” because they don’t think. So they interviewed them and asked them if they were poor, to which they quickly respond, “I’m not poor.”

Besides, this is an example of them trying to steal our symbols, the pots, which our people took out to the streets before the Caracazo and after the Caracazo, because the pots were truly empty, there was nothing to eat. Today no, it’s an economic war, they are hoarding everything, and everyone has seen the amount of food that we have. They tell us that there is no flour, but there’s not a single arepera closed. They say that that there’s no milk, but there’s no shortage of yogurt. So they are trying to escape from the regularization of the sale of these products in order to reap greater profits, but not only to reap greater profits, but also to boycott the revolutionary government and that this unrest be directed against the revolutionary government of Nicolás Maduro.

From here, we have to go out in the streets with an alternative popular communication that engages face-to-face with our people and dismantles the large amount of lies, but we also must develop the productive forces. Beyond a crisis, well there is a crisis, but it´s a crisis of their system, a crisis of capitalism, because the socialist system still doesn’t exist yet. So we have to take advantage of this crisis of the capitalist system and come out of it advancing ahead with the development of our productive forces, evidently organized according to a distinct logic of work, a new culture of work that is liberating: labor that truly educates you to build this new republican order envisioned by our philosopher and pedagogue Simon Rodriguez, the teacher of Simon Bolivar.

 

 

Notes

1 Ciccariello-Maher, G. (2013). We created Chávez: A people’s history of the Venezuelan revolution. Durham; Duke University Press, p. 113.

2 Ibid., p. 112.

3 Marois cited in Weber, J.R. (2011). Red october: Left-Indigenous struggles in modern Bolivia. Brill: Boston, p. 30.

4 Panitch, L., & Gindin, S. (2012). The making of global capitalism: The political economy of American empire. Verso: London, p. 15.

5 Harvey, D. (2005). A brief history of neoliberalism. Oxford University Press: New York, p. 42.

6 See Zamora, D. (2014). “Can we criticize Foucault?” Jacobin, 10 December 2014. https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/12/foucault-interview/

7 Note: This interview was conducted on a public metro bus en route from Ciudad Caribia to Metro Gato Negro in Catia.

8 February 27 and 28, 1989 refers to the Caracazo, the explosion of mass social mobilizations rejecting neoliberal measures imposed by the government of Carlos Andrés Pérez, under whose orders the army occupied the streets of Caracas and proceeded to gun down anywhere between 300 and 3000 people.

Followers of False Prophets

A Culture of Imbeciles

February 18, 2015

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Registered 350 “local groups” are essentially local chapters of a global non-profit enterprise, with doctrine, agenda and resources supplied by headquarters. As a secular cult, the profit motive is supplanted by ecstasy, similar to rapture in religious cults.

The bliss of belonging to a holy cause blinds 350 adherents to the cognitive dissonance of being tools of Wall Street and followers of false prophets. 350 dominance over the minds of its euphoric followers is thus akin to charismatic Pentecostalism, albeit without any explicit religious context.

mckibben cult

To find a religious parallel to 350, the “apostolic socialism” of Peoples Temple comes closest with its “Rainbow Family,” indoctrinated to view capitalism as the Antichrist. In this sense, Jim Jones served as forerunner to con artists like Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein.

white-privilege

Conspiracy Theories and Nonviolence

The Real News

January 6, 2014

by Michael Barker

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In his December 2013 article published by The Real News as “Analysis of STRATFOR leaks misrepresents nonviolent movements,” professor Stephen Zunes correctly acknowledges the “inexcusable collaboration with the global intelligence company STRATFOR” undertaken by his former colleague, the Serbian activist Srdja Popovic. In retrospect Zunes observed, that: “Even prior to the recent revelations, Popovic’s activities were being increasingly recognized as problematic within the network of proponents of strategic nonviolent action, including many of us who had worked with him in the past.” Here Zunes might have been referring to my 2011 article “CANVAS[ing] for the nonviolent propaganda offensive,” but this seems unlikely, especially given the fact that in his latest article he chooses to falsely label me as being “notorious” for “conspiracy-mongering.”

Either way if criticism of Srdja Popovic were taken seriously amongst progressive circles committed to non-violence, I would imagine that it would have been a good idea for some of Zunes’ colleagues to publicly distance themselves from Popovic — a man that Zunes describes as a “left-of-center Serbian nationalist” who “believes more in himself more than any ideology…” I  make this recommendation because Popovic is still included upon the advisory board of Waging Nonviolence, a web-based project (for which Zunes is a regular contributor) where our problematic friend Mr Popovic sits alongside a number of Zunes’ colleagues from the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC).

Unfortunately, in spite of my ongoing dialogue with Zunes and his co-workers which go back to 2007, Zunes continues to misrepresent my carefully laid arguments. Thus vis-a-vis the ouster of Slobodan Milosevic in 2000, he says that my work downplays the Serbian uprisings indigenous roots. This simply is not true, as can be demonstrated by a quick perusal of the article he is referring to which I published through ZNet in 2006 as “Promoting polyarchy in Serbia.” Here Zunes repeats the tired refrain of accusing me of being “notorious” for “conspiracy-mongering”; an accusation I rebutted at-length in 2008.

Re-appropriating Zunes’ own mis-analysis of imperial interventions into the peace community: “It is unfortunate, therefore,” that his own contributions to the theorizing of nonviolence have been “so compromised by [his] lack of understanding of this phenomenon.” For a detailed outline of the resulting problems resulting from such a compromised analysis, see “Blinded by people power: Stephen Zunes on the ousting of dictators.”

None of this implies that Peter Ackerman’s nonviolent activism is part of any sinister conspiracy. On the contrary he is quite open about it all; although it is rare that anyone draws attention to his shadowy hobbies.All this is quite ironic given the well-established imperial connections of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC) whose academic advisory board Zunes has headed since 2006. We are after-all talking about a Center which is led and funded by a member of the ruling-class named Peter Ackerman, whose more anti-democratic activism I examined last year for Counterpunch; whose commitments to breaking unions in New York are ongoing, as are his efforts to escalate counterinsurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. None of this implies that Peter Ackerman’s nonviolent activism is part of any sinister conspiracy. On the contrary he is quite open about it all; although it is rare that anyone draws attention to his shadowy hobbies.

Although it is perhaps pedantic, I would also like to add that my 2008 article about “democracy promotion” in Serbia was not self-published on the ZNet bloggers’ space as Zunes argues. In fact, this bloggers space did not even exist during the years in which I regularly submitted articles to ZNet, therefore all work was posted online with the support of one of ZNet’s editors. That said, major Z Magazine and Znet stalwart Edward S. Herman did post a detailed criticism of Zunes’ defence of imperial interests in his ZNet bloggers space in 2010: this must-read piece was simply titled “Reply to Stephen Zunes.”

Zunes concludes his article by drawing attention to an online petition he initiated in 2008 to address “a spate of bizarre conspiracy theories regarding nonviolent action theorist Gene Sharp…” At the time I was considered to be one of the primary instigators of such conspiracies, so in response I published “Sharp reflection warranted: nonviolence in the service of imperialism”; which in turn was followed by related criticisms from George Cicariello-Maher and Eva Golinger outlined in their excellent article “Debate on the Albert Einstein Institution and its involvement in Venezuela.” Sadly such reflections upon the troublesome relationship between imperialists and many well-meaning advocates of nonviolence has not been an issue that has been engaged with any vigour among many on the Liberal left — which is problematic to say the least. Nevertheless it is perfectly understandable why the ruling-class should seek to manipulate and intervene within progressive social movements, which makes it all the important that we discuss what actions we can take to protect our movements from such unwanted interventions.

 

 

 

Correction: the above-mentioned article “Reply to Stephen Zunes” was coauthored by Edward Herman and David Peterson.