04/19/2015 archive

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Venezuela – A”Threat” to US Imperialism by Geminijen

In Memory of Eduardo Galeano, 1940-2015.

At the 2009 Summit of the Americas, Hugo Chavez gave Barack Obama a copy of Galeano’s book Open Veins of Latin America which details the United State’s military aggression, economic exploitation and political coups or “regime changes” in Latin America.

In the 2012 Summit of the Americas, Obama’s reception by Latin American nations was noticeably cool – primarily because the United States refused to end its 50 year boycott of Cuba.

So at the 2015 Summit of the Americas, Obama walked in with a smile on his face and a proposal for a rapprochement with Cuba in one hand, and, in the other, his newly minted Executive Order 2015 which placed sanctions for human rights abuses on several  Venezuelan military leaders and  government officials. Under his emergency powers, Obama declared Venezuela a “threat to the United State’s national security.”

What was Obama thinking? Did he think people wouldn’t notice the bait and switch as he tried to appease Cuba and the Latin American nations while at the same time he applied the same old cold war tactics to isolate Venezuela as the more recent example of a Latin American country standing up to US imperialism? (To make matters worse, these particular military officers and judicial officials are those that many Bolivarians see as the most active in preventing a highly publicized attempt to destabilize the Venezuela government in February 2014 to set it up for another coup.)

The unanimous demand from the Latin American nations to repeal the sanctions against Venezuela show how disconnected Obama and the United States government are from changes in the balance of power in the Americas in the last decade. This includes  the failure of the United States to maintain its neoliberal hegemony and the rise of a left liberal block of nations (i.e., Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Argentina, and Brazil among others).

Admittedly, much of the loss of US hegemony in Latin America is due to the United States over-extending itself in brutal and unsuccessful oil wars in the Middle East and Asia, but much of the impetus of this new left leaning block is due to the influence of the Bolivarian “21st century socialist revolution” of Venezuela. Beginning with the election of Hugo Chavez in the late 1990s and the drafting of a “socialist” constitution, Venezuela has been instrumental in establishing several inter-regional support groups such as ALBA, UNISUR and CELAC which exclude the United States.  The new left liberal block of nations has also benefited by Venezuela’s generous sharing of its oil wealth with its neighbors.

So even though most will scoff at the idea that Venezuela is a real military threat to the United States (given the size and nuclear capability and the fact that Venezuela recently reduced its military by an unheard of 34%), the spread of an ideology that challenges the United States’ right to exploit and impoverish its southern neighbors could be sufficient reason to consider Venezuela a “threat” to United States’ ideology of imperialism; thus causing the US to resort to its age old practice of “regime change.”

Seems Like We’ve Heard This Tune Before

For the past 150 years, the United States has treated Latin American as its own personal backyard to exploit.  Most of the exploitation has been accomplished through economic dominance and the support of right-wing dictatorships.  However, if we look at those countries that experienced actual “regime changes” involving military coups,  we can count, just since World War II,  a minimum of 11 countries (and I’m sure I’ve missed some) where the United States was either directly or indirectly involved with military regime changes in the Americas– either to protect specific multinational corporate interests or change regimes that promoted an ideology that was more generally in conflict with Capitalist interests (communism/socialism, nationalism, liberation theology): Guatemala 1954, Cuba1959, The Dominican Republic – 1961, Brazil – 1964, Chile – 1970-73, Argentina – 1976, Nicaragua – 1981-90, Panama 1989, Venezuela 2002, Haiti – 2004, and Honduras – 2009.

To learn some more about a recently published secret report that documents the United States plans for achieving regime change in Venezuela follow the discussion below …

Rant of the Week: The Jon Stewart Mysteries Presents: The Case of the Iranian Agent!

The Jon Stewart Mysteries Presents: The Case of the Iranian Agent!

On This Day In History April 19

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

April 19 is the 109th day of the year (110th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 256 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1775, the American Revolution beginsAt about 5 a.m., 700 British troops, on a mission to capture Patriot leaders and seize a Patriot arsenal, march into Lexington to find 77 armed minutemen under Captain John Parker waiting for them on the town’s common green. British Major John Pitcairn ordered the outnumbered Patriots to disperse, and after a moment’s hesitation the Americans began to drift off the green. Suddenly, the “shot heard around the world” was fired from an undetermined gun, and a cloud of musket smoke soon covered the green. When the brief Battle of Lexington ended, eight Americans lay dead or dying and 10 others were wounded. Only one British soldier was injured, but the American Revolution had begun.

First shot

Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his “Concord Hymn”, described the first shot fired by the Patriots at the North Bridge as the “shot heard “round the world.”

A British officer, probably Pitcairn, but accounts are uncertain, as it may also have been Lieutenant William Sutherland, then rode forward, waving his sword, and called out for the assembled throng to disperse, and may also have ordered them to “lay down your arms, you damned rebels!” Captain Parker told his men instead to disperse and go home, but, because of the confusion, the yelling all around, and due to the raspiness of Parker’s tubercular voice, some did not hear him, some left very slowly, and none laid down their arms. Both Parker and Pitcairn ordered their men to hold fire, but a shot was fired from an unknown source.

According to one member of Parker’s militia none of the Americans had discharged their muskets as they faced the oncoming British troops. The British did suffer one casualty, a slight wound, the particulars of which were corroborated by a deposition made by Corporal John Munroe. Munroe stated that:

   “After the first fire of the regulars, I thought, and so stated to Ebenezer Munroe …who stood next to me on the left, that they had fired nothing but powder; but on the second firing, Munroe stated they had fired something more than powder, for he had received a wound in his arm; and now, said he, to use his own words, ‘I’ll give them the guts of my gun.’ We then both took aim at the main body of British troops the smoke preventing our seeing anything but the heads of some of their horses and discharged our pieces.”

Some witnesses among the regulars reported the first shot was fired by a colonial onlooker from behind a hedge or around the corner of a tavern. Some observers reported a mounted British officer firing first. Both sides generally agreed that the initial shot did not come from the men on the ground immediately facing each other. Speculation arose later in Lexington that a man named Solomon Brown fired the first shot from inside the tavern or from behind a wall, but this has been discredited. Some witnesses (on each side) claimed that someone on the other side fired first; however, many more witnesses claimed to not know. Yet another theory is that the first shot was one fired by the British, that killed Asahel Porter, their prisoner who was running away (he had been told to walk away and he would be let go, though he panicked and began to run). Historian David Hackett Fischer has proposed that there may actually have been multiple near-simultaneous shots. Historian Mark Urban claims the British surged forward with bayonets ready in an undisciplined way, provoking a few scattered shots from the militia. In response the British troops, without orders, fired a devastating volley. This lack of discipline among the British troops had a key role in the escalation of violence.

Nobody except the person responsible knew then, nor knows today with certainty, who fired the first shot of the American Revolution.

Witnesses at the scene described several intermittent shots fired from both sides before the lines of regulars began to fire volleys without receiving orders to do so. A few of the militiamen believed at first that the regulars were only firing powder with no ball, but when they realized the truth, few if any of the militia managed to load and return fire. The rest wisely ran for their lives.

Formula One 2015: Bahrain

I could have written this today instead of 3 years ago.

There was no one moment when Jon Stewart knew it was time for him to leave what he describes as “the most perfect job in the world”; no epiphany, no flashpoint. “Life,” he says, in the lightly self-mocking tone he uses when talking about himself, “doesn’t really work that way, with a finger pointing at you out of the sky, saying, ‘Leave now!’ That only happens when you’re fired, and trust me, I know about that.”

Instead, he describes his decision to quit The Daily Show, the American satirical news programme he has hosted for 16 years, as something closer to the end of a long-term relationship. “It’s not like I thought the show wasn’t working any more, or that I didn’t know how to do it. It was more, ‘Yup, it’s working. But I’m not getting the same satisfaction.'” He slaps his hands on his desk, conclusively.

“These things are cyclical. You have moments of dissatisfaction, and then you come out of it and it’s OK. But the cycles become longer and maybe more entrenched, and that’s when you realise, ‘OK, I’m on the back side of it now.'”

If anything, it was the prospect of the upcoming US election that pushed him to leave the show. “I’d covered an election four times, and it didn’t appear that there was going to be anything wildly different about this one,” he says.

Ah, but who could have anticipated the excitement over Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails?

“Anyone could, because that story is absolutely everything that it’s supposed to be about,” he says, with a groan; as a revelation, it managed to be at once depressing and completely unsurprising.

As Philip J. Fry says, “It’s just a matter of knowing the secret of all television: at the end of the episode, everything is back to normal.”

When News Overtook the Bahrain Grand Prix

By BRAD SPURGEON, The New York Times

APRIL 17, 2015

By 2012, Formula One had long been selling its Grands Prix to governments throughout the world as a way to showcase the host country or city and receive an economic windfall from visiting spectators. It had been done in Abu Dhabi, China, South Korea and Turkey, but one of the first of this new wave of host countries had been Bahrain, in 2004.

The Bahrain Grand Prix had been a successful race from the start. It helped shed new light on the Gulf state, an island kingdom that was home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet and known for its oil and financial industries.

Through the years, those who regularly attended the race knew that there were also social disturbances in Manama, the capital city, which is about a 30-minute drive from the Formula One circuit. Traffic was sometimes jammed by anti-government demonstrations. But only rarely were those events mentioned in coverage of the race. Until 2011.

In Manama that year, amid the wave of Arab Spring uprisings throughout the region, the mostly Shiite opposition protests grew and the Sunni government clamped down on them with force, leading to bloodshed.

Bahrain had been run by the same ruling al-Khalifa family, of Sunni origin, since the 18th century. But in recent decades, the kingdom had invited foreigners to live and work there, and soon the Shiites grew to be a majority of the 1.2 million population. They wanted equal social treatment with the Sunnis.

The demonstrations in Manama had begun just a month before the 2011 Bahrain Grand Prix was scheduled to run. The race organizers eventually decided to cancel the race.

In 2012, however, the Bahrain government planned to go ahead with the race. So the opposition groups decided that if for nearly a decade the government had hosted the race to promote its image of the country, they, too, could use the race to publicize their own cause.

In the preceding year, there had been a reported 70 deaths and many people imprisoned. With the expanded media coverage of the Grand Prix, the demonstrations picked up before and during the race weekend. Although the government was generally not allowing reporters into the country, visas had been granted to sports journalists who came to cover the race. But most of them had little or no experience covering geopolitical stories.

In the days before the race, while in central Manama there were no demonstrations, members of the opposition took journalists to areas where there were protests. Reports and images of dissent quickly went global.

A demonstrator was killed by security forces during the protests, but there was no violence at the race track or in central Manama, where most of the sports journalists were staying. Several members of the Force India team were caught in a hail of Molotov cocktails while driving back to the city from the track, but no one was injured.

Despite public calls from British politicians, human rights groups and other organizations around the world to cancel the race, Formula One remained adamant that the show would go on.

“I can’t call this race off,” said Bernie Ecclestone, the series’s promoter. “Nothing to do with us. We’ve an agreement to be here, and we’re here.”

The Formula One drivers either made no comment or, like Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, the reigning world champion, said that they could not understand what all the fuss was about.

“I haven’t seen anyone throwing bombs,” he said. “I don’t think it is that bad. There is a lot of hype, which is why I think it is good that we start our job here, which is the sport and nothing else.”

Nice guy that Sebastian.  Always a pleasure to see him get his ass kicked.

Formula One: Bahrain GP goes ahead but human rights concerns remain

by Giles Richards, The Guardian

Friday 17 April 2015 18.00 EDT

After less than 24 hours in the country, the Guardian was told by a number of sources this week that the anti-government protests, far from having gone away, continue on an almost daily basis and have increased in numbers and volume with the arrival of Formula One. They also attest that the Bahraini state’s response has been arrests and a crackdown on dissent.

In the paddock the racing weekend continues as normal, business as usual for F1, part and parcel of Bahrain’s attempt to convince the world that it is business as normal for the state as well. Yet away from the track such relatively simple tasks as meeting with fellow journalists are conducted with requests for discretion. “They monitor phones, they use it extensively to work out details of how and who we contact to prevent us from working with other journalists and human rights groups,” says Mazen Mahdi, a Bahraini journalist for the German Press Agency. “If you tried to cover a protest live and see what the police are doing, if they saw you they would stop us and take us. It’s dangerous. Technically, just talking to me is breaking your visa status.”

Dangerous it seems for others, too, with repeated attempts by the Guardian to talk to family members of those who have been recently arrested meeting with failure through fear that being seen to speak out to the media would result in harsher sentences for those already detained. None in the end were willing to put their heads above the parapet. Claims of the use of tear gas and birdshot at protests is mentioned repeatedly and, amid the fear, there is a sense of outrage that F1 arrives to make money and entertain but remains at the same time devoid of the responsibilities that its very presence demands. Some people may be afraid but they also really want Formula One to be a force for change.

The issues in Bahrain were returned to the spotlight earlier this week when Amnesty International published a report condemning the continuing human rights violations and a lack of reform that was supposed to have occurred after the 2011 uprising.

Formula One has long-insisted this is none of its business. “We’re not here, or we don’t go anywhere, to judge how a country is run,” Bernie Ecclestone pointed out two years ago. The damning Amnesty report, however, was preceded by another announcement with considerably less fanfare. In it the group Americans for Democracy on Human Rights in Bahrain said that it had concluded an agreement with F1 that the sport would begin a policy of analysing the human rights impact it might have on host nations. “Formula One Group has committed to taking a number of further steps to strengthen its processes in relation to human rights,” it read. So now it seems, to some extent, it is Formula One’s business.

John Donne, Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, Meditation 17

No man is an island, entire of itself.  Each is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.  If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less; as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thine own or of thine friend’s were.

Each man’s death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind; therefore send not to know for whom the bell tolls.

It tolls for thee.

Formula One Publishes Human Rights Commitment


APRIL 17, 2015, 4:25 P.M. E.D.T.

Britain’s Guardian newspaper saw the statement as a victory for campaigners and compared it to the words of 84-year-old Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone two years ago.

“We don’t go anywhere to judge how a country is run. I keep asking people, ‘What human rights?’. I don’t know what they are,” he said then.

Statement of Commitment to Respect for Human Rights

1. The Formula One Group is committed to respecting internationally recognised human rights in its operations globally.

2. Whilst respecting human rights in all of our activities, we focus our efforts in relation to those areas which are within our own direct influence. We do so by taking proportionate steps to:

  (a) understand and monitor through our due diligence processes the potential human rights impacts of our activities;

  (b) identify and assess, by conducting due diligence where appropriate, any actual or potential adverse human rights impacts with which we may be involved either through our own activities or as a result of our business relationships, including but not limited to our suppliers and promoters;

  (c) consider practical responses to any issues raised as a result of our due diligence, within the relevant context;

  (d) engage in meaningful consultation with relevant stakeholders in relation to any issues raised as a result of our due diligence, where appropriate; and

  (e) respect the human rights of our employees, in particular the prohibitions against forced and child labour, the freedom to associate and organise, the right to engage in collective bargaining, and the elimination of discrimination in employment and occupation.

3. Where domestic laws and regulations conflict with internationally recognised human rights, the Formula One Group will seek ways to honour them to the fullest extent which does not place them in violation of domestic law.

You have to scroll way down past all that copyright stuff to find it.  Larry, get me some weak tea.

Mediums and Softs.  Hamilton thinks Rosberg is not trying hard enough to beat him.  Rosberg thinks Hamilton is an asshole (probably true that).  Mercedes is still making race management mistakes.

Here’s an interesting “I told you so!”

F1 Engine Allowance to Be Discussed After Spain


APRIL 18, 2015, 8:32 A.M. E.D.T.

A proposal to increase Formula One’s power unit allowance from four to five per driver this season will be discussed at a meeting next month, leaving some in danger of being penalised before change is agreed.

“The proposal is with the (governing) FIA and I guess it’s going to be discussed the next time around in a strategy meeting,” Mercedes motorsport head Toto Wolff said at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

After three races, Red Bull’s Australian Daniel Ricciardo has used three Renault internal combustion engines, one of six elements making up the V6 turbo hybrid power unit, while seven others are on two.

Drivers were allowed five units last season but that was tightened for 2015. Grid penalties will be applied if allowances are exceeded.

Have I mentioned yet that Bernie Ecclestone is a senile jerk?

All’s Not Quiet on Formula One’s Clean-Engine Front

By BRAD SPURGEON, The New York Times

APRIL 17, 2015

The new 1.6-liter, hybrid turbo engines use a third less fuel than their V-8, 2.4-liter, normally aspirated predecessors and produce at least double the hybrid energy – as well as far less noise. But whether a team, engine provider or other interested party considers the project a success or a failure depends on the results on the track.

For the Mercedes car manufacturer and its team, which won the titles last year and is leading the series heading into the fourth race of the current season, the Bahrain Grand Prix this weekend, the program is not only an astounding success, but an essential factor in the German company wanting to continue in Formula One.

“For us, the current technology is an important part of our involvement,” said Toto Wolff, the head of the Mercedes racing program. “Our marketing strategy focuses on the hybrid technology of Formula One.”

But for Bernie Ecclestone, the promoter of the series, who has complained that the loss of the old engine roar has reduced the excitement for track-side spectators, the program is a sign that the series is in its death throes.

“The fans want the volume, the teams want the low cost – and even the racing was better,” Ecclestone recently told Sport Bild, a weekly German sports magazine. “Toto can have a lovely inscription on his gravestone that says ‘I helped to kill Formula One.”‘

Ecclestone was referring specifically to the refusal by Mercedes to agree to a vote to change the rules in the immediate future to revert to the louder, gas-guzzling engines.

Ferrari, the most vocal complainer about the engines last year, made huge progress with its engine technology over the winter. It won the second race this season and has finished with a driver on the podium in each of the first three races. Ferrari has for now ceased to complain about the new engine formula.

The Renault engine manufacturer and the Red Bull team, by contrast, have picked up where Ferrari left off last year. Having taken a step backward in engine power, both the team and the manufacturer have threatened to withdraw from the series if something is not done.

Yet it was Renault that several years ago asked Formula One to create a new, environmentally friendly engine, seeking to make the series more relevant to its effort to sell hybrid road cars.

Bernie, buy yourself a Walkman and crank the volume to eleven you deaf old bastard.

Jensen Button may or may not race due to electric problems on his McLaren Honda.  He could barely practice and was unable to complete a lap in Qualifying.

Punting the Pundits: Sunday Preview Edition

Punting the Punditsis an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

The Sunday Talking Heads:

This Week with George Stephanopolis: The guests on Sunday’s “This Week” are: House Homeland Security Committee Chair Rep. Michael McCaul(R-TX); and  Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO).

The roundtable guests are: ABC News’ Cokie Roberts; ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd;  Republican strategist Ana Navarro; and ESPN senior writer LZ Granderson.

Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer: Mr. Schieffer’s guests are:  Sen. Marco Rubio R-FL); former Gov. Martin O’Malley (D-MD); and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV).

His panel guests are: Dana Milbank, Washington Post; David Catanese, U.S. News & World Report; April Ryan, American Urban Radio Networks; CBS News Political Director John Dickerson and CBS News Congressional Correspondent Nancy Cordes.

Meet the Press with Chuck Todd: The guests on Sunday’s “MTP” are: Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-VA); Gov. John Kasich (R-OH); and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT).

The roundtable guests are: David Axelrod, Director of University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics; Steve Schmidt, Republican Strategist; Helene Cooper, The New York Times and Kathleen Parker, The Washington Post.

State of the Union: Jim Sciutto is the week’s host. His guests are: Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN); Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD); former Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA); and Ali Rezaian, brother of American journalist Jason Rezaian who is imprisoned in Iran.

His panel guests are CNN’s Sara Murray and Peter Baker of the New York Times.

Six In The Morning

On Sunday

Fighting in Iraq’s Ramadi displaces thousands

    Tents, food and other aid sent to residents fleeing capital of Anbar province as ISIL fighters gain new territory.

19 Apr 2015 06:43 GMT

Thousands of families continue to flee the Iraqi city of Ramadi as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group closes in on the capital of Anbar province, clashing with Iraqi troops.

The UN has announced that more than 4,000 families fled Ramadi and its suburbs in the past few days due to the ongoing clashes between ISIL and Iraqi forces, which has turned the city into a ghost town.

The UN also confirmed on Wednesday deaths among those trying to flee – including newborn babies – due to the lack of proper necessities and harsh conditions. Families have left their homes with little or nothing on their backs.

Sunday’s Headlines:

World’s mountain of electrical waste reaches new peak of 42m tonnes

El Salvador’s dirty warriors to face justice for 1989 massacre of six Jesuits priests, their housekeeper and her daughter

Young and loud in Nigeria

The Terror Strategist: Secret Files Reveal the Structure of Islamic State

80% of workers with premature dementia get fired or quit: health ministry survey

The Breakfast Club (Classical Gas)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

 photo 807561379_e6771a7c8e_zps7668d00e.jpg

Breakfast Tune: Classical Gas by Roy Clark Band Banjo Pickin’ 1987 Live

Today in History

Oklahoma City Bombing, Revolution begins at Lexington and Concord, Nazi Pope, Waco Texas, Princes Grace, The Producers

Breakfast News & Blogs Below