Archive for the ‘McCain’ Category

Exxon suxx. McCain duxx. By Greg Palast

February 28, 2008

Exxon suxx. McCain duxx. By Greg Palast

Dandelion Salad

By Greg Palast
27 February 2008

Nineteen goddamn years is enough. I’m sorry if you don’t like my language, but when I think about what they did to Paul Kompkoff, I’m in no mood to nicey-nice words.

Next month marks 19 years since the Exxon Valdez dumped its load of crude oil across the Prince William Sound, Alaska. A big gooey load of this crude spilled over the lands of the Chenega Natives. Paul Kompkoff was a seal-hunter for the village. That is, until Exxon’s ship killed the seal and poisoned the rest of Chenega’s food supply.

While cameras rolled, Exxon executives promised they’d compensate everyone. Today, before the US Supreme Court, the big oil company’s lawyers argued that they shouldn’t have to pay Paul or other fishermen the damages ordered by the courts.

They can’t pay Paul anyway. He’s dead.

That was part of Exxon’s plan. They told me that. In 1990 and 1991, I worked for the Chenega and Chugach Natives of Alaska on trying to get Exxon to pay up to save the remote villages of the Sound. Exxon’s response was, “We can hold out in court until you’re all dead.”

Nice guys. But, hell, they were right, weren’t they?

But Exxon didn’t do it alone. They had enablers. One was a failed oil driller named “Dubya.” Exxon was the largest contributor to George W. Bush’s political career after Enron. They were a team, Exxon and Enron. The Chairman of Enron, Ken Lay, prior to his felony convictions, funded a group called Texans for Law Suit Reform. The idea was to prevent Natives, consumers and defrauded stockholders from suing felonious corporations and their chiefs.

When George went to Washington, Enron and Exxon got their golden pass in the appointment of Chief Justice John Roberts. Today, as the court heard Exxon’s latest stall, Roberts said, in defense of Exxon’s behavior in Alaska, “What more can a corporation do?”

The answer, Your Honor, is plenty.

For starters, Mr. Roberts, Exxon could have turned on the radar. What? On the night the Exxon Valdez smacked into Bligh Reef, the Raycas radar system was turned off. Exxon shipping honchos decided it was too expensive to maintain it and train their navigators to use it. So, the inexperienced third mate at the wheel was driving the supertanker by eyeball, Christopher Columbus style. I kid you not.

Here’s what else this poor ‘widdle corporation could do: stop lying.

On the night of March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez was not even supposed to leave harbor.

If a tanker busts open, that doesn’t have to mean a thousand miles of shoreline gets slimed – so long as oil-slick containment equipment is in place.

On the night of March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez was not supposed have left port. No tanker can unless a spill containment barge is operating nearby. That night, the barge was in dry-dock, locked under ice. Exxon kept that fact hidden, concealing the truth even after the tanker grounded. An Exxon official radioed the emergency crew, “Barge is on its way.”

Paul’s gone – buried with Exxon’s promises. But the oil’s still there. Go out to Chenega lands today. At Sleepy Bay, kick over some gravel and it will smell like a gas station.

What the heck does this have to do with John McCain? The Senator is what I’d call a ‘Tort Tart.’ Ken Lay’s “Law Suit Reform” posse was one of the fronts used by a gaggle of corporate lobbyists waging war on your day in court. Their rallying cry is ‘Tort Reform,’ by which they mean they want to take away the God-given right of any American, rich or poor, to sue the bastards who crush your child’s skull through product negligence, make your heart explode with a faulty medical device, siphon off your pension funds, or poison your food supply with spilled oil.

Now, all of the Democratic candidates have seen through this ‘tort reform’ con – and so did a Senator named McCain who, in 2001, for example, voted for the Patients Bill of Rights allowing claims against butchers with scalpels. Then something happened to Senator McCain: the guy who stuck his neck out for litigants got his head chopped off when he ran for President in the Republican Party in 2000 for what one lobbyists’ website called McCain’s, “his go-it-alone moralism.”

So the Senator did what I call, The McCain Hunch. Again and again he grabbed his ankles and apologized to the K Street lobbyists, reversing his positions on, well, you name it. For example, in 2001, he said of Bush’s tax cuts, “I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us at the expense of middle-class Americans.” Now, in bad conscience, the Senator vows to make these tax cuts permanent.

On “Tort Reform,” the about-face was dizzying. McCain voted to undermine his own 2001 Patients Bill of Rights with votes in 2005 to limit suits to enforce it. He then added his name to a bill that would have thrown sealhunter Kompkoff’s suit out of federal court.

In 2003, McCain voted against Bush’s Energy Plan, an industry oil-gasm. But this week, following Exxon’s report that it sucked in $40.6 billion in earnings last year, the largest profit haul in planetary history, McCain failed to join Clinton, Obama, most Democrats and some Republicans on a bill to require a teeny sliver of industry profit go to alternative energy sources. On oil independence, McCain is AWOL, missing in action.

Well, Paul, at least you were spared this.

I remember when I was on the investigation in Alaska, fishermen, bankrupted, utterly ruined – Kompkoff’s co-plaintiffs in the suit before the court – floated their soon-to-be repossessed boats into the tanker lanes with banners reading, “EXXON SUXX.” To which they could now add, about a one-time stand-up Senator: “McCain duxx.”

Greg Palast is author of the New York Times bestsellers Armed Madhouse and The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. Subscribe to his investigative reports at http://www.GregPalast.com

What the Times Didn’t Tell About McCain

February 27, 2008

What the Times Didn’t Tell About McCain

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20080227_what_the_times_didnt_tell_about_mccain/

Posted on Feb 26, 2008

By Robert Scheer

As Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain twisted briefly in the wind kicked up by that New York Times story suggesting he had swapped political favors for the personal favors of an attractive lobbyist for the telecommunications industry, I kept waiting for the public policy punch line. Surely the Times would spell out just what it was that McCain had delivered to big media beyond what the paper originally reported: an all-too-typical congressional request that the FCC speed up its review of a broadcast licensing dispute.

Vicki Iseman, the lobbyist in question, is praised on her company’s Web site for her “extensive experience in telecommunications, representing corporations before the House and Senate Commerce Committees,” and for “her work on the landmark 1992 and 1996 communications bills.” Now that’s a biggie, because the 1996 legislation, although you would never have learned this from the mainstream media at the time, opened the floodgates for massive media consolidation, thus rewarding media moguls for their many millions in campaign contributions. McCain was a big player on that Commerce Committee at the time, and I expected a Times revelation as to just how Iseman got McCain to help gift the media barons with their dream legislation.

The revelation never came, because the annoying reality is that McCain was one of the rare Senate opponents of the telecom bill that Iseman was pushing—as opposed to The New York Times, which like every other major media outlet pushed for the legislation (in the case of the Times, without ever conceding its own corporation’s financial bias in the matter). McCain was one of five senators (and the sole Republican) who, along with Democrats Russ Feingold, Patrick Leahy, Paul Simon and the great Paul Wellstone, voted against the atrocious legislation, which President Bill Clinton signed into law.

The Times, which now has the temerity to question McCain’s integrity on telecommunications policy, ran a shameful editorial back then, under the headline “A Victory for Viewers,” insisting after the passage of the legislation that “there was one clear winner—the consumer.” Seven years later, the paper’s “Editorial Observer,” Brent Staples, bemoaned one direct consequence of the passage of the Telecom Act, under the title “The Trouble with Corporate Radio: The Day the Protest Music Died.” Noting that “corporate ownership has changed what gets played—and who plays it,” Staples observed that the top two radio owners went from having a total of 115 stations before the act was passed to 1,400 between them afterward.

This concentration of ownership in all media was the inevitable result of the legislation that the media moguls sought. That far-reaching impact was obvious only one year after the act’s passage, as Neil Hickey noted at the time in the Columbia Journalism Review: “ … far and away the splashiest effect of the new law during the last year has been the historic, unprecedented torrent of mergers, consolidations, buyouts, partnerships, and joint ventures that has changed the face of Big Media in America.” He then offers a staggering list of massive multibillion-dollar mergers consummated during that first year.

One of the early winners was Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., which quickly became the biggest owner of television stations, bolstering its lineup of media properties such as TV Guide, HarperCollins and Twentieth Century Fox; quite a gift from legislation signed by President Clinton, which perhaps explains the warm relationship that subsequently developed between Murdoch and Hillary Clinton. Murdoch sponsored a fundraiser for Clinton’s senatorial re-election campaign in 2006, but when asked during the Iowa primary about Murdoch’s vast media holdings, including Fox News, the New York Post and The Wall Street Journal, Clinton ducked the question. Avoiding any reference to Murdoch, she conceded that “… there have been a lot of media consolidations in the last several years, and it is quite troubling.”

It’s not easy to maintain an evenhanded appraisal of McCain as he appropriates the Bush mantle. Of course, I wouldn’t vote for him; he is willing to let the Iraq war go on for a hundred years, and at the rate of at least $200 billion a year, that makes a mockery of his efforts to defeat earmarks and other wasteful government spending—beginning with the massive waste in the Pentagon budget that he has done so much to expose. His capitulation on President Bush’s use of torture is even more appalling. But it is absurd to attempt to pigeonhole McCain as a patsy for corporate lobbyists when he has been in the forefront of key efforts to challenge their power.

McCain in NYC AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

Mac in NYC:  John McCain courts the crowd in New York City’s Rockefeller Center on Super Tuesday.

Bush and ExxonMobil v. Chavez by Stephen Lendman

February 18, 2008

Bush and ExxonMobil v. Chavez by Stephen Lendman

Dandelion Salad

by Stephen Lendman
Global Research, February 18, 2008

Since the Bush administration took office in January 2001, it has targeted Hugo Chavez relentlessly. From the aborted two-day April 2002 coup attempt to the 2002-03 oil management lockout to the failed 2004 recall referendum to stoking opposition rallies against the constitutional reform referendum to constant pillorying in the media to funding opposition candidates in elections to the present when headlines like the Reuters February 7 one announced: “Courts freeze $12 billion Venezuela assets in Exxon row.” Call it the latest salvo in Bush v. Chavez with ExxonMobil (EM) its lead aggressor and the long arm of the CIA and Pentagon always in the wings.

EM temporarily won a series of court orders in Britain, New York, the Netherlands and Netherlands Antilles to freeze up to $12 billion of state-owned PDVSA assets around the world. Hugo Chavez called it Bush administration “economic war” against his government. Energy Minister and PDVSA president, Rafael Ramirez, said it was “judicial terrorism” and that “PDVSA has paralyzed oil sales to Exxon (and) suspend(ed) commercial relations” in response to actions it “consider(s) an outrage….intimidating and hostile.”

PDVSA’s web site went further. It explained that the company will “fully honor existing contractual commitments relating to investments in common with ExxonMobil on the outside, reserving the right to terminate those contracts” under terms that permit. This likely refers to a Chalmette, Louisiana joint venture between the two companies that refines 185,000 barrels of oil daily into gasoline. It also reflects a commitment to supply 90,000 barrels of oil daily to Exxon that continues unaltered.

EM sought the injunctions ahead of an expected International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) arbitration ruling. It’s over a compensation claim owed Exxon after Venezuela nationalized its last privately-owned oil fields last May in the Orinoco River region. PDVSA now has a majority interest, Big Oil investors have minority stakes, but the government offered fair compensation for the buyouts. Chevron, UK’s BP PLC, France’s Total SA and Norway’s Statoil ASA agreed to terms and will continue operating in the country.

ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips balked, and it led to the current action. In Exxon’s case, it refused a generous settlement offer for its 41.7% stake, but that’s the typical way this bully operates. The company is the world’s largest, had 2007 sales topping $404 billion, it’s more than double Venezuela’s GDP, and it places EM 25th among world nations based on World Bank GDP figures.

It’s too early to predict what’s ahead, but one thing is sure. As long as George Bush is president, he’ll go after Chavez every way possible with one aim in mind – to destabilize the country and remove the Venezuelan leader from office. Once again, battle lines are drawn as the latest confrontation plays out judicially, economically and geopolitically. The stakes are huge – the most successful democracy in the Americas and the “threat” of its good example v. the world’s most powerful nation and biggest bully.

The next judicial hearing is on February 22, but it’s unclear where things now stand with Exxon and the Chavez government having different views. The oil giant claims PDVSA’s assets are frozen, but on February 9 Minister Ramirez denied it saying: “They don’t have any asset frozen. They only have frozen $300 million” in cash through a New York court. On February 13, it heard the case, and to no one’s surprise affirmed the freeze until a final arbitration settlement is reached. PDVSA has no “assets in that jurisdiction (or in Britain) that even come close to those” billions that are about 16 times the value of Exxon’s Venezuelan $750 million investment.

Ramirez also added that EM’s action is a “transitory measure” while PDVSA pressed its case in New York and will do it again in London. The current status has no “affect on our cash flow (or) operational situation at all.” Exxon wants to undermine the government and “create a situation of anxiety in the country, a situation of nervousness.”

Ramirez expressed confidence that his government will prevail. It’s arbitrating fairly, offered just compensation, and that in the end may defeat the latest Bush administration assault against the right of a sovereign state to its own resources. He also explained that Exxon violated ICSID arbitration proceedings by seeking separate court orders, and that PDVSA is considering a response. It may sue the oil giant for damages that caused Venezuela’s dollar-denominated bonds to record their biggest drop in six months on the prospect of a long legal battle.

On February 8, PDVSA declared its position on its web site to put the facts in context, clarify the situation, and dispel how the dominant media portrays it ExxonMobil’s way. Below is a summary.

The company states it’s been “in arduous level agreements and negotiations with” its joint venture partners – “Total, Statoil, (Italy’s) ENI, ConocoPhillips, Petrocanada, (China’s) CNPC, Petrochina, (Venezuela’s) Ineparia, British Petroleum (and) Exxon Mobil.” The US giant is the “only case in which we have a clear situation of conflict” so it was “envisioned that these strategic issues….could be settled in international (arbitration) tribunals.” It appears that agreement has been reached or “in the process of agreeing” with every company (including ConocoPhillips) except ExxonMobil, and the situation with them is this: “this company has not complied with the terms of arbitration….and introduced an arbitration against the Republic (in) the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).”

PDVSA awaits its ruling “which, we are confident, will promote the interests of the Republic.” In addition, Exxon sued PDVSA. As a result, “we see a clear position (of this company) to go against the sovereign interest of an oil-producing country such as Venezuela,” deny its legal right to its own resources, and get overt US backing for it from State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack saying: “We fully support the efforts of ExxonMobil to get a just and fair compensation package for their assets according to the standards of international law” that Washington defiantly trashes.

PDVSA’s statement explained that the national media have “such ignorance of the situation (by reporting that) our company has (assets of) 12 billion dollars (frozen and) that is completely untrue….we do not have any court decision that is final with respect to all of our assets. We have an interim measure in a court in New York, we have the right – and so we are going to….respond. This is a transitional measure while (PDVSA) presents its case; defend(s) ourselves….defend(s) the interests of the Republic and we are confident we will remove this measure.”

Exxon also got injunctions in London and the Netherlands. “I must report we have no assets in those jurisdictions….”The same status is true for the Netherlands Antilles” where another injunction was gotten.

“We are no longer surprised (about) the attitude of ExxonMobil, as it is the typical American transnational company which….historically has tried to attack the oil-producing countries and impose their views on the management of (their) national resources….On behalf of workers and our oil industry, we are not going to (be) frightened, intimidated, or retreat in the sovereign aspirations of our people to manage their natural resources.”

We must “warn our country because they could continue this type of action….the position of our people and our Government is firm in defence of our decisions.” We will defend our interests. We won’t “yield to this (action), we will defeat them (on the) ground(s) that (are) raised….”

In a February 12 interview, Ramirez repeated Hugo Chavez’s message two days earlier on his weekly Sunday television program, Alo, Presidente: “If you end up freezing (our assets) and it harms us, we’re going to harm you. Do you know how? We aren’t going to send oil to the United States. Take note, Mr. Bush, Mr. Danger….I speak to the US empire, because that’s the master: continue and you will see that we won’t send one drop of oil to the empire of the United States….The outlaws of ExxonMobil will never again rob us….If the economic war continues against Venezuela, the price of oil is going to reach $200 (a barrel) and Venezuela will join the economic war….And more than one country is willing to accompany us in the economic war.”

PDVSA spokesperson, Eleazar Diaz Rangel, then said on Latest News on February 12 that “we are ready” to stop supplying oil to the US if their hostile actions continue. He explained that Washington is waging economic war, and Venezuela is seeking to develop new customers like China. He added that the cash flow of the company is sound because it’s based on daily crude oil sales.

On February 12, Venezuela’s deputy oil minister, Bernard Mommer, said on state-owned Venezolana de Television that Exxon knows it will lose in arbitration and its “maneuver represents a way to intimidate” other countries against standing up to its will. It’s trying to “create panic and anxiety with the banking and the oil sector.”

Venezuela is America’s third or fourth largest oil supplier after Canada, Saudi Arabia and at times Mexico. It accounts for between 10 to 12% of US imports and averages around 1.2 million barrels a day, sometimes as much as 1.5 million. PDVSA’s assets total around $109 billion, according to its web site. It calls itself “the most creditworthy company in Latin America” which is likely considering its enormous oil reserves and at their current elevated prices.

Views from the US Media

It’s no surprise how the US media portray Chavez and the Exxon dispute. Bloomberg.com called it his way to use the “Exxon Battle to Stoke Anti-US Sentiment” as though he’s the aggressor and poor USA and giant Exxon his victims.

Then, there’s the Washington Post’s editorial view on February 15. It’s astonished that “Mr. Chavez himself threatened to cut off exports of crude oil to America” over Exxon’s having “moved to freeze” its assets. It lamentes how “regrettable” the US “voracious consumption of oil” is because it “underwrites Venezuela’s Chavez regime….If the Bush administration were really as committed to overthrowing Mr. Chavez as Mr. Chavez claims (it ought to boycott) Venezuelan oil (to) devastate” its economy. “Two cheers for ExxonMobil. In standing up to Mr. Chavez through ‘peaceful, legal means,’ it has once again exposed the hollowness of the anti-imperialism with which he justifies his rule.”

The Chicago Tribune was just as hostile by asking “Where is the king of Spain when we need him?” Chavez “says the ‘bandits’ at Exxon are trying to rob Venezuela. From where we sit, it looks like the other way around.”

Then there’s the Houston Chronicle in Exxon’s home city. It blasted Chavez for “making a fool of himself on the floor of the UN General Assembly last year,” called him a “clown,” and said “his buffoonery is neither amusing nor benign.” Ignoring Exxon’s shenanigans in cahoots with Washington, it stated that Chavez “was in full bluster (and that he) and his henchmen (were launch(ing) a war of words in response (that is) little more than political theater, sound bites for the loyalists back home, and You Tube fodder abroad.”

This type bluster gets supplemented with outrageous comments about how Chavez “seized power,” shuts down his opposition, control’s Venezuela’s media, took over American oil fields, is a “destructive menace” to the region, and even worse a communist and a dictator with a terrible human rights record. Is it any wonder that Americans know almost nothing about Venezuelan democracy and the man who shaped it for the past nine years. Under his leadership, it’s the real thing, is impressive and improving. Compare it to America where “The People” have no say, democracy is nowhere in sight, and under the Bush administration it’s pretense, lawless, and corrupted.

What’s Going On and What’s At Stake

Throughout most of the last century, and especially post-WW II, America’s international relations have been appalling and destructive. It’s the world’s leading bully, it practices state terrorism, disdains democracy, defiles the rule of law, tramples on human and civil rights, demands unquestioned obedience, and rules by what Noam Chomsky calls “the Fifth Freedom” that shreds the other four: to “rob, to exploit and to dominate society, to undertake any course of action to insure that existing privilege is protected and advanced.” Outliers aren’t tolerated, national sovereignty is sinful, independence is a crime, and dare disobey the imperial master guarantees certain punishment.

William Blum documented the history in three editions of his book, “Rogue State.” He wrote: “Between 1945 and 2005 the United States has attempted to overthrow more than 50 foreign governments, and to crush more than 30 populist-nationalist movements struggling against intolerable regimes. In the process, the US has caused….several million (deaths), and condemned many millions more to a life of agony and despair.” Washington won’t tolerate nations that won’t:

– “lie down and happily become an American client,”

– accept free market capitalism and today’s steroid-enhanced neoliberal version that’s even more predatory,

– sacrifice its peoples’ welfare for ours,

– “produce primarily for export,”

– allow dangerous environmental dumping on its soil,

– surrender to IMF, World Bank, WTO and international banking rules; accept exploitive structural adjustments and debt slavery as a way of life;

– relinquish control of its natural resources, especially if they’re large oil and gas deposits,

– surrender all freedoms and call it democracy,

– permit US military bases on its soil, and

– agree unquestionably to all other imperial demands.

Countries unwilling to oblige are called “bad examples (and) reduced to basket cases.” In addition, their leaders are replaced by “friendlier” ones. It’s an ugly story of the rich against the poor, the monied interests against all humanity, and if outliers are tolerated, they’ll be “bad examples” for others to follow.

Chavez became one of them after his 1998 election. Ever since, he’s been a thorn in America’s craw and its greatest threat – a “good example” that’s a model for other nations. He also inspires social movements throughout the Americas, even though none so far are dominant or even even close, and he shows signs of wavering on some of his earlier commitments. More on that below.

Imperialism is safe in the Americas, and James Petras explained it in his new article: “Movements in Flux and Center-Left Governments in Power.” He states: “The singular fact about Latin America is that, despite a number of massive popular upheavals, several regime changes and (some ascendant) mass social movements, the continuity of property relations remains intact.” In fact, they’re more concentrated, “giant agro-mineral export enterprises” are prospering, and “class structure (and) socio-economic inequalities” persist, even though Hugo Chavez stands out, in part, as an exception. Petras calls him “pragmatic.”

He “reversed (some of) the corrupt privatizations of previous rightest neo-liberal regimes,” but still supports business. Nonetheless, Washington sees him as a threat because he embraces participatory democracy, practices redistributive social policies, and envisions a “new socialism of the 21st century….based in solidarity, fraternity, love, justice, liberty and equality.” Those ideas and his expressive language are anathema to America and its hard line neoliberal model.

As a result, he tops George Bush’s target list outside the Middle East, and that status won’t change under a new administration in 2009, especially if a Republican heads it. But even Democrats are hostile. When candidates discuss Latin America, Chavez is Topic One and their comments aren’t friendly.

Earlier (but no longer), John McCain’s web site was outrageous. It featured a petition to “stop the dictators of Latin America” and supported ousting Chavez “in the name of democracy and freedom throughout the hemisphere.” He lashed out at a news conference in Miami’s Little Havana stating that “everyone should understand the connections” between (Bolivia’s) Evo Morales, Castro and Chavez. “They inspire each other. They assist each other. They get ideas from each other. It’s very disturbing.” He also calls Chavez a “wacko” and a “two-bit dictator.”

These comments aren’t surprising from a man who headed the hard right International Republican Institute (IRI). Along with the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and USAID, these organizations front for imperialism, support rightest dictators, and plot the overthrow of independent democrats like Chavez who dare confront America.

Think hard about this man from what his fellow Republicans say about him. Some call him psychologically unhinged and unqualified to be president. Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran said: “The thought of (McCain) being president sends a cold chill down my spine.” Others from the far right, like Alabama’s Dick Shelby, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, and Oklahoma’s Jim Inhofe, mention times McCain screamed four-letter obscenities at them in the Senate cloak room. Another senator said: “He is frighteningly unfit to be Commander-in-Chief.”

Along with these unsettling comments, there are disturbing allegations about McCain’s POW years and reported special treatment he got after his father, Admiral JS McCain, became CINCPAC Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Command over all Vietnam theater forces. An organization called “Vietnam Veterans Against John McCain” is actively addressing his record on things people have a right to know about public officials, if they’re true, and McCain has an obligation to explain them.

Democrats aren’t much better, and consider their views about Chavez. They’re hardly friendly with Hillary Clinton saying “we have witnessed the rollback of democratic development and economic openness in parts of Latin America” with no confusion about who she means. Barack Obama is also suspect despite saying if elected he’ll meet with Iranian, Cuban, Syrian and Venezuelan leaders. It sounds good until he qualifies it and spoils everything. He labels these countries “rogue states,” reveals his real feelings, and signals his hostility and unwillingness to establish good relations with them.

Forget Obama’s friendly smile, comforting demeanor and reassuring rhetoric. Bottom line – he’s no different from the rest. There’s not a dime’s worth of difference among them that matters. Next January, they’ll be a new face in charge with the same agenda: wars without end; subservience to the monied interests; disdain for the common good; and deference to the dominant media view that Chavez is: an authoritarian, a strongman, a dictator and what Wall Street Journal columnist Mary Anastasia O’Grady calls him: anti-democratic, dictatorial, vengeful, bullying, crude, unpopular, and having “an insatiable thirst for power that should give Venezuelans reason to be fearful.”

Forget that under Chavez, Venezuelan business is booming or how gracious he was in defeat last December after voters rejected his constitutional reforms. Petras assessed what followed. Centrist and other influential Chavez advisors jumped on the setback and “pressed their advantage to secure programmatic, tactical-strategic and organizational changes.” They got him to replace over a dozen cabinet ministers and others in government with new faces sharing their views. They also, to a degree, shifted Chavez to the center, influenced him to “slow down….the move to socialisma, (establish) economic ties with the big bourgeoisie, (halt) immediate moves to nationalize strategic economic enterprises, and (move slowly) in reforming land tenure.”

In addition, they got him to ally “with the middle class center-right parties, and (won) them over (by eliminating) price controls to let “basic food prices…. soar, while salaries remain stagnant.” The result: a fundamental contradiction in trying to advance socialism by “liberalizing economic policy.” Petras is worried that Chavez’s base (the urban poor) “will lose interest, abstain or resist the centrists and withdraw their loyalties.” Indignation is surfacing, loyal Chavez support may be jeopardized, and it “raises fundamental questions about the long-term future of state-class movement relations under” his leadership.

In addition, rightest forces see an opening, are pressing their advantage, Exxon’s move is a warning shot, and so are reports about Colombian paramilitaries entering the country in greater numbers. More destabilization will follow, and continued efforts will be made to weaken Chavez, then try to oust him. More than ever, he needs strong support at a time it’s jeopardized, and that’s a worrisome situation to consider. Venezuela’s Bolivarianism is glorious provided it flourishes, grows and achieves its long-term goals. It’s been extraordinary so far, still has miles to go, and it’s unthinkable to waiver now and pull back.

Petras alarmingly notes that when “social movements (adopt common) electoral strategies, (work) within the framework of institutional politics, and (ally) with center-left regimes….few positive reforms and numerous regressive” ones result. Will this be Venezuelans’ fate? The prospect is frightening because if not Chavez, who’ll lead their struggle for social equity and justice – for the nation, the region and beyond. Bolivarianism is glorious and vibrant. But to flourish, grow and prosper, it needs care and nurturing from a resolute leader backed by mass popular support.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.  

Also visit his blog site at www.sjlendman.blogspot.com  and listen to The Global Research News Hour Mondays on www.RepublicBroadcasting.org from 11AM – 1PM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions of world and national issues with distinguished guests.

Meet John McCain: Mr. Big Stick in Latin America

February 15, 2008

Meet John McCain: Mr. Big Stick in Latin America

By Nikolas Kozloff

Nikolas Kozloff’s ZSpace Page

 

Now that John McCain has presumably wrapped up the Republican nomination, it’s natural to wonder what kind of foreign policy he might pursue towards the rest of the world if he were elected President.  For example, how would the “maverick” McCain deal with Latin America?  In recent years, the region has taken a decidedly leftist turn; new leaders such as Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, Evo Morales of Bolivia, and Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua have openly challenged U.S. diplomatic and political influence.  McCain’s record suggests that he would pursue a very hawkish and antagonistic policy in the hemisphere.  It’s even possible that the Arizona Republican, who has suggested that the United States might be in Iraq for hundreds of years and might “bomb, bomb, bomb, Iran,” could ratchet up military tensions in Latin America and escalate conflict with countries like Venezuela.
 

 

The International Republican Institute (IRI)

 

McCain has chaired the International Republican Institute (IRI) since 1993.  Ostensibly a non-partisan, democracy-building outfit, in reality the IRI serves as an instrument to advance and promote the most far right Republican foreign policy agenda.  More a cloak-and-dagger operation than a conventional research group, IRI has aligned itself with some of the most antidemocratic factions in the Third World. 

 

On the surface at least, IRI seems to have a rather innocuous agenda including party building, media training, the organization of leadership trainings, dissemination of newsletters, and strengthening of civil society.  In reality, however, the IRI is more concerned with crushing incipient left movements in Latin America. 

 

One of the least known Washington institutions, IRI receives taxpayer money via the National Endowment for Democracy and the U.S. Agency for International Development (U.S. A.I.D.).  The organization is active in around sixty countries and has a budget of $74 million.        On the board of IRI, McCain has been joined by a who’s who of Republican bigwigs such as Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Jeane Kirkpatrick. 

 


IRI’s Latin American Activities

 

In Haiti, IRI helped to fund, equip, and lobby for Haiti’s two heavily conservative and White House-backed opposition parties, the Democratic Convergence and Group 184.  The latter group, comprised of many of the island’s major business, church and professional figures, was at the vanguard of opposition to Jean Bertrand Aristide prior to the Haitian President’s forced ouster in 2004.  At the same time, IRI funneled taxpayer money to hard-line anti-Castro forces allied to the Republican Party.

 

In Venezuela, IRI generously funded anti-Chávez civil society groups that were militantly opposed to the regime.  Starting in 1998, the year Chávez was elected, IRI worked with Venezuelan organizations to produce anti-Chávez media campaigns, including newspaper, television and radio ads.  Additionally, when politicians, union and civil society leaders went to Washington to meet with U.S. officials just one month before the April 2002 coup, IRI picked up the bill.  The IRI also helped to fund the corrupt Confederation of Venezuelan Workers (which played a major role in the anti-Chávez destabilization campaign leading up to the coup) and Súmate, an organization involved in a signature-gathering campaign to present a petition calling for Chávez’s recall.

 

 

McCain and Cuba

 

McCain has taken a personal interest in IRI’s Cuba work and praises the anti-Castro opposition.  The Arizona Senator has called Cuba “a national security threat,” adding that “as president, I will not passively await the long overdue demise of the Castro dictatorship … The Cuban people have waited long enough.”  McCain wants to increase funding for the U.S. government’s anti-Castro radio and TV stations, seeks the release of all Cuban political prisoners, supports internationally monitored elections on the island, and wants to keep the U.S. trade embargo in place.  What kind of future does McCain envision for Cuba?  No doubt, one in which the Miami anti-Castro exiles rule the island.  McCain’s most influential advisers on Latin American affairs are Cuban Americans from Florida, including Senator Mel Martínez and far right Congress members Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros Lehtinen. 

 

 

For McCain, It’s Never Ending Free Trade and Militarization

 

On Capitol Hill, McCain has championed pro-U.S. Latin American regimes while working to isolate those governments which are rising up to challenge American hegemony.  On Colombia, for example, McCain has been a big booster of official U.S. policy.  Despite Colombia’s status as a human rights nightmare, the Senator supports ongoing funding to the government of Álvaro Uribe so as to combat the “narco-trafficking and terrorist threat.” 

 

McCain has taken a personal interest in the Andean region.  He has traveled to Ecuador and Colombia so as to drum up more support for the counter insurgency and drug war, now amounting to billions of dollars a year.  McCain’s foremost fear is that the Democrats may turn off the money flow to Uribe.  “You don’t build strong alliances by turning your back on friends,” he has said. 

 

McCain seeks to confront countries such as Venezuela and Cuba by encouraging U.S. partnership with sympathetic regimes that support American style free trade.  “We need to build on the passage of the Central America Free Trade Agreement by expanding U.S. trade with the region,’’ he has said. “Let’s start by ratifying the trade agreements with Panama, Peru, and Colombia that are already completed, and pushing forward the Free Trade Area of the Americas.”

 

Chávez has been one of the greatest obstacles to the fulfillment of McCain’s free trade agenda, however.  In recent years, the Venezuelan has pushed his own barter trade scheme, the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, which promotes economic solidarity and reciprocity between Latin American nations.  Concerned about growing ties between Cuba and Venezuela, McCain said “He [Chávez] aspires to be this generation’s [Fidel] Castro. I think the people of Venezuela ought to look at the standard of living in Cuba before they would embrace such a thing.” 

 

 

Fighting the Information War in Latin America

 

Speaking in Miami’s Little Havana, McCain said that “everyone should understand the connections” between Evo Morales, Castro, and Chávez. “They inspire each other. They assist each other. They get ideas from each other.  It’s very disturbing.” McCain said Chávez breathed “new oxygen” into Castro’s regime, and that the U.S. government should do more to quell dictatorships throughout Latin America.  Perhaps not surprisingly given his historic involvement in IRI, McCain’s campaign Web site even featured an online petition calling for support in his quest to “stop the dictators of Latin America.”  The petition called for the ouster of Chávez “in the name of democracy and freedom throughout our hemisphere.”

 

Though the petition was later taken down, McCain has staked out hawkish territory on Venezuela and would surely escalate tensions with the South American nation.  Most troubling is the Senator’s strong push for renewed U.S. propaganda in the region. McCain has criticized the Venezuelan government’s decision to not renew Radio Caracas Television’s license, and has called for reestablishing an agency like the United States Information Agency (the USIA oversaw a variety of agencies including the Voice of America radio network before it was merged into the State Department in 1998).

 

“Dismantling an agency dedicated to promoting America and the American message amounted to unilateral disarmament in the struggle of ideas,’’ McCain has said. “We need to re-create an independent agency with the sole purpose of getting America’s message to the world. This…would aid our efforts to communicate accurately with the people of Latin America.” 

 

If McCain was ever able to push through his aggressive media initiatives, he would antagonize many nations in the region which resent the pervasiveness of U.S. dominated media.  Already, Venezuela, Cuba, Argentina, and Uruguay have formed a joint satellite news station called Telesur (in my upcoming book scheduled for release in six weeks, I devote an entire chapter to the issue of media politics in South America).

 

From Bolton to Big Stick

 

To make matters worse, the Chair of IRI has sought to promote neo-conservative figures from the Bush regime such as John Bolton.  During the latter’s confirmation hearings in the Senate, McCain urged his Democratic colleagues to approve the diplomat’s nomination quickly.  Bolton has been a hawk not only on Iran but also Venezuela.  McCain, who refers to Chávez as a “wacko,” said it was important to confirm Bolton.  With Bolton at the United Nations, the U.S. would be able to talk back to “two-bit dictators” like the Venezuelan leader.   

 

Like Bolton, McCain apparently shares his colleague’s disdain for the United Nations and wants to create a so-called League of Democracies.  As envisioned by the Arizona legislator, the new body would take the place of the United Nations on such issues as conflict resolution, disease treatment and prevention, environmental crises, and access to free markets.  Interestingly, McCain’s inspiration for the League is Teddy Roosevelt, who had a vision of “like-minded nations working together for peace and liberty.”

 

Roosevelt, however, was no dove: he wielded a Big Stick and practiced gunboat diplomacy in Latin America.  It’s a policy which John McCain would probably like to revive if he is elected President in November.

 

 

Nikolas Kozloff is the author of Revolution! South America and the Rise of the New Left (Palgrave-Macmillan, April 2008), and Hugo Chávez: Oil, Politics, and the Challenge to the U.S. (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2006)

McCain Loses It and Flees After 9/11 Truth Questions

July 19, 2007

McCain Loses It and Flees After 9/11 Truth Questions
Senator Refuses Demands for a New Investigation, Claims “Additional Information” About 9/11 and Leaves Event Irritated and Angry

http://www.prisonplanet.com/articles/july2007/190707McCain.htm

Aaron Dykes
Jones Report
Thursday July 19, 2007

Republican presidential candidate John McCain was literally overwhelmed by reporters from WeAreChange.org and Infowars.com seeking 9/11 truth during a campaign stop.

McCain, who wrote the forward to Popular Mechanics’ Debunking 9/11 Myths, repeatedly told reporters, “I do not support a new investigation” and stated that he believes the “9/11 Commission did a good job.”

But other reporters continued to hammer the complicit senator with further questions and demands for a new 9/11 investigation. Seemingly frustrated that he could not simply brush off 9/11 truthers, McCain retreated to his SUV where he entertained questions from the mainstream media only.

 

Staff members attempted to take away a bullhorn and remove alternative media from the site, but backed off at warnings not to assault the reporters or stifle the first amendment.

Reporters cited hundreds of witnesses, including police officers, firefighters and former janitor William Rodriguez, who all reported hearing bombs go off in the lower levels of the WTC towers– accounts that contradict the basic findings of the 9/11 Commission.

McCain flatly told reporters that he did not support a new investigation and claimed to have “additional information,” stating that he did not believe there was a cover-up.

If such settling “additional information” indeed exists, John McCain has an obligation to share it– though the mere fact that he has withheld information about 9/11 from the public seems to directly point to a cover-up.

Reporters also asked McCain about links with Ed Failor of Iowans for Tax Relief who hosted the recent televised forum for Republican presidential candidates and expressly left out Congressman Ron Paul. John McCain admitted that Ed Failor was a paid staff member working for his campaign.

McCain wrote in Debunking 9/11 Myths, “Blaming some conspiracy within our government for the horrific attacks of September 11 mars the memories of all those lost on that day.”

Yet when reporters emphasized the fact that it is family members of 9/11 victims who want a new investigation, McCain merely walks away.