Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Interview published in Venezuelanalysis on the populist critique applied to the Chavista Venezuelan government

Second part of interview with me regarding knotty issues facing Venezuelan government and the criticisms coming from both left and right. While some of the points they raise are valid, they have to be placed in proper context.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016


Interview with me posted by Venezuelanalysis on the current challenges facing the Maduro government in Venezuela. The discussion deals with the system of exchange controls, the state of the Chavista movement, the makeup of the Maduro administration, the proposed presidential recall election, and the Venezuelan opposition.

Sunday, October 9, 2016


Today’s NY Times article exposes the long-term psychological effects of the CIA torture program at Guantanamo and secret prisons known as “black sites” throughout the world. The article cites the techniques that were repeatedly used: the use of dogs, sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, dressing prisoners in diapers, beatings, sexual abuse, the threat of sexual abuse, the pouring of buckets of ice water over naked prisoners with their hands shackled over their heads, holding prisoners’ heads in toilets, chaining prisoners to ceilings, locking prisoners in boxes, mock executions, rectal feeding, threats to harm prisoners’ children and rape family members, and the list goes on and on.
The rationale behind the torture program was known as “learned helplessness” based on a study in the 60s with the use of electric shocks on dogs that showed that beings stop resisting once they learn they cannot stop the shocks. So the shocks were administered on a regular basis in hope that they would lead to confessions. The article also notes that psychologists at Guantanamo worked hand in glove with the interrogators.
Needless to say, many of the victims of these ghastly techniques were innocent of the charges. Those who were eventually released were not even given an apology, leading one former prisoner to say “they killed our youth in Guantanamo and then tossed us away like garbage.” 
But the issue isn’t whether these men were guilty or innocent. In either case, the torture was unjustifiable, violates international law and invites the terrorists to do the same. The real point is that those responsible for the black site torture program should be brought to justice. And one more point: The exposure of the torture program begs for a national discussion about U.S. empire and what it is all about. Neither Democratic nor Republican Party presidential candidates will do that, as demonstrated by the score or so of debates this year (including the ones Bernie Sanders participated in). Only a third- party candidate will bring these issues to the fore. One good reason to vote for Green Party candidate Jill Stein.

Saturday, September 24, 2016


Washington’s Friendly Relations with Mexico in spite of Peña Nieto’s Unpopularity – compare that with Venezuela:
In August a reputable pole put his popularity at 27 percent, after the revelations regarding the plagiarism of his BA thesis, recognized by the Universidad Panamericana where he graduated from, and the Casa Blanca scandal in which he asked Mexicans to forgive him for having bought a 7 million dollar house from the construction firm that is the major contractor of his government. Since the 27 percent poll was conducted, Peña Nieto provoke the wrath of all Mexicans by having the chutzpah to invite Donald Trump to the country, in spite of his anti-Mexican racist pronouncements and his ludicrous call for building a wall separating the two nations. Now the latest scandal is the case involving 11 women who were raped by police under the most brutal circumstances under his watch, when he was governor a decade ago. From 27 percent will his popularity reach 20 %, 15% or 10%? But the real question is not that. The real question is will the Obama administration call for regime change in Mexico as it has in Venezuela. Obviously not. Why not? Could it have anything to do with Mexico’s friendly and generous policy toward foreign investment which has increased by an annual rate of 50% under his administration?

Tuesday, September 20, 2016


In the 60s, there was a massive movement against the horrors of an absurd war that cost many lives and much destruction. And on the electoral front, the Vietnam War was very much in the center of debate. It actually convinced a president not to run for re-election, the very same president who four years before had run and was elected as a peace candidate. I’m referring, of course, to Lyndon B. Johnson. In ‘68 there was also a three-way race for the Democratic nomination and it was all about (or largely about) who was going to get us out of the war. And the Republican candidate (Nixon that is) got elected on that very promise. Four years later the Democrats ran a peace candidate.

Now the absurdity of war has reached a new threshold. Military strategists tell us it will go on for five decades or so. The example of Syria is just as ghastly as that of Vietnam. Libya, one of the most advanced nations in Africa and the envy of the rest of the continent, is in shambles. And yet the issue of U.S. military intervention is almost an afterthought. That despite the fact that in the 60s we had guns and butter. Now with the great recession still lingering on after eight years and a 15 trillion dollar public debt, it’s either one or the other. Don’t people realize that the military budget is largely responsible for the mess we are in? And yet you have two candidates that don’t even mention the connection between war and the economy. I just don’t get it.

Monday, September 12, 2016

“Johnny I hardly knew ye”: As appropriate as ever

As the United States gets ready to choose between two presidential candidates who support the vision of the world as a perpetual battlefield, the song “Johnny I hardly knew ye” is as appropriate as ever. Joan Baez sang this song in the 60s in the context of the Vietnam War. Why isn’t the U.S. public as concerned and outraged by the ongoing wars (in Afghanistan it’s going on 15 years!) as we were in the 60s:

Tuesday, September 6, 2016


OBAMA IS BACKING DOWN FROM HIS PLEDGE TO ACHIEVE THE EVENTUAL ELIMINATION OF NUCLEAR ARMS, PUT FORWARD IN HIS 2008 CAMPAIGN. HE IS APPARNETLY RULING OUT THE POSSIBILITY OF RENOUNCING A FIRST-STRIKE USE OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS. The argument, as the NY Times points out in its article “Obama Unlikely to Vow No First Use of Nuclear Weapons” is that such a vow will “embolden” Russia and China and also send a signal of weakness to our allies such as South Korea. Nowhere in the article is there mention that failure to do so encourages a nuclear arms race. And nowhere in the article is there discussion of the heinous scenario in which the U.S. unilaterally employs nuclear weapons. What would such a scenario look like? Again, the corporate media, while giving the appearance of objectivity, is not telling the whole story.  

The article does state that the Federation of American Scientists, a private group in Washington, released a study “showing that Mr. Obama had dismantled fewer nuclear warhead than any other post-Cold War president.” The article also says “Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, has said little this year about her nuclear plans, and Mr. Trump has argued for a major military buildup.”

This is an additional reason to include the two main third-party candidates in at least one of the presidential debates. Who is raising the real issues that are of concern for the U.S. public?

Jill Stein, for instance, states unequivocally “WE DON’T NEED NUCLEAR WEAPONS.”