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Judi Lynn

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Member since: 2002
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Fidel Castro and Apartheid

February 24, 2015
The Cuban Role

Fidel Castro and Apartheid


Until the fall of the Portuguese dictatorship in 1974, apartheid in South Africa was secure. There was no substantial resistance anywhere in southern Africa. Pretoria’s neighbors comprised a buffer zone that protected the racist regime: Namibia, their immediate neighbor which they had occupied for 60 years; white-ruled Rhodesia; and the Portuguese-ruled colonies of Angola and Mozambique. The rebels who fought against minority rule in each of these countries, operating without any safe haven to organize and train, were powerless to challenge the status quo. South Africa’s buffer would have remained intact for the foreseeable future, solidifying apartheid and preventing any significant opposition, but for one man: Fidel Castro.

In October of 1975, South Africa invaded Angola at the behest of the U.S. government to overthrow the left-wing Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) in the soon-to-be independent country. Without Cuban assistance, the apartheid army would have easily cruised into Luanda, crushed the MPLA, and installed a puppet government friendly to the apartheid regime.

Cuba’s intervention in Angola managed to change the course of that country and reverberate throughout Africa. By ensuring independence from the white supremacists, Angola was able to preserve its own revolution and maintain its role as a base for armed resistance groups fighting for liberation in nearby countries.

In the American version of Cold War history, Cuba was carrying out aggression and acting as proxies of the Soviet Union. Were it not for one persistent and meticulous scholar, we might never have known that these are nothing more than dishonest fabrications. In his monumental books Conflicting Missions and Visions of Freedom, historian Piero Gleijeses uses thousands of documents from Cuban military archives, as well as U.S. and South African archives, to recount a dramatic, historical confrontation between tiny Cuba and Washington and its ally apartheid South Africa. Gleijeses is the only foreign scholar to have gained access to the closed Cuban archives. He obtained thousands of pages of documents, and made them available to the Wilson Center Digital Archive, which has posted the invaluable collection online.


The American Fingerprints on Colombia’s Dead

February 24, 2015
A Historian Instructs Peace Negotiators on U.S. Role in Colombian Civil War

The American Fingerprints on Colombia’s Dead


Colombia is seemingly a “no-go” zone for most U. S. media and even for many critics of U.S. overseas misadventures. Yet the United States was in the thick of things in Colombia while hundreds of thousands were being killed, millions were forced off land, and political repression was the rule.

Bogota university professor and historian Renán Vega Cantor has authored a study of U.S. involvement in Colombia. He records words and deeds delineating U.S. intervention there over the past century. The impact of Vega’s historical report, released on February 11, stems from a detailing of facts. Communicating them to English-language readers will perhaps stir some to learn more and to act.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Colombian government have been at war for half a century. Vega’s study appears within the context of negotiations in Cuba to end that conflict. Negotiators on both sides agreed in August, 2014 to form a “Historical Commission on Conflict and its Victims” to enhance discussions on victims of conflict. The Commission explored “multiple causes” of the conflict, “the principal factors and conditions facilitating or contributing to its persistence,” and consequences. Commission members sought “clarification of the truth” and establishment of responsibilities. On February 11 the Commission released an 809 – page report offering a diversity of wide-ranging conclusions. Vega was one of 12 analysts contributing individual studies to the report.

Having looked into “links between imperialist meddling and both counterinsurgency and state terrorism,” he claims the United States “is no mere outside influence, but is a direct actor in the conflict owing to prolonged involvement.” And, “U. S. actions exist in a framework of a relationship of subordination. … [T]he block in power had an active role in reproducing subordination, because, (Vega quotes Colombia Internacional, vol 65), ‘there existed for more than 100 years a pact among the national elites for whom subordination led to economic and political gains.’” As a result, “Not only in the international sphere, but in the domestic one too, the United States, generally, has the last word.”


The Coup d’Etat Attempt in Venezuela

February 24, 2015

A Favorable Response and Possible Turning Point

The Coup d’Etat Attempt in Venezuela


Caracas, Venezuela.

If there were not a coup d’etat underway, someone would have to invent one to rally the masses. That may be the case for the Venezuelan government today, which is beset with so many problems, and it is one of the reasons that some people are incredulous about the latest claim of President Nicolás Maduro to be victim of a planned coup attempt. Nevertheless, there was real evidence presented two weeks ago of a conspiracy in the ranks of the Venezuelan Air Force. In fact, there are three important elements: real evidence, real informers and, fortunately, real arrests.

One of the arrests is that of Antonio Ledezma, the mayor of Metropolitan Caracas. It must be admitted that this shady right-wing politician’s ties to the Air Force conspiracy are not very clear. Moreover, the Air Force’s scheme to bomb various sites in Caracas including the Presidential palace could only be distantly linked with plans by Ledezma and other visible opposition leaders to take power through undemocratic means, since this military conspiracy is presumed to consider itself “Bolivarian” (i.e. “Chavist”) – at least that is what Maduro hinted in a nationwide television transmission on February 12.

Instead, Ledezma’s arrest is based principally on the contents of a document called the “National Transition Agreement” that he developed with two other anti-government leaders: Leopoldo López and María Corina Machado. This declaration, which was to be published on February 12, refers to the Venezuelan government as in its “terminal phase” and expresses the need to “name new authorities.” It also mentions restructuring the economy and giving amnesty to “political prisoners.” According to progovernment jurists, the “Transition Agreement” does not make sufficiently clear that it conceives political change within a constitutional, democratic framework.

Most likely the interpretation of this ambiguous text could (and will) be argued both ways. Nevertheless, regardless of how the question is resolved, the Venezuelan masses are highly satisfied with Ledezma’s arrest, as any reasonable person should be, since the mayor is responsible for huge human rights crimes in the past: most recently as a participant in the 2002 coup attempt that led to considerable bloodshed and earlier as the Federal District Governor who directed state troops which assassinated as many as 4000 civilians during the Caracazo uprising of 1989.

What about the U.S. government’s possible hand in this recently discovered plot? It should be remembered that many coups against popular, left-leaning regimes are not conceived in CIA laboratories but are rather supported opportunistically by the U.S. government and its agencies. For example, the military plot to remove Patrice Lumumba from power, conceived by Colonel Joseph Mobutu, fell into the hands of a highly relieved CIA agent Larry Devlin, who enthusiastically supported it. Devlin was the CIA station chief in Kinshasa and had been charged by Washington to poison Lumumba with doctored toothpaste, a prospect he found unattractive.


Why Is the Wall Street Journal Dismissing Colombia's War Crimes?

Why Is the Wall Street Journal Dismissing Colombia's War Crimes?
February 24, 2015
By Joel Gillin

One of the most shocking crimes in Colombia's recent history—and that's saying something—is the “false positives” scandal. Over the last three decades, military units—many of which received American military aid—have been murdering civilians, usually young men from impoverished communities, and dressing them up as guerrillas from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to present them as combat kills. Most false positives occurred during the two presidential terms of hardliner Álvaro Uribe (2002-2010) and peaked in 2007, when at least 40 percent of combat kills were in fact civilians.

In a recent piece in the Wall Street Journal’s opinion pages, Mary O’Grady openly questions these well-established facts. The FARC rebels, who have been negotiating a peace deal with the Colombian government since 2012, have often brought up the responsibility of the Colombian state and right-wing paramilitaries in crimes like the false positives. O'Grady believes that the rebels are trying to smear the military in order to create a false equivalency and thus avoid jail time for their own war crimes. She proposes “a heaping dose of skepticism” about the systematic nature of the military killings. Citing a now-infamous 2008 case in which 22 men from a poor neighborhood in the capital Bogotá were offered jobs, only to be extrajudicially executed by states forces, she writes that “it’s a lunar leap from these cases to allegations now reported in the press of more than 3,000 such murders,” which would suggest an “institutional breakdown of epic proportions.”

To cast doubt on this number, O’Grady points to Colombia’s broken justice system and an academic study by a Colombian lawyer and government research agency, which estimated some 3,000 cases of false testimony. There is no doubt that Colombia’s judicial branch is a congested mess. It is unable (or unwilling) to investigate threats against unionists, process land restitutions claims, or curtail corruption. That's why, in addition to demands for better pay and work conditions, thousands of judicial workers went on strike last fall. The false testimonies, whose relation to false positive prosecutions is unclear and unaddressed in O'Grady's article, point to the difficulties of prosecuting war crimes. As InSight Crime, a site which covers organized crime and Colombia extensively, wrote of the academic study, “cases that occur during war are difficult, if not impossible, to resolve. … The results, as is evident, can be chaotic.”

Nonetheless, no reputable human rights group, international organization, or governmental body questions the phenomenon of false positives and its systemic nature. And far from being a “lunar leap,” 3,000 false positives is almost certainly a conservative estimate. As of January 2014, the attorney general’s office in Colombia was investigating more than 4,200 cases of extrajudicial executions, with nearly 5,000 state agents being implicated. Some human rights groups think the number could be significantly higher. In 2010, the Fellowship for Reconciliation and the Colombia-Europe-U.S. Human Rights Observatory examined more than 5,700 executions and found that “in 2007, at least one execution was directly attributed to 99 of the Army’s 219 combat battalions and mobile brigades.” That's hardly a “share of bad actors,” as O'Grady put it.


Op-Ed on Venezuela Slips Past NYT Factcheckers

Published on Friday, February 20, 2015
by Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR)

Op-Ed on Venezuela Slips Past NYT Factcheckers

by Steve Ellner

A February 15, 2015, op-ed on Venezuela by Enrique Krauze seems to have slipped by the New York Times' factcheckers.

Krauze's thesis (a tired one, but very popular with Venezuelan and Cuban right-wingers in South Florida) is that Venezuela has not only followed "the Cuban model," but has recently outdone Cuba in moving Venezuela further along a socialist path even as Cuba enacts economic reforms. This idea is not merely an oversimplification--as it might appear to the casual observer of Latin American politics--but is largely misleading. To bolster his case, Krauze--a prominent Mexican writer and publisher--includes numerous false statements and errors, which should have been caught by the Times' factcheckers.

Krauze begins by claiming that the Venezuelan government, first under President Hugo Chávez and then his successor Nicolás Maduro, has taken control over the media. Chávez "accumulated control over the organs of government and over much of the information media: radio, television and the press," we are told, and then Maduro "took over the rest of Venezuelan television."

A simple factcheck shows this to be false. The majority of media outlets in Venezuela--including television--continue to be privately owned; further, the private TV audience dwarfs the number of viewers watching state TV. A 2010 study of Venezuelan television found that

as of September 2010, Venezuelan state TV channels had just a 5.4 percent audience share. Of the other 94.6 percent of the audience, 61.4 percent were watching privately owned television channels, and 33.1 percent were watching paid TV.



English French Spanish 70 Prominent British Figures Oppose Coup Plots in Venezuela

English French Spanish 70 Prominent British Figures Oppose Coup Plots in Venezuela

In the face of the aggressive campaign against the government of Nicolás Maduro, prominent figures have come out in support of the Bolivarian Revolution.British newspaper The Guardian published Thursday a statement by 70 British figures condemning the thwarted coup attempt against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

The letter was signed by prominent figures such as filmmaker John Pilger, writer Richard Gott, and journalist Victoria Brittain, as well as members of parliament, union leaders, and academics.

“We call on all governments internationally to respect Venezuela’s elected, constitutional Government and condemn this latest coup attempt,” stated the letter.

It also drew attention to the similarities between what is happening in Venezuela today with what occurred in Chile shortly before the military coup against the democratically-elected government of Salvador Allende.

The government of President Nicolas Maduro exposed a coup conspiracy against his government and has been denounced what he calls an “economic war” being waged against the country.

There has also been a concerted media campaign targeting the Venezuelan government that is attempting to portray the country as a violent dictatorship that is being mismanaged economically.

The Sunday New York Times published an opinion piece by right-wing author Enrique Krauze that was heavily criticized by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting for committing many factual errors about the present situation in Venezuela.

In response to these provocations against the democratically-elected government in Caracas, governments and social movements throughout have expressed their solidarity with Venezuela and President Maduro.


(My emphasis.)

Two 'mercenaries' jailed in Bolivia over Morales plot

Two 'mercenaries' jailed in Bolivia over Morales plot
February 21, 2015 - 1:29:22 pm

La Paz--Two men accused of involvement in a suspected foreign mercenary plot to kill Bolivian President Evo Morales were sentenced to nearly six years in prison.

Attorney General Ramiro Guerrero said Mario Tadic of Croatia and Elod Toaso, a Hungarian, were sentenced to five years and 10 months behind bars after being convicted of "armed uprising against the security and sovereignty of the state."

Tadic and Toaso are accused of belonging to a band of mercenaries led by Bolivian-Croatian national Eduardo Rozsa, a veteran of the Balkan wars of the early 1990s.

Rozsa was shot dead by Bolivian police in 2009 in the eastern city of Santa Cruz along with Irishman Michael Dwyer and Romanian-Hungarian Arpad Magyarosi.

The Bolivian government said the men had been hired by a wealthy businessman in the region to launch a revolt and the assassination of leftist leader Morales.


(Short article, no more at link.)

Profits and Terror in Argentina in the 1970s

Profits and Terror in Argentina in the 1970s

New data on the profitability of Argentina’s largest corporations help explain the origins of its last military dictatorship

by Joe Francis / February 20th, 2015

During Argentina’s military dictatorship of 1976-1983, up to 30,000 people were killed by the armed forces. Figure 1 provides an indication of why.

The thick line is a ‘profit margin index’ of the fifty largest private manufacturing companies during 1958-1985. These data were compiled from the rankings of Argentina’s largest industrial companies, which have been published in various business magazines since the late 1950s. The average profit margin (that is, profits divided by sales) was then calculated for each of the top fifty companies in each year from 1958 to 1985. The result is an unconventional but simple method of measuring profitability – necessary in this case because there is a lack of data on large corporations’ profits in Argentina.

Until the military coup of 1976, there was a close negative correlation between the profit margin index and real wages. The correlation began in the late 1950s – an era of low wages and high profits, during which numerous transnational corporations established themselves in Argentina. For the next decade and a half, however, wages rose and profits fell during a period of increasingly radical social unrest, characterised by simultaneous and conflicting movements to both democratise society and to establish a ‘corporatist’ order based upon the government’s regulation of the class struggle.1 Both social movements proved disastrous for big business, in that they led to large companies losing control of the prices that they both paid and charged. The result was the profitability crisis shown in Figure 1.

The tendency toward rising wages and falling profit margins was reversed decisively after the military coup of 24th March 1976. On the first anniversary of the coup, the journalist Rodolfo Walsh described how the reversal had been achieved:

In the economic policy of this government we must seek not only the explanation of its crimes but also a greater atrocity that punishes millions of human beings with a planned misery. In one year they reduced the workers’ real wages by forty percent, reduced their participation in the national income to thirty percent, increased the working day that is needed to purchase the family basket [of basic goods] from six to eighteen hours, resuscitating forms of forced labour that do not persist even in the last colonial redoubts. Freezing wages with the butt of a gun while prices are increased at the point of the bayonet, abolishing every form of collective bargaining, prohibiting assemblies and internal committees, increasing working hours, raising unemployment to a record ten percent, and promising to increase it even more with 300,000 new redundancies – all of this has brought productive relations back to the beginning of the industrial era. And when workers have wanted to protest they have been called subversives, with the kidnapping of entire groups of unionists, some of whom reappear dead, while others do not reappear at all.2,3


The Propagandists of Empire

Weekend Edition February 20-22, 2015

Stripping Away the Blankets of Untruth

The Propagandists of Empire


The international community of left intellectuals and educators faces several urgent challenges in its struggle against the depredations of empire. As educators, our first task is to find the critical tools to understand the relationship between propaganda and empire. John MacKenzie’s marvellous study Propaganda and Empire: the Manipulation of British Public Opinion, 1880-1960 (1984) reveals how the rulers of the British Empire used every representational medium at their disposal (postcards, theatre, dance halls, music, posters, children’s literature and penny journalism, films, scholarly treatises and school textbooks) to legitimize their nefarious actions in the world. Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost: a story of greed, terror and heroism in colonial Africa (1999) chillingly tells the story of how the colonial horrors in the Congo in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were intentionally hidden from the public. Public opinion was consciously manipulated and intense pressure placed upon those early voices of human rights, like E.D. Morel, who dared to speak out. Even today, Hochschild observes, Belgium museums provide no trace of the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Congolese who were forced into the service of King Leopold’s lust for wealth and personal aggrandizement.

In Covering Islam (1981), Edward Said demonstrated convincingly that many educative forms (schools, cartoons, books, comic strips and films) constructed a uniform iconography of Islam and the Arab. This unquestionably derogatory iconography provides the perceptual frame that profoundly inhibits an open, learning relationship to the other. Perhaps it is this orientalist frame that makes it easy for the North American masses to be deceived into thinking that Arabs and Muslims don’t count for much in the global “clash of civilizations.” To bomb an enemy one must first dehumanize the “hated other” (Said) by incessantly repeating simple phrases, images and concepts. An abstract category must replace real, living breathing men and women who get up in the morning to give their kids breakfast, scold them to hurry up and get off to school. They have to dress, bid their partners a good day as they go about the day’s business. Propaganda creates abstractions that prevent us from seeing the other as fully human.

Like those empires of old, contemporary empires educate their peoples through using propaganda (particularly television, films, print media and photography) and brutal political manoeuvering. Critical intellectuals (and an alert citizenry) have the task of cutting through the lies and deceptions to tell the truth, wherever we are situated, talking, teaching, arguing. Edward Said reminds us that one of our specific jobs is to “break down stereotypes and reductive categories that are so limiting to human thought and communication.” But to accomplish this, we need to be aware of how utterly resistant the propaganda machine of empire is to enlightened criticism. The coverage of the crisis in the Ukraine well illustrates how reality is inverted and the Orwellian universe closes out any form of dissent. The cry of Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish, “The earth is squeezing us. I wish we were wheat so we/could die and live again,” expresses our terror that we are intellectually suffocating and won’t rise again.

Those of us who work within the Academy still have some respect (I hope!) for facts, evidence and rational argument (Habermas’s “best argument” that validates truth claims). That is, we believe that, while external and internal states of affairs are mediated through weltonjustlanguage, nonetheless a world external to the senses of the individual (or propagandist hack) exists. The sun does not rise and fall, medieval theologians. The earth is not flat, ancient geographers. Or Russia is not the aggressor in the Ukraine, think-tank scribblers. Ideally, enlightened intellectuals and educators provide counter-evidence that requires a particular interpretation that rules out other less convincing ones. Yet “facts” do not seem to matter very much to the US (or British or Belgian) propagandists of empire. Those of us who still cling, however desperately, to the vestiges of the enlightenment belief that truth and falsity exist, are aghast at the extent and depth of the US government and media’s willingness to lie, deceive, distort, falsify and exaggerate evidence to serve their geo-political goal of ruling the world. This is also true of Canada’s right-wing Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, who rules in the fog.


Apes prefer the glass half full, susceptible to marketing spin

Apes prefer the glass half full, susceptible to marketing spin
February 12, 2015 | ScienceBlog.com

Humans aren’t the only species to be influenced by spin. Our closest primate relatives are susceptible, too.

For example, people are known to rate a burger as more tasty when it is described as “75 percent lean” than when it is described as “25 percent fat,” even though that’s the same thing. And they’re more willing to recommend a medical procedure when they are told it has a 50 percent success rate than when they are told it has a 50 percent chance of failure — again, exactly the same thing.

A Duke University study has found that positive and negative framing make a big difference for chimpanzees and bonobos too.

In experiments conducted at Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Sanctuary in the Republic of Congo and Lola ya Bonobo Sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of Congo, researchers presented 23 chimpanzees and 17 bonobos with a choice between two snacks — a handful of nuts and some fruit.

In one series of trials, the researchers framed the fruit option positively — by offering one piece of fruit, with a 50 percent chance of a surprise bonus piece.

In another series of trials, the researchers framed the fruit option negatively. This time they offered two pieces of fruit rather than one, but if the apes chose the fruit, half the time they were shortchanged and received only one piece instead.

Read more at http://scienceblog.com/76987/apes-prefer-glass-half-full-susceptible-marketing-spin/#9i0vb43cfaoLr0WA.99
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