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Video: The Times’ claim that Grenfell fire outrage was ‘fomented by RT’ is ‘obscene’...

British newspaper The Times has thrown some accusations at this network regarding our coverage of the UK's Grenfell tower tragedy. In its article, The...

The Times’ claim that Grenfell fire outrage was ‘fomented by RT’ is ‘obscene,’ George...

Published time: 11 Dec, 2017 18:26 The Times is conducting a fake news campaign in...

Claims of Russian interference in US election ‘dead & buried’ – George Galloway —...

Published time: 31 Oct, 2017 15:08 Allegations of Russia exploiting internet giants to meddle with...
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Video: George Galloway “I Can No Longer Support Jeremy Corbyn Because Of His Treatment...

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gCpBsJwLrpo&w=580&h=385] Please Support The Show – http://paypal.me/richieallen https://www.facebook.com/therichieallenshow http://www.youtube.com/RichieAllenShowMedia Tune in ... Via Youtube

The Times ‘leading charge to take down RT,’ George Galloway says — RT UK

Published time: 19 Oct, 2017 15:12 The Times is leading the charge to close down...

DUP is milder form of Klu Klux Klan – George Galloway

Published time: 26 Jun, 2017 16:16 Northern Ireland’s hard-right Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) is a...

Assad not ‘mad enough’ to carry out chemical attack – George Galloway

Syrian President Bashar Assad is simply not mad enough to have carried out the recent chemical attack on a rebel-held town in Syria, according...

George Galloway to stand in Gorton by-election, condemns Labour’s all-Asian shortlist

Former MP George Galloway is making a comeback to politics by running in the highly-contested Manchester Gorton by-election. Galloway, originally a Labour MP before setting...

George Galloway tipped for return to politics in race to become Gorton MP

Published time: 10 Mar, 2017 16:24 Former MP George Galloway could be making a comeback to...

George Galloway attacked with glitter at Scottish university talk (VIDEO)

Police were called after former MP George Galloway was “attacked” with glitter by student protesters...
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Video: ‘Not just another perspective, but parallel universe’ – George Galloway on switching from...

The BBC is seeking additional funding to expand in the Russian-speaking media space, while admitting the gains made by RT. Former MP George Galloway...

George Galloway to RT: Jeremy Corbyn is telling truth about #traingate (VIDEO)

George Galloway has defended Jeremy Corbyn from an “absurd” scandal in which the Labour leader...

The exile returns? Anti-imperialist firebrand George Galloway could be heading back to Labour

Leftist former MP George Galloway has de-registered the Respect political party founded in response to...
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Video: George Galloway on Nice attack: ‘Catalogue of security and political failures’

The Islamic State terror group has claimed responsibility for the truck attack in Nice, France, that left 84 people dead, according to ISIS-affiliated Amaq...

‘Impeachment would be worse for Tony Blair than jail,’ George Galloway tells RT (VIDEO)

Former British PM Tony Blair may not be jailed but will be “dragged before the...

George Galloway says Livingstone 'zionist' suspension part of ‘slow motion coup’

London mayoral candidate George Galloway put forward a fiery defense of suspended Ken Livingstone, arguing...

Ultimate disrespect: George Galloway’s London mayoral campaign bus robbed in the night

London mayoral candidate George Galloway is having a rough week. First his campaign bus driver...

Brussels attacks: ‘Schengen should have been suspended,’ George Galloway tells RT

Free movement between European states should have been abandoned after the Islamic State (IS, formerly...
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Video: ‘Britain to blame for Israeli-Palestinian conflict’ — George Galloway

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6tYHlKyaSnU&w=580&h=385] Pro-Palestinian activists held banners and denounced Israeli aggression, following violent clashes and attacks by Israel Defense Forces on Palestinian civilians. Via Youtube

Voting fraud? George Galloway launches legal battle over election defeat

Former MP George Galloway has launched a legal challenge over his defeat at Thursday’s general election and claims to have evidence of “malpractice” in...

George Galloway Defeated in UK General Election

George Galloway Defeated in UK General Election

by Stephen Lendman

Parliamentarian, writer, broadcaster, anti-war activist, human rights supporter, Israeli critic, and champion of Palestinian rights among other credentials Respect Party member Galloway was defeated in Thursday's general election.

He lost his Bradford West constituency decisively to New Labour's Naz Shah - 19,977 to 8,557. Down but not out, he commented, saying:

I don't begrudge the Labour members here their moment of celebration, of course."

"But there will be others who are already celebrating: the venal, the vile, the racists and the Zionists will all be celebrating." 

"The hyena can bounce on the lion’s grave but it can never be a lion and in any case, I’m not in my grave. As a matter of fact I’m going off now to plan the next campaign."

"Bradford West will always have a central place in my heart," he explained.

Shah thanked all her opponents in her victory speech "with the exception of one," she said - leaving no doubt who she meant.

She outrageously claimed Galloway "demean(ed) our democracy" while campaigning. He blasted Torries and New Labour for continuing business as usual.

Millions of Brits are suffering. Corrupt politicians don't care. Food banks are proliferating, Galloway explained. "Can you imagine what the country will look like by 2020 if these barbarians are returned" to power, he stressed.

Social justice is fast disappearing. Neoliberal harshness is official UK policy. So is partnering with Washington's endless wars. 

Galloway demands better. He was a marked man for championing what power brokers oppose.

Campaigning was rough and tumble. A Galloway spokesman denied his tactics were out of line. 

"Shah has made it personal from the beginning," he said. "She hasn't told the truth, and she's told untruths about George."

It didn't affect his core supporters, reports indicated. They were out in force. It wasn't enough.

In 2012, Galloway defeated New Labour's Imran Hussein overwhelmingly. This time was different.

In late April, Galloway said he'll run for mayor of London if his reelection campaign fails. He told Sky News:

"I won't run for London mayor if I am reelected on 7 May. If I am not reelected, I will run" in May 2016. 

He ruled out running as a sitting MP - suggesting it would be impossible to represent his constituents properly. A spokesman had no further comment.

Galloway remains one of politics most charismatic figures. Supporters and critics alike agree few can arouse a crowd the way he does.

It was an honor for this writer to be on air once with him as a guest. We had a rousing discussion not heard on major Western media outlets. 

Hard truths on issues mattering most are strictly verboten. Galloway features them on air and in parliament. Maybe as mayor of London next year.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected] 

His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.


It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

George Galloway, Tom Newton Dunn and others: A list of current legal challenges to...

Melanie Newman The Bureau Investigates Reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission or license. Last autumn, the Bureau launched a legal challenge in the European Court of Human...

George Galloway attacked in the street in connection with Israel comment

Controversial Respect MP George Galloway has been taken to hospital for treatment to a suspected broken jaw after he was attacked in the street,...

George Galloway unmasks PM Cameron in the House of Commons

British MP George Galloway is the only real leader in the entire Western world. Listen to his 6 minute speech in the House of Commons....

George Galloway unmasks PM Cameron in the House of Commons

British MP George Galloway is the only real leader in the entire Western world. Listen to his 6 minute speech in the House of Commons....

MP George Galloway Speaks Out Against Attack on Syria

Infowars.com August 30, 2013 MP George Galloway responds after the UK Parliament rejected backing an attack on Syria. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I0jp1-mzPHg Republished from: Infowars

George Galloway Says Israel Gave Al-Qaeda Chemical Weapons To Use In Syria

huffingtonpost.co.uk August 23, 2013 George Galloway has said if there were a chemical weapons attack on civilians in Syria earlier this week —...

PMQs: George Galloway’s Frankenstein Moment With David Cameron

For 32 minutes he was up and down like a grey suited yo-yo. It wasn't until 12.32pm, as Prime Minister’s Questions drew to a close, that George Galloway got his moment.

Away from the glare of the TV cameras, positioned on the backbenches, Mr Galloway looked increasingly twitchy. He sat forward in his seat, stood up at the end of each answer, looked doe-eyed at the speaker, was ignored and then sat down again. Poor George.

By the time he did get a turn at asking his question the chamber was fractious and ready for lunch.

But it's a testament to the man that when he did speak, others listened. A curious murmur echoed throughout the room. Was Galloway about to land a blow on the PM who’d dodged Ed Miliband’s questions on the economy?

Was a swerve ball about to be bowled? The room fell absolutely silent (pretty much for the first time of the entire session) as Galloway, the Respect Party MP for Bradford West, started.

He wanted to nail the PM on the difference between the Mali jihadists Cameron has committed troops to fight, and those Britain is supporting in Syria.

“Has the PM read Frankenstein?” shouted Galloway, working himself into a froth. “And did he read it all the way to the end?”

A fair question, you may think, but Galloway hadn’t counted on one thing. Today was going to be a decent day for Cameron. Earlier in the session he’d batted off Miliband’s questions with a fairly line and length “it’s all Labour’s fault” answer.

He’d ridden out questions about his supposed stalking horse Adam Afriyie and had made even opposition MPs laugh with a friendly jibe at Leader of the House Sir Peter Tapsell.

But Galloway didn’t get the same friendly treatment. I doubt he’d want it if it was offered.

The slap down was firm: “Wherever there is a brutal dictator in the Arab world, Galloway will be supporting him,” suggested the PM before cheers overcame the silence.

George sat back, the PM crashed on. Galloway’s moment was over.

Letter to Ian Blair by George Galloway

I write in connection with the police operation surrounding the President George W Bush to Downing Street today. I am not a habitual complainer...

Galloway: ‘Law is an ass’ for blocking Iraq War prosecution of Tony Blair

The High Court ruling that Tony Blair cannot be prosecuted for taking Britain into the...

Lord Mandelson’s a ‘loathsome reptilian,’ says Galloway

Former MP George Galloway has called Peter Mandelson “a loathsome reptile” and the “monkey” of...

BBC’s Trump-Kremlin documentary is like an ‘Austin Powers’ film, says Galloway

The credibility of a BBC documentary about US President-elect Donald Trump called ‘Trump: The Kremlin...

Cancellation of RT UK’s bank account ‘crude British state propaganda’ – Galloway (VIDEO)

Former MP George Galloway has waded into the row over the cancellation of RT UK’s bank accounts by NatWest, dubbing the move “crude British...
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Video: ‘Cameron likely to go ahead to bomb Syria’ – Ex-UK MP Galloway

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GH1p8-cygS8&w=580&h=385] David Cameron says he wants to bomb Syria, and Ex-UK MP George Galloway thinks he will probably go ahead and join the anti-ISIS...

Galloway to rejoin Labour if Corbyn elected as party leader

Former British MP George Galloway says he is ready to rejoin the Labour Party if Jeremy Corbyn is elected as its leader. Asked if he...

Galloway: BBC set me up with anti-semite question

GEORGE Galloway has hit out at the BBC following his appearance on Question Time, saying he was set up and that David Dimbleby privately...

Galloway speaks out against Syria war

Press TV presenter George Galloway speaks out against a possible attack on Syria.The UK parliament has voted against Londonâ„¢s involvement in a possible war...

Galloway lashes out at Syria war plans

Galloway lashes out at UK govt. plans for Syria attackBritainâ„¢s Respect Party MP George Galloway criticizes the government plans for Syria attack.Britainâ„¢s Respect Bradford...

Galloway to shoot The killing of Blair

In a bid to bring Britainâ„¢s former prime minister Tony Blair before an international court to be tried for war crimes, the outspoken Respect...

Galloway warns on UK-US spy agencies

George Galloway warns public viewers against illegal UK-US spy operations.British MP and founder of the Respect party George Galloway has warned public viewers against...

Galloway MP lashes out at G8 agenda

British MP George Galloway slams the G8 summit agenda of tax avoidance and evasion. British MP and founder of the Respect Party George Galloway...

Galloway MP to run for London Mayor

British Respect Party MP George Galloway has announced plan to fight Boris Johnson in his bid to become the next mayor of London. Galloway...

Former Galloway secretary and Met police officer arrested

George Galloway's former secretary has been arrested, along with a Metropolitan police officer, on suspicion of data protection offences. Afiz Khan, an officer with the...

UK Elections: Business As Usual Triumphs

UK Elections: Business as Usual Triumphs

by Stephen Lendman

May 7 general elections approach. Britain is like America. It's all over before polls open. Monied interests win every time.

Ordinary people lose out more than ever in modern memory. It shows in opinion polls. 

Only 16% of voters trust politicians. Why anyone besides well-off Brits do they'll have to explain.  

It doesn't matter who wins on Thursday. Torries and New Labour are even in polls. They're like Republicans and Democrats in America - two sides of the same coin, not a dime's worth of difference between them.

Neither major party is expected to win a majority. Expect coalition government with smaller parties to follow. They largely support the same regressive policies.

All politicians lie. Nothing they say can be believed. New Labour leader Ed Miliband maintained the standard saying Britain's "clear choice on Thursday (is) between a Labour government that will put working people first or a Tory government that will only ever work for the privileged few."

Britain's "clear choice" is none at all. Monied interests run things. Bankers top the pecking order.

Politicians come and go. One major party or the other wins. Things stay the same.

Neoliberal harshness, financialization, weak unions, offshoring manufacturing, privatizing state enterprises, deregulation, and disappearing social justice characterize Britain's economy.

London's Guardian warned of a "hit list of (more) welfare cuts" coming.

Voltaire once explained British society saying its people "are like their own beer; froth on top, dregs at bottom, the middle excellent."

Today's froth never had it better. Poor Brits are enduring their hardest times since post-WW II recovery.

Middle class society is fast disappearing - like in America. Britain's weekly Spectator magazine says it's "shrinking and sinking."

"The lifestyle that the average earner had half a century ago -  reasonably sized house, dependable healthcare, a decent education for the children and a reliable pension - is becoming the preserve of the rich." 

"Middle-class pensioners look on amazed at how their children, now into adulthood, seem to have a far harder time."

Rich elites run things more than ever. They doubled their wealth since 2009. The average worker earns less when adjusted for inflation and wage cuts.

Former Bank of England governor Mervyn King said middle class society is enduring the longest squeeze in living memory. Rich folks never had it better.

London is unaffordable to live in. House prices average over $750,000. The average wage is less than $50,000.

In January, thousands participated in a March for Homes rally. They demanded solutions to unaffordable housing prices - worsening as they escalate.

They carried banners saying "People before profit." Build council homes (reasonably priced ones for working class people)." "Take the wealth of the 1%."

Rents surged an average 13% annually since 2010. So have repossessions and evictions. Britain increasingly is unfit to live in - just like America.

New Labour claiming "Britain can be better" rings hollow for millions enduring increasing hardships.

They're "all the same," growing numbers of voters say about a system increasingly ignoring their needs.

They promise one thing. They do another. Serving monied interests and allying with Washington's war machine matter most.

Respect Party Bradford West MP George Galloway is running for reelection. He calls himself "your traditional, much-loved black cab."

"You don't know what you've got until it's gone. There are not a lot of us black cabs around any more."

His constituency is one of Britain's poorest. It's struggling to reinvent itself. Despite his best  best efforts, he's up against a corrupted, uncaring system.

He's one of 650 House of Commons members. "Recovery, what recovery," he asks?

"We keep hearing that the economic recovery is better in Britain than in any other European country."

"Well it may be in London and the Home Counties, but it certainly isn't here" and most other places in Britain.

Millions are suffering. Food banks are proliferating, Galloway explained. "Can you imagine what the country will look like by 2020 if these barbarians are returned" to power, he stressed.

"We need investment in jobs and infrastructure…But it won't come under the Tories or this miserable local Labour administration." Or New Labour if it bests the Torries nationwide.

Social justice is fast disappearing. Force-fed austerity is official UK policy. 

So is growing wealth inequality. It's risen four times faster since 2008 compared to the seven preceding years.

It bears repeating. Britain is like America - governed of, by and for its privileged elites alone.

It's corrupt, fundamentally unfair and ruthlessly anti-democratic. Young people have no futures.

An entire generation is lost. Social welfare cuts hits Britain's most disadvantaged hardest.

Inequality is booming. Politicians able to make a difference don't care. Increasing amounts of public wealth in private hands is a slippery slope to third world status.

Margaret Thatcher escalated inequality. She oversaw one of the greatest ever transfers of wealth to British society's most well-off.

David Cameron is worse. New Labour's Ed Miliband is no better. Robbing poor Peter to pay rich Paul is official bipartisan policy.

It's endorsed by Liberal Democrats, Britain's third ranked party. It's neither liberal nor democratic. It's hard right like the rest.

On Thursday, voting options are death by hanging or firing squad. Ballot choices exclude government serving everyone equitably.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected] 

His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.


It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Chaos And Propaganda: Washington’s “Reality-Based Order”


Follow on: https://twitter.com/colin_todhunter

RINF, Countercurrents, Global Research
In 2011, Hilary Clinton announced the US was at war. She wasn’t referring to the US’s ongoing invasions, wars and occupations but an ideological war for hearts and minds. Clinton lamented the fact that, since the end of the cold war, US global ideological influence had weakened, especially with the advent of the Internet and TV channels like RT.
Of course, Hollywood still manages to propagate the ‘great American myth’ globally every day: the US as the beacon of freedom, as the flagship of democratic ideals, based on the great ‘American Lie’ of the great ‘American Dream’ whereby the individual can somehow miraculously overcome adversity and make it in life, just as long as s/he keeps his or her nose to the grind. US mass culture exported across the globe. The ‘anyone can make it’ syndrome sugar coated with a sprinkling of ‘freedom and democracy’ then rammed down the collective throat by Hollywood, which magics away into thin air the reality of capitalism and its deeply embedded structural power relations. As the commentator and comedian George Carlin once stated: “The American Dream, you have to be asleep to believe it.”
And let’s not forget Hollywood’s retelling of history with Uncle Sam the movie star, the liberator of the oppressed, the protector of universal good, the sweeper of its mass terror and atrocities away from the screen and conveniently under the carpet.
The internet, Press TV, RT and the ‘alternative media’ in all its forms have however eaten into Washington’s Hollywoodesque version of reality and propaganda. Despite the ownership of the corporate media becoming ever more concentrated in the hands of massive conglomerates and it promoting a common news agenda, the US has had to face up to the harsh truth that it cannot dominate the debate to the extent it once did when it comes to shaping the analysis and reporting of news through its compliant media outlets.
Around the time Clinton was voicing her concerns, Edward Snowden was revealing what many of us had already strongly suspected – people across the world and foreign governments were being monitored by the US government. Before Snowden became public enemy number one, Julian Assange carried that mantle. The US state-corporate machine did almost everything in its power to destroy Assange and WikiLeaks. Most debilitating of all was the shutting down of WikiLeaks’ access to finance, notably via PayPal, MasterCard, the Swiss bank PostFinance, Moneybookers, Bank of America and Visa Inc.
Bank of America was accused of being especially strident in attempting to discredit and destroy WikiLeaks with various dirty tricks, including backing a smear campaign that involved the use of false documents, disinformation, and sabotage. These actions along with demands that Snowden be ‘handed over’ by the countries the US has been caught red handed of spying on, came as little surprise. The US deems it fit to break international laws with impunity, yet bleats about legalities where Snowden or Assange is concerned.
But things are not always so straightforward. Not everyone can be banished to a foreign country or incarcerated in an embassy in London. As a result, former CIA boss General Petraeus is on record as saying US strategy is to conduct a war of perceptions continuously through the news media. We don’t have to imagine much that the prevailing view of world conveyed through the mainstream media and swallowed by many people is based on ‘a pack of lies’ carefully crafted by men like Petraeus and the State Department’s PR machine. British MP George Galloway’s powerful performance in front of a US Senate committee in 2005 highlighted it as such in the case of the invasion of Iraq.
These days, despite state-corporate control and manipulation of the mainstream media, many see through the charade of ‘liberal democracy’. The more the US lacks control over ‘the message’, the more it has to resort restrictions on freedoms. The more paranoid it becomes, the more penetrating and widespread the surveillance and ‘information gathering’ is.
So it was quite revealing to see this week the US House of Foreign Affairs Committee discussing Russia’s ‘weaponisation’ of information. Chairperson Ed Royce claimed that RT is part of a Russian disinformation campaign and asserted that if certain things are repeated over and over again, a conspiratorial theory begins to take on a life of its own.
The hypocrisy was palpable.
The US should know about such things. given its demonisation of Russia and the construction of a narrative of ‘Russian aggression’ in Ukraine that has been on continuous loop and churned out by the corporate media for quite some time now. This story of course has no basis in reality and is intended to mask a wider imperialist agenda to destabilise Russia.
Royce said that RT provides a platform for fringe and radical views worldwide and most broadcasters would not entertain people with such views. While it is correct to say that RT has a pro-Kremlin agenda, virtually all Western corporate media outlets adhere to a broadly defined economic and military ‘Washington consensus’. Where Western outlets see little wrong with wheeling out pro-big business commentators and representatives from powerful thinks for their opinions, little opportunity is provided for trade unionists, the non-mainstream left or any other voices that offer radical critiques of the status to offer their views.
RT has a range of commentators and analysts, including Professor Michel Chossudovsky, Pepe Escobar, Max Keiser, Paul Craig Roberts, William F Engdahl and Manuel Ochsenreiter, who tend to rarely appear on Western corporate mainstream media outlets. While some may not agree with their views or analyses, such people are academically well-qualified and recognised by many as being specialists in their fields. It is too convenient for them to be brushed aside with the ‘deranged conspiracy theorist’ accusation.
These commentators are highly critical of US-Western foreign policies but that does not mean they necessarily support Putin or Russia, as former RT presenter Liz Whal seemed to imply during the committee hearing. If certain commentators are regarded as “fringe” figures or “extremists” as Whal suggested, they are only regarded as such because their views challenge the pro-Washington narrative conveyed by the Western corporate media and thus tend to be side-lined. She argued these ‘alternative’ voices now have platforms to voice their “deranged views” and whip up anti-US sentiment.
Royce claimed Russia’s propaganda machine is currently in overdrive and that part of the focus is to undermine “democratic stability” and foment violence. He went on to state that these tactics have helped stoke the situation in Ukraine and are laying the groundwork for a Russian invasion and asserted that this propaganda has the potential to destabilise NATO members.
Another contributor to the proceedings argued that “our” global order is a “reality based order” and that the likes of RT and the internet makes “reality based politics” impossible.
Washington wishes it had the monopoly on truth but it doesn’t. And the reality is that the US regards views that criticise it as intolerable. But while the internet can at times be a vehicle for churning out some ludicrous views (and in this respect Whal is correct), what could be more sinister than what the mainstream media churns out on a daily basis with its acceptance of and justifications for austerity, gross inequalities, the massive concentration of wealth in the hands of a few, secretive corporate-constructed trade deals, wars of aggression, a bogus war on terror and the rest of the stories designed to beat working people and opponents of Washington’s hegemony into submission?
You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to appreciate that the terms “reality based global order” and “democratic stability” are cynical euphemisms designed to conceal a completely different reality of imposed chaos and disorder around the world. Supporters of this reality are committed to misinforming the public, creating regional destabilisations and bending nations to Washington’s will.

The Battle For Trust, Truth And The Internet: 2013 In Focus

29/12/2013 (This was written specifically for Deccan Herald) 

While the usual catalogue of violence, suffering and mayhem was witnessed during 2013 and sections of the media were fascinated with the lives or loves of Salman, Priyanka, Kareena and the rest of celebritydom, for this end-of-year look-back the stardust and the suffering will take a back seat. Instead, the spotlight falls on spin, trust and the internet, not least because 2013 was to a large extent a year of revelations, accusations, denials and clever public relations.  


In an age of instant, mass communications, we are bombarded with messages 24/7. From advertisements and round-the-clock news channels to newspapers, social media, text messages and emails, the onslaught is relentless. How to filter it all or to make sense of it? Who to believe and what to believe, especially when one source tells us something then another says something completely different. For the public, it can be a headache. And for those trying to influence us with their messages, they know full well that there is an information war as they battle for our hearts, minds and trust.


Edward Snowden’s revelations


If two words could be used to define 2013, they might possibly be Edward Snowden. This young American emerged from the shadowy world of espionage and surveillance to expose Washington’s monitoring of us all and its illegal snooping across the planet. For his efforts, he incurred the wrath of the US establishment.


Ever since the fall of the Soviet Union, the United States has been the world’s sole superpower. Despite all the public statements about respect for a multi-polar world, away from the public gaze the US has done everything to ensure that it gains ‘full spectrum dominance’ of the planet. Edward Snowden’s releasing of classified information about the US’s activities did little to undermine this view. If Snowden achieved anything, it was to shatter any claims about the US being the model of democracy it likes to portray itself as whereby the individual is king and the state takes a back seat.


But wait a minute. Isn’t that view a bit extreme? In recent times, haven’t developments such as the internet come to play a vital in strengthening democracy by empowering the individual? On one level, this is true. The internet and social media provide a vehicle for self expression, and there is also the convenience of carrying out various practical tasks online. Many have put their heart and soul into the internet, and their lives revolve around tweeting, liking, disliking, sharing, mobile apps and ‘press to purchase’. We have been encouraged to place our trust in the corporations that we give our information to and have thus handed over all kinds of personal details to Facebook, Google and any number of companies.


It wasn’t always this way. The older generation can remember back to when a handful of TV and radio stations existed, snail mail was king and friends were people you personally knew and interacted with face to face. But now, everything is just a highly convenient click away and people have so many ‘friends’ that it’s astonishing. Online friends, that is - often distant acquaintances, usually ‘friends’ of ‘friends’ (virtual strangers who become virtual friends), whom they divulge all kinds of details to and share photos, feelings and much more with. In a quest for convenience and self expression, people have inadvertently surrendered their privacy and identities to that benign sounding realm ‘cyber space’. Information is flying about the place left, right and centre. But who controls it and what is done with it?


Edward Snowden shed light on such questions by exposing what some already suspected: no matter where we may reside in the world, we are potentially being listened to, watched and monitored by the National Security Agency (NSA) in the US (or its counterpart in the UK). The internet is not the empowering tool that many thought it was. During the past year, we discovered that the NSA has either colluded with a range of large corporations that many trusted, or has somehow hacked into their digital databases. Courtesy of Edward Snowden, we found that our emails, phone conversations, internet and social media activities and physical movements are on file and available to be scrutinised at will. Our likes, dislikes, shares, political allegiances and activities, purchases, holiday destinations and personal feelings are all in the public domain to be tapped into.


While buying into all of those lofty libertarian ideals about the digital age being personally liberating, many were duped into handing over their personal information to those who have the power to strip us of our freedoms. The NSA has captured ‘cyber space’ and taken the keys to people’s digital homes. Ironically, they naively delivered them to it on a silver platter.


Former NSA employer Snowden blew the lid off the whole NSA data surveillance industry. He also blew the lid off how Big Brother USA spies on governments and the personal conversations of national leaders, both friend and foe alike, and disregards laws in order to access information as and when it deems fit.


All of this is an ugly truth that the US wanted to keep from us. As a result, Snowden became Washington’s public enemy number one. Before having his passport revoked, he fled to Hong Kong then Moscow. The US did everything it could to capture him and prevent further embarrassing revelations, even going as far to orchestrate the hijacking of the Bolivian president’s plane as it flew over Europe because it was thought Snowden may have been on board. After being in limbo inside Moscow airport for weeks, Snowden was finally granted asylum by Russia.


Snowden’s revelations should be of great concern to us all. It is not that we are just being monitored, it is that the internet is increasingly being centralised in the hands of certain key companies under the control of a few governments, with the US having the means to control the major transit routes that comprise the core of the net. The NSA has set out to control the internet from day one and can increasingly determine what we can access online.

  

And let’s not forget that other info warrior WikiLeaks’s Julian Assange, who also released sensitive information about US activities and remains on Washington’s ‘most wanted’ list. He spent all of 2013 in the small Ecuadorian embassy in London. Ecuador might have granted him asylum, but the British are not letting him go to the airport any time soon.


The Syrian crisis


Another key battle over information and trust occurred over Syria. The US became the self-appointed judge, jury and executioner and wanted to bomb Syria for the good of all peace loving people across the world in the name of preventing terror - so the White House’s spin machine would have liked us to believe. Many may not realise that a prelude to World War Three was possibly on the cards when the US threatened to bomb Damascus. Although difficult to confirm, some reports alleged that two missiles were actually launched from its warships in the Mediterranean, or possibly by Israel. They were supposedly shot down by the Russians who also had ships stationed there (as did the Chinese). In any case, tensions were high, and Russia was standing firm in its defence of Syria.


Barack Obama wanted to intervene, in a ‘humanitarian’ sense, because the Assad government had allegedly carried out a chemical weapons attack on its own people. That there was no evidence Assad was responsible seemed to matter little as Washington’s PR people went into overdrive, just like they did in 2003 over Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction. But thankfully reason prevailed this time, not least in the British parliament, which voted not to get involved with attacking Syria. And given that no one could produce hard evidence to support US claims (not even Washington) about the said chemical weapons attack, Obama had to back down.


The whole scenario rested on information and trust. Did we trust the information being presented by the US? Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which was based on what British MP George Galloway called a ‘pack of lies’, people are less inclined to rush to support US-led wars, and the internet has especially become a hotbed for the articulation of dissent. In this respect, Edward Snowden’s revelations are thus highly pertinent, given the US’s mass surveillance of almost everything online and Washington’s (and probably most governments) increasingly sophisticated attempts to control public access to content.


The rise of Narendra Modi


And so to India and the man of the moment - Narendra Modi, who was also at the centre of a battle for hearts and minds during the year. A wholly divisive figure or a shining beacon of hope for India? A hero of development in Gujarat or a case of spin triumphing over reality. Again, it was all about PR, perception and trust. One thing became clear during 2013, however; Modi was able to cement his phenomenal rise to the pinnacle of Indian politics.


While many hold Modi personally responsible for the killings and abuses that took place in Gujarat back in 2002, he has in some quarters succeeded in forwarding the message that his state is a shining example of development and that he is a suitable candidate for PM. Despite his many detractors, he has succeeded in securing a mass support base, especially among middle class youth.  


The future is bright, the future is Modi? Do you trust him? By early November, it was clear that his 960,000 followers on Google plus did. And it was clear that six million ‘likes’ on his official ‘fan page’ on Facebook did. On that page, it says: “the man endeared as a visionary & an untiring, selfless worker who has made Gujarat the cynosure of all eyes across the world.”


The future is definitely bright and we should certainly trust him, if we are to believe all the PR. And in this day and age, PR matters. It is impossible for everyone to have direct knowledge about everything that is happening in the world, so we turn to the media to inform us. But there are some heavy duty players at work, including- PR firms, lobbyists, image consultants and suchlike, whose sole aim is to get some highly distorted versions of ‘the truth’ into the public domain. And Modi has for some time had a genuine heavyweight on his side - the US-based PR/lobby giant APCO Worldwide.


This firm has been instrumental in helping to give Modi a timely and much needed makeover, remarketing him as prime ministerial material and globally promoting Brand Modi and Brand Gujarat. It culminated in 2013 with Modi being selected as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 Indian general election.   


And so to everything else


There were numerous prominent deaths during 2013. The two biggest were arguably those of Nelson Mandela and Margaret Thatcher. Mandela’s struggle against the barbaric apartheid regime in South Africa was inspirational for millions across the world. After being imprisoned by the regime for 27 years, he eventually rose to become PM of post-apartheid South Africa. His death united people in grief. Eulogies came from all sides of the political spectrum.


Former British PM Margaret Thatcher was granted a lavish funeral and her coffin was paraded through the streets of London. This upset many because her time as PM left deep wounds, which her passing served to reopen. For her supporters, she saved Britain from economic meltdown. However, regardless of the eulogies following her death, or probably because of them, many people vented some very bitter sentiments about Britain’s first woman PM and her social and economic legacies.


Nelson Mandela and Margaret Thatcher were towering political figures. For different reasons, their deaths evoked some deep-seated feelings.


What else happened during the year? 2013 saw India and Pakistan still ‘skirmishing’, the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, droughts in Maharashtra and various crashes, crushes, bombings and blasts across the country. Many metro projects moved forward in a number of cities. Flash floods and landslides in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh claimed the lives of more than 5,700 people and trapped more than 20,000.


The perpetrators of that horrendous rape aboard a bus in Delhi were finally sentenced, and the controversial Koodankulam nuclear plant in Tamil Nadu became partially operational. Sachin decided to hang up his test match bat, Tehelka made headlines of its own for all the wrong reasons and the fodder scam from the nineties finally caught up with Lalu.


Typhoons lashed India and devastated the Philippines and French troops went into resource-rich Mali and stayed. A meteor exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk, injuring 1,491 people and damaging over 4,300 buildings, ‘austerity’ continued in Europe and the US was still printing dollars like they are going out of fashion. They might be, given the ongoing rush to buy gold by various countries and talk of replacing the dollar as the world’s reserve currency.


A building collapsed in Bangladesh killing 1,129 and injuring 2,500. It was the third worst industrial accident ever. And there was high-profile political turmoil  in Ukraine, Thailand, Egypt and Turkey. There was even a glimpse of a major thaw in US-Iran relations.


Many things happened that were unreported or under - reported, not least because they were not deemed ‘newsworthy’. For example, candlelit marches in Delhi are headline grabbing, the ongoing tragedy affecting Indian farmers is not. The IPL is extremely newsworthy, Irom Sharmila’s cause is not.  


And the same may be said about this particular look back. Some occurrences have been included, many have not. Any write up is bound to be partial and subjective. Ask ten different people to write about the year just gone and you would probably get ten totally different narratives.


However, this particular look back has been very apt because it had much in common with 2013. It was long and winding, had some interesting highlights (hopefully) and went over in a flash. But the biggest thing it has in common with 2013 - it’s finally over

.



Syria And The Warmongering Peddlers Of Cheap, Skin-Deep Morality

AP Photo/Narciso Contreras
Countercurrents 26/8/2013

And here we go again. In Syria, things were getting desperate for Washington. It needed a major made-for-TV, cross-the-red-line incident involving chemical weapons. Unsurprisingly, by hook or by crook – probably crook (1) – it got it. The BBC, British Foreign Secretary William Hague and a multitude of other media outlets and politicians now clamour, or at least strongly imply the need, for direct military action to bolster the illegal ‘indirect’ military intervention from the West and its allies that has already been taking place for a long time.


The story being peddled goes that the (axis of) evil Syrian regime has used a ‘weapon of mass destruction’ to help win a war it was already winning, thereby incurring the wrath of the US. Strange logic indeed.


It’s a case of déjà vu. British MP George Galloway in front of a US senate hearing back in 2005 exposed the ‘pack of lies’ that the US-led invasion of Iraq was built on. Similar forms of deceit have been the foundations for shaping public opinion regarding attacking LibyaAfghanistanPakistan and numerous other countries. The presence of WMDs was used to justify attacking Iraq, while ‘humanitarianism’ or ‘fighting terror’ was the excuse used elsewhere.


But what is it about the term ‘weapons of mass destruction’ that provokes a knee jerk reaction from media people and politicians who foam with rage and let seep from their mouths high minded platitudes about morality?


“Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people we personally dislike.” Oscar Wilde in ‘An Ideal Husband’.

If in the above quote from Wilde, we replace ‘people’ with ‘regimes’, we may appreciate the nature of the West playing fast and lose with its notions of morality. Supply arms, including chemical weapons, to dictatorial regimes throughout West Asia with atrocious human rights records because, notwithstanding the fact it is great business, they are ‘good friends of ours’ (to coin a highly apt mafia term).  Yes, all friends and good ones at that, as long as they remain loyal to the  ‘Project for the New American Century’ (2).


The PNAC, or the project for world domination, is partly built on gullible, easily led public opinion, which is (often) fanned by the emotionally laden letters ‘W-M-D’. A Pavlov’s dog public and media, which respond on cue to the moralistic bleatings of condescending criminals that masquerade as respectable politicians and who rely on the public’s ignorance to fuel their barbarity in the name of ‘protecting civilians’ from an impending bloodbath, while going on to cause one in Libya, to ‘defeat terror’, while funding it in Syria, or to ‘support democracy’, while undermining it in Egypt.


These politicians and much of the mainstream media confine the narrative about WMD to a military battlefield, or a threat of outright violent destruction. The term is never to be associated with the US dropping atom bombs on Japan, the West using mini-nukes in the form of depleted uranium or the use of white phosphorous to kill and maim (3). From the cancers caused to the environmental contamination, where is Hague’s, the BBC’s or any other number of media outlets’ moral indignation about this type of mass destruction?


Where too is their condemnation of treacherous economic, trade, food or agriculture policies that blight hundreds of millions across the globe? Where is their condemnation over the criminal manipulation of currency markets, commodities, interest rates and derivatives, or the neo-liberalism and the corporate-financial cartels that conspire to shape trade via the WTO, IMF or the World Bank (4,5,6,7,8)?


That’s right, condemnation of these economic and political weapons of mass destruction and suffering are nowhere to be seen or heard simply because such political figures and media institutions with their skin-deep morality are in place merely to serve the interests of fraudulent capital and its fraudulent policies.


This type of mass destruction and mass misery does not involve headline-grabbing, eye-catching episodes of carnage and death. This violence is structural in form, is arguably ultimately just as destructive and is ongoing and all pervasive (9). In Western countries, this is disguised as a need for ‘austerity’. In poorer countries, it is called ‘development’.


Under the ‘structural adjustment’ policies imposed on poor countries, it has become a case of export or be damned, embrace corporate agriculture or be damned, borrow and build dams or be damned. And, in the process, elites – both foreign and indigenous – prosper, while the people and the environment end up being damned anyhow (10). It’s almost becoming a cliché to mention the hundreds of thousands of farmers in India who ‘embraced’ it all and died. It’s no cliché though, it happened.


It’s no cliché that the petrochemical-backed, corporate-driven ‘Green Revolution’ is raping the environment (11). It’s no cliché to say that genetic engineering is a highly financially lucrative ‘experiment’ that is jeopardising our health and the future of humanity (12). Neither is it a cliché that millions, from Egypt to the US, are bearing the brunt of economic policies that result in misery for the many and record profits for the few.


Perhaps we should look at Hague and his ilk and assess whether they actually do care about the plight of ordinary folk in the manner they claim to. Do they really care about the plight of Syrians? Perhaps we might care to ponder that they clearly do not, given the back door deals and wars they have sanctioned for the benefit of powerful corporations (13,14).


Why should they care so much about people in far off places when they show little for those in their own countries? The post-war Keynesian consensus has been gradually dismantled, leading to the offshoring of much of their own economies and leaving millions in debt, in poverty, thrown onto the scrapheap or used as fodder to fight wars for the rich under the banner of ‘humanitarianism’ or ‘protecting our freedoms’. And, as far as ‘protecting our freedom’ is concerned, look to Edward Snowden and especially Hague’s squirming reaction to the revelations to see how hollow this rings.    


Moral outrage within certain influential quarters about the latest happenings in Syria might be enough to fool some of the public, but let the record show that this fake outrage runs skin deep and is extremely selective.

Notes

Info Wars: Paranoia, Surveillance and an Empire in Decline

Global Research and Countercurrents 1/7/2013

Back in 1992, the academic Francis Fukuyama mistakenly informed the world that, with the apparent triumph of western capitalism and the downfall of the USSR, we had arrived at the end of history, the end of ideology. Fast forward a couple of decades and in 2011 Hilary Clinton announced the US was at war. She wasn’t talking about the US’s ongoing illegal invasions, occupations and mass slaughters, as if that wasn’t enough, but an ideological war for the hearts and minds of the global community.

While the likes of Voice of America were aggressively assertive during the Cold War, Clinton was lamenting the fact that, since then, US global ideological influence had weakened, especially with the advent of the internet as well as new kids on the block gaining influence, such as Russia Today.


Of course, Hollywood too has been a long-time cheerleader of the ‘great myth’: the propagator of the US as the beacon of freedom, as the flagship of democratic ideals. The great 'American Lie' of the great 'American Dream' whereby the individual can somehow miraculously overcome adversity and make it in life, just as long as s/he keeps his or her nose to the grind. No actual chains required. The suffocating clasp of popular culture will suffice. The ‘self-made man’ syndrome rammed down the collective throat by Hollywood, which magics away into thin air the debilitating effects of class-based structural inequalities (1). As the commentator and comedian once stated: “The American Dream, you have to be asleep to believe it.”(2)


And let’s not forget Uncle Sam the movie star, the liberator of the oppressed, the protector of universal good, the sweeper of its mass terror and atrocities away from the screen and conveniently under the carpet.

Enter some balance. Enter the internet, Press TV, RT and the ‘alternative media’. The media landscape has been transformed. In recent years, the US 
has had to face up to the harsh truth that it cannot dominate the global debate to the extent it once did when it comes to shaping the analysis and reporting of news through its compliant media outlets. 


Trying to keep the lid on things 


Two years on from Clinton voicing her concerns about the US struggle to win the info wars, Edward Snowden has revealed what many of us had already strongly suspected - that people and foreign governments, including allies and the EU (3), are being heavily monitored by the US government. Before Snowden became public enemy number one, the US had set out to curtail WikiLeaks’ voice by shutting down its access to finance, notably by initially applying pressure on PayPal and MasterCard.

The 
US state-corporate machine did almost everything in its power to curtail WikeLeaks’ influence. Most debilitating of all was the shutting down of WikiLeaks’ access to finance, notably via PayPal, MasterCard, the Swiss bank PostFinance, Moneybookers, Bank of America and Visa Inc.

Bank of America was accused as being especially strident in attempting to discredit and shut down WikiLeaks with various dirty tricks, including backing a smear campaign that involved the use of false documents, disinformation, and sabotage (4).


These actions along with demands that Snowden be ‘handed over’ by the countries the US has been caught red handed of spying on, come as little surprise. The US deems fit to break international laws with impunity, yet bleats about about legalities where Snowden is concerned. Such high-mindedness. But this is par for the course. Successive US administrations have shown a strong dislike of proper democracy, legalities or open debate, whether at home or abroad, and have done everything to stifle it or bomb it out of existence (5).

In exposing state-corporate secrets and challenging powerful institutions, Assange made many enemies in high places. US Attorney General Eric Holder has said that Assange put the lives of US citizens at risk by leaking diplomatic cables. Dick Cheney calls Snowden a ‘traitor’. Who are the real ‘traitors’? If anyone has placed US lives at risk or has attacked the rights and freedoms of US citizens, it’s not Assange. People like Holder and Dick ‘Halliburton’ Cheney should look at their own actions and unbridled support for and benefits accrued from the robber baron regime they are part of and which they seek to legtimise and protect (6)(7). 
  


The hegemony of an empire in decline


Central to this whole debate is the struggle to maintain hegemony, which involves the dominant class attempting to legitimize its position in the eyes of the ruled over – a kind of ‘consented coercion’ that disguises the iron fist of power. If state violence and outright oppression is to be avoided, people's consent must be achieved via ‘ideological state-corporate apparatuses’, including the mass media. Former CIA boss General Petraeus is on record as saying US strategy is to conduct a war of perceptions continuously through the news media. According to the recently deceased journalist Michael Hastings, Petraeus was a master of duplicity and expert in manipulating the media and thus public perception (8). 


We therefore don't have to imagine much that the prevailing view of world conveyed through the mainstream media and swallowed by many people is based on 'a pack of lies' carefully presented by men like Petraeus, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the rest to try to gloss over their corruption and sanctioning of mass killing and plunder. British MP George Galloway’s powerful performance in front of a US Senate committee in 2005 highlighted it as such (9). 


These days, despite state-corporate control and manipulation of the mainstream media, many see through the charade of today's 'liberal democracy’ and the ‘pack of lies’ which underpin it. The more the US lacks control over ‘the message’, the more it has to resort to violence and restrictions on freedoms. The more paranoid it becomes, the more penetrating and widespread the surveillance and 'information gathering' is. It is the type of insecurity that derives from an empire in decline. It is the type of oppression that derives from an empire that is ideologically and militarily fighting for its continued existence (10).


Notes



‘Nobody else talking about this’: Gitmo inmate hunger strike goes on

Published time: March 25, 2013 14:00
Guantanamo Bay.(AFP Photo /Jim Watson)

The mass hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay has gathered momentum, entering Day 48 with reportedly over 100 inmates refusing food. While human rights groups worry about their failing health, the US mainstream media continues to turn a blind eye.

Prison officials have been downplaying the protest for weeks. The unpopular Gitmo topic has remained off the radar of mainstream news, hidden from the American public even after the Pentagon’s acknowledgement of the growing number of Gitmo detainees on hunger strike.

Reports first begin to emerge about a hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay around February 23, about two weeks after it began.

Inmates’ lawyers said over a hundred people have been taking part in it, while according to the Center for Constitutional Rights, 130 inmates began their life-threatening hunger strike to protest treatment and conditions at the prison. Many of them had lost a substantial amount of weight. The desperate move was triggered by their frustration with the US government's failure to shut down the controversial facility.

US officials initially denied that a strike was taking place at all.

"As you recall, they started off by saying, ‘no one is on hunger strike, just five or six people who have been on the hunger strike for many years’. Then that figure was revised up to 14 and now we are seeing the figure steadily increasing, but to nowhere near the extent that the prisoners' lawyers are talking about,” investigative journalist and author of ‘The Guantanamo Files’ Andy Worthington told RT.

Currently the officially-acknowledged number of Gitmo detainees on hunger strike has reached 26 people, according to the US Defense Department. Eight of them are being force-fed, which means they are administered food in the form of a nutritional supplement through a hose snaked into their nose while they are restrained in a chair.

Attorneys representing the prisoners are saying that the situation there is far worse than military officials are ready to admit. 

“Hearing about how the lawyers are not being allowed to visit, plus this big gulf between what the lawyers are saying and the administration is saying is indicative of the administration still trying to clamp down on it. They don’t want this story out. And I think that that there’s a big story going on," Worthington stated.

The nature of the mass protest at the Guantanamo Bay has been summed up with a statement sent to military officials by the Center for Constitutional Rights. They wrote that “since approximately February 6, 2013, camp authorities have been confiscating detainees’ personal items, including blankets, sheets, towels, mats, razors, toothbrushes, books, family photos, religious CDs, and letters, including legal mail; and restricting their exercise, seemingly without provocation or cause.” Moreover, “Arabic interpreters employed by the prison have been searching the men’s Korans in ways that constitute desecration according to their religious beliefs, and that guards have been disrespectful during prayer times.”

"Nobody else is talking about this subject. If this were happening in Russia, if people disappeared into an illegal black hole in Russia and were facing indefinite incarceration, without trial, without charge and without access of attorneys, we'd never hear the end of it. The Western media would be full of it. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, they'd be screaming from the rooftops of Westminster,” British MP George Galloway told RT.

“But because this is an American crime, they're allowed to get away with it. Because the people that control the so-called mainstream media are fully on side with the agenda of the Obama administration,” he added.

RT asked people on the streets of New York whether they actually knew that more than half of the detainees at Guantanamo have been cleared for release. Nearly all replied that they had no idea, noting that because the Gitmo inmates are being kept in prison by the US, it's only fair that they get their views expressed on local media. 

The detention camp in eastern Cuba reportedly holds 166 men seized in counterterrorism operations, most of whom have been held without charge for a decade. Although Barack Obama promised to shut down the facility at the beginning of his first term as president, the facility remains open.

The Legacy of Hugo Chavez: The Revolution Within the Revolution Will Continue

chavez3

 The death of Hugo Chávez is a great loss to the people of Venezuela who have been lifted out of poverty and have created a deep participatory democracy. Chavez was a leader who, in unity with the people, was able to free Venezuela from the grips of US Empire, bring dignity to the poor and working class, and was central to a Latin American revolt against US domination.

Chávez grew up a campesino, a peasant, raised in poverty. His parents were teachers, his grandmother an Indian whom he credits with teaching him solidarity with the people. During his military service, he learned about Simon Bolivar, who freed Latin America from Spanish Empire.  This gradually led to the modern Bolivarian Revolution he led with the people. The Chávez transformation was built on many years of a mass political movement that continued after his election, indeed saved him when a 2002 coup briefly removed him from office. The reality is Venezuela’s 21st Century democracy is bigger than Chávez.  This will become more evident now that he is gone.

The Lies They Tell Us

If Americans knew the truth about the growth of real democracy in Venezuela and other Latin American countries, they would demand economic democracy and participatory government, which together would threaten the power of concentrated wealth. Real democracy creates a huge challenge to the oligarchs and their neoliberal agenda because it is driven by human needs, not corporate greed. That is why major media in the US, which are owned by six corporations, aggressively misinform the public about Chávez and the Bolivarian Revolution.

Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research writes:

The Western media reporting has been effective. It has convinced most people outside of Venezuela that the country is run by some kind of dictatorship that has ruined it.

In fact, just the opposite is true. Venezuela, since the election of Chávez, has become one of the most democratic nations on Earth. Its wealth is increasing and being widely shared. But Venezuela has been made so toxic that even the more liberal media outlets propagate distortions to avoid being criticized as too leftist.

We spoke with Mike Fox, who went to Venezuela in 2006 to see for himself what was happening. Fox spent years documenting the rise of participatory democracy in Venezuela and Brazil. He found a grassroots movement creating the economy and government they wanted, often pushing Chávez further than he wanted to go.

They call it the “revolution within the revolution.” Venezuelan democracy and economic transformation are bigger than Chávez. Chávez opened a door to achieve the people’s goals: literacy programs in the barrios, more people attending college, universal access to health care, as well as worker-owned businesses and community councils where people make decisions for themselves. Change came through decades of struggle leading to the election of Chávez in 1998, a new constitution and ongoing work to make that constitution a reality.

Challenging American Empire

The subject of Venezuela is taboo because it has been the most successful country to repel the neoliberal assault waged by the US on Latin America. This assault included Operation Condor, launched in 1976, in which the US provided resources and assistance to bring friendly dictators who supported neoliberal policies to power throughout Latin America. These policies involved privatizing national resources and selling them to foreign corporations, de-funding and privatizing public programs such as education and health care, deregulating and reducing trade barriers.

In addition to intense political repression under these dictators between the 1960s and 1980s, which resulted in imprisonment, murder and disappearances of tens of thousands throughout Latin America, neoliberal policies led to increased wealth inequality, greater hardship for the poor and working class, as well as a decline in economic growth.

Neoliberalism in Venezuela arrived through a different path, not through a dictator. Although most of its 20th century was spent under authoritarian rule, Venezuela has had a long history of pro-democracy activism. The last dictator, Marcos Jimenez Perez, was ousted from power in 1958. After that, Venezuelans gained the right to elect their government, but they existed in a state of pseudo-democracy, much like the US currently, in which the wealthy ruled through a managed democracy that ensured the wealthy benefited most from the economy.

As it did in other parts of the world, the US pushed its neoliberal agenda on Venezuela through the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. These institutions required Structural Adjustment Programs (SAP) as terms for development loans. As John Perkins wrote in Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, great pressure was placed on governments to take out loans for development projects. The money was loaned by the US, but went directly to US corporations who were responsible for the projects, many of which failed, leaving nations in debt and not better off. Then the debt was used as leverage to control the government’s policies so they further favored US interests. Anun Shah explains the role of the IMF and World Bank in more detail in Structural Adjustment – a Major Cause of Poverty.

Neoliberalism Leads to the Rise of Chávez

A turning point in the Venezuelan struggle for real democracy occurred in 1989. President Carlos Andres Perez ran on a platform opposing neoliberalism and promised to reform the market during his second term. But following his re-election in 1988, he reversed himself and continued to implement the “Washington Consensus” of neoliberal policies – privatization and cuts to social services. The last straw came when he ended subsidies for oil. The price of gasoline doubled and public transportation prices rose steeply.

Protests erupted in the towns surrounding the capitol, Caracas, and quickly spread into the city itself. President Perez responded by revoking multiple constitutional rights to protest and sending in security forces who killed an estimated 3,000 people, most of them in the barrios. This became known as the “Caracazo” (“the Caracas smash”) and demonstrated that the president stood with the oligarchs, not with the people.

Under President Perez, conditions continued to deteriorate for all but the wealthy in Venezuela. So people organized in their communities and with Lieutenant Colonel Hugo Chávez attempted a civilian-led coup in 1992. Chávez was jailed, and so the people organized for his release. Perez was impeached for embezzlement of 250 million bolivars and the next president, Rafael Caldera, promised to release Chávez when he was elected. Chávez was freed in 1994. He then traveled throughout the country to meet with people in their communities and organizers turned their attention to building a political movement.

Chávez ran for president in 1998 on a platform that promised to hold a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution saying:

I swear before my people that upon this moribund constitution I will drive forth the necessary democratic transformations so that the new republic will have a Magna Carta befitting these new times.

Against the odds, Chávez won the election and became president in 1999.

While his first term was cautious and center-left, including a visit by Chávez to the NY Stock Exchange to show support for capitalism and encourage foreign investment, he kept his promise. Many groups participated in the formation of the new constitution, which was gender-neutral and included new rights for women and for the indigenous, and created a government with five branches adding a people’s and electoral branches. The new constitution was voted into place by a 70 percent majority within the year. Chávez also began to increase funding for the poor and expanded and transformed education.

Since then, Chávez has been re-elected twice. He was removed from power briefly in 2002, jailed and replaced by Pedro Carmona, the head of what is equivalent to the Chamber of Commerce. Fox commented that the media was complicit in the coup by blacking it out and putting out false information. Carmona quickly moved to revoke the constitution and disband the legislature. When the people became aware of what was happening, they rapidly mobilized and surrounded the capitol in Caracas. Chávez was reinstated in less than 48 hours.

One reason the Chávez election is called a Bolivarian Revolution is because Simon Bolivar was a military political leader who freed much of Latin America from the Spanish Empire in the early 1800s. The election of Chávez, the new constitution and the people overcoming the coup set Venezuela on the path to free itself from the US empire. These changes emboldened the transformation to sovereignty, economic democracy and participatory government.

In fact, Venezuela paid its debts to the IMF in full five years ahead of schedule and in 2007 separated from the IMF and World Bank, thus severing the tethers of the Washington Consensus. Instead, Venezuela led the way to create the Bank of the South to provide funds for projects throughout Latin America and allow other countries to free themselves from the chains of the IMF and World Bank too.

The Rise of Real Democracy

The struggle for democracy brought an understanding by the people that change only comes if they create it. The pre- Chávez era is seen as a pseudo Democracy, managed for the benefit of the oligarchs. The people viewed Chávez as a door that was opened for them to create transformational change. He was able to pass laws that aided them in their work for real democracy and better conditions. And Chávez knew that if the people did not stand with him, the oligarchs could remove him from power as they did for two days in 2002.

With this new understanding and the constitution as a tool, Chávez and the people have continued to progress in the work to rebuild Venezuela based on participatory democracy and freedom from US interference. Chávez refers to the new system as “21st century socialism.” It is very much an incomplete work in progress, but already there is a measurable difference.

Mark Weisbrot of CEPR points out that real GDP per capita in Venezuela expanded by 24 percent since 2004. In the 20 years prior to Chávez, real GDP per person actually fell. Venezuela has low foreign public debt, about 28 percent of GDP, and the interest on it is only 2 percent of GDP. Weisbrot writes:

From 2004-2011, extreme poverty was reduced by about two-thirds. Poverty was reduced by about one-half, and this measures only cash income. It does not count the access to health care that millions now have, or the doubling of college enrollment – with free tuition for many. Access to public pensions tripled. Unemployment is half of what it was when Chávez took office.

Venezuela has reduced unemployment from 20 percent to 7 percent.

As George Galloway wrote upon Chávez’s death:

Under Chávez’ revolution the oil wealth was distributed in ever rising wages and above all in ambitious social engineering. He built the fifth largest student body in the world, creating scores of new universities. More than 90% of Venezuelans ate three meals a day for the first time in the country’s history. Quality social housing for the masses became the norm with the pledge that by the end of the presidential term, now cut short, all Venezuelans would live in a dignified house.

Venezuela is making rapid progress on other measures too. It has a high human development index and a low and shrinking index of inequality. Wealth inequality in Venezuela is half of what it is in the United States. It is rated “the fifth-happiest nation in the world” by Gallup. And Pepe Escobar writes that:

No less than 22 public universities were built in the past 10 years. The number of teachers went from 65,000 to 350,000. Illiteracy has been eradicated. There is an ongoing agrarian reform.

Venezuela has undertaken significant steps to build food security through land reform and government assistance. New homes are being built, health clinics are opening in under-served areas and cooperatives for agriculture and business are growing.

Venezuelans are very happy with their democracy. On average, they gave their own democracy a score of seven out of ten while the Latin American average was 5.8. Meanwhile, 57 percent of Venezuelans reported being happy with their democracy compared to an average for Latin American countries of 38 percent, according to a poll conducted by Latinobarometro. While 81 percent voted in the last Venezuelan election, only 57.5 percent voted in the recent US election.

Chávez won that election handily as he has all of the elections he has run in since 1999. As Galloway describes him, Chávez was “the most elected leader in the modern era.” He won his last election with 55 percent of the vote but was never inaugurated due to his illness.

Beyond Voting: The Deepening of Democracy in Venezuela

This is not to say that the process has been easy or smooth. The new constitution and laws passed by Chávez have provided tools, but the government and media still contain those who are allied with the oligarchy and who resist change. People have had to struggle to see that what is written on paper is made into a reality. For example, Venezuelans now have the right to reclaim urban land that is fallow and use it for food and living. Many attempts have been made to occupy unused land and some have been met by hostility from the community or actual repression from the police. In other cases, attempts to build new universities have been held back by the bureaucratic process.

It takes time to build a new democratic structure from the bottom up. And it takes time to transition from a capitalist culture to one based on solidarity and participation. In “Venezuela Speaks,” one activist, Iraida Morocoima, says “Capitalism left us with so many vices that I think our greatest struggle is against these bad habits that have oppressed us.” She goes on to describe a necessary culture shift as, “We must understand that we are equal, while at the same time we are different, but with the same rights.”

Chávez passed a law in 2006 that united various committees in poor barrios into community councils that qualify for state funds for local projects. In the city, community councils are composed of 200 to 400 families. The councils elect spokespeople and other positions such as executive, financial and “social control” committees. The council members vote on proposals in a general assembly and work with facilitators in the government to carry through on decisions. In this way, priorities are set by the community and funds go directly to those who can carry out the project such as building a road or school. There are currently more than 20,000 community councils in Venezuela creating a grassroots base for participatory government.

A long-term goal is to form regional councils from the community councils and ultimately create a national council. Some community councils already have joined as communes, a group of several councils, which then have the capacity for greater research and to receive greater funds for large projects.

The movement to place greater decision-making capacity and control of local funds in the hands of communities is happening throughout Latin America and the world. It is called participatory budgeting and it began in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 1989 and has grown so that as many as 50,000 people now participate each year to decide as much as 20 percent of the city budget. There are more than 1,500 participatory budgets around the world in Latin America, North America, Asia, Africa, and Europe. Fox produced a documentary, Beyond Elections: Redefining Democracy in the Americas, which explains participatory budgeting in greater detail.

The Unfinished Work of Hugo Chávez Continues

The movements that brought him to power and kept him in power have been strengthened by Hugo Chávez. Now the “revolution within the revolution” will be tested.  In 30 days there will be an election and former vice president, now interim president, Nicolas Maduro will likely challenge the conservative candidate Chávez defeated.

If the United States and the oligarchs think the death of Chávez means the end of the Bolivarian Revolution he led, they are in for a disappointment.  This revolution, which is not limited to Venezuela, is likely to show to itself and the world that it is deep and strong. The people-powered transformation with which Chávez was in solidarity will continue.

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Mehdi’s Morning Memo: In Pole Position

The ten things you need to know on Friday 1 February 2013...

1) IN POLE POSITION

The German foreign minister took to the comment pages of yesterday's Times to warn our prime minister that renegotiating Britain's membership of the EU might not be as easy as David Cameron suggested in his Bloomberg speech last month.

The Poles, however, seem to want to give the PM a bit of a boost - my colleague Ned Simons has been speaking to the Polish ambassador:

"Poland is willing to let the UK renegotiate its relationship with the EU in an attempt to stop David Cameron leading Britain out of the union, the Polish ambassador has said.

"In an interview with The HuffingtonPost UK, ambassador Witold Sobkow said Warsaw was willing to 'accommodate' some British demands.

"Asked if Poland would be willing to allow Cameron to substantially change Britain’s relationship with Brussels ahead of a in/out referendum, he said: 'Yes. We see a lot of room for manoeuvre.'

"'We all want a better functioning EU, respecting subsidiarity, and reducing its bureaucratic burden.'

"'...There is no appetite for such far reaching changes now, but, who knows, in 2-3 years,' he said. 'The EU is changing, as we can see, for example, in the case of new banking supervision arrangements.'"

Dave will be delighted. Good ol' Poles, eh?

2) WATCH YER BACKS, DAVE AND GIDEON...

The Guardian and the Daily Mail both have some pretty worrying news for the PM and his chancellor. The Guardian splashes on news that:

"Downing Street has been warned that David Cameron risks facing a confidence vote over his leadership in the summer of 2014 if his poll ratings fail to improve and the party performs poorly in the local elections.

"A diehard group of party rebels, who would like to remove the prime minister immediately, will significantly grow in numbers over the next 17 months if the Tories fail to achieve a breakthrough, according to MPs inside and outside the government."

The Mail says that Osborne is the real target of the rebels' ire:

"The Tories were facing fresh turmoil last night as plotters prepared to demand the sacking of Chancellor George Osborne after failing to oust David Cameron.

"Rebel MPs intend to whip up support for a letter to the Prime Minister, calling on him to move Mr Osborne from the Treasury if the UK plunges into a triple dip recession.

"... The possibility of a job swap between the Chancellor and Foreign Secretary William Hague has been floated privately before by senior Tories."

Oh dear. Plots, plots and more plots - the Tory party reverts to type...

3) THE WAR ON WELFARE, PART 66

"Ministers: spare our budgets for more welfare cuts," screams the splash headline in the i.

It's sister paper, the Independent, reports:

"Conservative Cabinet ministers are pressing for another round of cuts in the welfare budget in an attempt to protect their own departments from the Treasury’s demand for a further £10bn of savings.

"Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond, Education Secretary, Michael Gove, and Home Secretary, Theresa May, are among senior Tories arguing for another squeeze on welfare."

To 'squeeze' another £10bn out of the welfare budget in the midst of the slowest economic recovery in living memory, and after slashing the top rate of income tax on millionaires, is, frankly, immoral and callous.

The truth about this government is that it isn't in favour of austerity per se, just austerity for the 'undeserving' poor. Forget taxing bank bonuses - CUT BENEFITS!

4) DEFENSIVE DAVE

The Telegraph continues its (front page) crusade against defence cuts while Cameron (and Osborne) wish Coulson was back in Downing Street running 'the grid':

"Amid accusations that defence policy is now a shambles, Downing Street attempted to 'clarify' an apparent promise by David Cameron that overall spending on the military would rise in 2015-16.

"On Wednesday Mr Cameron said that he would stand by a pledge he made in 2010 to provide “year-on-year real-terms growth in the defence budget in the years beyond 2015.”

"However, the Government’s position descended into confusion on Thursday as No  10 attempted to argue that Mr Cameron’s commitment to increase spending 'beyond 2015' does not apply to the 2015-16 financial year."

Dave's defence secretary isn't onboard either:

"Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, on Thursday confirmed that he would fight the Treasury for increases in defence spending in the coming spending review."

5) 'HALF OF OUR WOMEN LOOK LIKE KATE. THE OTHER HALF, LIKE HER SISTER'

That's the slogan on a new Romanian ad, featuring Kate and Pippa Middleton, plugging the attractions of Romania - to Brits! The Independent explains:

"Romania has hit back at British fears of a sudden influx of immigrants, launching its own tongue-in-cheek advertising campaign to persuade disillusioned Britons to travel east and swap Bognor for Bucharest.

"'You have bad weather, no jobs, no houses? That sounds bad. Why don’t you come live here instead?' reads one poster on the Romanian news website Gandul, which is behind the humorous campaign, entitled 'Why don’t you come over? - We may not like Britain, but you’ll love Romania.'"

I never knew the Romanians had such a great sense of humour. Can't wait to meet them when they all arrive here en masse...

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Watch this video of a ginger kitten attacking a large potato. Go on...

6) BRITS OUT, BRITISH PM IN

Just a week ago, British citizens in Benghazi were told to get out of the country; yesterday, the British PM flew into Libya on a 'surprise' visit. The Times reports:

"The Prime Minister went ahead with the visit despite the detection of a 'potential threat' to Britain's embassy in Tripoli only days ago... During his one-day trip, Mr Cameron said that securing the country would be even more important than toppling the regime of Colonel Gaddafi. In a concerted diplomatic drive, Britain will increase the assistance it is giving to police and to military training, with new advisers being dispatched to Tripoli."

Dave announced he'd done with Libyan authorities, which will allow British police to continue their investigation into the Lockerbie bombing:

"A team from Dumfries and Galloway Police has been cleared to go out to Tripoli as they attempt to hunt down those behind the bombing of Pan Am flight 103, which killed 270 people... They will be able to talk to officials there next month about the questions that remain about the bombing."

7) 'WOEFULLY UNDEREQUIPPED AND HAMSTRUNG'

From the i:

"The existing system to root out police wrongdoing is being undermined by poor-quality investigations and lacks the powers and resources to get to the bottom of serious cases of corruption and misconduct, according to a damning report published today.

"IPCC inquiries into alleged police wrongdoing start too late and take too long, according to the Home Affairs Select Committee. It is 'woefully underequipped and hamstrung' in achieving its objectives, with less funding than the professional standards department of the Metropolitan Police."

8) BASHING BARCLAYS

I still chuckle when I remember how City apologists used to jump to Barclays' defence in 2008/2009: 'They didn't take any taxpayers' cash,' they'd whine.

Today's FT front-page story is worth a look:

"UK authorities are probing an allegation that Barclays loaned Qatar money to invest in the bank as part of its cash call at the height of the financial crisis in 2008, which enabled the bank to avoid a UK government bailout.

"... If confirmed, such an arrangement could contravene market regulations if it was not properly disclosed at the time, legal and industry experts warned. 'The concept of lending money to any investor to purchase your own shares raises a series of immediate questions about disclosure and other regulatory issues,' said Peter Hahn, a former banker at Citi now at Cass Business School.

"The revelation is yet another blow for attempts by Antony Jenkins, Barclays’ chief executive, to clean up the bank’s image that has been tarnished by high-profile scandals ranging from Libor manipulation to the mis-selling of payment protection insurance."

You can that again.

9) NO THANKS, WILLIAM

Yet another diplomatic spat over the Falklands, reports the Times:

"Buenos Aires Argentina's Foreign Minister has rejected an invitation from William Hague to meet members of the Falkland Islands government on his visit to London next week. Hector Timerman said the islands were not a matter for a 'third party'."

10) 'THE FABULOUS EMANUEL BROTHERS'

That's the headline to a fascinating feature in the Independent about a trio of high-achieving US brothers from the worlds of medicine, politics and entertainment:

"Dr Ezekiel "Zeke" Emanuel... [is] a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, where he heads the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy; a fellow at non-profit research institute The Hastings Center; an oncologist; a bioethicist; and an expert in end-of-life care, who writes frequently for the New York Times.

"And yet, remarkably, Ezekiel, 55, has a lower profile than his two younger brothers. That's because they are the Mayor of Chicago, 53-year-old Rahm Emanuel; and Ari Emanuel, 51, the co-CEO of William Morris Endeavor, Hollywood's biggest talent agency.

"... There are celebrated families of doctors, politicians and entertainment professionals, but it's almost unheard-of for siblings to rise to such prominence in three such varied fields."

QUOTE UNQUOTE

"I have been involved in Conservative politics for 20 years. The Conservative party is never not plotting," says an unnamed minister, speaking to the Guardian's Nick Watt.

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From today's Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 44
Conservatives 32
Lib Dems 10
Ukip 8

That would give Labour a majority of 120.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

@tnewtondunn RT @Sun_Politics Sun/YouGov poll tonight: CON 32, LAB 44, LDEM 10, UKIP 8. Lab's 12 point lead back. Cam's EU bounce dead after just a week?

@TimMontgomerie Lord Ashcroft on @ConHome: We need to change perceptions of the Tory Party and the Europe speech hasn't done that

@TomHarrisMP The SNP are bitching about HS2 not reaching Scotland. So they expect Scotland to be "independent" by then, but for UK Govt to finance it?

900 WORDS OR MORE

Fraser Nelson, writing in the Telegraph, says: "If the Prime Minister truly wants to confront the threat from Islamists in Africa, he must find the money to increase the defence budget."

Jonathan Steele, writing in the Guardian, says: "Israel's attack on Syria shows how volatile this conflict is. A political solution is now urgent."

Philip Collins, writing in the Times, says: "For Cameron aid is not a badge. It’s a mission."


Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan ([email protected]) or Ned Simons ([email protected]). You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol

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