Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Public Banking: An Idea Whose Time Has Come

Public Banking: An Idea Whose Time Has Come - by Stephen Lendman

The 1913 Federal Reserve Act let powerful bankers usurp America's money system in violation of the Constitution's Article I, Section 8, giving only Congress the power to "coin Money (and) regulate the Value thereof...." Thereafter, powerful bankers victimized working Americans, using money, credit and debt for private self-enrichment by bankrolling and colluding with Congress and administrations to implement laws favoring them.

As a result, decades of deregulation, outsourcing, economic financialization, and casino capitalism followed, eroding purchasing power, producing asset bubbles, record budget and national debt levels, and depression-sized unemployment far higher than reported numbers, manipulated to look better.

After financial crisis erupted in late 2007, harder than ever Main Street hard times followed, getting worse, not better. As a result, high levels of personal and business bankruptcies resulted. Millions of homes have been lost. Record numbers of Americans are impoverished. An unprecedented wealth gap grows steadily. America's unstable economy lurches from one crisis to another, the current one miring Main Street in depression, still in its early stages.

Recovery is pure illusion. Today's contagion spread out-of-control globally. No one's sure how to contain it, so Wall Street got trillions of dollars in a desperate attempt to socialize losses, privatize profits, and pump life back into a corpse through grand theft by sucking public wealth to the financial sector, other corporate favorites, and America's aristocracy already with too much.

Speculation and debt need more of it to prosper, but ultimately it's a losing game. The greater the expansion, the harder it falls, especially when credit contraction persists. Job creation is moribund. Industrial America keeps imploding. High-paying jobs are exported. Economic prospects are eroding. Workers are exploited for greater corporate profits, and no one's sure how to revive stable, sustainable long-term growth.

Privatized money control is the problem, representing democracy's greatest threat. Regaining public control can restore it. The time for launching public banking across America is now when more than ever it's needed.

Cause and Effect

Economist Michael Hudson explains that "debt leveraging" caused America's economic collapse, so piling on more exacerbates conditions, especially the way it's done:

-- by bailing out giant Wall Street banks;

-- letting them used trillions in public funds for more speculation, big bonuses, and acquisitions, not direct lending to revive growth;

-- not acting as a lender of last resort to facilitate private investment to create jobs, turn around a sick economy, and stimulate demand; and

-- letting federal debt unproductively skyrocket to stratospheric levels, affirming Adam Smith's dictum that no country ever repaid theirs, especially the kind banking cartels create in lieu of workable alternatives not taken.

Key among them is:

-- nationalizing the Fed; returning money creation power to Congress;

-- abolishing Wall Street's franchise;

-- breaking up giant banks;

-- liquidating insolvent too-big-to-fail ones; and

-- replacing them with publicly run banks, providing low-interest loans to businesses, farmers, communities, households, students, and other worthy borrowers as a way to revive and sustain inflation-free prosperity. It's no pipe dream. It's real. It happened before and can again. Short of that, according to Hudson:

"debt service will (keep) crowd(ing) out spending on goods and services and there will be no recovery. Debt deflation will drag the economy down while assets are transferred further into the hands of the wealthiest 10% of the population (mainly the top 1%), operating via the financial sector."

Eventually the economy will collapse, but not Wall Street, profiting hugely with public handouts - aided and abetted by corrupted public officials, turning America into what Hudson calls a "zombie economy" and banana republic.

Workable Alternatives Can Prevent It

Ellen Brown's extraordinary book titled, "Web of Debt" explains how private money power trapped Americans in debt and how they can break free. At issue is private v. publicly created credit, Brown saying:

"Readily available credit made America 'the land of opportunity' ever since the days of the American colonists. What transformed this credit system into a Ponzi scheme, that must continually be propped up with bailout money, is that the credit power has been turned over to private bankers who always require more money back than they create" because they charge high interest rates for maximum profits.

In contrast, when federal, state or local governments lend their own money, profit isn't at issue so rates can be low and affordable to businesses, farmers, and private individuals. Moreover, for federal and municipality needs, government-issued credit is interest-free.

Brown explained that "fractional reserve banking" dates from the 17th century, done then mainly in gold and silver coins. Early bankers soon realized it was simpler to use deposit receipts (called notes) as a means of payment so they began creating money by making loans through promises to pay, and more could be issued than the amount of coins on hand as only enough were needed to service redemptions - today's idea of a reserve requirement.

What began earlier as notes, today are accounting entries that literally create money out of thin air. Moreover, it works the same for government as for privately-owned banks, except as publicly-run institutions, their mandate greatly differs:

-- they don't have to earn profits;

-- they're not beholden to Wall Street or shareholders; and

-- only the state, community, (or federal government's) creditworthiness matters. So far, in over 230 years, no state ever went out of business, and, except for Arkansas during the Great Depression, none ever defaulted, even when poorly governed.

Further, they can lend to themselves and municipalities interest-free, as well as to businesses, farmers, and individuals at low affordable rates to create sustainable, inflation-free growth. Moreover, the more often loans roll over, the more debt-free money is created - inflation-free if used productively for growth, not speculation, big bonuses and other excesses.

In fact, as long as new money produces goods and services, inflation can't occur. Only imbalances cause problems - "when 'demand' (money) exceeds 'supply' (goods and services)." Price stability is assured when both increase proportionally, and that's exactly how it worked in colonial America and under Lincoln during the Civil War.

Colonial America's success is explained below. An earlier chapter discussed Lincoln's achievements, reviewed again below. Brown's "Web of Debt" also covered early 20th century Australia under its publicly-run Commonwealth Bank. Like others, it created money, made loans, and collected interest at a fraction of what private bankers charge. It worked well enough, in fact, for the country to have one of the highest global living standards at the time.

However, once private bankers took over, Australia became heavily indebted, its living standard falling precipitously. It showed benefits possible by government created credit compared to privatized banking power destructiveness - Australia one of several examples of what works best. "Web of Debt" explained them, including:

-- colonial America;

-- Lincoln's achievements;

---- the Middle Ages, falsely portrayed as a backward and impoverishing era saved only by industrial capitalism; in fact, under its banker-free tally system, it prospered for hundreds of years;

-- China did for thousands of years before the privatized banking, and today because Beijing directs The People's Bank of China (its semi-independent central bank) to grow the nation's economy and create millions of jobs for its burgeoning population; and

-- Venezuela under its public service mandated quasi-public/private system, a topic a previous chapter explained about a far more stable/responsible system than America's predatory Fed-run one.

Imagine the possibilities under public banks:

-- federal, state and local debt could be substantially reduced or eliminated;

-- so could personal and payroll taxes federal taxes;

-- America's manufacturing base could be rebuilt;

-- social programs could be funded inflation-free;

-- vital infrastructure projects could be undertaken on a scale never before imagined, including cleaning up the environment and developing alternate, sustainable, clean, safe, affordable energy sources;

-- millions of new good-paying jobs could be created, ending unemployment for everyone able work; and for those willing but unable, aid could be provided;

-- foreclosures would end, and the dream of home ownership would be reachable for everyone because mortgages would be plentiful, cheap, and not designed to scam the unwary;

-- booms and busts would end;

-- destructive currency devaluations and economic warfare for private gain no longer would threaten;

-- private pensions, savings, and investments would be secure;

-- Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid would be secure in perpetuity;

-- Washington, the states and local communities could produce comfortable surpluses; and

-- sustained prosperity overall would result, providing everyone affordable or free healthcare, education, and other essential social benefits.

It's not pie-in-the-sky. In colonial America, it worked impressively, first Massachusetts in 1691 with its own paper money called scrip, backed by the government's full faith and credit. Other colonies followed, freeing them from British banks, letting their economies prosper, inflation-free, with no taxation for 25 years, paying no interest to bankers. The secret wasn't issuing too much. It was recycling money into local economies for productive growth. Wherever it's been tried, it's work impressively. Brown's "Web of Debt" explained it.

Lincoln did the same thing with government-created money, interest free. What followed turned America into an industrial giant by launching the steel industry, a continental railroad system, and new era of farm machinery and cheap tools. Free education was also established. The Homestead Act gave settlers ownership rights and encouraged land development. Government supported science.

Mass production methods were standardized. Labor productivity rose exponentially during America's greatest growth period before the Fed's 1913 creation changed everything.

Now's the time to change back by replacing their franchise with public banking, giving federal, state and local governments their own money system, interest-free to grow their areas and the nation sustainably and impressively, interest-free with low or no taxes. America's lacked it for the last century.

Doing so would revolutionize the country en route perhaps to ending predatory capitalism entirely, the ultimate aim, replacing a destructive system with an equitable one, serving everyone fairly.

More Evidence Why It's Needed

A new US census report offers more evidence why, saying one-fourth of US counties are dying (760 of 3,142), meaning they're showing more deaths than births. Why is at issue - because of the deepening economic crisis causing record high unemployment, home foreclosures, and human misery. According to Professor Kenneth Johnson:

"The downturn in the US economy is only exacerbating the problem. In some cases, the only thing that can pull an area out is an influx of young Hispanic immigrants or new economic development," not forthcoming.

University of Albany senior fellow James Follain said, "The housing (market decline) is creating a new type of ghost cities" because of waves of foreclosures in overbuilt urban areas. Recovery will be very slow, he said, because of fiscal restraint when stimulus is badly needed.

Instead of curing the patient, we're killing it because giant banks control money, and government is colluding with them to wreck Main Stream America to create assets they can buy cheap at the expense of working households losing out. That's how private money power works - for them against the common good. What more incentive is there for returning it to public hands where it belongs, serving everyone equitably and fairly.

Replicating a Workable Model

One state alone has it, North Dakota establishing the Bank of North Dakota (BND) in 1919. Access its web site at:


In contrast to privatized banks, it's not insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) for good reason. Instead, its deposits "are guaranteed by the full faith and credit of the State of North Dakota," proved trustworthy after over 90 years of sound money practices, unlike banks trapped by Fed control, wrecking many over decades.

Its deposit base is also unique, comprised mainly from state residents and funds of state institutions. However, other deposits are accepted from any private or public source. As mandated in 1919, North Dakota's Industrial Commission oversees BND. Its members include the governor as chairman, attorney general and commissioner of agriculture. The bank also has a seven-member governor appointed advisory board, knowledgeable in banking and finance.

On December 8, 2010, Governor Jack Dalrymple's 2011 - 2013 Budget Address highlighted a performance record other states would envy, struggling to cope with out-of-control deficits. In contrast, North Dakota had surpluses throughout the economic crisis. As a result, it's budgeting "unprecedented funding for transportation infrastructure, housing, water supply and water control projects and other infrastructure investments throughout the state."

Greater funding will also go for K -12 and higher education, economic development, agricultural research, health and human services, as well as quality of life enhancements, public worker pay increases, besides more for tax relief for state residents, amounting to $900 million in the 2011-2013 bienniums.

Moreover, strong reserves will be grown and maintained. Instead of cutting back like most other states, North Dakota is expanding and passing on benefits to residents. In December 2010, it also had the nation's lowest unemployment rate at 3.3%. BNB deserves the credit.

On January 4, Dalrymple delivered his State of the State Address, saying:

"While other states (struggle with weak economies), we in North Dakota are in a position of strength and can use our surplus funds to meet the needs of the state" adequately, despite $174 million less federal human services aid than last year.

Nonetheless, North Dakota is prosperous. "You can see it in the progress of our industries, our main streets, in our schools, and in our overall economic growth. Our progress is getting national attention. It's attracting people from other states and it's allowing (our) people to stay close to home."

North Dakota's impressive record includes:

-- large budget surpluses;

-- merchandise exports nearly doubled to $2 billion in the last five years alone;

-- 40,000 new jobs added in the last decade while the nation lost them;

-- the country's lowest unemployment rate at 3.3%; and

-- much more revealing progress and prosperity, Dalrymple saying he's "fortunate today to be able to say with complete confidence that the state of our state is strong and growing stronger!" As a result, more impressive things are planned because North Dakota has resources to implement them, while other states cut back.

On February 20, 2011 the Bismark Tribune reported:

"North Dakota's economy has been (producing) black gold, a $1 billion budget surplus, the nation's lowest unemployment," even though some residents need help. "It means there are still people, and families, who face a variety of challenges." As a result, state and local governments "have been proactive about" helping them get benefits they need and deserve. The state has plenty of resources to do it.

An October 12, 2010 Before It's News headline said:

"North Dakota Has A One Billion Dollar Budget Surplus this year and is looking for ways to spend it - Maine has a billion-dollar deficit and is looking for ways to fund it."

Sub head: "North Dakota is the only state with a surplus. It is also adding jobs when other states are losing them. Why is this not headline news?"

It's not only solvent, it's thriving with impressive 43% personal income growth besides 34% more in total wages.

According to Brown, it's because BND has been a "credit machine," for over 90 years, delivering "sound financial services that promote agriculture, commerce and industry," something no other state can match because they don't have state-owned banks.

With one, BND "create(s) 'credit' with accounting entries on (its) books" through fractional reserve banking that multiplies each deposited amount magically about tenfold in the form of loans or computer-generated funds. As a result, the bank can re-lend many times over, and the more deposits, the greater amount of it for sustained, productive growth. If all states owned public banks, they'd be as prosperous as North Dakota and be able to rebate taxes and expand public services, not extract more or cut them.

Brown explains that the BND:

"chiefly acts as a central bank, with functions similar to those of a branch of the Federal Reserve," that's neither federal or has reserves as it's owned by major private banks in each of the 12 Fed districts, New York by far the most dominant with Wall Street's majority control and a Fed chairman doing its bidding.

In contrast, BND is a public bank, 100% owned by the state, operating in the public interest and those of the state. It "avoids rivalry with private banks by partnering with them." Local banks do most lending. "The BND then comes in to participate in the loan, share risk, buy down the interest rate and buy up loans, thereby freeing up banks to lend more" as part of a continuing prosperity-creating virtuous circle. One of its functions "is to provide a secondary market for real estate loans, which it buys from local banks. Its residential loan portfolio is now $500 to $600 billion" in a state with around 700,000 people and thriving.

Its function in the property market helped it "avoid the credit crisis that afflicted Wall Street when the secondary market for loans collapsed in late 2007 and helped it reduce its foreclosure rate....(Its other services) include guarantees for entrepreneurial startups and student loans, the purchase of municipal bonds from public institutions, and a well-funded disaster loan program." When the state didn't meet its budget "a few years ago, the BND met the shortfall."

Year after year it works, freeing North Dakota from today's credit crisis and worst of the economic downturn. It's a win-win for the state, its agriculture, commerce, industry, entrepreneurial startups, students, homebuyers needing loans, and virtually anyone in the state able to qualify.

In sum, state-owned banks have "enormous advantages over smaller private institutions....Their asset bases are not marred by oversized salaries and bonuses, they have no shareholders" demanding high returns, and they don't speculate in derivatives or other high-risk investments. As a result, BND is healthy with a 25% return on equity, paying "a hefty dividend to the state projected at over $60 million in 2009" and well over five times that amount in the last decade, so it begs the question why other states don't operate the same way. With them, they might be struggling the way nearly all of them are today, especially major ones like California, New York, Michigan and Illinois.

Growing State Interest in Public Banks

On March 25, 2011, Ellen Brown's article headlined, "A Choice for States: Banks, Not Budget Crises," highlighting the growing interest in state-owned banks, including new initiatives exploring the idea - at least 12 so far with pending bills or feasibility studies to determine their potential. They include Oregon, Washington, Maryland, Illinois, Virginia, Massachusetts, Louisiana, California, Arizona, Maine, Vermont and Hawaii, considering public bank options like North Dakota, America's most prosperous state with one.

At issue is while "Wall Street is (thriving), local banks are floundering, credit for small businesses and consumers remains tight, and local governments are teetering on bankruptcy." Congress is even considering new legislation to let states do it as a way to avoid pension and other obligations. Yet, according to what's known, the Fed gave giant banks $12.3 trillion dollars, providing nothing for strapped states, local communities, and beleaguered households struggling to stay afloat.

North Dakota avoids economic hardships. So can other states and communities with publicly owned banks. It's not rocket science. It's simple. That's its beauty, and what works for North Dakota can work anywhere. Size isn't the issue. Policy is.

As a result, momentum's slowly building for change, in Illinois, for example, on February 5, 2011 where Rep. Mary Flowers introduced the Community Bank of Illinois Act. It:

"Provides that the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation shall operate the Community Bank of Illinois. Specifies the authority of the advisory board of directors to the Bank. Provides that the Secretary is to employ a president and employees. Contains provisions concerning the removal and discharge of appointees. Provides that State funds must be deposited in the Bank. Contains provisions concerning the nonliability of officers and sureties after deposit. Specifies the powers of the Bank."

"Contains provisions concerning the guaranty of deposits and the Bank's role as a clearinghouse, the authorization of loans (to) the General Revenue Fund, bank loans to farmers, limitations on the loans by the Bank, the name in which business is conducted and titles taken, civil actions, surety on appeal, audits, electronic fund transfer systems, confidentiality of bank records, the sale and leasing of acquired agricultural real estate, and the illinois higher education savings plan."

"Provides that the Bank is the custodian of securities. Amends the Illinois State Auditing Act to require that the Auditor General must contract with an independent certified accounting firm for an annual audit of the Community Bank of Illinois as provided in the Community Bank of Illinois Act. Amends the Eminent Domain Act to allow the Bank to acquire property by eminent domain."

In California, on February 17, 2011, Assembly Member Ben Hueso introduced AB 750 (as amended March 31, 2011), "Finance: investment trust blue ribbon task force."

Besides other provisions:

"This bill would establish the investment blue ribbon task force to consider the viability of establishing the California Investment Trust, which would be a state bank receiving deposits of all state funds. The trust would support economic development, provide financing for housing development, public works and educational infrastructure, provide stability to the financial sector, provide state government banking services, lend capital to specified financial institutions, and provide for excess earnings of the trust to be used for state General Fund purposes."

"The bill would establish the membership of the task force, which would include designated Members of the Legislature and designees of the Governor, Controller, and Treasurer....The bill would require the task force to report to the Legislature by December 1, 2012, on its findings and recommendations to the viability of establishing the California Investment Trust" and state-owned bank.

Candidates in last fall's November elections also proposed state banks in California, Florida, Idaho, Maine, Vermont, and Michigan, though legislation for them hasn't passed.

In 2010, Michigan's bill got the most coverage. An initiative for it can be accessed through the following link:


It calls a State of Michigan Development Bank an instrument to "provide credit worthy (state) Businesses loans and lines of credit on fair terms to protect and expand existing businesses and jobs, to attract new high technology and manufacturing businesses to Michigan, to put Michigan's skilled workforce to work, and provide needed credit for Michigan farm businesses and the important tourism industry."

It proposed using some of the $58 billion from four Michigan pension funds as initial seed capital to launch it to help local businesses and create jobs. So far the measure stalled without a legislative majority to pass it.

In the 19th century, Louisiana once had a state bank but liquidated it in 1908. Louisiana State Bank Records show the legislature created the Louisiana State Bank in March 1818 after the charter of the Louisiana Bank neared expiration.

At the time, the bank was endowed with $2 million in seed capital. Funded with $100,000, each of five branches operated autonomously. Besides providing capital for state agriculture, the bank also participated in financing the railroad industry in the mid-1800s.

It operated during Louisiana's unprecedented growth period, with state imports and exports rivaling most other states. In 1871, it became the State National Bank, then unfortunately liquidated 11 years before North Dakota's BND was established. Perhaps its reemergence lies ahead.

Brown explains that today's budget crisis affecting nearly all states didn't "arise from too much spending or too little taxation." A Wall Street created credit freeze caused them, easily avoided with a state bank like North Dakota's, a prosperous oasis during the worst economic crunch since the Great Depression.

The Public Banking Institute: Banking in the Public Interest

Ellen Brown heads the initiative to promote an idea whose time has come, explaining that public banks are:

-- viable economic solutions to promote sustainable growth and prosperity;

-- available to states, cities and local communities of any size;

-- owned and operated by states or local communities, not private investors, scamming the system for profit at the public's expense;

-- economically viable like private banks, but more stable and secure;

-- "able to offset tax increases with returned credit income to" communities;

-- ready resources for state and local governments, "eliminating the need for large 'rainy day' funds," sitting dormant unused;

-- help for local businesses, farmers, working households and students, not casinos to speculate recklessly like private banks; and

-- legal according to the Supreme Court.

In contrast, public banks aren't:

-- run by politicians, but by bankers responsible to states, local communities and the public welfare;

-- "boondoggles for bank executives; rather, their employees are salaried public servants (paid by states or local governments with transparent pay structures) who (won't likely) earn bonuses, commissions or fees for generating loans;" or

-- "speculative ventures that maximize (short-term) profits without regard to the long-term" public interest, what responsible banking is support to stress.

Overall, public banks differ from private ones by being mandated to serve the public interest, not shareholders or corporate executives seeking maximum profits for personal gain. Moreover, by returning profits generated, lower taxes and interest rates are possible. In addition, by not needing to pay themselves interest, state project costs can, on average, be reduced by 50%.

In short, public banks work, serving people responsibly, not greedy bankers, ripping them off for personal gain. The time for change is now. The way forward: public banks serving all Americans equitably and fairly for sustainable long-term growth and prosperity.

Besides peace, good will, democratic values, and equity and justice for all, what better idea is there than that.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.


Waging War at Home and Abroad While Pledging Peace

Waging War at Home and Abroad While Pledging Peace - by Stephen Lendman

Promising peace on May 19, Obama wages war against Middle East/North African and Central Asian states, as well as Muslim Americans at home. Earlier articles explained they've:

-- been targeted;

-- hunted down;

-- bogusly entrapped by stings, false evidence or other means;

-- rounded up;

-- held in detention;

-- kept in isolation;

-- denied bail;

-- restricted in their right to counsel;

-- tried on secret evidence;

-- convicted on bogus charges;

-- given long sentences; and

-- incarcerated for extra harsh treatment as political prisoners in supermax confinement or segregated Communication Management Units (CMUs).

In fact, they violate US Prison Bureau regulations, stipulating that "staff shall not discriminate against inmates on the basis of race, religion, national origin, sex, disability, or political belief (including) administrative decisions (involving) access to work, housing and programs."

Moreover, the Supreme Court's February 2005 Johnson V. California decision prohibited segregating prisoners by race, national origin, or language, citing 14th Amendment protections against racial discrimination.

Nonetheless, post-9/11, Muslims have been vilified for their faith, ethnicity, activism, prominence, and, in the case of the Holy Land Foundation, charity. Bogusly, however, they were called a terrorist group and shut down, its principles given long prison terms for providing legitimate financial and other assistance, not aid to global terror groups.

Imam Amin Abdul Latif understands well. Recently, without explanation, he was removed from a plane with his son, also an Iman, despite having cleared security. Angrily he responded:

"I've never experienced anything like that before, that level of humiliation and disrespect. Never in my life! As an American citizen, you expect more. The whole idea of freedom of religion - that's what we pride ourselves over. As Americans, we pride ourselves! Now, we (no longer can) take pride. You single out a group of people (for their faith). This is just horrible."

Ironically, he and his son were headed for an Islamophobia conference.

More serious are bogus indictments, charging innocent men and women with terrorism, conspiracy to commit it, and related offenses. Two Queens, NY men, both Muslims, are likely victims, Ahmed Ferhani and Mohammed Mamdou, charged with planning to bomb synagogues in Manhattan.

On May 12, New York Times writers William Rashbaum and Al Baker headlined, "Suspects in Terror Case Wanted to Kill Jews, Officials Say," both writers implying prosecutorial credibility by their inflammatory headline, saying:

According to New York police commissioner Raymond Kelly, their ambitions didn't end there, expressing an interest also "in blowing up the Empire State Building."

Earlier, innocent men and women were charged with alleged plots against various New York landmarks, including the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, Wall Street, Times Square, Kennedy Airport, and the Empire State Building.

Others were falsely accused of plots against US soldiers at Fort Dix, NJ, marines at Quantico, VA, National Guard jets with stinger missiles, Pakistan's ambassador with a surface-to-air missile, an armed forces recruiting station, and other just as preposterous targets. All charges were bogus. Some, in fact, were dropped from indictments. All were to stoke fear and enlist public support for the fake war on terror, filling prison cells with innocent Muslims to do it.

On May 13, Ferhani and Mamdou were arraigned before Judge Melissa C. Jackson in Manhattan's State Supreme Court on conspiracy, hate crimes, weapons possession, and terrorism. According to prosecutor Margaret Gandy:

"The seriousness of this crime is considerable," adding that investigators had convincing, undisclosed evidence. Both men were held without bail. Neither one entered a formal plea, but lawyers said their clients denied wrongdoing.

The previous day, at a City Hall press conference, commissioner Kelly, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. said both men wanted to kill Jews and considered blowing up churches.

Of course, authorities will say anything to incite fear and get convictions, leaving no one safe in today's environment, no matter how pristine pure.

According to Vance:

"They conspired and took concrete steps to blow up synagogues and churches to advance (their) ideological goals and to possess and use illegal firearms and explosives. They did it for jihad, something they referred simply to as the cause, which meant the violence and armed fight against Israel, Jews and other non-Muslims and the West....He was committed to violent jihad, and his plans became bigger and more violent with each passing week."

However, according to Ferhani's father, his son was falsely accused, saying:

"He's a very good kid....He has a very good heart, but if somebody tries tries to tell him something, he always believes it." As for the charges, he added: "Bomb a synagogue? That's not my son....he's not a religious fanatic."

A seven-month long New York city police sting, in fact, entrapped the men. This occurs when law enforcement officials or agents induce, influence, or provoke crimes that otherwise wouldn't be committed. However, it doesn't apply in cases of willingness to act lawlessly, government merely aiding, abetting, or facilitating a good chance to do so.

Entrapment involves the following:

-- government officials or agents initiated the idea;

-- individuals were persuaded to act; and

-- they had no previous intent or willingness to do so.

Key is that prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that subjects weren't entrapped. Otherwise, due process convictions are prohibited, though judicial fairness seldom occurs in cases involving anyone for political reasons, especially Muslims.

If convicted, Ferhani and Mamdou face potential life sentences, most likely on false charges.

FBI Charges Six South Florida Muslims

On May 14, New York Times writer Dan Van Natta headlined, "Florida Men Accused of Supporting Pakistani Taliban," saying:

"Six people, including two Imams at South Florida mosques, have been indicted on federal charges of providing financial support and encouraging violence by the Pakistani Taliban, the United States attorney here announced Saturday."

Charged were Hafiz Mumammed Sher Ali Khan, an elderly Miami Mosque Imam, known as the Flagler Mosque, Miami's oldest. Others accused included:

-- Izhar Khan, Mumammed's son, an Imam at Margate, FL's Jamaat Al-Mumineen Mosque;

-- Irfan Khan, another son;

-- Ali Rehman (aka Faisal Ali Rehman);

-- Alam Zeb; and

-- Amina Khan (Amina Bibi).

Rehman, Zeb, and Amina Khan reside in Pakistan. The others are in South Florida. Amina is Mumammed's daughter. Alam is his grandson.

Another son, Ikram, called the arrests "ridiculous," saying:

"They can do anything they want in America. They want to scare more people."

Accused of providing material support to a terrorist organization, the Taliban, Ikram explained that his father sent money to a Pakistan madrasa (a school) for charitable purposes only, adding:

"It only does good things for people, and it only does the right thing....None of my family supports the Taliban. We support this country."

According to Rafiq Mahdi, a Fort Lauderdale, FL Imam:

"I have not heard anything or know anything that would lead me to think" these charges are legitimate. "I think as Imams here in the United States, we are keenly aware of the scrutiny that we are receiving. We have a big job to combat the prejudice that has been focused on Islam and Muslims in this country. We have to be careful," as a result.

There are "many of our immigrant brothers who (may) be sending money to family members for charitable purposes and that can possibly be misconstrued."

In other words, six more Muslims were falsely accused of what they didn't do and don't support. Nonetheless, on May 14, a Department of Justice press release headlined, "Six Individuals Charged for Providing Material Support to the Pakistani Taliban," saying:

The four-count indictment charged all six "defendants (with) conspiring to provide and providing material support to a conspiracy to murder, maim, and kidnap persons overseas, as well as conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, specifically the Pakistani Taliban."

Two individuals were arrested in South Florida, another in Los Angeles. The others are at large in Pakistan. All are Pakistani natives.

According to US Attorney Wilfredo Ferrer:

"Despite being an Imam, or spiritual leader, Hafiz Khan was by no means a man of peace," though no evidence corroborates DOJ charges against any of those accused.

In later 2008, US banks noticed financial transactions to Pakistan accounts. The FBI was notified. Supposedly they wiretapped phone conversations about transferring funds to Pakistani insurgents for planned assaults against US interests there and in Afghanistan.

Since 9/11, hundreds of innocent Muslims have been bogusly accused of other terror plots, including conspiring with overseas terrorists.

After pleading innocent at a May 16 Federal District Court hearing, Hafiz Muhammed Sher Ali Khan's lawyer, Khurrum Wahid, asked community members not to prejudge his client, saying:

"The public may have preconceived notions. I would ask the public to keep an open mind, and remember that everyone is innocent until proven guilty in this country."

Moreover, Khan family relatives and friends asserted that all money sent to Pakistan was to help indigent people as well as to provide charitable support for a madrasa.

According to Fort Laudedale lawyer Victor Comras:

"The key difficulty in prosecuting (these type) cases is proving that the contribution was made 'knowingly' " for purposes other than those claimed. In previous cases, he explained, prosecutors have struggled to prove intent without clear evidence.

However, prosecutors often manipulate alleged evidence to convince juries of terrorist connections and intent. Secret evidence is also used. As a result, innocent victims are wrongfully charged and convicted.

In a post-9/11 climate of fear, it's the wrong time to be Muslim in America. As a result, federal prisons are filled with them for political advantage, not for alleged wrongdoing.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.


Progressive Radio News Hour Guests for June 2, 4 and 5, 2011

The Progressive Radio News Hour Guests for June 2, 4 and 5, 2011

Thursday, June 2 at 10AM US Central time: James Petras

Petras is Binghamton University, New York Professor Emeritus, a noted figure on the left, a distinguished Latin American expert, and longtime chronicler of the region's popular struggles.

He's also a consummate scholar and prolific writer of hundreds of articles and dozens of books, including his latest titled, "The Arab Revolt and the Imperialist Counterattack."

Saturday, June 4 at noon US Central time: Robert Abele

Abele is Professor of Humanities and Philosophy at Diablo Valley College, CA. He's also authored four books, including "Democracy gone" and "Anatomy of a Deception" about the Iraq invasion, occupation, and preparation for the next deception.

Major world and national issues will be discussed

Sunday, June 5 at noon US Central time: John McMurtry

McMurtry is an internationally recognized moral and political philosopher who is an elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and University Professor Emeritus at the University of Guelph, Ontario.

His volumes on Philosophy and World Problems for UNESCO are globally published, and his widely translated works include the influential books, "Unequal Freedoms," "The Cancer State of Capitalism," and "Value Wars." McMurtry is also an active public advocate for global justice, world peace, and international law.

Major world and national issues will be discussed.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial and Veterans Day Hypocrisy

Memorial and Veterans Day Hypocrisy - by Stephen Lendman

Annually America's warrior tradition is commemorated in major media editorials and op-eds, honoring fallen men and women for reasons not explained. More on that below.

On May 29, The New York Times headlined, "Among the Graves This Memorial Day," saying:

Besides families mourning soldiers "recently lost in Iraq or Afghanistan....(t)here is still a generation mourning friends, relatives and fellow servicemen lost in Vietnam, Korea and World War II...."

"Whatever you make of the wars in which those soldiers fought, whatever you make of war itself, their sacrifices are real and permanent," omitting what most needs explained about imperial arrogance responsibility for lost lives.

The Chicago Tribune headlined, "Hoist a glass for Red," saying:

Red Madsen and others like him "gave portions of their lives to warfare but survived. This day is theirs too," stressing shared sacrifices they all made "defend(ing) this country," leaving unexplained that America's war are imperial, unrelated to defense.

The Washington Post also reflected in an editorial headlined, "A Memorial Day remembrance." It honored Navy Seals involved in the alleged bin Laden killing stunt and (until his May 25 death) Maryland's last living Medal of Honor recipient (Baltimore's Paul J. Wiedorfer).

It was mostly reflective boilerplate until the final thought, recalling an earlier Wiedorfer comment, saying:

"Wouldn't it be wonderful if the Medal of Honor didn't exist because there were no wars and we could all live in peace?"

Rarely ever do America's media express that sentiment, never its warrior leaders, reflected in Obama's 2011 proclamation saying:

"On this Memorial Day, we honor the generations of Americans who have fought and died to defend our freedom....From Gettysburg to Kandahar, America's sons and daughters have served with honor and distinction, securing our liberties and laying a foundation for lasting peace."

Waging multiple imperial wars, readying plans for others, and numerous proxy ones, his hypocrisy requires no comment, desecrating the graves he pretends to honor.

Memorial and Veterans Days of Shame

Commemorated on the last Monday in May, Memorial Day was first observed in 1866, called Decoration Day in 1868. In 1967, federal law officially made it the time to honor America's fallen men and women. More on that below.

Veterans Day was formerly Armistice Day (Remembrance Day in Europe), commemorating WW I's end on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year in 1918 when guns on both sides went silent, or were supposed to. First observed in America in 1919, it became a legal holiday in 1938. In June, 1954, Congress changed its name to Veterans Day.

Both days, in fact, dishonor America's war dead, omitting why they fought and died in vain, sacrificing their lives for imperial conquest, plunder, and new ones in an endless cycle of gratuitous violence, militarism, brutality, and destruction for power and profit.

Comfortably at home during hostilities, America's privileged, in fact, let others do their dying for them, making the world safe for bankers, war profiteers, and other corporate favorites, sending innocent youths to conflicts based on lies, duplicitously saying it's for freedom, democracy, and humanitarian concerns.

In fact, it's for wealth and power, nothing else, conquering, colonizing, and exploiting resources and people ruthlessly, shifting from one theater to another, satisfying an insatiable desire for more, sucking life out of countries one at a time or several simultaneously, an American tradition from inception.

As a result, these holidays warrant special condemnation, representing a galling legacy of perpetual wars, false patriotism, and unattainable peace, the very notion intolerable to America's leaders for generations, notably since WW II.

These days, in fact, testify to the nation's depravity, commemorating the ultimate crime by wasting human lives, ignoring Lincoln in November 1863 at Gettsburg, saying:

"(W)e here resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."

The horror of America's Civil War still continued, finally ending on June 22, 1865, the day the last shot was fired, weeks after another killed Lincoln on April 22 that year.

Both, in fact, metaphorically reflect endless death, destruction, and human suffering wars guarantee, at times consuming presidents, but mostly deceived youths sent to battle for reasons unexplained, not the fabricated ones used to rally them.

A Final Thought

Future commemorations should chart a new course, vowing never again and meaning it. Remembrance should be an act of contrition and path to redemption, honoring the living, pledging peace, non-violence, equity and justice by leaders backing rhetoric with policy.

Perhaps one day new generations will wonder why older ones fought wars, they long ago renounced. If so, commemorating dead and living warriors may be replaced by a Peace Day, honoring sacred life so dead soldiers didn't die in vain. Pray it comes in time to matter.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.


Obama Plans Gutting Regulations for Corporate Favorites

Obama Plans Gutting Regulations for Corporate Favorites - by Stephen Lendman

Promising change after eight Republican dominated years, Obama betrayed the public trust by special favors given business at the expense of essential growing needs.

Spurning them, in fact, he shows contempt for the things he rhetorically supports, proving he's no different from the worst of the bipartisan criminal class, serving wealth and power interests only.

As a result, he backed Wall Street's financial coup d'etat, looted the nation's wealth for them, institutionalized speculation and corporate racketeering, wrecked the economy, and consigned millions to impoverishment without jobs, homes, savings, social services, or futures.

Now more is planned, first announced in a January 18, 2011 Executive Order, (EO) titled, "Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review" to benefit business, no matter the public cost.

On February 7, Obama elaborated in a Chamber of Commerce speech, promising to "remove outdated, unnecessary regulations" to free business more than ever since the roaring twenties to do whatever they damn well please, saying:

"I understand the challenges you face. I understand you are under incredible pressure to cut costs and keep your margins up. I understand the significance of your obligations to your shareholders and the pressures that are created by quarterly reports. I get it."

What he doesn't "get" or give a damn about is growing human need. Instead, he focuses solely corporate bottom line concerns no leader should prioritize over greater ones affecting millions of troubled households during the nation's gravest economic crisis in decades, one he's worsening, not alleviating.

In fact, acting more like one of them than one of us, he discussed various special favors he had in mind, including lowering corporate taxes and "breaking down some of the barriers that stand in the way of your success," eliminating "outdated and unnecessary regulations" to save billions of dollars annually, no matter the incalculable public cost.

Dismissively he said:

"I've ordered a government-wide review," and if there are rules on the books that are needlessly stifling job creation and economic growth, we will fix them....I've also ordered agencies to find ways to make regulations more flexible for small business," promising to make government as accommodative as possible, giving away the store if there's anything left from the wreckage he already caused.

Obama Unveils Corporate Friendly Deregulation Plan

On May 26, Reuters writer Alister Bull headlined, "White House takes steps to cut business red tape," saying:

Obama unveiled a plan to save corporations "billions of dollars over time, seeking to placate businesses complaining about what they see as undue regulatory burden."

In fact, billions of dollars in political contributions freed corporate giants from numerous regulations since the 1970s.

Jimmy Carter, in fact, spearheaded deregulation Nixon and Ford began by hiring Alfred Kahn to head the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB). The 1978 Airline Deregulation Act followed. It dissolved the CAB, removed industry restraints, eased consolidation, and subsequent bills deregulated trucking and railroads - the 1980 Motor Carrier Act and 1980 Staggers Rail Act, following the 1976 Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act.

Carter also phased out interest rate deposit ceilings, and gave the Fed more power through the 1980 Depository Institutions and Monetary Control Act, removing New Deal restraints and enabling subsequent administrations to go further.

Under Reagan, energy deregulation followed, notably oil and gas, then electric utilities under GHW Bush and Clinton, the result being high prices, brownouts, and Enron-like scandals.

In the 1980s, the 1982 Alternative Mortgage Transactions Parity Act led to exotic feature mortgages with adjustable rates or interest-only. They carry low "teaser" rates for several years, after which they're adjusted much higher, often making loans unaffordable, especially for low-income, high-risk borrowers using subprime and Alt-A loans.

The 1982 Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Act deregulated thrifts and fueled fraud, so much that the Savings and Loan crisis followed. As a result, hundreds of banks failed, sticking taxpayers with most of the $160 billion cost. In 1987, the Government Accountability Office (GOA) declared the S & L deposit insurance fund insolvent because of mounting bank failures.

In 1988, global regulators imposed minimum bank capital requirements, known as the Basel Accord or Basel I, enforced in G-10 countries.

In 1989, the Financial Institutions Reform and Recovery Act abolished the Federal Home Loan Bank Board and FSLIC, transferring them to the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) and FDIC. It also created the Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC) to liquidate troubled assets, assume Federal Home Loan Bank Board insurance functions, and clean up a troubled system.

Clinton era telecommunications deregulation let media and telecommunication giants consolidate, gave new digital television broadcast spectrum space to current TV station owners, and let cable companies increase their local monopoly positions.

His 1994 Reigle-Neal Interstate Banking and Branching Efficiency Act let bank holding companies operate in more than one state. In 1996, the Fed reinterpreted Glass-Steagall to let bank holding companies earn up to 25% of their revenue from investment banking. The 1998 Citicorp-Travelers merger followed, combining a commercial/investment bank with an insurance company ahead of the 1999 Financial Services Modernization Act, also called the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) authorizing it.

In 2000, the Commodity Futures Modernization Act (CFMA) passed, legitimizing swap agreements and other hybrid instruments, at the heart of today's problems by ending regulatory oversight of derivatives and leveraging that turned Wall Street more than ever into a casino.

New Deal reforms were enacted to restrain corporate fraud and abuse. Gutting them decades later to the present, business was freed to pillage at will, Washington turning a blind eye to the worst of their racketeering.

Obama, in fact, exacerbated the worst of bad practices, especially for his Wall Street favorites, literally rewarding their criminal fraud with at least $12.3 trillion dollars of taxpayer money and perhaps more yet to be disclosed, if ever.

Obama's "Simpler, Smarter Regulatory System"

Thirty federal agencies proposed eliminating or modifying hundreds of regulations to benefit business, despite compromising environmental concerns, sacrificing public safety, and disregarding general welfare issues.

While details so far are sketchy, several proposals include:

-- excusing states from requiring air pollution vapor recovery systems at gas stations;

-- ending "outdated" Endangered Species Act regulations;

-- freeing business from 1.9 million regulatory reporting hours relating to workplace safety;

-- curtailing railroad and other safety standards;

-- stressing bottom line priorities over public benefits; and

-- assuring further deregulation follows current proposals.

Office of Management and Budget (OMB) director Jacob Lew said:

"Paperwork and reporting burdens are a serious problem....This is not a one time project. This is the beginning of what will become a new way of doing business."

Responding, the Chamber of Commerce applauded "some commonsense recommendations that will save businesses some time, money, headaches, and resources," adding much more needs to be done, saying:

"What we need is a plan to make our flawed regulatory system smarter, less intrusive, and more accountable."

National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Legislative Director Scott Slesinger said:

"The purpose of the regulatory system is to protect the health and well-being of the American public. Any proposed changes should be closely evaluated to ensure they protect the public, first and foremost."

"Coming at a time when the entire system for protecting (public safety) is already under political attack by some in Congress, we will closely examine these specific change to ensure that federal agencies continue to put the public's interest above all else."

From what's so far known, public safety and welfare are being sacrificed for bottom line considerations, Obama prioritizing his efforts for them.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Encircling Russia with US Bases

Encircling Russia with US Bases - by Stephen Lendman

In 1991, after the Soviet Union dissolved, everything changed but stayed the same. As a result, today's stakes are far greater, presenting much larger threats to world peace.

In America, neocons are still dominant. Obama is more belligerent than Bush, waging four wars and various proxy ones. The Israeli Lobby, Christian Right, and other extremist elements drive them. Conflict is preferred over diplomacy.

Congressional majorities support Washington's imperial agenda, including global militarization against potential challengers and America's main rivals - China and Russia, encircling them belligerently with bases and strategic weapons. It's a policy fraught with danger.

NATO has 28 member states, including 10 former Soviet Republics and Warsaw Pact countries. Prospective new candidates include Georgia, Ukraine, and potentially others later to more tightly encircle Russia and China.

At the same time, the Middle East and parts of Eurasia have been increasingly militarized with a network of US bases from Qatar to Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond - a clear breach of GHW Bush's promise to Mikhail Gorbachev that paved the way for unifying Germany in 1990 and dissolving the Soviet Union.

Washington's promises, of course, aren't worth the paper they're written on, a hard lesson many nations later learn painfully.

Moreover, the Pentagon has an expanding network of 1,000 or more global bases, including secret and shared ones for greater control. In fact, at a time no nation threatens America, trillions of dollars are spent anyway for what military planners call "full spectrum dominance" over all land, surface and sub-surface sea, air, space, electromagnetic spectrum and information systems with enough overwhelming power to fight and win global wars against any adversary, including with nuclear weapons preemptively.

Encroaching Belligerently Near Russia's Borders

In late summer 2009, Obama suspended Bush administration plans for interceptor missiles in Poland and advanced tracking radar in the Czech Republic, both NATO members. Purportedly targeting Iran and other "rogue states," they, in fact, very much aimed at Russia, what new ones will do when installed.

At issue is assuring first strike capability, preventing or diminishing retaliation if America attacks Russia or China, a potentially catastrophic possibility under any scenario, but especially if nuclear war erupts.

For now, according to Obama, Washington will pursue "stronger, smarter, and swifter defenses of American forces and America's allies," including Poland and the Czech Republic. Tactics alone may change, not hardline imperial policies.

Last September, Defense Secretary Gates explained a four-phase missile shield plan, including deploying Aegis class warships in the Eastern Mediterranean equipped with SM-3 anti-ballistic missiles and anti-satellite interceptors, followed by upgraded land and sea versions when available.

Moreover, stationing SM-3s in Bulgaria, Romania, and Poland were announced. Last summer, in fact, Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) interceptors and about 100 US troops were sent to eastern Poland, close to Russia's Kaliningrad region, 200 miles from its border.

This same capability was installed in the Persian Gulf, including supplying regional allies with longer range Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile systems, the strategy being to have in place impenetrable interceptors from the Baltic to the Arabian, Black and Red Seas.

In addition, a warning system is planned for the Czech Republic and other countries as well as centrally controlled missile interceptors - from Southern and Eastern Europe through the Middle East to close to Russia's borders, too close perhaps for comfort.

Instead of abandoning Bush's scheme, Obama's plans a far more extensive, sophisticated, flexible, mobile system to be developed through 2020. Included is nearly doubling the number of Aegis class warships to 38 by 2015, equipped with state-of-the-art missile interceptors.

As a result, America's front line capability will shift from Eastern Germany through the Middle East to the Black Sea and other strategic waterways to the Caucasus and Russia proper, encroaching on Moscow with new Eastern European bases in Bulgaria, Romania and Poland.

It represents the most significant US presence there since WW II. Currently, only limited troop numbers are involved up to 150 or so permanently, but expect an expanded presence ahead.

Last March, in fact, Secretary of State Clinton said Washington will deploy missile interceptor elements and F-16s in Poland. Russia expressed concern, Dmitry Rogozin, its permanent NATO representative, saying US plans complicate dialogue regarding creating a joint European anti-ballistic missile system, adding:

"Mrs. Clinton's statement contradicts the foundational relationship (between the) Russian Federation and NATO signed in 1997, (stipulating) that NATO must not strengthen the military structure close to the borders of Russia."

A Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement also expressed concern, saying:

"We have known about plans regarding (an) anti-ballistic missiles system long ago and we plan to (react in response) in the network of the EuroABM project. As for the idea of (US) Air Force base deployment, it requires an additional explanation."

In late April, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin reacted as well, saying:

"The expansion of NATO infrastructure towards our borders is causing us concern. NATO is not simply a political bloc. It is a military bloc. No one cancelled the agreements on how the bloc reacts to external threats. It is a defense structure," but it's acting aggressively.

In a post-G-8 Summit press conference, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said:

"I am not satisfied with the American side's reaction to my proposals and with NATO's reaction in general. Why? Because we are wasting time. Even though I spoke about the year 2020 yesterday as a deadline, (the) year when the construction of a four-stage system of the so-called adaptive approach ends. After 2020, if we do not come to terms, a real arms race will begin."

Perhaps much sooner as he's gotten no assurances that Russia isn't being targeted. As a result, he added:

"When we ask for the name of the countries that the shield is aimed at, we get silence. When we ask if the country has missiles (able to strike Europe), the answer is no."

So "who has those type of missiles" interceptors wish to deter? "We do. So we can only think that this system is being aimed against us."

He and other Russian officials worry about it expanding to Ukraine and Georgia with missile interceptors, attack aircraft, and US troops on its borders, threatening its security.

Obama in Poland

On May 28, Obama met with Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski and Prime Minister Donald Tusk, discussing, among other issues, reaffirming a US military presence with "American boots on the ground," including a permanent aerial detachment of F-16s and C-130 transport planes.

White House national security official Liz Sherwood-Randall said:

"What we will be doing is rotating trainers and aircraft to Poland so they can become more inter-operable with NATO. It will be a small permanent presence on the ground and then a rotational presence that will be more substantial."

On May 28, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said:

"To the east of the Oder River (dividing Germany and Poland), American forces will appear, and this at a time when America is reducing its overall military presence in Europe."

In fact, redeployment with interceptor missiles, other offensive weapons, and boots on the ground close to Russia's borders, not reduction, is planned, what clearly has Moscow officials alarmed.

On May 29, however, Obama disingenuously downplayed those concerns, reaffirming mutual defense and inviting Russia to participate in European missile defense plans, saying:

"I am very proud of (America's) reset process (with Russia). We believe missile defense is something where we can cooperate with Russia....This will not be a threat to the strategic balance."

Concerned Russian officials very much disagree, Vladimir Putin's earlier sentiment likely again being discussed.

In February 2007, in response to US planned missile defense then, he said:

"NATO has put its frontline forces on our borders. (It) does not have any relation with the modernisation of the Alliance itself or with ensuring security in Europe. On the contrary, it represent a serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust. And we have a right to ask: against whom is this expansion intended? And what happened to the assurances our western partners made after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact?"

At the time, his comments drew a storm of US media Russia bashing, as well as an article by this writer titled, "Reinventing the Evil Empire," saying:

Russia is back, proud and re-assertive, not about to roll over for America, especially in Eurasia. For Washington, it's back to the future with a new Cold War, but this time for greater stakes and much larger threats to world peace.

It's especially true during economic hard times, especially with austerity policies addressing them when social stimulus is needed, provoking spreading discontent for change.

As a result, Western powers may invent threats to distract people, waging greater war for imperial dominance, Russia and China perhaps directly threatened this time.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.


Vermont Enacts Conditional Universal Healthcare Coverage

Vermont Enacts Conditional Universal Healthcare Coverage - by Stephen Lendman

Numerous previous articles discussed Obamacare, described accurately as a rationing scheme to enrich insurers, drug companies and large hospital chains in lieu of universal single payer coverage.

Obama hailed its March 2010 passage as answering "the call of history." In fact, Ralph Nader was right calling it a "pay-or-die system that is the disgrace of the Western world," costing double what other Western countries spend and delivering less, rationing care to enrich corporate providers while making a dysfunctional system worse.

Under it, junk insurance policies leave millions underinsured. Costs remain out-of-control. Insurers can still deny care by delaying, contesting, preventing or over-charging people from accessing it. Yet everyone must be covered or penalized if opt out, a provision many states are contesting as a lawless unconstitutional infringement.

Moreover, company-provided policies will be taxed as ordinary income, harming working households most of all.

After passage, Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) denounced it, saying the new law "enrich(es) and further entrench(es private insurers, forcing) millions of Americans to buy" defective coverage leaving most worse off than before at a cost of hundreds of billions of tax dollars given predators to game the system for profit, the public losing out. Moreover, 23 million Americans will remain uninsured, "translate(d) into an estimated 23,000 unnecessary deaths annually and an incalculable toll of suffering."

In fact, Obama's centerpiece domestic policy scammed the public with a package of expensive mandates, new taxes, and sweetheart deals, creating a fragmented, dysfunctional, unsustainable system, denying Americans what they urgently need - universal coverage, an expanded, improved Medicare for all. Everyone in, no one out, what neither party or Obama delivered.

Vermont Perhaps Heading for Affordable Universal Coverage

After Vermont lawmakers passed the Universal and Unified Health System Act (H. 202), Governor Peter Shumlim, on May 26, signed America's first universal system, a measure heading state residents for full coverage with lots of hurdles to overcome to make it fair, equitable and affordable.

Nonetheless, Shumlin relished the moment, saying we're:

"here today to launch the first single payer system in America, to do in Vermont what has taken too long - to have health care that is the best in the world that treats (it) as a right and not a privilege, where health care follows the individual not the employer."

"This law recognizes an economic and fiscal imperative. We must control the growth in health care costs that are putting families at economic risk and making it harder for small employers to do business."

On May 26, Physicians for a National Health Program's (PNHP) National Coordinator, Dr. Quentin D. Young said:

"We salute the single-payer activists in Vermont and applaud their efforts. Although this is not a (true) single-payer bill, we will continue to support the struggle to achieve health care justice in Vermont and across the nation."

A PNHP press release said H. 202 "is much more modest in its actual reach than a (true) single-payer plan," providing universal affordable coverage as a human right, no strings attached.

"As of now, the federal Affordable Care Act prohibits states like Vermont from adopting their own models of reform until 2017." Shumlin and other Vermonters want it earlier in 2014. Other states, including California, are considering variations of single-payer.

Vermont's bill, in fact, falls short of universal, high-quality, affordable coverage by permitting multiple private insurers, able to game the system through "multi-tiered care, rising costs and needless waste."

Moreover, enormous administrative costs remain instead of eliminating them altogether under a single-payer system, removing the middleman so state officials can negotiate reduced prices for drugs and other health services.

Among other limitations, Vermont's bill establishes a state healthcare exchange called Green Mountain Care, managed by a five-member board. It interfaces with providers on reimbursement rates under a system leaving them largely in control, a serious flaw needing correcting. Otherwise they'll game the system to their advantage.

According to PNHP co-founder Dr. David Himmelstein:

Vermont's law "leave(s) the door open for burdensome co-pays, deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses that deter people from seeking timely care. (Moreover), to the extent the law permits, large for-profit institutional providers (may) allocate their profits as they see fit, (denying) the system (of) the ability to do effective health planning."

As a result, much more work needs to be done to make universal coverage a reality.

On Democracy Now, Dr. Deb Richter, president of Vermont Health Care for All and past PNHP president, explained the bill's shortcomings and need to change federal law. The goal, she stressed, is true universal coverage. Everyone in, no one out in a system excluding private insurers except for those choosing that option.

In fact, Vermont for Single Payer: Everybody In, Nobody Out's Statement of Principles is as follows:

"We support a universal health care system for the State of Vermont, one that includes all Vermonters, offers free choice of providers, is progressively financed, decoupled from employment, affordable for all, and pays for all necessary care out of public funds; a system which retains the private delivery of health care and has a publicly accountable budget process to ensure adequate capacity to meet the health care needs of all Vermonters."

Access VSP's site through the following link:


On May 26, Vermont took an important first step toward universal coverage. It's for Vermonters and other state residents to follow through for true affordable universality, establishing affordable health care as an inalienable human right no corporate predators or politicians can deny.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.


Saturday, May 28, 2011

More Myth than Massacre at Srebrenica

More Myth than Massacre at Srebrenica - by Stephen Lendman

Headlines explaining former Serbian General Ratko Mladic's May 27 arrest allege his 1995 responsibility for massacring 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica. True or false is at issue. More on that below.

Meanwhile, inflammatory accounts already convicted him by accusation, including New York Times writers Dan Bilefsky and Doreen Carvajal headlining, "Serbia Says Jailed Mladic Will Face War Crimes Trial," saying:

Arresting him "signal(ed) Serbia's intention of finally escaping the isolation it brought on itself during the Balkan wars," ones Western media, including The Times, consistently misreported on throughout the 1990s, culminating in NATO's 1999 war of aggression, falsely called humanitarian intervention.

Inflating Srebrenica deaths to "10,000....including 3,500 children," Bilefsky and Carvajal called the alleged massacre "the worst ethnically motivated mass murder on the European continent since World War II," Mladic to stand trial for "war crimes...."

Other accounts were similar, including Reuters headlining, "Instant view: West hails news of Mladic arrest in Serbia," quoting "sources" like UK Defense Secretary Liam Fox saying:

"It's clearly (an arrest) to be welcomed....It's a reminder to all those who fly in the face of international justice that sooner or later they will be brought to book for their crimes."

He's right, hopefully. Sooner or later real war criminals like American, Israeli and UK ones may have to answer for numerous crimes of war and against humanity, slaughtering millions for power and profit.

For example: Years of Western-backed Balkan wars culminated with NATO's 1999 Serbia/Kosovo terror bombing, an atrocity playwright/Nobel laureate Harold Pinter described as follows:

"Little did we think two years ago that we had elected a government which would take a leading role in what is essentially a criminal act, showing total contempt for the United Nations and international law." Saying it made him ashamed to be British, he called cutting children to pieces from 15,000 feet "barbaric" and despicably hypocritical.

"Let us face the truth," he added. "Neither Clinton nor Blair (gave) a damn about the Kosovar Albanians. This action has been yet another blatant and brutal assertion of US power using NATO as its missile. It set out to consolidate one thing - American domination of Europe. This must be recognised and it must be resisted."

This barbarism mustn't be allowed to stand. Yet victims are held accountable for the perpetrators, the way victors' justice always works - including writing the mythology about what allegedly happened in July 1995 at Srebrenica.

A Potocari, Bosnia Genocide Memorial Stone (SrebrenicaStone.jpg) lists "8372...." deaths. Saying it, however, doesn't make it so.

Separating Truths from Mythology

Diana Johnstone wrote the definitive Balkan wars history. Her book, "Fools' Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO and Western Delusions," is essential reading to understand its causes and long-lasting effects.

For the West, it was about deterring Milosevic's "Greater Serbia" quest, a gross mischaracterization about a war Western powers wanted and initiated, notably America and Germany. They encouraged cessation, provoked conflict, then took credit for ending it, committing real massacres in the process.

Milosevic, in fact, wanted Yugoslavia's disintegration prevented. When it happened, he wanted minority Serbs protected, allowed either to stay in Yugoslavia or get autonomy in newly created rump states. Washington, however, had other aims. Johnstone believes they included:

-- occupation, colonization and exploitation;

-- preventing a European-backed settlement;

-- "assert(ing) dominance over European allies in the arbitration of European conflicts;"

-- expanding NATO through an "out of area" humanitarian mission, aka US-led war, domination, colonization and military occupation; and

-- "gain(ing) influence in the Muslim world by (allegedly) championing the Bosnian Muslims."

She also called "government by international bureaucracy (a) new trend in the New World Order."

As a result, "Bosnia-Herzegovina has been ruled by a similar combination: a complicated set of local authorities under the strict supervision of a 'High Representative' (a contemporary Proconsul or Viceroy) who can, and does, annul laws adopted by the local democratic institutions or dismiss democratically chosen officials" not in tow with official Washington.

In other words, dictatorship called democracy, the kind Washington disdains and won't tolerate abroad or at home. Never, in fact, in one of its colonies, the latest at the time pounded mercilessly from March 24 - June 10, 1999.

Around 600 aircraft flew about 3,000 sorties, dropping thousands of tons of ordnance as well as hundreds of ground-launched cruise missiles. Up to then, its ferocity was unprecedented.

Nearly everything was struck, causing massive destruction and disruption, including:

-- known or suspected military sites;

-- power plants;

-- factories;

-- transportation;

-- telecommunications facilities;

-- vital infrastructure, including roads, bridges and rail lines;

-- fuel depots;

-- schools;

-- a TV station;

-- China's Belgrade embassy;

-- hospitals;

-- government offices;

-- churches;

-- historic landmarks; and

-- other targets in cities and villages throughout the country.

Using NATO as a missile, it was lawless Pentagon aggression called humanitarian intervention whenever America goes to war, including Iraq 1991, again in 2003, Afghanistan in 2001, and currently Libya, slaughtering civilians, not protecting them.

In Serbia/Kosovo, an estimated $100 billion in damage was inflicted. A humanitarian disaster resulted. Environmental contamination was extensive. Large numbers were killed, injured or displaced. Two million people lost their livelihoods, many their homes and communities, and for most their futures under Western domination.

Serbia/Kosovo, in fact, was a prototype for new millennium aggression to eliminate challenges to US dominance, waging permanent wars to perpetuate it.

Srebrenica - Separating Myth from Known Facts

On October 12, 2005, Johnstone discussed it in her CounterPunch article titled, "Srebrenica Revisited," remembering its summer 10th anniversary when the "dominant themes were 'nostra culpa:' 'we' let it happen, 'we' didn't want to know about it, and 'we' mustn't let it happen again."

Who are "we," she asked, and how accurate is the official story, questions to this day "virtually taboo" to preserve the official myth, including exaggerating Serb atrocities "whereas Muslim atrocities (such as the decapitations of Serb prisoners, fully documented) remained confidential.

Official accounts portrayed "a one-sided conflict between a Serbian 'fascist aggressor' and innocent victims, all unarmed civilians."

Unexplained was that Srebrenica was a Muslim military base, besides a refugee "safe area." Slobodan Milosevic, in fact, wanted Serb forces restrained from overrunning it. In addition:

-- before the July 1995 attack, Srebrebica-based Muslim forces "carried out murderous attacks on nearby Serb villages;"

-- Muslim Sarajevo officials withdrew their Srebrenica commanders, "leaving thousands of....soldiers (leaderless), without orders, and in total confusion when the foreseeable Serb attack occurred;"

-- when "Bosnian Serb forces captured (Srebrenica) on July 11, 1995," civilians wanted to leave because normality there didn't exist;

-- separating women and children from men was, in fact, done to find "the perpetrators of raids on Serb villages (to) take revenge;" and

-- yet only a small number "were detained at that point;" some, in fact, survived.

The alleged Srebrenica victim count reflected lies and half-truths based on what's known but omitted in official and major media accounts. The 8,000 number included the Red Cross estimate of 3,000 "witnesses," allegedly detained by Bosnian Serbs, as well as another 5,000 Red Cross accounts said "fled Srebrenica, some of whom reached Central Bosnia."

In other words, they fled. They weren't killed. Yet, they were added to the mythical death toll to inflate it. Years later, in fact, forensic teams discovered 2,361 bodies in the area where heavy fighting occurred, including combatants on both sides, not massacred civilians.

Johnstone explained that "(n)either the Bosnian Serbs nor the Muslims were ever forthcoming with whatever information they had, (yet) the '8,000' figure (became) an established total of 'Muslim men and boys executed by Serb forces.' "

Afterward, Washington exploited Srebrenica to:

-- conceal "the US-backed Croatian offensive," forcefully removing Serbs from Krajina, an operation approved and supported by Washington, perhaps killing larger numbers than the alleged Srebrenica numbers, including women and children ruthlessly; and

-- "implicate Bosnian Serb leaders in 'genocide' (to) disqualify them from negotiating the future of Bosnia-Herzegovina."

Exploiting the alleged Srebrenica massacre facilitated waging 1999 imperial war by blaming UN inability to protect it, so NATO's humanitarian war had to intervene. In addition, Milosevic was falsely criminalized for alleged genocidal killings "against non-Serbs for purely racist reasons."

Claiming Serbian caused genocide was, in fact, used "as an effective instrument (to) restructur(e) Yugoslavia," balkanizing it under US control. Official and media propaganda repeated fabrications, exaggerations, and half-truths about what happened, portraying victims as perpetrators to this day.

Heading for a Hague tribunal lynching, Ratko Mladic is already guilty by accusation before he arrives. Washington, of course, insists on it to perpetuate the official lie, a massacre invented out of whole cloth.

Yet most people still believe it, the same ones perhaps thinking Washington's led NATO war on Gaddafi is another humanitarian intervention, when, in fact, it's more imperial aggression, slaughtering civilians daily, not protecting them!

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.


Wisconsin Judge Strikes Down Anti-Union Law

Wisconsin Judge Strikes Down Anti-Union Law - by Stephen Lendman

Since taking office on January 3, Republican Governor Scott Walker waged war on public workers and their unions, aiming to restrict collective bargaining rights to wage negotiations before ending them altogether.

He also demanded draconian health insurance and pension contribution increases, doubling them for state employees during hard times when they're already strapped to make ends meet. Doing so called for pay cuts ranging from 8 - 20% ahead of more planned reductions coming.

On March 9, a protracted Senate battle ended when hard-line Republicans violated Wisconsin's open meetings law, requiring 24 hours notice prior for special sessions unless giving it is impossible or impractical.

At issue was passing an old-fashioned union-busting law with no Democrats present, brazen politicians and corrupted union bosses selling out rank and file members for self-enrichement and privilege, complicit with corporate CEOs.

The epic battle ended along party lines after State Assembly members past Walker's bill 53 - 42, following the Senate voting 18 - 1 with no debate. The measure reads:

"This bill authorizes a state agency to discharge any state employee who fails to report to work as scheduled for any three unexcused working days during a state emergency or who participates in a strike, work stoppage, sit-down, stay-in, slowdown, or other concerted activities to interrupt the operations or services of state government, including specifically purported mass resignations or sick calls. Under the bill, engaging in any of these actions constitutes just cause for discharge."

In addition, the governor may unilaterally declare "state of emergency" authority to fire striking workers, and under the section titled, "Discharge of State Employees:"

"The Governor may issue an executive order declaring a state of emergency for the state or any portion of the state if he or she determines that an emergency resulting from a disaster or imminent threat of a disaster exists."

In other words, he can dictatorially do what he wishes, especially regarding public worker rights and job security. They're gone unless resurrected by a sustained, mobilized, united, and committed mass action statewide shutdown for rights too important to lose.

Other provisions stipulated worker responsibility for half their pension contributions, and minimally 12.6% of healthcare premiums. In addition, future pay raises are pegged to annual CPI increases, a rigged index not reflecting true inflation. Greater ones may only be approved by statewide referendum, a cumbersome process taking time.

Further, unions must hold annual votes to let workers decide whether or not to be members, and state authorities no longer will collect union dues from paychecks.

Dane County Judge Strikes Down Anti-Union Law

On May 27, Circuit Court Judge Maryann Sumi rescinded Walker's bill in a 33-page decision, ruling Republican lawmakers violated Wisconsin's open meetings law.

On March 18, she placed it on temporary hold, but Thursday's ruling voided it, pending an appeal to Wisconsin's Supreme Court that may reverse her.

Nonetheless, Dane County Democrat District Attorney, Ismael Ozanne, said, "It's what we were looking for," acknowledging the war isn't won, pending the higher court ruling. "The supremes are the supremes," he said. "They can do what they want."

Ozanne sued to block Walker's bill after Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D. Kenosha) filed a complaint about not being given lawful notice.

Expecting bill supporters to denounce her, Sumi cited "clear and convincing evidence" that Wisconsin's open meetings law was violated, one lawmakers are bound to uphold. She also said it carried constitutional force because its provisions say the Legislature's doors must remain open when in session.

In fact, while Republicans met in conference committee, only one entrance was open, police blocking people trying to enter. As a result, Sumi wrote:

"The Legislature and its committees are bound to comply with the open meetings law by their own choice. Having made that choice, they cannot now shield themselves from the provisions that give the law force and effect."

Afterward, Walker said Wisconsin's Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on June 6, then decide whether to take the case, adding:

"Either it will be resolved like that - through the Supreme Court - or we'll look at alternatives with the Legislature," suggesting union-busting will pass, whatever it takes to do it. In fact, Republicans must by June 30 to be part of the 2011 - 2013 state budget deadline.

Marquette University Law Professor Rick Esenberg said Sumi's decision didn't surprise him, adding:

"She had clearly indicated that was her view. (But) you had the sense that she had established that she wasn't going to rule this early, (yet) apparently decided she needed to do it."

Other issues are also in play, including recall petition drives, potentially targeting nine senators, six Republicans and three Democrats.

On July 12, recall elections will be held. In addition, two lawsuits were filed, other court challenges expected later. Moreover, if Republicans defeat open meeting violation charges, the legislation itself may be challenged, given its assault on longstanding rights, summarily annulled tyrannically.

As of now, however, a protracted battle perhaps looms, facing long odds of winning unless enough people power decides losing is not an option and will go to the wall to prevent it. Stay tuned. As Wisconsin goes, perhaps the nation.

On Wisconsin!!

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.


Friday, May 27, 2011

Washington's War on Chavez

Washington's War on Chavez - by Stephen Lendman

Since George Bush took office in January 2001, efforts to oust Chavez failed three times:

-- in April 2002 for two days, aborted by mass street protests and support from Venezuela's military, notably its middle-ranked officer corps;

-- the 2002 - 2003 general strike and oil management lockout, causing severe economic disruptions; and

-- the failed August 2004 national recall referendum, Chavez prevailing with a 59% majority.

Nonetheless, disruptive activities continue, including malicious propaganda, CIA subversion, funding opposition forces, sanctions, and militarizing the region, notably in Colombia as well as gunboat diplomacy by reactivating the Latin American/Caribbean Fourth Fleet for the first time since 1950 despite no regional threat.

Ignoring America's appalling human rights record, on April 11, the State Department issued its 2010 Human Rights Report: Venezuela, claiming Chavez government responsibility for largely uncorroborated, exaggerated or falsified abuses, including:

"unlawful killings, including summary executions of criminal suspects; widespread criminal kidnappings for ransom; prison violence and harsh prison conditions; inadequate juvenile detention centers; arbitrary arrests and detentions; corruption and impunity in police forces; corruption, inefficiency, and politicization in a judicial system characterized by trial delays and violations of due process; political prisoners and selective prosecution for political purposes; infringement of citizens' privacy rights; restrictions on freedom of expression; government threats to sanction or close television stations and newspapers; corruption at all levels of government; threats against domestic NGOs; violence against women; trafficking in persons; and restrictions on workers' right of association."

Then on May 24, the State Department imposed sanctions for the first time against Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), the state owned oil company for "deliver(ing) at least two cargos of reformate (a hydrocarbon product for gasoline) to Iran between December 2010 and March 2011, worth approximately $50 million."

They "prohibit the company from competing for US government procurement contracts, from securing financing from the Export-Import Bank of the United States, and from obtaining US export licenses."

They don't apply to PDVSA subsidiaries (including US-based CITGO) or prohibit crude oil exports to America. In 2010, according to US Energy Information Administration data, Venezuela was America's fifth largest supplier after Canada, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and Nigeria. In fact, Venezuela has the world's largest oil reserves, including its heavy and extra-heavy oil.

Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg called sanctioning PDVSA a "clear message" to companies violating America's 1996 Iran and Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA), renamed the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) in 2006, now the 2010 Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act (CISADA), warning they'll "face serious consequences."

The action came a day after Obama signed an Executive Order, authorizing new sanctions on Iran, as well as giving the State and Treasury Departments more latitude in targeting companies dealing with its energy sector.

Hard-line Rep. Connie Mack (R. FL), Western Hemisphere Subcommittee Chairman, said Washington "needs to move quickly to cut off Chavez's source of revenue, and bring to an end both his influence in Latin America and his dangerous relationship with the terrorist-supporting Iranian regime before it's too late."

Along with extremist Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R. FL) and Jeb Bush (former FL governor and Bush family member), Mack got President GHW Bush (in 1990) to pardon Orlando Bosch's criminal downing of Cubana flight 455 with Luis Posada Carriles, killing all 78 passengers on board.

As part of their hard-line agenda, Ros-Lehtinen and Mack now wage war on Chavez, failing in 2008 to designate Venezuela "a state sponsor of terrorism" through HR 1049.

In October 2009, Mack again tried unsuccessfully through HR 872, "Calling for the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to be designed a state sponsor of terrorism for its support of Iran, Hezbollah, and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC)."

Mack also called Ecuador's Raphael Correa "a pawn for his fellow friend and thugocrat, Hugo Chavez."

Allied with bipartisan extremists in Congress, today's Republican controlled House is infested with others like him.

So is the Obama administration, including former National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair, naming Chavez in his Annual 2010 Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, calling him a "leading anti-US regional force" by:

-- "impos(ing) an authoritarian populist political model that undermines democratic institutions (a convoluted oxymoron);" and

-- allying with "radical leaders in Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and until recently, Honduras," adding that he opposes "nearly every US policy initiative in the region." For sure, all imperial ones.

Responses to Venezuelan Sanctions

Venezuela rejected them, saying:

"The Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela....expresses its strongest rejection to this decision (it calls a) hostile action on the fringes of international law that violates (UN Charter) principles..."

Calling Washington's action "imperialist aggression," it "calls on all the Venezuela people, laborers and especially the oil workers, to stay alert and mobilized in defense of our PDVSA and the sacred sovereignty of the homeland."

An official statement said a "general assessment of the situation (will) determine how these sanctions affect the operational capacity of our oil industry, and therefore, the supply of 1.2 million barrels of oil per day to the US."

Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said:

"We are not afraid of these sanctions, nor are we going to debate the reasons that the North American government may have, but Venezuela is sovereign in making its decisions."

Energy and Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez added:

"The imperialist powers are hoping to dictate the rules to us. They will have to go without, because we are going to keep advancing towards creating unity between oil-producing countries."

Responding, Chavez twitted:

"Sanctions against the homeland of Bolivar? Imposed by the US imperialist government. Bring it on, Mr. Obama. Do not forget that we are the children of Bolivar," telling over 1.5 million followers that "the true impact of this latest US aggression is the strengthening of our nationalistic and patriotic morale in Venezuela!"

In other tweets he added:

"We don't just have the largest oil reserves in the world. We also have the most revolutionary oil company in the world."

"So, they wanted to see and feel the flame of the people of Bolivar defending the independence of the Venezuelan homeland? Well, there you have it!"

Majority members in Venezuela's National Assembly also rejected US sanctions, warning Washington to halt hostile actions or face possible oil shipment recriminations.

On May 25, PDVSA workers rallied across Venezuela against US sanctions, supporting their government, president and company. Women's groups, peasant organizations, communal councils, and alternative media also organized a Caracas march.

The Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of the Americas (ALBA) also condemned US sanctions, its member countries "express(ing) our indignation and reject(ion) in the strongest terms....in the framework of its unilateral policy of sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran."

"Faced with this hostile measure, (ALBA members) express our absolute backing to (Venezuela), which, guided by a solid conviction of solidarity, has promoted mechanisms of energy cooperation aimed at strengthening the unity between our peoples."

ALBA nations include Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, as well as Venezuela. Before Washington's June 2009 coup ousted President Manuel Zelaya, Honduras was also an ALBA member.

Friends of Venezuela issued a "Declaration of Rejection to US Sanctions," responding to Washington's unilateral action, asking US individuals and organizations to oppose it.

Denouncing "a grave and dangerous move by Washington to justify further aggression against the Venezuelan people," they "unequivocally reject this latest attempt....to demonize (Venezuela) and undermine the vibrant democracy of the Venezuelan people."

Using its oil wealth responsibly, over 60% of it goes for healthcare, education, job training, subsidized food and housing, community media, reducing poverty, and supporting thousands of communal councils engaged in grassroots participatory democracy.

"We find it outrageous that (Washington) demonize(s) the one (country that's put) people before profits. And we call on our representatives....to suspend these sanctions....immediately."

They'll remain, and so will determined millions against them, weakening Washington's corrosive influence everywhere.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.