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Dumb Choices: Why Hillary should not be president

Posted by Charles II on October 2, 2014

I had five minutes to read Hillary Clinton’s book, Hard Choices, so I skimmed 10 pages on Latin America. Although I knew where she stood on Honduras, reading her explanation about that and the ongoing Cuban embargo made me realize how much contempt she has for Latin America.

I’m not a fan of Fidel Castro. Read Havana Nocturne (T.J. English) and see if it doesn’t raise questions in your mind about his character. I do recognize that he has done some good things, both in ending extreme poverty in Cuba and in terms of opposing apartheid and elevating world health. But I recognize that he’s done it through undemocratic means. That’s Realpolitik: understanding why leaders can be bad people yet popular, or at least more popular than the alternative.

But the embargo against Cuba–which was just extended for a year–is not just a “relic of the Cold War.” It is a flagrantly and increasingly illegal act, condemned by the entire world. Not even the U.K., not even Japan, not even Poland stands with us (Israel does). But Hillary Clinton goes along with the US line that we have to continue to isolate ourselves in order to force the Cuban government to democratize.

Even though it hasn’t worked for 52 years.

Even though the only people really hurt by it are the Cuban people.

And, according to Hillary, any Latin American country that sees the embargo not as a quaint “relic”, one that we can keep around out of fondness for the death and misery it causes, but as U.S. bullying (not to mention arrogance and stupidity) must be a commie creep like that Chaaavez fellow.

That is not leadership, Madame Secretary. That is contempt for Latin America and for the intelligence of your readers.

And then there’s Honduras. And Nicaragua. And Venezuela. And Brazil (!) All of whom are/were run by “strongmen.” Manuel Zelaya of Honduras is even the “caricature of a strongman.”

No, Madame Secretary. You’re a caricature of American arrogance and blindness. And your justification for your actions during the Honduran coup is transparently dishonest. You tell us that Oscar Arias (correctly) told you that a military coup against a democratically-elected leader could have a “domino effect” throughout a region that had been plagued by coups and dictatorship. You were most entertained by this “novel interpretation” (if I recall your phrase correctly) of the domino theory.

FFFFFFF. If this is the sort of contempt for Latin America that you display in public, what you must feel in your heart!

No more fake Democrats, please.

Posted in Brazil, Chavez, Cuba, Honduras, impunity, Latin America, Venezuela | 6 Comments »

Snowden in Oz; Brazilian fallout continues; FISA court operates lawlessly; Susan Webber Wright resurfaces

Posted by Charles II on July 9, 2013


Ex-NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden has disclosed his first set of documents outlining Australia’s role in NSA surveillance programs, picking out four facilities in the country that contribute heavily to US spying.

The locations of dozens of the US’s and associated countries signal collection sites have been revealed by Snowden, who leaked classified National Security Agency maps to US journalist Glenn Greenwald, which were then published in the Brazilian newspaper “O Globo.”

The sites all play a role in the collection of data and interception of internet traffic and telecommunications on a global level.

Australian centers involved in the NSA’s data collection program, codenamed X-Keyscore, include Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap in central Australia and three Australian Signals Directorate facilities: the Shoal Bay Receiving Station in the country’s north, the Australian Defence Satellite Communications Facility on the west coast, and the naval communications station HMAS Harman outside the capital, Canberra.

New Zealand also plays a role, with the Government Security Communications Bureau facility at Waihopai, on the northern point of South Island, also contributing to the program.

X-Keyscore is described as a “national Intelligence collection mission system” by US intelligence expert William Arkin, according to Australian newspaper ‘Age.’ It processes all signals prior to being delivered to various “production lines” that deal with more specific issues including the exploration of different types of data for close scrutiny.

The different subdivisions are entitled Nucleon (voice), Pinwale (video), Mainway (call records) and Marina (internet records).

Speaking of O Globo, several articles have appeared.
Brazil should offer Snowden asylum, Brazilian senators argue:

Senator Requião (PMDB-PR) called the whistleblower a “Hero” and lamented that other countries on the continent have offered asylum to Snowden, while Brazil, which was the target of espionage, did not. Senator Eduardo Suplicy (PT-SP) supported the complaint of his colleague.

Glenn Greenwald, Roberto Kaz and Roberto José Casado:

One aspect that stands out in the documents is that, according to them, the United States does not seem to be interested only in military affairs but also in trade secrets – “oil” in Venezuela and “energy” in Mexico, according to a listing produced NSA in the first half of this year (see above).

Colombia was the second priority target in Latin America over the past five years – after Brazil and Mexico – in spying activity of the National Security Agency. Agency documents,

Over the weekend, Eric Lichtblau of the NYT reported on the FISA court and how it produces unreviewable decisions based on the presentation by one side, the government:

Created by Congress in 1978 as a check against wiretapping abuses by the government, the court meets in a secure, nondescript room in the federal courthouse in Washington. All of the current 11 judges, who serve seven-year terms, were appointed to the special court by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., and 10 of them were nominated to the bench by Republican presidents.

Ezra Klein of the Washington Post did a brilliant segment on the FISA court on Maddow. He named (8:05m) the judges: Reggie Walton, Rosemary Collyer, Claire Eagan, Martin Feldman, Thomas Hogan, Mary McLaughlin, Michael Mosman, Dennis Saylor, Susan Wright, and James Zagel. Susan Webber Wright is the judge involved in the torment of Susan McDougal in Whitewater, as well as the Paula Jones trial.

What are the odds that one of the linchpins of the assault on democracy that culminated in the impeachment of Bill Clinton would end up on the FISA court, free to issue opinions unreviewable by the Congress or the Supreme Court, decisions that bear on the basic liberties of Americans and which the FISA court has issued–without listening to any opposing party–like a rubber stamp?

Posted in Brazil, NSA eavesdropping, wiretapping | 4 Comments »

A medley of meddling: US undermines democracy throughout Latin America

Posted by Charles II on May 1, 2013

The first link is actually from 2010, but it’s an important one that I had missed.

Mark Weisbrot:

The United States actually intervened in Brazilian politics as recently as 2005, organizing a conference to promote a legal change that would make it more difficult for legislators to switch parties. This would have strengthened the opposition to Lula’s Workers’ Party (PT) government, since the PT has party discipline but many opposition politicians do not. This intervention by the U.S. government was only discovered last year through a Freedom of Information Act request filed in Washington.

Weisbrot, April 20th:

Recent events indicate that the Obama administration has stepped up its strategy of “regime change” against the left-of-center governments in Latin America, promoting conflict in ways not seen since the military coup that Washington supported in Venezuela in 2002. The most high-profile example is in Venezuela itself, during the past week. As this goes to press, Washington has grown increasingly isolated in its efforts to destabilize the newly elected government of Nicolas Maduro.

But Venezuela is not the only country to fall prey to Washington’s efforts to reverse the electoral results of the past 15 years in Latin America. It is now clear that last year’s ouster of President Fernando Lugo of Paraguay was also aided and abetted by the United States government. In a brilliant investigative work for Agência Pública, journalist Natalia Viana shows that the Obama administration funded the principal actors involved in the “parliamentary coup” against Lugo. Washington then helped organize international support for coup.

Daniel Kovalik, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

I just returned from Venezuela where I was one of 170 international election observers from around the world, including India, Brazil, Great Britain, Argentina, South Korea and France. Among the observers were two former presidents (of Guatemala and the Dominican Republic), judges, lawyers and high-ranking officials of national electoral councils.

What we found was a transparent, reliable, well-run and thoroughly audited electoral system.

Dawn Paley, Upside Down World:

There’s a new President in Latin America….

Horacio Cartes is his name,

Cartes’ link to drug traffickers was reported in the New York Times, and his implication in money laundering has been amply documented. “Through the utilization of a [Drug Enforcement Administration] [Buenos Aires Country Office] cooperating source and other DEA undercover personnel, agents have infiltrated CARTES’ money laundering enterprise, an organization believed to launder large quantities of United States currency generated through illegal means, including through the sale of narcotics, from the [Tri-Border Area of Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil] to the United States,” according to a State Department cable leaked by Wikileaks. As if that wasn’t enough, a recent report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists revealed that a bank owned by Cartes opened a secret locale in the offshore tax-haven of the Cook Islands.

Posted in Brazil, Latin America, State Department, Venezuela | Comments Off on A medley of meddling: US undermines democracy throughout Latin America

A novel (and somewhat bizarre) view of Brazilian politics #Cablegate 06SAOPAULO360

Posted by Charles II on January 29, 2011

This is an except from a Wikileaked cable. There’s a lot of interesting stuff in there, particularly because we find our (in Washington parlance) good friend Darrell Issa in Brazil in April 2004, engaged in making foreign policy. Go figure. Anyway, there’s this, which I find particularly interesting:

. ¶5. (SBU) [Lebanese Consul General in Sao Paulo Joseph] Sayah and [long-time investment and government relations advisor to the Hariri Family Group Souheil] Yarmout gave a somewhat surprising account of the current influence on the GoB of various elements of the Arab community in Brazil. When asked why the GoB had taken some confusing stands counter to the United States regarding Middle East policy, both men described the MFA (Itamaraty) as being greatly influenced by Syrians in Brazil. They said that for generations, Syrian-Brazilians have become diplomats, while Lebanese immigrants have focused on business. In the past these trends were not noticed because there was no divergence in opinion or interests among the various elements of the greater Arab community in Brazil.

¶6. (SBU) However, with the Syrian pullout from Lebanon and a growing hostility between the two countries fueled by the assassination of Lebanese former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the GoB finds itself behaving almost schizophrenically, both Sayah and Yarmout asserted. The descendents [sic] of Syrians purportedly entrenched in the Brazilian Foreign Ministry have taken public stands in support of Syria, allegedly at times even without the knowledge or authorization of others in the Lula administration. Further, the Arab-Brazil Chamber of Commerce has become extremely influential, and the organization tends to oppose U.S.-led initiatives in the Middle East.

¶3. (U) Brazil’s Lebanese community is the largest expatriate group of Lebanese worldwide. CG Sayah confirmed for Representative Issa that after four generations since large-scale immigration began, Sao Paulo alone is home to some eight million persons of Lebanese descent.

If any of this is true, it’s interesting that the US embassy is discovering it for the first time. My guess is that Sayah and Yarmout are manipulating Issa, who is of Lebanese descent, to get US government support against Hezbollah in favor of Hariri-family interests. But that’s quite a statistic: eight million ethnic Lebanese in Sao Paolo alone?

Posted in Brazil, Conflict in the Middle East, Latin America | Comments Off on A novel (and somewhat bizarre) view of Brazilian politics #Cablegate 06SAOPAULO360

US cables on Brazil and Honduras #cablegate

Posted by Charles II on December 18, 2010

The latest Wikileaks releases show Brazil in fall 2009 begging the US for help with a situation in which they are being subjected to terrorism from the Honduran dictatorship. The US does not appear to provide any assistance beyond lip service. The State Department is advised that elections cannot be free or fair, so they proceed with them anyway.

In early September, Brazil complains that sanctions and pressure on the Honduran dictatorship are inadequate.

On the 23rd of September, the situation is serious:

Viana explained that water, electricity, and phone lines to the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa had been cut and the Embassy was running solely on a diesel generator that was running out of fuel. As of 05:00 this morning the Honduran police and military cleared the streets surrounding the Brazilian Embassy of protestors. Seventy pro-Zelaya Honduran protestors sought refuge in the Brazilian Embassy and remain there; Viana said that the protestors remain calm. Eight Brazilians from the Embassy were allowed to return home, leaving only the Charge and three other Brazilians at the Embassy. So far, the Honduran security forces have not intruded on the Brazilian Embassy, however Viana noted that the streets around the Embassy are full of security forces and it is clear that the Honduran strategy is to “asphyxiate the Embassy.”…

Viana lamented that the Brazilian Embassy did not have “the type of protection the U.S. Embassy has, the Marines,” because they are unable to defend the Embassy.

The US does not volunteer to supply any military assistance.

Continues below the fold

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Brazil, Honduras, Wikileaks | 4 Comments »

This is what the breakdown of empire looks like

Posted by Charles II on December 7, 2010

DemocracyNow reports that the US hold over Latin America has reached a breaking point:

Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay Recognize Palestinian State in Occupied Territories

The Palestinian effort for statehood has received a boost with recognition from three South American countries. Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay have each declared their recognition of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip based on the 1967 borders. Argentine Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman announced his government’s stance on Monday.

Héctor Timerman: “The president of the nation, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, sent a letter to the president of the National Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, saying that the Argentine government recognizes Palestine as a free and independent state in the borders as they were in 1967 and according to what the parties determined during the negotiation process.”

Israel has harshly condemned the moves as an affront to the so-called “peace process.” With U.S. support, Israel has insisted on maintaining control of large Jewish-only settlement blocs that carve up the West Bank. Aid groups meanwhile continue to denounce the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip and ongoing restrictions in the West Bank. Kate Allen of Amnesty International said Palestinians are being “systematically” deprived of water.

Kate Allen: “There is a systematic and deliberate means of stopping water getting to Palestinian families, and that is having a dramatic effect upon the way in which people are able to live their lives. Water is an absolute basic necessity. It’s a human right. It is shocking to see that the Israeli government is behaving in this way.”

Here’s the Amnesty report:

The inequality in access to water between Israelis and Palestinians is striking. Palestinian
consumption in the OPT is about 70 litres a day per person – well below the 100 litres per capita daily recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) – whereas Israeli daily per capita consumption, at about 300 litres, is about four times as much. In some rural communities Palestinians survive on far less than even the average 70 litres, in some cases barely 20 litres per day, the minimum amount recommended by the WHO for emergency situations response.

Access to water resources by Palestinians in the OPT is controlled by Israel and the amount
of water available to Palestinians is restricted to a level which does not meet their needs….

Water rationing is common, especially but not only in the summer months, with residents of different neighbourhoods and villages receiving piped water only one day every week or every few weeks.

The water consumption is not just personal consumption or hygiene, but agricultural consumption, industrial consumption, and so on.

The behavior of Israel toward the Palestinians in denying them water is so shocking that it demands a human response. But the realities of this world are such that when the dominant power, the hegemon says that an abuse is acceptable, other countries tend to shrug and turn away. What has happened is that US power has fallen so low that other countries are no longer doing that. An independent pole of power has emerged in South America, and it sees its future tied more closely to the non-aligned world than to the US.

And this ties together in an odd way with Wikileaks. One sine qua non of power is that consequences have to be predictable. No matter if the lottery prize is large or small, if the lottery doesn’t pay reliably or if the winners are pre-determined, no one will buy a ticket. The United States based its post-WW II world position on the condition that it would be the honest broker, that it would establish a system of international law that everyone–including the hegemon– would obey. The 1967 agreement is a conspicuous example where, for over 40 years, the United States has promised that some day it would be honored.

And the lynching of Julian Assange and Wikileaks is another gross abrogation of international law. Consider the elements of lawlessness (see Glenn Greenwald for an overview):
– Assange has not even been formally charged with a crime (although that may have changed as of December 6th). He is wanted for questioning in a case that would have no chance outside of Sweden.
– It is possible that the warrant issued by Sweden could be merely a pretext to get Assange to a country where he can be extradited–or, perhaps, kidnapped– by the US or other countries.
– No legal arrest warrant existed in the UK until December 6th, at which point Assange voluntarily surrendered.
– Notwithstanding, the US media has labeled this a “manhunt” (ABC’s Brian Williams apparently started the usage, but it has spread)
– the US media has broadcast of calls by people like Bill Kristol and Sarah Palin urging his murder.
– US officials have labeled him a terrorist which is equivalent to saying that he has no right of due process.
– a priority Interpol arrest warrant has been issued for an offense that has never rated such a step.
– lawful services, such as Internet access and access to financial transfers have been denied to Wikileaks under a variety of subterfuges.
– the head of the Department of Justice has made it clear that he has already reached judgment in the case, and he sounds to me as if he is prepared to use ex post facto laws to perform a sham prosecution.
– At least one US politician, Mike Huckabee, has called for a hanging, trial optional. Dianne Feinstein is not far distant from that stance.

At its most basic meaning, the word “law” means something that is generally applicable. The law of gravity applies not just to apples but to Newtons. The law against murder applies not just to men but to women.

So, what we see in the case of Assange (as we see in the denial of water to Palestinians and the case of Manuel Zelaya or the Bush v. Gore) are evidence of governmental lawlessness: the disproportionate, improper, or hypocritical application of the form of legal process to an individual or organization without consideration for the heart of the law: its general applicability. US officials leak documents all the time and are not prosecuted. In the Plame case, Bush Administration officials leaked extremely highly classified information which did aid America’s enemies; only one even faced prosecution, and that turned into a sham.

We do not expect human beings to be perfectly consistent. But when a great power abuses the law in so many and such flagrant ways, it loses its moral authority. It becomes like the cop on the beat who everyone knows takes bribes. The entire system of law breaks down.

Do not blame bin Laden or Al Qaida or “socialists” or “liberals” or even “Tea Partiers” or “conservatives” (per se) for the collapse of American power. What is happening is what the prophets of scripture described happening as the Davidic Kingdom fell. Where there is no justice, neither is there peace. Where the wealthy and powerful do what they please, bribing the judges, the strength of their moral authority collapses. One need not even believe in God to believe that the world is watching–and turning away in disgust– as the United States reduces itself from the noble stature it acquired after World War II to the status of a petty, vengeful despot. Nor need one believe that it is desirable for US power to decline– I certainly don’t: who will fill the vacuum? Despotic China? Russia? European countries who are equally corrupt? International criminals? Individual corporations?– to see that the United States is bringing about its own demise by failing to uphold the spirit of the law.

Posted in Brazil, Honduras, israel, Latin America, wrong way to go about it | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

South of the Border

Posted by Charles II on June 22, 2010

There are very few means for Americans to get a glimpse into the reality occurring in Latin America. Oliver Stone has produced a film called “South of the Border” that gives some insight not only into that reality, but into how the American media have completely misled our understanding of what’s going on. Now, what is going on in Latin America is too complex for a guy like Stone to capture. By necessity, given the time constraints of the medium, he sketches in black and white. There’s a lot of gray.

At any rate, here is an excerpt of a longer interview of him and co-worker Tariq Ali on his new movie:

AMY GOODMAN: That was Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. Oliver Stone, talk about how the US media portrays Chávez.

OLIVER STONE: Well, all you have to do is go to YouTube, and you’ll see. I mean, we put in the movie, it’s hysterical and outrageous. And by the way, mainstream—Washington Post, New York Times—it’s awful. I mean, it’s almost as if the New York Times guy—Simon Romero is his name—he sits there for years, and he’s a sniper. He doesn’t say one positive thing. It’s like every week or two he has to file his story, make it negative. It seems like that’s a directive. And he goes out—I mean, you read this stuff. All of it—and he never goes to the other side. He never gets the other side of the story. And he gets very complex little incidents, and he builds it up into this madhouse. It seems like it’s Chile again, like Allende. It’s like the economy is crashing. And the contrary is true. I mean, it’s a very rich country. It’s a regional power. It’s got, apparently, $500 billion—5,000 billion barrels of oil in reserve. It’s a major player for the rest of our time on earth, as long as we go with oil. You know, they’re not going to go away. So, Brazil and Venezuela.

And that raises a whole interesting thing about what recently happened in Iran, you know, when Lula from Brazil went over there with Turkey, Erdogan. That was a very interesting moment for me and for Tariq, because I grew up in the ’50s, so did he, and we remember the neutral bloc, remember the—remember Nehru and Nasser and Sukarno and fellow in Cambodia.

TARIQ ALI: Sihanouk

OLIVER STONE: Sihanouk. I mean, there was a bloc of people who used to say, “Hey, this is what we want. This is not what the United States wants.” And they were a mediator, a third rail between the Soviets and us. That’s gone in the world, and people don’t seem to realize it who are growing up. So when Lula did that, I couldn’t believe the outrage by people like Tom Friedman attacking him. And it was disgusting, I thought, really disgusting, because he never presented the point of view of Brazil and Turkey, which are major countries, huge powers, regional powers.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And the New York Times, of course, before that trip, was blasting the possibility of Lula being able to negotiate any kind of arrangement and basically saying he was naive, he was out of his league. And Tariq, your response? The impact of that deal that was brokered by Turkey and—

TARIQ ALI: Look, I mean, everyone was surprised in the West, that how dare these countries have the nerve to go over our heads and negotiate an independent deal with Iran. But this is what the world once used to be like. No one accepted US hegemony unquestioningly, as many of the Security Council members do. The other point is that Brazil was very courageous to do this, Lula particularly, because Brazil has been trying to get a Security—permanent Security Council seat for a long time, and they’ve now jeopardized that process. They will never be allowed it. So they did it for good principled reasons, showing the world Iran is prepared to do a deal; it’s you who don’t want to do it, because you’re permanently under pressure from Israel.

This is what we’re seeing emerge from US weakness: a new, non-aligned bloc.

Posted in Brazil, Iran, Latin America, Turkey, world news | 4 Comments »

Further decline in US leadership

Posted by Charles II on May 17, 2010

Once again, the US is left in the dust by Brazil.

Ladane Nasseri and Henry Meyer, Bloomberg:

Iran agreed to hand to Turkey about half of its enriched uranium in exchange for fuel to run a medical reactor, possibly thwarting U.S. efforts to step up international sanctions over the Iranian atomic program. …

The agreement, brokered by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, comes as the U.S. has been rallying support for a fourth round of United Nations sanctions against the Persian Gulf state.

Sanger and Slackman at the NYT get around to saying this, well below the fold:

Turkey’s ambassador to the United States, Namik Tan, described the agreement as a “confidence-building measure,” and said he was disappointed in the Obama administration’s reaction. “I would have expected a more encouraging statement,” he said.

“We don’t believe in sanctions, and I don’t believe anybody can challenge us, and certainly not the United States,” Mr. Tan said. “They don’t work.”

Rightly or wrongly, the US has been categorized as a nation that deals with conflict through extreme violence. The world wants another model. Brazil and Turkey, for their own reasons (perhaps both hope to develop nuclear industries of their own), are entering a vacuum created by a lack of American leadership.

Posted in Brazil, Iran, nukes, Obama Administration, Turkey, Uncategorized | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

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