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Did the US Cause the Blackout in Venezuela?

March 14th, 2019 - by Chris Ernesto

Chris Ernesto / AntiWar.com

As all U.S. diplomats were ordered home from Venezuela, about 70% of Venezuelans have been without electricity and water since last Thursday evening. As of Monday the blackout had killed 21 people (including 6 babies), according to opposition leaders .

Reuters reported that according to witnesses and social media, some of the country had power restored on Tuesday. That would be welcome news, as many hospitals have not had power in five days. Cell phone coverage and internet access have been in very short supply. Schools and businesses have been largely closed. Tons of food has spoiled, the economy is at a virtual standstill, and more people are becoming desperately hungry due to the blackout.

Other than countries where massive power blackouts were caused by a natural disaster or a war, the power blackout in Venezuela is believed to be one of the longest any country has gone without power in recent memory.

Just a week ago, the US coup in Venezuela was losing ground due to a number of setbacks. But three days later, the blackout in Venezuela occurred, and now the coup has gained momentum.

The timing of the blackout could not have come at a better time for American coup-plotters, as exhibited by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who gloated about the misery in a tweet: “No food. No medicine. Now, no power. Next, no Maduro.”

The timing of the blackout is very peculiar. And it’s not certain how the power outage happened.

The US blames Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro and his socialist economic policies. Venezuelan’s have experienced rolling blackouts for many years, but nothing near a total blackout. It’s possible that Venezuela’s hydroelectric power system – which reportedly needed work – could have fallen into a greater state of disrepair due to US sanctions that have reduced funding and personnel from Venezuela’s infrastructure projects.

Maduro says it’s an act of sabotage by the US in their efforts to oust him from power, citing the US as the only country with the technology to cause a blackout in Venezuela. On Monday, Maduro said two people who were allegedly trying to sabotage power facilities were captured and were providing information to authorities. On Tuesday, Maduro said the computerized system in the Guri Dam and the central electrical “brain” suffered cyber attacks, while recovery was delayed by physical attacks against transmission lines and electrical substations.

The cause of the blackout has not been definitively determined, but it is conceivable that Maduro is correct. As Kalev Leetaru of Forbes wrote, “the United States remotely interfering with [Venezuela’s] power grid is actually quite realistic … timing such an outage to occur at a moment of societal upheaval in a way that delegitimizes the current government, exactly as a government-in-waiting has presented itself as a ready alternative, is actually one of the tactics”.

Max Blumenthal of the Grayzone Project wrote, “The US-funded CANVAS organization that trained Juan Guaido and his allies produced a 2010 memo on exploiting electricity outages and urged the opposition “to take advantage of the situation … towards their needs”

Whitney Webb of MintPress News pointed out , “The US has long had highly developed plans involving the use of cyberattacks to attack critical power-grid infrastructure in countries targeted for regime change by Washington. Indeed, the most well-known plan of this type, known by its codename “Nitro Zeus,” was originally created under the George W. Bush administration and was aimed at Iran. With so many former Bush officials now calling the shots in the Trump administration, particularly its Venezuela policy, the potential return of a “Nitro Zeus” virus, this time tailored to Venezuela, seems increasingly likely.”

And on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Lu Kang said China had noted reports that the power grid had gone down due to a hacking attack. “China is deeply concerned about this … China hopes that the Venezuelan side can discover the reason for this issue as soon as possible and resume normal power supply and social order. China is willing to provide help and technical support to restore Venezuela’s power grid.”

Nonetheless, none of this proves the US was responsible for the blackout, but given the Trump administration’s willingness, and ability, to use any means necessary to oust Maduro, it’s not out of the question.

Particularly since other claims made by the US against Maduro have proven to be false. For instance, the New York Times ran a story that contradicts the US narrative that Maduro was responsible for burning aid trucks recently at the border of Venezuela and Colombia. The Times provided video footage showing that it was actually a Molotov cocktail thrown by an anti-Maduro protester that likely caused the fires. This means Elliott Abrams, John Bolton, Trump and Pompeo were either lying or basing their conclusions on unsubstantiated facts. Glenn Greenwald expanded on the Times exposé in discussing how the US and media are spreading pro-war propaganda in Venezuela.

The fact that the US has used economic sanctions to cripple Venezuela’s economy demonstrates its willingness to inflict suffering on everyday people. This was exemplified over the weekend when US Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida said, “The sanctions are effective and have helped but the sanctions need to go deeper … we need to pierce the layers below the leadership and go down to the middle management and even the families .…”

Jim Wyss of the Miami Herald pointed out the impact of sanctions that Wasserman Schultz and many others support: “Financial sanctions rolled out in 2017 made it difficult for Venezuela to refinance loans and get fresh funding. Then, in January, Washington used “the nuclear option” and blocked money from Venezuela’s US oil sales from going to Maduro’s coffers – effectively costing the country billions. Venezuela imports 80 to 90 percent of all its goods – including food and medicine … Venezuela’s imports in 2018 fell to an estimated $11.7 billion down from $66 billion in 2012.” Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic And Policy Research adds more context to how US economic sanctions are killing Venezuelans and making it nearly impossible to restore their economy.

Because of its motives and its willingness to use sanctions to crash Venezuela’s economy, it’s plausible that the US was willing to crash Venezuela’s power system as well, particularly given the timing. Hopefully power and water are being restored to the people of Venezuela – people who deserve to get answers about the cause of the devastating, potentially game-changing blackout.

Chris Ernesto is the webmaster and co-founder of St. Pete for Peace, a non-partisan antiwar organization providing peace oriented education events and services to the Tampa Bay, FL community since 2003.

Boeing’s Ties to Washington Run Deep: Full List of Company’s Political, Lobbying Spending Shows Extensive Links

March 14th, 2019 - by Callum Paton / Newsweek

Boeing’s Ties to Washington Run Deep: Full List of Company’s Political, Lobbying Spending Shows Extensive Links

Callum Paton / Newsweek

WASHINGTON (March 13, 2019) — As of Wednesday morning, the United States and Canada were the only two major nations still allowing the Boeing 737 Max 8 to operate in their airspace following the crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302 on Sunday.

The European Union suspended all flight operations for the Max 8, as did China. However, the Federal Aviation Administration has taken no action in the wake of the crash that claimed 157 lives.

Boeing said in a statement that “based on the information currently available, we do not have any basis to issue new guidance to operators.” According to The New York Times,  American Airlines and Southwest Airlines fly the Boeing 737 Max 8—American Airlines has 24 of them, and Southwest has 34. Both airlines said they had found no reason to suspend operations.

The Ethiopian Airlines catastrophe followed a similar Max 8 crash in Indonesia last October, in which all 180 passengers died. The business as usual approach has come under criticism from Washington politicians accross the spectrum, highlighting the power of Boeing as a lobbying force in the capital as well as its cosy relationship with the regulator

 “Boeing is one of the 800-pound gorillas around here,” Senator Richard Blumenthal told The New York Times in the aftermath of Sunday’s crash. The Connecticut Democrat called for the new Boeing aircraft to be grounded, as have Senators Ted Cruz, Elizabeth Warren and Mitt Romney, among others.

President Donald Trump, who fielded a call from Boeing’s chief executive Dennis Muilenburg Tuesday, tweeted his concerns about passenger safety after the crash.  “Airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly,” the president wrote. “Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT.”

Boeing’s detractors have been a vocal minority. The full list of federal and state officials that received campaign contributions from Boeing can be searched here and runs to 14 pages. High-profile politicians who received donations include House Speaker Nancy Pelosi,  Representatives Adam Schiff, Eric Swalwell, John Lewis and Steve Scalise, and Senators Michael Bennet and Chuck Grassley, among others.

A breakdown of Boeing’s 2018 lobbying budget, which can he found here, shows that last year the company spent a total of $15,120,000 on lobbying. Money was sent to the White House, Senate and House of Representatives, as well as to various government departments.

The Ethiopian Airlines crash has also illustrated the revolving door between Boeing, the FAA and the highest echelons of government. According to The Times, Boeing’s top government relations official was part of the Clinton administration, while FAA offices are housed inside Boeing’s principal U.S. manufacturing plants in Renton, Washington, and Charleston, South Carolina.

In 2015, at a congressional hearing, a Being executive said the company had an “arm of the FAA within the Boeing Company,” with 1,000 employees working with the regulator. Acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan, is a former Boeing executive.

Pity the Nation: War Spending Is Bankrupting America

March 14th, 2019 - by Gar Smith

John W. Whitehead / The Rutherford Institute &  AntiWar.com

 “Pity the nation whose people are sheep
And whose shepherds mislead them
Pity the nation whose leaders are liars
Whose sages are silenced
And whose bigots haunt the airwaves
Pity the nation that raises not its voice
Except to praise conquerors
And acclaim the bully as hero
And aims to rule the world
By force and by torture…
Pity the nation oh pity the people
who allow their rights to erode
and their freedoms to be washed away…”
~ Lawrence Ferlinghetti, poet

(March 14, 2019) — War spending is bankrupting America.

Our nation is being preyed upon by a military industrial complex that is propped up by war profiteers, corrupt politicians and foreign governments.

America has so much to offer – creativity, ingenuity, vast natural resources, a rich heritage, a beautifully diverse populace, a freedom foundation unrivaled anywhere in the world, and opportunities galore – and yet our birthright is being sold out from under us so that power-hungry politicians, greedy military contractors, and bloodthirsty war hawks can make a hefty profit at our expense.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that your hard-earned tax dollars are being used for national security and urgent military needs.

It’s all a ruse.

You know what happens to tax dollars that are left over at the end of the government’s fiscal year? Government agencies – including the Department of Defense – go on a “use it or lose it” spending spree so they can justify asking for money in the next fiscal year.

We’re not talking chump change, either.

We’re talking $97 billion worth of wasteful spending.

According to an investigative report by Open the Government, among the items purchased during the last month of the fiscal year when government agencies go all out to get rid of these “use it or lose it” funds: Wexford Leather club chair ($9,241), china tableware ($53,004), alcohol ($308,994), golf carts ($673,471), musical equipment including pianos, tubas, and trombones ($1.7 million), lobster tail and crab ($4.6 million), iPhones and iPads ($7.7 million), and workout and recreation equipment ($9.8 million).

So much for draining the swamp.

Anyone who suggests that the military needs more money is either criminally clueless or equally corrupt, because the military isn’t suffering from lack of funding – it’s suffering from lack of proper oversight.

Where President Trump fits into that scenario, you decide.

Trump may turn out to be, as policy analyst Stan Collender warned, “the biggest deficit- and debt-increasing president of all time.”

Rest assured, however, that if Trump gets his way – to the tune of a $4.7 trillion budget that digs the nation deeper in debt to foreign creditors, adds $750 billion for the military budget, and doubles the debt growth that Trump once promised to erase – the war profiteers (and foreign banks who “own” our debt) will be raking in a fortune while America goes belly up.

This is basic math, and the numbers just don’t add up.

As it now stands, the U.S. government is operating in the negative on every front: it’s spending far more than what it makes (and takes from the American taxpayers) and it is borrowing heavily (from foreign governments and Social Security) to keep the government operating and keep funding its endless wars abroad.

Certainly, nothing about the way the government budgets its funds puts America’s needs first.

The nation’s educational system is pathetic (young people are learning nothing about their freedoms or their government). The infrastructure is antiquated and growing more outdated by the day. The health system is overpriced and inaccessible to those who need it most. The supposedly robust economy is belied by the daily reports of businesses shuttering storefronts and declaring bankruptcy. And our so-called representative government is a sham.

If this is a formula for making America great again, it’s not working.

The White House wants taxpayers to accept that the only way to reduce the nation’s ballooning deficit is by cutting “entitlement” programs such as Social Security and Medicare, yet the glaring economic truth is that at the end of the day, it’s the military industrial complex – and not the sick, the elderly or the poor – that is pushing America towards bankruptcy.

We have become a debtor nation, and the government is sinking us deeper into debt with every passing day that it allows the military industrial complex to call the shots.

Simply put, the government cannot afford to maintain its overextended military empire.

Money is the new 800-pound gorilla,” remarked a senior administration official involved in Afghanistan. “It shifts the debate from ‘Is the strategy working?’ to ‘Can we afford this?’ And when you view it that way, the scope of the mission that we have now is far, far less defensible.” Or as one commentator noted, “Foreclosing the future of our country should not be confused with defending it.”

To be clear, the US government’s defense spending is about one thing and one thing only: establishing and maintaining a global military empire.

Although the US constitutes only 5% of the world’s population, America boasts almost 50% of the world’s total military expenditure, spending more on the military than the next 19 biggest spending nations combined.

In fact, the Pentagon spends more on war than all 50 states combined spend on health, education, welfare, and safety.

The American military-industrial complex has erected an empire unsurpassed in history in its breadth and scope, one dedicated to conducting perpetual warfare throughout the earth.

Since 2001, the US government has spent more than $4.7 trillion waging its endless wars.

Having been co-opted by greedy defense contractors, corrupt politicians and incompetent government officials, America’s expanding military empire is bleeding the country dry at a rate of more than $32 million per hour.

In fact, the US government has spent more money every five seconds in Iraq than the average American earns in a year.

Then there’s the cost of maintaining and staffing the 1000-plus US military bases spread around the world and policing the globe with 1.3 million US troops stationed in 177 countries (over 70% of the countries worldwide).

Future wars and military exercises waged around the globe are expected to push the total bill upwards of $12 trillion by 2053.

The US government is spending money it doesn’t have on a military empire it can’t afford.

As investigative journalist Uri Friedman puts it, for more than 15 years now, the United States has been fighting terrorism with a credit card, “essentially bankrolling the wars with debt, in the form of purchases of US Treasury bonds by U.S.-based entities like pension funds and state and local governments, and by countries like China and Japan.”

War is not cheap, but it becomes outrageously costly when you factor in government incompetence, fraud, and greedy contractors.

As The Nation reports:

For decades, the DoD’s leaders and accountants have been perpetrating a gigantic, unconstitutional accounting fraud, deliberately cooking the books to mislead the Congress and drive the DOD’s budgets ever higher, regardless of military necessity. DOD has literally been making up numbers in its annual financial reports to Congress – representing trillions of dollars’ worth of seemingly nonexistent transactions – knowing that Congress would rely on those misleading reports when deciding how much money to give the DOD the following year.

For example, a leading accounting firm concluded that one of the Pentagon’s largest agencies “can’t account for hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of spending.”

Unfortunately, the outlook isn’t much better for the spending that can be tracked.

A government audit found that defense contractor Boeing has been massively overcharging taxpayers for mundane parts, resulting in tens of millions of dollars in overspending. As the report noted, the American taxpayer paid:

$71 for a metal pin that should cost just 4 cents; $644.75 for a small gear smaller than a dime that sells for $12.51: more than a 5,100 percent increase in price. $1,678.61 for another tiny part, also smaller than a dime, that could have been bought within DOD for $7.71: a 21,000 percent increase. $71.01 for a straight, thin metal pin that DOD had on hand, unused by the tens of thousands, for 4 cents: an increase of over 177,000 percent.

That price gouging has become an accepted form of corruption within the American military empire is a sad statement on how little control “we the people” have over our runaway government.

Mind you, this isn’t just corrupt behavior. It’s deadly, downright immoral behavior.

The US government is not making the world any safer. It’s making the world more dangerous. It is estimated that the US military drops a bomb somewhere in the world every 12 minutes. Since 9/11, the United States government has directly contributed to the deaths of around 500,000. Every one of those deaths was paid for with taxpayer funds.

The US government is not making America any safer. It’s exposing American citizens to alarming levels of blowback, a CIA term referring to the unintended consequences of the US government’s international activities. Chalmers Johnson, a former CIA consultant, repeatedly warned that America’s use of its military to gain power over the global economy would result in devastating blowback.

Those who call the shots in the government – those who push the military industrial complex’s agenda – those who make a killing by embroiling the US in foreign wars – have not heeded Johnson’s warning.

The US government is not making American citizens any safer. The repercussions of America’s military empire have been deadly, not only for those innocent men, women and children killed by drone strikes abroad but also those here in the United States.

The 9/11 attacks were blowback. The Boston Marathon Bombing was blowback. The attempted Times Square bomber was blowback. The Fort Hood shooter, a major in the US Army, was blowback.

The transformation of America into a battlefield is blowback.

All of this carnage is being carried out with the full support of the American people, or at least with the proxy that is our taxpayer dollars.

The government is destabilizing the economy, destroying the national infrastructure through neglect and a lack of resources, and turning taxpayer dollars into blood money with its endless wars, drone strikes and mounting death tolls.

As Martin Luther King Jr. recognized, under a military empire, war and its profiteering will always take precedence over the people’s basic human needs.

Similarly, President Dwight Eisenhower warned us not to let the profit-driven war machine endanger our liberties or democratic processes.

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This is, I repeat, the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron. […] Is there no other way the world may live?”

We failed to heed Eisenhower’s warning.

The illicit merger of the armaments industry and the government that Eisenhower warned against has come to represent perhaps the greatest threat to the nation today.

It’s not sustainable, of course.

Eventually, inevitably, military empires fall and fail by spreading themselves too thin and spending themselves to death.

It happened in Rome. It’s happening again.

The America empire is already breaking down.

We’re already witnessing a breakdown of society on virtually every front, and the government is ready.

For years now, the government has worked with the military to prepare for widespread civil unrest brought about by “economic collapse, loss of functioning political and legal order, purposeful domestic resistance or insurgency, pervasive public health emergencies, and catastrophic natural and human disasters.”

For years now, the government has been warning against the dangers of domestic terrorism, erecting surveillance systems to monitor its own citizens, creating classification systems to label any viewpoints that challenge the status quo as extremist, and training law enforcement agencies to equate anyone possessing anti-government views as a domestic terrorist.

We’re approaching critical mass.

As long as “we the people” continue to allow the government to wage its costly, meaningless, endless wars abroad, the American homeland will continue to suffer: our roads will crumble, our bridges will fail, our schools will fall into disrepair, our drinking water will become undrinkable, our communities will destabilize, our economy will tank, crime will rise, and our freedoms will suffer.

So who will save us?

As I make clear in my book, Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we’d better start saving ourselves: one by one, neighbor to neighbor, through grassroots endeavors, by pushing back against the police state where it most counts – in our communities first and foremost, and by holding fast to what binds us together and not allowing politics and other manufactured non-realities to tear us apart.

Start today. Start now. Do your part.

Literally and figuratively, the buck starts and stops with “we the people.”

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book is Battlefield America: The War on the American People (SelectBooks, 2015). Whitehead can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org.

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