Chomsky on the Nation-State and Corporations

August 28, 2005
Noam Chomsky is a truly unique public figure. It seems that no matter what he talks about, he offers some amazing insight that nobody else has or expresses. His willingness to be controversial is a ray of light in this world of public figures tiptoeing around worrying that what they say could hurt their career. Writings and interviews of Chomsky are regularly featured on ZNet, and I have linked to some of his stuff in the past.

Today I would like to bring to your attention an interview in which he discusses the development of the nation-state and its relation to the corporate world. Asked his ideas about the beginnings of the nation-state, Chomsky replied:
"Well, the nation state is pretty much a European invention, I mean there were similar things, but the nation state in the modern form was largely created in Europe over many centuries. It's so unnatural and artificial that it had to be imposed by extreme violence. In fact that's the primary reason why Europe was the most savage part of the world for centuries. It was due to trying to impose a nation state system on cultures and societies that are varied and if you look at them had no relation to this artificial structure."
How does the corporate system fit into this? Chomsky:
"It's impossible to distinguish the modern dominant states from the multinational corporate system, the conglomerates that rely on them, that have a relation of both dependency and domination to them."
I urge you to check out the rest of this fascinating interview of Chomsky where he explores the relationship between the corporation and the state and the many implications of the current set-up.

Robertson calls for Assassination of Chavez

Since the notorious right-wing radical Cristian Pat Robertson called for the assassination of the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, I thought I would shine some light on what Chavez might be doing to deserve this threat to his life.
First though, a look at Robertson's words: "We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability." He continued, "It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."
I have to agree with the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, who commented: "It's absolutely chilling to hear a religious leader call for the murder of any political leader, no matter how much he disagrees with such a leader's policies or practices."
Robertson, a former candidate for President of the U.S.A, and current religious leader has presented a fine example of what is so wrong with the religious right who claim to be Christians yet expound words of such violence and hatred.
And now, a look at the works of Chavez according to a recent joint broadcast with Fidel Castro from Cuba. Chavez was in Cuba to attend a graduation ceremony of over 1600 doctors from the Latin American School of Medicine in Cuba. According to the above linked article, "The Venezuelan president repeated his commitment to create a new Latin American School of Medicine in Venezuela, modeled after the one in Cuba, with the purpose of educating an "army" of doctors."
"Fidel Castro stated that this sort of idea, to create universities intended to create massive amounts of doctors in Latin America, is not a dream, but a reality, focused not on making money but on saving lives."
According to Chavez, "60 comprehensive diagnostic centers are now up and running in Venezuela which have attended to more than 78,000 patients and performed some 300,000 patient examinations since opening." His goal is to open over 600 of these centers throughout Venezuela "to guarantee medical assistance to those most in need that previously had no access to good health care."
These accomplishments and goals may not seem that impressive at first, but consider that these leaders are proposing and enacting a program that will provide quality health care to people of all economic classes, including the extremely poor, of which there are so many in Latin America, and this, completely free of charge. This is being accomplished through the education of large amounts of doctors and other health care workers, also free of charge. Compare this to the U.S., where doctors are becoming less and less while demanding extremely large amounts of money for their services, where the cost of educating a doctor is out of reach for much of the country, and where the cost of health care itself is out of the reach of much of the country. I don't know what Robertson is looking at when speaking of the "dictator" Chavez, but the Venezuelan President appears to have humanitarian ideas at his core. Robertson, a "religious leader" appears to be nothing more than a fascist.
Finally, check out this article that puts Robertson and others of the religious right in a similar light yet claims this may be a good thing.

The Great Democracy of the U.S.A.

Here is a short piece from the NYTimes that pretty much sums up why I don't even bother with the crooked democracy that rules the US. The piece by Paul Krugman talks about the past two presidential elections beginning with a new book put out by a reporter for the British newspaper, the Independent. The book, titled "Steal this Vote," concludes and documents that "Al Gore won the 2000 presidential election." This is largely based on evidence that election work in Florida swayed the vote away from Gore and handed the state to Bush. In 2004, a similar situation arose in Ohio where the "secretary of state, Kenneth Blackwell - supervised the election while serving as co-chairman of the Bush-Cheney campaign in Ohio." If that is not a conflict in interests, I don't know what is. Whatever went on there, the situation was certainly ripe for manipulation. Besides throwing the whole Bush presidency into question concerning its legitimacy, the piece wants to make clear that the American democracy is not flawless and in fact is riddled with corruption. Krugman sums up the piece with this thought: "Our current political leaders would suffer greatly if either house of Congress changed hands in 2006, or if the presidency changed hands in 2008. The lids would come off all the simmering scandals, from the selling of the Iraq war to profiteering by politically connected companies. The Republicans will be strongly tempted to make sure that they win those elections by any means necessary. And everything we've seen suggests that they will give in to that temptation."


My lapse in posts can be explained by a sudden disinterest in world news that came over me a few days ago. The dominating stories usually include stories of violence, struggles over oil, war here, war there, and then some more violence. A case in point are the stories coming out of Ecuador right now. A beautiful country straddling the Andes Mountains and dipping into the Amazon jungle, Ecuador only makes the news when a disruption to their oil supply occurs. Largely poor protesters have been able to halt production by taking over sections of the infrastructure. The protesters simply want to see some of the profits from the oil returned to the community. Now the military is involved as the disruption is hitting the pocketbooks of the European descended elites. According to the above linked BBC article, "The economic impact [of the disruption in oil production] is far worse than any war." Of course the military has been brought in to restore the machinery to the elite so that their profits continue. Amazingly only injuries and no deaths have been reported, but again, the reporting is vague: "The army has used tear gas to disperse protesters in clashes that have left dozens injured." This begins to get at what I was trying to explicate earlier in this post. The news media not only is filled with reports of violence - usually perpetrated against the poor of the world - but the focus of many reports are on the best interests of the elites, which happen to be running most of the governments on the globe. The interests of the poor are only bylines. I know this isn't really any great revelation, it's just that sometimes one needs a break from the constant and never ending injustices perpetrated by the modern west.

A Zapatista President?

After another public statement that made the AP wire, it appears that Subcomante Marcos may be gearing up to either run for president or offer a candidate based in the rebel movement. He continued his criticism against the political system of Mexico, including the leftist Mexico City mayor, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who is leading most of the early polls for next years elections. Marcos said the Zapatistas were to begin a country-wide tour in an effort to garner support and help to determine the direction of the group. Of course, those in the political system are discounting the efforts of Marcos and the Zapatistas insisting that they are simple a rebel group, and not politicians. However, Marcos is an educated man (he has been identified as a former college professor) and obviously has the charisma to gain the support of the people, as shown by the size and success of the Zapatista movement. The political landscape in Mexico is starting to get interesting, although I wonder if this will divide the left, and leave the conservatives in power yet again.


This is Yellowman!
So, here is something a little bit different: Earlier tonight I saw one of the all-time reggae greats - Yellowman! - and it was a free show! I first saw him in Trenton, New Jersey at City Gardens in 1989 with the ska band, Bigger Thomas. Back then he had long crazy, yellow dreads, an appearance ravaged by cancer, and, of course, yellow skin. His son was even in the audience - and was also an albino. Jamaican born, Yellowman began his life as a social outcast raised in an orphanage and constantly abused because of his albino skin. He rose to fame on tales of his sexual prowess and his catchy style which is considered the beginning of dancehall reggae. He is considered reggae's first dancehall superstar. Sixteen years after I saw him for the first time, the man has gone through another bought with cancer, and lost his dreads, but his energy was incredible, and the show was great. How amazing to be able to see a legend perform for a packed house in a small venue. Long live King Yellowman!

Zapatistas Speak Out

In a small piece that has been making many of the news services, the leader of the Zapatistas came out of hiding for the first time in 4 years. Donning his trademark black mask, Subcomante Marcos denounced all of Mexico's political parties, claiming, "They'll pay for everything they have done to us. They're a bunch of scoundrels." He included the leftist mayor of Mexico City, Lopez Obrador - the reported front runner for the presidential elections next year, in his diatribe. Marcos, identified as a former university professor announced plans for a Zapatista campaign to oppose the traditional political parties of Mexico.
Mexico appears to be in for some changes in 2006, as a leftist is the front runner for the presidency, and now the Zapatistas, who have a good amount of support from the indigenous population, are entering the race. However, one possible scenario has the Zapatista party, if it runs a candidate, taking support away from Lopez Obrador, and leaving the traditional, conservative parties in power.

Plan Colombia

Continuing the Colombian theme that has run through the last few posts, I offer this article from the International Relations Center that gives a fine explanation of everything that is wrong with the U.S. funding that goes to Colombia to fight the supposed War on Drugs. Here are some of the statistics according to the article:
5 years and $4 billion have gone to Plan Colombia
1.4 million acres of fumigated coca crops in Colombia in 5 years
21,003 acres less of the coca crop 5 years later
1 acre less for every 67 sprayed

Add to these stats the fact that the price of cocaine in the U.S. is at an all time low, and purity is supposedly unaffected. The product being sprayed in Colombia is Monsanto's Roundup, which reportedly has harmful affects on human reproduction, including an increase in premature births and miscarriages. Plus, aerial fumigation not only kills the coca plants, but most other plants that it comes in contact with, affecting not only the coca plants, but the natural and human environments around them as well. It appears that Plan Colombia as a success story, as Uribe and Bush recently claimed, is questionable at best.

As an added note, in the above linked article, Bush says that "America will continue to stand with the people of Colombia." I wonder if he knows there are three different groups warring in Colombia, and they are all composed of Colombians. I wonder which group Bush is referring to? Well, obviously the ones that do exactly as America says, which happen to be the ones that have received the $4 Billion over the last 5 years.

Chavez and Colombia

According to the Associated Press, Venezuela's President Chavez denies that he is aiding Colombia's leftist rebels. He claims the 100,000 rifles and military helicopters that he is buying from Russia is for the strengthening of his own army. Either way, this continues the development of leftist movements militarizing and organizing in an attempt to counter U.S. power in the region.

An interesting Znet article by Constance Viera describes the effects of the Colombian war on the indigenous in the country. The Nasa Indians, who live in the southwestern part of the country and number about 300,000 of the estimated 1 million indigenous of Colombia. The Nasa have recently experienced an influx of violence as the war has moved into their territory. While they have been active in land reforms in the region, the group has continually claimed neutrality in the country's war. Despite this, over 500 Nasa leaders have been killed by the groups involved, including the leftist rebels, the paramilitaries, and even rich landowners of the region. The violence of the war has swept up everyone in its path, including those who want no part of it like the Nasa.

Elsewhere in South America, reporter Ben Dangl describes the alleged construction of a new U.S. military base in Paraguay, although the U.S. denies its existence. Close to the border with Bolivia, where the leftist movement is growing stronger and stronger and a presidential election looms in the near future, many believe the base to be a prelude to U.S. intervention there. You may ask what the issue of dispute in Bolivia is? Natural Gas. The country has huge gas reserves and the U.S. gov't wants to be in a position to protect U.S. interests in the region should a leftist like Evo Morales win the presidency.

The Colombian Paramilitaries

A NY Times article sheds some light on the disarming of the Colombian paramilitaries that I discussed in my previous post. Human Rights Watch claims that the laws governing the disarming are basically a "get-out-of-jail-free card" and will prevent extradition of members of the paramilitary group to the U.S. on drug charges. Incidentally, the paramilitaries control large parts of the country and are heavily involved in the drug trade. It basically boils down to the fact that the U.S. War on Drugs taking place in Colombia is really a war on the socialist/communist group, the FARC. It really has nothing to do with drugs. I guess this should not be all that surprising considering the recent history of warmongering by the U.S. government.

Resistance in Colombia

Colombia has experienced what is essentially a civil war between 3 factions for many years now. These days the picture is this: on one side of the trifecta is the U.S. backed Uribe government, recipient of the largest amount of U.S. military aid in the world; a second prong is composed of the right-wing paramilitary group - ex-military outside of the control of the gov't and sowing terror throughout the countryside (they have been some of the biggest players in the drug trade). According to AP reports, they have reportedly begun to disarm; Finally, completing the group is the FARC, a supposed communist/socialist group of rebels that control parts of the country, and have recently stepped up their pressure on the government.
My story here connects to the previous posts about the swing to the left in much of Latin America. The above linked BBC article notes that the FARC wants to ensure that the Uribe administration meets defeat in the next election. They hope for a more sympathetic group to gain office, which would definitely be a left leaning party. This would fall in line with much of the rest of Latin America, a major blow to the U.S. especially if combined with a leftist victory in Mexico.
The other story here, of course under-reported, is the civil war. The above picture (from a site called ConflictPics) shows members of the military that have been hit by a FARC-planted bomb device. War is ugly. It affects real human beings. Sadly, this war has been made possible by the huge amount of military aid provided by the U.S. government. Things might be very different, although admittedly not necessarily better (but maybe), if the U.S. would step back and let the people of Colombia decide what is best for Colombia, as it is happening non-violently in much of the rest of Latin America.