Friday, July 22, 2011


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Parsons/Makwana: The Silent Humanitarian Crises Beyond East Africa

The international response to the East African crisis is far short of urgent needs, yet the extreme deprivation being reported is only the tip of the iceberg.

The Silent Humanitarian Crises Beyond East Africa
by Adam Parsons and Rajesh Makwana article link article link article link
July 22, 2011 | CommonDreams | Dissident Voice | Share The World's Resource (STWR)

The unfolding crisis in the Horn of Africa is yet another tragedy that reflects the dysfunction and injustice inherent in the structures of the world economy. Although the factors that are currently causing widespread hunger and deprivation across a large part of the region include the worst drought for 60 years, escalating food prices and continued regional conflict, the problem is largely man-made and entirely preventable if sufficient resources are redistributed to all people in need.

Around 10.7 million people already need urgent humanitarian assistance, while many thousands are fleeing a devastated Somalia each day to take refuge in makeshift camps across Ethiopia and Kenya. The United Nations has now officially declared two regions of southern Somalia to be in famine - a situation in which at least 20 percent of households face a complete lack of food and other basic necessities, and starvation, death and destitution are evident. As the Famine Early Warning Systems Network makes clear (pdf), the currently inadequate levels of humanitarian response are likely to see famine spread across all eight regions of southern Somalia within two months and could lead to "total livelihood/social collapse".

With food insecurity in the East African region remaining an ongoing concern for decades, many humanitarian agencies have been trying to draw attention to a potential famine in these countries for some time. The UN made an appeal for $500m in 2010 to assist with food security, but managed to secure only half from donors. Consequently, hunger levels have rocketed over recent months, and in some areas the number of young children suffering malnutrition is now three times the normal emergency level. At least half a million children risk death if immediate help does not reach them, according to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).

The humanitarian coordinator for Somalia has also described the lack of resources as alarming, with insufficient donations of food, clean water, shelter and health services to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of Somalis in desperate need. The underlying problem is repeated by various aid organisations: that the international response is not commensurate with the urgent requirements of those affected by the humanitarian catastrophe, and there is a lack of international support to address the deep-seated causes of the crisis or to mitigate future crises.

Yet the extreme deprivation being widely reported across East African is just the tip of the iceberg. Needless impoverishment and death is an ongoing catastrophe that unfolds daily, largely without any attention from the world's media or the public. At least 41,000 people in the developing world continue to die each day from easily preventable diseases that barely occur in high-income countries, such as diarrhoea, malaria or nutritional deficiencies. Despite the scale of these preventable deaths - amounting to 15 million lives lost each year, half of which affect young children before their fifth birthday - there is no official recognition that such extreme deprivation should also be considered a humanitarian catastrophe and treated accordingly.

These shameful mortality rates occur as a result of the ongoing silent disaster of world poverty, which receives a similarly inadequate international response to the periodic famines or food crises in countries like Somalia. For over a decade, international efforts to reduce poverty have centred around the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of globally agreed targets that are set to expire in 2015. Although the MDGs have done much to focus attention on global poverty, they are widely considered an insufficient and superficial approach to economic development and saving lives.

A deadly lack of ambition

The politically sensitive principles of equity and distributive justice that featured in the original Millennium Declaration have gradually faded from the official development discourse, accompanied by a deadly lack of ambition. Even if the MDG goal on halving rates of poverty is met, a staggering 882 million people will still be living in absolute poverty in 2015. In effect, the MDG's focus on merely reducing over time the number of people living below the threshold of human survival tacitly accepts the continuance of poverty-related deaths each day. Similarly, goals four and five commit to reduce maternal mortality by only three quarters by 2015, and under-five child mortality by two-thirds, which accepts not only a high number of preventable maternal and child deaths remaining at the end of the MDG period, but also many millions of such needless deaths in the interim.

In an interdependent and globalised world, there can be no meaningful process of development whilst so many people living in poverty die prematurely and unnecessarily. The impact on families, communities and economies are devastating, and preventing these deaths is an urgent moral necessity. Even in the crudest economic calculations, putting an end to avoidable deaths would amount to a significant investment in human capital, as healthy individuals whose basic needs are secured are far more likely to contribute to the growth of communities and nations. It is objectionable from any social, moral or economic viewpoint that sufficient resources are not immediately made available to address the crises of extreme deprivation, especially in its most acute manifestation well before the situation degenerates into a full-blown famine.

International efforts to address the life-threatening poverty of millions of people in the poorest countries must aim far higher and provide much more than the current insufficient, voluntary and often conditional donations of overseas aid and disaster assistance. A massively upscaled redistribution of resources from North to South is essential to avert humanitarian disasters and prevent extreme deprivation and poverty-related deaths. Given the scale of these related crises, an international program of emergency relief must become the highest priority of world governments, followed by assistance for developing countries to secure ongoing state-provided welfare and essential services for all their citizens. Efforts to improve the redistribution of wealth nationally through the development of local industries, better taxation and the provision of comprehensive social protection for all people should become the new focus of international development policy.

Central to this transformation of development is the principle of sharing, which embodies universally accepted ethical values that reflect our common humanity. Aligning the international policy discourse more closely to our shared moral obligations can help redeem decades of unjust economic and social policy, prevent future famines and help manifest an inclusive vision of progress and development. In the simplest economic terms, sharing points to the need for a redistribution of wealth from rich to poor, and a shift in power relations from financial and commercial interests to the world's majority population. The East African crisis presents another opportunity for civil society to demand that wealth and resources are shared more equitably across the world, and that policy-makers prioritise the complete eradication of poverty above all other concerns.

Adam Parsons is the editor at Share The World's Resources, (STWR) a London-based NGO campaigning for essential resources - such as land, energy, water and the atmosphere - to be shared internationally and sustainably in order to secure basic human needs. He can be contacted at adam(at)stwr.org.

Rajesh Makwana is the executive director of Share The World's Resources, (STWR), a London-based NGO campaigning for essential resources - such as land, energy, water and the atmosphere - to be shared internationally and sustainably in order to secure basic human needs. He can be contacted at rajesh@stwr.org

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Somalia: the Real Causes of Famine
by Michel Chossudovsky article link
July 21, 2011 | Global Research
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The Famine in Somalia: The Use of Food as an Instrument of Warfare
U.S. and Ethiopia Kill Somalis With Food Weapon
July 21, 2011 | Global Research | Black Agenda Report
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Republican Lawmakers Tell the World Where to Go
by Jim Lobe article link
July 22, 2011 | CommonDreams | Inter Press Service
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Ensuring Fair Shares in a World of Limits
As worldwide demand increases for natural resources that are already in short supply, how should aid donors and campaigners respond?
July 22, 2011 | CommonDreams | The Guardian/UK
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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ralph Nader: Why Not Corporate Patriotism for a Change?

If companies are given American rights, they should have loyalty to this country too.

Why Not Corporate Patriotism for a Change?
by Ralph Nader article link article link
July 21, 2011 | CommonDreams | The Chicago Tribune

The fireworks and celebrations that mark Independence Day are over. But the need for a national conversation on corporate patriotism has never been more timely.

For more than 125 years the courts have been awarding corporations most of the constitutional rights possessed by human beings. Corporations — as artificial entities — now almost have rights equal to "We the people," even though the words "corporation" and "company" are not mentioned in the Constitution.

Under the current 5-4 conservative majority in the U.S. Supreme Court, "corporate personhood" is spreading. The Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case allows unlimited independent corporate expenditures for or against any political candidates.

Since large corporations keep unleashing their corporate attorneys to push the domain of corporations as "persons," it is way overdue to judge them by the same yardsticks as we judge real persons.

U.S. corporations, chartered (born) in the U.S., rising to great size and profits because of American workers, saved or succored repeatedly by taxpayer subsidies and bailouts in Washington and state capitals, and sometimes rescued by U.S. Marines or protected by the U.S. fleets when they are in trouble abroad, owe the American people and our country some measure of loyalty and duty.

Instead of extending patriotic gratitude, large U.S. corporations increasingly are sending the opposite message. "We're outta here, with your jobs," their behavior says. Unfortunately, some CEOs appear to have no problem with dictatorial communist regimes like China or oligarchies like Mexico that know how to oppress impoverished workers. Workers in China cannot start independent unions or uniformly use independent courts to recognize their health, safety and economic rights.

Products from foreign sweatshops are exported back to the U.S. where abandoned factories and communities proliferate.

Corporations say they love their country, especially when it comes to manufacturing modern weapons systems for the Pentagon. So let's extend this love and see how they measure up patriotically.

Is it patriotic for drug companies to leave our country without any production facilities for ingredients used in penicillin and other key drugs because they have shipped production rapidly in the past decade to China and India which lack the inspection standards we have here? Leaving America defenseless and so dependent in this critical area is especially galling. Remember Big Pharma accepts billions in tax credits and valuable free research, development and clinical testing by the National Institutes of Health for many important pharmaceuticals.

Is it patriotic for CEOs to continue using public services and gobs of corporate welfare while they move their corporate headquarters to a small office in the Bahamas or other tax havens to escape paying their fair share to the Treasury? Such tax escapees burden ordinary taxpayers further.

Is it patriotic for CEOs to demand and use taxpayer dollars to facilitate moving abroad with their industries? The latest version of this lack of fealty is taking large federal subsidies for solar energy research and development and then moving the production facilities to China. Andrew Grove, former CEO of Intel, has written critically of this ominous, job-draining trend.

Is it patriotic for General Motors to be saved from bankruptcy by taxpayers and still keep billions in taxpayer-paid reserves and credits, yet lobby against the Obama administration's proposed overdue safety and fuel economy standards?

In 1996, I sent letters to the CEOs of the largest hundred U.S. chartered corporations, urging them at their annual shareholders meeting, in the name of their corporation (not their boards of directors or officers) to pledge allegiance to the flag.

For example, the CEOs would stand up, and on behalf of General Motors, DuPont, Exxon Mobil, Pfizer or Bank of America, "pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

The many responses were instructive. Only Federated Department Stores thought it was a good idea. The other companies either said that they would take the suggestion under advisement or they misinterpreted my letter as asking for pledges by corporate officials and shareholders, no matter what their nationality. Ford Motor Co. flatly declared "the concept of corporate allegiance is not workable." In high dudgeon, O. George Everbach wrote back declaring "Kimberly-Clark believes that it has an inalienable right to choose when, where and how it wishes to display its patriotism."

Well at least Kimberly-Clark recognized the concept. Now it is time for American workers and taxpayers to say to corporate America that companies can't always have it both ways — to receive all the benefits of American corporate personhood and avoid all the expectations of patriotic behavior and the responsibilities that go along with those privileges and immunities.

This is not a left-right divide. For as Pat Buchanan has said, if these U.S. corporations are not loyal to us, why should we be loyal to them?

© 2011 Chicago Tribune

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent book - and first novel - is, Only The Super-Rich Can Save Us. His most recent work of non-fiction is The Seventeen Traditions.

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Corporate America's Sunshine Patriots
by Michael Winship article link
July 21, 2011 | CommonDreams

The People's Budget vs. The Plutocracy
by John Atcheson article link
July 21, 2011 | CommonDreams

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Willie Osterweil: A Global Fight for Radical Democracy

Yes We Camp: A Global Fight for Radical Democracy
by Willie Osterweil article link article link
July 19, 2011 | CommonDreams | Shareable

Millenials all over the world have received a brutal political education. The lucky few of us paid far more and will get far less for our college degrees than any generation before, we have watched with dismay as our parents squabble over light bulbs while the seas boil, and we have witnessed the steady erosion of public space, individual rights, the fourth estate, and checks on executive power. America has been at war for basically the entire adult lives of everyone under 30. The financial collapse of 2008 seemed to catch Baby Boomers by surprise, but for us, it was just another news story, a predictable event in a world spinning out of control. We have also grown up with racial and sexual tolerance as the norm (if not the rule), with communication and information constantly at our fingertips, and in a world where, though crises are shared globally, so is community.

We have seen the house of cards start to tremble, we have watched our future sold to the lowest bidder, and we see it happening everywhere at once.

Out of this potentially nihilistic morass a serious movement for change is emerging. Though it would be disingenuous to call it a youth movement – it’s too big for that – Millenials have been at the vanguard in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Greece, Ireland, Iceland, and Spain. We have developed new tactics, new ideologies, new ideas, and we’ve done it fast. Though strategies and expressions have varied to match cultural and national contexts, the movements share striking similarities. These movements have no leaders, no major political parties, no rigid ideologies and no demands beyond total, real, democracy.

“Yes We Camp,” one of the witty twitter hashtags of Spain’s 15 May movement, sums things up well. Inspired by the Arab Spring, galvanized by crisis, unemployment and austerity, fed up with the ineffective, corrupt, and often misanthropic political process, we are leaving our homes and moving to the street. In a blend of last-chance desperation and optimistic empowerment, we are building autonomous, totally democratic camps in city centers across the world. In these camps total inclusive democracy is praxis, everything is shared, and we build revolutionary consciousness everyday.

Perhaps no country is better suited to the radical democratic camps than Spain. A relatively young democracy, Spain has a rich political history of autonomous revolt and a strong cultural tradition of shared outdoor space. With unemployment hovering around 25 percent, and youth unemployment above 40 percent, a decade long housing bubble as dramatic as that in the US, and a series of dramatic cuts to social services being pushed by the EU and the ‘socialist’ Zapatero government, Los Indignados have over 60 percent popular support. I’ve discussed the history of the movement and life in the camps for Shareable before, but I’d like to zero in on the political methods and practices I witnessed (and took part in, to a limited extent) in Barcelona’s Placa Catalunya.

The camp is fundamentally organized around the principle of the General Assembly. If you’ve been in any kind of leftist meeting you have an idea of how it works: someone volunteers to be meeting facilitator, and people raise their hands to get on the ‘stack’. The facilitator calls on people in the order they volunteered, and only one person speaks at a time. They seek consensus rather than majority rule: all of the meetings I witnessed ended with dissenters agreeing to proposals and accepting the decision of the group. In a majority vote, voters are presented with a yes/no question and 51 percent carries the day, but in General Assembly proposals are built during conversation and debate, and as such actually reflect the desires of the group as a whole.

From the general assembly Los Indignados formed commissions, which focus on specific issues and questions within the camp, such as communication, international press, infrastructure, and food. These commissions set up their own booths and tents, where they work and remain available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to speak with the public walking through the square. Commissions all have their own assemblies, following the same methods. As such, all actions, choices, and movements are formed from the bottom up, not the top down.

This means, of course, a lot of meetings: it can be boring, and slow, and sometimes frustrating. But everyone takes part in the decision process, and everyone’s voice is listened to, not just heard. During a general assembly on Tuesday the 21st, a group of eleven and twelve year olds marched into the square chanting, to general applause. The assembly was paused to allow the kids to come up on stage and address the camp. What is lost in ideological rigidity you gain in respect, actualization, and consciousness. Democracy is messy, but efficiency is capitalism's catch-phrase.

Everything is shared: decision making, food, labor, information, experience, resources, cigarettes. Placa Catalunya has a free kitchen, daily teach-ins, meeting schedules, public art spaces, a play space for kids, free movie screenings, and much more.

The camps also serve as action and information centers: people form actions large and small from the centralized point, allowing for a fluidity and speed of organization unavailable to other forms of organization. It also allows for simple scalability of involvement: core revolutionaries sleep and live in the camp, some people spend a couple days a week there, others only show up for major protests. This improvisational form of occupation creates a strong but fluid movement open to all and run by the people.

This is a practice of total democracy, of real, revolutionary tolerance. Los Indignados are 100 percent against violence, but they define violence to include homelessness, unemployment, hate speech and other forms of injustice. To quote the popular chant: this is what democracy looks like!

Similarly organized camps can be found throughout Spain, in Athens, and of course Egypt and Tunisia. Smaller camps have been springing up all over the world: England, Iceland, Italy, and France, throughout South America, even some in Japan and South Korea.

They’ve been appearing here in the US too. After the people were kicked out of the capitol building in Madison, they spontaneously organized Walkerville, an anti-Walker camp and protest space. I am writing these words from Bloombergville, the New York City encampment built to fight Bloomberg’s 2012 budget. A camp sprung up in San Jose this week, and Boston last week. A group called “American Spring” has planned camps for next month in Pheonix, San Fransisco, San Jose, and across the Southwest, and a major anti-war encampment is planned for Washington D.C, slated to start on October 6.

It’s not clear whether all of these camps can succeed in their goals, but it is totally clear that this method is capable of transforming consciousness (particularly among millenials) and making a better future seem not only possible, but plausible. This is the new method of resistance, revolt and democracy developed by a generation with nothing to lose and everything to gain. We will be seeing many more of these camps before this crisis is over, and one may well be coming to your city. If it’s not, get your friends together, find points of unity, and grab your sleeping bags.

Willie Osterweil is a writer and punk singer based in Brooklyn, NY. When he's not overseas taking part in revolutions, Willie edits the A/V section for The New Inquiry and fronts the band Vulture Shit.

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Neoliberalism, Austerity, and the Global Crisis of Legitimacy
by Chris Maisano article link article link
July 19, 2011 | CommonDreams | The Activist
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The Never-Ending Depression
The Economy Can Only Recover If We Repudiate the Debt
by Washington's Blog article link article link
July 20, 2011 | Global Research | Washington's Blog
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The Class Politics of the US Debt Ceiling Crisis
by Patrick Martin article link article link
July 20, 2011 | Global Research | WSWS

Balance the Budget on the Backs of Billionaires
by David Swanson article link
July 20, 2011 | OpEdNews
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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Mary Bottari: ALEC Exposed

ALEC Exposed: Milton Friedman's Little Shop of Horrors
July 19, 2011 | CommonDreams | PRWatch | Uprising Radio

Although he passed away in 2006, states are now grappling with many of the toxic notions left behind by University of Chicago economist Milton Friedman.

In her groundbreaking book, The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein coined the term "disaster capitalism" for the rapid-fire corporate re-engineering of societies still reeling from shock. The master of disaster? Privatization and free market guru Milton Friedman. Friedman advised governments in economic crisis to follow strict austerity measures, combining radical cuts in social services with the full-scale privatization of their more lucrative assets. Many countries in Latin America auctioned off everything standing -- from energy and water utilities to Social Security -- to for profit multinational firms, crushing unions and other dissenters along the way.

Now, U.S. states are in crisis. The 2008 Wall Street financial meltdown, caused by years of deregulation and lack of government oversight, cost Americans $14 trillion in lost wealth and eight million lost jobs. Today some 25 million are unemployed or underemployed. This jobs crisis has tanked federal and state tax receipts, adding billions to state budget shortfalls.

As the prime movers of this deregulatory agenda, the GOP spin machine has launched into hyper-drive in an attempt to wash the blood from their hands. Governors across the nation, backed by Wall Street's Club for Growth and the Koch Brother's Americans for Prosperity, are working hard to convince average Americans that a jobs crisis is actually a deficit crisis and that the culprits are not the big banks on Wall Street, but state, county and municipal workers.

In lockstep, governors are reaching for an almost identical set of "solutions," to their financial woes: massive tax breaks for big corporations, constitutional amendments to prevent states from raising revenue, the slashing of critical public services, the busting of unions and the privatization of every possible aspect of government including public schools -- long a Friedman agenda item. (See the video here.)

The similarity of these measures has not gone unnoticed, but now we have found the fountainhead of these radical measures: the American Legislative Exchange Council. (ALEC)

ALEC Exposed

This week the Center for Media and Democracy made available to the public over 800 ALEC "model" bills and resolutions on a new website, ALECexposed.org. We display the documents, crafted by corporations, and right-wing state legislators behind closed doors, so that citizens across the country can now trace the origins of many of the radical proposals moving in their states. (Our site contains lists of ALEC members, corporations, task forces, scholars, funders and more.)

Milton Friedman famously said: "Only a crisis -- actual or perceived -- produces real changes. When the crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable." Think of ALEC as Milton Friedman's little shop of horrors where legislators across the country can easily access the "ideas laying around."

ALEC is not a lobby, and it is not a front group. It is much more powerful than that. Behind closed doors, corporations hand legislators the law changes they desire that directly benefit their bottom line. Corporations are "equal" members. They have their own corporate governing board which meets jointly with the legislative board. Corporations and trade groups fund almost all of ALEC's operations directly through hefty membership dues and indirectly through corporate foundations, like the Charles G. Koch Foundation.

Corporations, like Koch Industries, Phillip Morris, Reynolds, Kraft, Wal-Mart, Bayer, Coca Cola, State Farm and more, sit on ALEC task forces and vote with state legislators to approve "model" bills in secret. They wine and dine legislators at swank hotels, with child care provided, fundraisers and other perks pre-arranged. After a swell time, participating legislators -- overwhelmingly conservative Republicans -- bring the bills home and introduce them into statehouses across the land as their own brilliant ideas and important public policy innovations. ALEC cuts out the middleman and the state legislators themselves become "super lobbyists" for the ALEC agenda.

Disaster Capitalism in the States

In December of 2008, while the economy was shedding hundreds of thousands of jobs a month, one group was treating the catastrophe as a terrific opportunity. Governor Mitch Daniels reminded an ALEC gathering that the collapse of the U.S. economy was "a terrific time to shrink government!"

In 2010, Republicans won the governorship and control of both houses in 21 states. ALEC shock troops swung into high gear. In Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Maine a steady stream of bills emerged from Milton Friedman's shop.

Starving State Government of Revenue to Make It Dysfunctional and Despised: ALEC members are introducing hundreds of bills to grant tax breaks to big corporations and to cripple state's ability to raise revenue, including new constitutional rules to limiting state taxing powers. Grover Norquist would love these lethal proposals.

Privatizing Schools and Other Government Services: ALEC bills encompass over 20 years of effort to privatize public education through an ever-expanding school voucher system, to turn Medicare and Medicaid into voucher programs,and to privatize almost all aspects of government including toll roads and bridges, pensions, foster care and prisons. Foreign firms like Maquarie and Cintra, which are snapping up U.S. roads and bridges, are also using ALEC to push model bills.

Race to the Bottom in Wages for Americans: ALEC bills would repeal state or local laws that boost workers wages such as "living wage" and prevailing wage laws. ALEC bills call a starting minimum wage an "unfunded mandate" but think that prison labor is just terrific. ALEC also supports a radical "free trade" agenda that sends U.S. manufacturing and an increasing number of service-sector jobs overseas.

Defunding Traditional Supporters of the Democratic Party: ALEC purports to be nonpartisan, but only 1 of 104 legislators in ALEC's leadership is a Democrat. ALECexposed.org contains dozens of bills to defund public sector and private sector unions and to make it harder for trial lawyers to bring cases when consumers are injured or killed by dangerous products.

Help Needed!

ALEC's agenda is vast. These bills and many more are moving in all 50 states. We need your help! Visit ALECexposed.org today, see the corporations and legislators pursuing this agenda and help us track the bills moving in your state. Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter at #ALECexposed and Take Action to tell the ALEC corporate cabal to "Dump ALEC!"

© 2011 Center for Media and Democracy

Mary Bottari is the Director of the Center for Media and Democracy's Real Economy Project and editor of their www.BanksterUSA.org site.

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Keynes Cocktail Is No Joke
by Staff Report article link
July 19, 2011 | Daily Bell
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President Obama's Big Deal: Cuts for Social Security, But No Taxes for Wall Street
by Dean Baker article link
July 19, 2011 | CommonDreams | CEPR

World War Three Is Under Way and YOU Are the Enemy
July 6, 2011 | SCSC | OpEdNews
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How to Liberate America from Wall Street Rule
How is it that our nation is awash in money, but too broke to provide jobs and services?
July 19, 2011 | CommonDreams | YES! Magazine | Uprising Radio
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The Abundant Community;
John McKnight & Peter Block; Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods
The Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show Podcast article/podcast link
Recorded August 25, 2010 | OpEdNews
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Monday, July 18, 2011

Richard Clark: A Road to Serfdom

Global Economic Crisis: The Ultimate Goal of the Bankster-led Political-economic Warfare Being Waged Against Us Is ... ?
by Richard Clark article link
July 14, 2011 | OpEdNews

As economist Michael Hudson points out, the European debt crisis is really the product of financial warfare instigated by big banks. Yes, these banks are engaged in warfare against the rest of society. What's going on in Greece is exactly what's going to happen in America very shortly. Why? Because in every industrialized country, the big banks are in the process of offloading their bad debts onto governments. They are then forcing these governments to sell off national assets so that the bankers can be paid what they consider to be their due. (For more about this, see the linked video at this web site, about Greece being a dress rehearsal for the US.)

In a nutshell, what it says is that the world is being prepared for the kind of "neo-feudalism" that these banksters (intent on ever more completely becoming our masters and lords) intend to implement. And so it is that America is in the early stages of being subjected to the same type of plundering as Greece and Ireland.

As Hudson explained in 2008, what these banksters and their cohorts are really trying to do is to roll back the Enlightenment, roll back the moral philosophy and social values of classical political economy and its culmination in Progressive Era legislation, as well as the New Deal institutions that embody such legislation. They're not trying to make the economy more equal, and they're not trying to share power -- just the opposite: Their aim is to implement a kind of pre-industrial and even feudal socioeconomic system. What this means is that our economy is being pushed back and put on the road to debt peonage. Hence forth, most manufacturing will be done in Asia and Europe.

What we have here, therefore, is indeed a "Road to Serfdom." It is just the opposite of the government sponsorship of economic progress and rising living standards that we had until Reagan took the White House. Rather, it's the dismantling of democratic government and the dissolution of regulatory agencies, for the purpose of creating this new kind of neo-feudal system. (Don't miss Max Keiser's discussion of this neo-feudalism on the Keiser Report. Just scroll down until you see a picture of economist Michael Hudson on the linked video screen.)

If all this sounds far fetched, consider that Foreign Policy magazine recently ran an article entitled "The Next Big Thing: Neomedievalism," arguing that the power of nations is declining, and is being replaced by big banks and other corporations, wealthy individuals, the sovereign wealth funds of monarchs, and city-regions.

Also consider that many progressive economists are now telling us that the true purpose of the bank rescue plans is "a massive redistribution of wealth (concentrating ever more of it into the hands of) the bank shareholders and their top executives."

Finally, as the wholly non-partisan Australian economist Steve Keen observed:

"This is the biggest transfer of wealth in history," as the giant banks have handed off their toxic debts (stemming from fraudulent activities) to tax payers in their respective countries. These big banks created bubbles -- using fraud -- because that's the only way they could make the obscene profits they feel they now deserve. (See this for details). And be sure to not miss Max Keiser's interview of Steve Keen here. (Just scroll down until you see Mr. Keen's picture on the linked video screen.)

Indeed, this isn't the "Great Recession", it's the Great Bank Robbery. In simple language, the big banks have pillaged and looted the rest of the world, and now they are beginning to pillage and loot the USA. It is not only Greece that is losing its sovereignty; the big banks are in the process of turning America into a banana republic as well. Remember, the trillions in bailouts went to banks, not to Main Street, and a large percentage of the bailouts went to foreign banks (and see this). And so did most of the money from the second round of quantitative easing.

In short, warfare initiated by the big banks has now gone global. As Warren Buffet, one of America's most successful capitalists and defenders of capitalism, has pointed out, "There's class warfare, all right, but it's my class, the rich class, that's making that war." And winning it.

Let's not forget that it was inequality that to a large extent caused the Great Depression and that has also caused the current economic crisis. Finally, let's not forget, either, that the father of modern economics, Adam Smith, didn't believe that inequality should be a taboo subject, and that even some conservatives, in addition to most liberals of course, are against rampant inequality. In spite of this, however, polls show that the vast majority of Americans continue to greatly underestimate the amount of inequality that has, in our country, over the past 30 years, been generated. Most remain largely unaware of the colossal crime that has been committed against them.

That lack of awareness we must bring to an end.

Richard Clark: Several years after receiving my M.A. in social science (interdisciplinary studies) I was an instructor at S.F. State University for a year, but then went back to designing automated machinery, and then tech writing, in Silicon Valley. I've always been more interested in political economics and what's going on behind the scenes in politics, than in mechanical engineering, and because of that I've rarely worked more than 8 months a year, devoting much of the rest of the year to reading and writing about that which interests me most. Web site http://www.techeditingservices.com/

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Global Economic Crisis: Finance Is the New Mode of Warfare
by Prof. Michael Hudson article link program link(mp3) article link
July 18, 2011 | Global Research | Guns and Butter (KPFA) | ICH
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Sitting Atop Trillions: What Would Business Do with Another Tax Break?
by Joseph Dwyer article link article link
July 18, 2011 | CommonDreams | Policy Shop
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Reading the Debt Ceiling Tea Leaves to Predict the Future
by Jack Rasmus article link
July 18, 2011 | Truthout
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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Bob Chapman: Financial Crimes on Wall Street and the Debt Crisis

Financial Crimes on Wall Street and the Debt Crisis
Crisis And Collapse Unfortunate but Inevitable
by Bob Chapman article link article link
July 16, 2011 | Global Research | International Forecaster

Crime on Wall Street, in banking and in corporate America pays. One just neither admits or denies and lets the corporate shareholders pay the fines. These are today’s untouchable, who steal billions and get away with it. Financial institutions are too big to fail, as are their key employees.

To a great extent fraud and other criminal behavior caused the credit crisis and lack of recovery that we have witnessed over the last 5 years. We have had top officers of firms see their companies headed for trouble and with this inside knowledge they have cashed out their share holdings. Then there were the predatory lenders, syndicators of bonds, which contained mortgages, now known as toxic waste, that were criminally given AAA ratings when they deserved BBB. We had some 1,000 corporate officers who backdated their options. Only one was criminally prosecuted when they all should have been.

Prosecutions have come few and for between, because the SEC, CFTC and the Justice Department aid and abet these crooks in order to keep harmony in the system, which is coming unglued. They have always done this, but over the past 5 years even the uneducated can see what has and is taking place. In fact the more outrageous the crime, the less it is liable to be pursued. This non-pursuit of crime needless to say encourages more crime and further damages overall corporate and financial sectors. There is no accountability and we see none in the future. Let there be no mistake this financial crisis is worse than the last depression. This continuing degenerative process can only assist in a further degeneration of the system.

A bill has been introduced by Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the permanent subcommittee on investigations, that would change IRS regulations that allow American traders of credit default swaps to avoid paying federal taxes on transactions initiated in the US. It would tighten rules that enable some hedge funds and US corporations to reduce federal tax liabilities by declaring themselves foreign companies and moving a small part of their operations overseas. It would require companies to provide the SEC and the public, with a country-by-country breakdown of their sales, employment and operations.

Senator Levin says that abuse of offshore havens cost American taxpayers $100 billion a year. Presently American transnational conglomerates have more than $2 trillion stashed offshore waiting for another tax break like the one five years ago that allowed them to bring $350 billion home at 5-1/4% instead of regular taxation of 35%. That works out to about $600 billion lost to the Treasury. Gains from traders would be $20 billion over ten years. The removal of these tax breaks would certainly help cut the budget deficit.

The crisis in Greece is finally causing contagion in Italy. The crisis of all six near bankrupt euro nations is upon us and it is permanent. Moody’s just downgraded Ireland again, at the worst possible time. Spain, which is in terrible shape, will soon follow. The EU members and their controllers, the banks, keep trying to put band-aids on their festering problem. Sooner or later they will have to face the music and that is those six nations will all have to go bankrupt along with the banks. All of you subscribers in the EU and UK get your funds out of the bank, now, and into gold and silver coins. If you don’t you may end up with nothing. If this goes on long enough it will take the presently solvent nations down as well.

The European Union and the euro zone were ill conceived and bound to failure. After having lived in Europe for years, and being able to speak several of their languages, you get to understand people and the way they think. Both entities were anthropologically unnatural. Europe is still tribal. Just look at countries like Germany, France and Belgium where people speak different variations of the same language. In Belgium they speak two distinct languages. The EU’s major flaw was sovereign countries ran their own fiscal policies, as bureaucrats ran the EU. You have to either federalize all the way or forget it. The euro zone foisted one interest rate fits all, all on countries that should have never had the same interest rates as say Germany. We talked about both these issues 14 years ago, but as usual, no one was listening. From the very beginning the EU and the euro zone were doomed. Both are going to now begin the process of disintegration, as both are a failure. The six countries will go bankrupt, as will the banks. That will dislodge England and push it into bankruptcy and that in turn will force the US to follow. That may be the catalyst that forces a meeting of all nations to revalue, devalue and multilaterally default, hopefully such a meeting will occur long before this stage is reached. There is no question now that the game is over. The question now is when?

Workers have become a form of inventory just like widgets. For years now companies have laid off and rehired workers at will, keeping the expensive worker participation to a minimum. If you use total figures and include discouraged workers the unemployed are 20.6 million, up 483,000 in June. We do not see stimulus 3 coming from Congress, so we expect unemployment to resume its relentless rise upward from 22.6%. Mind you unemployment reflects $1.7 trillion in stimulus 1 and 2, and QE 1 and QE 2, which takes us well over 44 trillion. All those injections did was to bail out the financial sector and government. As we know our President tells us the administration created three million jobs, at a cost of $266,000 per job. That is hardly something to write home about. Corporate America is in excellent financial shape, but they will be slow to hire until they see a firm recovery in place. Sure GE made $17 million, because they did not pay taxes as we do, but they won’t rush out to hire unless the reason to hire exists. The real opportunity to hire has to be with small business that hires 70% of Americans. They do not enjoy the tax-free status of GE. Most of these small companies are barely hanging on. These are the companies that banks won’t loan too. Half of them are still experiencing falling profits, only 20% are doing well.

Year-on-year in the municipal sector 450,000 workers are going to lose their jobs, because many of these entities are close to broke. They and the states want more money from the federal government, which it doesn’t have to give. Large, very profitable businesses generally create very few jobs. They and mid-sized companies are buying more and more labor saving equipment, or they are moving production offshore. For the last three years most of the new jobs paid subsistence wages. Those are $8.00 to $11.00 an hour jobs, which are really part-time providing a 34.3-hour week, as inflation roars ahead up 10.6% and headed up to 14% by yearend. The average duration of unemployment is at an all-time high and 44% unemployed have been out work six months or more, at an all-time high.

We had a gentlemen call in on one of our programs, he has a masters and had been out of work for four years. He went to a company and told management he would work for nothing in order to learn to operate a forklift. After training he got a job doing that work at a plumbing company. He has the distinction of beating out 26 other applicants. He has been told in 1-1/2 years they will be an opening for him in accounting, his major. This is the state of America today, as our transnational conglomerates ship our jobs out of the country every day.

We figure a debt extension bill is on the way, but it will only cut $150 to $200 billion a year in government spending, hardly an accomplishment. If the Fed does not inject $850 billion into the economy we are looking at a minus 3% to 5% in GDP. That is in addition to buying $1.7 trillion in treasuries and other associated toxic waste.

The newest recession began a few months ago, or should we say downturn in an inflationary depression. There will be no recovery this year or next without $850 billion additional being thrown into the economy. No 3.5% growth. Perhaps a minus 4% if we are lucky. That should put unemployment close to 25% by 2012. After the news comes out that the term debt deal has been done the stock market will begin to slip downward.

As this transpires we see a million more foreclosures and more the following year. In order for the economy to revive housing it has to revive and we see absolutely no chance of that happening over the next two years. As the Fed supplies buckets of money and credit inflation will scream upward. 25% to 30% is already in the pipeline for next year via QE and Stimulus 2. There is no way that can be stopped. That will be added to by the results of QE 3 in 2013. We wish it won’t be this way, but it is.

There has been an inevitability since August 15,1971, that America and the western world would move from crisis to crisis until the financial and economic system eventually collapsed.

For those who have been objective over those years what we are seeing today is no surprise.

No one in America wants the merry-go-round to stop. Americans are not prepared to face the music. They naturally want more debt creation, but interestingly by 70%, they did not want a short-term debt extension. That is understandably confusing and the reason is that when it comes to economy and finance they are really in the dark. What they truly do not understand along with much of Wall Street is that the debt problem is much worse and deeper then they believe.

The problems in Europe are never ending. The solvent countries are discovering what we discovered a year ago May. The cost of the six-country bailout we projected at $4 trillion. A month ago we increased that to $4 to $6 trillion. When we said $4 trillion Germany said $1 trillion. This past week they said $3.5 trillion. We wonder why it took them so long to catch up. As of this writing the Greeks have signed a bailout deal but the lenders still do not know what they want to do. They are finally reaching the realization that they cannot be serviced never mind be repaid. You can cut wages and spending 40% or 50% and not expect revenues to fall. That means the bankers get paid and no one else does. That is what Wall Street’s game is all about.

Bob Chapman is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Global Research articles by Bob Chapman
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‘Let ‘Em Eat Peas’: An Elitist Mantra for Our Age
by Donna Smith article link
July 17, 2011 | CommonDreams
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Blowing It: Democrats, Unable to Be a Party of the People, are Sinking Themselves
by Dave Lindorff article link
July 17, 2011 | CommonDreams

The Morality of Gold
by Anthony Wile article link
July 16, 2011 | Daily Bell
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The Greater Depression Is Upon Us
by David Galland article link
July 16, 2011 | Silver Bear Cafe
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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Smecker/Jensen: You Can't Kill a Planet and Live on It, Too

You Can't Kill a Planet and Live on It, Too
by Frank Joseph Smecker and Derrick Jensen article link
July 16, 2011 | Truthout

Let's expose the structure of violence that keeps the world economy running.

With an entire planet being slaughtered before our eyes, it's terrifying to watch the very culture responsible for this - the culture of industrial civilization, fueled by a finite source of fossil fuels, primarily a dwindling supply of oil - thrust forward wantonly to fuel its insatiable appetite for "growth."

Deluded by myths of progress and suffering from the psychosis of technomania complicated by addiction to depleting oil reserves, industrial society leaves a crescendo of atrocities in its wake. A very partial list would include the Bhopal chemical disaster, numerous oil spills, the illegal depleted uranium-spewing occupations of Iraq, Afghanistan, mountaintop removal, the nuclear meltdown of Fukushima, the permanent removal of 95 percent of the large fish from the oceans (not to mention full-on systemic collapse of those oceans), indigenous communities replacement by oil wells, the mining of coltan for cell phones and Playstations along the Democratic Republic of the Congo/Rwanda border - resulting in tribal warfare and the near-extinction of the Eastern Lowland gorilla.

As though 200 species going extinct each day were not enough, climate change, a direct result of burning fossil fuels, has proved not only to be as unpredictable as it is real, but as destructive as it is unpredictable. The erratic and lethal characteristics of a changing planet and its shifting atmosphere are becoming the norm of the 21st century, their impact accelerating at an alarming pace, bringing this planet closer, sooner than later, to a point of uninhabitable ghastliness. And yet, collective apathy, ignorance and self-imposed denial in the face of all this sadistic exploitation and violence marches this culture closer to self-annihilation.

Lost in the eerily comforting fantasy of limitless growth, production and consumption, many people cling to things like Facebook, Twitter, "Jersey Shore" and soulless pop music as if their lives depended on it, identifying with a reality that's artificial and constructed, that panders to desire rather than necessity, that delicately conceals the violence at the other end of this economy, a violence so widespread that we're all not only complicit in it to a degree (e.g., if you're a taxpayer, you help subsidize the manufacturing of weapons of mass destruction), but victims of it as well. As Chris Hedges admonished in his books, "Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy" and the "Triumph of Spectacle," any culture that cannot distinguish reality from illusion will kill itself.

Moreover, any culture that cannot distinguish reality from illusion will kill everything and everyone else in its path as well as itself.

As the world burns, as species die off, as mothers breastfeed their children with dioxin-tainted breast milk, as nuclear reactors melt down into the Pacific while the aerial deployment of depleted uranium damages innocent lives, it is perplexing that so few people fight back against a system that has horror as a reality for most living on the planet. And those who fight back, who stand in opposition to the culture behind such wholesale abuse and call it what it is - a genocidal mega-state (especially if you believe that the lives of nonhumans are as important to them as yours is to you and mine is to me) - are met with hostility and hatred, scoffed at, harassed, even tortured. With so much at stake, why aren't more people deafening their ears to the nutcases who preach a future of infinite-growth economies? And why do so many people continue to put "the economy" first, to take industrial capitalism as we know it as a given and not fight back, defend what's left of the natural world?

"One of the reasons there aren't more people working to take down the system that's killing the planet is because their lives depend on the system," author and environmental activist Derrick Jensen told me from his home in California when I interviewed him on the phone recently. "If your experience is that your food comes from the grocery store and your water comes from the tap, then you are going to defend to the death the system that brings those to you because your life depends on them," Jensen explained. "If your experience, however, is that your food comes from a land base and that your water comes from a stream, well, then you will defend to the death that land base and that stream. So part of the problem is that we have become so dependent upon this system that is killing and exploiting us, it has become almost impossible for us to imagine living outside of it and it's very difficult physically for us to live outside of it.

"The other problem is that fear is the belief we have something left to lose. What I mean by this is that I really like my life right now, as do a lot of people. We have a lot to lose if this culture is to go down. A primary reason so many of us do not want to win this war - or even acknowledge that it's going on - is that we materially benefit from this war's plunder. I'm really unsure how many of us would be willing to give up our automobiles and cell phones, hot showers and electric lights, our grocery and clothing stores. But the truth is, the system that leads to these things, that leads to technological advancement and our identity as civilized beings, are killing us and, more importantly, killing the planet."

Even in the absence of global warming, this culture would still be murdering the planet, bumping off pods of whales and flocks of birds; detonating mountaintops to access strata of coal and bauxite, eliminating entire ecosystems. All this violence inflicted upon an entire planet to run an economy based on the foolish and immoral notion that we can sustain industrial societies, all while trashing the planet's land bases, ecosystems and life. And the fantastic rhetoric those who insist on adapting to these changes promulgate - that technology will find a fix, that we can adapt, that the planet can and will conform to fixes in the market - is dangerous.

"Another part of the problem," Jensen told me, "is the narratives behind this culture's way of living. The premises of these narratives grant us the exclusive rights and privileges of dominion over this planet. Whether you subscribe to the religion of Science or of Christianity, these narratives tell us that our intelligence and abilities permit us exclusive rights and privileges to work our will on the world that is here for us to use. The problem with these stories, whether you believe in them or not, is that they have real effects on the physical world. The stories we're told about the world shape the way we perceive the world and the way we perceive the world shapes the way we behave in the world. The stories of industrial capitalism - that we can sustain infinite-growth economies - shapes the way this culture behaves in the world. And this behavior is killing the planet. Whether the stories we are told are fantasies or not doesn't matter, what matters is that these narratives are physical: the stories of Christianity may be fantasy - let's pretend for a moment that God doesn't exist - well, the Crusades still happened; the notion of race or gender may be up for debate, but obviously, race and gender does matter and this postmodern attitude drives me crazy because, yeah, race and gender is not an actual thing, but it all has real-world effects - African Americans comprise 58 percent of the prison population and one-third of all black men between the ages of twenty and twenty-nine are under some sort of criminal justice supervision; as for gender, well real males rape females.

"Another example [of how things that truly aren't real still have real-world effects]," Jensen continued, "is there was this serial killer a while back who was killing women in Santa Cruz. Voices in his head were telling him that if he didn't kill these women, then California would slide off into the ocean. It's apparent this guy was delusional, a total nut job and sick in the head, but his delusions still resulted in real-world effects. Hitler too had the delusion that Jews were poisoning the race. That delusion had real-world effects. And we can sit around and discuss whether Weyerhaeuser truly exists, but forests still get deforested. Or better yet, it's pretty clear that it's silly to really believe that the world won't run out of oil ... and then it's suddenly clear that it's not so silly - there is a physical reality. In the real world, you can't have a nature/culture split, but in this culture you do and it has real effects on the physical world. You can't live on a planet and kill it at the same time."

You find the problem with an industrial production economy when you unpack the word "production." As Jensen makes clear in his book "The Culture of Make Believe," production is essentially the conversion of the living to the dead: animals into cold cuts, mountains and rivers into aluminum beer cans, trees into toilet paper, oil into plastics and computers (one computer uses ten times its own mass in fossil fuels). To go paperless is not to go green, or maybe it is, depending on what shade of Green we're talking about here. Basically, every commodity one comes in contact with is soaked in oil, made from resources, marked by, as Jensen puts it, the turning of the living to the dead: Industrial production.

And with conflicts and wars that are waged or instigated by this culture to access (steal) the resources needed to fuel this economy's colossal machines, this culture winds up butchering entire non-industrialized communities of people ... the elderly, children who cling to their mothers as drones hawk over staggered onlookers ... the innocent and vulnerable written off as "collateral damage." Himmler used a similar epithet for Jews, Gypsies, Poles, Serbs, Belarusians, and other Slavic peoples in a pamphlet he edited and had distributed by the SS Race and Settlement Head Office: "Untermenschen."

This is an acceptable price we must pay it, so we are told.

In the US, more lives are lost weekly from preventable cancers and other illnesses than are lost in ten years from terrorist attacks. And the corporations this culture fights for overseas are the very organizations culpable for these domestic deaths every week.

The list of victims whose lives are subject to violent assault and extinction to feed this culture's "production" is as long and as diverse as you want to make it.

"An infinite-growth economy is not only insane and impossible," remarked Jensen, "it's also abusive, by which I mean that it's based on the same conceit as more personal forms of abuse. It is, in fact, the macroeconomic enshrinement of abusive behavior. The guiding principle of abusive behavior is that the abuser refuses to respect or abide by limits or boundaries put up by the victim. Growth economies are essentially unchecked and will push past any boundaries set up by anyone other than the perpetrators. And a successful abuser will always ensure that there are some 'benefits' for the victim, in this case, e.g., we can watch TV, we can have computer access and play games online - we get 'benefits' that essentially keep us in line.

"Furthermore, according to the stories of industrial capitalism, this economic system must constantly increase production to grow and what, after all, is production? It is indeed the conversion of the living to the dead, the conversion of living forests into two-by-fours, living rivers into stagnant pools for generating hydroelectricity, living fish into fish sticks and ultimately all of these into money. And really, what is gross national product? It's a measure of this conversion of the living to the dead. The more quickly the living world is converted into dead products, the higher the GNP. And these simple equations are complicated by the fact that when GNP goes down, people often lose jobs. No wonder the world is getting killed.

"And if we take global warming into consideration here - oh and I believe the latest study on global warming mentioned something along the lines of the planet now being on track to heat up by 29 degrees in the next eighty years ... if that isn't curtailed immediately, no one will survive that ... And so all the so-called solutions to global warming take industrial capitalism as a given. And here we see the same old abusive behavior: the narratives are not only created around the perceptions of the perpetrators, i.e. those in power, but are forced upon us by them as well, so we come to believe the narratives and accept them as a given. And, essentially, to take industrial capitalism as a given when it comes to solutions to global warming is absolutely absurd and insane. It's out of touch with physical reality. Yet it has disastrous effects on the real physical world. If you force a planet to conform to ideology you get what you get.

"A while back I had a conversation with an anarchist who was complaining that I was 'too ideological,' and that my ideology was 'the health of the earth.' Well, actually, the earth is not and cannot ever be an ideology. The earth is physical. It is real. And it is primary. Without soil, you don't have a healthy land base and without a healthy land base you don't eat, you die. Without drinkable clean water you die."

And this is one of the problems with our culture: its lack of ability to separate ideology - the kind that accommodates maximizing pleasure and domination - from the needs of the natural world. And, so, if solutions to global warming do not immediately address the basic needs of the planet, well ... we're fucked.

"One has to ask," pressed Jensen, "if hammerhead sharks could provide solutions, if the indigenous could give solutions and if we would listen to the solutions they are already giving, would these solutions take industrial capitalism as a given? The bottom line is that capitalist solutions to global warming are coming from the capitalist boosters, from those in power who are responsible for exploiting and destroying us and more importantly, the planet."

By the 1940s, in Germany, Arthur Nebe's gassing van was in wide use. Those who drove Nebe's death vans never thought of themselves as murderers, just as another somebody getting paid to drive a van, to do a job. Today, those who work for Boeing, Raytheon, Weyerhaeuser, Exxon Mobil, BP, the Pentagon ... will always see themselves as employees, not murderers. They will always see themselves as working a job that needs to be done.

Those members of this culture who blindly go along without interrogating the culture's narratives, who identify with the pathology of this culture, will always see themselves as just other members of society. For these people, the murder of a planet feels like economics; it feels normal after having been pushed out of consciousness by careers, styles and fashions; it may not even feel like anything at all after being psychically numbed by pop radio, sitcoms, smart phones, video games ... But at the other end of all these glittery distractions is an unremitting array of violence, poverty, extinction, environmental degradation.

"I saw this right-wing bumper sticker the other day that read, 'You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers,' but it's not just guns: we're going to have to pry rigid claws off steering wheels, cans of hair spray, TV remote controls and two-liter bottles of Jolt Cola," cautioned Jensen. "Each of these individually and all of these collectively are more important to many people than are lampreys, salmon, spotted owls, sturgeons, tigers, our own lives. And that is a huge part of the problem. So of course we don't want to win. We'd lose our cable TV. But I want to win. With the world being killed, I want to win and will do whatever it takes to win."

When Adolph Eichmann stood before the Jerusalem District Court and was asked why he agreed to the task of deporting Jews to the ghettos and concentration camps, his response was, No one ever told me what I was doing was wrong. Today, 200 species have become extinct; another indigenous community will disappear from this planet forever; an entire forest will be removed; and millions of human lives will be forced to endure the agonies of famine, war, disease, thirst, the loss of their land, their community, their way of life. Not enough people have stepped forward to say that what this culture is doing to the planet is wrong.

Well, here it is folks: What this culture is doing to our very selves, what it's doing to the planet, is wrong. So damn wrong. And the sooner we replace this economy, the sooner we can dissolve these toxic illusions and their formative narratives. Only then, can we begin to live the free lives we were born to live and win the fight.

Derrick Jensen has been called the poet philosopher of the ecological movement. He has written some 15 books critiquing contemporary society and the destruction of the environment.

Frank Joseph Smecker is a freelance writer and philosophy/English major at the University of Vermont. His work has appeared in: Truthout.org, Z Magazine, Rain Taxi, Counterpunch, The Ecologist, Counter Currents, Petroleum World, Fifth Estate, and elsewhere.

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Friday, July 15, 2011

John W. Whitehead: The Military Industrial Complex

The Military Industrial Complex: The Enemy from Within
By John W. Whitehead article link article link
July 11, 2011 | Rutherford Institute | ICH

“Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes … known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.… No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.” --James Madison

“When a nation becomes obsessed with the guns of war, social programs must inevitably suffer. We can talk about guns and butter all we want to, but when the guns are there with all of its emphasis you don't even get good oleo. These are facts of life.” -- Martin Luther King Jr.

If there is any absolute maxim by which the federal government seems to operate, it is that the American taxpayer always gets ripped off, and Americans would do well to keep that in mind as Congress and the White House debate whether or not to raise the debt ceiling from its current high of $14.3 trillion. For one thing, the grandstanding by both parties over health care costs and Social Security is nothing more than a convenient distraction from the glaring economic truth that at the end of the day, it’s not the sick, the elderly or the poor who are stealing us blind and pushing America towards bankruptcy. It’s the military industrial complex (the illicit merger of the armaments industry and the Pentagon) that President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us against more than 50 years ago and which has come to represent perhaps the greatest threat to the nation’s fragile infrastructure today.

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 $15 billion a month (or $20 million an hour)--and that’s just what the government spends on foreign wars. That does not include the cost of maintaining and staffing the 1000-plus U.S. military bases spread around the globe. Incredibly, although the U.S. 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.

War is not cheap. Although the federal government obscures so much about its defense spending that accurate figures are difficult to procure, we do know that since 2001, the U.S. government has spent more than $1.2 trillion in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. That number, however, is probably closer to $2.7 trillion when you add in the war in Pakistan and other hidden costs, and will likely climb to $4.4 trillion before it’s all over. Additionally, the American military industrial complex is spending roughly $4 million per day on the unconstitutional war in Libya.

Yet what most Americans fail to recognize is that these ongoing wars have little to do with keeping the country safe and everything to do with enriching the military industrial complex at taxpayer expense. Just consider the fact that the annual cost to support one U.S. servicemember in Afghanistan alone is over $1 million, with fuel costs making up the bulk of the expenses. Of course, one of the reasons for the high cost of maintaining each soldier can be attributed to the lack of governmental oversight of private contractor billings, which are rampant with fraud, waste and fat.

War--or the art of killing--has unfortunately become a huge money-making venture, and America, with its vast military empire, is one of its best buyers and sellers. Not only does the U.S. have the largest defense budget, it also ranks highest as the world’s largest arms exporter. According to a report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which tracks military expenditures worldwide, the arms industry is thriving despite the ongoing global economic recession. In fact, 45 of the top 100 of the world’s largest arms-producing companies are based in the U.S. These U.S. corporations generated just under $247 billion in 2009, which constituted 61% of total arms sales internationally.

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. For example, while erecting a security surveillance state in the U.S., the military-industrial complex has perpetuated a worldwide military empire with American troops stationed in 177 countries (over 70% of the countries worldwide).

In the process, billions have been spent erecting luxury military installations throughout the world. For example, the U.S. Embassy built in Iraq, dubbed "Fortress Baghdad," covers 104 acres and boasts a "city within a city" that includes six apartment buildings, a Marine barracks, swimming pool, shops and 15-foot-thick walls. Camp Anaconda in Iraq, like many U.S. military bases scattered across the globe, was structured to resemble a mini-city with pools, fast food restaurants, miniature golf courses and movie theaters. In economic terms, the money invested in building these bases amounts to what American University professor Gordon Adams describes as “sunk” costs. “We're seeing this in Iraq,” said Adams. “We're turning over to the Iraqis -- mostly either for a small penny or for free -- the infrastructure that we built in Iraq. But we won't see back any money from that infrastructure.”

Unfortunately, Americans have been inculcated with a false, misplaced sense of patriotism about the military that equates devotion to one’s country with supporting the war machine so that any mention of cutting back on the massive defense budget is immediately met with outrage. Yet they might be surprised to learn that little of the money being spent on so-called defense is actually being used for national defense. According to the Task Force on a Unified Security Budget, the FY2012 budget approved by the House of Representatives allocates 87 percent of security money for “offense” (military forces), only 7 percent for “defense” (homeland security), and only 6 percent for “prevention” (all non-military tools, such as diplomacy, foreign aid, and non-proliferation).

Sadly, those in uniform are being used as convenient fronts for a military industrial complex that is bilking taxpayers out of billions of dollars in questionable defense spending. There’s a good reason why “bloated,” “corrupt” and “inefficient” are among the words most commonly applied to the government, especially the Department of Defense and its contractors. For instance, a study by the Government Accountability Office found that $70 billion worth of cost overruns by the Pentagon were caused by management failures. To put that in perspective, that equates to one and a half times the State Department’s entire $47 billion annual budget.

Fraud is rampant. A government audit, for example, 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.

Of course, this kind of rampant abuse is ludicrous, and never more so than at a time when unemployment is topping 9.2%. When most Americans can scarcely afford the cost of cooling their own homes, taxpayers should be up in arms over having to pay through the nose to the tune of $20 billion--more than NASA’s entire annual budget--to air condition the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. “In essence, what we're doing is we’re air conditioning the desert over there in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other places,” noted retired brigadier general Steven Anderson, a former chief logistician for Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq. And if you think gas prices at home are high, just consider what the American taxpayer is being forced to shell out overseas: once all the expenses of delivering gas to troops in the field are factored in, we’re paying between $18-30 per gallon for gas in Iraq and Afghanistan. Incredibly, despite reports of corruption, abuse and waste, the mega-corporations behind much of this ineptitude and corruption continue to be awarded military contracts worth billions of dollars.

The rationale may keep changing for why American military forces are in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, but the one that remains constant is that those who run the government are feeding the appetite of the military industrial complex. And what began in 2001 as part of an alleged effort to root out al Qaeda has turned into a goldmine for the military industrial complex. Even the lip service that is paid to drawing down the troops doesn’t amount to much of a savings in the end when you factor in the cost of replacing those troops with civilian contractors. For example, while the Obama administration was touting the withdrawal of troops from Iraq earlier this year, plans were being made to triple the size of the private security contractors and support staff to between 7,000 and 8,000.

Just consider: the Pentagon in 2008 spent more money every five seconds in Iraq than the average American earned in a year. And yet Congress and the White House want taxpayers to accept that the only way to reduce the nation’s ballooning deficit and avoid raising the debt ceiling is by cutting “entitlement” programs such as Social Security and Medicare. 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.

Incredibly, if the government would just take the amount spent on the war in Afghanistan this year alone ($122 billion in FY2011) and reallocate it where it’s needed here at home, it would entirely wipe out the projected budget shortfalls for fiscal year 2012 for 41 states and the District of Columbia, totaling $103 billion. Or to put it another way: in roughly 80% of the states projecting deficits this year, if the money spent by each state on the war were used for domestic purposes, it would wipe out that state’s shortfall.

Simply put, we cannot afford to maintain our over-extended military empire. As a senior administration official involved in Afghanistan remarked to the Washington Post: “Money is the new 800-pound gorilla. 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.”

Finally, and inevitably, military empires collapse. The war bell is tolling, and it tolls for us. As Cullen Murphy, author of Are We Rome? and editor-at-large of Vanity Fair writes:

A millennium hence America will be hard to recognize. It may not exist as a nation-state in the form it does now--or even exist at all. Will the transitions ahead be gradual and peaceful or abrupt and catastrophic? Will our descendants be living productive lives in a society better than the one we inhabit now? Whatever happens, will valuable aspects of America’s legacy weave through the fabric of civilizations to come? Will historians someday have reason to ask, Did America really fall?

The problem we wrestle with is none other than a distorted American empire, complete with mega-corporations, security-industrial complexes and a burgeoning military. And it has its sights set on absolute domination. Yet at the height of its power, even the mighty Roman Empire could not stare down a collapsing economy and a burgeoning military. Prolonged periods of war and false economic prosperity largely led to its demise, and it is feared that America, by repeating Rome’s mistakes, is headed toward a similar collapse. As historian Chalmers Johnson predicts, “the United States will within a very short time face financial or even political collapse at home and a significantly diminished ability to project force abroad.”

Moreover, the so-called American empire faces a violent contradiction between its long republican tradition and its more recent imperial ambitions. As Chalmers Johnson writes:

The fate of previous democratic empires suggests that such a conflict is unsustainable and will be resolved in one of two ways. Rome attempted to keep its empire and lost its democracy. Britain chose to remain democratic and in the process let go its empire. Intentionally or not, the people of the United States already are well embarked upon the course of non-democratic empire.

I would suggest that what we have is a confluence of factors and influences that go beyond mere comparisons to Rome. It is a union of Orwell’s 1984 with its shadowy, totalitarian government--i.e., fascism, the union of government and corporate powers--and a total surveillance state with a military empire extended throughout the world. And as we have seen with the militarizing of the police, the growth of and reliance on militarism as the solution for our problems both domestically and abroad affects the basic principles upon which American society should operate. The military does not view the Constitution in the same way as someone engaged in ensuring that the Bill of Rights and its freedoms are kept intact. Those in the military are primarily trained to conduct warfare, not preserve the peace. We must keep in mind that a military empire will be ruled not by lofty ideals of equality and justice but by the power of the sword.

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book The Freedom Wars (TRI Press) is available online at www.amazon.com. He can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org. Information about The Rutherford Institute is available at www.rutherford.org

Rutherford Institute commentaries by John W. Whitehead
Information Clearing House home page

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Chris Marsden: The Rampant Criminality of the Corporate and Political Elite

The Rampant Criminality of the Corporate and Political Elite
Murdoch and the rule of the oligarchy
by Chris Marsden article link article link
July 13, 2011 | Global Research | WSWS

The ongoing exposure of systematic hacking of thousands of phones and computers by employees of Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World lifts the lid on the rampant criminality of the corporate and political elite, in Britain and internationally. At least 7,000 people have had their phones hacked and their privacy invaded. The trawl for personal information has targeted a wide range of victims, from politicians and members of the royal family to the families of murder victims and soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

The scandal is revealing the thorough-going decay of democracy and all of the official institutions in Britain, including the major parties, Parliament, the judiciary and the media. The most powerful media corporation in Britain, which constantly trumpets the need for “law and order,” has presided over serious violations of the law, including hacking on what one MP called “an industrial scale.” It has done so year-on-year with virtual impunity.

Murdoch executives and reporters are notorious as well for threatening and bullying politicians and other notables who criticize the operations of News International or otherwise arouse the ire of the Murdoch family.

Now reports have emerged that a News of the World executive destroyed millions of potentially incriminating emails in order to thwart further investigations.

Both of the major parties, Conservative and Labour, are implicated in these crimes, not only because of their refusal to call to account News International, the parent firm of Murdoch’s British media outlets, but because of their intimate relations with Murdoch’s media empire. They never challenged the Metropolitan Police for accepting the patently absurd claim that these illegal practices were the actions of one rogue reporter and a private investigator, even as it surfaced that police officers had received tens of thousands of pounds in bribes from News of the World.

It was only after numerous civil cases had been taken out against the newspaper by celebrities whose phones were hacked that, in January, the Crown Prosecution Service announced it would review material held by police on phone hacking at News of the World to “assess if a fresh criminal trial is likely.”

Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday was forced to acknowledge official collusion with the Murdoch press, stating, “The truth is, we have all been in this together—the press, politicians and leaders of all parties—and yes, that includes me.”

He added, “During the last government, a police investigation was undertaken, it was inadequate and not enough was done. There were reports from the information commissioner and they went unheeded. There were select committee reports on phone hacking and there was no follow-up. Throughout all this, all the warnings, all the concern, the government at the time did nothing. And frankly, neither did the opposition.”

This mea culpa is Cameron’s attempt to limit the damage to his government from the scandal. It came the same morning as the arrest of former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, Cameron’s head of communications until Coulson’s forced resignation in January. However, neither Cameron’s admission of responsibility nor his guarded swipe against former Labour governments do justice to the extent of the incestuous, decades-long relations between the Murdoch empire and Britain’s political elite.

Murdoch is forever associated with the Conservative governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major, and above all with Thatcher’s brutal assault on the working class. He cheered on her deregulation of the City of London, privatisations and tax cuts for corporations and the rich from which he benefited more than most. News of the World’s parent company, News International, carried out an infamous union-busting operation, sacking 6,000 print workers and transferring production to Wapping in London’s East End in 1986.

Then, after Murdoch decided that the Tories had exhausted their usefulness as a vehicle for attacking the working class and enriching the ruling elite, he switched support to Labour—which was more than ready to do his bidding. Murdoch dictated government policy to such a degree that Lance Price, a media advisor to former Prime Minister Tony Blair, called Murdoch “the 24th member of the Cabinet.” Price added, “His presence was always felt.”

Murdoch himself has publicly boasted of setting the agenda of the Labour government on Europe and “the breakdown of law and order in Britain.” The Murdoch press has relentlessly promoted wars of aggression, most notably the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003. Blair telephoned Murdoch personally on three occasions in the days leading up to the US-British invasion.

Current Labour leader Ed Miliband is now posing as a critic of News of the World, seeking to make political capital out of Cameron’s relations with Coulson and Murdoch press executive Rebakah Brooks. This is a transparent fraud.

The News of the World hacking scandal first came to light in 2006 and was swept under the carpet by the Metropolitan Police, without challenge by the Labour governments of Blair and his successor, Gordon Brown. On April 9, an anonymous ex-minister told the Guardian that Murdoch had “relayed messages to Brown last year via a third party, urging him to help take the political heat out of the row, which he felt was in danger of damaging his company.”

It was only last month that Miliband himself attended News International’s summer party in London, alongside shadow chancellor Ed Balls, two of his closest advisers, Tom Baldwin and Stewart Wood, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper and shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander. The Guardian noted at the time that Labour luminaries outnumbered a Conservative delegation headed by Cameron and his wife, Samantha.

These relations underscore the travesty of the electoral process in Britain. State policy is determined not by the population’s choice to elect a Conservative or Labour government, but by a clique of billionaires that sets the agenda of all the major parties—of which Murdoch is a particularly influential member, thanks to his control of the media.

How does one account for the ability of employees of News International to engage in such rampant criminality without let or hindrance?

The official structures of politics and the media in Britain and internationally have become entirely divorced from and openly hostile to the interests of the general population. They have become the province of a plutocratic layer that acts without legal restraint.

Murdoch himself is widely acknowledged to be the most powerful man in Britain and one of the most powerful people in the world. He is the archetypal representative of a global financial oligarchy that has arisen on the basis of financial parasitism and an unprecedented growth of social inequality.

The narrow layer of the super-rich to which Murdoch belongs has dictated every aspect of political, economic and social life over more than three decades. His 175 or so newspapers and television channels, including Sky in Britain and Fox in the US, are widely viewed as kingmakers inside the political establishment.

Murdoch is the supreme purveyor of a particular type of gutter journalism, whose emphasis on sex scandals and the antics of the rich and famous is meant to divert and confuse the public and encourage the most backward sentiments.

In America, Fox News and the New York Post serve the same function as the Sun, News of the World (which Murdoch shut down on Sunday) and Sky TV in the UK, while the Wall Street Journal editorial page articulates the political agenda of the most reactionary sections of the US ruling elite. The Murdoch media befoul social and intellectual life with an unremitting torrent of right-wing social nostrums, warmongering, national chauvinism, glorification of “free enterprise,” and demands that essential services on which millions rely be slashed.

The most significant expression of the political and ideological putrefaction this has produced is found within the former social democratic parties, such as the British Labour Party. They all easily adapted themselves to Murdoch’s brand of politics, emerging as unabashed defenders of the savage austerity measures demanded after the 2008 financial crash.

The scale of the criminal activity that has been exposed at News of the World demands a full and public accounting. All of the major figures associated with News International, including Coulson, Brooks and Murdoch himself, must be questioned under oath as part of a full-scale criminal investigation. In any such inquiry, they should be joined by Blair, Brown, Cameron and their associates.

It is clear, however, that the British ruling class will not carry out such an investigation. Any inquiry under the control of the existing political establishment will be a cover-up, aiming to protect News International and its allies in the political establishment and state apparatus.

Justice will be secured, and the predatory and socially destructive activities of the media barons halted, only in connection with the development of a mass political movement of the working class that sets out to remove from power an elite which has demonstrated that it is entirely unfit to rule.

Chris Marsden is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Global Research articles by Chris Marsden
Global Research home page

The Media's Endless Propaganda for War
Murdoch Has Blood on His Hands
July 14, 2011 | Global Research | War Is A Crime | OpEdNews
War Is A Crime home page
OpEdNews home page

Rupert Murdoch Media Empire: A Journalistic Travesty
by Karl Grossman article link article link
July 13, 2011 | CommonDreams | OpEdNews
CommonDreams home page

Murdoch & News Corps -- The cancer eating the heart out of our democracy
by Ted Newcomen article link
July 14, 2011 | OpEdNews

Rupert Murdoch: Anthony Blair’s bagman
Britain’s politicians find courage – perhaps
by Christopher King article ink article link
July 13, 2011 | Redress | ICH
Redress home page
Information Clearing House home page

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