Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Why Wikileaks is Good for Democracy
by Bill Quigley article link
November 30, 2010 | CommonDreams
Information is the currency of democracy. --Thomas Jefferson.
Since 9-11, the US government, through Presidents Bush and Obama, has increasingly told the US public that “state secrets” will not be shared with citizens. Candidate Obama pledged to reduce the use of state secrets, but President Obama continued the Bush tradition. The Courts and Congress and international allies have gone meekly along with the escalating secrecy demands of the US Executive.
By labeling tens of millions of documents secret, the US government has created a huge vacuum of information.
But information is the lifeblood of democracy. Information about government contributes to a healthy democracy. Transparency and accountability are essential elements of good government. Likewise, “a lack of government transparency and accountability undermines democracy and gives rise to cynicism and mistrust,” according to a 2008 Harris survey commissioned by the Association of Government Accountants.
Into the secrecy vacuum stepped Private Bradley Manning, who, according to the Associated Press, was able to defeat “Pentagon security systems using little more than a Lady Gaga CD and a portable computer memory stick.”
Manning apparently sent the information to Wikileaks – a non profit media organization, which specializes in publishing leaked information. Wikileaks in turn shared the documents to other media around the world including the New York Times and published much of it on its website.
Despite criminal investigations by the US and other governments, it is not clear that media organizations like Wikileaks can be prosecuted in the US in light of First Amendment. Recall that the First Amendment says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Outraged politicians are claiming that the release of government information is the criminal equivalent of terrorism and puts innocent people’s lives at risk. Many of those same politicians authorized the modern equivalent of carpet bombing of Baghdad and other Iraqi cities, the sacrifice of thousands of lives of soldiers and civilians, and drone assaults on civilian areas in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. Their anger at a document dump, no matter how extensive, is more than a little suspect.
Everyone, including Wikileaks and the other media reporting the documents, hopes that no lives will be lost because of this. So far, that appears to be the case as McClatchey Newspapers reported November 28, 2010, that ‘US officials conceded that they have no evidence to date that the [prior] release of documents led to anyone’s death.”
The US has been going in the wrong direction for years by classifying millions of documents as secrets. Wikileaks and other media which report these so called secrets will embarrass people yes. Wikileaks and other media will make leaders uncomfortable yes. But embarrassment and discomfort are small prices to pay for a healthier democracy.
Wikileaks has the potential to make transparency and accountability more robust in the US. That is good for democracy.
Bill Quigley is Legal Director at the Center for Constitutional Rights and a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans. He is a Katrina survivor and has been active in human rights in Haiti for years with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. Quigley77@gmail.com
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The New York Times Again Censoring WikiLeaks
By Stephen Lendman article link
November 30, 2010 | Countercurrents
Wikileaks And The New Global Order
November 30, 2010 | Countercurrents | Global Research
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Deceits, Plots, Insults: America Laid Bare
Diplomatic communiqués released by Wikileaks shine unprecedented light on the US and how it sees the world
November 29, 2010 | The Independent/UK | ICH
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The War And Peace Report
November 30, 2010
David Leigh, Investigations Executive Editor at the Guardian (UK)
"We Have Not Seen Anything Yet": Guardian Editor Says Most Startling WikiLeaks Cables Still To Be Released
"In the coming days, we are going to see some quite startling disclosures about Russia, the nature of the Russian state, and about bribery and corruption in other countries, particularly in Central Asia," says Investigations Executive Editor David Leigh at the Guardian, one of the three newspapers given advanced access to the secret U.S. embassy cables by the whistleblower website, WikiLeaks. "We will see a wrath of disclosures about pretty terrible things going on around the world." Leigh reviews the major WikiLeaks revelations so far, explains how the 250,000 files were downloaded and given to the newspaper on a thumb drive, and confirms the Guardian gave the files to the New York Times. Additional cables will be disclosed throughout the week.
Noam Chomsky: WikiLeaks Cables Reveal "Profound Hatred for Democracy on the Part of Our Political Leadership"
In a national broadcast exclusive interview, we speak with world-renowned political dissident and linguist Noam Chomsky about the release of more than 250,000 secret U.S. State Department cables by WikiLeaks. In 1971, Chomsky helped government whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg release the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret internal U.S. account of the Vietnam War. Commenting on the revelations that several Arab leaders are urging the United States to attack Iran, Chomsky says, "latest polls show] Arab opinion holds that the major threat in the region is Israel, that’s 80 percent; the second threat is the United States, that’s 77 percent. Iran is listed as a threat by 10 percent," Chomsky says. "This may not be reported in the newspapers, but it’s certainly familiar to the Israeli and U.S. governments and the ambassadors. What this reveals is the profound hatred for democracy on the part of our political leadership."
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Posted by mammonmessiah at 8:34 AM
Monday, November 29, 2010
WikiLeaks: Demystifying “Diplomacy”
by Norman Solomon article link
November 29, 2010 | CommonDreams
Compared to the kind of secret cables that WikiLeaks has just shared with the world, everyday public statements from government officials are exercises in make-believe.
In a democracy, people have a right to know what their government is actually doing. In a pseudo-democracy, a bunch of fairy tales from high places will do the trick.
Diplomatic facades routinely masquerade as realities. But sometimes the mask slips -- for all the world to see -- and that's what just happened with the humongous leak of State Department cables.
"Every government is run by liars," independent journalist I.F. Stone observed, "and nothing they say should be believed." The extent and gravity of the lying varies from one government to another -- but no pronouncements from world capitals should be taken on faith.
By its own account, the U.S. government has been at war for more than nine years now and there's no end in sight. Like the Pentagon, the State Department is serving the overall priorities of the warfare state. The nation's military and diplomacy are moving parts of the same vast war machinery.
Such a contraption requires a muscular bodyguard of partial truths, deceptions and outright lies. With the USA's ongoing war efforts at full throttle, the contradictions between public rationales and hidden goals -- or between lofty rhetoric and grisly human consequences -- cannot stand the light of day.
Details of Washington's transactional alliances with murderous dictators, corrupt tyrants, warlords and drug traffickers are among its most closely guarded quasi-secrets. Most media accounts can be blown off by officialdom, but smoking-gun diplomatic cables are harder to ignore.
With its massive and unending reliance on military force -- with a result of more and more carnage, leaving behind immense grief and rage in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere -- the U.S. government has colossal gaps to bridge between its public-relations storylines and its war-making realities.
The same government that devotes tremendous resources to inflicting military violence abroad must tout its humane bona fides and laudable priorities to the folks back home. But that essential PR task becomes more difficult when official documents to the contrary keep leaking.
No government wants to face documentation of actual policies, goals and priorities that directly contradict its public claims of virtue. In societies with democratic freedoms, the governments that have the most to fear from such disclosures are the ones that have been doing the most lying to their own people.
The recent mega-leaks are especially jarring because of the extreme contrasts between the U.S. government's public pretenses and real-life actions. But the standard official response is to blame the leaking messengers.
"We condemn in the strongest terms the unauthorized disclosure of classified documents and sensitive national security information," the White House said on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Sen. Joseph Lieberman denounced "an outrageous, reckless and despicable action that will undermine the ability of our government and our partners to keep our people safe and to work together to defend our vital interests." For good measure, he twittered: "WikiLeaks' deliberate disclosure of these diplomatic cables is nothing less than an attack on our national security."
But what kind of "national security" can be built on duplicity from a government that is discredited and refuted by its own documents?
Norman Solomon is a journalist, historian, and progressive activist. His book "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death" has been adapted into a documentary film of the same name. His most recent book is "Made Love, Got War." He is a national co-chair of the Healthcare NOT Warfare campaign. In California, he is co-chair of the Commission on a Green New Deal for the North Bay.
New WikiLeaks Documents Expose US Foreign Policy Conspiracies
November 29,, 2010 | WSWS | Global Research
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Posted by mammonmessiah at 12:24 PM
Imperial America's End Time
November 29,, 2010 | Stephen Lendman | Countercurrents | OpEdNews
Noted analysts on both left and right see America's empire in decline. In his 2009 book, "Global Depression and Regional Wars," James Petras said:
"All the idols of capitalism over the past three decades have crashed. The assumptions and presumptions, paradigms and prognosis of indefinite progress under liberal free market capitalism have been tested and have failed. We are living the end of an entire epoch (and are bearing witness to) the collapse of the US and world financial system," and with it America's empire.
On August 16, Paul Craig Roberts headlined his article, "The Ecstacy of Empire: How Close Is America's Demise," saying:
America's profligacy "is running out of time...." Yet "2010 has been wasted in hype about a non-existant recovery." Government-manipulated reality masks the internal rot. Wall Street handouts and imperial wars are bankrupting the country.
"US military spending reflects the unaffordable and unattainable crazed neoconservative goal of US empire and world hegemony....If the wars are not immediately stopped and the jobs (not) brought back to America, the US is relegated to the trash bin of history....Without a revolution, Americans are history." Indeed so.
In his March 18, 2008 article headlined, "The Collapse of America Power," Roberts said:
America thinks it owns the world. In fact, it "owes the world. The US 'superpower' cannot even finance its own domestic operations, much less its gratuitous wars" except through mounting debt that can't be repaid, and the more it mounts, the greater the eventual crash, working Americans to bear the burden.
In his November 16 article headlined, "Ruling on Behalf of Wall Street's 'Super Rich:' The Financial End Time has Arrived," Michael Hudson said:
"The financial End Time has arrived....(t)hanks largely to the $13 trillion Wall Street bailout - while keeping the debt overhead in place for America's 'bottom 98%" - this happy 2% of the population now receives an estimated three quarters (75%) of the returns to wealth (interest, dividends, rent and capital gains). This is nearly double what it received a generation ago. The rest of the population is being squeezed, and foreclosures are rising."
The economy is being destroyed to favor Wall Street and Pentagon militarists. Obama perpetuates this madness. "The Wurst of Obama: He's Carving the Middle Class into Sausage Filler as a Super-Meal for the Rich," and trashing America in the process.
A recent article remembered Chalmers Johnson, best known for calling America's global wars and imperialism a "suicide option" unless reversed. Access it through the following link: article link
Naming us our own enemy, he called our policies "arrogant and misguided," America's condition dire, and it's "too late for mere scattered reforms." We can choose - democracy to survive or perish under current policies. He said America is plagued by the same dynamic that doomed past empires unwilling to change, what he called:
"isolation, overstretch, the uniting of local and global forces opposed to imperialism, and in the end bankruptcy," combined with authoritarian rule and loss of personal freedom. In other words, tyranny and ruin, his book "Nemesis" presenting:
"historical, political, economic, and philosophical evidence of where our current behavior is likely to lead. Specifically, I believe that to maintain our empire abroad requires resources and commitments that will inevitably undercut our domestic democracy and in the end produce a military dictatorship or its civilian equivalent."
"The founders of our nation understood this well and tried to create a form of government - a republic - that would prevent this from occurring. But the combination of huge standing armies, almost continuous wars, military Keynesianism, and ruinous military expenses have destroyed our republican structure in favor of an imperial presidency. We are on the cusp of losing our democracy for the sake of keeping our empire." Eventually, however, we'll keep neither.
In a July 30 article, titled "Three Good Reasons to Liquidate Our Empire," Johnson cited:
(1) Postwar expansionism is no longer affordable;
(2) We're losing the Afghan War and pursuing it is bankrupting us; and
(3) Our shameful "empire of bases" must end; close them down, at least most, ideally all, and also sharply cut our standing army.
His main message: "we must give up our inappropriate reliance on military force as the chief means of attempting to achieve foreign policy objectives." Few empires ever did it voluntarily. Britain did, chosing democracy. The Soviets didn't and fell.
A Grim Pentagon Afghan War Assessment
In its most recent semiannual report, released late November, titled, "Progress toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan," Pentagon commanders were worried, suggesting that despite 100,000 US forces and 50,000 others (double the force since 2008), conditions are no better, saying;
"Progress across the country remains uneven, with modest gains in security, governance and development in operational priority areas." Progress overall has been "slow and incremental....key terrain....relatively unchanged."
Notably, however, violence and Afghan deaths have sharply risen as a result of a 300% increase in armed clashes since 2007, and a 70% rise over 2009. Despite the force buildup, "The insurgency has proven resilient with sustained logistics capacity and command and control."
Afghans also acknowledge that security is worse than ever. Moreover, "insurgent safe havens" in Pakistan and Iran threaten to widen the war further. In fact, "(e)fforts to reduce insurgent capacity....have not produced measurable results" despite heightened drone and other attacks.
In addition, out-of-control corruption exacerbates the problem, the report calling it "consistent with the view that (it's) preventing the Afghan government from connecting with the people and remains a key reason for Afghans supporting the insurgency."
Nonetheless, Washington is staying the course, shifting its exit strategy from fixed to transition, the report calling the "US commitment to Afghanistan....continuing, enduring, and long-lasting." In other words, continuity, not winning or losing matters, assuring hundreds of billions more dollars endlessly spent. And not just in Afghanistan/Pakistan.
Another Gloomy War Analysis
On October 14, Anthony Cordesman of the conservative Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) issued a report titled,"Grand Strategy in the Afghan, Pakistan, and Iraq Wars: The End State Fallacy," saying;
"Grand strategy is not an American strength....Iraq is already a case in point. We have not yet achieved any meaningful form of positive strategic result (from over seven and a half years of war), and may end in a major grand strategic defeat."
Conflict continues. Obama's end of combat mission was bogus. Permanent occupation is planned. Iraq can't contain or counter Iran. There's no stable or effective government or political system. Iran's influence in the country may rival or surpass our own. Our pursuit of an "end state fallacy" may lose the war "in grand strategic terms." In other ways, it's already lost. Violence plagues the country daily, little reported in America's media.
An announced end of 2011 exit is planned. Expect that goal to change, while at the same time, Congress shows less willingness to appropriate limitless funding. "We may (also) lose the Iraq War for other reasons - its unstable politics, tenuous security, and Iran's dominance of future Shiite governments." So far, "we have won exactly nothing." A tactical victory looks increasingly pyrrhic.
Moreover, Washington "seems to be in a state of partial denial in dealing with the need for a long term...strategic commitment to the region." Alternatives to strategically failing in Iraq may be found, but it will be hard to "incredibly costly to compensate for (overall) failure in the Gulf."
Afghan/Pak (Afghanistan and Pakistan), however, is "radically different," reflecting a "very uncertain strategic posture." America's interests are "limited" compared to the Gulf. China and Russia are powerful rivals with strategic interests of their own.
What Afghan/Pak/Iraq have in common is there's "no credible end state to the fighting....that can give the US a credible grand strategic victory or stable outcome." Like Iraq and the Gulf, it will be "at least a decade" before stable governments, economies and security structures are possible. Even then, they're unlikely.
Afghanistan's outlook is even more tenuous than Iraq's. Winning in any form requires propping up and financing its government for years, maybe always. The country's had decades of war and instability. Its economy ranks "201st" in terms of per capita income, and poverty and overall need levels are extraordinarily high. At best, it will be well over a decade before Afghanistan makes real progress with sustained US help. Increasingly, however, it looks more like an unwinnable black hole, draining America's resources.
Pakistan complicates matters. Dealing with "Al Qa'ida and the Taliban in the FATA-Baluchistan areas are only the tip of the iceberg." Its government is corrupt and incompetent. Its military and intelligence structure have "strong Islamist elements." Its economy and social structure are crippled and semi-feudal. "Its security is shaped by the threat from India, growing internal religious tensions, and additional problems with Deobandi extremists, and hostile movements in Baluchistan and the Sind."
Pakistan is better off than Afghanistan, but it's also more dependent on US aid. It doesn't signal failure, but it does mean major challenges for the foreseeable future. As with Iraq and Afghanistan, Washington "can only influence - not shape - (its) future." Its present government may not survive. It's unclear whether any amount of US aid will work. It's unknown if America will serve Pakistan's interests if it keeps fighting. It's also uncertain whether its government will "abandon its efforts to manipulate Afghanistan (and) use it against India." It's unclear as well whether its military is willing to fight.
Moreover, its government may fall, and its military only does enough to maintain US aid as long as Pentagon forces remain in the area. Resolving its future and stability will be uncertain until "at least 2020." Maybe much longer or never.
Yet the Obama administration "seems to deliberately avoid projecting the need for a lasting commitment to either Afghanistan (or) Pakistan, and providing anything approaching an estimate of the cost of sustaining the war and dealing with its aftermath." Increasingly, its plan appears ah hoc, shifting commanders instead of addressing policy failures and changing them. Larger force levels and more violence and killing aren't solutions. So far, they've made conditions worse, not better.
Also consider the costs, already unsustainable, with no end of spending in sight. Eventually, Congress will tire of funding them, especially with no tangible successes.
"The US and its allies are pursuing a largely mythical Afghan development plan which lacks core credibility in peacetime, much less in war. There is no development plan for Pakistan. The US is effectively paying an open ended mix of bribes to a country whose economy is now crippled by a catastrophic flood, and whose main security interest is India, not the war the US wants it to fight."
Washington has failed in its planning and execution efforts. However, even if correctly done, the prospects for winning and withdrawing would be "negligible. The challenges are simply too great, and the timelines for credible change are too long....The US cannot afford to allow this situation to continue."
The Iraq/Afghan/Pak wars "raise grand strategic questions about what the US could have accomplished (with a fraction of the money devoted to) build(ing) regional allies" and other productive undertakings. Choosing open-ended wars "for the wrong reasons....is not an experience we should repeat." Moreover, cutting losses and getting out of today's mess is essential, putting greater emphasis on diplomacy than warmaking. "After what soon will be ten years of fighting, it is time we not only learned this, but acted on the lesson."
A Final Comment
America's Iraq/Afghan/Pak wars are unwinnable, highlighted in an earlier Afghanistan article, accessed through the following link: article link
No matter. America wages permanent wars for an unwinnable peace. Enemies are fabricated as justification. War profiteers benefit. The public is duped and betrayed. Two earlier articles explained, accessed through the following links: article link article link
Moreover, since WW II, all US wars have been illegal, what neither the Pentagon nor CSIS reports addressed. All international laws and treaties, including the UN Charter, automatically become US law under the Constitution's Supremacy Clause, Article VI, Clause 2.
Moreover, the Charter's Chapter VII empowers the Security Council alone to determine the existence of threats to peace, breaching it, or committing an act of aggression, as well as if military or other action is necessary to restore international peace and stability. It lets nations use force solely under two conditions:
-- by Security Council authorization; or
-- under Article 51 that permits the "right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member....until the Security Council has taken measures to maintain international peace and security."
In addition, both houses of Congress, not the president, have exclusive power to declare war under the Constitution's Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 - the war powers clause. Nonetheless, that procedure was followed only five times in US history, last used on December 8, 1941 after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.
In 1973, Congress addressed the issue, passing the War Powers Resolution. It requires the president to get congressional authorization for war or a resolution passed within 60 days of initiating hostilities. Its Section 4(a)(3) also states:
"In the absence of a declaration of war, in any case in which the United States Armed Forces are introduced.... (3) in numbers which substantially enlarge the United States Armed Forces equipped for combat already located in a foreign nation; the president shall submit within 48 hours to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and to the President pro tempore of the Senate a report, setting forth" necessitating circumstances, a request for "constitutional and legislative authority," and the "estimated scope and duration of the hostilities involved."
In 1991, Congress gave GHW Bush authorization to attack Iraq (the Gulf War). It didn't authorize GW Bush in 2001 or 2003. Yet he went to war anyway, violating international and US laws. As a result, the Iraq/Afghan/Pak wars are illegal. The president, supportive congressional members, other culpable officials, and military high command are war criminals.
Those issues are out of sight and mind in the Pentagon and CSIS reports, yet they're more important than any others, and may only be belatedly addressed when America's end time arrives.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com. Also visit his blog site and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.
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Posted by mammonmessiah at 12:12 PM
Sunday, November 28, 2010
The Trauma of Civilization for Our Species: War and Its Victims
by Brian Willson article link
August 1, 2007 | S. Brian Willson
According to the U.S. foreign policy oversight organization, Just Foreign Policy, the number of Iraqi deaths due to the U.S. invasion and continuing occupation now exceeds one million. It is more than ten times greater than most estimates used in the U.S. media.
This estimate is based primarily on the only valid scientific study conducted of violent Iraqi deaths caused by the U.S. aggression. In the July 2006 issue, an article in the prestigious medical journal, The Lancet, estimated that over 600,000 Iraqis had been killed up to that time. But, of course the killing has continued at a sickening pace, and by using the Iraq Body Count as a guide for the rate of increase since July 2006, the new figure has gone beyond a million. [The study survey was done by Iraqi physicians and overseen by epidemiologists at Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health. The findings were published online October 11, 2006 by the British medical journal The Lancet].
Since the U.S.-initiated war started on March 19, 2003, the number of Iraqi deaths average 18,868 per month, or about 629 per day!
Let us compare this figure with the U.S. war and occupation of Southeast Asia from March 8, 1965, the date the U.S. Marines landed at DaNang, through January 27, 1973, the date of the ceasefire (though there were some casualties after this date). It is generally believed now that more than 5 million Southeast Asians were killed due to the U.S. aggression. In the 94 months plus 19 days of that inclusive period, March 8, 1965 through January 27, 1973, we find 1,740 Asians killed per day, nearly 3 times the already staggering Iraqi figure!
Now let us compare the death rate for the 37-month Korean War, where it is now estimated that another 5 million Asians were killed. During this conflict, we discover that 4,505 Koreans and Chinese were killed, every day-more than two-and-a-half times the daily figure for Viet Nam, Cambodia, and Laos.
One more comparison is in order. There is a general consensus that somewhere in the vicinity of 50 to 55 million people were killed during World War II. Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. Japan surrendered on August 14, 1945, Germany already having been defeated in May 1945. If we take the figure of 52,500,000 dead during the war, and use the number of war days as 2,173, then we are staggered with 24,160 deaths per day over a nearly six-year period! This figure is well over five times the daily deaths from Korea. And this does not include all post-1945 radiation victims from the dropping of the enriched uranium and plutonium bombs on August 6 and 9.
Historians estimate 14,500 major wars have occurred over the past 5,500 years with the advent of civilization, claiming the lives of at least 3.5 billion people. During the 20th Century about 125 million people were killed by actions of governments. Since the end of World War II, virtually all wars have been conducted in what have been described as "Third World" nations, with Iraq now considered an exception. The conservative English war historian John Keegan has stated that 50 million people have been killed by war since the so-called "First World" peace began in 1945 through the mid-1990s.
War emerged with the advent of civilization. Civilization has been severely traumatic for the human condition for more than 300 generations. It has been sustained by massive obedience to its vertical authority structures, whether described as inherited kingdoms, dictatorial despots, or elected democratic oligarchs. Part of that obedience has required subservience of labor for production and military roles to assure increased profits– primarily for the benefit of those positioned in the narrow portion of the apex of the vertical power structures.
We in so-called democratic societies seem to actually believe that our political structures represent the people, rather than power. It is time to drop that belief such that we might be enabled to become disobedient to power. Instead, we can choose to become personally responsible with all our relationships as they manifest in the communities where we live. As we revolt from obedience we may learn that we are totally capable of remaking ourselves into an earth community rather than a bunch of plundering consumers. Our lives, and the life of an inhabitable planet, depends on it, beginning right where we live. Let us globalize liberation in each of our communities. Why not make a leap into local self-reliant community where democracy is direct, i.e., radical. This is a fantastic opportunity for all of us to become awake and vital. Or, we can choose business as usual, and stumble off the cliff to a terrifying death below-omnicide.
S. Brian Willson Articles Root & Structural Causes of War
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Posted by mammonmessiah at 4:00 PM
Breaking Our Addiction to War
November 28, 2010 | S. Brian Willson January 25, 2010 | Global Research
I am sick of being anti-war. Are wars inevitable? War crimes? If we really don’t want wars, it behooves us to get serious about understanding their causes, and choose to radically address them. Otherwise, what’s the point? Feeling a “rush” with like-minded folks at political actions only perpetuates our addiction to anti-war rallies, which do nothing to stop wars from occurring.
The inarticulate presidency of George Bush II successfully unmasked the US empire for everyone to see in its gruesome glory – laying bare all the lies, sordid details, and egregious consequences of unfettered greed. Then the hopium associated with Obama’s election served as a soothing tranquilizer, quieting the movement, at least for a time. Yet, no matter who is in power, wars continue ad nauseum. To learn why we must examine the vertical/hierarchical, patriarchal political-economic system to which we humans have adapted over millennia.
First, let’s look at US history. The record reveals a chronic, depressing pattern of war making – 550 direct military interventions since 1799 in more than 100 countries. More than 300 of these have occurred since World War II, including bombing of 28 countries. In addition, the US has conducted thousands of covert interventions, mostly in “Third World” countries.
The longer view: Since the advent of “civilization” around 3500 BC (55 centuries ago), there have been 14,600 recorded “decisive wars,” not counting thousands of smaller, “indecisive” ones, according to the Norwegian Academy of Sciences. This coincides with development of writing and emergence of patriarchal, hierarchical kingdoms, most of which later became empires. The rulers of these kingdoms gained power by manipulating surplus that had grown out of the agricultural revolution. Another coincidence with the advent of civilization is a notable increase in findings of human remains for which the cause of death has been attributed to warfare injuries. Archaeologists have found little if any evidence of systemic warfare prior to this time.
Since 1500 AD, war scholar Quincy Wright documents 3,000 recorded “battles” which involved casualties of at least 1,000 in land battles, and 500 in naval ones, with an additional quarter million “hostile encounters.” The US Army alone has been engaged in over 9,000 “battles and skirmishes” between 1775-1900, most against Native Americans, with the US Navy engaged in over 1,100 encounters in addition.
Efforts to prevent wars are also well established. Historical sociologist Jacques Novicow documented more than 8,000 treaties for peace between 1,500 BC and 1860 AD.
Modern efforts to impose accountability for war behavior include the Hague and Geneva Conventions, the United Nations Charter, and the Nuremberg Principles. The 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact renounced war altogether. Since the 1950s, the US Army Field Manual adopted provisions of international law, absolutely prohibiting targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure. It has done little, if anything, to retard murder of civilians.
Attempting to understand this chronic pattern of human carnage, scholars such as Lewis Mumford, Thomas Berry, Marija Gimbutus, Riane Eisler, and James Hillman chronicle the record of more than five millennia of the four patriarchal establishments – classical empires, ecclesiastical institutions, nation-states, and modern corporations. All four can be described as male-dominated, vertical hierarchies dependent for their functioning on strict obedience from their population base.
“Civilization” is marked by a dramatic shift from long-standing decentralized, horizontal, matriarchal societies, to centralized, vertical/class-oriented, patriarchal societies, in which obedience to a King was required, and slave labor utilized to construct massive projects like tombs, irrigation and grain storage systems. Class and stratification ripped people from their historical roots as autonomous beings living in small cooperative tribal groups. This separation of people from their intimate connections with the earth produced deep insecurity, anxiety and fear in the psyche, and ecopyschologists such as Chellis Glendinning and Theodore Roszak suggest that such fragmentation created a traumatic primordial breach. Being forced to live and work in a class system generally leads to a feeling of lack of self worth. People will avoid this shame at any cost, often by adopting “defense mechanism” such as projecting demonization onto others “below,” and/or deference of authentic autonomous freedoms to belief in authority structures and adoption of their accompanying mythologies and ideologies.
For 300 generations civilization has required obedience. This has become a cultural habit enabling each of us to successfully adapt to our non-Indigenous culture. Observers such as Etienne De La Boetie have discovered that virtually all vertical power quickly becomes ego-tyrannical, inherent in concentration of political, social and economic power, whether achieved through elections (such as the USA), force of arms, or inheritance. Method of rule is essentially the same – achieving mass consent through either fear or propaganda/myth. Barbara Tuchman describes the historical folly of ego-maniacs at war in her 1984 book, The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam.
In essence, by being conditioned to obey the laws and mores of modern society dictated and shaped by vertical political-economic systems, we have been living contrary to our authentic nature as cooperative beings capable of self-governance in small communities without authority from above. In addition, in the West, with but 20 percent of the world’s population, we have materially benefited from 500 years of colonial exploitation at the expense of the remaining 80 percent. This is not only immoral, it is ecologically unsustainable. In the US, with but 4.6 percent of the world’s population, our insatiable consumption devours more than 30 percent of the globe’s resources. Habits of obedience to our system have historically been reinforced by our personal addiction to consumer goods, fed by the myth that our material well-being derives from our “exceptionalism” as US Americans. Our allegiance to this myth and our addiction to its benefits are what enable those dreadful wars – these are nothing more than imperial projects to assure, at gunpoint, continuation of our American Way Of Life, not to mention endless profits for the “emperor” and his entourage.
In summary, we are addicted to war because we are addicted to a materialist way of life, which requires obedience to an infrastructure of imperialism that enables business as usual. That it is totally unsustainable is only now being realized.
The prescription: Re-discover the eco-consciousness that already resides in our visceral genetic memory outside our brains. Choosing to live with less stuff in locally sufficient, food producing and simple tool making/artisan cultures can be joyful, and pockets of such revivalist cultures are cropping up in many places as people strive to re-establish their local autonomy. We are coming full circle – those we exterminated because we deemed them “savage,” were in fact authentic. We are the savages and now must turn to the authentics to help in our healing.
S. Brian Willson Articles Envisioning Nonviolent Revolutionary Alternatives
S. Brian Willson home page
Global Research Articles by Brian Willson
Global Research home page
Posted by mammonmessiah at 10:24 AM
Oceans of Blood and Profits for the Mongers of War
November 28, 2010 | The Independent/UK | CommonDreams
Since there are now three conflicts in the greater Middle East; Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel/"Palestine" and maybe another Lebanese war in the offing, it might be a good idea to take a look at the cost of war.
Not the human cost - 80 lives a day in Iraq, unknown numbers in Afghanistan, one a day in Israel/"Palestine" (for now) - but the financial one. I'm still obsessed by the Saudi claim for its money back after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990. Hadn't Saudi Arabia, King Fahd reminded Saddam, financed his eight-year war against Iran to the tune of $25,734,469,885.80? For the custodian of the two holy places, Mecca and Medina, to have shelled out $25bn for Saddam to slaughter his fellow Muslims was pretty generous - although asking for that extra 80 cents was surely a bit greedy.
But then again, talking of rapacity, the Arabs spent $84bn underwriting the Anglo-American operation against Saddam in 1990-91 - three times what Fahd gave to Saddam for the Iran war - and the Saudi share alone came to $27.5bn. In all, the Arabs sustained a loss of $620bn because of the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait - almost all of which was paid over to the United States and its allies. Washington was complaining in August 1991 that Saudi Arabia and Kuwait still owed $7.5bn. Western wars in the Middle East, it seemed, could be fought for profit as well as victory. Maybe Iraq could have brought us more treasure if it hadn't ended in disaster. At least it would help to have paid for America's constant infusion of cash to Israel's disastrous wars.
According to Israeli historian Illan Pappé, since 1949, the US has passed to Israel more than $100bn in grants and $10bn in special loans - more than Washington hands out to North Africa, South America and the Caribbean. Over the past 20 years, $5.5bn has been given to Israel for military purchases. But for sheer self-abuse, it's necessary to read of the Midas-like losses in the entire Middle East since just 1991 - an estimated $12,000,000,000,000. Yup, that's a cool $12trn and, if you don't believe me, take a look at an unassuming little booklet that the "Strategic Fortnight Group" published not long ago. Its statistic caught a few headlines, but was then largely forgotten, perhaps because it was published in faraway Mumbai rather than by some preposterous American "tink-thank" (as I call them). But it was funded by, among others, the Norwegian and Swiss foreign ministries. And the Indians are pretty smart about money, as we know as we wait in fear of its new super-economy.
So since there may soon be a new Israel-Hizbollah war, let's get an idea of the astronomical costs of all those F-16s, missiles, "bunker-busters", Iranian-made rockets, smashed Lebanese factories, villages, towns, bridges, power stations, oil terminals - we will not soil ourselves with Lebanon's 1,300 pathetic dead or Israel's 130 pathetic dead in the 2006 war for these are mere mortals - not to mention the losses in tourism and trade to both sides. Total losses for Lebanon in 2006 came to an estimated $3.6bn, for Israel $1.6bn - so Israel won hands down in terms of money, even if its rabble of an army screwed everything up on the ground. But among those who paid for this were American taxpayers (funding the Israelis) and European taxpayers, Arab potentates and the crackpot of Iran (funding Lebanon). So the American taxpayer destroys what the European taxpayer rebuilds. It's the same in Gaza; Washington funds the weapons to blow up EU-funded projects and the EU rebuilds them in time for them to be destroyed again. But boy oh boy, in the Lebanese war, US arms manufacturers make a packet - and so, to a lesser extent do the Iranian and Chinese missile dealers.
Let's break down the 2006 Lebanon war figures. Bridges and roads: $450m. Utilities: $419m. Housing: $2bn. But military "institutions": a paltry $16m. Hizbollah apparently spent $300m. Overall, rebuilding came to $319m, infrastructure repairs to $454m, oil spill costs to $175m. Just for sadistic fun, you can add forest fires ($4.6m), displaced civilians ($52m) and Beirut airport ($170m). But the biggest cost of all? Tourism, at $3-4bn. Now Israel. Tourism lost $1.4 bn, "government and emergency services" $460n, businesses $1.4bn, compensation paid out $335.4m, forest fires $18m. What have the Israeli army and Hizbollah got against forests? In all, the Israeli losses amounted to 1.5 per cent of GDP, the Lebanese 8 per cent of GDP.
And just look at the Middle East "arms race" - the jockeys being the arms manufacturers, the punters being the countries of the region and, of course, their "huddled masses". Saudi Arabia, as the Mumbai report said, leaps in a decade between 1996 and 2006 from $18bn to $30bn a year - it's just negotiating a $60bn deal with the US - and Iran from $3bn to $10bn. Israel has gone from $8bn to $12bn. In fact, there's an interesting correlation between Israel's state-of-the-art democratically minded missile-firings between 2000 and 2007 - 34,050 - and Hamas's evil, terrorist-inspired missile firings: a rather piffling 2,333.
There's a host of other goodies in this appalling list of financial and social horrors. On 11 September 2001, just 16 people were on America's "no-fly" list; by December, it was 594. By August 2008, it had reached an astonishing 100,000. At present rate, the US "terrorist watch list" will reach two million souls in two years' time. Since 1974, UN peacekeepers on the Golan Heights have cost $47.86m while the UN has forked out $680.93m for its forces in southern Lebanon since 1978.
So coming soon to a war near you; oceans of blood, bodies torn to shreds, of course. But bring your credit card. Or a cheque book. It's big business. And there may be profits.
© 2010 The Independent
Robert Fisk is Middle East correspondent for The Independent newspaper. He is the author of many books on the region, including The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East.
The Independent/UK home page
Posted by mammonmessiah at 10:20 AM
The Rich Get Rich and the Poor Get Poorer
Hunger and Homelessness in America
November 28, 2010 | Two Seeds on a Blog | CommonDreams
"There's nothing surer; the rich get rich and the poor get poorer," was a slogan of the roaring 20s. The famous phrase was adapted from "Ain't We Got Fun," a popular song recorded in 1921. So what's new in America in the first decade of the 2000s?
Nothing! America's top 72 wage earners averaged 84 million dollars each in income last year, according to Social Security Administration data. The richest 1 percent of us earned 24 % of the nation's total income, the highest since 1928, just before the Great Depression. On the other hand, 14.3 % were living in poverty in 2009, according to the U. S Census Bureau. 50 million people from 17.4 million families are so poor they couldn't buy sufficient food last year. About one million children from more than a third of these households missed meals regularly according to a recent study by the Department of Agriculture. At dinner, families gather to share together. But for the children, dinner time can be the cruelest part of the day. Almost 1 in 4 of them doesn't know when they will have their next meal.
Because there is a high turnover and many homeless people stay hidden, homeless and hunger counts are only estimates. The Department of Housing and Urban Development reported a count of 643,067 homeless persons nationwide on a single night in January 2008. 1.6 million used emergency shelters or transitional housing during 2007/2008, suggesting that 1 in every 50 persons in the US used the shelter system at some point. 170,000 families lived in homeless shelters. With home foreclosures at record highs and continuing unemployment, homelessness is increasing.
Republicans in the U.S. House have blocked a bill that would have extended jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed beyond the holiday season. About 2 million people will lose their benefits if they are not extended, according to the National Employment Law Project. The blocked benefits would save the jobless from hunger and homelessness during the most severe recession since the 1930s and boost spending in the economy that will generate more jobs. Long-term unemployed workers are likely to spend their benefits right away on rent, food and other necessities, and create jobs in our economy. The Congressional Budget office estimates the "multiplier" effect of spending $65 billion on unemployment insurance extensions will increase gross domestic product $104.7 billion which translates into 488,000 payroll jobs.
The plutocrats controlling our government with campaign contributions and slick lobbyists oppose extending benefits to unemployed people. They fight to keep their unjust tax cuts and sit on the billions in bailout cash they received that we were told would save the economy and create jobs for poor and unemployed people. U. S. companies reported after-tax profits of $1.22 trillion last quarter, the highest on record dating back to 1947, according to the Department of Commerce.
When will some of their government bailout welfare for the rich trickle down to poor and working people?
My wife, Judy and I are sponsors of an organization called Homeless Helping Homeless and volunteer at the local winter shelter. And, along with about 35 other people from diverse backgrounds, we have fed an average of 150 mostly homeless and hungry people every Sunday afternoon for the past 7 years at Finlay Park in downtown Columbia, South Carolina. . Each server brings a dish or two--turnip greens, mac and cheese, fresh fruit, banana pudding. Pastries are donated by local super markets. Our picnic provides a nutritious and tasty meal for the homeless and many of the servers. We are known as Food Not Bombs, a national organization that encourages feeding hungry people rather than supporting military madness.
Our a-frame sign, set up near the entrance to our picnic, has a famous quote from a speech by former General and President Dwight Eisenhower that describes the military industrial complex:
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
The U.S. defense budget is $720 billion, which includes the Pentagon base budget, Department of Energy nuclear weapons activities and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We far outstrip the rest of the world in defense spending, surpassing the next closest country by more than eight times. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reports that the U.S. military budget accounts for 43% of the world's total military spending.
If we heed the words of Eisenhower and stop the madness we call war, if we require the wealthiest to pay their fair share, then perhaps we can end hunger and homelessness in America. There will be food, not bombs, and we will no longer destroy the hopes of our children.
Tom Turnipseed is an attorney, writer and peace activist in Columbia, SC. His blog is Two Seeds on a Blog.
Food Not Bombs home page
Posted by mammonmessiah at 10:03 AM
Saturday, November 27, 2010
America Is Fast Becoming Its Own Worst Enemy
By Michael Payne article link
November 27, 2010 | OpEdNews
As the legendary cartoon character Pogo once said, "We have met the enemy and he is us." America apparently has masochistic tendencies, i.e., the process of turning one's destructive tendencies inward or upon oneself. The actions being taken by our government, coupled with the inactions of the American people to challenge them, are taking this nation down a dark and dangerous road. We are, in effect, becoming our own worst enemy.
America can be likened to a great athlete who is fast, powerful, perfectly conditioned with an unlimited potential. His future greatness is assured. This athlete is given mega-million dollar contracts, he has fans everywhere and a fabulous lifestyle; he has everything, not a worry in the world but then things start to change.
He reduces his conditioning regimen, he likes the night life, the girls, fast cars and gambling; he drinks too much, gets involved with the wrong crowd and enters the drug scene. He begins to perform badly, he skips, or is late, to practices, and he gets benched; eventually, the team cuts him. He no longer can perform, no one will sign him; he is done. He has ruined a fantastic opportunity and has, by his own actions, has self-destructed.
That athlete and America have a lot in common. This once was a very strong nation, rich in natural resources, a thriving, growing economy, a solid manufacturing sector and a population in which creativity and innovation flourished; a country on the rise with the wind at its back, with great and unlimited potential, and no peers on this planet. It led the world in math, science, education; we sent a man to the moon and explored space. All signs pointed upward.
Those days are now over, for America is no more than a shadow of its former self. This is still a very young country as compared to other nations of the world. We are still the most powerful nation in the world, but only military. We still have the largest economy in the world, though it is currently in a critical state, beginning to unravel.
America no longer leads the world, we are no longer on the rise and, in fact, we are rapidly regressing. We have arrived at this low point in our history, not because of the acts of other nations, but simply because we seem to have lost those attributes and skills that once made this a great nation. We used to be proactive, now we are reactive. We used to be creative and innovative; we are now unable to figure out how to create jobs for the multi-millions of Americans collecting unemployment. And, during all this turmoil, the profits of corporations and Wall Street are soaring.
Respected economists understand that an economy thrives and grows when it has a stable, work force that spends its earnings to purchase of products; that's what should happen in a healthy economy. That proven theory has been thrown out the window by the profiteers that replaced long term thinking with the lust for short term profits. The result is that the fat cats on Wall Street and at the highest levels of corporations are doing famously while millions of Americans are trying to find some way just to survive.
Our government is spending hundreds of billions of dollars that we don't have and, as a result, our national debt is nearing $14 trillion. But the leaders in the White House and Congress say, "Not to worry, we can simply pass this debt into the future, and our children and grandchildren will take care of it; trust us, they'll find a way." What a bunch of spineless incompetents.
Where has the wealth of America gone, what did we do with the money that is necessary to support the foundations of our nation? That's easy to answer. The fact is that 53% of every taxpayer dollar goes to the Pentagon budget, the CIA, the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, veterans' benefits and healthcare; in other words to the military war machine. That's not how a nation remains an economic power; that's a toxic recipe for economic collapse.
President Obama, the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner (a historical travesty), doesn't know the first thing about creating jobs for American workers but he is becoming a master at the art of employing America's young to pursue resource wars in Central Asia. Positive domestic needs such as jobs, infrastructure and education are not being addressed, but the negatives, such as senseless foreign wars, continue to be his primary areas of concentration.
America , the European nations, and other allies are tied together in the military organization called NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. This military alliance was formed in 1949 and based upon the North Atlantic Treaty which was designed to protect member nations from attacks by belligerent nations, specifically Russia. That alliance still has Russia in its sights but its reach has greatly expanded into other areas with its current concentration being in Central Asia, specifically in Afghanistan.
NATO's objectives have dramatically changed over the years and here's why. The U.S. and its European partners have one common connection. It's the growing need for energy, primarily from petroleum and natural gas. Who are the "haves" and who are the "have- nots?" Well the NATO partners are clearly the have-nots while the haves are Russia, various nations in Central Asia and the Middle East.
It now becomes clear that NATO has been transformed from a defensive alliance into an offensive war machine whose objective is to fight resource wars. Now do we see why the U.S. and NATO are in Afghanistan and pushing into Pakistan? Does anyone actually think that they are there to guarantee the safety of Americans, to spread democracy, to protect women's rights and to leave just as soon as the Afghan people can take care of their own security?
Those nations have the oil and gas that the U.S. and Europe need and the NATO partners control it. Not by using diplomacy, negotiations and contracts such as China is doing all over the world, but by using aggressive military force. It might not be the right and honorable way to go about it, and it may be extremely costly, but that is the direction that has been chosen.
A meeting of NATO representatives has just been concluded in Lisbon, Portugal. It was decided that NATO forces will be withdrawn from Afghanistan beginning in 2014 when security operations will be shifted to Afghan forces. That's no more than a smoke screen. The Afghan forces, many of which are closely connected to the Taliban, may pretend they share NATO's objectives but that's quite problematic. It's a good bet that the U.S. and NATO will remain in this deepening quagmire for many, many years in their quest to control the resources of Central Asia.
The fact is that this occupation in Afghanistan is going to get more and more costly for all members of NATO and, especially, the U.S. which is carrying the bulk of the load. Many of you may have heard the saying, "We may go down but we'll go down fighting." If America keeps on doing exactly what it is doing, and refuses to reverse direction, then that's exactly what is going to happen; it (and we) will go down fighting.
This government and our national media have masterfully played the fear card of constant terrorist threats and have managed to keep the people of America trapped in a state of passive submissiveness, all in the name of patriotism. Those whose aim is to follow an agenda of perpetual war know that they have Americans boxed into a corner and they intend to keep it that way; if we continue to let them. They know that there is no way that they can possibly justify these senseless foreign wars, either legally or morally, so they use the combination of fear and patriotism as their strategy; so far, it is working.
The American people must break out of this box. We cannot continue to accept and condone this kind of misguided foreign policy and watch in silence as the monumental costs tear at the foundations of our economy, our infrastructure and, yes, the moral fabric of our nation. It is time to use the power of the people to demand an end to this agenda of permanent war. It worked before; massive, peaceful protests brought an end to the Vietnam War, as well as an end to the presidency of Lyndon Johnson. They can work again.
We are living in a most critical time in our history. If we refuse to stand up and fight for our country in its time of great need, then future generations will pay a terrible price for our failings. And we will have no one else to blame but ourselves because we will have become our own worst enemy.
Michael Payne is an independent progressive who writes articles about domestic social and political matters as well as American foreign policy. His major goal is to convince Americans that our perpetual wars must end before they bankrupt our nation. His articles have appeared on Online Journal, Information Clearing House, Peak Oil, Google News and websites around the world.
OpEdNews Articles by Michael Payne
Posted by mammonmessiah at 11:40 AM
Friday, November 26, 2010
Thanksgiving in America: US corporations shatter profit records
November 25, 2010 | WSWS | OpEdNews
US corporations took in $1.659 trillion in the third quarter, breaking records going back 60 years, according to a Commerce Department report released Tuesday. It was the seventh consecutive quarter of profit growth at "some of the fastest rates in history" according to the New York Times.
If any more proof were needed, the third quarter profit record exposes the lie promoted by Democrats and Republicans alike that only the "free market" and private businesses can reverse the nation's 9.6 percent unemployment rate. The corporations and banks are sitting on a cash horde in the trillions of dollars. This money is not being used to hire workers, but to line the pockets of the executives and top shareholders.
The profit bonanza that lasted from July through September eclipsed the old record of $1.655 trillion established in the third quarter of 2006--just as the money-mad speculation of the financial elite was hurtling the US and world economy toward the precipice of its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
The resulting financial crisis, which erupted in the autumn of 2008, threatened a total collapse of the global financial system. In response, the governments of the world, led by the US, used the disaster to hand over tens of trillions in public wealth to the very finance houses that triggered the crisis. This process continues, as demonstrated by the International Monetary Fund/European Union-dictated rescue of the Irish banks this week.
The enormous profit realized by US corporations in the third quarter are only the latest indication that the Bush-Obama bailout of the financial and corporate elite has achieved its desired aim of protecting the personal fortunes of the rich:
*Annual bonuses rose by 11 percent for executives at the 450 largest US corporations last fiscal year, according to a recent survey published by the Wall Street Journal. Overall, median compensation--including salaries, bonuses, stocks, options and other incentives--rose by three percent to $7.3 million in 2009. Shareholder returns increased by 29 percent.
*An October survey by the Wall Street Journal found that employees at 35 of the biggest banks, investment banks, hedge funds, money management firms, and securities exchanges will be paid a record $144 billion in 2010.
*According to Forbes magazine, the net worth of the 400 richest Americans increased by 8 percent in 2010, to $1.37 trillion, more than the GDP of India, population 1.2 billion.
These vast fortunes have been made possible through the impoverishment of the working class, the vast majority of the population that must work in order to maintain itself.
*In 2009, 15 percent of all US households, about 50 million people, went part or all of the year without enough food to eat, according to a recent report from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). More than a third of these households, home to one million children, went without meals on a regular basis.
*A record 49.9 million US adults went without health insurance for at least part of the past year, up from 46 million in 2008, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The uninsured now constitute 26.2 percent of the total adult population, more than one in four, up from 24.5 percent two years ago.
*Average annual wages for US workers fell by $457 in 2009, and the median annual wage fell by $247 to $26,261, according to recently updated data from the Social Security Administration (SSA).
*The US Census Bureau found that about 44 million Americans were living in poverty in 2009, the highest number on record and an increase of 3.8 million in one year. Nearly 19 million Americans were living in extreme poverty in 2009, defined as half of the official poverty level, an increase of 11 percent in one year.
This sampling -- many similar statistics could be cited -- paints a portrait of a financial oligarchy literally gorging itself at the expense of the population. Yet this reality, which permeates every aspect of life in the US, has only whetted the appetite of the elite and its political servants.
The holiday season finds the lame duck 111th Congress putting the finishing touches on two years of wealth redistribution to the rich. It is almost certain to extend Bush-era income tax cuts for the richest Americans.
On November 30, five days after the Thanksgiving holiday, unemployment benefits will expire for 1.2 million workers due to Congressional inaction. By Christmas and the New Year, this figure will swell to 2 million. The fate of these workers and the several million children who depend on them, tossed out without cash income into the worst job market in seven decades, is of little consequence to the millionaires and multi-millionaires who populate Congress.
One result of these policies is that more people than ever, including those with jobs, are forced to turn to soup kitchens, even on a day when families traditionally gather for a holiday associated with the "bountiful harvest." Charities across the country are reporting record demand for help on Thanksgiving--a holiday established at a national level by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 to honor the material abundance of the Republic, even in the midst of the Civil War.
On the other side of the social divide is an uninhibited orgy of greed, documented most recently by a Wednesday story in the New York Times ("Signs of Swagger, Wallets out, Wall Street Celebrates.") From cosmetic plastic surgery to high-priced art auctions, from rental properties in the Hamptons to bachelor parties that cost tens of thousands of dollars, "Wall Street's moneyed elite are breathing easier again," the article states.
The stranglehold over society and the economy exercised by this parasitic social layer, this modern-day aristocracy, must be broken once and for all.
Tom Eley is the author of numerous articles and writes regularly from a Socialist perspective on national and international issues for the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS), the voice of the International Committee of the Fourth International.
OpEdNews Articles by Tom Eley
Posted by mammonmessiah at 9:15 AM
A Citizen's Counter Strategy
Ten Ideas to Starve the Wall Street Beast
by Pam Martens article link
November 23, 2010 | CounterPunch
Dialogue on the economic crisis has focused on symptoms: bailouts, corruption on Wall Street, collapse in housing prices, intractable unemployment, Federal Reserve monetary policy. Most people have been socialized to silence on the topic of the disease itself: debilitating wealth concentration. We hear little on the overwhelming argument that wealth concentration is the root cause of the lingering crisis because within milliseconds of the words escaping into the public arena, screams of “Socialist! Socialist!” proliferate; an army of right wing talk radio buffoons fill the airwaves with dire warnings of the growing communist threat of wealth redistribution; Rick Santelli spazzes out on CNBC; and the Tea Partiers figuratively (or literally) stomp on us.
The people who scream the loudest aren’t the super rich who control the wealth; they’re part of a labyrinthine network of hired hands who function as high pitch bodyguards for the wealth hoarders. The actual super rich are the folks who appear on the Forbes list of the wealthiest Americans; people like Charles and David Koch, each worth $21.5 billion, who create multi layers of front groups, like Americans for Prosperity, to make it not only socially acceptable to hoard wealth but social nirvana. The Kochs hold secret confabs with their wealthy friends once a year, fingering their worry beads and plotting to keep the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest, lest they become number 6 on the Forbes list of billionaires instead of number 5. This, while 43 million of their fellow Americans live beneath the poverty level; including one in every 5 children.
David Barber, Associate Professor of American History at the University of Tennessee, is not afraid of the cacophony from the wealth hoarders’ cabal, writing bluntly about the dangers of wealth concentration. In response to an email query last week, Dr. Barber said:
“American society’s fantastically skewed distribution of wealth stands as one of the main structural fault lines underpinning the Crash. America’s richest one percent of the population own over forty percent of America’s wealth — exclusive of home ownership — in this, the most opulent society history has ever known. On the other hand, the bottom sixty percent of Americans own approximately one percent of all of America’s wealth. Maintaining the Bush tax cuts for the rich only perpetuates a part of the contradiction which brought on the present phase of the world economic crisis.”
Dr. Barber’s statistics come from a study conducted by Edward N. Wolff for the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College in March 2010. Other findings from that study include the following:
The richest 1 percent received over one-third of the total gain in marketable wealth over the period from 1983 to 2007. The next 4 percent also received about a third of the total gain and the next 15 percent about a fifth, so that the top quintile collectively accounted for 89 percent of the total growth in wealth, while the bottom 80 percent accounted for 11 percent.
In 2007, the top 1 percent of households owned 38 percent of all stocks; the top 5 percent owned 69 percent; the top 10 percent held 81 percent.
Debt was the most evenly distributed component of household wealth, with the bottom 90 percent of households responsible for 73 percent of total indebtedness.
Wealth concentration in too few hands while the general populace is saddled with too much debt to buy the goods and services produced by the corporations, in whom the wealthiest hold 81 percent of the stock, is a replay of the conditions leading to the crash of 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression. (The Social Security system was borne out of that debacle. This time around, the wealthiest hope to use the funds from the bottom 90 percent flowing into the Social Security trust to prop up stock prices for the benefit of the top 10 percent. Any action today which postpones the inevitable process of more equitable wealth distribution, such as privatizing Social Security or retaining the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest, will simply hasten the onset of more economic pain which will broaden out to devour the wealth of the upper quintiles through deflation.)
Writing in his book, “The Worldly Philosophers,” Robert Heilbroner explained the situation leading up to the depression of the 1930s:
"The national flood of income was indubitably imposing in its bulk, but when one followed its course into its millions of terminal rivulets, it was apparent that the nation as a whole benefited very unevenly from its flow. Some 24,000 families at the apex of the social pyramid received a stream of income three times as large as 6 million families squashed at the bottom -- the average income of the fortunate families was 630 times the average income of the families at the base…And then there was the fact that the average American had used his prosperity in a suicidal way; he had mortgaged himself up to his neck, had extended his resources dangerously under the temptation of installment buying, and then had ensured his fate by eagerly buying fantastic quantities of stock – some 300 million shares, it is estimated – not outright, but on margin, that is, on borrowed money.”
In both eras, Wall Street ceased being an allocator of capital to worthy enterprises and became an institutionalized system of rigged wealth transfer. The primary artifices this time around included issuing knowingly false stock research; lining up large institutional clients to buy at predetermined prices (laddering) on the first day of a new issue of stock – this made the price appear to soar and thus sucked in the small investor; threatening to take the stock broker’s commission away (penalty bid) if the broker let the small investor take profits in the newly issued stock – the practice was known as flipping and was reserved for the big boys. When the tech mania went bust and the rigged game was revealed, the small investor left in droves. Wall Street, with the Fed’s able assistance, fueled the next bubble – housing – and crafted complex derivatives to turn this market into a cash cow for Wall Street and foreclosures for Main Street.
The January 21, 2010 Supreme Court decision to allow corporations to have staggering financial influence in our elections (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission) and the November 2, 2010 results of the midterm election should send a bone chilling message. Help is not on the way. The end game of this massive wealth concentration is long-term deflation, economic misery and multiple generations who will look back on us as the hapless society who couldn’t tame the Wall Street greed machine for want of a plan.
Thinking Americans can no longer wait for politicians to save us. When a dedicated public servant like Senator Russ Feingold from Wisconsin is unceremoniously tossed out and a billionaire-financed Senator like Rand Paul from Kentucky is sworn in on a so-called populist mandate, the baton for economic salvation falls to the individual. I offer below ten ideas to get started on the first course of starving the Wall Street beast. And, just to be clear to those perched on the edge of their seats preparing to scream “Socialist!,” I’m not suggesting “redistributing” wealth; I’m suggesting putting the wealth back into the hands from which it was taken in a rigged wealth transfer scheme.
(1) Shorten Your Home Mortgage: Former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis summed it up: "We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both." The Wall Street beast is thriving on interest on our debt and using it to hire lobbyists and fund politicians who will work for their interests, not ours.
According to March 31, 2009 data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, four Wall Street behemoths control 35 percent of all the insured bank deposits in the U.S. and 46 percent of the assets (although the quality of those “assets” is very much a subject of debate). Those firms are: Bank of America Corporation, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo & Co. and Citigroup, Inc. That leaves the other 8,242 FDIC insured banking institutions to share the balance. The total domestic deposits were $7.5 trillion with total assets of $13.5 trillion as of March 2009. That is far too much wealth concentration in too few hands as we’ve sadly learned from having to bail out those four institutions.
Seek your accountant and/or financial advisor’s advice about converting your 30 year mortgage to a 15 year to move wealth from the bank’s shareholders pockets to yours. Rates have never been more favorable for such a move. Typically, over the life of the loan, you will save tens of thousands of dollars of interest. You can look at the savings for your specific situation by clicking on the mortgage calculator at www.bankrate.com. (I’m not endorsing any of the bank loans offered at this site since I haven’t done any research in that area; I’m just suggesting the use of the mortgage calculator.)
Talk to your children before they buy a home about the interest differential between a 30-year and 15-year mortgage over the life of the loan. Show them how to use the mortgage calculator.
(2) Think Local: Consider moving money as it becomes liquid out of the big Wall Street banks that have an iron grip on your Congress and moving it into FDIC insured certificates of deposit at your community bank (being careful not to exceed the insurance limits). A good rule of thumb is to ladder maturities to coincide with when you will need the money. Again, you should consult with your accountant and/or financial advisor. This will also help provide loan funds to local businesses and residential housing in your area.
(3) Start a Business: Don’t worry about the possible arrival of the pink slip; be proactive. Start a business on the side. Do well by doing good: what product or service can you provide that a struggling consumer wants and can afford. (Ideas might include: debt counseling, low cost child care, foreclosure counseling, a pick-your-own fruit and vegetable business if you own farm land, consignment shop, home staging services to help with quicker resales.)
(4) Invest Wisely: Get smart with your 401(k). Investing in the S&P 500 is simply feeding the beast; the beast that’s using your cheap capital to hire lobbyists, create PACs and separate you from representative government. Some 401(k) plans allow you to roll over 50 percent or more to your own IRA after reaching a certain age. Call your benefits office and find out what your options are. Speak to your accountant and/or financial advisor before making any move. You may also want to consider opening an IRA at a community bank and buying insured CDs as an alternative to putting more funds in the 401(k).
(5) Check Out Credit Union Membership: Do you have a family member that belongs to a Credit Union? Chances are they can get you an account there. If you need to use a credit card, try to get one through the credit union at a reasonable rate and then cut up any high-rate card. It’s an outrage that some of the banks that required a citizen bailout are getting their money from the Federal Reserve at almost no cost while charging struggling citizens 20 percent interest.
(6) Don’t Use Credit Cards from Corporations That Abuse You: All of the following have one thing in common: Home Depot, Exxon Mobil, Shell, Macy’s, Sears, Zales. They all extend credit to their customers on a Citigroup credit card. Forty million customers are helping to prop up Citigroup and its anti-consumer, anti-citizen practices by using these cards. Citigroup makes its workers sign away their rights to go to court (see number 8 below) and has serially abused investors through corrupt practices.
(7) Brand Attacks: Chances are high that your local storeowners don’t have a PAC and lobbyists on K Street working against your interests? Reward them with your business and starve the S&P 500 firms until they get the message: if you want me to honor your brand, honor my right to representative government.
(8) Return the Courts to Workers: Many of the largest corporations force workers to sign away their rights to the Nation’s courts as a condition of employment. It’s called mandatory arbitration and it’s an unfair process that is rigged to favor the corporation. If you interview for a new job, ask if the company has such a policy and walk away if they do.
(9) Complain: Don’t let shady practices go undetected. Write a detailed report and file it with the appropriate body: local district attorney, state attorney general’s office, consumer protection groups; and write a letter to the editor to the local paper. This helps good businesses prosper and starves dirty businesses of customers.
(10) Just Say No: To frontal nudity photographs/skin radiation/genitalia groping; all just to board a plane. Don’t fly. You will be standing up for civil rights and starving Wall Street. Body scanner companies trade on Wall Street and the banksters are hoping domestic surveillance is their new cash cow.
Pam Martens worked on Wall Street for 21 years; she has no security position, long or short, in any company mentioned in this article. She writes on public interest issues from New Hampshire. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Posted by mammonmessiah at 9:07 AM
Rethinking the Global Economy: The Case for Sharing
November 26, 2010 | Share the World's Resources (STWR) | CommonDreams
As the 21st Century unfolds, humanity is faced with a stark reality. Following the world stock market crash in 2008, people everywhere are questioning the unbridled greed, selfishness and competition that has driven the dominant economic model for decades. The old obsession with protecting national interests, the drive to maximise profits at all costs, and the materialistic pursuit of economic growth has failed to benefit the world's poor and led to catastrophic consequences for planet earth.
The incidence of hunger is more widespread than ever before in human history, surpassing 1 billion people in 2009 despite the record harvests of food being reaped in recent years. At least 1.4 billion people live in extreme poverty, a number equivalent to more than four times the population of the United States. One out of every five people does not have access to clean drinking water. More than a billion people lack access to basic health care services, while over a billion people - the majority of them women - lack a basic education. Every week, more than 115,000 people move into a slum somewhere in Africa, Asia or Latin America. Every day, around 50,000 people die needlessly as a result of being denied the essentials of life.
In the face of these immense challenges, international aid has proven largely ineffective, inadequate, and incapable of enabling governments to secure the basic needs of all citizens. Developed countries were cutting back on foreign aid commitments even before the economic downturn, while the agreed aid target of 0.7 percent of rich countries' GDP has never been met since it was first conceived 40 years ago. The Millennium Development Goals of merely halving the incidence of hunger and extreme poverty, even if reached by 2015, will still leave hundreds of millions of people in a state of undernourishment and deprivation. When several trillion dollars was rapidly summoned to bail out failed banks in late 2008, it became impossible to understand why the governments of rich nations could not afford a fraction of this sum to ‘bail out' the world's poor.
The enduring gap between rich and poor, both within and between countries, is a crisis that lies at the heart of our political and economic problems. For decades, 20 percent of the world population have controlled 80 percent of the economy and resources. By 2008, more than half of the world's assets were owned by the richest 2 percent of adults, while the bottom half of the world adult population owned only 1 percent of wealth. The vast discrepancies in living standards between the Global North and South, which provides no basis for a stable and secure future, can only be redressed through a more equitable distribution of resources at the international level. This will require more inclusive structures of global governance and a new economic framework that goes far beyond existing development efforts to reduce poverty, decrease poor country debt and provide overseas aid.
In both the richest and poorest nations, commercialisation has infiltrated every aspect of life and compromised spiritual, ethical and moral values. The globalised consumer culture holds no higher aspiration than the accumulation of material wealth, even though studies have shown that rising income fails to significantly increase an individual's well-being once a minimum standard of living is secured. The organisation of society as a competitive struggle for social position through wealth and acquisition has led to rampant individualism and the consequences of crime, disaffection and the disintegration of family and community ties. Yet governments continue to measure success in terms of economic growth, pursuing ever-greater levels of GDP - regardless of the harmful social consequences of a consumption-driven economy.
Although the crises we face are interlinked and multidimensional, the G20 and other rich nations offer no vision of change towards a more sustainable world. The old formula, based on deregulation, privatisation, and the liberalisation of trade and finance, was unmasked by the economic crisis and shown to be incapable of promoting lasting human development. Multilateral institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund have failed the world's poor, and the myth that economic growth will eventually benefit all has long been shattered. As we also know, endless growth is unsustainable on a planet with finite resources. This impasse is further compounded by ecological degradation and climate change - the side-effects of economic ‘progress' that disproportionately affect the poorest people who are least to blame for causing these multiple crises.
Humanity's ability to effectively address these interrelated crises requires governments to accept certain fundamental understandings that are instrumental to securing our common future. Firstly, that humankind is part of an extended family that shares the same basic needs and rights, and this must be adequately reflected in the structures and institutions of global governance. And secondly, that many basic assumptions about human nature that inform the thrust of economic decision making - particularly in industrialied nations - are long outdated and fundamentally flawed. The creation of an inclusive economic framework that reflects our global interdependence requires policymakers to move beyond the belief that human beings are competitive and individualistic, and to instead accept humanity's innate propensity to cooperate and share. This more holistic understanding of our relationship to each other and the planet transcends nations and cultures, and builds on ethics and values common to faith groups around the world. It also reflects the strong sense of solidarity and internationalism which lies at the heart of the global justice movement.
The first true political expression of our global unity was embodied in the establishment of the United Nations in 1945. Since then, international laws have been devised to help govern relationships between nations and uphold human rights. Cross-border issues such as climate change, global poverty and conflict are uniting world public opinion and compelling governments to cooperate and plan for our collective future. The globalisation of knowledge and cultures, and the ease with which we can communicate and travel around the world, has further served to unite diverse people in distant countries.
But the fact of our global unity is still not sufficiently expressed in our political and economic structures. The international community has yet to ensure that basic human needs, such as access to staple food, clean water and primary healthcare, are universally secured. This cannot be achieved until nations cooperate more effectively, share their natural and economic resources, and ensure that global governance mechanisms reflect and directly support our common needs and rights. At present, the main institutions that govern the global economy are failing to work on behalf of humanity as a whole. In particular, the major bodies that uphold the Bretton Woods mandate (the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organisation) are all widely criticised for being undemocratic and furthering the interests of large corporations and rich countries.
A more inclusive international framework urgently needs to be established through the United Nations (UN) and its agencies. Although in need of being significantly strengthened and renewed, the UN is the only multilateral governmental agency with the necessary experience and resources to coordinate the process of restructuring the world economy. The UN Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Rights have been adopted by all member states and embody some of the highest ideals expressed by humanity. If the UN is rendered more democratic and entrusted with more authority, it would be in a position to foster the growing sense of community between nations and harmonise global economic relationships.
Establishing more inclusive structures of global governance will only remedy one aspect of a complex system. Another key transformation that must take place is in our understanding and practice of ‘economics' so that government policies can become closely aligned with urgent humanitarian and ecological needs.
The economic principles that have fashioned the world's existing global governance framework - particularly in relation to international trade and finance - can be traced back to the moral philosophy of Enlightenment thinkers during the emergence of industrial society in Britain. Drawing on the ideas of these early theorists, mainstream economists have assumed that human beings are inherently selfish, competitive, acquisitive and individualistic. Such notions about human nature are now firmly established as the principles upon which modern economies are built, and have been used to justify the proliferation of free markets as the best way to organise societies.
Particularly since the 1980's, these basic economic assumptions have increasingly dominated public policy and pushed aside ethical considerations in the pursuit of efficiency, short-term growth and profit maximisation. But the ‘neoliberal' ideology that institutionalised greed and self-interest was fundamentally discredited by the collapse of banks and a world stock market crash in 2008. As a consequence, the global financial crisis reinvigorated a long-standing debate about the importance of morality and ethics in relation to the market economy.
At the same time, recent experiments by evolutionary biologists and neuro-cognitive scientists have demonstrated that human beings are biologically predisposed to cooperate and share. Without this evolutionary advantage, we may not have survived as a species. Anthropological findings have long supported this view of human nature with case studies revealing that sharing and gifting often formed the basis of economic life in traditional societies, leading individuals to prioritise their social relationships above all other concerns. As a whole, these findings challenge many of the core assumptions of classical economic theory - in particular the firmly held belief that people in any society will always act competitively to maximise their economic interests.
If humanity is to survive the formidable challenges that define our generation - including climate change, diminishing fossil fuels and global conflict - it is necessary to forge new ethical understandings that embrace our collective values and global interdependence. We urgently need a new paradigm for human advancement, beginning with a fundamental reordering of world priorities: an immediate end to hunger, the securing of universal basic needs, and a rapid safeguarding of the environment and atmosphere. No longer can national self-interest, international competition and excessive commercialisation form the foundation of our global economic framework.
The crucial first step towards creating an inclusive world system requires overhauling our outdated assumptions about human nature, reconnecting our public life with fundamental values, and rethinking the role of markets in achieving the common good. In line with what we now know about human behaviour and psychology, integrating the principle of sharing into our economic system would reflect our global unity and have far-reaching implications for how we distribute and consume the planet's wealth and resources. Sharing the world's resources more equitably can allow us to build a more sustainable, cooperative and inclusive global economy - one that reflects and supports what it really means to be human.
This article has been adapted from sections of a recent booklet entitled Sharing the World's Resources - An Introduction.
© 2010 Share The World's Resources
Rajesh Makwana is the director of Share The World's Resources and can be contacted at rajesh(at)stwr.org. Adam Parsons is the editor at Share The World's Resources and can be contacted at adam(at)stwr.org.
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Posted by mammonmessiah at 8:15 AM
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